Being with Yourself and Not Your Problems: #10 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching

This article is eleventh in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).


10. Being with Yourself and Not Your Problems

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

— Joseph Campbell

It is not uncommon for a client to heap problems at the feet of her coach and wail. A masterful coach will set the problems aside and focus on being with her client. Her job is not to solve, fix, or diagnose anything. Not you. Not your torments. She detaches from the strife and stays present with you.

When you’re suffering — be it from minor irritations, a walloping dose of bad times, cumulative stress, general self-pity — try the same on yourself and see if it’s not quite a bit easier to dissolve some of the hurting and the angst, and move beyond it.

How does one be with oneself and not one’s problems? First, stop trying to do something about the pain, to make it go away. Be with whatever is. Acknowledge it. Name it. Let it be. Second, quiet the chatter and obsessing in your head the best you can and follow suit by calming your body. Try fresh air and walking. Try steady breathing and meditating. You may choose to remain with yourself, just being, and not returning to wrangle with the troubles.

Or, when it seems to you that you’re more with yourself from those first two steps than with the problem, that’s sufficient if you’d like to check in further with yourself — and not your problem — with some open-ended questions. No need to attain ultra-zen status first. Here are some possible productive directions if you go down the latter path.


Probe from a big-picture place.

  • Just what the heck is going on?

  • What’s my internal state?

Idealize who you want to be.

  • Who do I want to be under the circumstances?

  • Who do I want to be in life?

Decide how you want to be.

  • How do I want to approach my troubles?

  • How will I handle myself, how will I be in this situation?

Find the matching feeling.

  • How does it feel to be the person I want to be?

  • How can I get to that feeling — where I want to be?

Explore broadly a better future if you can remain detached from particular results.

  • What does a resolution of these woes look like?

  • What is my preferred outcome to this situation?

  • What do I most want here?


The point is, coach yourself to stay with yourself. Let the problem stay in the background while you get to where you want to be.


Your Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ Practicing this one out in the world with those you know may be the best way to grasp the power of this principle. The next time someone comes to you with a problem, resist the temptation to offer a solution or to delve into solving it with them (or for them). Instead, keep the conversation on where they’re at. Just be with them in the moment. Ask wide-open questions like the ones above to remain with them and not their difficulty. Notice what this does for them and their perception of their struggles.

⎕ Explore detaching from a problem and being with yourself in your journal or in meditation. Pick a current irritation or predicament and go from there. Before concentrating entirely on being with yourself, try going back and forth between modes (being with yourself and being with your problem). See what they feel like and recognize the differences.

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