What Coaching Is NOT — Here’s What I Know For Sure!

Siddharth Anantharam
5 min readOct 15, 2020

So, what is coaching? As a coach, what is it that you really do?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I would be pretty damn rich by now!

Very early in my life, I realized that coaching is one of the things I’d be happy doing for the rest of my life. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

During the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching some incredibly inspiring humans, groups, teams, and companies while learning from master coaches who are true leaders of this craft.

And I have to say that the hours I have spent coaching others, the days I have spent coaching myself, and the months I have spent being coached, have truly been some of the most fulfilling moments of my life, so far.

Each experience has furthered my understanding of what coaching is and most importantly what it’s NOT.

So, when I saw this familiar question pop up once again in my Instagram inbox, I sat down to reflect on what the experience of coaching really means to me. And what someone should be looking for in their coach.

If you are someone who is curious about hiring a coach, here are 5 key things you should be aware of:

1. Coaching is NOT about you or your coach. It is about the relationship that you co-create together.

No matter how good a coach is before they walk into the room, they are only as good as the relationship that they can create with you.

The role your coach plays in this relationship is expressed beautifully in this analogy that I first heard from one of my favorite master coaches— Michael Neill

At times your coach acts as your mirror to reflect back things you probably know about yourself but need to become more aware of.

At other times your coach acts as your torchlight shining a light on the things that lie in your blind spot.

This elegant dance between being your mirror and being your torchlight is what a coaching relationship is all about.

2. Coaching is NOT about answering powerful questions. It’s about initiating a humble inquiry about something you truly care about.

Yes, you read that right. Every second article you have read about coaching will probably tell you that a coach’s primary role is to ask you powerful questions. So most coaches today believe that carrying a list of powerful questions will make them more effective.

However, master coaches know that the power of the question doesn’t lie in the words but in the intention with which it is asked.

If your coach’s inquiry comes from a place of deep, unwavering care about something that really matters to you, even the simplest questions can be most powerful.

The best questions are the ones that the coach asks you from a place of genuine curiosity and that helps you really reframe or reflect on an important matter in your life.

3. Coaching is NOT about helping you get what you WANT. It’s about helping you understand what you really NEED.

If your coach is helping you get what you want, he/she is probably not digging deep enough. At the root of everything you want cognitively is a base human need which when satisfied creates lasting fulfillment.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Here are examples of two different clients I coached in the past month, what they wanted as an outcome, and what they really needed at the root of it all.

Client 1
Want → I want to quit my job. It’s not paying me well enough.
Need → I don’t feel appreciated for the incredible amount of work I have put in during this lockdown.

Client 2
Want → I am having the most terrible conflicts with my partner.
Need → I don’t feel loved and cared for.

Transformational coaches help you filter through your wants to identify your core need and then partner with you to find ways and means of fulfilling them.

4. Coaching is NOT about DOING. It’s an invitation into a space of BEING.

The outcome-driven nature of coaching is often misunderstood to be something that pushes you into intense action.

While that’s what it looks like on the surface, deep down I have learned that coaching is, in fact, a spiritual experience that slows you down and helps you connect deeply with the source of your own potential, creativity, and intention.

The most powerful coaching helps you access the calm that lies at the bottom of the stormy ocean and take decisions that are best for you from that place.

5. Coaching is not about PUSHING you towards your goals. It’s about PULLING you towards your future potential.

While the objective of coaching is to help you achieve your biggest goals and dreams, a coach’s true job is to activate the intrinsic motivation that lies inside you so you can perform at your highest potential.

And for this reason, a coach needs to have the unique eye to see not just who you are now but who you can become.

And this is what I do and get paid to do as a coach.

To help my clients SEE a future version of themselves that they hadn’t seen before. And then ensure they never UNSEE it.

As Tim Gallwey, one of the pioneers of sports psychology summarizes, coaching is truly an Inner Game where your coach partners with you to eliminate anything that interferes with you performing at your highest potential.

It is a journey that I would recommend every person to take because it truly changes you for the better.

It is truly a gift that keeps on giving :)

PS: If you are curious about what coaching can do for you, let’s talk. From finding clarity about an important decision to growing through an important transition in your life, coaching can offer what you need most right now.

Just drop me a message on Instagram and we can schedule a conversation.

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Siddharth Anantharam

Founder of LIFE CIRCLES | Business Head @Evercoach by Mindvalley | Leadership Coach