School of Coaching Mastery

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What is Coaching?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Have you ever wondered what coaching is?

We've written about what is life coaching before. Here's a cool little video (under 2.5 minutes) that the ICF just released called, "What is Coaching?", that covers all related types of coaching, such as business coaching and executive coaching. Athletes have always had coaches, but we're talking about a different type of coaching here. 

Have fun with the video. It'll help make coaching clear to you:

 

Interested in becoming a coach? Get the free Become a Coach eBook below:

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Topics: business coach, Coaching, executive coaching, become a life coach, become a coach, free coach training, become a business coach, Free, what is coaching, what is a life coach

How to Apply to Be a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®

Posted by Julia Stewart

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One of the most common questions we get about the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program is, "How do I apply?" In the past, application was made primarily by telephone interview, so we could determine, along with the applicant, whether the program was the right fit and whether the coach qualified for advanced placement. It's still possible to apply this way, but it seems to take too long, so we're streamlining the process.

You can now apply to the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program via an online application. It's currently free to apply and only takes a few minutes.

 

A few other important questions about becoming a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®:

- Is this program approved by an internationally recognized coaching association?

Yes, the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program is Approved by the ICF (International Coach Federation) for 125 hours and it's licensed by the IAC (International Association of Coaches).

- Will I be prepared to coach professionally when I graduate from the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program?

Yes, this is a training program for professional coaches that integrates advanced coach training with positive psychology from start to finish. 

- Do I have to wait to join?

No. New modules start every month, so we have rolling enrollment.

- What is included in this program?

Everything you need to graduate and get certified is included: classes, recordings, written materials, tests, certificates, research papers and articles, study groups, business tools, and your Certified Positive Psychology Coach® credential. We also recommend a variety of related books and other media, but you're not required to buy anything extra.

- I live in Europe (or Africa, Asia, Oceania), do you have classes I can attend?

Yes, our courses are taught via live interactive webinars and you can access them via any internet-connected device or via telephone (we have "local" phone numbers for 18 countries). If you miss a class, you can watch the recorded video. Our class schedule is between 10am - 10PM Eastern/NY Time and our students literally are from all over the world! That said, classes are small and students get to know each other well and become good friends. View upcoming classes here.

- How much does the program cost?

Current tuition is listed here. You can save 10% if you choose to pay your tuition in advance.

 

More FAQs about this program are here.

 

Want to apply to become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®? Click below:

 

Apply to Be a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®

Topics: become a coach, free coach training, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching

Why Life Coaches Should Never Get Botox (and Other Surprises)

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Life Coaches and their colleagues (such as business coaches and executive coaches) need empathy, that sense that you can identify and even feel what another is experiencing. It's an important part of what leadership coaching and emotional intelligence expert, Richard Boyatzis, calls "compassionate coaching", the type of coaching that's been found to be most effective.

Have you ever wondered how we know what someone else is feeling? 

Neuroscientists tell us that we have something called mirror neurons that cause us to experience what others experience, both physically and emotionally. You're even more likely to feel what someone else is feeling, if you're closely bonded to them. That's one of the reasons that connecting with a client is so important.

Why does it matter that life coaches have a strong sense of empathy with their clients?

A tremendous amount of information passes between a coach and client during a coaching session. We think about six times faster than we can talk (Rock, 2006) and we feel almost instantly, so if we over-rely on the content of the client's words, we will understand only a thimble full, compared to the volumes of information we can glean via empathy. Of course, we need to be sensitive to that information and accurately interpret it, while checking in with the client, in order to stay on track. This can take considerable practice.

So why should life coaches never get botox?

The concept of mirror neurons doesn't really describe the complex wiring that goes into empathy, which is an evolutionary enhancement that many animals don't have. The more social a species is (think: reptiles, to mammals, to primates, to us: the world's most social animal) the more sophisticated our emotional wiring must be.

As Stephen Porges, author of The Polyvagal Theory (2011) tells us, all animals have something called the vagus nerve, a conduit for a host of smaller nerves that connect the face, throat, chest and abdomen, and communicate between our organs, facial muscles, and brain. It is this collection of nerves that is the seat of emotion. That's why you feel emotions in your torso, throat and/or face.

In reptiles, who experience little or no emotional bonding, emotions are simply about survival. Reptilian vagus nerves enervate the gut and produce "gut feelings" that signal danger, while the reptilian brain (analogous to the human brain stem) signals a "fight, flight, or freeze response." Humans and other mammals also possess this primitive wiring, which Porges calls, "the vegetative vagus". 

It's official; your gut feelings are real.

But mammals are more social and need more complex emotional wiring to navigate relationships. We also possess the "smart vagus" that enervates the heart and lungs. This is the vagus that has gotten a lot of press lately, since scientists discovered that the vagus delivers oxytocin, the "love hormone" that triggers much of what we call bonding between humans and other animals.

Hold on, I'm getting to the botox part.

