Is it True? Is it Helpful?


When I started working with other people as their life coach I was flooded with self-doubt. Would I be a good coach?…or would I be at best wasting their time or at worst doing harm?

Many of these doubts were rooted in beliefs around what it actually meant to be a “good” coach…

A good coach would only ask profound questions.

A good coach would always know the most helpful resources and exercises.

A good coach would never be triggered by anything a client brings up.

A good coach would have her own life completely figured out.

Before I could really show up as the coach I wanted to be for the people I was working with, I needed to examine my beliefs around what it meant to be a good coach or a bad coach. Some of my beliefs were helpful. Most put me under so much pressure to get everything exactly right I lost sight of what really mattered—listening well and creating a safe space for the people I worked with.

We all have beliefs we live by, sometimes without even being fully aware of what they are. These beliefs can come from any number of sources and serve all sorts of purposes.

We might have a belief about what it means when someone doesn’t respond to our email. We likely have beliefs about what is required to be successful. Many of us have beliefs about who we need to be in order for others to like us. Most of us have beliefs about what it means to fill one of our roles—what it means to be a good spouse, a real artist, a successful entrepreneur.

The problem is our beliefs aren’t always completely true. Maybe they hold us or others to an impossible standard. No one can be perfect.

Sometimes they acknowledge only one option when really there are many possibilities. There is more than one way to be a real artist. There are many reasons someone may not respond to an email. Not everyone will like us—and when we change who we are in order to be liked we’re not really being liked for ourselves.

Our beliefs impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions whether or not they are actually helpful or true. It’s important to become aware of the beliefs we hold and take a more objective look at whether or not they are actually true. Questioning our beliefs can give us a clearer sense of how a belief is affecting our behavior, as well as how it might change our thoughts, feelings, and actions to let go of the belief.

When I was struggling with my own limiting beliefs around what it meant to be a good coach, my own coach suggested I try working through Byron Katie’s questions known as The Work . I’ve come back to this set of questions over and over again as I become aware of beliefs keeping me stuck in different areas of my life. I’d invite you to try this with me.

First notice and list any beliefs you’re holding onto. For a little help getting started, choose a role you currently have in your life or hope to have in the future (wife, father, teacher, mentor, etc). Finish the statement A good (role) would _____.

Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t evaluate your answers yet. Right now we’re just identifying what beliefs come up for you. We’ll take a closer look at them in a moment.

Next answer the following questions for each of the beliefs you listed in the previous step. (The bold questions come from Byron Katie. I’ve added the questions in parenthesis to show you a little more of how I think through them):

  1. Is it true?

  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Are there any exceptions or even the tiniest spark of doubt?)

  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? (What do you think? How do you act? What do you say? How do you feel emotionally? Physically?)

  4. Who would you be without the thought? (Again, what would you think? How would you act? What would you say? How would you feel emotionally? Physically?)

Of course, just realizing a belief we’ve been holding onto isn’t true or helpful doesn’t mean it will go away or stop influencing us. It’s one thing to intellectually know something isn’t true—it’s something else to change our thoughts and behaviors that have long reflected that belief.

Forging new thought patterns and adopting new ways of living is a process, but gaining clarity around what we’re believing and how it affects the way we show up in our lives is a huge start.

How did you find this exercise? What did you discover? Do the beliefs you hold prompt you to show up in your life in a way that honors your values? Are any expectations or beliefs leading you to act in ways that don’t align with who you actually are? What are the biggest obstacles to changing those beliefs?