Timelines for Change, Self Awareness and Commitment Considerations for Coaches

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how long for a life coach to get resultsCoaching Timelines

Using the stages of change model and the time frames presented in each stage provides a coach with general guidelines that can be helpful in constructing the coaching program.

A 3-to-6-month coaching program of weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly coaching sessions is usually ideal for most clients to establish new behaviors or habits. After the initial 3–6 months, coaches and clients may decide to decrease the frequency of meetings.

Some clients have special needs or life issues that affect their ability to move through the changes within these time frames. For example, a client desiring to lose more than 30 pounds may find that weekly coaching sessions are helpful for a year or more. A lifestyle makeover may require two years. There really is no set amount of time that coaching partnerships “should” last or continue.

The Pyramid of Change

Drawing from the Cognitive and Behavioral Processes within the TTM, as well as from evidence-based principles of behavioral psychology and positive psychology (not to mention the experience of coaching clients and training/certifying coaches) we have created a graphic metaphor for health, fitness, and wellness coaching:  The Pyramid of Change.

The behavior change pyramid provides a guide to what it takes to make lasting changes in behavior, self-awareness, and self-image. The pyramid has building blocks that take us to the top—being one’s best self. The building blocks are not about action; they are about thinking. If we prematurely jump into action (to the third level of the mountain), i.e., a quick fix, we proceed on a shaky foundation.

The base level of the pyramid represents the vision and higher purpose for change through awareness. First, we decide to take charge. We then define our best selves—what we value most about ourselves and about life. We also identify the skills and knowledge we need and the strategies for using our strengths to handle our big challenges. The next level addresses how the vision is turned into a realistic plan, including behavioral goals and our support team, and how to increase confidence. Then a commitment is formalized. The third level depicts the doing process (specific behavioral goals) with early wins and constant fine-tuning. The fourth level represents the approach to sustaining new behaviors.

The top is “my best self.” This is what we yearn to become or uncover through the change process. Arrival at the upper levels (or even moments spent there) is a big cause for celebration.

Change isn’t a linear process, where one proceeds from the bottom directly to the top of the pyramid. People cycle up and down the five levels, sometimes for years. When people don’t make lasting changes, they typically have missing or weak building blocks. We can help our clients lay down the structure and assemble the building blocks to get to lasting change and “the real me”. The use of pyramid-type graphics can be applied to any area of health, fitness, and wellness. One can use the pyramid for single behaviors (three 30-minute walks per week) or groups of related behaviors (nutrition including five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, balanced breakfast five days a week, and healthful snacks five days a week).

Awareness Level

The bottom, “awareness level”  of the pyramid is the foundation for change. It is essential to not rush through this level. Devoting the time to generously explore a client’s positive core—the vision-level building blocks— prior to moving into preparation and action is enlightening and valuable. Revisiting and reinforcing the vision in this building block along the way breathes life and inspiration into the change process.

Self-Awareness and Responsibility

Developing mindfulness and self-awareness of where we stand with all of the building blocks is an ever-present theme. Taking charge and personal responsibility for change is our call to action. People choose to make specific changes at specific times and for specific reasons when they are ready, willing, and able.

NOTE: Use graphics, such as pyramids, for clients to get a visual of how their change toward a holistic life looks. Some clients just prefer or require a visual aid. As their coach, we can use graphics or visuals to help clarity and summarize everything. We have to be clear about how the change will occur.

You’ve probably read or heard the results of a well-known study from 1963 done on visualization – at which time research studies showed that about 75 percent of what people know is learned through visualization. This important study revealed that after 72 hours, humans tend to retain only 10 percent of the information they hear and 20 percent of the information they see. When humans hear and see the same information, they retain 65 percent. Use whatever you feel is best to get at your understanding of the ‘whole client’.


The change process is much more likely to succeed if we identify and stay connected to our strengths and abilities that have proven successful in other parts of our lives. Building on what’s working now is a key approach when it comes to coaching.


This building block is at the center of the foundation because it represents both the higher purpose and deeper meaning of the change. Our values, when clearly articulated and kept in view, are what keep us going in the face of big and small challenges. What people value about change is highly personal, ranges widely, and changes over time. Some values include being a role model, having peace of mind, looking good or youthful, living in balance, and exercising self-control. To discover client values, ask about who they want to be and why they want to be that way.  Of course, one can’t become that person overnight, but one can start doing the things that person would do. Acting “as if” is a great way to get on track.

We often need permission to live from our values, especially when that means saying “No” to others to practice self-care. Coaches can assist clients to recognize that this practice undermines being our best self in life and work.


One must identify, explore, prioritize, and emotionally connect with the list of potential benefits to be derived from making lasting change. Getting just-in-time education and information on the new behavior(s) and understanding all of the building blocks are both vital and ongoing.

Challenges and Strategies

Identifying and exploring our significant challenges, such as competing priorities, lack of time, lack of confidence, and the benefits of not changing, are ongoing life processes. Raising our awareness of how our challenges not only hurt us but also serve us, is important thinking/feeling work for those in the early stages of change.

The thinking/feeling work around our significant challenges then leads to the thinking/feeling work around realistic strategies for moving forward.  Some clients will get so excited about a new interest that challenges for dealing with challenges, especially if they have a long history of derailment. Either way, the key to masterful coaching is to elevate a client’s confidence in their ability to move forward successfully. At its core, coaching generates hope in a client’s ability to change as well as awareness of realistic strategies that work.

Preparation Level Confidence

Before proceeding and while on the change path, it is vitally important to have a moderate to a high level of confidence in one’s ability to be successful. If our confidence level is less than a score of 7 out of 10, more work is needed to increase the level to at least a 7.  One of the most important goals of the behavior change process is “self-efficacy”: the confidence that one has the ability to initiate and sustain the desired behavior, even in the face of challenges.


