Forget the professionals – coach yourself!

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It doesn’t matter how long I have been in business, or on the planet.  Pesky, life-sapping, self-esteem-eroding thoughts creep into my mind and make it hard to take care of the business of the day.  At an extreme, they stop me from realizing my dreams, and on a smaller scale they impact  the quality of my work.  But I can’t always pay a coach to be at my beck and call, so I always look for do-it-yourself mental tune-ups.

In this spirit, I was really excited to find a resource from my friend  Brooke Castillo who posted an awesome free class online called Self Coaching 101.  Brooke distilled a lot of great information from people she has studied like Bryon Katie, Martha Beck, Esther Hicks, Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle and Julia Cameron into a very simple, do-it-yourself formula for keeping your attitude and energy "clean" and healthy so that you do your best work.  I found it so useful that I can’t stop talking about it (just ask my husband — I have used it on him at least 5 times in the last 2 days).  I think you will find it really useful too, and it may save you the expense of hiring a fancy coach to walk you though it.  Save your fancy coach money for the big, juicy questions that you really can’t handle on your own.

No matter what profession you are in, it is easy to let your own doubts, anxieties, fears and unhelpful beliefs cloud your judgment.  Can you imagine:

  • Being a financial adviser who has a tremendous fear of poverty?
  • Being a life coach who has a miserable personal life?
  • Being a software developer who abhors technology?
  • Being a personal trainer who hates his body?

It happens more often than you think, and leads us to all kinds of "unclean" behaviors in our work.  My definition of "unclean":

Clouded by personal judgment, emotion and anxiety; lacking objectivity; reactive, needy or pushy

To use a specific example, if you are a personal trainer who hates his body, you may bring all kinds of judgment to your client’s workout.  Instead of coming from a place of health and support, you may look at your client’s body and think "Yuck!  I have to get those disgusting jiggles off of her thighs pronto!"  This will make you feel slightly disgusted by your client, who will feel your judgmental eyes on her thighs.  Not surprisingly, you may find yourself having trouble attracting and keeping clients.

So how do you clean yourself up to bring the very best of what you know to the people you are most excited to serve?

Self Coaching 101

Brooke spent a lot of time studying the coaching philosophies of a number of experts in her field.  And she found that all boiled down to a similar methodology, which could be applied to both people being coached (so that they could "coach themselves" between calls) and coaches themselves (so that they could "clean up" their inner dialogue before meeting with clients).

The essence is in the following formula, drawn directly from Brooke’s materials:


can trigger








Here are the definitions of these terms:

  • Circumstances
    :  Things that happen in the world.  Facts.

  • Thoughts
    .  Things that happen in your mind.  This is where you self-coach.

  • Feelings
    :  Vibrations that happen in your body – caused by thought not circumstance.

  • Actions
    :  Behavior – what we do in the world.  Caused by feelings determined by thought.
  • Results:  What we see in the world (our lives) as an effect of our actions.  The result will always seek to be evidence for the original thought. (my emphasis)

You can best use this model when you take the position of a "watcher," which means you view yourself objectively, as an interested observer. Do not judge your thoughts or feelings.

Putting the self-coaching model to work:

Step 1:  Brainstorm any area of negativity in your life.  Some examples:

  • I am 15 pounds overweight
  • I can’t sleep at night
  • I will never get out of debt
  • I miss my friends
  • I feel stuck taking action on my marketing plans
  • I don’t understand my teenager

Step 2:  Categorize each point


  • I am 15 pounds overweight = circumstance
  • I can’t sleep at night = circumstance
  • I will never get out of debt = thought
  • I miss my friends= feeling
  • I feel stuck moving forward with my marketing plan = feeling
  • I don’t understand my teenager= thought

Step 3: Fill out the rest of the diagram by asking questions.

Example: Thought:  I will never get out of debt


  • How do I feel when I think this thought?
  • How do I act when I think this thought?
  • What is the result in my life when I think this thought?

:  I have 20k in debt

I will never get out of debt

:  Inadequacy, shame, overwhelm

:  Avoid bills, try to "medicate" feeling with food and shopping
Result:  More debt

Step 4:  Replace the thought with a more positive one
and see how it changes the rest of the model.

:  I have 20k in debt

I am totally capable of getting out of debt

:  Calm, empowered, confident

:  Make plan to pay down debt, curtail spending, negotiate better credit card rates
Result:  I have 15k in debt and by 12/31 will be debt free

Another example using a negative feeling:

FeelingI feel stuck taking action on my marketing plans


  • What is the thought that is causing me to feel stuck?
  • How do I act when I feel stuck?
  • What is the ultimate result when I feel stuck?

