The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #18: Faith & Coaching

Are religion and coaching and coaching able to get hand in hand? It’s a little bit of a complex topic. Religion of any kind can be seen as a taboo topic. There a lot of stigmas that are attached to religion that can make this issue seem a lot more difficult than it really needs to be.

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The best part of the coaching community is how welcoming it is. As a Chrisian, I’ve felt very welcomed into the community. And as a coach, I am welcoming of anyone and everyone who wants to receive coaching, no matter their background or religion (or lack therefore of).

No matter what you believe, this will always be a welcoming space for you!

Today You’ll Learn

  • How religion can be a complicated topic when it comes to coaching.
  • How my faith has impacted my coaching.
  • How amazing the coaching community truly is.
  • Why you’re always welcome here, no matter what!
  • And more!

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When it comes to religious faith and coaching, I often get asked if these two systems play nice together. Are they like peanut butter and jelly? Or is it more like oil and vinegar? As a fair warning, this episode is not for the faint of heart. If you can't keep an open mind, turn back now. Otherwise, keep listening. Let's go.

This is the Physician Philosopher Podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an anesthesiologist, personal finance blogger, and life coach for doctors. The Physician Philosopher Podcast teaches you how to create the life that you deserve, one thought at a time. Start before you're ready. Start by starting. Start now.

Hey, hey, hey everyone. Welcome to episode number 18 of the Physician Philosopher Podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look into physician life. Today's thought is this. When it comes to coaching, the purpose is to function as a nonjudgmental mirror, where people can see their thoughts, come up with their own solutions, and become the best person that they can be. In this episode, I want to dive into one of the reasons that I think that coaching and the coaching community is one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of. I truly love it. The acceptance, the love, the ability to meet people where they are through coaching is so refreshing to me in today's current political environment. There's so much polarization and there's so much pointing of fingers, and people can't get along, and they can't have conversations if they disagree.

I want to tell you why I think coaching is perfectly situated to help any person from any background, any belief system, and any culture, so that if you have ever given pause to getting coaching from someone who is or is not like you, maybe you'll consider jumping in with both feet. Maybe you will be able to, by the end of this podcast, recognize what coaching really is, regardless of your background, and allow it to help you the way that it's helped so many doctors.

So, before we dive into that, though, I want you to know my own background, my own belief system, my own cultural thoughts, where I come from. And I think this might be helpful because I think it's all about diversity and sharing beliefs and open-mindedness and having conversations from different people. I think that's so important.

So, when I was 17, I became a Christian. So, it was February 22nd of 2003. I remember where I was, what I was doing. I remember how it went down, and my faith is actually the reason why I went into medicine in the first place. I went to medical school to do mission work so that I can help people in other countries that don't have the same access to medical care that we do here in the States. And I've done some of that in the past. I'm looking forward to doing more of it in the future, and that's part of the reason for building this business, actually, is to allow myself the freedom to be able to go and practice medicine in places that may be underserved or that have big needs. And I still have that dream still today.

So, my faith was the reason for getting in this in the first place, the desire to help other people, to stand up for other people. That's where my, just, view of justice and advocacy and just doing what's right, all of that comes from.

Yet in today's world, doing what I just did in admitting my religious beliefs publicly usually does one of two things. It either draws people closer to you, because they have a similar belief system... I'll get emails from people after this episode today telling me that they really appreciate me mentioning my beliefs. That happens every time that this comes up. The second thing that it also does is it has the potential to push away others who have their own thoughts, their own stories and beliefs and ideas that may run counter to the belief system that's being shared, in this case mine.

But before I found coaching, I always really struggled with this a lot. I really, really hate the polarized state of our country, the current state of politics, our society, and the world. It really breaks my heart. And as someone who is admittedly... I'm very open-minded, I'm very tolerant. I love diversity. I love talking to other people that don't think like me, that don't look like me, that don't come from the same culture, background, perspective. They don't come from the same privilege that I have. The thoughts that I have about our current state of the country and our increasingly polarized political narratives, that entire thing just makes me so sad that people who just have different opinions can't talk.

