I wrote the following essay for an assignment for the coaching program I am in. I wanted to share my experience as a peer client with all of you.
When I started at ICA and knew I had to be a client for my peer coaches I wasn’t sure what issues I would have to bring to the sessions. Though life is never perfect, I had done quite a bit of work on self-care and self-discovery. I had worked with a counselor who was very coach like and I had a life coach. Though I knew I would always be working at self-improvement and discovery, I felt in a pretty good place and was unsure as to whether I would have enough stuff to work through for two sets of twelve week coaching sessions. Well, needless to say, I was wrong and I had plenty of things that came up and still do. As I took different ICA classes I came to realize that ICA faculty often have coaches themselves. I now will continue as a client and a coach with both of my peer coaches as we all understand the value of continuing a coaching partnership.
I agree with many of my peers who say that as a client you learn the importance of honesty, trust, accountability, hard work and maintaining a sense of humor and lightness. But I learned other valuable and maybe more subtle lessons as a client that will help me as a coach.
I learned that the coaching sessions aren’t always as textbook as we may want them to be. We are taught coaching techniques and foundations so that we have a great base of knowledge and structure to start with. I am a college professor in an equine science program and one of my jobs is to teach students who to ride and improve their riding techniques. Just like in coaching, there are certain foundations to a rider’s position and knowledge that must be taught to create a good base physically and intellectually for the rider. But once a rider gets that foundation established they can get in trouble if they get too stuck to thinking about following everything exactly as it was taught and trying to become too perfect and the same as everyone else. When this happens they stop feeling what is going on with the horse they are working with as they are so caught up in working on themselves. Each horse is very different and the rider needs to hear the messages sent by the individual horse in order to get the best results. I have learned as a client that this applies to coaching as well. When a coach is trying very hard to fit in everything they have learned into a session they often don’t allow a session to flow where it needs to go for a client. As a client there were days when I had nothing specific to bring to the session that I felt needed work. Those sessions were often the most rewarding and meaty. Sometimes I left a session with no specific plan of action before the next session. Instead, I left with a new awareness of myself or my situation that just helped me better navigate my life. These were the sessions where the coach allowed the session to flow and they followed my lead, asking great questions along the way. It felt like there was no agenda, yet much was accomplished.
One of the most important lessons I learned was that there were a couple of times I came to a session in a somewhat heavy mindset and what I needed my coach to do was just be there not trying to create results but just let me decompress from a stressful day or event. Generally I am a pretty positive person but when I am in that heavier state, the harder someone tries to dig deeper and ask me many questions, the more my mind starts to shut down and I can’t think. I think because I am generally positive this confused my coaches and threw them off guard. In those times it was best for my coach to let me just “be” and talk and express my feelings so I could let things go. When that would occur I would, near the end of the session, be in a lighter state and able to do some good work. When it didn’t happen I would just become more stressed and heavy. I have learned that I am a highly sensitive person and when I get in an over stressed state too much stimuli overwhelms me. Maybe that is a time when I should reschedule the session. But sometimes I didn’t know I was in that heavy of a state until the session got going.
Like horses, people are all different from each other and we are all also different at different times in our lives. I have learned that a coach needs to have a solid foundation in place and the tools handy if needed. But, I also think it is important for a coach not to get attached to the process or the outcome. It is important to just stay in the moment with the client understanding their energy and their needs. A coach needs to let the client lead the process while being with them for support and guidance, when needed, so that each client can live their best life and be their best SELF.