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March 7, 2023

Be Your Own Coach – #MTtalk Roundup

Sarah Harvey


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Some while ago, I signed up to do a "Moonwalk Marathon" for charity. The aim of the event was to join thousands of others in central London – where, at midnight, on a cold but thankfully dry May night, the klaxon would sound and we would all set off for a 26.2-mile walk through the night.

It'll be fun, they said. In the hours before midnight, uplifting music played and energetic warm-up routines with loud and enthusiastic organizers roused the crowds. Groups of friends met up, drank water, ate high-energy food, packed snacks, and prepared for seven-to-10-hour walks through the streets of London. Despite all this, I can assure you that, for me at least, this experience was not fun.

The good news was that I'd trained. In the months leading up to the event, I'd gradually increased the length of my walks to around 20 miles.

I had comfortable walking shoes that I'd "broken in" so they didn't rub. And I had special socks that hikers use, which are supposed to stop blisters. I was confident that I'd prepared well enough to cope with the physical demands ahead.

But I was to discover that it was the mental demands that were the most challenging of all.

One Step Leads to Another

My diet hadn't been great in the 24 hours before the walk, and I hadn't kept myself hydrated. I'd not rested properly. I'd stayed up late the previous evening, woken up early on the day, and followed a busy schedule before arriving for the walk.

I was also doing the walk alone. Yes, there were thousands of people around me, but I didn't have a walking companion – someone to talk to, to motivate me.

"A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not in the branch but in her own wings."

― Author Unknown

I had no one to encourage me when I was tired or felt like giving up. No one to be my cheerleader, my coach and keep me motivated. All of these factors set the tone for a very challenging and lonely nine-hour walk, with only my own thoughts to get me through.

By 5 a.m., in cold, deserted London, I was completely exhausted, and my heat blisters were developing blisters of their own! The only thing I had to keep me walking toward my goal, to keep me taking one step after another toward my destination, was being my own coach.

What Does It Mean to Be Your Own Coach?

My Moonwalk experience taught me that, while it can be helpful to have people around you to coach, challenge and cheer you on, the only person who is with you every minute of every day is you.

If you want to consistently be the best version of yourself, even in the face of adversity, and especially when you feel like giving up, be ready to coach yourself.

Good self-coaching leads to self-empowerment, and this can help you make more positive choices and take charge of your life. It can also build your self-confidence because, as you coach yourself, you develop your self-awareness.

You can coach yourself to think about the "big picture." Try asking yourself questions like:

  • What am I good at?
  • What knowledge, skills or behaviors do I want to improve?
  • What matters most to me in work and in life?
  • What are my personal and work goals?
  • What do I want to achieve personally and professionally?

And you can coach yourself through your day-to-day challenges, by reflecting on:

  • How can I best solve this problem?
  • What steps do I need to take to achieve this goal?
  • How can I use my strengths in this situation?
  • What do I need from myself today?
  • How can I change my thinking to see things more positively?
  • If I want new results, how should I think and behave?

Different Mindsets Create Different Results

Being your own coach means regularly reflecting on actions you take (or don't take), acknowledging what went well, and thinking through what you need to do to be even better in the future.

This could apply to anything from reflecting on your role in the completion of a big project, to how you handled an important conversation with your boss.

I did complete the Moonwalk Marathon, by the way. When I picked up my medal at the finish line at around 9 a.m., it was with a huge sense of achievement – and with the knowledge that mindset is so often the difference between giving up and achieving your goals.

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't – you're right."

Henry Ford

#MTtalk Roundup: Be Your Own Coach

During Friday's #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed how to be your own coach. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:

Q1. What does "being your own coach" mean to you?

@BRAVOMedia1 Being my own coach, for me, means providing self-care, spiritual enlightenment, courage, and strength.

@ZalaB_MT It means giving yourself the opportunities to get to know yourself, your strengths and areas of life/work you'd like to improve, change or "upgrade" and actively work on them.

@SaifuRizvi The act of being your own coach begins with positive self-talk! The day you start learning from your mistakes, you will become your own coach!

Q2. What's the difference between being your own coach and positive self-talk?

@Yolande_MT Positive self-talk is about taking care of a minute. Self-coaching is about taking care of a process.

