Souls, Operating Systems and Meat Suits: Coaching For Lasting Change

WE ARE souls, loaded with operating systems, wearing meat suits. That’s what we need to remember, in that order, if we want to create lasting change in our lives.

Wondering what on earth I’m going on about? Stick with me. All will become clear. I’m about to take you on a whistle-stop tour of coaching that works, coaching that works a bit, and coaching that doesn’t work at all.

For those of you who prefer to be a little more logical and left-brain about it, you might prefer this statement: “We are mindsets, connected to brains, inside human bodies.”

Make more sense now?

I’ve been self-employed, working as a coach and trainer, since 2010. Even before then, I’d long been fascinated by psychology, spirituality, beliefs and the human condition.

I’ve taken myself through more training programmes, and read more books related to these areas, than I care to count, and my fascination has never waned.

What drove my desire to understand even more was the lasting change that seemed to happen for people who came to my events.

At other seminars, though so many enjoyed that ‘buzz’ that only comes with a live event, there were plenty who noted that nothing much changed once the excitement wore down.

With the events I ran, this didn’t seem to happen in the same way.

Sure, that adrenaline and excitement is going to calm down after a while, but the intentions people set, and the transformations they experienced beyond the day (or longer, depending on the programme), seemed to carry on indefinitely.

Why was this happening? Why were people experiencing real, long-lasting mindset shifts after one of my events, but only a short-lived thrill after so many others.

Why was this happening? Why were people experiencing real, long-lasting mindset shifts after one of my events, but only a short-lived thrill after so many others.

The answer, it seemed, was connected to my own insights into the link between mind, body and spirit, and the way in which I wove these into my communications.

It’s the same pattern I see with my coaching.


While so many of my peers operate a horizontal model, I coach vertically. I don’t just take people from A to B (transactional problem solving), I take a skywards approach.

What do I mean by this? Well, someone might come to me wanting to build their confidence, grow their visibility and personal brand, get comfortable with public speaking or learn how to create clients, but then what?

Most of us can only see as far as our own limiting beliefs allow us to; it’s when we get to that breakthrough level that the next horizon appears…

Most of us can only see as far as our own limiting beliefs allow us to; it’s when we get to that breakthrough level that the next horizon appears, and that gives us another set of intentions and another level of growth and development to work at.

What’s more, with a horizontal, transactional model, we’re working purely at a brain/mindset level. We’re working on the actions that need to be taken in order to solve that particular problem, and then the job’s done.

This doesn’t require anything other than a series of transactions: do ‘X’ to achieve ‘Y’. Got it? Finished.

(NB: I don’t remember where I first heard the horizontal/vertical coaching description — could have been Rich Litvin, could have been Michael Neill, could have been someone else. I’m doing my best to credit here… :D)

In my model, we go deeper. Sure, we can still create the game plan that’s needed to achieve the desired ‘success’, but we go beyond instructions and into desires, habits and what was creating that ‘block’ in the first place; and when we do that, a whole world of opportunity opens up.

The pen is mightier… potentially

Let me give you an example I hope we’ll all be able to relate to…

Imagine someone came to me wanting to learn how to use a pen. A horizontal approach might be to teach that person how to hold their biro, how much pressure to apply to the page, and maybe some coaching in cursive writing strokes.

Once that’s done, BINGO. Mission accomplished. This person can now use a pen. Off they go.

My vertical approach might go deeper. Why does this person want to use a pen? What stopped them learning in the first place? What can we learn from that? And beyond the instructional elements of physically holding and using a pen, what else might be possible?

Who do you want to write for? Why? What’s your story? What do you want to do with that? How might that help, inspire or motivate others?

The horizonal approach gives someone the ability to make strokes on a page, installing new tools for the brain (operating system) to give new instructions to the body (meat suit).

My vertical approach speaks to that person at a deeper (soul) level, opening up new insights into purpose (soul mission), drivers and motivators, inspiration and possibility.

What began as wanting to write with a pen might turn into a new career, brand development, speaking opportunities, maybe even a book and beyond.

What began as wanting to write with a pen might turn into a new career, brand development, speaking opportunities, maybe even a book and beyond.

It’s about looking deeper than that initial request. We can be all Shallow Hal and work at a surface level, or we can delve into what’s beneath that, working with mindset, memories, beliefs, purpose and (dare I say?) ‘soul’ to create long-lasting transformation.

Weird, beautiful mix

Where did this level of insight come from? I’m a weird, beautiful mix of analytical, action-oriented, solution-focused, marketing, journalistic, corporate directorship background, counterbalanced by a deep spiritual connection, natural ‘psychic’ abilities and a decade or so learning directly from shamans and medicine people, not to mention training and development in everything from mediumship to reiki, plus coaching, NLP, hypnosis and all that reading and education I mentioned earlier.

Through my own lifepath, including all kinds of struggles and traumas, I learned that real change only happened for me if I took full ownership of my life AND accepted that any transformation had to begin on the INSIDE.

I wanted to create something meaningful and unleash something awesome; ‘MEaningful’ and ’ ‘AwesoME’ literally begin and end with ‘ME’.

I wanted my life to mean something. I wanted to be able to create a difference for others and leave a positive mark on the world (regardless of whether people attributed that to me — it’s always been about genuinely positive intention, not ego). I wanted to create something meaningful and unleash something awesome; ‘MEaningful’ and ’ ‘AwesoME’ literally begin and end with ‘ME’.

The same will be true for you. Meaningful and awesome. They both have that personal descriptor at either end of the journey, and the transformation required for both means taking full responsibility and ownership for everything that happens in our lives.

For me, this stuff is so second nature, it spilled out into my work with others.

