A coach's perspective on Inner Work®

February 9, 2022 - 7 min read

BetterUp Coach Shereen Thor and VP of Coach Innovation, Dr. Jacinta Jimenez-coach-on-inner-work

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Inner Work® is the gateway to ourselves

Breakthroughs happen when you take a break

How to cultivate your personal Inner Work® practice

Transformation isn’t something that you just buy online. Human connection — the support of an incredible network of coaches — helps people live their lives with greater purpose, clarity, and passion.

The route to self-development might look different than you might expect. That’s because the best way to personal and professional growth, to be a leader in your life, starts with Inner Work®.

Although this kind of quiet, internal, reflection and development may not look like much on the outside, Inner Work® is life-changing. It’s a powerful tool for developing self-awareness, living in line with your values, and doing your best work.

At BetterUp’s first annual Inner Work® Day, BetterUp executive coach Shereen Thor and Vice President of Coach Innovation, Dr. Jacinta Jimenez, talked about how coaches both practice Inner Work® and use it as a tool to help their Members grow.

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation:

Inner Work® is the gateway to ourselves

In over a million coaching sessions, we’ve learned something powerful about mental fitness. As it turns out, while the development journey is different for each person, the skills of mental fitness tend to develop in a particular order.

The first skill that tends to develop in coaching is introspection. Becoming more aware of your own patterns, needs, and goals lays the foundation for personal growth. Introspection leads to emotional regulation, self-efficacy, and resilience. That’s the secret sauce — the science behind what makes Inner Work® so effective.

The coaching relationship provides a kind of container, an ideal space to develop an inner sense of clarity. Dr. Jimenez says “Inner Work® can be this really powerful gateway to returning to ourselves with thoughtfulness and intention.”

Breakthroughs happen when you take a break

There are several benefits to Inner Work®, but one of the most important is that it provides an opportunity for cognitive recovery.

In a world of notifications, urgent messages, and competing priorities, it can be hard to find time to “do nothing.” In fact, taking time for Inner Work® can often make you feel guilty — at first. But Dr. Jimenez explains that allowing yourself some rest actually activates an entirely different part of your brain.

When our brains are at rest, we activate something called the default mode network (DMN). Even though we look like we’re not doing much, the DMN uses much more energy than the “active” mode of our brains. When activated, the DMN plays a role in cognitive recovery. This quiet time helps us feel refreshed, but it also creates “more connections, increased clarity, and deeper self-awareness.”

How to cultivate your personal Inner Work® practice

Everyone’s Inner Work® practices will look different, and there’s no right or wrong way to do them. The trick is finding something that allows you to tune inwards and slow down. That means being mindful of your own lifestyle, interests, and circumstances. 

Executive coach Shereen Thor offers these three steps to starting your personal Inner Work® practice:

1. Quiet the noise

The first step of Inner Work® is to take a moment to look inward. This doesn’t have to mean meditation or structured reflection time (although that can be helpful). It’s anything that starts to tune out the external distractions, demands, and chatter. 

Coaching creates a perfect space for this kind of work to happen. Thor explains, “We have a to do list — we have things in our external world pulling from us often. So when you do have that minute to take a beat with your coach, you’re inevitably going inward.”

This relationship is unique since coaching relationships are meant for this kind of introspection. Thor describes it by saying, “A coach holds space for your inner world — for reflection, so you can take a time out, so you can process everything that’s going on.”

2. Listen 

When you take the time to go inward, you may find out something surprising. Thor says that when you begin to listen carefully to your inner voice, you gain a better understanding of what’s happening in your inner world. 

That little voice may have a number of different messages for you. It may be telling you what you need. It might be urging you to change course. Often, it goes to work behind the scenes on whatever might be top of mind for you. This inner voice helps us problem solve, innovate, connect, and create.

3. Take action

Sometimes, what comes up can be unexpected. It may not make any sense at all. But Thor advises that whatever it is, you listen and do it anyway.

She explains the power of following her “irrational impulses” in her own life. As the child of immigrants, she was expected to follow a narrow path towards a secure and prestigious career. But she decided to go instead into stand-up comedy — which ultimately brought her to coaching.

“What is that thing that you've been wanting to do that you keep talking yourself out of?” she asks. Everyone’s got one. That inner voice often steers us to the next phase of our lives — where we can challenge ourselves, take risks, grow, and maybe have a little fun.

Thor uses this philosophy in her work with her Members. “Doing things you’re excited about — that give you life — will nurture your inner world in a way you’d never imagine.”

She encourages Members to take risks and have fun. 

That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from Thor’s perspective on Inner Work® — it’s meant to light you up. And when you find the key to your own ignition, it will take you down roads you never could have imagined.


Published February 9, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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