In primates, and especially humans, vagal nerves also enervate the throat and facial muscles which communicate so much to empathic others via our facial expressions and also via our voices, which change slightly according to muscle contractions in the throat. This is why we can intuit what someone is feeling when we talk to them on the phone. In turn, the listener experiences minute contractions in their own face, throat, chest and abdomen. It's those contractions that tell you what someone else is feeling, because you are then feeling it too!

The most highly empathic people respond to tiny, almost invisible contractions around the eyes, rather then just the mouth. In fact, people who are autistic, and therefore are not usually highly empathic, tend to avoid looking at eyes and so miss important information.

When you talk to someone face-to-face, or on the telephone, you intuition is highly influenced by the minute contractions around your own eyes and other parts of the face and throat. According to Porges, if you've had botox, you will be cut off from that information. Plus, others will have a harder time reading your feelings. Less empathy all around. Bad for your relationships. Super bad for your coaching.

Botox literally cuts you off from your complex and subtle ways of knowing.

Would you like to learn more about the science of coaching? Consider joining the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program or simply take the modules you're most curious about. All are ICF approved and IAC licensed. Click below for more information.

Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®

Topics: executive coach, Business Coaches, Life Coaches, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Neuroplasticity

10 Technology Requirements for a Successful Coaching Business

Posted by Julia Stewart

low-tech_life_coach

The business of life, executive, and business coaching grew up with the internet and is almost always high-tech. In fact, many coaching businesses boast an international roster of clients. So coaches need to master the basics of technology in order to feel professional and avoid frustrating our clients and ourselves.

So what are the 10 technologies every coach must have? Do you need a slick website? Expensive client-management software? You might be surprised what you actually need, and what you don't.

Here are 10 Technology Requirements for a Successful Coaching Business:

1. At least two separate telephone services. Yep, two. Why is that? A telephone is probably still the most important technology you need to run a service business, such as coaching. And no technology is always reliable. As a professional, you need to invest in a backup. You could have one old-fashioned land line, or VoIP service, plus one mobile phone. I prefer two services from different companies, because in this age of cyber warfare, you don't want your entire business vulnerable to one company that could crash.

2. At least two internet service providers. Same reason. Internet providers go down all the time and running out to Starbucks to connect your business wastes time and could compromise your clients' privacy, not to mention your own. Not professional. Today, many smart phones can double as wifi hot spots in a pinch. You have plenty of options. Make the investment.

3. A laptop. Tablets and smart phones are fine for people who don't own businesses, but you'll likely get more work done on something with a real keyboard, so a desktop or laptop computer is useful. The rule of thumb in business is to replace your laptop every two years, before it has a chance to break down. In the meantime, back up your data regularly and keep your browsers up to date.

4. Internet Security and Firewall. Speaking of privacy! Don't even consider going online without security. Even Mac owners need to be concerned about this. Yes, internet security is inconvenient. But it's no where as inconvenient as getting hacked or losing all your data. Some hackers actually will shut down your device and demand ransom to give it back to you. That's painful if you lose family pictures, but it's dangerous if you lose access to your business.

5. Secure storage for your clients' info. If your identity is stolen, that could cost you thousands. But if your clients' identities are stolen and it's traced back to your negligence, it could cost you millions. If you're confident of your device's security, you could store info on it. If not, check #9 below. Not all security is high-tech, though. You may want to store client info offline under lock and key and be extremely  careful to keep it out of the hands of others.

6. Excellent passwords. You've heard this before. It goes double when you own a business, because your livelihood and your clients' data are all at stake. Never use the same password twice. Change it every three months and use extremely long passwords that are case sensitive and include other symbols. How do you remember them? You can use a reputable online password service, or paper and pen - under lock and key.

7. Profiles on major social media sites. Depending on whether your business focuses on your local area or the world wide web, you may or may not need a huge online presence, but social sites are a free and easy way to spread the word about your services, so put up engaging and thorough profiles on social sites. LinkedIn is particularly important, especially if you're a business or executive coach. Learn more about social media for coaches with this free ebook.

8. A business checking account. Keep your business' money and your personal money separate. It'll help  give you clarity about what's coming in and going out and it makes tax time easier. Learn more about money and your coaching business with this free ebook.

9. A fast and easy way to accept money from your clients. Accepting checks is slow and international checks are expensive to process. Help your clients make their payments instantly and easily with an online service or a business account that accepts wire transfers. Choose one that offers fraud protection for you and your clients and can convert international currencies. PayPal is one of many services for small-business owners. One of its benefits is that it handles credit cards and checks, so you don't have to be responsible for them.

10. A door. Yes, a door. It's low-tech and you need one. For your office. Whether in your house or an office suite, make sure you have privacy and quiet while you're coaching. Both you and your clients will enjoy far more valuable coaching sessions when you feel quiet and secure. Don't make the mistake of trying to run a successful business from a corner in your living room or an office corridor. Coaching must be private to be successful.

So What Don't You Need for a Successful Coaching Business?

1. A web site. At least not right away. Most new coaches rush to get a site launched and wind up with something that doesn't represent their business. If you do it right, you'll most likely need a year or two to fully identify your niche and specialty. Until then, your LinkedIn profile is fine.