Why? Well, because one of my favorite things to do is to have conversations. It might be my favorite thing to do, have conversations with people that are different than me. I love hearing friends and family that have different thoughts than me. And, in fact, I love having friends and family that are different than me. In my own immediate and extended family, I have family members who are agnostic, atheist. I've got one who is Wiccan. I've got some Jewish friends and family, Christian friends and family. I mean, you name it, from being Muslim to Buddhist to Hindu, on every spectrum of the gamut, I have friends and family that fit those molds, and I love all of them.

In fact, my own coach does not prescribe to a specific set of religious beliefs. She's areligious, though when I asked her... it was kind of funny... she said, "Can love be my religion?" And I think that's just a beautiful answer, right? And you know what? She is an amazing coach. We don't have the same religious beliefs. And I grow as a person, as a husband, as a dad, as a doctor, as a business owner, every single time that she coaches me. Isn't that beautiful?

In the end, I am much more concerned about meeting people where they are, period. End of story. That's it. I am called to love other people. And as someone who appreciates all the things that I mentioned above, I am here to say that love wins over hate. Mercy triumphs over judgment. And I'm a big believer in meeting people where they are and loving them for who they are, not in spite of their differences, but because of them. I love diversity, I love differences, and I love people who aren't like me.

So, if you're listening to this episode and coming from a background different than mine, if you're a different religion, you're atheist, you're agnostic, you're areligious, wherever you're at on that spectrum, you are welcome here. And if you're a Christian, you're also welcome here.

There are two problems that really come out of this faith and coaching kind of discussion, though, and this is the reason for the podcast episode. The first one is that some people don't really get coaching that they need because they're worried about it lining up with their current belief system. They view coaching as competitive to their faith, I guess is what I'm saying. It's not a complimentary, it's competitive. The second problem is that some clients are afraid to talk about things they struggle with because of the stigma that exists around religion and around spiritual beliefs, that's just one of those taboo topics that you don't talk about, and that prevents people from getting the help that they need.

So, let's start with that second one first, actually, the stigma. And I just want to mention that coaching can not only help you become the best partner, parent, and physician you can be, but it also helps you become a complete and whole person, regardless of what your goal is and what that means to you. This includes all aspects of being human, right? Our physical needs, our emotional, mental, social needs, spiritual needs. All of that is part of being human. And so, when someone comes as a client, they're going to have different ideas about what they want to work on, and some of them may be spiritual, right? And that's fine. I think that's great. I think it's beautiful.

You may come in, for example, and say, "Hey, what I'm really struggling with is I drink too much. I eat too much. I'm just not really fit. I'm out of shape." This person's looking for physical needs. They are looking to get into better physical shape and to improve their body and to be healthier. That's a physical thing. Or maybe they're caught up in emotional problems. They want the emotional aspect of their humanity worked on. They're trying to figure out their burnout or their depression. They're trying to figure out their moral injury, like this medical system that keeps beating us down and the insurance companies and the bureaucrats and the electronic medical records and lack of PPE, all of the things going on. Maybe they have an emotional need. You might get coached on that too. Or it might be mental stuff or social things, like becoming a better husband, a better wife, a better partner, a better parent, a better physician.

And it also sometimes includes spiritual stuff. We can't leave this out just because it's uncomfortable. We can't not podcast about this or coach on it just because it's an uncomfortable topic that has the chance to offend people. If you want to know my thoughts about that, I'll refer you back to the episode on how to deal with haters, right? If you can't get behind the idea of loving other people who are different than you and meeting them where they are and the needs that they have whether you agree with them or not, you're not my people. You're just not my people.

I've seen this happen firsthand when clients have been ashamed of who they are because of some spiritual aspect of their lives, right? They're not reading scripture enough, they're not praying enough, and they're afraid to talk about it. Like, "Is this an okay thing to be coached on?" I've had clients who were so ashamed, it brought them to tears. I've seen these clients do this, even in a group setting, because of shame and because of judgment, and the way that they talk about themselves, the way they talk to themselves, the judgemental words that they use that prevent them from moving forward.

