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Friday, 26th of February 2021
Why coaching isn't for everybody (and mentoring or therapy neither)


A year ago, we were facing the start of a global lockdown. One year before that, nobody could have ever predicted that such a complete standstill of the world would ever occur. Now, one year after that first lockdown, we're still more or less in the same situation. And again, who could have predicted a year ago that after 365 days, we would still be fighting the same virus and challenges that come along with it?

Such a dramatic change in our lifestyles and such a prolonged period of time where things don't return to what we were used to (if they will ever return...) makes that many people are struggling right now.
Entrepreneurs have to re-invent their businesses. Some successfully do so, for others, it's a nightmare.
Parents are struggling to keep the balance between work and homeschooling their kids.
Employees have to adapt to continue working from home and to remote bond with their colleagues and company.
Families struggle with the new constellation of constantly being together (probably that's why there is such an increase in the divorce rate right now...).
And many people struggle with the lack of social interaction and social entertainment.

So chances that you're struggling with something right now, and/or that your (psychological / mental) wellbeing isn't at its best, are pretty high.
Many people acknowledge this struggle, even though there's so much help and support available out there to get you through. Are you reaching out for help?

Perhaps you don't, because you don't know what kind of help is right for you?
Should you be looking into therapy? Mentoring? Coaching?

Read along, and I'll explain the main differences.

To explain the main differences between therapy, mentoring, and coaching (seen from my humble perspective and experience over the past 15 years as a business/executive coach), I will use a metaphorical example:
Imagine you're driving a car (it's like being in the driver's seat of your life), and you're standing in front of a red light that takes ages to turn green (it's like being stuck in this pandemic life), then what would the effect be if you go into therapy, mentorship, or coaching?


With therapy, you will gain insight into which roads you have travelled and which turns you have taken to now end up before that metaphorical red light. You will clearly understand, in full detail, how you travelled and why you made the decision to take those specific turns at the time you were taking them. The therapist can also help you grasp and analyse why you made those choices, or even point out where you took a turn, even when you didn't realise you did so.
This looking in retrospect and problem-focused approach is very useful, because whenever the metaphorical red light ever turns green again, chances are pretty high you have learned from your past, which you can now implement in your future driving habits, to potentially make better decisions at the next turn you have to take.


Where therapy is very reflective and past oriented, and a therapist will help you clarify and comprehend what and why things have happened, things are different with a mentor. A mentor is someone who is sitting next to you in your car. Compare them with a driving instructor, having the city knowledge of a taxi driver. He's able to tell you exactly what you have to do when you're stuck there in front of that red light. Perhaps he knows a better route and can instruct you all the lefts and rights you have to take. That alternative route might be scary for you, or very difficult to drive on. But that's not a problem, you've got someone at your side who has travelled that route a thousand times, and knows precisely how you have to deal with all the -at least for you- unexpected turns and pitfalls along the way.


As you can see, mentoring is already much more action-oriented. But you completely put your faith and trust in the hands of your co-pilot. Which doesn't have to be a bad thing, especially not if you're driving in an area you've never driven in before. But what if your co-pilot isn't as experienced as he pretends to be? Then things could become pretty dangerous, right?
That's why a coach isn't a full-blown co-pilot. With coaching, the decision power remains in your hands. You're driving because you know how to drive and you're good at it. In this particular situation, you're just a little stuck in front of that specific red light.
Thanks to the coach, you will be able to overview your options and look at different solutions. Perhaps you want to take a risk here and simply ignore that red light. Perhaps you want to turn around and take an alternative route. Perhaps it's OK to just wait until the light turns green. Perhaps you have to make use of this situation and grab your sunglasses out of the glove box, because the sun is clearly shining at the other end of the crossroad, and taking them out while driving can be dangerous. Perhaps you should turn your engine off while waiting, to save on fuel or to contribute to the environment.
So many options to choose from, so many things to do,... and you thought you were stuck in front of that red light, right?
That's what a coach does. He/She clears your thinking, makes you look at the same situation with different eyes, and makes you go over all the alternatives that lay in front of you, lets you pick one of them -based on what you truly want to achieve, or where you truly want to end your drive- and guides you in making it a reality.

Of course, this overview is an oversimplification of reality. We can't describe 3 full-blown professions in just 3 paragraphs. Because even within each group, there are many specialisations and distinctions. For example, there are cognitive therapists, behavioural therapists, art therapists,...; there are business mentors, coding mentors, nursing mentors,...; there are life coaches, business coaches, athletic coaches,...
So a therapist is not just a therapist, a mentor is not just a mentor, and a coach is not just a coach.
But although there are still many variations, I'm convinced that this simplified overview can already give you a good first idea of the differences, so you can make a better informed choice in what is right for you.

And if you are an Ambitious Leader, someone who has everything to be successful (the right education, the right skills, the right support,...), and still you have the feeling that the sweat you put in and the results you get out are not in line, then there's probably a good match with us to get you going beyond what you ever thought possible!

Have a look here, and see whether you recognise yourself in our client stories.
Or watch Stuart's short testimonial.

If this speaks to you, then don't hesitate to reach out and have a chat together. I'm always happy to discover how we can help you, in your specific situation!
Book an appointment with The Happiness Factory using SetMore
Click the button, choose 'Online Services', select a Clarity-session or (re-)connect session, choose your coach, and pick the moment that suits you best to have the conversation.
Or just send me an email ;-)

Written by Dennis Fredrickx, Coach for Ambitous Leaders
Dennis helps Ambitious Leaders to reach more in an easier way.

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