Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

Are you a people pleaser – or a YOU pleaser?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Recently, I gave a coaching session to a woman I’ll call Brenda. We were looking at things she could do to make her life with Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and several other difficult challenges a lot better. As we did, Brenda started feeling so much emotional pain that she started to cry. That had happened earlier in the session and in several previous sessions as well.

As I coached her, it occurred to me that she could probably work through a lot of the pain that came up in coaching sessions by blogging. I told her so, and I also told her that blogging had the added benefit that if she wrote about the challenges she was going through and the painful feelings she experienced as she did, she would very likely get supportive comments from people who read her post.

Brenda agreed that blogging would probably be helpful. She didn’t commit to actually doing it, but she did commit to considering it and deciding if was the right thing for her to do. As I listened to Brenda, I had a strong sense that blogging would be very beneficial for her

In her session the following week, I found out that Brenda had not done what she had agreed to do: she did not spend any time thinking about blogging and its potential benefit. I asked her if she still thought that blogging about her challenges and her feelings would be helpful, and she said that she did.

But I sensed that something essential was missing and I said so. I told Brenda that until we found out what the missing piece was and added it back, blogging wasn’t going to be helpful for her.

Brenda quickly identified what the missing piece was. The previous week, she meant it when she said she would consider blogging, because she saw that it could be helpful. But the next week, when she said that she still thought blogging would be helpful, she said it not because she still believed it, but to please me.

Not surprisingly, that was not the first time Brenda said something to please someone else instead saying what was true for her. She saw that she had been doing that her whole life.

I told her that the person for her to please was not me. It was the woman in the mirror. I suggested that several times a day, she ask that woman how she could please her.

She said she would, and I’m looking forward to Brenda’s next session to find out how she’s pleased herself. I know that doing so will do her a lot more good than blogging just to please me would.

How about you? What will the person in the mirror tell you? Whatever it is (assuming that it doesn’t hurt anyone else) I encourage you to do it, and then leave a comment here telling my readers and me what you did.

Coaching People Who Have the Deck Stacked Against Them

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Coaching those with chronic illnesses has been very rewarding. I’ve gotten to work with people who haven’t been able to find the help they need, and the suggestions and ideas I give them continue to make a positive difference in their lives long after their last coaching session with me.

But while it’s very rewarding, the coaching I do is often difficult. The hardest thing about it is facing the reality that health-wise, some of my clients don’t get better, and some of them continue to get worse as time goes on.

So far, a client I’ll call Jason seems to be in that latter group. He has amyloidosis, which is the formation and buildup of an abnormal protein. While the sites of the buildup vary depending on the individual and the type of amyloidosis he or she has, the buildup causes cell toxicity and organ damage that can result in its failure.

The type of amyloidosis Jason has is called familial. He inherited it from his mother, who died from it when she was 47. Jason is 34, and he is understandably afraid that he will die at a relatively young age. And at times he is consumed by feelings of helplessness, especially when starts or attempts to work on a long-term project. He often thinks, “What’s the use?” and abandons the project.

I gave Jason some suggestions to help him manage his feelings of hopelessness and fear. Then, because my blog readers (that’s you!) also have many of years of experience living with a chronic illness, I told Jason I would write a blog post about him. I said I would ask you for your suggestions about what he can do to stay with his projects and have a satisfying and fulfilling life, in spite of having a life threatening illness.

Thank you for your suggestions and comments!


Tom Robinson, who has Crohn’s disease himself, helps people with chronic illnesses mend their broken spirits and then he helps them find inspiring dreams – and achieve them!

Are You a Refugee in a Foreign Land?

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

In this post, I’m going to share  a testimonial with you that I recently received. In it, my client, who is a gifted  writer who lives in Tasmania, describes far better than I could how she was able to reframe her struggle with her illness in a way that gave her a capability to manage it and live a better life.

It is my strong desire that reading her story will help you do the same for yourself.