2. Client management software. They tend to be more trouble than they're worth. Client management is easy, unless you have hundreds of clients and you probably won't. Don't waste your money.

3. Skype. If you love Skype, go ahead and use it, but there are many alternatives that are more stable. Video coaching doesn't equal better coaching results, so your phone is probably fine. Use what works best for you.

Did I leave out something important? What would you add or subtract from these lists?

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Topics: Coaching, executive coach, Coach 100, Business Coaches, Life Coaches

Coach-Assisted Neuroplasticity: How Mindfulness Changes Your Brain for Good

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Mindfulness is a popular buzzword in the fields of coaching, psychotherapy, neuroscience and psychology, because Westerners have discovered ample evidence of what Eastern contemplatives have known for millenia: that practicing simple brain activities, known collectively as mindfulness, reaps tremendous mental, physical, social, and spiritual rewards. 

Being told that mindfulness works and knowing how it works, however, can mean the difference between practicing mindfulness daily (and receiving the benefits) vs. forgetting about it all together. 

So here's how mindfulness works.

Mindfulness, itself, is one of a larger collection of brain-training modalities that comprise what neuroscientists now call, self-directed neuroplasticity. These are thought-based exercises that literally utilize the mind to change your brain for good. They don't just change the content of your thoughts; they literally change the size and functioning of specialized areas of your brain. Something that, up until about twenty or so years ago was believed to be impossible.

The ramifications of these discoveries and new approaches are extraordinary. People don't just feel better when they practice mindfulness; their relationships, health, even longevity improve.

Your coaching clients can change their own brains for good - meaning better focus, less stress, less negativity, more optimism, even more happiness and wisdom - but they will likely need your assistance in learning to do so.

That's where coach-assisted neuroplasticity comes in.

This article can get you started with coach-assisted neuroplasticity, but I want you to know, there's much more to be learned about it. Check the bottom of this blog post for where to learn more.

The brain, though highly plastic, never-the-less has quite a few areas that are specialized. Some are devoted to the senses; such as hearing, sight and touch; some for reacting swiftly, such as the fight-flight-or-freeze function of the primitive brain stem, some for emotion and some for thinking. These specialized areas can be coopted by other specialty areas when something isn't working right.

For instance, if I lost my eyes, my occipital lobe, specialized for sight, would stop receiving visual input. Neurons from adjoining areas, for instance areas in my brain specialized for hearing or touch, might then move into the unused occipital lobe, the result of which could improve my ability to notice sounds (improved hearing) or to feel more acutely (ability to learn brail).

To understand the neuroplasticity of mindfulness, it's important to know about a few more specialized areas of the brain.

One such area is the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a part of the brain located right behind your forehead that's specialized in "executive function", which includes reasoning as well as modulating and integrating reactions and emotions that are registered in other areas of the brain. The PFC is the most modern, and in some ways, most human and most mature of brain areas. It is either absent or less developed in our mammalian and primate relatives and doesn't become "mature" in humans until around age 30. (This explains a lot about teenagers and twenty-somethings!)

The PFC has an interesting left/right duality of function. The left PFC tends to to reason calmly and is more "positive" than the right. The right PFC tends to get involved in negative evaluations, worry, stress, and even depression. 

Both PFC sides are connected to an older part of the brain, the amygdala, which is sometimes called the brain's alarm bell. The amygdala registers negative input. The more negative input it gets, the larger and more dominant it grows and the more negative thoughts you'll have, as a result. If the amygdala were a car, then thinking with the right PFC, the worry side, would be like stepping on the gas pedal. Thinking with the left is like putting on the brakes.

This is important for understanding the benefits of mindfulness.

Interestingly, the amygdala is right next door to the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and putting things in context. When the amygdala is working overtime, resulting in more negativity and growth, the hippocampus tends to shrink, resulting in a reduced ability to learn from mistakes or put things in context. So you have more negativity and stress, less learning and understanding of context. The fight-flight-or-freeze response could get stuck in the "on" position.

Whatever thoughts you habitually focus upon become "hardwired" into your brain, so the more you think with your right PFC, the more negatively you see the world, which then results in more stress, pain, anxiety and possibly depression. Not a pretty picture and all too common. So how can you change this negativity bias that we're all vulnerable to?

Mindfulness can help.

Let's say your client is a struggling small business owner who has laid off a team of ten, because his business isn't earning enough to pay their salaries. Some of them were  your client' friends and colleagues for years, making this was a highly emotional decision.

Now your client is faced with running a struggling business without help. He's overwhelmed and feels guilty, frustrated, even angry; and seems stuck in the fight-flight-or-freeze response. He can't keep up with the business and his home life is a mess. He's hired you to help him turn around the business, but you've observed that he also needs to turn himself around.

What are the options?

