How to Life Coach: Reframing and Contextualizing

In this episode, Lumia Coaching co-founders demonstrate reframing and contextualizing in a live coaching session.

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring Lumia Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

Coaching Tools: Reframing and Contextualizing

In this episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss coaching techniques, including a live coaching session demonstrating reframing and contextualizing.

Episode Transcript

John: Hey guys, what’s up? Welcome to another episode of the Catalyst Life Coaching podcast. Today we’re gonna talk about life coaching as a life style. Noelle…

Noelle: Hi.

John: How are you?

Noelle: I’m well. It’s a little bit early, but I’m drinking coffee.

John: It is early. So Noelle is on the East coast, I’m on the West coast and so whenever we do podcasts there’s a little bit of a time difference. Now, what’s interesting is that it’s actually earlier for me, but Noelle is saying it’s early for her.

Noelle: Well, I work 7 days a week John, so Monday always comes and I’m like, “Oh man I just had 5 hours off, damn it!”.

John: Noelle was instructed to bring laughing gas today. I don’t know if she did, and I don’t know what that was about, but she texted me and said she was gonna bring laughing gas.

Noelle: That’s gonna be tomorrow actually. Have you ever—so I have my first cavity ever as a grown up, and I have to go to the dentist and they’re going to give me laughing gas.

John: That’s hilarious. Isn’t that like an old school thing?

Noelle: It is, and I don’t know what it means or what it’s gonna be like, and I’m pretty giggly to begin with, and so I can’t imagine how this is gonna go.

John: Yeah. So let’s talk about life coaching as a life style, and all the ways that people are helping people through living a certain way.

Noelle: Absolutely, and so I will repeat this ad nauseam because it’s worth saying—coaching is not about one client per one hour.

John: Where do you think they got that model? Did they get that from the clinical world? Because that’s kind of the idea of the private practice.

Noelle: I think so. I think it just comes from when you think about what you can do with a helping profession, you think about one client per one hour.

John: I think it also comes from business coaching.

Noelle: Perhaps. Well, business coaching is really not that either. Business coaching is really dynamic is so many different ways. Let’s talk about it all, let’s break it down. So, what coaching is at its core is a communication methodology. It’s a way of learning how to communicate with people that allows you to move individuals, groups, and organizations to a place of peak flourishing.

John: Right.

Noelle: So when we’re looking at business coaching, or even the way that I as a CEO now functionalize coaching—I do take on clients 1-on-1, but the way that I work every day is to move the organization forward in a way of complex flourishing.

John: Right, so you being a CEO and all the work that you’re doing with helping this company, is a form of coaching to you?

Noelle: It is 100% a form of coaching.

John: So most people would not see that as coaching, they would see that as a job.

Noelle: Well, it depends on how you’re trained, right? I don’t have an MBA—my background is a PhD in Clinical Sexology, and my background is executive coaching, and my background is applied positive psychology. So, what do I know? It’s people. I know people, I know relationships, and I know how to communicate.

John: Yeah, here’s what I think is valuable about this mindset: People fall into the trap of defining their practice in terms of numbers—so how many clients I have, how much money I’m making, and I think that if you start to reframe coaching in this way, it takes the pressure off.

Noelle: 100%, and I love my clients, and taking on clients right now, for me, has been like mental gymnastics to switch back from what I recognize as a form of organizational development coaching, to drilling down in a very psychodynamic way with a 1-on-1 client. Yesterday, I taught and then I had a client, and I had to switch executive functioning so quickly in my brain that I got tired at the end of it. I was like “whoa, okay, this is just a different way of using my brain”.

John: Yeah, so how would people take this mindset that you and I both adapted, and apply it to their coaching journey?

Noelle: Well I think it really depends on your goals, and I think coaching, in its purest form, is a strength space approach to everything. Coaching is looking at what works, what you’re good at, and then choosing what you want to pull from the past that worked, that you were good at, and move it into the future. If you look at both of our careers, we both started out with a dream of 1-on-1 clients, and we’ve both come so far from it. So, let’s turn the lens on you for a sec—so right now, what are you doing with your coaching?