From the closely pressing despair of never having the strength or energy to do what I want or to complete the endless list of things that need to be done, came this quiet and understanding voice, across the Pacific Ocean, to the small cool island where I live.   I spoke my despair into his quiet, listening ear.  I spoke of the work I do with humanitarian refugees – of how hard it was for them to be exiled from home by war and atrocity and how they struggled to make a new home in a foreign country – learning a new language, accommodating a new culture, learning strange ways; and how compelled I felt to assist them, despite my health issues.

He commented that my attempts to support these traumatized new arrivals demonstrated compassion and understanding and he suggested I think of myself in the same way – as a person exiled from my home place of vibrant health, having arrived bewildered and disoriented into the foreign land of chronic ill health and in need of compassionate understanding and help.  That I consider my own needs and support myself as I learned the strange ways of this new country I now occupied.

Such a simple, quietly expressed suggestion.  So lucid.  So liberating.  No suggestion of weakness or giving in, just an acceptance that things are different now.  Just a gentle reminder to look around and see where I am, what can be done, and to support and praise my own efforts at adjustment, my own small gains.

Thank you Tom for this wise and compassionate advice.  I felt heard, honored, assisted, supported in a difficult migration I was struggling to make.

I strongly recommend coaching sessions with Tom Robinson for all those struggling with adjustment to chronic illness, in finding or regaining the joy and meaning in their lives.

Thank you once again,

Best Wishes,



As I said, I hope you will do what Terry did and look at how you can give yourself compassionate understanding and help in the land of “chronic ill health.” And I also hope that you will praise your efforts and all of your gains, no matter how small.


Tom Robinson – Life Coach for People with Chronic Illnesses (and Crohn’s disease survivor)

I help people struggling with chronic illnesses overcome depression, anxiety, and hopelessness so they an feel a lot better and enjoy life a lot more.

For other ideas for living well when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report: Has Your Chronic Illness Got You Down? Discover Effective New Ways to Overcome Illness-Related Anxiety, Depression, and Hopelessness so You Can Feel a Lot Better and Enjoy Life a Lot More.

How to Get Others to Better Understand What it’s Like to Live With a Chronic Illness

Monday, July 19th, 2010

My girlfriend and I usually do very well communicating with each other. But recently we went through a period where we were struggling. What happened was that I was sharing about some of my challenges with her, and she thought that she understood what I was saying, but I didn’t feel understood. And communication breaks down if one or both people don’t feel understood, regardless of whether or not they actually are.

After we struggled for awhile, I remembered a communication technique called “reflective listening,” which I had read about many years ago in Dr. Thomas Gordon’s book, Parent Effectiveness Training. In reflective listening, the listener mirrors the speaker’s mood and restates what the speaker said in her (or his) own words. If the restatement doesn’t accurately summarize what the speaker said, he (or she) lets the listener know, and the process is repeated until the speaker is satisfied that the listener understands him (you can learn more about reflective listening here.

I suggested that we try using reflective listening. Mary Ellen was very willing to do that, and when we did, I felt that she truly understood my challenges that I had been telling her about.

With that success in mind, it occurred to me that reflective listening could help many people with chronic illnesses with one of their main frustrations, which is getting their family members and their friends to understand how hard it is for them to live with their illness (I know this is one of their main frustrations because because of my own experience having a chronic illness, and also because a high percentage of clients mention it in the questionnaire I give them before their first coaching session).

Because reflective listening involves mirroring the speaker’s mood as well as summarizing what he or she is saying, I think that using the technique would greatly help others to understand what it’s like for us to live with a chronic illness. So I recently started suggesting to my clients that they learn reflective listening, use it with friends and family both as a way to become better at it and also for the purpose of demonstrating it to them, and then ask those friends and family members if they would be willing to try using reflective listening with them.

I haven’t heard back yet from my clients about how well my suggestion has worked, but I am hopeful that by using it they will get a lot more understanding from others about what it’s like to live with a chronic illness than they previously had. And if you decided to give this idea a try, I hope it works well for you – and I would greatly appreciate hearing about your results in a comment to this post.

