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General Articles

When the problem isn’t the real problem

By Judy Churchill

Sometimes when people come to me for life coaching they cite a problem they need help fixing and then we discover that the problem isn’t really that problem or that the problem masks another problem.

A typical example is ‘I need more free time. I haven’t got any free time, I’m so busy at work that I don’t have time for sport/relationships etc.’. Very often this one should read: ‘I’ve voluntarily filled myself up with work and other tasks to avoid having to tackle the issue of exercise or investing in a new relationship.’ So the real problem is I’m avoiding doing exercise for a host of reasons (I feel I’m overweight and it’s going to be tough, I’ll have to stop eating certain things I love, it’s going to be painful and I want to avoid pain) or I’m avoiding a new relationship because of (past failures, menopause, sex issues, children/family issues, territorial issues, etc.).

What it boils down to is that we are trying to solve the wrong problem and that’s where coaching helps. By starting with an audit on different areas of your life we identify the ‘lack’ areas and finally identify the key issue(s) to tackle.

So let’s look at another example. Let’s imagine you come to me because you want to find a husband or partner for a serious relationship. You say you can’t find one or don’t know how to go about it.

On the surface this looks like an issue for a dating agency. But let’s look further. Let’s ask ‘what else would I gain if I solved this problem apart from a new ‘person’ in my life? In other words what problem(s) am I trying to solve by introducing this man/woman into my life? And let’s be honest and ask is a ‘man/woman’ really the answer to those particular problems. So let’s take a look:

  • You say: ‘I want a man because I want companionship’ so ask: How else might I find companions (networking groups, pets, better choice of friends)?

  • You say: ‘I want a man to take care of me’ so ask: ‘How else might I be taken care of (finding a better job, networking group, better financial situation, being more indulgent with myself)?

  • You say: ‘I want a man so that I can stay at home, go on holiday and stop working’ So ask: ‘how else might I stop working (ask yourself honestly if it’s really that you want to stop working or rather that you don’t like your job/colleagues and need a complete change of orientation)? Perhaps what you really need to do is to reorganise your life to create more space to include more free time at home and take more holidays.

  • You say: ‘I need a man to improve my economic situation and solve my current debt issues’. So ask: ‘ what happens to this guy once the problems are solved?’ Will you still be attracted to this man? Can you better solve your economic problems by doing an audit on your finances and taking advice from a financial advisor or reorganising your budget and priorities?

Usually once we have asked ourselves these types of questions and given honest answers we identify the real issues which need to be tackled and find they have very little do with the original problem stated.

In the example above, after we have tackled the other issues, if we can still say I’d like to find a ‘man/woman’ with whom I can share my life/wealth/time and I am not expecting that person to solve any particular problems for me, then you have identified the right time to start working on that particular issue.

We can use this paradigm for any problems to find out what really needs to be solved and fast track forward to solutions.

Judy specialises in transformational coaching on both an individual and team level.

If you would like to receive coaching, communication skills training or language tutoring from Judy, you can contact her on:, via Facebook messenger and

Saturday, 1 July 2017    Section: General Articles    Author: Judy Churchill
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