Mélanie Boucarut changed her life through coaching. It helped her to fix her relationship with her estranged mother, lose 22 kilos, save a bunch of money, find a loving partner and improve her mental health.
And all this took just 2.5 years.
That’s how long Mélanie has been a life coach for, but she’s also coached and mentored informally as part of her job or on the side for two decades. And it’s what she loves to do.
“Don’t tell this to my clients, but I would pay for the privilege to coach!” Mélanie told me. “The moment when people suddenly realise what has been blocking them, limiting them and when they manage to get over it – I love to be part of that.
“It’s a little bit like being a midwife, you know. I’ve never delivered a baby, but I imagine it’s a little bit the same when you finally get the head out and the baby starts crying and you have this new life and it’s beautiful.”
I specifically wanted to speak with Mélanie for my podcast about all this because I knew that we could go dig deep into the topic – without any bullshit – and discover exactly how coaching can help us step out of our own way.
But first, let’s dive into her definition of coaching:
Whether it’s finding love or losing a few kilos, the only way to reach your goal is to take action until you succeed, according to Mélanie.
“But in order to take action, you need to fuel this action with feelings. You need determination, creativity, curiosity, motivation and courage,” she says. “We all believe that our feelings pop up in our body because of whatever situation we’re in. We think that we look outside the window and it’s beautiful weather so we feel happy, or it’s raining so we feel sad. But that’s not the way it works. Between the situation and our feelings, there’s always a thought. And if you’re able to notice what you’re thinking about a situation, then you can change it if it’s not helping. You can create a mindset that helps you get to your goal.”
Because it’s so difficult to look into your own mind. It’s not impossible – you can absolutely self-coach once you have the techniques down, Mélanie believes – but it’s much harder to do it alone.
“This is what I teach my clients: how to coach themselves. But if you want to go further and deeper, it’s so much easier if you have somebody who, from time to time, will help you. I would never be where I am today without having coaches behind me,” Mélanie says.
The main skill of a coach is to help you frame the problem in a way that will help you find a solution, according to Mélanie.
Very often, what happens is that we describe the problem to ourselves in a way that prevents us from seeing the solutions. And so the job of a coach is to help you reframe the problem in a way that makes the solution appear. Because once you know what the real issue is, it’s much easier to go about fixing it. And Mélanie has tons of tools to help her clients to look at the situation in finer detail.
But she never tells them what they should do.
“I could never be as creative as they will be in this situation,” Mélanie says. “But I make sure that they are fully equipped to understand the situation.
“Imagine that you’re the world’s best brain surgeon but you only have a butcher’s knife. It doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been before at operating on brains. If you just have a butcher’s knife, you’re not going to be able to be as good as you have been. So what I do is delicately remove the butcher’s knife from your hand. Then I give you a huge array of tools and tell you, ‘this tool is for this specific thing, this tool is for that specific thing’. Next, I guide you in picking the right tool, like a nurse sending tools to the surgeon, but then you’re the one operating on your own brain.”
Mélanie customises the process for every single person she works with, because every single person is unique. But the main steps are always essentially the same.
The first step is to understand what you’re thinking about your situation. So, for example, if you’re going to speak in public and are terrified, take a piece of paper and write down everything you think about that. Maybe you think you don’t have enough time to prepare, that people will laugh at you or that you’re not a good enough expert?
Write whatever comes to mind. That’s the way to get awareness.
The second step is to look at what you’ve written down and assess the feelings created by these thoughts.
Next, understand how to prepare for the situation. You’ll likely spend a lot of time in your mind imagining all the ways that it’s going to be a disaster, but this stops you from actually preparing yourself in the best way. You’re not going to take all the steps you know you could take because of the fear.
The next step is that, once you understand what you’re doing because of that feeling – and what you’re not doing – is to change your thoughts by reframing or finding a different angle. A coach will help you do that very, very quickly.
So, now we know what coaching is, here are some of the myths around the practice that Mélanie wanted to debunk.
