Navigating Client Challenges in Financial Coaching

We’ve already talked about the framework I use when thinking about my clients’ development (be sure to check that out!). But how do you coach inside that framework?

It’s important to understand what to do when your client doesn’t understand your perspective, when a client can’t take action, and when the client does the opposite of what you think they should do.

Understanding Ancient Wisdom in Modern Coaching

Coaching isn’t a new concept; it’s deeply rooted in ancient wisdom. As Plato once said, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” This concept is further echoed in works like Joseph Murphy’s “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” and philosophies of great minds like Albert Einstein. These teachings underline that our life is our own creation, influenced and shaped by our consciousness.

The Importance of Studying Human Behavior

As financial coaches, it’s crucial to study not just personal finance but also human behavior and coaching techniques. We need to be a student of our craft, in coaching and human behavior. Understanding what makes a person tick is a huge part of coaching. We need to understand that knowledge or information might motivate a person to take action or do something differently with their money. But not everyone is motivated by information.

Remember, coaching is about helping clients navigate their development to reach a desired outcome. We’re here to guide and support, not to control or dictate the process. Our role is to assist clients in becoming the architects of their desired outcomes.

Incorporating Brooke Castillo’s Model

Brooke Castillo’s model of coaching particularly resonates with me so I tend to use some of her terms in what I do. She explains coaching using The Model, which is five key components: circumstances, thoughts, feelings, actions, and results.

The results you get are based on the actions you take (or don’t take). The actions you take are based on feelings you have – imagine what you may or may not do based on any of the following emotions: confident/hesitant, overwhelmed/clear and focused, confused/certain, uncertain, excited, passionate, ashamed, afraid, committed.

Whether you take action or not is based on the feeling you are having. The feelings we have are determined by what we think of something, the thoughts we have about the situation. The circumstances are the situation itself; what’s going on.

Breaking this down for financial coaching:

  • Circumstances: Person’s financial situation
  • Thoughts: What client thinks about the situation: “We’re in over our head.” or “I’m never going to get out of this situation.”
  • Feelings: How the client feels because they think that: Deflated, stuck, overwhelmed, hopeless
  • Actions: What they do, the actions they take: “I’m going to ignore it, push it aside, it’s pointless anyway”
  • Results: The outcome: Situation doesn’t improve or possibly gets worse


  • Circumstances: Person’s financial situation
  • Thoughts: What client thinks about the situation: “We got this, we can figure it out.”
  • Feelings: How the client feels because they think that: Determined, solution-focused
  • Actions: What they do, the actions they take: “I’m going to learn and try new things to solve this.”
  • Results: The outcome: Situation improves

Where I Went Wrong

Reflecting on my early days as a coach, I realize that I often missed key steps. I focused on teaching clients about their circumstances, expecting that this would spur action. However, I overlooked the critical stages of understanding what clients think and feel. These aspects are crucial in determining their ability to take action.

The Education Phase: Aligning on Circumstances

During the education phase, it’s important to ensure that both coach and client are on the same page regarding the circumstances. For example, when discussing debt payoff goals, it’s not just about presenting the facts but also understanding the client’s perception of those facts. Clarifying the situation lays the groundwork for the subsequent phases.

Embracing Thoughts and Feelings in Coaching

After establishing the circumstances, it’s vital to explore the client’s thoughts and feelings about the situation. This exploration is key to guiding them effectively. For instance, after presenting a debt payoff plan, ask, “What do you think of this timeline?” or “How do you feel about this approach?” Their responses can lead to a tailored action plan that resonates more deeply with their personal motivations.

The Power of Thought Shifts

The beauty of this model is the ability to shift thoughts. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by past coaching approaches, reframe your thoughts to see yourself as a continuous learner, constantly evolving to be a better coach. This shift in perspective can profoundly influence how you approach your coaching practice.

Applying the Model to Financial Coaching

As financial coaches, our job is not just to provide financial advice but to help clients think differently about their situations. By guiding them through this process of changing thoughts and feelings, we can empower them to take meaningful actions that lead to positive financial outcomes. This is the essence of impactful coaching.