Life Coaching: How to Address Your Client’s Concerns

Harold Stephens

There is a difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, a concerned person solves a problem.


This is the second of a four part series of articles that walks you through the first couple of life coaching sessions with a client. All articles within this series include:


Obtaining Your Client’s Story

Often during your second session with your client you will want to delve into the details of your client’s story. This basically involves asking your client questions that are relevant to their concerns and the subsequent outcomes that they would like to achieve.

The kinds of questions you could ask here will vary depending on the client’s concerns and circumstances. There are therefore no specific recommendations, however it is important to ensure that the questions you ask help uncover key things that will provide you with greater insights into your client’s mindset, habits, and decision-making process.

Your goal here is to simply allow your client the time and space to talk about their problems and concerns openly and honestly. In fact, the more freedom your client has to express how they feel about their situation, the more insights you will gain about their life and circumstances — helping you to better help them work through their challenges. It’s therefore paramount that you just allow your client to talk and be themselves while you think, reflect and take notes about their life story.

Here is a list of questions you might like to ask yourself while obtaining your client’s story:

What obstacles are preventing them from moving forward?

If there are multiple problems, what priority should be give to each problem?

What are their strengths and weaknesses? What skills and abilities do they have?

How have their strengths served them in the past? How is this of value?

What goal are they trying to achieve?

Is this their real goal, or is there also an unconscious goal?

What attitude are their bringing to their problems? Is this helpful or unhelpful?

How have they tried to overcome their problems? What was the outcome?

What strategies did they use to overcome their problem? How helpful were these strategies?

How are they perceiving this situation? Is this an optimal way to perceive things?

Are they making any assumptions about this situation? Are these assumptions based on fact?

Do they believe that they can overcome their concerns?

What beliefs might be preventing them from moving forward?

What specifically might they need to change to help move them forward?

How are their emotional coping skills? Are they of any value? Why? Why not?

What’s their decision-making process like? Are they making optimal decisions? Where could they improve?

What are their personal standards like? What do they expect will happen? How is this significant?

What consistent actions do they take each day that might be prolonging this problem? What are their rituals?

How are their social influences and relationships potentially aggravating this problem?

Do they genuinely believe that they can successfully overcome their problems and achieve their goal?

Do they have the necessary level of motivation and commitment to make the necessary changes?

There are undoubtedly many more questions you could potentially keep in mind while your client shares their personal story with you. However, these questions will certainly provide you with the relevant information you need to gain the necessary insights required to work with your client far more effectively over the coming coaching sessions. It is however important that you jot down answers to as many of these questions as possible on a sheet of paper while listening to your client’s story. These insights will no doubt become indispensable as you delve deeper and deeper into your client’s life and circumstances.

Spend Time Future Pacing

Having now obtained your client’s story, it’s time to gain more clarity about the ideal outcome that your client would like to achieve.

Your client’s ideal outcome is the ultimate goal that they would like to have in their life once their current problems have been successfully resolved. At times of course this goal might not be very clear, and as such it’s therefore worthwhile to take your client through a future pacing exercise.

Future pacing basically involves taking your client into the future using their imagination.

Instruct your client to sit comfortably in a chair with their eyes closed. Now, guide them through the future pacing process:

I want you to imagine a life where you no longer experience these problems. In fact, imagine for a moment a time in the future where you have successfully overcome your problems. This time might be tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. It really doesn’t matter. All I would like to ask you to do is imagine your life without these problems. Just imagine what your life is like, what you are like, and what your relationships are like without this problem. In fact, I want you to imagine all these things with full sensory involvement. I would therefore like you to see, hear, touch, taste and smell all the intricate details of your life without this problem. Can you now do that for me?

Now as you imagine these wonderful scenarios, I want to ask you a few questions.

How are you feeling at the moment?

What’s your life like?

What are you doing?

Are you now able to do things that you couldn’t do before?

What are others doing?

How are you interacting with other people?

What shows you that your problems have been successfully resolved?

Can you describe in one or two sentences the outcome that you have achieved as a result of overcoming your problems?

When do you imagine you will be in this position?

Now as a final step, imagine moving backwards step-by-step from this future date to the present moment. Can you describe to me how you got to this stage in your life? How did things kind of come together in a positive way to help you reach this ideal outcome?

