Most clients come to coaching wanting to move into action towards a change. And though action happens, it is rarely the item that ends up on the testimonial pages of coaches websites. What bubbles to the surface instead is “I tapped into a deeper level of understanding about myself” or “I gained more perspective about my feelings and underlying behaviors.”

What is the disconnect?

Applying the 80/20 rule against our desired change begins to solve this mystery. Only 20% of our achievement is going to come from action. The other 80% is rooted in other factors - the things that later live on the testimonial pages. In a culture obsessed with the 20%, we often end up with a tenderness around how much we have neglected the majority - the 80% - as a result of chasing the next action. When we finally win the chase and action comes, it lacks the celebration we desired because we haven’t connected with ourselves in the process of taking action. We have simply acted and acted again repeatedly.

What exactly comes before action? What makes up the 80%?

Awareness and acceptance.

Awareness comes from seeing what exists for us. It is understanding the thoughts and emotions we hold about ourselves independently and within our circumstances. Further, it is a view into the behaviors we take as a result of those thoughts and emotions. Awareness is information gathering about what is most important for ourselves. A good coach guides a client to bring this awareness to light and to see the story we tell ourselves lying just below the surface. Powerful questions posed by the coach are the entry point to what is often explored between sessions through small journeys into personal inquiry.

Acceptance emerges from a willingness to sit with the awareness. It is a calling to spend time in the discomfort and resist the hesitation to turn away from what really exists. It is an opportunity to be raw with reality. To feel the impact of the awareness and to experience it with each of our five senses. Without acceptance, our action will be limited. What comes next will emerge from a place of avoidance and running away rather than running towards what we define.

And where does the last 20% live?


Action that follows awareness and acceptance is intentional and aligned with our needs and desires. It comes from a place of clarity. Action from this point moves beyond an immediate solution and towards conscious choice. When we allow ourselves to arrive here slower, we are met with options we could not consider previously. When we achieve from this place, celebration will come naturally because we will understand the importance of what we’ve done.

The power of the first two phases - awareness and acceptance - are evident in conversations with clients that reflect on their experience with coaches. These stages are where a client really sees themselves, often for the first time in many years. This is the 80%. It is the preparation for effective action. It is critical.

Spend time with the 80% today.

Where do you need to raise your awareness? What do you need to accept?