If you’re a macro coach reading this right now, thank you. Thank you for having an open mind around the thoughts and predictions from a coach who was, not all that long ago, building her business (likely) exactly as you are right now. In the following article my goal is to show you that (a) you are more powerful than you are allowing yourself to become and (b) how to turn your innate desire to make the world a better place into a business that can sustain any life of freedom you desire for yourself.
If we’re getting really honest, you’re probably working online right now because you want to create a world of choice for you and your family. You want time to enjoy your life, travel the world, and experience life the way most people only dream about. You want to be in the top 1% of the 1%…thriving in a world where you get to live out your passion to transform lives…all the while transforming your own through your experiences.
That was my dream, too. But what I learned from starting out as a macro coach and then not only learning, but truly embodying with time what my true innate superpower actually was…is that coaching people on weight loss is easy. Weight loss in and of itself is not where the magic happens. Weight loss alone is surface level, temporary, and unfulfilling.
Take a moment to think about your best clients ever. Why were they your best clients? Sure they probably adhered to the plan you gave them, saw incredible weight loss or some other physical result during their time with you, and left you feeling so grateful, appreciative and truly changed by what you were able to do for them.
But what did you really do that impacted their lives so deeply?
Was it really the number on the scale that allowed this person to completely change how they felt about themselves, their worth and how they related to the world around them? Was it really the 27lbs they lost that finally gave them permission to show up in a new way, with a new energy and learn to love themselves again?
No, it wasn’t. I know that, and you know that. So then, what was it?
It was your unique superpower that allowed you to impact this person’s life more deeply than anyone before you had been able to do. It was your special gift – the real reason you’re meant to transform lives – that spoke to them in a way that completely changed their outlook on the world.
It’s also this gift, your superpower, that is going to bulletproof you in an industry that is changing more rapidly than ever before. If you’re going to create a life of freedom, choice and time, stepping into this power is how you will separate yourself from the macro-coach pack before it’s too late.
The Real Reason You Lack Confidence
If you don’t know whether you are or you aren’t a macro coach, let me just take a second to explain what I mean when I say that. Macro coaches use formulas (and often online calculators) to figure out exactly how many macro- (and something micro-) nutritient’s their clients should be consuming o a daily or weekly basis in order to achieve a desired physical outcome. You might discuss habits and behaviours around food, but you don’t truly understand how to guide someone to a different behaviour if it’s needed. You create boundaries around food encounters to prevent your client from veering off course (or off their prescribed macros).
Now if you’re thinking…“I work with my clients on their mindset, this isn’t me”…keep reading. There is a lot of hype around “mindset work” online these days, so much so that we naturally fall into these buckets and give ourselves these labels even if we know we could be better, do better, and grow more in these areas. This is not coming from a place of judgement but rather enlightenment to the fact that perhaps, you still have room to grow in how you truly desire to help the people you work with.
If you know there is more you should be doing to *really* help your clients transform, you are already ahead of the macro-coach pack. If you are self-aware enough to say “I don’t know everything and I want to learn how to be better for them”, you are already awakening to the idea that there is something deeper inside of you waiting to be unleashed.
The reason you don’t feel fully confident (and why you struggle to guarantee results) is because of these four main reasons:
- You don’t know how to quantify, measure or predict intangible results (such as how your client behaves in a social situation, for example)
- You aren’t sure if you’re allowed to coach them on their mindset, so you hold yourself back afraid of stepping into a grey zone, opening yourself up to criticism or failing your client.
- You don’t fully know how to create intangible change for people, you kinda feel like you’re winging it. You have conversations around mindset, you use some strategies you’ve learned from others, but you don’t have a clear map of what to do or when to do it.
- You know that without incorporating behavioural and mindset change, your clients physical changes are only temporary. And because of the last 3 points, you aren’t confident in your ability to truly help them reach the internal place they desire to get to.
Where experience is the ultimate teacher, your ability to access it is only limited by the chains you place on yourself. What I’m about to show you is a really easy way to begin the process of becoming more for yourself and for your clients.
