How To Be Your Own Coach

What kind of coaches did you have as a child? More importantly, how do you coach yourself now?

Whether or not you played sports as a child, we all had people in our lives who acted as our coaches. This could have been a parent, uncle or aunt, family friend, teacher, or an actual sports coach.

What does a coach do? A coach:

  • Provides guidance, support, and encouragement to his or her players.
  • Believes in the potential of each of the players.
  • Gives feedback to a player when he or she isn’t doing well with info on how to improve their game.

As adults, it’s rare to still have an actual coach. Instead, it’s up to us to guide ourselves through life’s inevitable challenges.

So how to do you coach yourself? What is your self-talk on a daily basis? What about when you face challenges, feel scared or overwhelmed, or are facing decisions you are uncertain about?

Unfortunately, many of us do not have a high quality internal coach who inspires, motivates and encourages us to push beyond our fears and reach our potential.

Instead, many of us have a toxic coach who rants and raves on the sidelines, yelling at us and barraging us with disparaging remarks and criticisms.

“Well,” you might say, “that’s how I motivate myself. I’m pushing myself to be better.”

This is a common belief, but is it true? Does berating ourselves make us become better?

Research by Dr. Kristin Neff at the University of Texas has found when we receive a list of negative feedback we actually become more afraid to take risks or make mistakes and end up taking less action towards our goals.

Our negative coaching doesn’t inspire us to take the shot on goal – it causes us to be too afraid to try.

Animal trainers who can teach massive marine mammals how to jump through hoops in the air – an incredibly intricate sequence of events – perform this amazing feat solely through positive reinforcement. They praise the animal when it does well, rewarding it for each small step in the right direction. They don’t achieve this result by berating the dolphin for not jumping high enough!

And besides, even if berating ourselves did make us more effective, is that how you want to live?

Motivating ourselves through harsh self-criticism is like using dirty fuel in our car. It may get the job done, but it messes up our innards.

So how do we become better coaches to ourselves?

Step 1: Decide To Hire A New Coach

First, we must see our current toxic coach isn’t helping us feel better about ourselves or reach our goals. With this insight comes an attitude of this isn’t ok, I will not allow myself to be treated this way anymore, and a decision to try something new.

Step 2: Catch The Toxic Coach In Action

Our internal toxic coach is often working overtime in our minds. His criticism might be so commonplace we don’t even recognize it. Try counting how many self-critical thoughts you notice in one day – you may be surprised at what you find.

Step 3: Consciously Insert A Healthy Coach

Catching the old coach isn’t enough to silence him. In addition, we must replace his voice with a more positive, encouraging voice. Just like when we’re learning a new song, dance move, or golf swing, we need to deliberately over-practice the new pattern until it becomes natural

For the next seven days practice internally praising yourself for anything you do well, no matter how small it is, and encouraging yourself before and after doing something challenging.

For example:

  • You worked for two hours straight on that project – well done!
  • That went really well! You were confident and warm and people were engaged – you’re a great speaker!
  • Good job choosing the salad for lunch – you’re so healthy and take such good care of your body!

Sound cheesy or silly? I suppose it is. But would you be willing to try something a little silly or different if it radically changes how you feel about yourself and the quality of your life?

Why not try it for a day? If you don’t like it, you can always beat yourself up twice as much the next day to make up for lost time. 🙂