Wellcoaches created the animated movie How Coaching Works to explain health and well-being coaching when the field was in its infancy. Now with almost 2 million views, the video remains a useful illustration of the best qualities of a helping relationship. This blog series aims to share the psychological underpinnings of the cartoon. This current installment, the second in the series, simplifies the script for coach-client dialogue.
Scene One: MEET
Coach: Hello. Thanks for meeting today. Let’s begin by having you tell me more about what you hope for most for your life. Who would you be if you were at your best?
Client: I would engage in activities that energize me, strive for optimal health, and live life with gratitude and a sense of purpose every day. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but when I start, it doesn’t last — it doesn’t get done. And when I think about all of the things that get in my way, I’m overwhelmed.
Coach: Wow! That’s an appealing vision, and I hear your deep yearning to get there. Let’s talk about how we can work together. I’ll help you construct a roadmap to your future. You’ll bring a wealth of insight about what works for you and what doesn’t. With the help of my toolbox, you’ll get it done. Let’s explore more about your life today.
Scene Two: VISION
Coach: Tell me more about that vision. What is important to you about it?
Client: Taking control of my life. I’ve let my priorities get out of order.
Coach: Why now?
Client: Life is going quickly, and I realize that I don’t want it to pass me by. I used to have big dreams … and then work and family responsibilities got in the way.
Coach: What will be possible when you achieve it?
Client: I’ll feel proud of myself and have more confidence. I think that’s what I miss most about my younger self — feeling like I can do anything.
Coach: When you are at your best, you are confident and optimistic that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Let’s expand your vision to address what strengths you’ll apply to get there, your major challenges, and some of the strategies you might use to rise above your challenges.
Scene Three: THE PLAN
Coach: Let’s start working on how you will get to the vision you yearn for. What is the first thing you’d like to be doing in three months that would get you closer?
Client: That’s a good question. The first thing I’d like to be doing in three months is spending time with my spouse most evenings.
Coach: What do you mean by spending time?
Client: We used to play games together; that was always fun. Or, taking walks — I see couples doing that and always think, “How lovely.”
Coach: What would be the benefits of spending more fun time with your spouse?
Client: I always feel less stressed when I take time to relax. And my spouse is my best friend; I always feel better about myself when we have time to be together. We talk about new things to pursue together.
Coach: So, if you were to set a goal around this for the next three months, how would you write it? Let’s make it very specific and detailed. How much time would be enough to energize, relax and inspire you?
Client: By the end of three months, I’d like to spend two evenings and one half day on the weekend together.
Coach: Would you be willing to change the language to say, “I will spend two evenings and one half day on the weekend with my spouse”?
Client: Yes, that sounds great!
Coach: Let’s work on the rest of your plan. What’s the second goal you’d like to pursue in the next three months? (They continue the conversation, addressing additional goals.)
Scene Four: THE JOURNEY
Coach: Now let’s work on the first step you’ll take toward your three-month goals and your vision. What’s a small step you can take next week?
Client: I’m not really sure. I’m so busy with work in the evenings and weekends, and it’s been hard to take time out for myself, let alone spend time with my spouse.
Coach: You’re feeling overwhelmed right now because on one hand, it’s important to you to spend time with your spouse and, on the other hand, you are committed to doing a good job at work.
Client: Yes, exactly. But I know in the end, my spouse and my health are precious, and I feel badly that they are not higher on my priority list.
Coach: Tell me about a time when you and your spouse were taking time for each other. What was happening when you felt really connected?
Client: Let me think about that … when we first got together, we used to take walks in the park near our home every night. After dinner, we would go for a 15- or 20-minute walk, just to digest our food and talk about our days.
Coach: What did you enjoy about that?
Client: Talking, being best friends … it also felt great to get outside at least once a day.
Coach: You loved being connected to your spouse, and you benefited from the exercise and fresh air.
Client: Yes, we never made any plans those evenings until 7 p.m. so we could be sure to walk.
Coach: What could you learn from that and use today?
Client: It seems that what was most important was that it was kind of an unspoken, nonnegotiable agreement that we’d walk every day.
Coach: So, which part of that worked — the agreement, or the walking every day?
Client: It was the agreement we had together. And just taking a short time. Fifteen minutes seems possible.
Coach: What do you want to commit to this week?
Client: I will take a 30-minute walk on Friday after work with my spouse.
(Fast forward: The client attempts the goal but has a setback and “falls off of the ladder.”)
One week later …
Coach: Tell me what went well with your goal of taking a 30-minute walk on Friday after work with your spouse.
Client: It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.
Coach: Which part didn’t go as well as you’d hoped?
Client: We didn’t actually take a walk, but we did have some time during a car ride to start talking about what we’d like to do together.
Coach: Sounds like just talking about the idea was a great way to connect.
Client: Yes, it was.
Coach: What did happen on Friday?
Client: We ended up being invited to go to a friend’s house; it was a last-minute invite from some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. The downside was that, even though we were both there, we were off talking to other people at opposite ends of the house.
Coach: What did you learn from trying out this goal?
Client: That Friday nights probably aren’t the best night to plan for our alone time together. It does tend to be the night we are most likely to do something with other people.
Coach: Okay, so it’s time to step back and rethink the goal. Take a smaller step, perhaps.
Client: I think it would be more likely to happen if we planned for a weeknight instead of a weekend night.
Coach: What night would be best next week?
Client: Tuesday is the least busy.
Coach: If you’ve chosen the best day, what else will it take to be successful with this?
Client: I need to turn off my phone during dinner so I don’t get caught up in a phone call — my family tends to call in the evening — instead of going on the walk.
Coach: What is your goal this week?
Client: I will take a walk with my spouse on Tuesday evening after dinner, and I’ll turn off my phone so we don’t get interrupted.
Coach: How important is it to you that this happens?
Client: Very. My spouse and I really are looking forward to it.
Coach: On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that this will happen?
Coach: Great work thinking this one through! I’m really looking forward to hearing about your success.
Scene Four: Success
Coach: Welcome back! I’ve been really excited to hear about your week. What was the best part of it?
Client: Working on one goal got me thinking about the other areas of my life where I could make some improvements.
Coach: Tell me more.
Client: On Sunday, after having a big dinner, I was getting ready to cut out a big slice of my favorite kind of cheesecake when I remembered our conversation. Remember when I said that my goal is do more activities that give me energy? Well, I was already full from dinner, and it dawned on me that adding cheesecake on top of it was going to put me into a food coma.
Coach: You were really paying attention to the signals your body was sending. What did you decide?
Client: I didn’t eat the cake! I told myself that I’d really enjoyed a great-tasting dinner and that I would appreciate it more if I stopped eating now.
Coach: How do you feel about that choice?
Client: Surprised! I haven’t had that kind of willpower for years.
Coach: It’s pretty exciting when you take control. How did you use that willpower when you worked on your goal of walking on Tuesday after dinner without your phone?
Client: We had such an incredible walk. The weather was perfect that evening, just the right temperature for a walk. We got to talk about our day and even do some planning for the next day.
Coach: What did you most enjoy about working on this goal?
Client: Giving myself 15 minutes to relax, away from the TV, and with my spouse. We laughed a lot.
Coach: Sounds like you felt more energized and entertained than you usually are when you watch TV instead.
Client: Yes, I usually use the TV to wind down, but it never really helps me relax.
Coach: What did you learn about yourself this week?
Client: That I really am ready to make some changes in my life. I can do it!
Coach: I’m certain that you can — and you already are. What’s next?
Blog | How Coaching Works for the Exercise Professional