Nobody likes a New Year’s resolution. They seem great in the moment, rolling off the tongue while we sip on champagne and enjoy our late-night buzz. But the next day, after the party is over and the hangover has arrived, the resolutions we commit to year after year are the same ones we break just a few days or weeks later. Before we know it, we’re right back to where we started.
So what’s the trick to staying committed? London-based life coach Chi Phan thinks it’s a matter of two things; space and accountability.
“I think that commitment from another person who believes in your potential, who will be there and will push you further, that’s going to make the change,” she says.
She might be right, or she might be biased. Either way, as a professional coach, she’s made a living out of keeping people accountable to the changes they want for themselves — something I got to experience first-hand.
A few weeks prior, Chi and I were connected by a mutual friend. I, a bona-fide cynic, had agreed to take on the challenge of trying out this mysterious method for personal improvement over the course of an abbreviated coaching programme. Six weeks and four sessions later, and I was finally getting the chance to be the one asking the questions.
A former investment banker originally from Vietnam, Chi Phan braved the rat race for six years in London — mostly for the security of a healthy income and a visa — before finally calling it quits in 2012.
“After six years, it felt like I couldn’t continue,” she says over Skype. “I didn’t want to get to 30 not knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
In the ensuing emotional upheaval, Chi points to her own experience in professional coaching that drew her to the concept of coaching as a career.
“It felt like a calling, so not only did it fit my skill set and my personality, it also fit with the purpose that I felt that I had in this world.”
Two years and a new career path later, nowadays Chi is busy shifting her energy away from her own life changes, and into making them a reality for her clients. The key to her success? A focus on the future and plenty of space.
Wide Open Spaces
Chi describes coaching as less about dwelling on what’s happened in the past, and more about identifying changes we want to make in the future. By encouraging clients to think less about what they haven’t done well before they find themselves in coaching — and instead thinking about how events in the past can change our future actions — Chi insists that coaching isn’t about fixing anything. It’s about empowering people to gain awareness and make the change themselves.
In practice, the process becomes an avant-garde collection of one-hour sessions blending visual exercises, hypothetical scenarios and even what a bystander might confuse for interpretive dance — a particularly nerve-wracking element for a cynic like myself.
The goal is to free up a client’s consciousness and break down mental barriers to gain awareness about themselves and their environment. This is what Chi calls “space”, and what she says is the key to transformation.
“Many of us are so constrained by social norms, our own sets of beliefs and our psychological conditioning that we can’t even dream more than what is immediately ahead of us,” she explains. “So apart from driving someone forward, coaching is more about creating space. More space to just breathe and take stock of what they really want, what they’re about, what their existence means.”
A New Breed of “Self Help”
Though Chi says most of her clients will have a particular change or goal in mind before booking her for a collection of these avant-garde sessions — or what the biz calls a programme — not every client is the same.
“I actually have one client who wanted to have a programme with me not because there was anything in particular she wanted, but because she was curious about who she was.
“She loves the conversations that we have, because from there she sees her problems differently, and sees herself differently.”
When it comes to coaching — or co-active coaching as she is formally trained — this kind of blurred line seems to be par for the course. Rather than seeing themselves as mentors or guides, co-active coaches “begin by holding the coachee as naturally creative, resourceful and whole, and completely capable of finding their own answers to whatever challenges they face”.
For some, the concept seems a bit far-fetched. For others, it’s a welcome adaptation from the kind of self-help we’re so accustomed to finding in boldly-titled books or on overly-optimistic blogs.
No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying that the concept of coaching is on the rise. According to the National Post, coaching is the second fastest growing industry in the world, not to mention one of the business sector’s newest HR buzzwords.
For me, it was a wholly foreign but surprisingly enlightening departure from the usual fester-and-pout coping mechanisms I’d employed in the past. Though not every exercise I experienced was a guaranteed transformational hit, I was surprised just how many times I’d come out of an hour feeling better than I did going in.
But the question remains — is it a passing fad or a proven method for finally following through on the New Year’s resolutions we make every year? For Chi, that’s not a question she thinks you’ll be answering right away.
“Transformation doesn’t happen in a session, or even in five sessions,” she says. “It happens in the long term.”
Who knows? Maybe a little bit of time, patience and space is all you need to make 2016 the year you finally do those things you promised at midnight.
Find more information about Chi Phan at TLC Choice Coaching by visiting her website: tlcchoicecoaching.com