What is Transformation coaching?

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.
— Donald Rumsfeld

One of the biggest questions I’m asked is this: “How is transformational coaching different from therapy?” Transformational coaching is a process of inquiry and conversation that is designed to generate new possibilities in the areas of life where you may feel the most burdened, overwhelmed, burned out or frustrated/stuck in. It IS future focused. It’s about learning self-awareness and seeing new ways to take action in order to create the change you desire and are committed to.

Some clients begin to experience an awareness and insight in a single conversation. Where they once felt absolutely helpless and were filled with anxiety- they leave with hope and new possibilities to explore.

I often times say- what I’ve learned doing this work and the insight I’ve gained in the areas of communication, leadership, conflict resolution, business development and gaining what I had only longed for in my personal relationships is literally priceless.

Transformation requires a willingness to explore and see what you haven’t seen until now. Consider what you’ve been missing and also what you’re contributing to the place you’re in. This isn’t the advice zone, as a coach, I’m not here to fix anything as I believe there’s nothing bad, broken or wrong with any of us, it just IS. Once I consider losing our grip on shoulds and shame- hope takes the place of despair and possibilities begin to arise.

As a coach, it’s not a “one size fits all”, it’s not giving people advice or “shoulds” but rather engaging in conversations that open up new possibilities. I created the images below to better explain WHY knowing what I didn’t know before has been and can be SO powerful to ones life.


What I know I know

I know how to drive a car, I know how to solve basic math problems and I know how to use a camera in manual mode. This category includes ideas, thoughts, talents and skills I know I have and I know that I’m good at.

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What I know I don’t know

This category includes things or skills I know I don’t have. Ex. Flying a plane, making ramen, coding a website, how diamonds are cut and made to sparkle, etc.

These are ideas, thoughts and skills I’m aware of not having or knowing- yet if I wanted to become a pilot, create a bowl of ramen or code a website I can go and learn how to do these things.

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What I don’t know I don’t know

This is where the gold lies. Literally.
This category includes my blindspots- the areas in life where I feel stuck, conversations that are never resolved- because I don’t know the way or can’t see how to get back these brick walls. It’s the choices I’m making today that are recreating my past- causing me to believe I’m doomed to my circumstance rather than living beyond my circumstance.
Discovering what I don’t know empowers me to see opportunities and make new choices to bring about the things my heart is longing for most. It’s the opportunity to create the exact thing my heart longs for.


Once I begin to grasp and learn what I was unable to see, things I didn’t realize before were standing in the way of the life I wanted to live- I can begin to remove those barriers and bring about something new and never experienced before.

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By accepting what I don’t know- I don’t know. By accepting that, up until now I’ve tried everything but haven’t been able to break free and experience something new- in this place of acceptance and surrender I’m able to move forward- loosing my grip on the past and focusing my sight on the future.

If this idea of surrender sounds scary- please know it’s not!

Here are a few ways you can begin to discover what you haven’t seen before and choose something new.

  1. Awareness is key. Self-awareness- noticing routine patterns, areas you avoid conflict, how you live in hopes of measuring up to someone else- sacrificing yourself, looking for areas in your life that you are currently resisting change. (What complaints are your certain are TRUE and that’s just the way it is.. begin there.

  2. Remember- as long as you continue to resist change, fight to stay right in what you’ve done and how life isn’t fair. As long as you choose comfort over trying something new- there will be no change.

  3. Surrender- rather than acting and choosing the same thing you have that’s brought you here- surrender to it simply being “the way it is” and looking to see what areas or ways you could bring something new into your life and this circumstance. What else could be as true or more true than what I believe is true right now.

  4. “So what now what” it’s one of my favorite phrases I’ve learned in my own journey of transformation. Letting go of the shame, resentment, worry of doing it right or making a mistake, the fear of saying “no”. If it’s not about "right and wrong” and it just was- accepting the decision made and creating space to try something new brings a since of freedom, meaning and a feeling of empowerment- because in this moment I take charge of my circumstance rather than being ruled and drown in my circumstance (at the mercy of the circumstance or those around me).

  5. Walk through a process of inquiry: What payoffs am I getting out of living this way and allowing the self-belief or circumstance dictate my actions. Next- what are the prices I’m paying in order to continue to make the same decisions and stay comfortable and avoid the risk of trying something new.
    You may discover that the prices are exactly what your heart truly desire and when you see the short term payoffs you’ll begin to realize the choices you’ve been making, until now, have been short term gains for long term pain.

  • Do you feel stuck in your current job or do you desire a more intimate connection with your spouse or partner?

  • Do you set goals but rarely get to achieve them?

  • Do you feel overwhelm, discouraged or stuck in a current situation, conversation or relationship?

Know you are not alone!


If any of this resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you! Click here to begin the conversation with your free coaching call, or leave a comment below or request a complimentary call and see if coaching can help you break through whatever seems to be holding you still!

Tessa Swarthout