Is this the secret of life coaching?

by The Darwinian Doctor

Today’s post reveals the central secret of life coaching that I’ve learned from the first few weeks of a coaching program. 

For many years, coaching was reserved for corporate executives and CEOs.  The focus was on higher performance, faster results and company growth, and perhaps some of the softer stuff:  balancing work with family life.

But now, coaching is catching on in other fields as well.

In my circles of personal finance, investing, and physician entrepreneurs, life coaching seems to be everywhere.  It seems I can’t scroll through my Facebook feed without seeing how one of my acquaintances is quitting their job and becoming a life coach.

There’s a growing trend of physicians coaching other physicians, and I decided to jump on the bandwagon as a client. I signed up for 3 months of coaching and am currently a few weeks into the program.

What’s the big deal about coaching?

If you read testimonials from satisfied coaching clients, you’d believe that these are some of the benefits of coaching:

  • More work satisfaction
  • Better personal relationships
  • Better balance between work and family life
  • Clarity on how to approach big life decisions
  • Knowledge about how to conquer nations and take over the world

I think that some of those benefits are more believable than others. But after a few weeks of life coaching, I’ve realized that there is definitely at least one central benefit. Today, I’m happy to reveal this secret to you:

The realization that life can be separated into two things:  circumstances and thoughts.


Circumstances are the facts and reality of your life.  For example:

  • Your age, height, and eye color
  • Your income and work schedule
  • The number of siblings you have

They are the immutable truths of your existence.  But here’s the realization from just a few weeks of coaching:  almost everything else in life is made up of your thoughts.


Thoughts are the way you interpret the circumstances of your life.  They are incredibly powerful.  They frame and shape our circumstances into what we perceive as reality.

Let’s use a simple example to illustrate this concept:  You walk into work and say hi to a colleague on the way to your desk.  They don’t answer you; in fact, they don’t even look at you.

These are the circumstances, and here are the range of thoughts you might have:

  • My colleague is rude
  • I’m not important to my colleague
  • My colleague thinks they’re better than me

But those are just thoughts. Perhaps your colleague didn’t hear you.  Or perhaps your colleague’s dog just died and they’re distracted.  

So without knowing the exact circumstances that led to your colleague’s action, what’s the use of dwelling on possibilities and letting it ruin your day?

Our minds are powerful thought engines

This example above is a simple way of showing how our minds work.  Our mind takes circumstances and extrapolates all sorts of thoughts that may or may not be true.  

This isn’t really a problem most of the time, in fact it’s really useful.  How else would we make sense of the world? Our minds are powerful thought engines. It’s the greatest strength of the human race.

But in some parts of our lives, the thoughts we form have negative effects.  They can make us feel bad about ourselves, or cause paralysis and prevent forward action. I see a lot of areas of my life (especially in the workplace) where I assume various things, and I realize now these thoughts are keeping me mired in the quagmire of indecision.


So again, this is the secret of life coaching:  the realization that life can be separated into two things:  circumstances and thoughts.  

Of course, the tricky part is learning how to separate circumstance from thought, and then applying this skill to your life.  I’m still early on in this process, but I’m beginning to see the power of it. From just deciding not to be annoyed in clinic to freeing myself from assumptions, I’m already seeing great benefit from coaching.

I already know that mindset is essential for success. Now, I also know that recognizing and controlling your thoughts is essential as well.


Do you think this is all baloney, or do you see the power of this realization? Please comment below and subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

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3 years ago

Sounds like one of the central teachings of stoicism!

3 years ago

Honestly, I just surf YouTube videos and read blogs when I have downtime at work (Radiologist in NYC, I’m from Cali as well). Great blog btw, keep it up!

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