Reach Your Goals: Acceptance and Commitment Coaching

I have to be honest. I cringe at the term “life coach.”

What does that even mean?

I also lose my mind since anyone, yes anyone, can say they’re a life coach and market themselves as such. There isn’t a governing licensing board like there is for therapists. There are some coaching accreditations (I myself am Gestalt Certified). Likewise, there are evidence-based models that should guide coaching practices. Without the requirement of accreditation, however, people can designate themselves a life coach simply because they feel inspired to do so.

That’s why I’m an Acceptance and Commitment Coach (or ACC, for short).

What Is Acceptance and Commitment Coaching?

ACC is based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy model, which, in its simplest form, teaches people how to become more psychologically flexible so you can move toward what’s important to you. When you’re psychologically flexible, you’re able to “unhook” from the thoughts, feelings, images, memories, and stories that keep you stuck. ACT principles work, and I’ve been incorporating them into my life and therapy work since I discovered it 10 years ago.

Acceptance and Commitment Principles in Coaching

To really get into the full spectrum of ACC is too much for this article, and how it’s applied depends on why someone is coming in for coaching. It might help, however, to give you a little taste of some of the questions we would explore. We’re always going to start with identifying the goal of the engagement: what are you looking to move toward? What do you want? What would it mean for you to “get” what you want? This brings to light your goals and the larger values that are important to you. Then, we’ll explore how you get in your own way — in what ways are you psychologically inflexible (and we all have those moments). What old stories, beliefs, or memories are you holding onto? And when that stuff shows up, how do you respond? Then we move into your behaviors. How would you act if you’ve already achieved your goal? What would you be doing? How would you carry yourself?

An Example of Acceptance and Commitment Coaching

A really common situation in my coaching practice is the person who’s either in a new professional position or who wants to go off on their own. I have my own story around this, which inspired me to coach.

Quite often, this person is held back by fear, and more specifically, their old stories around perceived failure: being in over their head, not measuring up, disappointing someone, etc. Imposter syndrome is a real thing. It’s that nagging feeling of inadequacy despite any evidence to the contrary. In ACC terms, it’s when we get hooked or fused with our thoughts, stories, and memories of not being good enough. Maybe your first-grade teacher made a passing comment about failure that you’ve just can’t shake. Perhaps you equate getting fired from your high school job to being a failure.

Can you relate?

This running dialogue can be happening despite any and all evidence to the contrary. This happens to us all, by the way, and can hold us back from leading the life we want. I use ACC principles to help you unhook yourself from what doesn’t serve you, so you’re able to make moves that lead you toward where you want to go. You can do this even when you’re scared, unsettled, unsure, and uncomfortable — and you will be, because those are normal feelings.

To really experience using it to reach your goals, you’ll have to give it a try.