In my events, I always went further than training the operating system. If I saw those blockers, I’d work with that individual, or group, at the soul level, which invariably created deeper insights (think about that word: insight — in-sight = literally seeing something on the INSIDE) for everyone else in the room.

I’ve safely held space while people have experienced tremendous breakthroughs, which have then led to real transformations, simply because it’s natural for me to see right through the presenting ‘block’ to what might be going on underneath that and, when the timing and setting feels appropriate, I’ll go there with people who are ready and willing.

Safety first

For the record, it feels important to say here that all my events are pre-framed to allow for safe sharing and an environment of care, support and responsibility. We should only ever scratch that surface when the circumstances allow for it to be carried out with care, support and the utmost integrity from everyone in that room.

That’s why it happens though. That’s why so many people leave the room ready to create lasting change, feeling awesome and shouting about my events being transformational. It’s because they feel deeply heard, in a safe space that encourages and nurtures soul-level insight and leaves them in a place of possibility and courage.

It’s the same with coaching. We can take a horizontal, A-to-B, transactional approach, or we can go vertical, where so much more becomes possible and, by and large, that coaching relationship is so much more fulfilling and, generally speaking, longer lasting than a specific solution-focused ‘how to’ (which, technically, is more of a mentoring scenario anyway).

Make sense now? It’s about recognising the levels: we are souls, loaded with operating systems, wearing meat suits.

Make sense now? It’s about recognising the levels: we are souls, loaded with operating systems, wearing meat suits.

We can go really surface ‘meat suit level’ — ie: this is how to hold a pen, slightly deeper ‘operating system level’ — ie: this is how to move a pen and make marks on the page, or ‘soul level’ — ie: this is the huge wealth of experiences, feelings and opportunities we can cap into in, and write about with that pen, to generate boundless energy, optimism, enthusiasm, creativity, inspiration, motivation, knowledge and possibility — this is the road to soul-deep ‘success’.

Most of the coaches and trainers I see perhaps go to ‘operating system level’. Not so many go to the soul.

Shout out for Super Coach

If you’re one of the logical left-brainers and you’re still with me (thank you!), you might prefer Michael Neill’s explanation, which is remarkably similar.

When I first read Super Coach, I found myself nodding excitedly. In the first few chapters, Michael touched on a process (or ideology?) I’d been naturally using for years; I just hadn’t put the words to it before, or even realised that’s what I was doing.

Michael talks about The Three Levels Of Change; like me, he talks about horizontal v vertical coaching, and the difference between taking someone from point A to Point B compared to the power of the ‘vertical dimension’ — in Michael’s words “A deepening of the client’s ground of being and greater access to inspiration and inner wisdom”.

As Michael explains it, Level One is change in a specific situation; it tends to be project-specific and, once the ‘problem’ has been solved, people get on with their lives in much the same way as before.

Level Two refers to change in a specific life area; where people hire coaches to help with a particular area they’re having difficulty with — perhaps sales, relationships, confidence or presentations. The impact of that coaching is generally measured not by the way in which just one situation changes, but by a whole category of situations changing.

Level Three is described as Transformation or what Michael sometimes calls ‘global change’: “A pervasive shift in our understanding and way of being in the world”. At this level, Michael says, it’s not enough for us to develop a skill or change a feeling… we want to see our higher potential and “wake up from the dream of thought because, in doing so, our experience of everything changes and we begin to walk in a different world.”

See the similarities?

Michael calls his methodology ‘Super coaching’, so mine might be, what? ‘Super Soul Coaching’? 😉

Super Coach is a brilliant book — if you haven’t yet read it, I’d highly recommend getting yourself a copy.

Whichever way you choose to approach this — Michael’s Three Levels Of Change or my ‘Soul >>OS >> Meat Suit’ explanation — please be willing to explore the possibility of creating change on a much deeper level.

What’s needed?

One of my dearest medicine path teachers, Chris Lüttichau, taught me about the importance of what he called ‘The Chief’s Question’. It’s one of those questions that sounds so simple at the surface level (meat suit or OS), but can be really power-full when we go soul deep: the question is, simply, “What’s needed?”

I approach so much of my coaching, training and personal development work in this way, whether it’s for my benefit, or for the people I serve. It’s asking this question, and being willingly open to whatever intuitive guidance presents, that allows us to wonder whether someone really just wants to understand how to hold a pen, or whether there’s a much deeper soul desire to connect back to source, share and change the world.

It’s that same question that allows us to open the door to long-lasting change and transformation when we’re serving others in a training or mentoring capacity.

Are you going deep enough? What’s needed?




Taz Thornton is the creator of Awesome Sauce — a free, weekly positive life and business round-up, with good news stories, positivity tips and visibility hacks for your brand. In a few minutes each week, you get a dose of optimism and some awesome advice to get seen and stay happy.

Taz is a best-selling author, inspirational business speaker and multiple TEDx speaker, consultant on confidence, personal brand and visibility, and an award-winning coach (UK’s Best Female Coach 2018 — Best Business Woman Awards, Female Professional Of The Year, Central England, 2020, Most Influential Woman In Business And Visibility coaching, 2021, World’s 10 Most Influential Business Leaders, 2021). She is also the creator of the #UnleashYourAwesome, #ProjectArtemis and #TheBigOne personal and business development and spiritual empowerment programmes, as well as exclusive #HeartOfSpeaking speaker training retreats.

For those on a budget, Taz is also behind #UNLEASHED — an affordable confidence, content and cashflow building programme for coaches, healers and therapists.

Taz has been featured on BBC, ITV, in HuffPost, Diva, Metro, The Daily Mail and countless other newspapers, magazines and podcasts. Taz is also a regular columnist for the America Out Loud talkshow network. In 2019, she was named as one of the most inspirational businesswomen in the UK and, in 2020, she was named as one of the world’s top 50 women in marketing to follow.

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