How Much Readiness, Willingness, and Capacity for Change Do You Have?

In coaching, we often talk about our clients being ready, willing, and able for change in their lives. When I went through Precision Nutrition’s Level 2 course, they suggested clients rate themselves on these three dimensions to bring awareness to these elements, when considering some change in their lives. Rating scale is one of a few ways to test for these three elements, along with verbal questioning and intuition. This could be done either during a session, or potentially even more importantly at the beginning of the engagement itself during the chemistry session. For both coach and client, it is critical to be aware of what the state of the client is to pursue a proposed path of change; awareness of these 3 elements can mean the difference between success or failure and really understanding what is the true barrier.


What is readiness? I found this excellent list at Mindset Coach, Brenda Kwan’s blog:

A sense of necessity to change (commitment to change)

Belief that change is possible

Acceptance of responsibility for change

Openness, e.g., flexible and adaptable thinking, ability to reflect on and make sense of thoughts and feelings, prepared to experience some discomfort in the process of change

What aspects in this list resonate with your current state, and especially in relation to some desired change being considered?

Most clients are ready for some change. They already have mobilized themselves to seek out a coach and have gotten past the chemistry session and booked a first session. They also have committed funds for at least one meeting, so there is some incentive there as well as allocating time for the session itself.

Occasionally, we may see clients show up at the chemistry session but upon further exploration, they are truly not yet ready for change. They have awareness that their current state is undesirable and they would like to change it, but they fall short on one or more of the areas listed above.


What is willingness? From the Center of Motivation and Change:

When it comes to behavior change, it usually means being ready to engage in an action or series of actions that leads to the desired outcome and includes the ability or willingness to work towards the goal even though the process may not be fun, or rewarding, or enjoyable. 

When considering your desired goal state, how willing are you to actually work towards moving in that direction?

A lot of willingness has to do with clients taking their readiness and actually mobilizing their resources towards enacting change. While many people can desire, even envision a desired state, actually moving towards it can be very difficult. There could many physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual barriers to moving, and all may need to be addressed before any movement can occur. Sometimes, non-obvious movements in other directions may need to be made first before true movement towards their desired state can begin. Thus, states of being may need to be addressed, like patience and flexibility, and overcoming other barriers like beliefs and values and other elements which hold them in place firmly, despite showing some level of readiness.

Able? or Better, Capacity

With recent teachings, I have adopted the word ”capacity” in place of ”able” because the word ”able”, while synonymous with ”capacity” in many ways, can also be taken to mean ”ability to” which isn’t quite what we’re really asking about. While some clients may not have the ability to enact a change, many clients already have the ability to execute a proposed change; however, what is often missing is the energy and space component. Therein lies potentially a more accurate and directed inquiry when we ask for “capacity” instead of “able.”

The energy component is fairly straightforward to understand. It takes energy to act, whether an external physical action or an internal mental or emotional action. We can talk all day about some change we would like to make, but if we are depleted, then we may not be able to move ourselves towards the desired change. A common example is when someone inserts something in their calendar in the morning to workout, but when their alert goes off to wake up and go exercise, they would rather just stay in bed and ignore it. If you think about it, it takes energy to acknowledge the alert for change, and then get yourself out of bed to start down the path of getting to the gym, and to shake off any mental or emotional barriers to doing so as well mobilizing your body. Another example is when someone is aware of extreme discomfort for overworking, and is aware that they are merely following programming from their parents to excel at all costs. However, when they come to the moment that they have determined that they would like to stop, they cannot because to summon the will for change is too much for them in their current energy state. Thus, capacity is highly dependent on someone’s current energy state as well as their reserves.

Capacity also involves space. This space can be physical, mental, or emotional, or a combination of any of the three. If someone’s life is so busy, chaotic, or cluttered, there is literally no space to even try enacting a change. It could mean change or removal of current elements that are constantly creating stimulus to stay in their previous state. A busy job may need to be made less busy. Demands on a person’s time and energy may need to be reduced. Sometimes, reframing can be used to transform a hectic life that is draining to one that is, instead, perceived as a positive experience. Or it could mean that someone will need to take an extended vacation. In more extreme instances, it could mean a dramatic shift in their current lives, involving change in relationships and place of residence, among other things. So space can be both actual and perception, and often work in both areas in concert can create space such that change can happen.

It Might Just Take A While…

…and on a path unexpected…

Clients will often show up knowing they need some kind of change. They hope that it will happen in some timely fashion. Upon further inquiry and exploration, it is often the case that change won’t be easy nor quick. Clients can only move as fast as their resources can enable them to move. Awareness of those resources is usually the first step in coaching, and can often reveal that the speed and path of movement will not be what the client was expecting. It is quite possible that while a client might show up with a coaching topic, a client needs coaching on readiness, willingness, and capacity first before anything can happen with their original area they wanted to work on.

As an example, a recent client and I reflected on our work together over the last year. Just now, we were coming back to *finally* tackling the original goals stated when we started coaching. The client noted that there were so many unexpected twists and turns, and so many unknown barriers had been uncovered and removed. Despite the time spent – we were well past one year of regular, near-weekly sessions – it took us this long to get where we were today, and finally to a point of coming back to the original goals. The client also noted that while this was unexpected, the benefits were immeasurable as the client’s life was totally transformed, and was living a life that was unimaginable when coaching started. The client felt that so many barriers had been lifted and that so movement now felt so much more at ease than before. All this in a year of consistent coaching, and unwavering commitment, confidence, and energy from the client to act on results of coaching sessions, and reinforced by positive results. We continue to work together to firm up design of life going forward, as well as knocking down the final barriers remaining, some of which are proving to be the hardest of all.

As a potential or existing coaching client, what does your readiness, willingness, and capacity for a desired change look like right now? What moves can you make to increase these three elements, so that change can happen and sustained? And if you are in a coaching relationship already, how can coaching help bolster all three elements, so that movement towards your original goal state can happen?

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