The Death Of Macro Coaching
It is my prediction that within the next 1-3 years the demand for a macro coach is going to become obsolete. Technology is advancing at an incredible rate allowing the average person to access their dietary targets more easily than ever before. Further, the advancement of the human awareness around the real underlying barriers to change is also threatening your role in their life. People, now more than ever before, understand that it’s not simply about the numbers any longer.
People want to feel something deeper during their transformational journey. They want to feel connected to something or someone in a way that challenges their previous thought patterns, limiting beliefs about themselves, and rebuilds within them the new thoughts and behaviours that will serve their happiness moving forward. People inherently want to be happy, and macros alone are not going to give them the experience they desire.
There are thousands of new health, wellness, nutrition and fitness coaches becoming certified every single year. But you, my friend, have something that can set you apart from everyone else out there. You have something that can bring you more money, more clients, more impact & more personal fulfillment than ever before. But the natural tendency in online business is not to trust this part of us. The natural tendency is to follow the herd and listen to what we “should” be doing instead of what feels right to us.
Here’s the thing about nutrition and fitness. There really isn’t anything new about it. We all have access to the exact same information, data, and research. So then, if from a logical perspective we are all playing on the exact same field, what makes one coach more successful than the next?
Themselves. It’s their personality, their unique perspective on the world, and their interpretation of the same information we’re all taught. They aren’t afraid to have an opinion about something, present a basic concept in a new way, and allow their superpowers to shine through the noise. There is nothing stopping you from being this coach. There are enough people out there for every single one of us to help. The issue is that where our superpowers are concerned, we have absolutely no clue how to figure out what is unique about us.
You probably think “there’s nothing special about me, I don’t have a unique story or experience to share, I’m just average.”
You, my friend, are anything but average. Here’s where I want you to start – keep in mind I want you to open yourself up to everything that comes to mind even if you cannot see the direct correlation to how “this thing” will help you, your clients or your business.
- What is your story? Why did you become a nutrition or fitness coach? What pulled you in this direction? Take some time and write it all out in detail.
- What are 3-5 unique skills that you have that might be valuable to someone else?
- What are 3-5 unique things that you are extremely knowledgeable with that most others aren’t?
- What are 3-5 talents (or the result of your talents) that can be used inside of your business and what you do for others?
- What are 3-5 key connections that others don’t have access to that you can use inside of your business and life?
- What are 3-5 unique things that are unique about your character?
All of this together, collectively, is your unique superpower. You aren’t defined by one thing alone, it’s all of you that will allow you to be successful. It’s all of you that will set you apart. How can you lean into and use what you just detailed to help your clients better? To grow your business faster? How can you leverage those amazing parts of you to truly step into a business that fulfills you and sets you apart from the pack at the exact same time?
These qualities, experiences, stories, and talents are your entry point to helping others on a deeper level. You don’t have to coach them on their mindset in the exact same way that I coach them on mindset. But you do have a responsibility to let yourself be fully seen so that your clients, in turn, expose their vulnerabilities to you. This is the key to unlocking conversations that will transform from the inside – out.
How to Master and Measure Intangible Change
There are 8 key internal shifts most clients will need to move through to truly embody new habits and behaviours that will serve them and support the life they want to be living. The art of coaching is in figuring out what is the most prevalent phase for your client to focus on moving through at any given time in your journey together. These phases are fluid – they blend, overlap and affect each other. The difficult part is deciphering where to focus your clients energy first to create the biggest ripple in the pond.
In other words, you need to figure out where to start and then how to adjust your approach from there. In an effort to quantify the unquantifiable I have detailed below some criteria I intuitively move through to come to my best starting point so that you have a foundation upon which to stretch your own intuitive legs and begin to have deeper conversations that will lead to more powerful results.
First, the 8 internal shifts, in no particular order, are:
- The clients relationship with food and/or exercise
- How the client relates to other people and events in their life
- The client’s relationship with him or herself
- Discovery of the void the client is using food and/or exercise to fill in their life
- The internal-external link of thoughts and emotions to actions and outcomes
- Changing the lens through which the client views the world, their problems, and their ability to create solutions
- Removing internal boundaries and building external boundaries
- Maintenance of their new internal and external environments
Let’s work through each of these shifts now, how to recognize this shift needs to occur, and how to know when it’s the right time to initiate the conversation about it.
