How to Coach Yourself to Success in 5 Steps

Having a coach can empower you to achieve major career success. But if a coach isn't within reach right now, you can be your own! Here's how.

Rachel Cooke
6-minute read
Episode #636
The Quick And Dirty

There's no better way to support your professional success than to show up as your own coach. Here are some actions you can take to make it happen:

  • State a specific goal
  • Sharpen your "why"
  • Bring in a framework
  • Drive accountability
  • Show empathy toward yourself

I started my business in 2015, knowing I’d need to channel confidence and optimism on the regular. Each time I attempted to do so, I seemed to summon self-doubt and presumptions of failure instead. I guess manifesting hope is not one of my natural talents.

If you’d asked me then what I needed I would have listed knowledge, templates for success, a dozen clients on a silver platter—you get the idea.

Coaching can move you forward, helping you jump over hurdles and achieve big things.

In hindsight, while those would have been awesome, what I needed most was some coaching. Not having access to a coach at that time, I went down the rabbit hole of books and podcasts on personal and professional development. I ended up—in a messy, ugly sort of way—accidentally coaching myself to the place I’m in now.

I wish I’d been more intentional about it, but at the time, I didn’t realize I’d become my own coach. I'm here to help you get into the self-coaching groove without the mess.

Why should you become your own coach?

Coaching can move you forward, helping you jump over hurdles and achieve big things. 

But a coach may not be accessible to everyone. It certainly wasn’t to me. Coaching takes time. A good coach also costs money. Both can be hard to come by.

So, if you’re wishing for some coaching but don’t have access right now, let’s talk about how you can show up for yourself by using some tricks of the coaching trade.

1. State a goal

A great coach can help you achieve outcomes in many domains of your life. But early focus is key to success.

In my business, I wanted it all on day one—press, clients, revenue, a quick understanding of marketing ... all those essential things.

But I took myself through an exercise. By answering some questions, I was able to identify and focus on what I needed most urgently. 

And through this exercise, I cut out the noise and determined that my nearest-term goal was to land my first client within 60 days. Boom. No press or marketing, no business development engine, just client number one. 

This clarity helped me direct all of my energy and focus toward this one outcome. I knew achieving it would help fuel my path to the next goal.

Now your turn. Are you looking for a promotion? Let’s get more specific than that. Your coach would start with some questions like

  • What’s the right timeline? Is it ASAP? 6-12 months? When will you feel ready?
  • Is it a specific role, or are you just looking to get to the next level?
  • Will the new role necessarily be in your current company?
  • Will you lead a team?

By answering some questions, you can get from a vague "get promoted" to a specific "get promoted to assistant marketing manager in six months."

So here’s your first assignment. Determine what you need to ask and answer in order to clearly see your immediate goal post.

2. Sharpen your "why"

Once you’ve identified a clear outcome, a coach will pressure test it. You want to be sure the outcome you’ve identified will deliver the experience you’re really looking for.

You don’t want to chase down that promotion only to realize it’s not what you really wanted.

A promotion is a perfectly reasonable goal, as long as it’s for the right reasons.

A coach might ask questions like

  • Why does that promotion feel important to you?
  • How clearly do you understand what that bigger job will entail?
  • What will getting that job cost you (Longer hours? More travel?)
  • When you imagine having it, do you imagine the recognition and satisfaction of getting the job, or is it actually doing the job that excites you?
  • If it’s the recognition you’re seeking, are there other ways you might achieve that feeling?

Sharpening your “why” may reveal the need to choose a different goal or outcome. And that's OK. 

You don’t want to chase down that promotion only to realize it’s not what you really wanted. A coach will help you check yourself before you start down a path.

I wanted to stand on my own. To choose my projects, to own my sense of impact, and to not feel beholden to any company ever again.

So ask yourself a series of questions to ensure you’re paving the right path.

3. Bring in a framework 

Part of the value a coach brings is the set of tools they carry in their toolbox.

Today I’d like to loan you one of mine. It’s a simple framework designed to build the roadmap to deliver you to your goal.

I use the CREATE framework developed by David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute. It’s simple and clear and you can drive it without a license.

The framework is comprised of three parts:

  • CR represents your Current Reality.
  • EA is about Exploring Alternatives
  • TE tells you to Tap your Energy

So now, with clarity around what you’re striving for and why, take yourself on a quick journey through this framework.

Define your current reality. Be factual and objective. This means making observations like “I’ve been in this role for three years and I’m ready to expand my skills.”

It is not stating things like “I’m stuck in this job and no one sees me as ready for growth.”

See the difference? Stay with the facts.

Next, explore your alternatives. What paths could you possibly take? You could

  • Apply for a promotion
  • Tap your network to see what other opportunities are out there
  • Take a course
  • Make a lateral move to help expand your breadth of experience

Think broadly; don’t just limit yourself to the most obvious next step.

And finally, tap your energy. Once you’ve identified all of your alternatives, just sit with all of them. Imagine yourself walking toward each, and note which inspires you most. 

That becomes your first action.

My energy went into calling 10 friends or colleagues each day, letting them know of my new venture, and asking if I could be of service. 

Let your energy determine which path you pursue. Choose one and commit to it.

4. Drive accountability

One of the greatest gifts a coach can offer is accountability. They’ll help you identify your next steps. And they will track you down to make sure you’ve taken them.

So here I urge you to find other means of creating accountability for yourself. How can you make your action plan feel “mandatory?”

Here are some strategies to consider.

Schedule it. For some, once it’s on the calendar, it’s as good as written in stone. Determine what action you need to take, and on what timeline, and book it. Then protect that time like you mean it!

Find an accountability buddy.If you’re looking to make a change, I’m willing to bet you have a friend or colleague who is, too. So do some outreach and find someone looking to create their own accountability. Partner up to keep each other on track. Maybe you check in with each other on a weekly basis. You won't want to tell your buddy you didn't make it happen, so you're more likely to do the thing before each check-in.

Attach a treat. Some people only allow themselves to watch the next episode of their favorite show while they’re on the treadmill. What’s your equivalent of this? In the kindest way, withhold something from yourself (a show, a nap, a chat with a friend) until you’ve taken the action you promised yourself you’d take.

5. Show empathy

A great coach will deliver tough love ... but with a heavy dose of empathy. True coaching is delivered with kindness. And you need to show that kindness to yourself.

True coaching is delivered with kindness.

This doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook when you don’t do the thing. But it does mean recognizing what might be hard for you and why. If you know you need to ask for a reference but you’re feeling intimidated, don’t beat yourself up. You’re not weak or passive; you’re thoughtful and intentional.

If you hear your inner voice start to beat you up, immediately bring your coaching voice to the table to remind that inner beast just how hard you’re working.

Whatever change you’re striving to make, I’m confident you have it within you to coach yourself to that finish line. I can’t wait to see what you’ll achieve this year!

About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.