And I am here to help that person. If that's what my job is, how can I leave this part of their humanity out? I'm not helping their whole person by ignoring this integral part of who they are and what they believe. I can't. Even if their belief system is different than my own, my job as a coach is to show up and help them become the person that they want to be, that they know they can be.

So, in this podcast episode, I'm just going to lay it out there and say, not only can faith, beliefs, and coaching play nicely together, but that I think that coaching, when it is well done, should perfectly compliment the entire person in front of you, regardless of their background, regardless of their culture, regardless of their beliefs, that you should be able to meet them where they are in a nonjudgmental space and help that person, whether they're religious or not. Okay?

And the second problem that... the reason why I wanted to create this podcast is because I want to mention that coaching has been complimentary in my own personal faith too. I've tried for years to white-knuckle things, to be better at praying more often or being a better husband, a better father, teaching things to my kids. And it just hasn't worked. And as crazy as it sounds, despite going to church, despite meeting with pastors and people in my church, it was coaching that really helped me change some of my spiritual habits, right? Of getting my thoughts out on paper, of praying more often, of reading scripture more often. Not in a competitive way. It's not competitive with my faith. It's not like my faith failed and coaching worked. That's not how I view this. I think they're complimentary. I think they help each other. The habits of my faith have become part of my identity because of coaching, and it's something I'm still working on. I'm still not where I want to be, but someday I'm going to get there, and it's because of this complimentary work between coaching and my faith.

So, if you are at all concerned that these things are competitive, please don't be. You can come and be whoever you want to be, and a good coach is going to show up and meet you exactly where you are, whether you agree with everything they think or not. And the reason why is because it's not about the coach, it's about the client. It's about putting other people first. And when we show up and do our job well, all of the things that we think stay inside. That's not our job. Our job is not to jump in there with you to tell you right or wrong, because that's not a thing in coaching.

In fact, I've had people push back on getting coaching because they felt like coaching didn't fit their belief system. Some of them have been specifically Christian, which is interesting. And so, because of that, I actually got interested enough one time to ask my buddy. I've got a friend, Simeon, who was one of my groomsmen in my wedding. He was my college roommate, one of my best friends, and Simeon happens to be a pastor. He and his family are actually going to Kenya to teach at a school to help students there. Just a pure heart of gold, this guy. And I asked him, I said, "Hey, Simeon. I've gotten some flack for being Christian and being a coach. Kind of curious what your thoughts are about it."

I explained the idea of the coaching and the thought model and taking people from unintentional thoughts that are producing results that they don't want. It's when these thoughts are running around wreaking havoc in their lives, and then showing them that, and then allowing them to consider more intentional thoughts that produce the feelings, actions, and results they want.

So, I talked to Simeon about it all, and Simeon said something along the lines of, "Honestly, Jim, that sounds great. I think that's awesome. It sounds just like when Paul's talking about taking our thoughts captive and renewing our mind," and it was just this great reminder of how our thought life is a part of humanity, and regardless of your background, that is just true. It was such a refreshing reminder to take every thought captive, because that is exactly what coaching does. It takes your thoughts captive. It shows you how maybe your thoughts have been taking you captive and then releases you from that so that you can renew your mind to become the person, the partner, the parent, the physician that you want to be.

And I have to tell you that this is one of the reasons that I love coaching. It's all about meeting people exactly where they are and showing them their thoughts and that their thoughts are holding them captive and asking the right questions to allow them to realize that and then asking them even deeper questions to help them realize the potential solutions and how they're showing up and what their thoughts are doing and all of that stuff. That's why I love coaching.

And so, I want to explain very clearly what coaching is, like the philosophical ideas behind coaching and what that means for you as a client if you ever decide to partake, right? So, there are five or six really fundamental things, I think, about coaching. So, if a coach is doing their job, they're going to show up as a mirror. And what I mean by that is like the mirror that you look in when you're brushing your teeth, right? All their job is, is to show you, is to show you your thoughts as they come out of your head and you say them out loud, to question them, to ask you about them, and to allow you to see where you're at, is to be a mirror. And we do that by holding nonjudgmental space.