Relationship To Food
Let’s start with the shift that almost everyone struggles with understanding, even if you feel like you have a relatively normal or healthy relationship to food. This is a double edged sword as your clients relationship to food is both intangible and very personal with a long history behind it. The thing to understand before diving into any conversation about how a person feels about the way they eat, what they eat and why they eat is this…
Their relationship to food has been passed onto them from their parents, who was influenced by their parents, and so forth. The deeper you dig into a client’s history with their family, the more illuminated the real underlying issues will become. Getting comfortable asking difficult questions about painful or traumatic experiences in their life is going to require a great deal of rapport before you breach the subject.
Ultimately, the core question is this: “What role does food play in their life?” If you can discover which of the following faces food is embodied by for them (or what combination of the following) you have an entry point to access an open, honest conversation about where they are at currently – and also a dimly illuminated pathway that you can begin to lead them down.
- The Lover – when food shows up as a “Lover” in your life, what this really means is that the role food plays is to provide compassion, comfort and a sense of love or security – like you can depend on it as a constant in your life. You may feel like you lack this type of relationship with another human, and so you fill that void with food. Removing the masks you wear in the other roles you play in your life when you’re alone leaves you feeling vulnerable and you will often find yourself (over)eating. You hide this behaviour and will typically eat in a completely different way when other people are around. Your private relationship with food is for you to experience only, it is sacred and private.
- The Bad Boyfriend – when food shows up as a “Bad Boyfriend” in your life, you feel like it is constantly causing you to feel shame or guilt about how you interact with it. Sometimes fear or anxiety is an emotion that comes up when you feel like you can’t trust yourself around certain foods. You don’t believe you are ever making the right choices and that no matter what you eat you feel guilty for it. This is very commonly seen inside of impulsive desire coupled with immediate regret. There is a pull towards food that you’re unable to break free from, even though every interaction with it ends in some combination of disappointment, anger, or sadness.
- The Therapist – when food shows up as a “Therapist” in your life, it’s essentially holding a space of non-judgement as it provides a temporary sanctuary from all of life’s problems. This is similar to how the Lover presents, however in this scenario it is used as more of an escape from their reality, rather than as a source of comfort or love. If you use food in this way you will often find yourself in the pantry eating crackers without remembering going there, or will find you have finished their plate without even noticing they started eating. This relationship is not as obvious because we are unaware of the voids we are filling. We are simply aware that we temporarily feel better and forget about life’s problems. This pattern is especially difficult to fix because the act of eating has become somewhat subconscious triggered by an underlying emotion you perceive to be negative. These patterns have been instilled over many years and often passed down to us from our parents.
- The Magician – when food shows up as a “Magician” it is there to provide habitual, mindless and instantaneous relief from boredom or monotony in your life. It’s used for numbing or to elicit a temporarily elevated state. You’ll notice people who use food in this way will often impulsively eat higher fat/sugar foods because of the immediate intrinsic reward it provides them. The act is always conscious in that you actively seek out these specific “feel good” foods. You might even find yourself going out of your way to access them.
- Cheerleader – when food shows up as a “Cheerleader”, the role food plays is to reward you or make you feel worthy or successful. If you use food in this way you often use it as a form of celebration. If you have this relationship to food you will often catch yourself justifying unhealthy choices because “you deserved/earned it”. Although celebrating around food is a healthy cultural norm that should not be demonized, this personification of food is more extreme. You often experience a loss of control and outwardly justify your behaviour with celebration.
- Party Animal – When food shows up as a “Party Animal”, its role is to provide a sense of belonging. It appears in this way socially, when we feel peer pressure or a fear of judgement and we act in ways that are adapted to a specific social group. Food may act as a “Party Animal” in some social circles, and not in others. What you need to understand about this personification is that it’s role is to make you feel more comfortable and accepted in a group of people. Examples of this could be simply ordering a burger and fries when you’re out for dinner with your friends because everyone else did (even though you really didn’t want to), or accepting a slice of pie from your mother-in-law because you don’t’ want her to know you’re trying to lose weight.