When we make an oral or written commitment to another person—a family member, friend, colleague, physician, or coach—to establish a new habit, we increase our probability of success. Having a high level of integrity, we want to honor our commitments.


Making changes can be tough and having support from family, friends, or colleagues—can help us work through the change process, stay on track, and provide positive feedback. This is extremely valuable. It’s often helpful to ask for support and be specific, explaining the kind of support that is working or not working.

Plan, Plan, Plan

The details are crucial. Developing and updating a detailed plan describing our scheduling and preparation, as well as clearly defining the behavioral goal (what, when, and how) is an important activity. Tracking our performance is also important—using journals or logs, for example, to record how we eat, exercise, and relax.

NOTE: Most clients who hire a coach are in either the contemplation or preparation stage for one or more health, fitness, and wellness behaviors. Some clients may even be in the action stage already. Moving clients from the early stages of change and reaching the maintenance stage can take from 3–6 months or longer. If the behavior is more challenging, 12 months may be required to help a client reach the enduring maintenance stage.

Behavioral Steps

Choosing, refining, and committing to specific behavioral goals which are realistic, while challenging, is the all-important “doing” part of behavior change. Committing to the mastery of new behavior in 3 months, and then maintaining it for a further 3 months, reaching high self-efficacy, is a good target for change.

The goal should be specific and measurable—replace “exercising more” with—“I  will  walk 4 days a week or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.” Building up to the 3-month behavioral goal should progress gradually each week, in manageable steps. Some weeks, more progress will be made than in others. A good starting point would be “walking 4 days for 10 minutes” or “walking 2 days for 20 minutes”.

Problem Solving

While we first addressed challenges and strategies on the vision level, as part of the foundation for change, clients inevitably encounter challenges and setbacks along the way to reaching and mastering their behavioral goals. Coaches can assist clients to view such times in a positive light— as opportunities to learn and grow. An effective problem-solving process, including brain-storming, enables rapid self-awareness, increased desire to stay on track, and prompt, corrective actions, which may include brainstorming and experimenting with new action strategies or even tweaking the behavioral goals themselves. The secret is to normalize and appreciate such experiences for the gifts they have to offer, rather than to catastrophize and depreciate them as beginning a downward spiral.


To reinforce our motivation and confidence, it is important to experience quick “wins,” enjoy extrinsic rewards and savor the intrinsic value of behavioral changes. We generally start to feel better, stronger, lighter, or more energetic, for example, when we start to exercise more, eat better, relax more, are more engaged with life, or have more fun. We need to mindfully observe, enjoy, and celebrate such rewards to fully engage with and sustain the change process.

Results – Lasting Change

It feels great when we’ve adopted a new habit and we’re confident that we can sustain the new habit for the foreseeable future. The diligent effort to build up to our behavioral goal and embrace the challenges along the way has a big payoff when we’re successful. The key is to move from extrinsic inducements to intrinsic motivation and contentment.  That is the work of masterful coaching.

Relapse Prevention

Even after we’ve mastered a new behavior, there is still potential to get sidetracked. Shift happens. New challenges emerge as we get older and our lives get more complex. Developing strategies to prevent relapses (when we stop doing the new behavior) is the thinking/feeling work required when we’ve reached the maintenance stage of change. Finding ways to be a role model for others is an effective way to prevent relapses.

The Real Me – Best Self

One of the big bonuses of lasting change is that we expand our sense of self and get closer to becoming our best self—or the real me. Often the real me is buried under extra physical and emotional weight and stress and is revealed when we master change. Take time to notice, embrace, and enjoy our best selves. As we reach the top of the pyramid, it’s definitely time to celebrate!

General Suggestions For Coaching Change In Light Of The TTM

Assist your clients to frequently connect with their positive core, especially their strengths, aptitudes, values, and resources for learning and growth. This will assist them to maintain a hopeful and positive relationship with the prospect of behavior change. Remind your clients that change can be uncomfortable and difficult in the beginning. This is normal when people are stepping out of their comfort zone and seeking to make a conscious change.

Reassure your clients that lapses are common during the early stages of change; that is why they will need a lot of encouragement and support when they first get started. When you sense that your clients are struggling with change, reassure them that what they are experiencing is a normal part of the change process. Let them know that they are doing something that is difficult for most people. It is a good time to remind them of the progress they have made to date— such as hiring a coach. Most people underestimate their ability to change and lack the tools and processes to facilitate change. As their coach, you can help them raise their level of confidence by never losing sight of their positive core. “You can do it!” is a key framework of masterful coaching.


After we determine our client’s stage of readiness for change, we turn our efforts to assist them in other ways. At times we have to help our client focus on their internal motivation and less so on externally derived dogmas or pressures. Common blocks to the motivation process include:

  • I don’t really want to do this (I don’t have a good enough reason)
  • I can’t do this
  • I have never done this
  • I don’t have the time
  • I can’t get started
  • It’s too hard
  • I won’t be able to . . . (drink beer with my friends, enjoy parties, eat what my family eats, )
  • Or, the entire “ought self” phenomenon

The real breakthroughs come early, as soon as clients make small changes.  This signals to the coach that the client can take control and responsibility for their own well-being and health, the change process, and becoming connected with their own motivators. This will unleash their inner power to usher them through the course of change.

Where Can I Learn More?

Spencer Institute and NESTA are here to guide each step of the process. Be sure you take advantage of our course, programs, CEUs, and career training opportunities.

Be on the lookout for future articles about more ways to get an endless stream of clients for your training or coaching business. You will also want to search through the archives of our blog because there are many other articles that go into great depth about dozens of other ways to get clients. Here are a few for you to checkout now:

Believe in yourself.

We are here to be your partner in custom designing your highly successful coaching career.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

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