What You Do Know Can Hurt You

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Before I tell you why what you know can hurt you, I want to explain why I chose the title that I did for this post. It’s a variation of the proverb “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” which has been around for over 400 years. Many people have changed the proverb to “What you don’t know can hurt you” as a headline for articles about many dangerous or harmful substances, such as second hand smoke and monosodium glutamate (MSG). I’m using it because I want to talk about things we “know” that prevent us from seeing or seeking out solutions to our problems or improvements in our lives.

I recently coached a woman with fibromyalgia and several other chronic illnesses and conditions. Nancy, as I’ll call her, went through a divorce, lost her home to foreclosure, and now lives with some relatives who are hostile to her. They either criticize or fight with her much of the time. And because the apartment is small, she has to share a small bedroom with one of them..

Nancy “knows” that no improvement is possible in her living situation. She “knows” it because she can’t work and her disability income is much too small for her to be able to afford an apartment or even a room.

Clearly Nancy’s living situation is very difficult. I have lots of compassion for her. However, it’s very possible that there is a solution to her problems that she will never see or find out about because she is convinced that none exist. I would like to see her acknowledge that she thinks that no improvement in her situation is possible, and then tell herself, “I wonder if there is a solution that I’m not aware of.” I don’t know if she would find one if she did that, but I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that miracles do happen, and they happen much more often to people who look for them and who are open to them.

My next Coaching/Support Group for People with Chronic Illnesses will start this coming Thursday, June 3rd. For more information, go to Coaching/Support Group information.

What To Do When You Feel Shortchanged By Your Illness

Monday, April 19th, 2010

A while ago I worked with a client I’ll call John, who had ulcerative colitis. John had learned the hard way that if he didn’t follow a very strict diet, he would have intestinal and other symptoms that were very severe. But when he adhered to that diet, he felt extremely deprived. Those feelings of deprivation would lead to cravings, which he would eventually give in to, and would again experience all those awful symptoms.

I think that one of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is dealing with feeling shortchanged and deprived. We can easily feel like that because of all the things we can no longer do – things like eating whatever we want, working as many hours as we want, traveling without worrying where the nearest bathroom is, or being the active and attentive partner, spouse, or parent that we used to be.

The first thing I tell clients who feel shortchanged or deprived because of any kind of limitation that is due to their illness is to fully acknowledge those feelings. We often try to tell ourselves that those limitations aren’t a big deal, or we try to discount our feelings by telling ourselves that many other people have limitations that are much harder to live with than ours are. But those strategies don’t work, because there is a part of us that knows we aren’t being honest with ourselves.

I have found, both from coaching others and dealing with my own illness and the feelings that come with it, that what does work is for us to tell ourselves we are sorry we feel shortchanged and deprived. And it’s very important when we say that to ourselves that we really mean it. Just imagine for a moment how unsupported and uncared for you would feel if a friend told you they were sorry because of how you felt, but you sensed that he didn’t mean it. So when you tell yourself you’re sorry, make sure you truly mean it.

After my clients tell themselves how sorry they are, I then give them the following challenge: Brainstorm to find alternatives for the things they can’t do because of their limitations, that give them the same feelings of enjoyment and fulfillment that the things they no longer can do used to give them. I encourage you to take on this challenge too. For example, if it’s difficult for you to travel, you can become internet pen pals with people in your favorite foreign country. Or if you can’t participate in the outdoor activities you formerly did with your children, you can learn how to play their favorite video or computer games with them. The list of possible alternative things to do is limited only by your imagination, and I bet you can find some that you enjoy more than you thought possible.

Getting back to John, I suggested that he find some special foods he really enjoyed that didn’t exacerbate his symptoms, and I also suggested that he do things like buy himself a CD he wanted every week he adhered to his diet, so that he wouldn’t feel deprived. He found these suggestions very helpful.

