How does coaching work? What is the underlying premise at play? Coaching, like many things in life, follows the Anna Karenina principle — that all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. At least, that is what I have observed in my own practice over the years.

It’s personal

So, while all those who find a sense of inner-freedom and clarity are rather similar, each discontented individual is discontented in their own way. This is in line with the understanding of entropy in the physical sciences — that there are more ways for something to be broken than for it to work; more disordered states of nature than ordered ones.

In the same way, unique experiences and life circumstances conspire to create psychological blockages for us that are deeply personal. Blockages that manifest themselves in all sorts of tricky ways, sometimes in the unlikeliest places. If there is one coaching fundamental, it is about uncovering and breaking through these personal blockages. About seeing the problem with real clarity such that a path forward automatically presents itself.

The universal

While each individual problem is deeply unique and involves careful unpicking, there is still a universal. That universal is the nature of the human experience and the human mind. The Anna Karenina principle certainly applies in coaching, but it does not quite go the full distance. For, we must also look beneath the specific blockages into the mind. At the mind’s tendencies to create suffering for us by seeking validation and control through all manner of things. Tendencies that may resolve in one area, only to reappear in another part of your life.

The enquiry is then deeply personal, necessarily centred around the presenting issue (proximate cause). However, this enquiry opens a window into a deeper understanding of what it means to be human in our world. How the specific dynamics of modern life and personal circumstance can make things all the more complex.

Beyond the Anna Karenina Principle

The presenting issue is always the essential starting point. The window it opens though, is into a deeper exploration of yourself. How you relate to things — to yourself, to others, to work and to life itself.

Coaching is ultimately about supporting an enquiry into who you really are.


life coaching londonHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.

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