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  • Sara Johnson

A Coach for All Seasons

Here’s something I don’t broadcast widely: I am a bit resistant to the title “coach.”

I worry that the mainstream perception of a “coach” is someone who:

  • pushes their clients aggressively

  • challenges their clients without a shred of empathy

  • drives humans towards “success” with an emphasis on “doing things”

  • contains all the answers

The common thread in the mainstream idea of a coach is that a coach is someone who tells you what to do and supports you, primarily, in getting stuff done. There is very little of this particular coach persona that I resonate with. Coaching feels more multidimensional than this imagining: more of a balance between pushing or challenging and holding a fellow human in tenderness and understanding. And while I have some of the answers, I know they will never be as resonant as the answers I support my clients in naming for themselves.

Further, while a lot of coaching is about what you do in the world - your action-oriented goals and the experiments you take in service of your dreams - I believe that just as much of coaching is about simply being.

  • Being still.

  • Being reflective.

  • Being grateful.

  • Being heard - by yourself and a trusted partner (your coach!)

  • Being a multifaceted human.

So when a coach is seen as someone who forcefully pushes, challenges, and drives someone towards change, I think some of the nuance is lost - some of the beautiful softness and possibility in the coaching space.

If I am a coach who sometimes “only” holds space for my clients - creating a radical container for deep listening and acknowledgement - does that make me a less impactful coach? If my idea of accountability extends beyond the coaching homework clients do and what they accomplish between sessions, am I supporting them less? I don’t think so.

I feel a tension around where we push for change and transformation, and where we ease into acceptance of how things are. Whether acceptance looks like “forever” (whatever that means) or for a season.

Speaking of seasons, much of this reflection was inspired by a growing sense that the relentless pace we are expected to maintain 12-months of the year is just not working for most of us. I think it would be pretty disingenuous and careless if every time you went into a coaching session, your coach centered the coaching on the question: “What have you done since our last session?” We are not always in a season of doing.

  • Sometimes we are in a season of resting. (Shoutout to the book Wintering. And all the animals that hibernate.)

  • Sometimes we are in a season of grieving.

  • Sometimes we are in a season of receiving.

  • Sometimes we are in a season of reminiscing, reflection, sorting things out.

  • Sometimes we can’t learn or take on more because we are in a season of integration. (Thanks to Prentis Hemphill and other somatic practitioners for this teaching.)

  • Sometimes we are in a season of solitude.

  • And sometimes we are in the season of figuring out the season.

Your coach can be a marvelous companion for all of these seasons.

And, trust me, a powerful coach will also push, challenge, and encourage you when that’s what you are seeking. They can do so with empathy, nuance, and an expansive sense of what it means to be a “successful” human being. That's when I believe coaching can be a deeply empowering space. After all, it's you - not your coach - who gets to define what success means, in every season of your life.

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