Self-Coaching 101: the Portable Coach

The Sports Coach As a Metaphor for the Life Coach

The Sports Coach As a Metaphor for the Life Coach

Here I am writing the first of a series of articles on self-coaching, let’s call it self-coaching 101. I’ll explain that a good starting point is the book The Portable Coach.

I’ve benefited a great deal from coaches of all types, especially life coaches. I am certain that you would too.

I suppose I wanted more in my life: a better life, better relationships, more success, more money, etc. Perhaps you do too?

But coaches are quite expensive, so it’s worth it to look for cheaper ways or even more effective ways to get the benefits.

Keep reading to start learning about how you would apply to yourself the basics of self-coaching 101!

To begin, there is something essential about a real live coach that self-coaching cannot replace: the objectivity, the externality i.e. the external focus, the different or broader experience, of the coach.

But even the best coach is not fully objective, and there are ways to bring in elements of objectivity with self-coaching.

Even the best coach does not know exactly what it is like to be you, and the broader experience of the coach might not be all that relevant to your particular situation.

This is to say that there is quite a lot you can benefit from self-coaching.

Thomas Leonard, Founder of the Life Coaching Profession

I decided to make this first article about Thomas Leonard and his book “The Portable Coach“, because he is generally credited to be the inventor of the life coaching profession.

I’ve had this book for nearly 20 years, and I’ve used it a lot.

I think it is useful to know a bit of history and to go to the sources to better understand the big picture:

Thomas Leonard started as a financial adviser, who realized that his clients wanted much more guidance than just financial advice.

His clients were generally highly success-driven and somewhat wealthy individuals. I think his materials are still very helpful, and form the foundation for life coaching, but they have to be better adapted to suit people’s situations and temperaments.

His book consists in a list of 28 conflicting pieces of advice, each of which 10 action-steps to take to make progress on this advice.

It would be insane to take any of the advice to the extreme.

Rather, our bodies and our lives evolve around states of semi-equilibrium, and the sensible thing to do to be happy is to maintain a balance between all our activities, relationships, demands, etc.

My impression is that he was a genius of personal development, but suffered an early death at the tender age of 48 due to his extreme drive.

I’ve chosen to list the most salient of the 28 principles, and illustrating how they were helpful for me with my own examples.

This might lead you to want to check out his book.

My word of caution before we start is to try to keep a wholesome perspective, to be aware and give priority to having a life that stays in balance, if you are going to try to apply some of his principles to your own life.

Applying any one of his principles to its logical extreme, as he presents it in the book, will lead you to feel bound as a horse to a drawn carriage heading straight into a wall.

The Traditional Coach As a Caution About Being Caught In a Straightjacket By Some Coaching Advice

The Traditional Coach As a Caution About Being Caught In a Straightjacket By Some Inflexible Coaching Advice

1- Become Incredibly Selfish

Of course this principle comes first in the book for its immediately shocking effect.

But it also deserves to be first by its importance.

There is no doubt that if you want to make good progress on your own life, you have to put yourself first.

Except when you don’t and it becomes a self-defeating principle. Ask yourself: how would it help me to put myself first here and there? How would my life have changed if I had done things differently?

A few examples from my life: I used to be incredibly selfish without knowing it, and it allowed me to breeze through graduate schools and get my PhD in physics. Same thing with becoming an investment banker.

But there were many costs to that, which I only realized much later. My success was costly in terms of relationships, my health, and also with finding what mattered really to me.

In the last ten years, I had the opposite problem as a medical researcher. I was too focused on helping others, so that I didn’t make enough of a name for myself in my new field.

Currently, I am in a phase where I am giving much time to my elderly parents and my girlfriend, but still finding balance by putting much emphasis on pursuing my hobbies mostly in figure skating and jazz piano.

2- Unhook Yourself From the Future

It is easy to get stuck in the past, but also to stress about what might not happen in the future.

As you set yourself up with some ambitious goals, you can become frustrated with your lack of progress.

Leonard’s principle says that you need to live well in the present, that it is unattractive to strive for your goals.

Of course this is paradoxical. How can you reach your goals if you don’t strive for them?

In the Zen way, you have to focus on living perfectly in tune with yourself in the present.