Although your client may view his business as a pressing emergency, the business will go under without him and his negativity may be pulling it down faster than he realizes (according to research by Marciel Losada and Barbara Fredrickson, negativity is associated with failure, while positivity is associated with flourishing, both professionally and personally). He could use less right PFC activation and more left PFC activation.

But your client may not take kindly to reciting positive affirmations or keeping a gratitude journal, two tools that coaches sometimes use to activate more positivity. In fact, people who are stuck in negativity tend to see those tools as silly and annoying. So start with something less obviously positive, such as mindfulness.

There are some tools out there, that are lumped in with mindfulness, that are expressly positive, but at its purest, mindfulness is about experiencing or noticing life without evaluating it. And since the fight-flight-or-freeze response is activated, to some extent, anytime we evaluate something negatively, just interrupting that habit on a frequent basis can begin to change negative wiring.

You do not have to sit in meditation to practice mindfulness.

In fact, it takes no extra time, at all, so even clients who are chronically rushed can do it.

Before you proceed, ask your client if negativity and distress have long been common for him, or whether his current state is specifically related to his situation. If it's the former, he may need more help than you can offer, as a coach. Don't hesitate to recommend a therapist, if he seems to need one. For the sake of this example, though, let's say he's generally optimistic, but the struggle of managing his failing business has gotten him stuck in some bad habits.

Explain to him the impact of his thoughts and feelings upon his brain and how his new faulty wiring may be confounding his attempts at success. Then explain that a mindfulness tool could help him rewire for success and ask if he'd be open to trying it. There's a good chance he'll say, "Yes".

Here's a simple mindfulness exercise that can make a dramatic difference.

Simply turn off the usual chatter that most of our minds engage in throughout the day, such as mentally criticizing others, ruminating about perceived slights, or worrying about what could go wrong. A lot of it is negative. Instead, notice surroundings without evaluating them.

The brain is designed to think, so turning it off isn't as easy as it sounds. That's okay. The point of this exercise is to notice one's thinking and refocus again on non-thinking, non-evaluating. Refocusing is like a muscle that strengthens as it's exercised, so the more you catch your brain thinking, the more you get to exercise your ability to refocus. 

The second point of this exercise is that any additional amount of time that the brain isn't thinking negatively is time when the connection between the right PFC and amygdala is weakened.

Over time, the negativity habit is reduced.

It's not necessary to eliminate it altogether, just reduce. 100% positivity carries its own problems. Ask your client to practice this mindfulness exercise several times per day while standing in line at the bank, for instance, or walking the dog, washing dishes, or anytime he doesn't need his mind to explicitly process information. Occasionally, ask him what he notices as a result of "not thinking".

As little as 20 minutes of mindfulness can make a difference.

Over a period of weeks or months, the fight-flight-or-freeze response will be triggered less often, the negative amygdala may become smaller, the hippocampus may begin to grow, so learning and perspective can improve, and your client may think with his left PFC more and with his right PFC less. He'll begin to get the clarity he needs to make good decisions and be able to see more opportunities and act upon them appropriately.

There's a good chance your client will turn around his business without needing your expressed assistance, because he already has the skills and knowledge he needs from starting it, in the first place. He just needed to get back to a more positive outlook on life. However, he also will be easier for you to coach to success, now that his mind has shifted more toward positivity. This is just one mindfulness tool.

There are many more coach-assisted neuroplasticity exercises.

To learn more about neuroplasticity, read books by the following neuroscientists: Daniel J. Siegel, Richard J. Davidson, Stephen W. Porges, and Rick Hanson.

To learn more about the brain on coaching and coach-assisted neuroplasticity exercises, click below:

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Topics: coach, Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, coaching with neuroscience, Neuroplasticity

Life Coaching vs. Psychotherapy: What's the Real Difference?

Posted by Julia Stewart

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What’s the difference between life coaching and psychotherapy? This is a common question from new coaching students. And that’s a good thing; it suggests they really care about providing an ethically and legally sound service.

And if you’re thinking about hiring a life coach or therapist, you certainly want to know the difference. I hope this article is helpful to both coaches and clients and maybe even to therapists.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, when coaching was still new, life coaches were sometimes accused of “practicing therapy without a license”. But today coaching is well established as a separate, if confusingly similar, profession.

And it’s no surprise people confuse psychotherapy with coaching. Both professional services involve personal development and are usually delivered in one-to-one or small-group conversations. But beyond that, they’re practiced in a huge variety of ways and there is quite a bit of overlap. It’s worth noting also that definitions of therapy and coaching vary somewhat around the world.

It sometimes seems nobody agrees on the real distinctions between life coaching and psychotherapy.

For instance, last Friday I read a blog post that defines positive therapy, a type of psychotherapy that that uses positive psychology interventions, this way: “It’s about shifting from today’s accepted standard of ‘doing OK’ into the fullness of our human potential and flourishing.” That’s an excellent definition of coaching.

Which reminds me of something fellow coach, Barbra Sundquist, once said (paraphrased): The problem isn’t that coaches are doing therapy; the problem is that therapists are doing coaching!

So okay, enough with the problem. Let’s get to some answers.