Circumstance:  I have no clients
ThoughtMarketing is a slimy activity propagated by hucksters and shucksters
Feeling:  I feel stuck taking action on my marketing plans
Action:  Half-hearted, awkward conversations with potential clients at networking events, no progress on starting blog
Result:  I have no clients

Change the thought and see the result:

Circumstance:  I have no clients
Marketing is a way I can reach people whose pain will be alleviated by my offerings.  I will not force myself on anyone.
Excited, motivated, open
:  Have sincere and open conversations with potential clients in networking events.  Start a blog.  Meet great partner.
:  Get a new client

It is never the circumstance causing your feelings, it is always your thinking about the circumstance that causes suffering.

Change your thinking — change your circumstance.

Pretty cool, huh?

Print out this simple model and try it on yourself with any negativity in your life.  Share your thoughts and results in the comments.

There is a lot more detail in the recorded class and handouts.  Find them here.  Thanks for sharing so generously of your wisdom Brooke!

9 Responses to “Forget the professionals – coach yourself!”

  1. Penisa says:

    dangerous space for buddy. trust to get more from your side 🙂

  2. Sue Murphy says:

    Great post, Pamela. It’s amazing how quickly one can fall into the habit of negative self talk, particularly when doing anything risky, such as starting a business or making a significant life change (relocating, change of marital status, etc.)

    This technique is a great way to start to break the habitual thinking patterns.

    I really enjoy reading your blog!


  3. Kate says:

    Great posting! I “rely” heavily on man of the same people and philosophies mentioned in this post, especially those like Chodron (check out the magazine Shambala Sun, it’s fantastic). The framework laid out here is really great…I’ve never tried to put a framework behind how I use these philosophies… what a great idea!

    One added, DIY support system that I think is great is called the “Anti-Bummer Squad,” a concept introduced to me by a mentor of mine. Basically, you create a group of a few people and that’s your ABS. Whenever you’re feeling down, discouraged, frustrated, stuck, or whatever, you contact someone (or all) of you ABS and you talk through it, you brainstorm, or you just plain get the motivation and encouragement you might need in that moment. The Squad never dwells on the negative, but brings out the positive in the situation, which, often times, is what you end up needing!

  4. Mike says:

    I’m very familiar with Eckhart Tolle’s work … I’ve gained tremendous inner peace from his teachings.

    I see his influence in Brooke’s approach.

    One word about it. Elegant.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome model!


  5. Once in a while we hear from truthtellers who debunk well-established myths that hold people back from solving their own problems. This post is a good example. 🙂

  6. Richard says:

    You said:

    Pesky, life-sapping, self-esteem-eroding thoughts creep into my mind and make it hard to take care of the business of the day.

    I say:

    I find myself looking more and more to Pam’s Escape from Cubicle Nation for a smile and self-esteem boosts.

    For all the good you do for your readers, may your self-esteem have an especially good day today.

    Oh you mean take my own medicine Richard? 🙂

    My therapy is actually writing posts like this one. When I attempt to explain it to others, I learn from it and feel stronger.

    We all have our days, don’t we?


  7. Lisa says:

    How nice to reduce the complexities of our inner workings to a model that is simple, concise, and, after some reflection, makes sooooo much sense. Gee, I own me. hmmmm…

  8. Graydon says:

    Excellent reminder that by just stopping for a second and adjusting your thought process… you can make changes.

    Just recently I was “making the rounds” of several potential clients and got into that “slimy hucksters” mood.

    Next time, I hope I’ll remember this advice so that I’ll get out of that funk quicker.

  9. Gotta make a minor comment on the debt entry. Over and over again, I see the advice to debtors to “make a plan.” As I understand what I’ve read (and from my past experience), many debtors are not overspenders; they are extraordinary underearners. (Of course that’s often a self-esteem issue, too.) If a person is trying to squeak by on $100 per month for food, limiting her toiletries to $5 per month, and buying new clothes only when the old ones have holes that reveal too much skin, she (and this is often a “selfless” she) needs to earn more — and probably spend MORE not less.

    Good edit Barbara.

    I would say that debters could be all over the board — for some, the more they make, the more they spend (this is me!), or others fall square into the hole you talked about.

    Thanks for always contributing your insight!