A coaching client in his late teenage years approaches you with the following question: “I’d like to go to University, but I don’t think I could do the study. What should I do?” As his coach, what would you suggest? Zahava Starak, LCI Master Coach, answers…
Whether we are dealing with a young client fresh out of high school and ready to experience their next challenge or a mature age student who is pursuing studies after a stint in the workforce, the best place to start is by focusing on their reasons for wanting to go to university and how this studying will fit in with other activities in their life. With this information we can then devise the best strategies to enable them to start their studies with confidence and we can implement appropriate motivational tools to keep them focused.
Therefore, as with a majority of coaching clients, before we become too specific we will focus on our client’s big picture and ascertain which direction they are heading in and what their life will look like in the future, perhaps five years from now. To this end we could ask the client to write a letter to himself in the future, in which they actually describe what will be happening to them at this time. The letter serves as an impetus for our client to focus their thoughts on why they are seeking a university education and what the end goal is.
If we don’t want to use a tool we could just as easily sit comfortably with our client and ask them what they want to achieve with their studies and how their studies fit in with their life’s vision. Usually if clients have plans to study they have some idea of where they are heading and merely need a little encouragement to open up and share their dreams.
It might now also be advisable to explore what values our client holds to see if they will hinder or assist them in reaching their vision. A look at values will verify that the outcome goals that the client has in regards to their studies are in harmony with their personal values and will also determine what values the client has that could motivate them to study.
For example if the client’s top three values are fun, adventure and freedom they may experience some difficulty focusing on studies. If the client’s values include components such as discipline, hard work and personal growth it should be easier for the client to keep motivated once they start the process going. Either way this information can help us when motivating our client.
Throughout all our contacts and communications with our client we will always refer to their vision as it is the driving force. We know that our client wants to study – as their vision requires them to receive the knowledge, skill and competencies that a university education offers. Our role is to consistently keep this picture in our client’s mind as we work with them on overcoming the study barrier.
The client’s doubts about studying could be related to a number of factors – not having enough time to study, not knowing how to study or merely being in a state of procrastination.
To address the first case we need to find out what else is happening in our client’s life. Do they have a job and do they need to keep this job once they are studying? Do they have a social interest that requires regular attendance at meetings or events?
Are they a member of a sporting team and so are they committed to practice times and scheduled games? Are they in a relationship will they have further obligations and do they have the additional responsibilities of a parent?
Issues raised by these questions need to be carefully explored and it must be determined how realistic it is for our client to go to university. We might even need to consider part time studies or self paced studies if these options fit in better with the lifestyle of our client.
Once we are clear that our client’s goal to study at university is realistic and attainable, we can work with them in designing a timetable that will incorporate all aspects of their life while insuring enough time to attend classes and study. This timetable will clearly highlight specific timeslots and so if our client can stick to the plan they will not need to panic.
Next we can further assist our client in gaining the confidence to start university by providing them with some basic study hints. The timetable was a good starting point and now we can work on designating an area specifically for study. Everything that our client needs has to be easily accessible. Good lighting is important as is reduced distractions. If possible noise should be avoided. The study space need not be cold as a conducive ambience can go a long way in motivating our client.  
We can advise the client to have at hand highlighter pens and ‘post-it’ notes for highlighting key passages worth reviewing. They can record main points on an audio tape or digital file that can be replayed and listened to while doing household chores or driving. Summarising main points on a piece of paper or file card may also assist our client to retain key information.
We can further educate our client on the need to maintain good health habits while studying as this will keep their energy levels up and the adrenalin positively pumping. Relaxation and stretch exercises can be demonstrated as an accompaniment to regular physical exercise. Our client can be directed on healthy eating habits, specifically on appropriate snack foods to have at the ready while working on lengthy assignments.
Our client needs to be made aware that there is room for rewards and appropriate breaks in any study regime and that they can treat themselves to something special every now and them if they have maintained regular studies.
If our client is still hesitating to start their studies we can discuss with them any specific reasons they may have for procrastinating and we can explore the negative language that they are using to hold them back from taking up this challenge.
What is important now is to identify any doubts our client may have about their abilities and help them to change their perspective. “I can’t” language through NLP techniques and cognitive restructuring is changed to “I can” and “I want to”.
Our client is now empowered and we want to keep this motivation revving. In the long term our client needs to achieve their motivation internally and it is worth our while to discuss with them what they can do to keep their focus and remain motivated to achieve their goals. We can refer them back to their identified visions and goals as this can serve as a strong anchor whenever our client feels like they are getting lost. We can also help our client by explaining that goals are not set in stone and if they have to their goals can be modified or fine tuned – this might remove some unnecessary pressure.
We can also offer our client motivational resources in the form of tapes, books and screen savers with affirmations. If we have a favourite inspirational story or quote we can share it with our client while encouraging them to find messages that resonate with them. It is hoped that our client now knows what to do and will embark on their studies with a feeling of joy and excitement.