John: Right now, I’m inside Catalyst Jamie’s loft in San Francisco, and he was gracious enough to host us. I’m on my book tour and I’m documenting, and I’m trying to go into communities—whether they are fitness communities, yoga communities, or just into someone’s living room—and have an experience with them, so the idea of colliding with them, having some conversations. And someone could say, “Oh you’re just fucking around? You’re just on your book tour.”, but again, I think it’s a form of coaching.

Noelle: It is. So I’m gonna coach right now, and what I’m gonna do is I listened to what you just said, as a coach does, and now using coaching format, I’m going to mirror it back to you so that you can see all of the different strengths that you’re using, right? So, you just made a pretty disparaging statement, as any coaching client would, “you know people might look at my life and think that I’m just fucking around right now”, right? So if I was a therapist, I would be like, “Oh John, what happened to you as a child? What causes you to think and feel that way?”

But as a coach, my mindset is you’re my business partner, you’re my friend, I want to build you up, and so I’m gonna say, “John look at your gorgeous life right now. Like look at it. You’re in Jamie’s apartment, awesome. First of all, hey Jamie! Second of all, how wonderful that you’re able to activate and engage community, because that’s such a strong skillset—building community, leaning into it, pulling resources for community. The more social bonds you have, the more durable resources you’re capable of creating in life. So, you’re getting an A+ right now. You wrote a book that is trending, it’s climbing the charts as far as health and wellness, starting conversations about men and masculinity. And, you’re also continuing on the path that you trail-blazed a long time ago of finding a new way of life by actually physically going into spaces where you’re a stranger and having hard conversations with people about how we can change ourselves, and how we can change society.”

John: Yeah, thank you. What an amazing thing to hear first thing in the morning. Here’s what’s interesting, so Noelle did something basically called mirroring—holding up a mirror to me what I just said. But because it came through her perspective, it was extremely helpful because I do have a little bit of the residue of playing with my phone for a living, social media thing, like all that stuff 5 or 6 years ago when all of the coaching was kind of exploding that people were unsure of—like how do I turn this into a business, etc. So, organically me doing things that felt honest to me and following my true north, isn’t always conventional and doesn’t always fit into the model. So just Noelle repeating back—reframing it I guess—helps tremendously.

Noelle: Yes, and mirroring and reframing is a classic coaching technique. I think the intent behind it is really clear, because I could have taken everything you said and just mirrored it back to you in a very boring way like, “oh hey Jamie, it’s cool that you’re in San Fran, you you’re gonna go to yoga today?”, but my intent was to motivate you.

John: Yes, you’re right. You could have just said “is there anything else you think you can do with your life?”

Noelle: Right, I could have. When we’re talking about coaching as a communication methodology, this is a really good descriptor of how it works, right? So my job as a CEO, given I don’t have an MBA, I don’t have a background in finance, I don’t have a background in business—everything that comes flying at my head, I have to sit down with our team and say “Okay, we’re all smart people, let’s figure it out. What do you see? What do you see? What do you see? What do you see?” If I came at it from a perspective of “oh, wow we don’t really know this. I have no experience in it”, it would foster fear.

But because I’m using a coaching methodology, and we have really smart people on our team, I listen to what they say, I mirror it back to them from a position of em—you know, “Did I get this right? Is this what you think?” And then they feel confident in their work, our ability to do things as a team, and then we do succeed.

John: Yeah, and I gotta go back to this technique because I think so many people when they’re gonna coach someone, even after taking our Intensive, it could be kind of terrifying, and they have to practice, they have to learn to ride the bike. Just something this simple—and what a great reminder—can start the conversation, and then that can lead anywhere. So a lot of people who are really afraid of coaching—it’s not that hard, you’re doing it now. You just coached me.

Noelle: Yeah, I did, and the specific techniques are reframing and mirroring, right? But, there’s a theoretical underpinning to it, and that’s called self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief—that can be taught—that you have all of the tools you need in order to do hard things inside of you, and even if you don’t know how to do something, you have the capacity to figure it out.