The final step involved incorporating a reverse engineering process that helps your client work backwards step-by-step from the future to the present moment. As they work backwards ask them to describe how they created the reality they just imagined. It’s of course not necessary to go into a lot of detail at this stage, however it can most certainly be a helpful process because it will provide your client with greater clarity of mind and maybe even the confidence they need to overcome their problems successfully.

Obtaining Life Coaching Client's Story


Creating a Working Metaphor

You should now be quite familiar with your client’s story. In fact, you should now fully understand their concerns and problems, along with the desired outcomes that they would like to achieve. However, your client might still lack the confidence they need to fully commit themselves to the journey ahead. And this basically comes down to their level of resourcefulness. Your client might not have the necessary confidence because they lack the resourcefulness they need to overcome their problems successfully. It’s therefore up to you to help your client become more resourceful.

One of the best ways to enhance your client’s resourcefulness is to introduce a metaphor.

A metaphor is an implied comparison that brings together two dissimilar objects or things. The two things that are being compared make up the metaphor.

Metaphors are used constantly to help us make sense of the world we live in. In fact, they shape our understanding of the world and subsequently our mental model of reality. In fact, metaphors assist us with making more effective choices and decisions about the events and circumstances of our lives. They can also help keep us inspired and motivated as we move forward towards our desired outcomes.

Metaphors are very useful because they link the new with the familiar. In other words, they help bridge the gap by piecing together a canvas of new concepts and ideas and presenting them in a way that helps your client better understand what it might take to overcome their problems successfully.

All this is very important because familiarity, a sense of connection, and comfort are the driving forces that will help your client overcome fear, resistance and anxiety. In fact, metaphors will help put your client’s mind to rest by providing them with an alternate reality where they are free to experiment and try new things that will help them to successfully overcome their problems. And within this “experimental” world they will potentially find the confidence and the resourcefulness they need to think more creatively in uninhibited ways to help move their life forward in a positive way.

For more information about the power of metaphors, please read Using Metaphors to Think Visually.

For a metaphor to work in this way, it must be outrageous, funny and above all else must involve your client in some way. In other words, your client must be a part of this metaphor. In fact, they must be an integral part of the metaphor because their role within the metaphor itself is what will help provide them with the creative spark they need to overcome their problems successfully.

It’s also important to point out that your client must be the one who creates this metaphor. In other words, they must take ownership of this metaphor. With ownership comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes accountability, which is exactly what’s required to help move your client forward in a positive way.

Let’s now work through the four step metaphor creation process.

Step 1: Identify the Problem and Any Prevalent Emotional States

Even though it’s up to your client to create their own metaphor, it’s up to you as a coach to help guide them through this process. In fact, throughout the process of obtaining your client’s story, it’s helpful to keep in mind potential metaphors you could use to help your client work through their problems successfully.

Within the first step of this process, pinpoint the problem your client is facing and the prevalent emotional states that seem to be causing them most concern. The problem will become the central part of the metaphor, and the emotional states will become small obstacles along this journey. These small obstacles can effectively be transformed into warts, into big ears, into the act of being stuck in a mud pit, etc. You are after all thinking in outrageous ways trying to come up with something that will help get your client’s creative juices flowing.

Step 2: Account for the People Involved in the Problem

Now take into consideration all the people involved in your client’s problem. These people can essentially become characters within this metaphor. If these people for instance have a very specific personality or role to play, then you could turn them into animals, aliens, insects, plants, or whatever else makes sense. As long as their role and personality fits the characteristics of a specific animal, then it will certainly be worthwhile presenting these people in such a way.

Also, consider the environment that your client is working with. Take this environment and dramatically change it in creative and unexpected ways. For instance, this problematic environment can be transferred underwater, or onto an alien planet, or into a petri dish, into a laboratory, into an ant hole, into your hair, or inside a television set, etc. The crazier and more unusual the environment the better this metaphor will potentially work.

Step 3: Identify Crucial Relationships and Circumstantial Patterns

It’s important now to identify crucial relationships and circumstantial patterns that you picked up while obtaining your client’s story. There might for instance be some unique social relationships that you client has with other people. It’s now time to explore these relationships in a little detail and place them into your metaphorical world. For instance, maybe the relationship your client has with another person is akin to the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, or between two pigs, or between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, or between an apple and an orange. Again, the more unusual the relationship the better the metaphor will potentially work.

Along the same lines, it’s important to explore patterns you’ve picked up while obtaining your client’s story. These patterns can come in many forms. For instance a pattern you’ve picked up might have something to do with an addiction that your client constantly indulges in. Or a pattern might come in the form of certain events occurring one after the other consistently over time. It’s up to you and your client to work with these patterns and to place them within your metaphorical world in some way.