Rather than just present my own opinions, I did a little research (Full disclosure: I will never-the-less present my opinions further down).

One of the best-known articles on coaching vs therapy is in Choice, a popular coaching magazine, written by Patrick Williams, who specializes in teaching coaching skills to therapists. This seems like a good place to start.

Williams’ distinctions between life coaching and therapy are very similar to what I was taught in coaching school fifteen years ago and I mostly agree.

To paraphrase Williams, therapy deals with dysfunction and trauma. A therapist diagnoses the problem and uses their expertise to promote healing. Emotions are seen as symptoms. Progress involves exploring the past and may be slow and painful. Meanwhile, coaching clients tend to be healthy and are a looking to upgrade good to great. Coaches don’t diagnose illnesses and healing is not the objective. Emotions are normal. The coach is an equal partner with the client; focus is on the present and future; and progress tends to be quick and enjoyable.

Pretty straight forward, huh? Only, increasingly, I’ve noticed therapists challenging these distinctions rather vociferously. Some say therapy clients can be healthy to begin with, that focus doesn’t have to be on the past and progress can be quick and even enjoyable. So are they doing therapy or coaching?

Some say it doesn’t matter.

There’s an amusing article on this topic in Psychology Today by Michael Bader. I say, “amusing”, because I enjoy folks who have the audacity to challenge the status quo. Bader’s subtitle is, “Coaches and therapists make too big a deal about their differences”.

I agree. Up to a point.

Bader says he chooses his tools according to what individual clients need. If they need to delve into the past, he goes there; if they’re ready to move ahead quickly, he assists. That to me sounds like someone who’s mastered his craft and can easily improvise, as needed. Whether you work with a therapist or a coach, choose a master, if you can.

Bader goes on to say the only true difference between therapists and coaches is that therapists understand why coaching works, but coaches don’t understand why therapy works. I’d challenge that. Well-trained coaches understand very well why either works.

Here’s my opinion on the real difference between life coaching and psychotherapy: it all boils down to responsibility. And that matters. A lot.

In nearly every country on the planet, governments hold psychotherapists responsible by requiring them to meet educational and licensing standards. This is appropriate, because people who seek therapy often are significantly distressed and may be somewhat impaired in their judgment. They seek the expertise of therapists to help “fix” whatever they perceive is wrong.

On the other hand, in virtually every country on the planet, governments do not require specific educational and licensing standards for coaches. This too is appropriate because coaches don’t fix anyone. We specifically work with clients who are healthy enough to take full responsibility for their lives and simply want a partner who, for a limited time, will assist them to make big changes. Coaches may be experts in transformation, but their clients are experts on their own lives. Putting clients in the driver’s seat is, itself, transformative.

A good therapist is an expert who plays his cards well. A good coach may also be an expert, but he lays all his cards on the table and invites the client to choose which ones to play.

This doesn’t mean coaches aren’t responsible for anything. Chiefly they are responsible inviting their clients to be great. They also have a responsibility to distinguish themselves from therapists, because they aren’t legally sanctioned to practice therapy. This is more challenging as therapists move closer to coaching.

And it’s not surprising that more therapists are taking a coach approach to therapy, because coaching has been tremendously successful.

But for the record, regardless how therapists define themselves, coaching does NOT focus on dysfunction, diagnosis, symptoms or the past. It’s about healthy people being their very best. Being responsible is way easier when you're at your best.

That said, an ethical coach will observe when a client needs therapy instead of, or in addition to, coaching and will recommend accordingly. In my opinion, a good therapist will observe when a client is ready to take greater responsibility for their own life and will recommend coaching, if that’s what’s best.

So if you’re thinking of working with a life coach or a psychotherapist, ask yourself how distressed you are currently and whether you want someone else to take responsibility for helping you progress, or do you want to be responsible for your own life and want a partner who facilitates your greatness.

If you’re thinking about becoming a life coach or psychotherapist, ask yourself: Do you want to be an expert who is responsible for your clients, or do you want to support clients who are responsible for themselves?

So what say you? Am I full of hogwash or do you agree that responsibility is the key difference between life coaching and psychotherapy? I’d especially like to hear from therapists and counselors who are studying at School of Coaching Mastery.

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Topics: coach training, become a coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Life Coaching, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, life coaching vs. psychotherapy

Life Coaching: The Path to Clarity

Posted by Jerry Logan

The_winding_path_by_tinyfroglet_flickr_commonsHave you ever participated in a game or exercise where a group of people get to view a picture for several minutes, then write down everything they recall? Sometimes the responses vary so much they may be quite a topic of conversation. They can, however, give some insights into the interests and perspectives the participants have. While they all witness the very same image, what they see may likely have many interpretations.

In any situation, person, place, or thing we encounter, there is always the potential for the experience to be understood as positive, negative, or neutral. What makes the difference in the interpretation, of course, is our perception of what occurred. Our culture, history, heritage, values, relationships, and work ethics may affect what we see, and what is truly present when we take another look. In a group setting, this can merely entertain, or it may be a window into our insights on one side, or biases on the other. In a one-­on-­one encounter, this can lead to strong opinions and a heated debate, if neither party is willing to concede that the perceptions may be so disparate.