John: Yeah, that reminds me of the idea that if you believe in your client, your client will start to believe in him or herself.

Noelle: Yes, 100%.

John: But that belief can’t be false—you’re not just a cheerleader, you are also exploring and doing it in an authentic way.

Noelle: Yes, that’s where self-efficacy comes in, because you’re not just saying “Go! You can do it!”, you’re saying “You have all the tools to figure it out, what’s step one?”

John: Right. And if you don’t, let’s figure out how you can acquire these tools.

Noelle: Exactly, exactly. It’s not a pass, it’s motivation with intent and action.

John: Right, and also this is what makes coaching not therapy.

Noelle: Yes! This is what makes coaching not therapy. So, let’s peel it back a little bit further—so me giving John mirroring, and reframing, and a pep talk—from my perspective, and this wasn’t conscious as I was doing it but it was probably subconscious—what do I need you, John to do right now in life? I need you to motherfucking perform, and sell your book, and run as far as fast as you can. And I do believe in you, and I am very proud of you, and I want you to see yourself as I see you, right?

John: Yeah, and if I was your client, then what I struggle with right now today is doing this, and then the self-doubt of “Am I wasting my time? Am I making a difference? What am I doing”—all that kind of stuff as I’m going on my book tour and as I’m meeting people—“Are people gonna show up? What if three people come to the bookstore tonight? What does that mean about me?”, etc. So all of that self-doubt, you know?

Noelle: Yeah, and so from a coaching perspective—and I also have the luxury of knowing you really well—building you up is my mission.

John: What an amazing friend. We all need a Noelle in our life.

Noelle: You all need a coach in your life! But that’s what I do for my clients too. I’ll share something that happened—it was literally the first sentence I said in a coaching call yesterday. I had a client who was describing a relationship with her family, and she said “It’s like my dad and my brothers are in the boat, and they threw me overboard, and they were all laughing at me, and I had to figure out how to become a mermaid, and I had to figure out how to swim.” So, from a therapeutic perspective, I would want to go back and understand all of the things that her family did and all the pain points, but that’s not what coaching is and that’s not what coaching does.

In that moment, what I needed my client to do was see the beauty and the power in her own life. And so that’s my lens as a coach. So when she said “My brothers and my father were in the boat and they were laughing at me and I had to become a mermaid”, I was like “You know what dude, they have a fucking row boat and you have the whole damn ocean.” And she was like “Oh my god, you’re right” and I was like “Yeah man, that’s the way it goes”. And so rather than process pain, you take someone’s pain and you turn it into power.

John: Yeah, so you just kind of flip the script.

Noelle: Uh huh.

John: That’s powerful.

Noelle: It is.

John: That’s a really powerful tool.

Noelle: It is, it is.

John: Speaking of swimming, in the next hour or so I’m supposed to go dive into the ocean.

Noelle: Literally?

John: Yeah, it’s freezing.

Noelle: I was gonna say…

John: And here’s the thing—even something as simple as diving into the ocean for a little bit with a couple people—is that fooling around or is that coaching? This is where the road forks and this is where I choose to believe it’s coaching because in my book I talk about doing things that make you feel alive, I talk about the power of movement, ice baths, etc. So as long as it lines up with my message, I should be doing it, because I’m setting an example, and if someone watches or reads about it maybe they’ll relate to it in a certain way, or it will inspire them to do something today that’s honest to them or makes them alive.

Noelle: Totally, and we can go even further with it—so being outside is really healthy, being in the water, even if its cold is really good for you, salt water is so healing, and I think that s we look at all of the systemic illness in society, we look at isolation, we look at obesity, we look at diabetes—it’s due to lack of movement, and it’s due to lack of connection with nature and community in that way. So you saying I’m gonna go jump in the ocean with a bunch of people, I’m like “hell yeah dude”.

