Overcoming fear of failure?

An orange with a pair of post-it. A coach drive client toward his goal without squeezing.
Overcoming fears and achieving goals

Like every wednesday, two days ago, I went to Tennis Club for my usual lesson with my tennis coach Martin.

During the warm-up we spoke about my last coaching experience and I told him of the coaching delicate role that a coach has in exploring the client’s inner world. In this particular conversation I spoke about the difference between a therapist and a coach method.

Martin smiled at me.

“My cousin, who lives in Argentina, is a therapist – he said to me – Would you like to listen to this story?”

“Certainly – I answered – I love listening to stories.”

“There’s an old joke about personal therapists – Martin began telling me….

This joke is about a person who suffers from pain all night long and decides to go to a therapist office.

– I can’t sleep at nights for fear that someone can hide underneath my bed.

Says the person to the therapist.

– Hum… Answers the therapist.

– Do you understand doctor?

The patient asks.

– Yes, don’t be anxious. I can help you. It will take five months and your problem will be solved. We will meet for an hour two times a week, at the cost of $ 150.00 per session.

So they begin the therapy two times a week. After three months the patient stops visiting the therapist. After another month the therapist meets the patient at the station.

– Oh… How are you? – Asks the Therapist.

– Fine, thanks! –  Answers the ex-patient.

– May I ask you the reason why you stopped the therapy?

– Sure! Three months ago I went in a bar. There was a very gentle waiter. You know, in Argentina waiters are very kind and open to listening. I told him about my problem, about the bed, my pains and the therapy. He said that he could help me too and for only $ 10.00. I accepted.

– Really?

– Sure!

– And… did it work?

– Yes!

– What did he tell you?

– He suggested I buy a saw and saw the bed legs off.”

The joke raises a crucial question. The first step that a coach have to do with a client is always ask him what his goal is, the final one and the one for each session as well. A coach can’t always run around with a saw, but… yes… he can cut off what’s not relevant to his client or what belongs to his own agenda.

The coach has to explore the goal with the right questions:

– What is your goal?

– How much is the goal under your control?

– How will you know that you have achieved your goal?

– When will you achieve your goal?

– Is your goal achievable right now?

– Is your goal relevant?

– Is you’re an ethical goal?

– What are the reason that make you achieve your goal?

– Which aspect of your goal do you want to explore in this session?

– From1 to 10 how confident are you to achieving your goal?

– How will you feel when you achieve your goal?


Firstly,  ask your client his goal and help him achieve awareness about it. It’s very important to guarantee the coaching partnership. If client asks to sleep in his bed without fear and he is sure of this, so if he chooses a saw he has done the right thing.

Secondly, sure, it may be that the goal is on the surface of the client’s real needs. Everything at the right time. The coach has to help client search deep in time with his breating, speed and rhythm. If a coach drives too fast a client can’t see what is inside him.

Thirdly, the goal looks at present and future. It does not look at either restructuring within the personality or focusing on the past. This is the therapist’s and not the coach’s competence, but fear of failure could be an obstacle for the client to fix his own goals. How does it work?

  • As reluctance to try new ways or face challenging projects.
  • As procrastination.
  • As anxiety and self sabotage or self handicapping strategies.
  • As low self-esteem.
  • As perfectionism.

A coach can not take care of phobias, but he has to guide and support his client to overcome fears and to go ahead toward his goal. The 10th core competence that International Coach Federation requires is that a coach has the ability to develop and maintain an effective coaching plan with the client.

  1. Consolidates collected information and establishes a coaching plan and development goals with the client that address concerns and major areas for learning and development.
  2. Creates a plan with results that are attainable, measurable, specific, and have target dates.
  3. Makes plan adjustments as warranted by the coaching process and by changes in the situation.
  4. Helps the client identify and access different resources for learning (e.g., books, other professionals).
  5. Identifies and targets early successes that are important to the client.

Coaching is not sawing. Coaching is not squeezing. Coaching is not therapy. Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.


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