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Why Work With a Coach When You Can Just Buy a Book?

stack of books

A while back I was talking with a prospective client, and he asked me a great question:

Why would I work with a coach when I could just read a book?

It’s an excellent question.

And the answer is relatively simple.

The reason to work with a coach is because your current thinking is what got you stuck in the first place. To get un-stuck, you need a different perspective and way to think about the problem.

We all need help getting out of our own way, which often means we need help seeing outside our own box.

Books are awesome and fabulous resources. When you read something illuminating, you can re-read it, highlight it, note it, etc. so that you can fully digest the material, on your timeline.

But a coach helps you put the concepts and ideas into action. Even when you are scared to do so.

Books are a passive way to consume information, but they do not always lead to behavior change.

What I’ve discovered is that the more challenging the inner work, the more we trigger our own fear and the more likely we are to run and hide. Having a coach provides you with the freedom and safe space you might need to consider challenging (scary!) ideas. When they see the light of day, they usually aren’t nearly as bad as we think they are. But it often takes a skilled practitioner to coax out the beliefs that are the most troublesome.

The truth is that when we are stuck, it’s typically because we are faced with needing to make a change. Change is scary to our brains, and so our brains will come up with 1001 excuses for why this new thing won’t work, isn’t realistic, people will think you’re stupid, etc. etc.

Our beliefs, assumptions and perspective are shaped by our family, friends, where we grew up, etc. When you’re feeling trapped, talking to the people who might have similar beliefs may keep you trapped. Even when trying to help, sometimes they may unwittingly reinforce the viewpoint that’s keeping you stuck.

No doubt, it can be comforting to talk with people who have been through what you’re going through and people who know you well. It’s important to know you’re not alone. But you are also not exactly like anyone else, so what has worked for someone else can be instructive, but your path will be unique to you.

Since this is kind of abstract, let me give you an example, and then I’ll also give you some questions you can ask yourself to see if it makes sense to work with a coach.

A client of mine wanted to be a painter, but when he was working full-time for a company, he felt like he didn’t have the time to paint. When he got laid off and had the time to paint, he thought he should spend his time looking for work or doing freelance work rather than painting, which “wouldn’t pay the bills.”

When we looked at how he was actually spending his time, something came to light. He spent plenty of time that was unpaid cruising around on Facebook, volunteering for his kids’ school, working in the garden. The thing holding him back from painting wasn’t the need to make money; it was his beliefs. He had the time, but he wouldn’t allow himself to paint because he felt guilty. His father had worked two jobs to support his family and he was hanging on to this belief that he should be working as hard as his father did rather than taking the time to do something he really loved, whether it paid or not.

We are not always rational beings.

My painter client had trapped himself, but he couldn’t see it. For him, it was “reality.” Through our work together, he realized he had adopted a mindset that kept him stuck, but safe. He wasn’t risking anything by cruising around on Facebook.

Fast forward to the present. This month he has his own an art show and is receiving requests for paid commissions through his website. ;)

The following questions come from


1. What have I accomplished that I am proud of? Do I feel there is something missing? What would make me proud now?

2. What conversations am I having that bring me alive? What do I dare doing to be an active player instead of an observer in these conversations?

3. What yearning is emerging in my life? What is crying to be free?

4. What step can I take now to find out what is on the other side?

5. Is there something I need to leave behind to move forward?

If you are stuck and want help out of the muck, shoot me an email and we can figure out a time to talk.

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