John: Here’s what’s interesting to me—so yes, there’s a part of me, and it’s actually growing because of the help of you and some of the other people in my life keep encouraging me to keep swimming—in this case literally—but it’s helpful. So the inner conflict is this—I do believe in everything you’re saying because of course that’s how I’ve been living my life and spreading that message, but then there’s that shadow side of me, my pseudo-self, like “What are you doing? You’re jumping into the ocean, people are gonna think you’re an idiot. What does this mean? What does this have to do with coaching?” What a great reminder that if you live your life a certain way and it’s honest, and it lines up with your brand and your message, then that in itself can be coaching. And I know that I know that, but sometimes I have to hear it from someone else.

Noelle: Can I live coach you on the pseudo-self thing?

John: Yes, 100%.

Noelle: Alright, so I’m gonna use a technique right now called externalization where I’m gonna ask you to take it out of you. So how old is the voice of your pseudo-self?

John: Mmm, I think I gave it power about 15 years ago when I was going through my screenwriting days and felt invisible and defined myself as a failure I think.

Noelle: So, you were like late 20’s?

John: Yeah, late 20’s.

Noelle: Okay, so you have a 27, 28 year old telling you what to do right now?

John: Yes, I’m 45.

Noelle: Okay, so to what extent do you want to be governed by a 27 or 28 year old?

John: Ooh, man I like this. That’s really powerful.

Noelle: I’m a really good coach motherfucker.

John: You are. I love that confidence too. When I think about my 27 or 26 year old self, he was a complete idiot and he was a child, and I wouldn’t listen to that person.

Noelle: Also, know what I know about him? He was scared. And I think when he is jumping around right now, waving his arms in the air trying to get your attention, it’s because he’s scared.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: And he’s trying to warn you about the pain that he’s experienced.

John: Can you coach me every episode from now on?

Noelle: Sure. I can totally do that. I mean you also pick up the phone, we talk every day. But seriously so—

John: No, that was really helpful. And I know me saying that, making a joke, is kind of deflecting it—that’s another thing I do. But seeing the part of you, the younger self, pulling and growing your pseudo-side— listening to that part of you that is—I labeled him immature, etc., you labeled him scared. And when you say scared then it cuts through all of it, and then you have an opportunity to give that 27 year old some empathy.

Noelle: Yes.

John: And compassion, right? But you don’t have to listen to that 27 year old, you just have to understand him better.

Noelle: Absolutely, and you’ve been pushing him away, you’ve been pushing him outside of yourself, right?

John: Ooh, I love that.

Noelle: You’ve been saying “lalala, I don’t want to listen to you, your message is poor”.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: But what would it be like for you to sooth that young man and invite him back inside?

John: Mmm, I think to listen to him but also to pull from my 45 year old, take care of him by taking care of me, letting him follow in a way.

Noelle: What do you want to tell him? What would be helpful to tell that young man about life now, and that he’s gonna be okay?

John: It’s okay to be scared, and there’s nothing that’s happening now that should create self doubt or panic, and that everything is good—going back to that whole idea of the sky not falling. I used to live my life constantly worrying about the sky falling, panicking.

Noelle: Yeah, 100%, 100%.

John: Whether it was money, or relationships, or whatever, just the 27 year old always being frightened.

Noelle: Yes, yes. So, how do you wanna synthesize your current adult self with your younger self, and maybe you wanna take him swimming with you today?

John: Yeah, absolutely. So now, swimming sounds meaningful and important and also kind of fun. And I also feel like it’s a form of self care.

Noelle: Yeah.

John: Self connection. So thank you for that, because I know I kind of saw that as 2-dimensional, because if I define being a life coach as “I need to blog , I need to do sessions”, what the fuck am I doing jumping into the ocean? Then life coaching becomes very 2-dimensional, and on paper, and it goes against everything that I’m doing.

Noelle: Totally, and for you guys listening at home, I want you to notice the quality of John’s voice, and I want you to notice the authenticity in the way that he just laughed, because that was a deep, authentic, belly, soul-connected laugh.

