When you want yourself and your circumstances to be different, you need to figure out how to challenge yourself to change yourself. To do something different so you get what you’re seeking. As the saying goes:

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.

Henry Ford

Doing what you’ve always done needs to change. But sometimes it isn’t easy to figure out what to do differently. Particularly if you have no experience regarding the issue, like figuring out how to live well with the impact of a challenging health issue.

So I want to share an example of how a coaching client dealt with an issue which is common among people I work with, and how we came up with some ways she could challenge herself to change. I also share what it is about coaching that helps.

How to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself

Let’s call the client Trudy. It’s not her real name. I have her permission to share this with you.

Trudy’s wanted to make sense of her willingness to take responsibility whether it is hers to take or not so she could make different choices going forwards. She described taking responsibility as a habitual knee jerk reaction.

There are pros and cons to this. When you take responsibility for what is yours to manage, it’s a way of you meeting your needs.

BUT, if you take responsibility for something that isn’t yours to do, then you can end up expending lots of energy and you may not get the results you’re seeking. It can end up being wasted energy. And if you are living with an energy limiting health issue, you don’t have lots of energy to waste like that.

If you are living with an energy limiting illness, you have to watch what you take responsibility for. It can be draining to take responsibility for people and situations when it’s not your responsibility to take. Read what you can… Share on X

Also, if other people don’t appreciate you for taking responsibility when it was theirs to take, that can further compound things for you in an unhealthy way. You can end up feeling very under-appreciated.

Trudy also identified that when she did not feel heard, she would ‘just shut up’. She described this as also being a habitual behaviour and linked to taking responsibility.

How coaching helps: As the coach, I give you space to think through and talk about your issue. I’ll help you find the words to explain your situation and how you feel if that’s needed. Also, I ask thought provoking questions which help you realise the subtleties around your issue, both the good and the no-so-good.

Get curious about when, how, with whom and why the behaviour occurs

Once you know the behaviour you want to change, dissect when it happens, who else is involved (if anyone), what you do, and why.

Trudy gave some examples when, how and why her willingness to take responsibility behaviour occurs. She also identified what was helpful about what she did and what was not.

Trudy’s kind and considerate nature is a good thing to have. I offered that sometimes when we care so much we end up willingly taking responsibility for what isn’t ours can be excessive caring. There’s a shadow side to our good qualities. Too much of a good thing can end up becoming a not-so-good thing.

How coaching helps: The other thing I do as a coach is point out (gently) how you get in your own way, but also your strengths and how you are helping yourself. In my experience, clients often find this new awareness very empowering as this ah-ha realisation opens up new choices.

A woman is sitting down looking at the issue she wants to change. There are questions surrounding the issue which are: When does the issue occur? What happens? Is anyone else involved? Why does the issue happen? What are you doing just before? How are you feeling? What are your triggers? What beliefs and assumptions underpin your triggers? The aim of these questions is to help you get curious about the behaviours you want to change as that can help you find the key to changing them.

Getting curious can help you pinpoint your triggers

Your trigger is what gets you to engage in this habitual behaviour you want to change.

Trudy identified that she has a real caring nature and a desire to help others. She also said she feels a sense of responsibility not to hurt others. In fact, she has to ‘avoid hurting others at all costs’.

She said this was driving the willingness to take responsibility even in situations where the responsibility isn’t hers to take.

I reflected back to Trudy that avoiding hurting others at all costs sounded very strong and I could see how that could drive a willingness to take responsibility even if the responsibility is not yours to take.

How coaching helps: If something comes across as rather strong or otherwise, I reflect that back to the client. This is a form of feedback where the aim is to raise the client’s awareness. I pick this up through listening to what the client says, how s/he says it, what they don’t say and even listening to the non-verbal aspects of the conversation. Coaches are trained to listen at a deeper level than the level people usually listen at in everyday conversation.

Discover the beliefs which may no longer be serving you

Underpinning your triggers are often beliefs and assumptions about how life works and your role in it.

The beliefs underpinning Trudy’s willingness to take on responsibility were:

“If I don’t take responsibility, I will end up hurting people and THAT must be avoided at all costs.”