If you are feeling shortchanged or deprived because of any illness related limitations you have, I encourage you to first fully acknowledge them, then let that part of you that is feeling that way know how sorry you are, and finally, do some brainstorming to come up with enjoyable and satisfying alternatives for the things you’re no longer able to do.

How You Are Isn’t As Important As How You Feel

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

If you are reading my blog, chances are you have a chronic illness. And if I asked you how you are, you would likely tell me that you’re sick, that you’re having a flare, that you’re in pain, or something like that. Because I’m a life coach for people with chronic illnesses, I have asked many people that question and have gotten many answers similar to the ones I just mentioned.

But when I ask people with chronic illnesses how they feel, I get answers that aren’t at all the same or similar. Some people say they feel bad, depressed, upset, or sad, while others say that they feel good, positive, grateful, optimistic, and things like that. I find myself wondering why some people with chronic illnesses feel good while others don’t, and wondering even more about what those who feel those negative emotions can do to feel more of the positive ones.

Before I continue, I want to say that I don’t consider it to be a sign of weakness for a person to feel bad or sad when he or she has a chronic illness. Since having a chronic illness very often means 1) living with pain and fatigue, 2) not being able to things that we enjoy and used to be able to do, and 3) not being able to explain to others what living with our illness is like so they understand it, it’s completely understandable that a person with a chronic illness would feel depressed, upset, etc.

But even though feeling negative emotions is understandable, I have no doubt that most of us who live with a chronic illness would choose to FEEL better if we could. And the truth is that we can. There are many things we can do – so many that I could write a book. Actually, I am writing a book, and I’ll let you know when it’s available so you can get it if you want to.

In the meantime, here are a couple of ways you can FEEL better even though you have a chronic illness and aren’t well:

The first is to recognize that feelings, including negative ones, are transitory. They come and they can go, but only if we let them. One thing you can do is to imagine that you’re a house, and that feelings come in with the wind through an open window. If the window on the other side of the house is closed, the feelings will stay, but if you visualize yourself opening that other window, the feelings will pass through and leave.

The second way is not for everyone, but many of you will find it very helpful. That is to schedule a time each day for negative feelings – for example, from 2:00 until 2:15 every afternoon. If you notice yourself having negative feelings before that time, just set them aside until then. And any negative feelings after 2:15 are to be set aside until the following afternoon.

While these ideas won’t directly improve your health, they can be a great help in lifting your feelings. I will share more ideas in a later post. If you would like some suggestions for your own challenges, you can sign up for one of the limited number of no cost introductory “How to Have a Better Life” coaching sessions I offer.

I’ll close by saying Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Holidays everyone!

Is Your Life Better Than You Realize?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

A while back, I had a client whose arthritis was so bad she couldn’t walk. Many tasks, from cleaning her apartment to buying groceries and cooking meals, were very hard for Maria to do. On top of that she was in a lot of pain.

On the other hand, Maria had lots of friends whose company she enjoyed and with whom she got together on a regular basis. In addition, she was building a business making things she loved, and she had just taken up painting and was enjoying it very much.

In one of our coaching sessions, Maria was feeling very negative and told me that she hated her life. It was obvious to me that that wasn’t true, so I responded by telling her that she didn’t hate her life – that what she hated was her illness and her symptoms. Maria replied that my observation was correct. Then, without glossing over her painful symptoms or pretending they didn’t exist, she was able to acknowledge the many things and people in her life that she enjoyed and that gave her pleasure. And doing that made her much more able to get through her hard times and difficult days, and have a much better life overall.

I’ll conclude by saying that I know that for some of you reading this, right now there are very few if any things in your life that you enjoy. In that case, I think you will find some of my previous posts helpful, and I will give you more helpful suggestions in the future. And you can always contact me for a no cost consultation.

But if you are one of the many people with a chronic illness who focus and dwell on their symptoms and pain (which I even did myself at one time)  and overlook the positive aspects of their lives, then I invite you to fully acknowledge all the people you connect with and the things you do that you love and enjoy. I know you’ll be glad you did.