Why You Need a Coach
Abby Weng, English Coach & Consultant
“Am I being kidnapped?”
I was in a cab heading to my grandparents’ place, but there were three of us in the car: the driver, his mother and I. Yes, you read that right: his mother.
She was probably in her sixties, but I knew the two of them could still easily overpower me. Quickly, I checked to see if the door was locked and tried to figure out how I could get out of the car if it started to turn into a dark alley.
You must be wondering how I got myself in this creepy situation
Well… the old woman approached me as soon as I walked out of the train station and asked if I needed a cab. Even though I usually prefer to call the hotline for a reliable vehicle, the old woman seemed harmless, and she told me that she’d been driving for 10+ years, so I nodded and followed her.
I’ve always been really close to my grandmother, and that bond makes me love grandmothers universally. It’s hard for me to turn down that old lady when she offered me a cab. I should probably be more careful in the future!
Yes, it’s stupid, but I have a soft spot for grandmotherly figures.
A car soon pulled up and she explained to me that actually, her son was going to drive.
Shady… I thought. But since I was in a rush to get to an online meeting as soon as I reached my grandparents’, and there was no other cab in sight, I got into the vehicle anyway. I figured I had my phone, and I could follow the route with GPS.
That was when the truly odd thing happened…
The old woman got into the car too! The two of them were silent for a while, and I thought that was a sinister sign. Then the woman got on the phone and talked to her other son, telling him where we were located. I was immediately alarmed. A million thoughts raced through my head as I tried to sort out what to do next.
My calculations were soon interrupted by the mother’s voice again
“Use your turn signal!” She shouted at the driver, “And watch out for the motorcycles!”
As I listened to their conversation some more, I realized that she was coaching him! Even though the thought of being in the car of a novice was still unnerving, it was infinitely better than the scenario of being abducted.
When I stopped worrying about my safety, I began to appreciate the situation
Having a coach by our side as we’re engaging with life is absolutely the best way to learn, and I could see that this mother was helping her son in the same way that I help my clients every day.
While I believe that self-motivated learning is extremely important, having a coach can truly accelerate our progress because this mentor can help us do the following:.
1. Discover new opportunities
2. Eliminate blind spots
3. Overcome obstacles
Let’s rewind my cab story a little
Do you remember how I got on that potential horror ride in the first place? The mother (AKA the driver’s coach) sought me out. She came to me and offered exactly what I needed at the time, and in the process, she found her son an opportunity to apply his skills
In order to excel at anything, we need to take on real-life challenges
But learning in itself is already so demanding of our time and attention. Whenever we pick up a new skill, we have to repeat it multiple times, evaluate our performance and correct our course before doing the repetitions all over again. It takes a while for this skill to become our second nature, and in the meantime, we have to give it our full attention.
There really isn’t much time left for anything else
We are so deep in the trenches that we can only see the world at the level of our struggles. This inability to see beyond the task at hand is the reason why some English learners never succeed at bridging the gap between classroom English and real life.
All they can see are the exercises before them. When they are done with those? More exercises await! This is what happens in a conventional classroom: when you are done with one level, you simply move to the next to complete more exercises.
Then eventually, you find yourself graduating from this artificial system, and you are expected to somehow know how to live using your skills in spite having only practiced them in a restricted way inside a bubble.
How then, are we supposed to break outside of this limited box?
We need someone who has expertise and experience in the field to help us discover opportunities that compel us to put what we have learned into practice out there in the world, as well as opportunities that push us to learn more in a practical way.
For example, in English Ever After (my membership community), I regularly help my members find resources and come up with projects they may otherwise not stumble across or think of on their own. The most magical thing is that members will also help one another in the discovery process.
You may wonder: can’t we just find opportunities on our own?
Of course, we can, but with our limited time and knowledge, the same process can take much longer. I like to spend my time in places that can truly make a difference in my own growth, so if I can find an expert to help me illuminate the path, that is my preferred approach.
Moreover, before we gain enough exposure to a field, our vision is necessarily narrow, so there are lots of possibilities that we simply cannot see until we have more experience. A coach, on the other hand, can help us travel beyond our own imagination.
