The Two Ways Coaches Look At Insight (And Why Both Are Right And Wrong)

By Toku

Two axes

There are two ways coaches tend to look at insights:

1) Insights are miraculous.

Coaches who look at insights in this way tend to have Drop and Shift phases that are spacious, open, winding, and flowing. They don’t want to direct, they don’t want to control—they want this insights to happen.

This way of thinking has roots in both “person-centered therapy” (a major precursor to coaching) and several spiritual traditions. This can work great and lead to powerful insights, but it can also lead to long, windy sessions that go nowhere, and manufactured insights with little application or embodiment. It can also lead to false guruism (thinking your coach is a deity).

2) Insights are manufactured.

Coaches who look at insights this way tend to be process focused. They work their clients through their process: RTT, NLP, GROW, and all the other acronyms you can think of. Byron Katie’s THE WORK is very heavy on process.

They think that they must get their clients through this process to create insights. This can ALSO work really well. Many of these processes are well designed, codified, and have been shown to produce results. The problem is that they can also be used as unskillful bludgeons, excuses for bad coaching, and as panaceas that ignore important issues and factors.

For the Samurai Coach (a coach dedicated to mastery and the sacred practice of coaching) both paths and views are true and right:

  • Insights are miraculous. And very often in the breath-holding stillness of a coaching session the client can discover deep truths hidden from view.
  • Insights are also manufactured. The container, the steps, even the process we use can produce insights for the client if we hold them correctly and powerfully.

And both views are wrong:

  • Insights may be miraculous, but we can’t just wait around and hope they show up. That’s wasteful and lacks leadership.
  • Insights may be manufactured, but shoving your clients through or selling them on your “process” isn’t great coaching. It’s cheap robotic,s and dishonors the client and the craft.

The Samurai Coach embraces something else: a middle path, a question to this question instead of an answer.

Insight is both and neither. Sometimes you need a process, but you can’t depend on one. Sometimes you need spaciousness, but it’s not a panacea. The Samurai Coach stays in the inquiry, feeling back into their lineage and knowledge, feeling forward into the future and possibility, feeling into the moment and the most skillful means. They choose and then they observe.

When you practice this way, you never lose attention, never assume you know what’s next, never let the process or the space do the coaching for you. You are the coach, in space, in process. The client is the client, in space, in process.

It may seem impossible and it is. You will always fall off, get lazy, lose awareness, but this is the practice of the Shift as well. To notice. To return.

This is the way of the Samurai Coach, beyond manufacturing or miracling insight. But sitting in the center with the client, when the answer arrives, it arrives for both of you at once.

How to practice:

  • Let go of what you think you know about creating insight.
  • Instead, next time you coach, after you’ve Dropped, make yourself still and ask: “What is called for in this moment?”

Whatever answer arises go with it, and keep noticing.

Even the wrong answer can lead to the right place, if we pay attention.


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