The following is an abridged account of a coaching client’s initial two-hour meeting which I thought you might find interesting. To be honest, I didn’t know from the initial contact whether the client, and we’ll call him Jake, would be better in therapy or not. However, Jake was keen to pursue the coaching route a friend had recommended to him and we proceeded.


“Hi Jake, how can I help you today?”

“For the past 3-4 years I’ve been reading a lot of books, and I mean a lot, maybe over one hundred.”

“And what type of books have you been reading?”

“Mainly self-help and personal development stuff and meaning of life books., I’ve also read many books on business mindset, strategy, management, et cetera… I run a business development company. I have also travelled a lot with my work. I’ve been to over 25 countries in the last two years. So, I have had plenty of travel and waiting time to read.”

“I see Jake, and how has the absorption of all of this knowledge been for you?”

“I feel that despite all the positive knowledge I have gotten from these books, and they have broadened my vision of life tremendously, I have learned a lot which is amazing. Yet, I still feel like I have no clue about the hell I am going to do with my life? I mean, what am I supposed to be doing? What am I here for? I feel fulfilled in my work but empty in my life, if that makes sense?”

“And how does that emptiness manifest in your day-to-day life for you?”

Jake thought long and hard, “Every time I disappoint someone, you know, let down a client, my wife, or the kids, I absolutely question my whole life. And it’s driving me mad.”

“What’s your life like right now?”

“I work a lot, and I work well. I am good at what I do and I am well rewarded from a financial perspective, with more than a decent income. I have great relationships with my wife, kids, and extended family and I live in a home I love. I guess a lot of people on the outside would envious of the life I am living.”

Jake fell silent, and I gave him time to collect his thoughts.

“But on the inside,” Jake continued, “I feel totally dissatisfied! I always think there is something else to be had. I want something else, something more, something different, but I don’t know what that something is?”

“I see.”

“Look, I just don’t know if the decisions I am making now will be any good long term? And I don’t know if I am making other people around me feel happy, positive, confident, safe and secure. I just don’t feel like I know much at all?”

“I’m curious, has anyone in your circle of family and friends ever told you that you are not a loving husband, you’re not a good provider, you’re not a good friend or anything like that?”

“No, not that I can recall. I just don’t know how to overcome these terrible feelings of never being enough.”

“Okay, let me ask you, what are your dreams, what are your BIGGEST dreams?”


Jake’s case is not uncommon, especially among high-achievers. And the feelings these people encounter in these circumstances are highly debilitating. On the outside, they appear to be in consummate control, yet chaos and uncertainty reign supreme on the inside disturbing their whole being. Yet, the last question that I asked in the transcript above brought Jake alive, after a long pause Jake poured out his, what I call surface dreams. I call them surface dreams because, for many they lay just beneath the surface and depending upon the tide of life, they occasionally rise to the surface, and are the first to surface when probed. When we delved deeper, exploring Jakes dreams, more bubbled to the surface, dreams that existed and for some reason, Jake hadn’t remembered them or deemed them possible or important for him. Yet, they were there, and he was pleasantly surprised that they were there. And then, after an hour, we went deeper still, far deeper than Jake would have thought possible or comfortable with. It was at this time that Jake had a physically manifested ‘A-Ha’ moment. He leaped to his feet, “That’s it he said, that’s what I’m here to do.”

I waited as Jake, in a state of suspended animation, froze on the spot. He told me afterward that his mind seemed to race at breakneck speed and that he couldn’t compute anything in his brain. As he came to and looked at me, I asked, “And will you be needing some help with that?”

Jake smiled, and it is my pleasure to report that Jake and I have been working hard together and he is well on the way in creating the life of his dreams.

I hope that you have found this a useful insight?


Paul Stretton-Stephens