People think that coaching is going to take a lot of effort and time, so they’re reluctant to try it, says Mélanie.
“First of all, coaching doesn’t take more time than worrying, procrastinating or being indecisive – all the things we do when we’re not managing our mind,” she explains.
“If you get coached, there will be some work to do. You can’t escape that. You will need an hour or two to get coached and do some specific work that the coach recommends. But most of the time, it takes about 10 minutes a day to coach yourself or do your exercises. It’s exactly like brushing your teeth. You invest this time so that you save yourself trouble later down the line.”
According to Mélanie, some people believe that coaches are trying to give you this magic recipe that’s too good to be true.
“We also have this image of the coach as like a witch doctor who’s going to get into your head and see things that happened to you when you were 4 and that it’s going to be very painful and overwhelming,” she says. “But it’s not at all like that. The coach is just a tool helping you with the method. You steer everything and decide what you want to talk about.”
“Some of the most powerful coaching I’ve ever done or received as a client all started from the very mundane,” Mélanie says. “It doesn’t need to be invasive. It’s not therapy. It’s very different. It’s very much in the here and now.”
It’s all about the goals you’re trying to reach, the difficulties you’re facing and how you can fix that.
You don’t need to know the precise issue to approach a coach, Mélanie says.
“You can just come with an emotion, a worry; you don’t need to elaborate much. It’s my job to help you find the problem,” she explains.
“Even when my clients come to me and they think they know what the issue is, usually I’m able to pinpoint that it’s probably something else. You just need to come with a symptom and then I’ll help you identify the problem and what you can do to solve it.
“A lot of my clients come to me because they’re ruminating with negative thoughts or feelings and they don’t know how to get out of this. And they don’t recognise themselves. They used to be very positive, very engaged, very driven, and all of a sudden they’re very negative and are not able to do the tasks on their to-do list. Or they’re confused and a bit lost.”
People have a tendency to think that coaching works for everybody else except for them.
“I used to think that coaching would never work for me because I’m a special snowflake,” says Mélanie. “I thought, ‘I am so screwed. I am so complicated. I am such a mess that coaching won’t work for me’.”
Want to find a coach? It’s best to follow coaches on social media to find somebody that you think you’ll click with, Mélanie advises. The main thing is finding a coach you feel has a good vibe.
“Like for every profession, there are people who are really good at coaching,” Mélanie says. “But there are also people who are very bad. Look at what kind of results the coach has gotten their previous clients, whether through testimonials or examples of the work that they have done.”
She also recommends finding a coach who has a coach.
“A coach who doesn’t get coached, in my opinion, can’t be a good coach,” Mélanie says. “Because if you’re not working on your own mind, it’s very difficult to help other people.”
“It’s not like we’re broken and need to be fixed. It’s not like we’re sick and need to be cured. It’s not that we’re not good enough and need to be improved,” Mélanie explains. “It’s just that we just have a human brain and the human brain is designed for the life we had 100,000 years ago. So all the problems we have are actually features that would help us survive much more efficiently in the very dangerous world that we were made for.”
She continues: “The fact that we get anxious, the fact that we compare ourselves to others, the fact that we can end up in analysis paralysis, the fact that we have imposter syndrome, all of that is not a problem. It’s a feeling. And when you understand this, you can relax. You’re not the only one who does this. Nothing is wrong with you. You’re fine. You just need to understand how your brain works, why it works that way, and what you can do to circumvent it or use it for your own advantage.”
Coaching is a never-ending game, according to Mélanie.
“It’s not like you fix yourself once and for all and then it’s done. It’s more like a game of chess with your own brain forever,” she says.
“You’re going to have thoughts that don’t work out for you, and you’re going to work on them and figure out something that works better for you.
“And then we’ll adjust and new thoughts pop up that create panic and anxiety and imposter syndrome and procrastination and indecision and all those wonderful things.”
Voila – that’s what Mélanie had to say about the culture of coaching. Learn more of her opinions, as well as extra info on how you can change your life for the better, in her People&Digital episode.
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