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The other night a new acquaintance asked me what I did for a living, and continued to wonder why anyone would need a coach if they had supportive friends like she did. For those of us whose lives have been touched, guided or changed by a coach, that question is jaw-dropping. And then I realized, not everyone has yet had the privilege to work with a coach so the distinction is quite vast… Here is how the rest of our conversation went.

What’s the Difference between a Coach and Your Friends?

Having supportive friends is absolutely paramount to success of any kind, but they are your friends. They have your best interests at heart, they want you to succeed, and will most likely not be willing to openly or eagerly share bad news with you. For me, the most significant value a coach brings to the table is that they are an “innocent third party bystander.” Their independence from knowing you intimately, your unique situation, all of the politics and drama, allows them to help you find the best results FOR YOU – without navigating through the superfluous BS or expectations. They are there for YOU to succeed, and only you – they are completely independent.

And your coach’s independence allows you to share things – questions, concerns, doubts, and successes, in a way that is completely different than what most share openly and easily with their friends. There is zero judgment when you work with a coach, and sharing all of your hidden concerns or what if’s feels welcoming versus being scary or worse, a burden. A coach asks questions that you may not have ever considered before and provides the safe environment for you to explore the answers – instead of responding with a “knee-jerk” or canned response.

Your coach will also interact with you in an open, honest and direct manner – they will also use the approach that best fits your needs to help you make progress. They are chameleons of communication – if you need a strong push to get you on track, they will provide it; if you need some gentle guiding to make a step forward, they will guide you appropriately. They have no skin in the game, other than helping you make progress towards success.

With a coach, YOU are doing most of the talking – and you don’t have to feel bad about it or apologize for it. They are bringing out the wisdom within you instead of telling you what you should do, delivering their own opinion of a situation, or providing you with “the only way.”

And one of my favorite things about working with a coach is that your friends to be exactly what you want them to be – FRIENDS. The pressure of having questions swirling around in your head, not agreeing with the advice or opinions they provide you, feeling as though no one gets it – all of that is erased when you have a coach to be that outlet. Your relationship with your friends becomes so much more about who you both are, than the burden of the weight of not getting the right answers. It is freeing in ways you would not even think of, and yet, when it happens, you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Working with a coach is not for everyone or every situation. In fact, there are many things that working with a coach is great for – figuring out the next steps, overall direction questions, starting a new business or job, exploring parts of yourself, and so on. But coaching is not for everything. In fact, if you are looking to dig into your past or mend a relationship with a long-lost relative, coaching is probably not the best bet. And regardless, if you are not open and ready to start exploring and moving past the unknown, than the best coach in the world may still “fail.” Coaching is about YOU and how you want make progress in your own life, through the guidance of someone who is there to keep you on track, hold you accountable, and guide you on your journey.