This post hits everything that comes up in an effective coaching relationship–the highs, the lows, pain, celebration, and change. But first a story.

Hello. My name is Jonathan, and I’m a coffee-a-holic.

Coffee came into my life in the early 1990s when I had to be at work at 3:30 or 4 AM. The caffeine jolt was the only thing that kept me going for those first couple of years. With an attitude of “There was no such thing as too much coffee”, when I started feeling a little bit worn out, I just had another cup. Before too long and my habit was living my life for me.
Coffee cup

Eventually, convincing myself that I only drank coffee because of the taste became pretty easy. Because it was true, java is one of my favorite flavors. The excuses became easy…just one more cup. What was going on in the background though, is that I became addicted to the caffeine…even after the rush stopped working.

The caffeine jolt lessened over time. Even though my tolerance must have been enormous, I could still tell when I hadn’t had a cup or two–or six. Instead of taking good care of my body and using a healthy energy management strategy, I relied on an artificial blast.

And it worked. For a while.

A few months ago, I realized I had probably had a pot of coffee a day every day for the last 25 years. Not good.

Finally, the acid in coffee started giving me stomach and throat issues. So even though it was painful I stopped, cold turkey.

After a couple weeks, a lot of headaches, and a serious caffeine detox, I can tell you that I still miss the taste but I feel better than I ever have. My energy levels are peaking. I’m saving money. A side of myself I had long forgotten–the healthy side–is coming back to life.

The decision was made for health reasons, but I really miss a cup of joe in the morning. OK, I really miss seven or 8 cups of coffee in the morning. But my habit wasn’t taking me anywhere helpful.

What had become a crutch has now been replaced by much healthier habits based around exercise, eating right, and caffeine free beverages. (BTW…the Oprah Chai Herbal Decaf Tea from Teavana is AWESOME.)

Here’s the coaching insight: It was pain or discomfort that got me to make changes in my life. And coaches can leverage pain or discomfort to help a client build new and more effective, healthy habits.

If a client is depending on short-term, quick fix tactics, the dependence is probably worth it (at least in the client’s eyes) as long as the desired results keep coming. But the minute those results stop, somethings got to change.

And now, both coach and client have a decision to make. Do you replace one short term habit with another? Or do you push for more lasting change?

As a coach, how do you help your clients see deeper key issues that lead to healthier habits and resolutions? Constantly taking the long view is a strategy that that will help clients change consistently and intentionally. It is OK for coaches to challenge a client toward a longer view and healthier habits.

It’s also OK for a coach to work with a client who wants a short-term, quick fix mentality.

How do you know which to pursue? Let the client choose. The client always gets to choose.

In fact, this is one of the ways that coaches are distinct from other helping professions like consultants or counselors. Coaches are open to both addressing the current situation, but also taking a long view toward implementation of the new habit. Don’t be afraid to challenge your client, especially if it leads to long-term more sustainable habits.

But always let the client choose.