That’s how we can reach for the stars even when the night is dark
In addition to being a trailblazer who helps us find new paths for the future, a coach can also locate our blind spots in the present. Let’s now turn our attention to the second way that a coach can make all the difference in our learning.
Try repeating a word — any word — for a few minutes
You’ll observe a curious phenomenon: this word begins to sound strange and foreign to you. Then you start to doubt yourself: is this even the right way to pronounce it? The same thing happens when you stare at a word for an extended period of time: it starts to look wrong even though nothing has changed.
What happens when we practice anything repeatedly is that we develop blind spots sheerly by being exposed to this one thing over and over and over again.
Putting in the time is great. It’s what we need to do. However, the price that we have to pay is that we become less sensitive, and therefore, there are mistakes right in front of us which we fail to see.
The lack of familiarity breeds inaccuracy
When we are unfamiliar with something, our gut feelings about it tend to be off. If we simply follow our instincts during the learning process, at best, we keep circling around the same spot thinking we’re going somewhere, and at worst, we mislead ourselves and get lost.
Even in our era, when information is abundant and always at our fingertips, we can still benefit greatly from guidance. We need someone to show us how to distinguish between right and wrong while remaining flexible, how to organize all that information in a way that’s useful to our progress, and how to cut out the noise, so we can avoid overwhelm.
That “someone” is your coach
This professional has a pair of fresh eyes which can identify problems you may understand in your head but just cannot spot in your field of vision.
She can also surprise us by pinpointing the source of our problems when all along, we have assumed something else to be the cause. Imagine the time and trouble that insight can save us!
Suddenly, in a moment, we can see, with clarity, the issues that have been holding us back for a long time. Once we are enlightened, we can finally begin to make significant changes, but a good coach can do a lot more than point out what’s been stalling us; she can tell us exactly what to do too.
This takes us to the final way a coach can revolutionize our learning — by pushing us to overcome obstacles.
Here’s the fact: understanding a problem doesn’t mean we can solve it
Even if we are self-aware enough to see all the problems that exist, we may still have no clue about the next step. If at this time, we can have someone knowledgeable by our side, strategizing with us, we can then quickly discern what to do.
A coach helps us overcome obstacles more efficiently by breaking down the journey into smaller steps we can manage. In this way, we don’t get so paralyzed by the big picture that we simply stay frozen in the same place.
At the same time, she also keeps an eye on the destination for us as we take each step, so that we don’t get so lost in the details that we forget about the big picture either.
This guidance addresses obstacles that are both physical and mental
In addition to laying out strategies, a coach also has a supremely important role in encouraging and inspiring us. As we encounter difficulties, we are likely to blow them out of proportion. It’s especially in times like these that we need an expert to help us put everything in perspective again.
Our coach can tell us that we’re actually quite close to our destination when we feel as though we’re nowhere near it. She can remind us of the distance we’ve already traveled and celebrate our progress when we dismiss ourselves because we’re so focused on not being where we want to be yet.
In short, having a coach means that we can learn as we live
As opposed to the traditional classroom setting where teachers design a curriculum beforehand and ask you to grow within the boundaries of that box, a coach is there to help you deal with real life by discovering new opportunities, eliminating your blind spots and helping you overcome obstacles.
Back to my unusual cab ride…
That was a great experience, but I’m gonna still gonna call my own cab next time!
Actually, the driver ended up getting lost along the way. I still felt quite anxious about running late to my meeting; however, I had the privilege of witnessing how this mother-coach calmed the driver’s nerves and showed him how to find the right route then encouraged him to get back on it again.
As I burst out of the vehicle in a drizzle to get to my grandparents’ apartment, I couldn’t help smiling. How many cab drivers are lucky enough to get real-life training like that?
If my story has convinced you of the importance of getting a coach to help you accelerate your learning, you may be interested in my membership program: English Ever After.
As a member of this community, you will receive personalized coaching as you learn to use English better in your life (as opposed to someone else’s imaginary moment in a textbook or a classroom). I will be your co-pilot as you navigate this fascinating world in English!