So, what do I mean by that? Remember, mercy triumphs over judgment. So, a coach's job is to create a nonjudgmental space where the client brings their own thoughts, brings their own beliefs, their own ideas, right? And then we don't judge them. We love them. We show mercy. We meet them where they are, because it's part of the human experience and there's a good chance we've been where they are. There's definitely a good chance, in a group coaching setting, that a ton of people watching have been where they are. Maybe that's where exactly where they are. That's the power in it, the community aspect, right?

So, we show up as a mirror holding nonjudgmental space, and we simply show you your thoughts, right? And then it's up to you to decide, "Is that thought causing a result in my life that I want? Is this serving me or is this holding me captive?" And if my thoughts are holding me captive, how do we instead take our thoughts captive in turn, and renew our mind, consider a new thought, to help them become the person that they want to be. And we rinse and repeat that over and over.

It's just showing up, holding space, nonjudgmental space, and showing people their thoughts. You'll notice that the coach's job is not to talk about the coach. It's not to give a bunch of advice. It's not to introduce their own beliefs. It's not to show how the clients are right or wrong. Good coaching allows the client to come up with the thoughts, to show that to them, and then also to come up with the solutions, because you know what? At the end of the day, any doctor that I'm coaching is a highly intelligent, highly educated person. They have the solutions within them. My job is just to ask questions to help them get there.

Now, that's not what most coaching is. If you've seen coaching at big organizational meetings or whatever, a lot of coaches get up there and all they do is what we call A-line coaching. They just give advice. They give action items. "You need to meditate more. You need to practice gratitude more. You need to do X, Y, and Z." The kind of coaching that is preached at most organization points finger back at the doctor and says, "Hey, burnout is all your fault. Moral injury is all your fault. You need to fix this, and this is how. Let us just tell you how. If you just do what we say, it's all going to get better."

All of this kind of coaching completely skips the thought work, and your thoughts are what lead to your feelings, actions, and results. So, they don't spend the focus or the time on the thing that is controlling everything, the thoughts that are holding you captive that you haven't even realized. Instead, they spend time on the A-line because it's easier. It's more comfortable just to tell people what to do.

And this is why I love the coaching that's taught at the Life Coach School, basically, because that's not what we do. We talk about your thoughts, and those thoughts will cause effective and helpful change in your life. We are taught how to coach and teach people based on the answers they already have within them. And this lines up perfectly with some of my core beliefs, that you're intelligent and educated and that you know, you know, the solution. Who am I to think that I have a better idea than you do, right? You're just as intelligent and as educated as I am. I probably have a lot to learn from you.

So, in a nutshell, the purpose of coaching is to hold nonjudgmental space, to show people their thoughts that may be holding them captive, and then helping them replace those unintentional thoughts with other intentional thoughts that help them become the person they want to be. In the end, I guess what I'm saying is that faith and coaching are complimentary. They can play very nicely in a room together. They're peanut butter and jelly. They're not oil and vinegar. And the big reason why, good coaching is not about the coach. It is all about the client, and that's how it should be.

So, take your thoughts captive, renew your mind, and become the best possible version of yourself and not anyone else. Today's thought is this. When it comes to coaching, the purpose is to function as a nonjudgmental mirror where people can see their thoughts, come up with their own solutions, and become the best person that they can be. Until next time, my friends, start before you're ready. Start by starting. Start now. I'll see you next week.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner, is a physician first, personal finance blogger, and a life coach for doctors. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes only. Life coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you are a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to my dad at [email protected].



1 Comment

  1. John B Robertson

    Jimmy, congratulations on your new calling, coaching. Good article addressing spiritual issues that might interfere with people partaking. Would love to read an article about your thoughts on coaching and psychotherapy as two alternative approaches.


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