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“What exactly is Coaching?”
As a new coach, I get asked this question a lot; and while there are plenty of good responses, the easiest is, “The art of telling the truth.”
The poet Andrea Gibson summed up 2020 saying it was the year our comfort zones were replaced by twilight zones.
In other words, if you ask anyone how they’re doing these days and their response is, “Fine”, they’re lying.
There’re plenty of reasons to not tell the truth—and not just about how we’re doing—but about all manner of things.
Maybe telling the truth leaves your emotional bandwidth overspent.
Maybe you have no idea what the truth is.
Maybe you do and that’s the problem.
Maybe the truth will lead to change you’re not ready for or to not enough change.
Maybe the truth is a source of despair or even rage.
Maybe the truth is impossible.
From the outset of The Coaching Institute an emphasis is placed on the importance of speaking the truth.
Truth-telling, both from coach and coachee, is at the center of the “courageous container” in which discovery, insight, and transformation can occur.
On the one hand, truth-telling seems like an obvious part of personal growth and communal change, but often truth-telling is replaced by self-sabotage: never allowing the conversation to dip below the surface, remaining in our comfort zones, and prioritizing self-preservation over self-revelation.
At its heart, the practice of coaching is grounded in three core principles—fulfillment, balance, and process.
These three principles are always in the background as the infrastructure to a meaningful life.
Even the most successful among us would agree there’s more to life than ticking off tasks and achieving results.
But what is the more?
I think for most people fulfillment looks something like:
Doing good to others.
A network of strong and supportive relationships.
A sense that my life is worthwhile.
Within these principles are echoes of ancient, noble, and beautiful truths that have stood the test of time and have done so because the core determinates of happiness and success aren’t remade with each new generation.
Because our lives are innately dynamic our desire for balance (or what we perceive as balance) is ongoing.
But balance isn’t about doing more or less or going faster or slower, it’s simply about moving forward; not backward or stuck in place, but fully embracing our god-gifted agency, our power, potential, and permission to make choices.
Like Ferris Bueller says, “Life comes at you fast.”
Balance is how we keep moving at the pace of life.
Of course, the rest of that quote is “…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it,” which is where the process begins; slowing down enough to explore with curiosity, courage, and compassion what else might be going on in the process of living.
In John’s gospel Jesus says, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
Our lives are abundant indeed, full of the good, the bad, and the ugly all happening at once!
Coaching helps to sift through the abundance of tensions, dissonance, and competing desires that are a part of every human life.
I’m forever indebted to Michael Jinkins, a favorite seminary professor, who gifted me with a teaching that’s thrust my faith to new depths since hearing it for the first time.
He insists that God didn’t go through the trouble of becoming human to make us religious, but God became human to make human beings out of us.
Coaching is the art of the telling this truth—the Good News that God needs us to be human; that the human agenda is so sacred that God’s has made it God’s own agenda; that God is so profoundly for us, that God is determined to see humanity claim—to the fullest measure—our power, potential, and capacity to progress.
One of the first ideas TCI introduces is that “…people are, by their very nature, naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.
They are capable: capable of finding answerers, capable of choosing, capable of taking action, capable of recovering when things don’t go as planned, and, especially, capable of learning; [and that] this capacity is wired into all human beings no matter their circumstances.”
My greatest privilege as a coach is reminding my fellow human beings of our humanity: how beautiful we are, how resilient we are, and how much we truly are to each other.
In the aftermath of 2020, what better time than now to tell the truth about our abundantly human lives?
The Reverend Kaci Clark-Porter, along with her spouse, The Reverend Holly Clark-Porter, currently live in Fredonia, NY. Prior to their move this summer they served as Co-Pastors of Grace Presbyterian Church in El Paso, Texas. Kaci has served congregations in Wilmington, DE and Austin, TX. Kaci is a highly regarded preacher and conference leader and has contributed worship materials and essays to Call to Worship, the journal published by the Office of Theology & Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She earned a Master of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
 Kimsey-House, Henry and Karen; Sandal, Phillip; Whitworth, Laura. Co-Active Coaching. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2011, pg. 4.