Back in the learner’s seat: The unexpected lessons from my coaching course

I knew I’d learn a lot from my coaching accreditation course, but I didn’t expect to get a real-life reminder of the vulnerability it takes to invite growth, and the challenge of negative self-talk.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in student mode. I’ve just completed the Gallup Global Strengths Coach certification program, an international-standard coaching accreditation. And apart from the course content, I gained some real-life lessons in what it feels like to be outside your comfort zone.

At the end of the course, I had to sit an exam. I found myself triggered by negative self-talk from past experiences: full of doubt, sure that I would fail. I was in an uncomfortable place – the same uncomfortable place I often coach people through in my work. I urge my clients to “be comfortable with the uncomfortable” – and I was reminded that it is one thing to say that, and quite another to actually do it! It is a difficult a place to be, and as a trainer and coach that reminder was a gift, a valuable lesson in walking the talk.

I was surprised by how this self-doubt snuck up on me. We use negative self-talk to ‘help’ us. It helps us avoid risk. If we try and fail, we can say, “I knew this would happen!” Of course, it is deceptive and wrong, and it holds us back from growth. But it can be seductive. I’m lucky: I know techniques to deal with it. I listened to it and then went into self-coaching mode, using the powerful question: “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?”, then flipping into “And what’s the best thing that could happen?”, to bring the focus back to the positive: hope, opportunity, and my higher purpose.

Being out of one’s comfort zone can be a hard place to be – exciting, but also scary. The push–pull between the two – from “I can’t do this!” to a feeling of growth and development – can be hard work. It can take effort to manage triggers from the past and feelings of self-doubt. For some people learning can be a place of vulnerability – something that it’s vital for coaches and trainers to account for in their practice.

I took 6 hours and 6 minutes to complete that exam, and I’m sure it is the longest time on record! That’s because I was self-coaching all the way through. But I did it, and I passed. And I have a renewed appreciation for my clients’ perseverance and effort when we do that hard work together. So I have a new certificate to put up on my wall, a stronger sense of empathy for all those I coach and train, and a heightened admiration for anyone who is prepared to go out of their comfort zone to grow and learn.

I can help with coaching, training, conflict resolution and workplace behavioural issues. Contact me by email at, on LinkedIn at or by phone on 0413 145 925.

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