@ThiamMeka2Gogue Positive self-talk is the internal narrative you have about yourself with positive wellbeing impacts. Being your own coach is developing your own ideas and actions in response to the challenges, with the purpose to increase your resilience and reduce your dependency on other people.

Q3. Why/when might you want to be your own coach?

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) This is a super helpful skill set in getting to know yourself better and being able to advocate for yourself to yourself and to others.

@Midgie_MT You might be your own coach when you are implementing daily habits or pursuing goals, which you know you can and will achieve.

Q4. How does being your own coach differ from coaching others?

@J_Stephens_CPA Getting past perfectionism with myself is a challenge, despite telling others they don't have to be.

@MarkC_Avgi Many who are their own coach are much tougher on themselves than they might be on others, or we might be easier because we know ourselves. But in assessing how you coach others, you need to learn about the others and get to know what coaching will work for them.

Q5. What skills does it take to be your own coach?

@BRAVOMedia1 Being my own coach takes emotional intelligence, resilience, fortitude, and self-love. No woman/man is an island and we need one another to thrive and grow. This chat is challenging!

@SarahH_MT You need to be open-minded to develop your self-awareness, use self-reflective techniques, be resilient, emotionally intelligent, determined, self-motivated, and have good judgment/decision-making skills.

Q6. What might be some challenges of being your own coach?

@PdJen I think one of the challenges of being your own coach could be knowing the right questions to ask. Of course, figuring things out is all part of the enjoyment of whatever journey you're on!

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) It's hard to be your own coach if you have no experience coaching, at least from my experience. I can also see there being an issue with learning to be kind to yourself.

Q7. How can you measure if self-coaching is successful?

@ThiamMeka2Gogue As long as you ask yourself insightful coaching questions that unlock your thinking and support you to identify actions, that will help you make positive life and career progress.

@PdJen I think you have to first understand where you are and why you need to self-coach; set goals and go from there. If several months down the line, you're still doing the same thing, getting the same results etc, then something isn't working.

Q8. When have you coached yourself successfully?

@Yolande_MT I coached myself successfully through a fitness challenge, a seven-day water fast (that, to me, was a major accomplishment) and handling a very difficult adopted Rottweiler. I had to coach me more than I had to train him!

@MarkC_Avgi When coaching myself during difficult situations, it was often a matter of asking myself: "What would ____________ have done in this situation?" That "blank" in the question could have been any number of people in my life, who I valued and respected.

Q9. What have you learned from other coaches that you've applied to yourself?

@SoniaH_MT When it comes to applying what I've learned from other coaches, it's accepting my flaws and triggers, then learning to work through them.

@ZalaB_MT Grateful for my coach/mentor. She taught us coaching is NOT mentoring, therapy or counseling. Coaches don't offer advice or counsel, they guide clients with what they bring to the table. Coaching takes 100 percent of your whole self, so you need to keep your boundaries.

Q10. Can anyone be their own coach? Yes/No? Explain.

@SarahH_MT Anyone CAN be their own coach but that's not to say you have to do it all alone. I do think self-coaching is more natural for some and some find it easier than others. But it IS possible for anyone to be their own coach with the right mindset.

@Midgie_MT Yes, anyone can coach themselves. Yet to do it effectively some basic skills and tools help!

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.

Coming Up: The Importance of Lifelong Learning

You'll have a hard time coaching yourself if you don't continue learning about yourself and from others. Next time on #MTtalk, we're going to talk about a topic that excites all of us here at Mind Tools: the importance of lifelong learning (thanks for the topic suggestion, @ZalaB_MT). In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know why you continue learning.

"Be Your Own Coach" Resources

To help you prepare for the chat, we've compiled a list of resources for you to browse. (Note that you'll need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.)

We've also just released a whole batch of new coaching videos on Mind Tools. Our "Get Coaching – Introducing Brand-New Mind Tools Coaching Videos" blog reveals all!

Sarah Harvey

About the Author

Sarah is an experienced and qualified leadership, culture and conflict coach. An author, skilled trainer, facilitator, manager mentor, and workplace mediator, Sarah has over 30 years' experience to draw on. Following a career as an HR leader and consultant, she now loves coaching leaders and teams to improve their results through developing better workplace relationships and creating savvy conversational cultures. Away from work, Sarah can be found in her garden or perhaps writing her next book.

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