How well does our “interpretation” match what seemingly truly happened? What is the possibility of altering it, if necessary, especially after some focused dialogue? When we are willing to accept that there are other ways to see, we gain awareness and understanding of the other person's world view. Is that not at the heart of any relationship, and, for our purposes, at the core of coaching? I believe we are called to gain insight into the client's interpretations, so that we may know what questions to ask to invite the person to get to a refined concept, deeper level, a better view, a greater awareness.

In the aging process, vision usually changes for the worse. In the coaching experience, my goal is for Jerry_Logan_Life_Coach“vision” to change for the better. I truly want the client to succeed, to be able to live a more peaceful life. By actively listening, gently probing, refining, and asking more, I invite the client to “change the lens” for sharper viewing, whether it is by internal means, or by making better use of the available resources in people, or by using any tools that may achieve the goal. Sometimes, it is only a matter of fine tuning, while others need extended time to make the connections. No matter how long it takes, the overall desired result is the client's contentment, and the ability to take another step on the journey. In this, I recall the words I use also for myself: “New vision is the path to clarity.”

 

Jerry Logan is a Life Coach located in Jacksonville, Florida, and is also a member of the Certified Positive Psychology Coach ProgramGo here to find out more about Jerry.

 

Learn more about the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program here:

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Image by tinyfroglet

 

 

Topics: life coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Life Coaching, Values

Positive Psychology Coaching: How Do You Define Happiness?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Happiness_Big

I was asked recently to define "happiness" and had to ponder a bit.

A Google search, "happiness definition", gave Google's definition at the top of search results as: 

"The state of being happy".

Google, I think we can do better.

Most other definitions of happiness seem to involve nice feelings, such as joy, contentment, delight, and pleasure. Most of us know this kind of happiness when we feel it, so maybe it's no surprise that many writers on positive psychology don't bother to define it, even though their interventions supposedly will make us feel happy.

Yet thinkers since at least Aristotle's time have disagreed over the meaning of happiness, so it may be that defining it is more important than we assume. Also, there are positive psychology researchers who must define happiness specifically in order to measure it. Their definitions don't always fit mine.

So what is happiness, anyway?

My definition involves components of happiness. So it's more than a mere definition; it's a road map of sorts for finding happiness. See what you think.

First, what happiness isn't.

Sustainable happiness doesn't come from getting what you want. Those feelings always wear off, usually pretty quickly. On average, people who look enormously successful on the outside aren't happier than the rest of us. In fact, they are often miserable.

And what many people think is happiness really isn't.

It's closer to what I would call, "relief". Relief from negative feelings, such as fear, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, or dread feels way better than being caught up in those feelings. Plus, in the absence of negative feelings, many people allow themselves to enjoy life for a bit. Unfortunately those times often come in short supply. Relief, however, is an important component of happiness, a gateway, so to speak.

Relief comes from getting your needs met. Needs include physical stuff, like enough rest and the right food, but they also include emotional needs, such as belonging, safety, achievement, and social support. Virtually everyone has unmet needs, but individual needs vary from one person to the next.

One strategy for freeing oneself from most negativity is to simply get your needs met "once and for all", as Thomas Leonard used to say. Most people think that isn't possible, so they go through life hoping to get their needs met as if they have no control over the process. Hope is not a strategy, however.

Savvy coaches know that meeting needs is surprisingly easy and that the relief clients feel when their needs are met frees up energy to build a life that is truly wonderful. So meeting needs is the first step toward happiness, the gateway on my road map to happiness.

Then there's the idea of ease and engagement that many people believe is part of happiness. We've all had happy experiences in which we got to do things "our way" and it felt way better than having to do them someone else's way. That's one reason so many people dream of being their own bosses. And if you have a hobby, probably you've enjoyed moments when time just flew, because you were having fun. 

Ease, engagement, fun and tempus fugit are all outcomes of using what positive psychology coaches call, strengths. Everybody has skills or talents that allow them to do things easily that might be hard for the rest of us to do. Like needs, strengths are individual. Help someone discover theirs and assist them in finding ways to use them and you'll help put them on the road to happiness. You'll also free up energy that they might have wasted trying to do things someone else's way. That means more energy is available to create a wonderful life.

So what makes life wonderful?

Everyone can think of people, experiences, or things that help to make life more wonderful. Usually there's an underlying reason why, to one individual, family feels like the most important thing, while travel, for instance matters most to someone else. Finding that underlying thing can transform life, but most people never do. What I'm talking about is what effective coaches call, "values". They are perhaps the most important coaching topic, of all.

Yep, everyone's values are a bit different, just as everyone has different needs and strengths. Values are what matter most to us and living your life expressing what's most important to you is marvelously fulfilling. It has an additional element of service to it, whether intentional, or not. So if you keep a lovely garden, because you value beauty, everyone who sees your garden benefits. Or if you work hard at your job, because you value diligence, both your employer and customers of your employer benefit. Sometimes you may intentionally serve others, other times service might just be accidental, but either way, you are serving the larger good. That gives meaning and purpose to your life, while making the world a bit better for everyone else.