Step 4: Create a Comical and Outrageous Metaphor

The final step of this process involves putting all these pieces together to create a comical and outrageous metaphor that can be used to help your client overcome their problems successfully. Ask your client:

What does this scenario remind you of?

What do these people remind you of?

What does this environment remind you of?

What does your relationship with this person remind you of?

What do these patterns in your behavior remind you of?

How can you potentially turn this problem into a metaphor?

How could we integrate everything into a comical and outrageous metaphor we could potentially work with?

How can we now alter this metaphor to help you overcome your problem?

Once you have established the metaphor, it’s important to keep referring back to it as often as needed whenever you feel your client is mentally stuck and unable to move forward. It’s during these times that you must encourage them to think about their life and circumstances within the boundaries of this metaphor. This is helpful because they might not feel as though they are resourceful enough to overcome their problems in the real world, however while thinking about their problems within this metaphorical world, they are free to think and do whatever they want without limitations.

Once your client comes up with an idea or solution within this metaphorical world, it’s then up to you as the coach to help them transfer these lessons into the real world. Now of course, at times transferring things across in this way may not always lead to ideal solutions, however what this process does do is create a spark of “hope” that there might actually be a way forward through this problem. And sometimes that’s all your client needs to help them develop the confidence and the resourcefulness they need to move forward in a more positive way.

It is however important not to solely rely on this metaphor if it’s not working or not bringing forth new ideas. If somethings not working, then make the necessary adjustments to the metaphor to ensure that it helps your client generate better insights about their life and circumstances. Only in this way will you make positive progress.

Finally, feel free to temporarily put the metaphor aside in order to focus on real world issues. Focusing on these areas will help you to gain deeper insights into your client’s life and circumstances. You can then later use these insights to revert back to the metaphor to help your client work through their problems far more effectively.

In the end, the metaphor is not the central focus of your coaching session. It’s simply one of many tools you use that can help your client shift their perspective about their life and circumstances, while also encouraging them to become more resourceful and open-minded when dealing with problems.

Create Metaphor for Life Coaching Session


Awakening Unconscious Resources

The entire purpose of this part of the life coaching process is to help your client become more resourceful while handling their life’s problems. We already took some steps in that direction a little earlier by working with a metaphor. However, metaphors might not work for all clients, and it’s therefore important to have other tools at your disposal that can be used to the same effect.

When your client feels empowered, this naturally enhances their levels of confidence and they are subsequently able to work through their problems far more effectively. However, to feel empowered your client needs to feel a sense of certainty in his/her life. They need to feel certain that they have what it takes within themselves to overcome any challenge they might face. And this certainly essentially comes down to their resourcefulness in any situation.

Becoming more resourceful is not always easy because we all have so many limiting beliefs and unhelpful thoughts that prevent us from working in optimal ways. This subsequently creates “surface barriers” that prevent us from thinking in certain ways; from making specific decisions; and from taking proactive action in the direction of our goals and objectives. Moreover, there are also a plethora of obstacles within our environment, within our habitual patterns of behavior, and within many other areas of our lives that it’s just difficult to gain the clarity we need to move forward in a positive way. However, even though we might see ourselves as being limited on a physical level, we are surprisingly limitless on a spiritual level.

When we think about the human spirit, we probably see it as something that has endless possibilities and unlimited potential. However, our spirit and our physical body/psyche seems somewhat disjointed. This is especially true if we allow our physical and psychological limitations to prevent us from moving forward. In such instances there just isn’t a strong enough connection between the body, mind and spirit, and as a result we see ourselves as being limited in what we can do, be, have and achieve. But if we were to step outside of our physical body, what could be possible?

Imagine you lived life from a higher perspective? Imagine you made all your choices and decisions from a spiritual level? What would be possible? Would you have unlimited potential? Would you be more resourceful than ever before? Of course you would. If your spirit is limitless, then that energy that your spirit projects out into the world would be transferred through to your physical body and mind, and as a result you would essentially become more resourceful and could overcome your problems and difficulties far more readily, easily, intuitively and effectively. If only that were possible?

All this is possible, and it’s especially possible for your client. However, you will need to take them through a process that will help them awaken the unconscious resources that are tied to their spirit. These are the resources that will allow them to tackle their problems far more effectively as they work towards their desired outcomes.