The next step to take outside of identifying where your clients currently are within these 6 archetypes is beyond the scope of this article, however I will create a future training on each of these archetypes and how to coach your clients through their next steps to success. In the meantime, give these some thought – which behaviours have you noticed within your clients? Have you noticed any of these within yourself? Awareness is the first step to change.
Relationship To Others
How your clients interact with, relate to and behave in the world around them is imperative to uncovering how they are going to be able to sustain the external results you achieve with them. Our goals aren’t achieved in a vacuum. Everything that happens around us impacts what we think, feel and do at every moment. The goal, then is three-fold:
- Understand what most strongly triggers the behaviours that your client is trying to change or stop
- Help them understand this learned reaction to the external stimuli
- Replace these habitual reactions with a response that is more conducive to the new behaviour you’re trying to integrate
Ultimately in these specific situations (or around these specific people) your client is unable to differentiate what is happening around them from what is happening to them. They are in a highly elevated fight-or-flight state even before anything happens. They have past memories and experiences of what happened before, how that affected them or made them feel, and what they are expecting to happen this time. Even if the same triggers do not occur, if the environment or the people they are around were the source of their previous trigger it is likely that they will behave in a similar protective way.
Their mind wants to keep them safe and protected, and their reaction to eat is one way that brings them comfort or a momentary excuse to avoid an uncomfortable situation in their current reality (this could be a combination of the Party Animal or the Therapist seen here). Help them identify the top three points and you will be able to really get them pointed in the right direction where their external environment is concerned.
Relationship To Self
Your clients poor relationship with themselves can feel like a heavy-hitting punch to the gut as a coach. It pains you to listen to them beat themselves up, talk badly about themselves, or just completely lack a belief in themselves or their ability to be successful. How they treat, think about and talk to themselves is a direct reflection of their beliefs about their worthiness and their readiness for the changes you’re working on creating together.
You know that when your client says things like “I hate what I see in the mirror” and “I failed again, just like I always do” that this feels icky to you…you wish you could help them move past those thoughts and just believe in themselves the way that you believe in them. Your instinct is to dismiss these comments and instantly reframe them into a positive. Not only do we not want to see our clients suffering like this, but we sometimes also feel super duper uncomfortable and want to move past that moment so that you can “get down to business” (where you feel on your game and confident about your ability to really help them). But here’s what you’re missing out on when you do that:
- Your client is giving you a glimpse into the inner darkness that they are experiencing. What they actually verbalize to you is about 10X more muted than the war that is actually going on in their head. This glimpse inward is vulnerable for them, and they are often looking for an ally to shine a light where there is none. When you scuttle past their remark and tell them “don’t be silly” or “you just have to do XYZ” you are dismissing their very real and painful reality as “no big deal” – which makes them feel even more hopeless.
- You are putting your feelings above your client. You avoided having a deeper discussion about it because YOU felt uncomfortable with the topic. You don’t always need to know how to “fix” the problem – sometimes simply holding the space for your client to express themselves openly, safely, and without judgement is creating more of a shift in them than you realize. Sometimes you feeling uncomfortable is necessary to help your client feel heard and understood
- The opportunity to “pull on the string” they tossed you. There is always something bigger hanging on to the other end of the string they throw you…discovering what that is will open up the gates for how you can help your client truly create a transformation that shifts them to their core. The way you do this is to ask better questions if you want better answers that will lead you down this path.
For example, let’s say your client says something like: “omgosh I always eat so badly when my sister is in town…”
Where the typical response I see skips over that thread entirely and goes straight to “how-can-I-fix-this-and-get-her-back-on-track-mode”, You might respond with one of the following:
- What is it about your sister being here that makes you feel like you aren’t able to stick to your normal eating routine?
- Tell me about your relationship with your sister, are you two quite close?
- What types of foods do you and your sister usually eat together? Do those foods feel nostalgic for you two? Help me understand better why that is.
Ultimately, learn to look for strings, pull on those strings by asking better questions, be willing to get uncomfortable in order to shine the light for your client, and be patient with the process of unravelling the mess of yarn they have in their head. Their relationship with themselves has been shaped and molded their whole life – it’s going to take patience and a whole lot of detective work to help them navigate their way out of the maze.