Service, meaning and purpose are the road to lasting happiness, but most people need help identifying their values and designing their lives around them. In fact, most people mistake their needs for their values and take their strengths for granted. Too bad.

So my road map to happiness is this: free yourself from chronic negativity by getting your needs met. Discover your strengths and use them in as many ways as you can to enjoy more fun and ease. In fact, use  your strengths to get your needs met and express your top values for relief from negativity, more energy and fun, as well as a deep, fulfilling and abiding sense of happiness.

That's what I call happiness.

If you're a coach (or want to become one) and you're curious how you can help others get their needs met, activate their strengths, and express their values, you'll love the upcoming Coaching Values, Needs, and Strengths module at SCM. You'll become a much more efficient coach, learn how to use assessments to help your clients more quickly, and earn a certificate of completion, all in just four weeks.

Click the button below to learn more and/or register.

Register: Coaching Values, Needs & Strengths

 

 

 

Topics: coach training, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Needs, Values, happiness,

5 Positive Psychology Findings that Blow Holes in the Law of Attraction

Posted by Julia Stewart

LOAwithholesPositive Psychology is sometimes confused with positive thinking and even the Law of Attraction. But positive psychology differs in one very important manner: it is subject to rigorous scientific research.

The Law of Attraction is a collection of beliefs about how you can attract more of what you want into your life. People who believe in the Law of Attraction may disagree on some aspects of it, but in general, the focus is on positive thinking and tools such as gratitude, affirmations and visualization. It’s sometimes presented as an ancient “secret”, or simply a tool that some of today’s most successful people employ to reach their goals. Now there is a growing body of scientific research into tools used within the Law of Attraction framework.

Science doesn’t always get things right (remember when cholesterol was bad and nobody ate eggs?). But good science keeps asking questions and testing its theories until it does get it right, whereas belief systems, such as the Law of Attraction, sometimes get it wrong and when they don’t deliver, blame can be cast unfairly on the wrong people.

DISCLAIMER: If you’re already practicing the Law of Attraction and getting everything you want – and you’re generally happy with your life – read no further. What you’re doing seems to be working for you. But if, like many, you’ve read books by Law of Attraction experts, or taken classes with Law of Attraction teachers, or attended a Law of Attraction church, or you’ve coached with Law of Attraction coaches and you’re disappointed or frustrated by your lack of results – and in particular if your experts, teachers, ministers, or coaches told you it’s all your fault because you’re doing it wrong – it may be time to ask for a refund and this article may just help you.

Experts, teachers, ministers, and coaches are responsible for finding out the truth and sharing it. If what they tell you is true, you’ll find evidence of it when you test it in your own life. If not, maybe what you’ve been taught is incorrect. The following is based on over 20 years of peer-reviewed research and it turns out that much of what has been taught about the Law of Attraction is just plain wrong…

1. First the good news: positive people do tend to get more of what they want. Purveyors of Positive Thinking and the Law of Attraction got this one right – at least up to a point. However, if your Law of Attraction teacher offers some quasi-scientific-sounding explanation such as, your thoughts send out magnetic vibrations that literally attract what you want to you, start looking for the exit, because that’s baloney. MRImagnet

The brain does emit weak electromagnetic waves, but fortunately for your head, they aren’t nearly as strong as those emitted by the MRI machine, at right, which can cause metal objects to fly through the air towards it and apparently is thinking really hard about a metal chair.

Positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, who wrote the book on Positivity, has spent 20 years researching positivity, which she defines as moments of positive feelings. She says positive feelings tend to broaden our perspectives so that we notice the multitude of possibilities that are already there. There’s no need to attract good things; they are already all around you. The trick is to notice them and positivity helps you do that by broadening your perspective. Shift your perspective to greater positivity and over time you can transform yourself and your life for the better. But…

2. You can overdo it: Too much positivity is associated with chaos, failure, and mental illness. The right amount of positivity elicits greater openness, curiosity, connection and wisdom, but beyond a certain point, increased positivity tends to become self-centered, grandiose, and even greedy and it causes people to take foolish risks, or fail to notice potential problems. Many purveyors of positive thinking and the Law of Attraction tend to encourage limitless positivity, which ultimately harms rather than helps. But here’s a shocker…

3. The bad news: Getting what you want doesn’t actually make you happy. If thinking about what you want feels good, that’s the main reward you’ll get from it (read #4 for more on why that is). According to research by positive psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky, most people believe that getting what they want, such as a million dollars, a fabulous home, the perfect mate, will make them happy, but those things only account for about 10% of your overall happiness and they boost your mood for only a short time. And this…

4. Worse news: Visualizing what you want may actually prevent you from getting what you want! Yep, researchers have found that people who only visualize the positive outcome of reaching their goals actually are less likely to reach them. There are some exceptions to this rule, which may account for why visualizing has become so popular – that and the fact that it’s so easy to do, but most people think the reason it’s not working for them is because they’ve been told they’re doing it wrong, so they keep trying to get it right. There are ways to use visualization effectively, but if you’re only visualizing positive outcomes, your visualization may do more harm than good.