Let’s now launch into this four step process and explore how you can help your client become more resourceful in any situation.

Awakening Unconscious Resources

Step 1: Identify Your Client’s Primary Concern

The first step of this process involves identifying your client’s primary concern, problem or the obstacle that is standing in their way. This should be relatively easy as all the work you did prior to this stage of coaching was focused on exploring these issues in detail.

It’s also important to pinpoint what your client believes is preventing them from overcoming this problem successfully. Ask them:

What specifically is preventing you from moving forward?

What are you unable to do to successfully overcome this problem?

What resources do you have at your disposal to get through this?

You will typically find that your client comes up with a plethora of excuses as to why they can’t overcome this particular problem. And as a result of these excuses they are unable to tap into the resources they need to help move them forward in a positive way. This is of course perfectly okay. Your client isn’t expected to have all the answers at this very moment. All that’s required is for them to be open to expanding their mind to the possibilities as you continue to work through this process.

Step 2: Pace Your Client Through Six Resource Levels

Step two involves taking your client through six resource levels. This is very much like a hierarchy of resourcefulness — the higher your client moves up the hierarchy, the more resourceful they will essentially become.

At the bottom of the hierarchy there is the Environmental Level. At this level your primary objective is to pinpoint what exactly is happening within the client’s environment that’s relevant to the problem. Ask your client:

Can you please describe your surroundings?

Where are you?

Who is around you?

What do you notice is going on?

How are these things aggravating your concerns?

There will typically be some environmental factors in term of specific situations and people that are aggravating the problem that your client is attempting to work through. These are the things you need your client to explore at the Environmental Level.

Next, let’s move up the hierarchy by one level to the Behavioral Level. At this level your task is to delve into your client’s surface behavior. This includes their actions, movements, physiology, choices, decisions and conscious thoughts. It could very well be these tendencies that are preventing them from handling the situation successfully. In fact, these behaviors might be impacting the Environmental Level in unhelpful ways, thereby preventing your client from seeing the situation in the right context. Ask your client:

What are you doing specifically?

What decisions are you making?

How are you thinking about this situation?

How are you using your physiology?

How is your behavior aggravating your situation?

All this essentially comes down to the attitude your client projects into the situation. It is after all never the person that’s unresourceful; it’s rather an unresourceful attitude that often causes all the problems.

It’s now time to move up the hierarchy once again to the Capability Level. At this level your objective is to explore what your client feels capable of doing in this situation. This could come down to their skills, ability, and experience with handling this problem. Exploring this area in some detail can shed some light as to why your client is behaving a certain way, and why this might be hindering their progress. Ask your client:

What skills can you readily apply here in this situation?

What past experiences have you had that could be applied to help solve this problem?

What other qualities do you have that serve you well and could be beneficial here?

Even though these questions are very direct, your client might still not quite be able to find relevant answers that will help them to work through this problem successfully. This is the case because psychologically they might not have the necessary belief in themselves to overcome the circumstances they are facing.

Once you get stuck on the third level, it’s now time to move up the hierarchy to the Psychological Level. At this level it’s all about identifying beliefs, values, unconscious thoughts, psychological rules and other elements of your client’s psyche that might shed some light as to why your client doesn’t feel capable of successfully handling this problem. Ask your client:

What is most important to you right now?

What principles do you strive to act on?

What do you believe about this situation?

What do you believe about other people?

What do you believe about yourself in this situation?

What might you need to believe to get through this successfully?

What underlying standards are you trying to live up to?

What expectations do you have?

What assumptions are you potentially making about things?

All of these questions focus on unlocking the reasons behind how your client approaches this problem or situation. There might in fact be a copious amount of limiting beliefs, unhelpful psychological rules and underlying thoughts that are preventing your client from overcoming this situation successfully. These are the things that you must keep an eye out for as you work through this stage.

It’s now time to dig even deeper into your client’s psyche by moving up the hierarchy to the Identify Level. This level is all about getting to the core of who your client is below all the surface areas. It’s about unlocking their identity as a human being. In other words, it’s about pinpointing how this person sees themselves in relation to everything around them. Ask your client:

What sort of person are you?

How would you describe yourself?

What do you expect of yourself as a person?

What makes you who you are?

Can you describe this person using a metaphor?

What do you seek to accomplish as this person?

What’s possible to accomplish as this person?

