Updated: Apr 26
My own coaching journey started unexpectedly in the mid ‘90s. I had hired a professional organizer, Kathy Paauw, to help me build a better filing system for my overwhelmed and disorganized office. Since she also offered coaching, I figured I’d go along for the ride.
At the time, I was caught a bit off guard by broad sweeping questions like, “What is your life mission and/or vision?”, but I was grateful for what followed. I could not have anticipated that a series of phone calls could help me to boost my productivity, balance my work priorities and even clarify what mattered most in life. I am forever thankful for Kathy’s coaching for over two decades. She helped me reflect on what was going on with me, bring clarity to my values, and to take action from a place of integrity.
When I look back at some of the most important crossroads in my life, I can clearly see that coaching helped me to make choices that were aligned with my core values. Some were incredibly painful, like saying goodbye to my husband as he went away to attend architecture school in another state. Others seemed like professional suicide, like leaving a successful academic career to start over with medical licensing in another country. Coaching helped me to access my own courage and grit, reaching beyond my comfort zone by tapping into my wise authentic self. It makes intuitive sense that we can only live our best lives when we are able to choose integrity, but it is surprisingly hard to do so on our own.
Coaching vs therapy
I’m often asked if coaching is like therapy. I tend to think of psychotherapy as being the best process for discovery and healing those with more serious trauma or clinical conditions like anxiety or depression. There definitely is some overlap between the two: in general counseling focuses on bringing clients up to a more functional level through exploration of the past, while coaching is more about examining goals and thoughts that move us forward.
It makes intuitive sense that we can only live our best lives when we are able to choose integrity, but it is surprisingly hard to do so on our own.
Coaching allowed me to go deeper and to listen for my inner wisdom, which was usually buried under layers of internalized “shoulds”, “buts”, and “what ifs”. I tended to worry about what others would think when I diverged from the traditional path. Coaching guides us to claim agency over our own choices by providing perspective, and by encouraging us to become more aware of our intuition.
Stepping outside the box
I have always thought of myself as being pretty conventional, preferring to wrap myself in the security blanket of approval from others by making safe choices and pleasing others. But there was a part of me that has always resisted the system, like choosing Women’s Health as an emerging specialty before it became mainstream, or by being drawn to Integrative Medicine. Coming to Hong Kong was another unexpected choice in some ways, but long overdue in others. My work in coaching myself now is often centered on embracing the label of “unconventional”, and in the idea that maybe what others love about me is that they see me as an intrepid explorer.
When I began coach training last fall, I wasn’t sure what direction this work would
take. Was I just adding yet more communication tools to augment my work in primary care? Or would I be carving a new path for myself? I was completely unprepared for the joy and sense of peace that seems to be permeating my being now, just a few months into practicing how to coach others. It’s like I’ve come home. I love connecting deeply with coaching clients, hearing their stories and guiding them gently to seek out their inner wisdom.
Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine (AZCIM) Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching (IHW) program is accredited online training program open to both health practitioners and non-health practitioners interested in joining the helping professions. Graduates are eligible to sit for the US National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) board examination.
Learn more about life coaching through The Life Coach School Podcast, a free podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind and emotions