Discovering The Void
There can be one big void like a crater in the earth, or a whole bunch of little voids like hail dents on the roof of a car after a storm. Either way, every person has them. We all have things we feel are missing (or subpar) in our lives (aka: our voids) that we use other things to fill them up with and pretend that they aren’t there.
Where your clients are concerned, many of them use food (or even exercise) in an unhealthy way to help them fill their voids out of disbelief or avoidance. If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t eat for any other reason than to feed a hungry belly. But we do (review the 6 faces of food). And the reason that we do is because food is easily accessible, highly intrinsically rewarding, and predictable.
For example, Becky knows that when she feels sad because she failed her Chemistry exam that there is a pint of ice cream in her freezer that can make those sad feelings temporarily disappear. What Becky doesn’t realize is that she isn’t eating ice cream because she failed her exam…she’s eating ice cream because that’s what her mom would eat after she fought with her dad and would lock herself in her room crying with a pint of ice cream. Becky subconsciously learned from a very young age that sadness can be fixed with ice cream. The void in this example is not feeling worthy…and the filler is ice cream.
These behaviours are learned so early on that the client often isn’t even aware of it until you begin the process of peeling back the layers of why they do the things that they do, how they are really feeling when they reach for certain foods and what it is they believe this food is providing them.
The good news is that our filler foods of choice are predictable. Just like Becky will always reach for ice cream when she feels like she has failed or feels unworthy, most people have a few filler foods that become their habitual go-to’s. This is where to start in these scenarios. If you can identify a pattern with a specific food, you have now created a thread that you can pull on.
- Figure out what the correlation is between all of the events that cause Becky to eat ice cream that you have documented
- Ask Becky to describe, in her own words, the emotions she is feeling before (for becky, this would be unworthiness) and after (for Becky, this emotion might be love) she eats ice cream (this will uncover the face that ice cream wears to her)
- Ask Becky if she can think about a time when she was younger that she can remember her mom or her sister or her grandma who also used ice cream in this way
- If she can – make the connection for her
- Help Becky come up with an external trigger to create space between feeling her emotion and reacting by seeking out ice cream. Can she stop and recognize herself in the pattern
- Fill the void with something else – what else could Becky do to make herself feel loved? Could she call a friend, treat herself to a bath, or cuddle her pupper Maxie?
- Continue this process until she has integrated the new behaviour to her old trigger
Linking The External To The Internal
When your clients begin their external journey, more often than not they are expecting success here to also be reflecting in an internal change as well. This, however, rarely occurs – as you well know. The most obvious and well used example of this is a client who is incessantly chasing a certain number on the scale, expecting to feel differently in their life when they achieve this number. To their surprise (but not to yours) their experience of the world around them shifts only slightly with a massive drop off of this elevated internal experience a mere hours, days or (for the very lucky ones) weeks later.
External change will never, in isolation, produce internal change long term.
So, then, the question becomes…”how do we link the external with the internal?”
This begins in the very first interaction you have with your client from the questions you ask them and from analyzing their answers through this lens. That said, the effectiveness of these questions entirely depends on your ability to shift the lens through which you receive their answers.
At its most basic, you’ll want to become very good at “searching for strings”. These strings are attached to deeper inner workings that are causing your client to think and act in the ways that they do. Everything we believe about the world and every action we take in response to the world around us is taught to us. For your client, they are unable to understand this at first…they merely feel “out of control”, “unmotivated”, “broken” or “lazy” when they are unable to achieve the external outcome they’re searching for.
If, then, when they tell you that they were “lazy” last weekend and didn’t get their meal prep done and so that’s why they weren’t successful this week…do you take this at face value, or do you recognize this story as a “string” to be pulled by asking questions such as:
- What was it they actually did with their time last weekend?
- Why do they associate that with being lazy?
- Why do they say lazy like it’s a bad thing, what is their understanding of what lazy means?
- How could they have made time to relax, yet still also set themselves up for success?
