The Power of Staying with Discomfort: Coaching to Build Awareness and Choice

In the world of coaching, the perspective of “Stay with, don’t avoid” has grown as a powerful approach for helping clients not only overcome, but also integrate their limiting beliefs. This “being with” approach involves sitting with the discomfort in service of exploring what’s there. In response, the client gains new awareness of the situation that they may be avoiding. When this is held by a trained, professional coach, the insights and growth can be significant.

By enabling people to build their awareness and choice through the “Stay with” approach, clients gain agency over many of their limiting beliefs, contributing to a more fulfilling, experiential, and rewarding life.

The Issue with Lack of Awareness and Choice

When we avoid looking at difficult situations, it limits the range of experiences we have in life. It’s like closing doors to rooms in our house, locking them, and never going back in – just in case. This leaves us with just the hallway to move around in, which is a real shame.

Of course, when it’s trauma, tragic circumstances, or very difficult historical memories that we have yet to explore, then therapy would be the best course of action. However, many of our present-day challenges and avoidances can be integrated and overcome through working with an aware, qualified coach.

How “Stay with” Builds Awareness and Choice

The “Stay with” approach involves sitting with discomfort, noticing it, breathing into it, and examining it up close rather than trying to avoid it. By fully experiencing it, we gain awareness and, inevitably, gentle acceptance. Coaches guide clients towards difficult emotions and encourage them to stay with the discomfort because emotions change shape all the time. As we experience them, the charge diminishes and softens.

All things are transient; everything changes. It’s the nature of the universe. By working with what’s here in real-time, the client experiences that and has the felt sense that, in fact, they can be with what’s been affecting them. It’s liberating.

The Benefits of Building Awareness and Choice

So, by embracing the discomfort in partnership with a coach, clients recognize that they are making a conscious choice. In fact, they do have sovereignty and agency in their life. Doors that were once locked and bolted through fear and “what ifs” now swing wide open. Rooms reveal themselves and excitement for life rushes in to occupy the space once again.

A Word on Systemic Oppression

For individuals from backgrounds with prevalent systemic oppression, trauma and challenging thoughts around this can understandably show up. As coaches, we must be mindful of this and compassionate when approaching this territory. Coaching Skills such as Asking Permission, Acknowledging and ensuring that there is a strong co-created relationship are essential in allowing your client to feel safe in sharing their lived experiences.

In Conclusion:

Coaching is not only about goal setting and reaching solutions; it is also about being present and noticing who you are becoming. A great coach, who is skilled and qualified, can be an incredible agent of change for people, journeying with them through sometimes difficult territory to open up much wider vistas and terrains, the true landscape of their lives.

If you curious about training to become a fully certified leadership coach with one of the most respected coach training schools in the world, read more about our ACT Leadership LPCC course here.

ACT is an internationally recognized coaching, leadership development and consulting company known for its commitment to leadership and performance coaching, valuing its long term partnerships with Brown University, the intelligence communities and its loyal and devoted diverse community.