Can You List Your Priorities?
If you Google the definition of “priorities” you get this:
“a thing that is regarded as more important than another”
People operate based on what they value and that will translate into a set of priorities that dictate their behavior. So what happens within a coach-client relationship when you have a client who doesn’t have training as a priority, but they think they should?
In a word: inauthenticity
You can’t fake priorities. I mean, you can for a bit of time but it is exhausting it leads to what can only be explained as “weird ass shit” behaviors. Let me explain.
Let’s say you have a client who has the following priorities: Work, socializing, kids, husband, charity work and dining out
She comes into your facility because she has heard really good things and wants to get back into shape. She is excited to get started and you already know how you are going to transform her. You get her signed up for unlimited classes based on the premise that results will follow immediately. She starts strong at five days a week and the results show within a month. Winner winner chicken dinner! Results that quick and she ought to be hooked for life!
But then something strange starts to happen the second month… she starts missing classes here and there. You notice this and have a quick conversation with her about it. She explains how much she loves the gym and the workouts and the people and how working out has become very important to her so much so that she is going to get back to five days a week starting tomorrow.
And then she doesn’t show up the next day. How could that be? She said she would be there! The next time you see her, you casually ask her where she was and she tells you about some event she “had to” go to with her husband and talks about what an inconvenience it was. Back to five days a week and another bullet dodged.
Then she doesn’t show up all weekend. That’s strange… she said she was going to be there again. You decide to ask her why she wasn’t there next time you see her. Except now she’s getting difficult to find. You thought you caught a glimpse of her on Monday, but she seemed to avert her eyes from you when you waved from across the floor and then she disappeared into thin air before you could chat with her. No worries, you’ll catch her next time…
…two weeks later when she finally comes back and it’s the same story. Things happened that pulled her away from her workouts, but those are done now and it’s back to five days a week.
And this cycle repeats, the excuses masked as stories get better and better, and you find yourself confused beyond belief because she is telling you one thing (ahem, exactly what you want to hear) and she is doing another. None of it makes any sense.
But it makes perfect sense. This client has a different set of priorities and working out isn’t really one of them. The problem is that she thinks it should be and so she has created this character in herself that “loves the gym and the workouts and the people and how working out has become very important to her”. And not being able to keep up the façade of being a diehard leaves her feeling guilty and ashamed to the point where she starts to dodge any contact that may require accountability towards said character because it doesn’t line up. She also knows she’s disappointing you as a coach because she sold herself as a gym lover. So to make it up to you, she continues to sell you a bigger and bigger story to keep you happy because she already feels bad enough that she can’t continue the act and couldn’t bare it if you would reject her if you really knew the truth.
And the truth is that her priorities are: Work, socializing, kids, husband, charity work and dining out
If any one of those options comes available, she’ll take them any day of the week over working out because they are more important to her.
But what if in your initial consult with her you created a space that was open and easy? She could be herself and confess from the beginning that she doesn’t really love working out all that much, but she wants to get into shape in order to keep up with her kids and her husband and have enough energy to get through her workday without wanting to take a nap. You would immediately eliminate the pressure cooker of stress a client like this would feel trying to keep up appearances.
Authenticity would be invited from the beginning and then you as a coach could begin the work of alignment. You would be able to teach her how investing time in her workouts was an investment in her priorities so that they were enhanced. When clients see workouts or food prep as enhancing their priorities they tend to figure out ways to do both vs. viewing it as an either or. Or if something did come up that she choose over her workouts she wouldn’t have to get over the guilt hurdle to get back in the gym because she wouldn’t feel the need to make excuses. She would happily tell you what she had been up to on the weekend, you’d say great because you know it was important to her and she’d get to work.
You’ve aligned her goals and time in the gym to her true priorities, her behavior is now in alignment with her words and there is no confusion. As Freud said: “Were we fully to understand the reasons for other people’s behavior, it would all make sense.” I remind myself of this when something doesn’t make sense with a client, because it all does, it just means I haven’t seen the order yet.