John: I also want you guys to notice how Noelle just went straight into the here and now, right? Took something that happened in the moment instead of talking about the future, and etc. and what you can do, but always bringing it into what’s happening in the moment. So that’s always a great technique.

Noelle: Yeah, and when you’re understanding your clients, and you’re in the moment coaching, and if you’re coming from this lens of like “my job as a coach is to build people up and show them the best of their life and to hold that mirror up”, I want John to go back and listen to that laugh.

John: Ooh, I love that.

Noelle: Yeah, and we have it recorded.

John: You’re so good.

Noelle: I know I’m so good!

John: This is definitely one of my favorite episodes by the way. As we end, I want to remind you—so I text you on the road, I texted Noelle something very silly, but it’s very John Kim. We were outside getting coffee and I saw this magnificent metal horse, and I had the idea of jumping on it, and it was terrifying because it was metal, and the horse had a metal tail that could have hit me in a certain place. So I got on a bench and I just kind of took the leap—literally I stuttered for a few minutes, or a few seconds, and then I took the leap—and I flew and I landed on the horse, I almost flew off but I landed. And it’s like a 5 second video, and Noelle applauded that, encouraged that, and I tagged it “do things that make you feel alive”.

And it’s like in those moments—whether we’re talking about that or swimming—where these days, I’m getting empowerment, and acceptance, and encouragement from people who care about me, and what’s important about that is it’s allowing me to continue forward and do what I believe I should be doing, to keep going on my path. Now the byproduct of all that, the energy, is something bigger—which is creating a dialogue about men, and relationships, and this book, and telling more people about JRNI, all of that. And it could come in that micro minute or second of jumping on a metal horse.

Noelle: 100%, and when we’re talking about that kind of stuff, you just fed your brain and body with all of the emotional nutrients that come with excitement and joy.

John: Mmm, wow—you know before I started this episode with you Noelle, I gotta be honest—we had plans about jumping into the ocean, but there was a lot of like “Ugh, it’s cold, what am I doing? That doesn’t even make sense. I should practice my speech for tonight at the book store.”, but now after being coached by you, it’s a priority on my list, I must do that.

Noelle: Awesome.

John: You’ll see it on video.

Noelle: Coaching in action ladies and gentlemen.

John: Coaching in action.

Noelle: I love it.

John: Guys, thank you for listening, and we just want to remind you once again that coaching isn’t just 1-on-1 sessions.

Noelle: No, it’s life. Coaching is life.

John: And here’s the thing, if you embark on this journey, what a great way to use coaching to not only help other people, but also to help your life, and for you to—ask I call it—seek nectar and adventure and create a life and a business and work that’s honest to you.

Noelle: Yes, it’s beautiful.

John: And that being said, we’re not saying that it’s easy—Noelle works her ass off, she works 7 days. I’m always doing my thing. It’s work, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

Noelle: No, no, and it’s better when it’s fun because bringing that lightness in is what gives life, in so many ways.

John: Yeah.

Noelle: Please give Jamie a big hug and a smooch for me. It’s so cool that you’re with one of our coaches.

John: Yes, I will. And with this, I asked Jamie what drew him to the Catalyst Intensive last night, and he said he was researching and he came across me, and then he came across you and he said we seemed so authentic and real, it kind of cut through all the bullshit, and that was the reason why. It had nothing to do with all the classes, and the format or all of that—that’s all great, but it came down to two humans, and just connecting with two humans.

Noelle: That’s awesome.

John: It made me so proud because that’s always what I want to put first.

Noelle: That’s our family. I mean that’s our Catalyst coaching family—people who have conversations just like the one that John and I had today for and with each other on purpose.

John: Yes, and so if you’re listening and you just heard 30 minutes of me and Noelle going back and forth and talking about all this random stuff and you can relate to it, come join us. Come ride with us.

Noelle: Yeah totally, totally. Well, go fucking jump in the ocean. I love you.

John: Alright, love you too. Be well. Thank you.

Noelle: You can send me the invoice, I appreciate it.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Bye babe.

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