From the Institute of Coaching: "In their 2011 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology article, authors Heather Barry Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen argue that “positive fantasies that idealize the future are found to be inversely related to achievement over time: the more positively the fantasies are experienced, the less effort do people invest in realizing these fantasies, and the lower is their success in achieving them” (p. 719)."

Then there are these pitfalls of the Law of Attraction…

5. A little bit of knowledge is indeed dangerous. It’s all too common for people to hear the amazing power of positivity and then make erroneous assumptions. The benefits of positivity are mind-blowing. In addition to boosting happiness and helping people succeed at goals, positivity also strengthens the immune system and helps protect the heart from disease. Some positive psychology tools have even been shown to lengthen life and protect the brain from mental illness. That doesn’t mean that people who get sick, or experience problems, or feel depressed are to blame for their misfortunes (blame is negativity, by the way). There are thousands of causes for every outcome. It also doesn’t mean that anyone should ever police their thoughts and try to drive out all negativity. That’s just crazy-making. It’s also not necessary to avoid people who are suffering, unless they significantly contribute to your own stress and misery. Compassion and loving connection are extremely positive. The foregoing aren’t just pitfalls of the Law of Attraction, but also of Positive Thinking, in general, and even of positive psychology, when it’s not fully understood. Okay, one more point that’s a bit scary. This one doesn’t come from positive psychology, but…

The Law of Attraction has this in common with cults: The Law of Attraction is not a cult, but it has something in common with many cults. It is the insistence that you replace your current worldview with a completely new one in order to get what you want and that you must control your thoughts and eliminate any deviation from what is prescribed in order to succeed. That robs you of your inner knowing, common sense, intuition, confidence, etc. Then you become dependent upon the Law of Attraction “experts” to help you succeed. Usually they’re happy to sell you more books, programs, coaching, seminars, etc. that explain all over again what and how you should think. Folks do get rich with the Law of Attraction, but it’s usually the sellers, not the buyers.

There are more positive psychology findings that counter claims of the Law of Attraction, but this handful of findings should be enough to plant healthy skepticism in most folks and perhaps spark curiosity about the exciting science of positive psychology.

And again, the Law of Attraction is a collection of beliefs. Not all version of it share all the problems described in this article. If you’re getting what you want while using the Law of Attraction, maybe it’s working well for you. But be a curious skeptic, not a passive consumer.

Learn everything you can about positive psychology and you’ll probably enjoy a better, healthier life. If you’re going to offer it as part of your profession, get professional training. If you want to coach with positive psychology, I hope you’ll consider the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program, which thoroughly integrates positive psychology and other relevant sciences with advanced coaching techniques and is approved/licensed by the ICF and IAC.

Find a Certified Positive Psychology Coach® here.                  

Download the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Fact Sheet below:

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Topics: Coaching, Barbara L Fredrickson, Law of Attraction, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching

Positive Psychology Coaching: Strengths and Flow

Posted by Julia Stewart

Strengths

Positive psychology coaches often work with strengths and the experience of "flow", a term coined by positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

A sense of flow occurs when we use our strengths in challenging situations. Within flow, we experience engagement, enjoyment and afterward we wonder, "Where did the time go?" That old saying, "Time flies when you're having fun." is about flow. Read how flow shows up in a coaching session here.

So what are strengths? Well, if you grew up in the 20th Century, you probably are well aware of your weakness, because people back then assumed that was the road to success. For instance, I have ADD, so one of my weaknesses is distractibility. My teachers used to scold me for not paying attention. However, ADD has a few advantages that are genuine strengths. They include flexibility, openness, and the ability to notice things that others miss. The 21st Century shift toward strengths is opening up whole new worlds for people. It certainly did for me!

Our strengths are our innate abilities. They are things that we do so easily that we take them for granted and may even assume everyone possesses the same talents we have. But they don't. We each are endowed with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that require a individual path to success.

It's long been assumed that working on our weaknesses is the road to success. That can work, but it's hard, slow going, and often unsatisfying. When we focus more on our strengths, improvement tends to be quick, feels easy, is ever so much more fun, and is uniquely ours.

Positive psychology coaches focus on helping clients become aware of their strengths and leverage them for great results. We don't necessarily ignore weaknesses, because sometimes improvement in those areas can be helpful, but strengths get center-stage attention. Much more empowering!

Would you like to discover your strengths? UPenn has several assessments you can take for free. Learn more about strengths and find a link to their web page by clicking the button below. 

Would you like to transform your life or career by leveraging your strengths for more fun and success? Find credentialed positive psychology coaches here.

Visit Positive Psychology Coaching: Strengths

 

Topics: Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, FIND A COACH

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