- What was really going on here, did something happen personally that caused them to feel like they needed to create space from any additional energy demands?
- If so, does this happen often in their life? Where else do they feel themselves shift into being “lazy” if this is their default to overwhelm?
- Do they remember being called “lazy” when they were younger? How did that make them feel? What did they have to do or be in order to not be lazy?
Do you see how one simple statement can actually have a much deeper meaning?
You now know that these are all beliefs that were not theirs, originally. They were someone else’s and they were implanted into them over the course of their life. If you can find the string these beliefs are attached to – the ones that are preventing them from truly creating lasting change – you can pull on these strings gently over the course of your time together and gracefully unravel the tangled mess that is causing them a disordered relationship with food, with their body, or with how they view the world around them.
You will see these connections before they do, and when you discover one it is your obligation to help them also discover it in their own way. Asking questions to guide them down the path of making these connections on their own is the most effective way to do this as it doesn’t suggest your opinion of what they are experiencing, but rather coaxes them to form their own opinion through a lens they hadn’t previously considered. Pretty powerful stuff!
Once you can link their external actions to common internal beliefs, stories and thought patterns, you have what you need to then help your client also link these together. Once an understanding is created, you can push them to change both the internal drivers and external outcomes simultaneously by guiding them to recognize, challenge, and rewrite their default reactions into new empowering truths that will support their long term success.
Many of your clients will come to you through the lens of playing the victim. You’ll notice this in their inability to take ownership of the choices they are actively making every single day that are ultimately guiding their progress towards their goals. This is a sensitive topic because done incorrectly, and you will appear to them as an insensitive asshole who doesn’t understand them and everything they are going through.
But done with finesse, you can jedi-mind trick your clients into stepping up to the ownership of every choice they have made with the realization that they, in fact, are in control of their life.
What you need to understand about the victim mentality in your clients is that likely they have been using this as an easily accessible defense mechanism for the majority of their life. They learned, at a young age, that when they were not happy with what they saw happening around them or to them, if they pushed blame onto something or someone else it felt better. They were more comfortable and accepting of the circumstances and it gave them a lens through which they felt safe operating. Even though they weren’t happy, even though they likely felt powerless and inadequate. They were more comfortable here than had they had to admit to themselves that they, in fact, could have chosen differently. That there is always something they could have done differently to create a different outcome.
The issue is that a lot of those choices are hard, painful, and uncertain. People are wired for survival…if the brain senses threat (even on an emotional level) it will push thoughts into your mind that are created to keep you safe. The issue here is that growth never blooms from a place of safety, and so your clients default victim mentality is in fact a major barrier to conquering their long standing goals.
Jedi-mind-tricking your clients is essentially what I like to call guiding them to their own conclusions. In this specific case, helping them step into ownership with the strong realization that they held the power to change all along and it was simply themselves that got in their way time and time again.
The key to a powerful jedi-mind trick is, you guessed it, to ask better questions. This time, however, through the lens of the victim. Let’s take Becky again and use her as an example. Becky overate on the weekend, she went out with friends a few times and didn’t plan ahead for the occasions. In Becky’s case she struggles with the Party Animal face of food – where she morphs into whomever she needs to become in different social settings to feel accepted, loved and a deep sense of belonging. When you ask Becky about her weekend, she couples this with her infamous victim mentality shield. She says:
“I ate so bad this weekend, my friends called me up on Friday night to go out with them and I had already eaten dinner but they were going to this new restaurant downtown and I hadn’t seen them in forever so I HAD to go with them. And then they ordered all of these appies and drinks and I didn’t want to make a scene so I just went along with it all and before I knew it I was ordering midnight donairs and recovering with deep fried hash-browns from McDonalds the next morning”
This is a very common scenario you will come up against time and again. As we explored earlier, the default for many coaches is to go into “fix-it” mode because of the emotional discomfort that comes along with exploring this further with them. You don’t want to make them cry or feel any worse about what happened, so you just pick up and carry on as if it didn’t even happen. This creation of denial only prolongs the inevitable – that this will happen again – and creates an environment of “it’s okay to blame others for your choices” – where we know this is simply not true.
