by Robin L Goldstein, EdD Licensed Psychologist

Coaching is a widely accepted practice in many areas of our lives. The term comes from sports where it is easy to see that an experienced and accomplished individual is essential to help us improve. With our children we are often quick to find a coach to help with academic performance, voice, drama and music training or preparation for college. Adults who are interested in physical fitness now regularly use personal trainers to help them achieve their goals for strength, weight loss or endurance.

Coaching for personal and social goals is a newer phenomenon. The self help field has been booming over the past forty years and coaching is a natural out- growth of that desire to achieve improvements in many personal areas of our lives. People interested in self-improvement turn to books, magazines and television gurus to help them achieve improvements in their lives. Coaching is the next logical step to moving from ideas and goals to structure, progression and achievement.

Many of us have a long list of career, social, family or educational goals that we think about often but fail to achieve. How do we improve performance? This is not a mysterious process. In fact, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences have looked at the research in this area and defined the key elements. They include: Practice, Modeling, Receiving Feedback, Being Challenged, Building on Success, Rewards and Reducing Anxiety. These are exactly the steps that a coach will work with you on taking.


How often do we set goals for ourselves, only to fail on following through? Good coaching begins with establishing your personal goals and breaking them down in to achievable steps. Making a commitment to a coach who will follow up on a regular basis and make sure you are taking the time to practice the specific actions required gives you a much greater opportunity to achieve success.

Many of us do not know how to move from point A to point Z. A coach defines the intermediary steps, breaks down large, seemingly impossible goals into manageable steps and then assigns specific practice to move through each phase. Repetition, mental practice and visualization all help us to become more accomplished with each phase.


A good coach demonstrates the skills you wish to learn and tells you the specific methods to achieve those skills. When we use a personal trainer at the gym or a guitar teacher we expect to be shown and have demonstrations of the actions we should take. Likewise, a coach gives specific demonstrations of assertiveness, good parenting, job interviewing, expressing anger, stress management. In a self help book we read how to do these things but no one is there to help us assess and change our own personal stumbling blocks. A skilled coach can translate our desired behavior in to a style that fits our personality and circumstance.


No one can change their behavior without feedback. Out in the world this feedback is often too harsh or unexpected for us to benefit. Our bosses, spouses and teenagers may not have our well being as their primary concern so the feedback they give may only upset us or cause us to become defensive. A coach works for you and the only goal is to give feedback in a way that is most likely to help you improve. A skillful coach will be able to determine what you are doing that holds you back. You and the coach will work together to tailor practice that will help you overcome your stumbling blocks.


This is the part of coaching that is usually easiest to understand. Some people seem to be born with superior motivation. We all know these high achievers and stand in awe of their accomplishments. The rest of us, however, are not consigned to remain in the same place. Challenge, that is, being pushed to be our best in a supportive and effective way is a critical piece of the puzzle. Co- workers and family members try to serve this role and often they are very helpful but the emotional side of these relationships can interfere with their ability to truly help us. It is easy to become defensive, feel criticized or embarrassed by the efforts of people in our own circle to push us. Optimizing challenges is also important-not too hard and not too easy. A personal coach with whom you have a professional relationship takes their experience with human motivation to find the right degree for you. Your success becomes their success so it is critical to a coach that you continue to make advances.

What is the right way to challenge someone? That’s where the coach’s skill enters the picture. Some people require an aggressive approach, some more supportive. Some require hard proof, lots of explanation and an ability to understand the approach. Others are more intuitive. You will know your coach is doing the right kind of work for you when you feel excited and enthusiastic about the work and you are getting real results.


We usually get rewards in the real world when our behavior changes such as promotions or advancement at work, increased efficiency, better relationships, reduced frustration. Some people are better than others at seeing and recognizing rewards. A coach will be successful at keeping track of and specifying your progress. Important rewards are also enthusiastic praise. When we watch professional athletes perform we see their coaches’ excitement when they accomplish their goals. A personal coach provides the same enthusiasm and support, a key ingredient in success.


The key to achievement is reducing the anxiety that interferes with accomplishing goals. We all have our fears, reservations, blind spots and worries. Coaches use a variety of skills including relaxation training, cognitive behavioral techniques, stress and time management and role playing to help you reduce anxiety. Again, coaching allows someone to take general advice and translate it in to what will work specifically for YOU.

Contact me to schedule your 6 to 12 coaching sessions, so you can Get the Life You Want Now.