This isn’t necessarily about relating things back to the problem or situation, it’s rather about getting to the core of who this person is at the deepest level of awareness. However, this person is still human, and because they are human they have limitations and weaknesses. It’s therefore okay to explore and talk about these areas if they are brought to light.

The pinnacle of this hierarchy is the Spiritual Level. At this level you must help your client understand that there are no limitations or weaknesses. There are only possibilities and an abundance of resources that they have at their disposal. Here it’s all about helping your client to tap into the reservoir of untapped insights and potential that will help them move through their problem successfully. Ask your client:

Can you describe your connection with all that is?

What’s this place feel like?

What are the possibilities when you think about this connection?

What specifically are you able to do from this highest level of awareness?

How could you potentially solve your problem from this highest level of consciousness?

As you help your client establish this spiritual connection, be sure to allow them some time to bathe fully within this experience. While there, encourage them to sit up confidently and move their body as if they suddenly have all the potential in the world. Anything and everything must become possible for them from this level of conscious awareness. They must throw away any weaknesses they have, any limitations that are preventing them from moving forward, and literally open themselves up to a world of endless possibilities where the only limits are the limits of their own imagination.

At this highest level of consciousness your client becomes limitless, and because they become limitless they all of a sudden expose themselves to a world of incredible opportunities and resources that they never dreamed of having access to before. They become resourceful beyond measure, and must now take this “resourcefulness” with them on their way down the hierarchy.

Step 3: Reverse Your Way Through the Six Resource Levels

Step three of this process requires you to guide your client back down the hierarchy progressively through all the levels. However, this is not just about moving down the hierarchy as we moved up the hierarchy. It’s rather about bringing the knowledge, awareness and resources from the higher levels down to the lower levels of the hierarchy. That is after all how your client will acquire the resources they need that will allow them to solve their problem successfully.

To begin with, bring the inspiration and resources of the Spiritual Level down to the Identity Level. Ask your client:

As you carry your spiritual consciousness with you, how have you changed as a person?

What new knowledge do you now have access to?

What insights have you gathered about yourself that strengthen the person you are at your core?

What now becomes possible at this level?

Now, carry all the resources from the upper two levels of the hierarchy down to the Psychological Level. Ask your client:

Given the knowledge and resources you now have, what is most important in your life right now? Why?

What do you want to be important?

What do you now believe about yourself and about the situation?

What do you want to believe? What do you choose to believe?

It’s important now to take these beliefs and priorities down with you to the Capability Level. Ask your client:

Given what you now know about yourself and what you now believe about yourself, what are you truly capable of?

How have your skills and abilities been transformed?

How can you now better utilize these skills and abilities to help you overcome your problem successfully?

Let’s now take another step down the hierarchy and move on to the Behavioral Level. Ask your client:

Given everything you have now become as a person, how will you now act differently?

What specific decisions are you now free to make?

How will you now begin to think differently about your life and the problem you are dealing with?

How does all this shift your understanding and perspective of the problem you are working through?

What essentially becomes possible?

You have now reached the very bottom of the hierarchy at the Environmental Level. Ask your client:

With all that you now have at your disposal, how will you go about transforming your environment?

What potential resources do you now have access to that you could utilize?

How are you now able to effectively deal with the problem at hand?

Having taken your client successfully up and back down this hierarchy, they should now be in a very different state-of-mind then when they started this journey. In other words, they should now be more open to the possibilities and willing to work through their problem with more confidence and self-belief. After all, your client now has access to unconscious resources that they probably never even realized existed. And as such, it’s now time to make the most of these resources to move their life forward in a positive way.

Life Coaching Alignment Questions

Step 4: Explore Resources Your Client Now Has on Hand

The final step of this process involves asking your client to write down the list of resources that they could potentially use to help them overcome their problem successfully.

Once this list has been created, encourage your client to take immediate action to improve their life and circumstances. To delay now is to simply lose momentum. And when it comes to working with a life coach, it’s all about utilizing the momentum generated within each coaching session to move your client forward in a more positive way.

It’s of course very possible that your client might end up confronting other roadblocks and problems along the way. In such instances, encourage them to utilize the same process that you went through here with them to unlock the inner reservoirs of untapped potential that’s hidden deep within. Then over time through the repetitive use of this process, your client will no longer need to think about tapping into their spiritual consciousness — it will rather become automatic. They will just naturally become more resourceful in each and every situation they confront, and this will help them reach their highest potential.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Life Coaching: Address Client Concerns

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.