confused man

Written by Steve Barlow

Let me ask you a question. Why do your coaching clients come to you?

There could be a myriad of reasons, but they probably all boil down to one thing – there is something they want that they don’t have, or there is something they have that they don’t want. In other words, something’s not working for them. Let’s call this Problem 1.

Few people will look for a coach if they have no awareness of Problem 1.  Some will have some awareness of this problem, but never seek help, or perhaps they seek help in the wrong places.

To finally become your client, people must do something – find you on the internet, ask for a recommendation, or whatever it may be. But when they eventually contract with you, you work with them to make change.

So far, we have talked about the client as an individual, but everything in this article applies equally to organisations.

We should dig a bit deeper into Problem 1 before moving on to Problem 2. Problem 1 has two dimensions to it. One is an external dimension – it concerns things that are in the world outside the person or the organisation. For example, Problem 1 might have something to do with increasing competition, lack of available resources or opportunities, changes in consumer demand, lack of engagement, or new opportunities yet to be realised.

But equally, Problem 1 may focus on what is internal to the person or organisation. This could be something like the fear of taking a risk, fear of failing, fear of what others may think, lack of self-confidence, disempowering language and stories, memories of past failures, anxious feelings, or, on a more positive note, the desire for something better.

These internal and external factors combine to create powerful forces that drive or impede change. When they impede change, the person or organisation becomes less agile, less adaptable, and more fixed in their mindset.

So, if Problem 1 revolves around things the person or organisation has or doesn’t have, what is Problem 2?

To understand the nature of Problem 2 we must consider a proposition – if we had the capacity and readiness to overcome Problem 1 right now, we couldn’t really define it as a problem. Perhaps it would be an inconvenience or an obstacle along the way, but we would see as such and develop a strategy to overcome it. So, Problem 2 becomes a real problem when we lack the readiness and/or capacity to overcome Problem 1.

Okay, but if Problem 2 is a readiness and capacity issue, what is it a readiness and capacity for? You might say, “Well, the person or organisation isn’t ready, willing, or able to take action to fix Problem 1”.  Do you ever have clients like that? They know they have problems, they say they want to overcome them, they seek your help and pay you money, but they never consistently engage in the hard work to make change happen. Some never even intend to – they hope you will have a secret, easy solution or a magic wand that will make Problem 1 conveniently disappear.

Behaviours like the above reveal the true nature of Problem 2. Problem 2 is a lack of readiness and capacity to engage with and succeed at the change process itself. If you want to give Problem 2 a name, it is a lack of change readiness and change fitness.

There’s something important to understand about Problem 2. While the change process itself is all about behaviour – it’s about what people do that leads to success or failure at change – change fitness and change readiness are not about behaviour. They are about the psychological resources that drive behaviour.

People and organisations with strong change readiness and change fitness possess the psychological resources to drive behaviours that enable successful change and positive outcomes. Those with low change readiness and change fitness lack these psychological resources and are more resistant to the change process.

Clients who know what to do but don’t engage positive behaviours are likely to have low levels of change readiness and change fitness. They may not be playing games or trying to be difficult – it’s just what people do when they lack fitness and/or readiness. They find ways to resist what they are not ready for and what is beyond their current capacity.

Problems 1 and 2 are very common, and coaches encounter them all the time; as do managers, leaders, doctors, teachers, and consultants. The solution can’t be to work only on Problem 1. The presenting problem is not the only problem – it is the symptom of an even deeper problem.

Change fitness coaching addresses both Problems 1 and 2. It addresses Problem 2 by seeing into its true nature. It is a lack of capacity and readiness, and the solution is to build readiness and the psychological capacity for the change process.

Change fitness coaching is a branch of positive psychology – it seeks to build strengths and enhance positive human functioning.  As people and organisations build the readiness and psychological resources to succeed at the change process, Problem 2 begins to recede and as it recedes, so does Problem 1.

If you would like to understand more about change fitness coaching and how it can open opportunities for you and your coaching practice, reach out to me on

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at