I would guide the conversation by using the following question sequence, adjusting accordingly based on the responses of the client:
- “Becky, would it be okay if I asked you a few more questions about what happened this weekend? I’d like to help you move through this so that you feel more confident in navigating a similar event next time”
- “Great, tell me more about how you felt when your friends called you up on Friday? Did you have a physical reaction to the phone call that you can remember? Anxiety, fear, worry, dread, etc?”
- “When you were out with them, before anyone had even ordered yet, do you remember what you were saying to yourself? What was the dialogue like that was going on in your mind?”
- “What would have happened, do you think, if you didn’t eat the same foods as them?”
- “Did you consider telling them that you had already eaten dinner and you weren’t feeling very hungry?”
- “Do you think you would have had just as much fun had you only had one or two drinks that night instead of the 5-6 that you told me you had?”
- “Can you remember a time where you felt ashamed or embarrassed for not going along with the pack? What about earlier on in your life, maybe when you were little?”
- “Do you see this type of behaviour around your peers pop up in other areas of your life? At work? With your family? With your boyfriend?”
- “Do you feel like sometimes you wish you could feel more in control of your choices and act in the way that you really want?”
- “What is stopping you?”
By continuing to guide the conversation in this way you are simply helping Becky create connections for herself around the ownership she needs to take over her actions. You are approaching the conversation from a place of curiosity and a deep desire to understand versus judgement, authority or blame. This process, you must understand, is extremely vulnerable for your client, but If you can make your client feel genuinely heard and safe to express themselves the breakthroughs you will create will be life-changing.
Internal & External Boundaries
You’ve heard of creating boundaries. You’ve probably even attempted to coach your clients on keeping their boundaries firm in their lives. Most people have no concept of what a boundary actually is, because whether it’s internal or external – they’re still intangible. No one is going around with a literal fence built up around them (although a lot of our clients would probably love that). So explaining what a boundary is, and then holding that boundary firm, is challenging at best and fleeting most of the time.
The reason why external boundaries are so important where physical transformation is concerned is because, as you now know, there are a lot of external triggers or motivators pulling us back towards past patterns that no longer serve us. In order to maintain a sense of who we are becoming and how we want to act with our new habits firmly in place, we must shut out the “noise” that was once there guiding our thoughts and behaviours.
Examples of this might include:
- Getting clear about who are the people in your life who are loving and supportive versus who are the people who are the energy suckers – leaving you empty after an encounter. The boundary would be committing to making time only for those people who fill you up.
- Putting a “flow day” in your calendar where you don’t book anything committal and you leave your day open to do whatever you feel you need to recharge – a yoga class, a walk outside with your fave tunes…anything.
- Committing to disengaging from the toxic banter in the coffee room at work
That being said, there is a crucial step to this process that is often missed entirely and the reason why your clients struggle to maintain the boundaries you help them put in place.
Before external boundaries (commitments and intentions protecting your energy from outside forces) can be built up, internal boundaries (those boundaries in your mind that you have created to keep you “safe”) must first be shattered. What are examples of an internal boundary?
- The way you habitually react to a situation that feels uncomfortable with defensiveness, anger, frustration, closing off, anxiety, etc.
- The thoughts that play on a loop in your mind when you come close to the edges of safety and challenge yourself to grow (“I can’t do this”, “who do I think I am”, “I’m going to fail just like last time”, etc)
- The beliefs you hold about what is possible for you and your life based on what you were taught to be true from your parents or adult figures growing up.
Think about internal boundaries like this >> in your mind you have built an electric fence around all of your current beliefs about yourself and how the world should be. You have ideals in there about how you expect people to behave, what you believe to happen in every type of situation, and how you think you should perform, act, think, or show up inside of this world.
Most people live their entire lives within this fence. Why? Because when something doesn’t happen the way we have conditioned ourselves to think that it should, or when we don’t show up the way that we have been taught is “right” or “acceptable” in order to receive that which we all crave (happiness, love, worth, value, belonging) we get a shock from the fence. We ventured too close to its perimeter. When we get shocked, it hurts! It takes us by surprise! We think, “that’s not what’s supposed to happen, something must be wrong.” But what we don’t realize is that this fence was built by our own design…and is the exact reason why we struggle to grow beyond our current beliefs and behavioural patterns. Because every time we have an opportunity to challenge them, we retreat out of fear of getting hurt.