“It’s ok if it’s a cost to me if I take responsibility, even if the responsibility isn’t mine to take.”

How coaching helps: Sometimes we hold beliefs that no longer serve us. And these beliefs can be driving your behaviours. When you explain what you do that isn’t working, a coach may ask you the following questions to help you uncover beliefs that no longer serve you:

  • What do you have to believe about yourself?
  • What do you believe about others involved? (If there are other people involved.)
  • What do you have to believe in general about the situation?

Sometimes we hold beliefs that no longer serve us. To uncover those beliefs, when you explain what you do that isn’t working, a #coach may ask you: What do you believe about yourself/ others/ the situation for that belief to be… Share on X

So how do you challenge yourself as a way to change yourself?

This is one way how you can challenge yourself to change yourself. There are many others.

First, look at what pisses you off in relation to your beliefs

It’s usually the opposite of what you would do in a given situation. What pisses you off goes against what you consider important or good to do.

Trudy has this very caring and considerate nature, so I wasn’t surprised to hear her say that she gets upset when people litter, put their feet up on the seat opposite on the train or drive inconsiderately. In her eyes, these people weren’t considering others around them. They were doing the opposite of what Trudy values.

How coaching helps: The coach will continue to ask questions, listen deeply and reflect back what their noticing. For example, with Trudy, I reflected back how the behaviour of these people did not seem to align to her caring and considerate nature.

Second, do what pisses you off

Do the opposite of what you normally do. Engage in the behaviours others do that you disapprove of.

The thought of that is challenging!

For Trudy, I gave her an experiment to do. I asked her to put her feet up on the seat opposite the next time she was on a train. But she could take her shoes off and opt to do it at a time when it wasn’t rush hour.

This purpose of the experiment as I explained to Trudy was to challenge her to consider herself and her needs and be less focused on others. I asked her to notice how she felt as she did what she didn’t approve of. And to notice what it was like to take up space. Remember above she said when she didn’t feel heard, she would tend to stop talking. When you don’t make yourself heard, you take up less space so to speak.

How coaching helps: The coach may give you experiments and homework to do in between sessions. This is actually where a lot of the power of coaching lies. What you do with what you’ve learned from the sessions. You and the coach may also formulate your experiments and homework together or you may come up with them on your own during the session.

You can be choice-ful in how you choose to challenge yourself

Notice the parameters of the experiment. Trudy could take off her shoes before putting her feet on the chair opposite. And she didn’t have to do this experiment in rush hour.

I was asking her to go outside her comfort zone. But not to the extent that someone else couldn’t sit down because of her actions. Thinking back to Trudy’s belief, no one was going to ‘get hurt’. That could have been too much too soon. She was still able to exercise consideration and care.

Your purpose is to challenge yourself to change yourself. Not to overwhelm yourself with so much change you end up not being able to make any change.

How coaching helps: Challenge is part of coaching. You come to coaching to seek support in changing something about yourself and your life and challenge can help that along. A coach will challenge you in a healthy and safe way and be there to support you through that process of change so you don’t have to do it alone.

There's a picture of a woman on a train reading and she has her feet on the empty chair in front of her. Her shoes are on the floor so she's not wearing them. The woman would never do that before as she considered it very inconsiderate. However, she was so considerate of other people to the point it was at her own expense. So she is experimenting looking after her own needs and comfort by doing something she used to disapprove of. She is finding it comfortable. The point is you can be choice-ful in how you choose to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself. You could do the opposite of the behaviour you want to change or a version of the opposite.

The aim is to increase your flexibility and range in what you choose to do and why

Sometimes you may work to a value or belief you consider important to such a degree it doesn’t actually help you. But by doing something different, you increase your range so to speak. You’re no longer confined to one way of being but have more flexibility in how you deal with people and situations.

This is a way to safely challenge yourself as a way to change yourself.

What’s it like for you?

Think of something you wish to change about yourself. What small experiment can you give yourself to help you change yourself? When you have successfully changed something, what was it you did? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

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