As for me, I reached extreme levels of anxiety relating to success in physics research 15-25 years ago, but I was better able to cope in the last 10 years in medical research because I had put my ego aside and was focused on the success of other people’s projects, collaborators and students.

Currently, I can have worries when I think about how the future might work out for myself as I pursue my various passions.

But I am living very well in the present enjoying all my activities, and that’s what matters most.

How about you? Are you hooked to the future? To paying a mortgage, to working to your retirement, to accomplishing something rather than living fully in the present?

3- Overrespond to Every Event

This principle is easy to understand in a business context: satisfy your customer fully, go overboard with it.

Do the same with every relationship, or ambition that you have.

You’ll see that you quickly run out of time! Again one can see the danger with taking any principle to its logical ending.

A big distinction to make is between overresponding and overreacting to what is happening.

One example from my life is that I liked figure skating so much that I got a girlfriend who is a figure skating coach.

This has worked out wonderfully for me.

Before that, I took years of group skating lessons without making much progress.

I had a lot of bad skating habits that would not disappear without a very dedicated effort.

You can ask yourself about what is happening in your life, and whether it is something you would benefit in overresponding to.

Simple examples would be a financial problem like a credit card debt, that if you fix by overresponding, would make your life much better.

28- Be Real, Be Human

Well, I skipped 24 extremely demanding principles to jump to the last one which is a principle in obvious contradiction to all the rest.

Leonard here incites us to be human at last.

Just relax and go with the flow.

That’s what I am doing now. Are you?

Conclusion: Self-Coaching 101

Perhaps I piqued your curiosity, and you’ll want to get your copy of the Portable Coach and find out what the other 24 principles are.

I’ll stop here with 4/28 principles, because that is more than plenty to apply to your own life at once, as you continue your journey with self-coaching.

Depending on the interest of my readers, I might write about these other 24 principles soon.

However, I’ll give more immediate priority to some other tools of self-coaching, such as the Mind Over Money concept, the Degrees of Freedom, Landmark Education, Paul Scheele’s work, and much else. Stay Tuned!

Comments, questions and feedback below are much welcome and will be answered swiftly.

Social tagging:

6 Responses to Self-Coaching 101: the Portable Coach

  1. Stacii says:

    Life has so much to teach and I believe that everyone should look to a life coach for guidance and perspective. Having a leading example can sometimes prevent us from talking the long and narrow road sometimes. This guidance is something that we often require to make our journey a little less strenuous.

    The points listed in your article are very motivational and relevant to our everyday life. I have read several of these life educating and enriching books and this also sounds like an interesting one to try.

  2. Anilise says:

    Phil, thank you for a lot of good information packed into this post. It was very encouraging. Almost like a lift to my day. I just learned recently the importance of being selfish. Coming from a Christian upbringing I was taught to “Give, give, give”. That is a wonderful principle when it is used in alignment with “Know your limits”.  If children, teens, young adults, and families are not taught the importance of balance and being selfish because it is the season in their day or in their life to do so, they set themselves up to fail – fail at having the energy or mind-set or thinking process to be the best individual they can be.

    That is where my struggle came. My self-help journey has been developing proper thinking to take proper action to live a healthy, safe, and prosperous life. And it has been an amazing journey of selfishness, having come through ridicule, abuse, and chronic fatigue. Selfishness for me has been a blessing.  

    • phil says:

      Hello Anilise, thanks for sharing your story. I am glad that the concept of selfishness was thought-provoking for you. As you see, it is a fine line to thread between too much and too little selfishness, and I am happy to hear that you found a way to apply this principle in your life that works for you.

  3. Henry says:

    Hi Phil! I have read your post with great interest! I have heard about Thomas Leonard and was curious to learn about his coaching. 

    As everything else, it’s impossible to agree 100% with anybody. And this is the case concerning The portable coaching. I really agree with overresponding to every event. Making it a habit can really be a game changer. It would change our mind frame in front of each goal. And being real and being human are kinda a general recordation but very valid as a core principle. Being sensitive to those important aspects of life can revolutionize our present.

    • phil says:

      Thanks, Henry, for your perspective on the different principles. I am happy that you found power in the principle of overresponding, and about the overall importance of being human as the last principle. 

Leave a Reply