We logically think that the fence is there to keep us safe – to keep intruders out. But it’s really there to keep us small…to experience life through a singular lens instead of expanding our vision to view the world and ourselves through multiple lenses. To stop reacting to what is happening around us and to recognize that we actually have no control over what happens around us and how the people in our life behave. Yet we are obsessed with trying to control every situation to fit the mold that we have pre-constructed. And when something doesn’t fit, our defense is to eat. Our defense is to lash out. Our defense is to accept failure. Talk badly about ourselves. We do anything we can to REINFORCE our current belief patterns.
How liberating it is to realize that in one single moment we can choose to step past that invisible electric fence, feel the pains of growth and view the world from a completely new perspective. So how do you help your clients step past their invisible electric fences? You help them recognize where their fence exists by helping them walk up to it until they feel the zap. They’ll know their zap – it will come in many different forms. But the place to start is the physical expression as it’s the most tangible. Ask them how their body physically felt in different challenging scenarios that they are facing. Often times their zap presents similarly in all of them. Most commonly your clients may experience tightness in their chest, knots in their stomach, anxiety well up inside of them, their face go flush, their body tense, etc.
Once they learn to recognize the zap, help them understand why its happening and encourage them to listen to the voice in their head when they feel their physical trigger. It’s going to be talking non-stop, telling them all of the reinforcing things they need to hear to retreat. Can they sit in that, feel it, and continue to push forward despite the pain and fear they experience? This is them stepping over the invisible fence into their new life. This process done over and over again will reinforce a new belief pattern in them that will support the self-worth and confidence they require to begin to build new external boundaries up to protect their new perspective on life.
That they are in control.
That no matter what happens around them, they get to choose how they respond.
And that they are capable of achieving anything they desire.
Maintaining The New External Experience
The final challenge your clients face is their ability to now guard their new lifestyle. The triggers that used to send them into a spiral have not disappeared out of this world. They still exist. It is merely your clients relationship with them that has shifted through the breaking of their internal boundaries and the construction of new external standards they hold themselves to.
The trouble with the deep work you have just finished guiding them through is that the triggers are like rocks getting hurled at their newly built walls (external boundaries). If we aren’t constantly reinforcing them through conscious thought and action, eventually they will crack and crumble. The internal shifts that occurred have the power to create lasting transformation, but just like anything precious in life it must be maintained and constantly worked on.
Some strategies that can help your clients maintain their new inner freedom and outer peace are:
- Daily meditation focusing on quieting the mind and concentrating on the breath
- Proper sleep and recovery from a busy lifestyle
- Surrounding themselves with the people who love and fill them up the most
- Consistent, daily check-ins on their pilot light – how much energy do they have to give and how do they need to protect the energy they keep for themselves
- Maintenance of literal boundaries in their schedule
- Time unplugged (daily for one hour and weekly for one full day)
- Consistent conscious awareness of thoughts. Notice the ones that do not serve you and let them go, replacing them with new empowering truths
- Consistent conscious awareness of zaps, persistently stepping through them into growth
In Summary, your clients transformational journey is unpredictable, emotionally draining as a coach a times, and requires you to lead from the front by actively practicing all of these same strategies in your own life. These practices don’t only support those chasing a physical goal in their body. These also apply to your business goals, your personal evolution into entrepreneurship, and stepping into the person you must become to hold and keep the success you claim you desire. My suggestion? Move through each of these 8 inner shifts yourself and use your own personal experience with them as a launch pad to begin similar conversations with your clients. The thoughts you’re having right now about “I’m not qualified”, “I don’t know how”, & “this makes me feel uncomfortable” are signs that you have your own evolution to activate within you. If you can find the courage to grow in this way, uncover your unfair advantage in this world, and use that as leverage to elicit deeper change in your clients your role in this world will never be extinct. You will cement your value in your own mind and the minds of every person you have the pleasure of guiding to the discovery of their most bad-ass selves.