Positive psychology research is clear: when you embrace positivity, stay curious, are forgiving, learn from mistakes, feel grateful, look for what's right rather than what's wrong; you will be happier and more successful.
Which will you choose?
Learn to become a positive psychology coach:
Definition of Coaching:
School of Coaching Mastery (SCM) definition of coaching: Coaching is a customized conversation that empowers the client to get what s/he wants by thinking and acting more resourcefully.
International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential
Whether you call it life coaching, executive coaching, or business coaching, the profession of coaching is the byproduct of a new paradigm in human development. Scientists, philosophers and regular people are asking questions about life, such as, “How can people reach their full potential and enjoy greater happiness and success?”
As a result, new possibilities are opening up for many of us. In a very real sense, new questions create new realities and new realities lead to new opportunities for our happiness, success and fulfillment. Coaching is all about asking those new questions.
This new approach is empowering, but because it is new, people often have trouble understanding what it means. For this reason, sometimes it’s helpful to explore what coaching is not.
Coaching is not the same as counseling or psychotherapy, professions which evolved out of the disease model of traditional psychology. Clients generally seek out therapy or counseling when they are distressed by a problem and may need to heal.
Clients seek coaches when their lives are already okay, but they want to be even better. Coaching assumes clients are already “whole, complete and perfect” and are capable of making empowering choices. Having a skilled coach who believes in them, can help clients grow, act resourcefully, reach their goals and discover their greatness. Healing from a disease or problem is never the central focus of coaching.
One way to think of the distinction between psychotherapy and coaching is their relationship to health. Therapy takes a client from an unhealthy or negative state ( - ) and brings them up to a healthy or neutral state ( 0 ). While coaching begins at that neutral state and moves the client toward their full potential or positive state ( + ).
Coaching is also not consulting. A consultant is an expert in a particular field who assesses a client’s situation in relation to that field and makes recommendations on what to do to improve the situation.
A coach generally assists clients to assess their own situations and think - and act - more resourcefully about how to improve them. In other words, a coach helps the client to grow so they can reach their own goals independently, now and in the future, rather than become dependent upon an expert for help. Most consultants also do some coaching and most coaches also do a small amount of advising, so these professions are often confused, but generally, coaches help their clients be their best, while consultants advise clients on what to do.
Because coaching is popular and not regulated, people who are not coaches sometimes call themselves coaches. The following services are not coaching: consulting, training, seminar leading, counseling, therapy, internet marketing, selling, bill collecting; or offering advice on financial or legal matters, health issues, or religious teachings. Be suspicious of anyone who calls himself a coach, but who offers services in any of the foregoing areas.
Sometimes people who are unqualified to be licensed in a regulated profession will call themselves coaches to get around legal requirements. This is not only unethical, it is a red flag that the person is unqualified in that area.
Become a qualified coach and get certified:
Photo by Elan Sun Star
One of the free services that School of Coaching Mastery offers to coaches is our free study groups, which are hosted by SCM coach members. Our newest study group, the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group is about to launch with Strengths-Based Business Coach, Nancy McCabe, CCC. Nancy is an awesome model of positivity and she happens to be a member of our Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program. Learn more about Nancy here.
Why would you want to join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group?
How can you join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group?
Go here to join the free Positive Psychology Coach Study Group
You'll be sent directions on how to register for the specific study-group webinar sessions you want to attend
If you need to miss a session that you've registered for, please UN-register in advance, using a link provided in your confirmation email
REGISTER ASAP, BECAUSE SEATING IS LIMITED
Join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group below:
Master coaches have learned many concepts and communication skills that make a dramatic difference to their coaching clients.
But as with many endeavors, the 80/20 rule applies in coaching. That is, about 80% of the value is created by approximately 20% of the effort. The secret is to learn which 20% makes the difference.
So here's part of that secret: connect your client's goals to what matters most to your client, i.e. their values, their calling, their life purpose, or the legacy they want to leave. A powerful "why" generates resourceful "hows".
The result? Coaching is much easier for the coach and much more powerful for the client.
Learn to coach masterfully:
When I was a coaching student, my classmates and I were told it was okay to practice coaching even before we graduated, because "Coaching can't hurt anyone."
But the Elliot Rodger massacre counters that advice with a stark reality: "Coaching" doesn't cure mental illness, but it can and does hurt people when delivered by unknowledgeable or unscrupulous "coaches". Sometimes in spectacular ways.
The thinking behind the advice I got in coaching school was that coaches don't work with vulnerable populations, or in crisis situations, and that our clients are high-functioners who are responsible for their own choices. If the coach is ethical and is getting good training, and the client isn't mentally ill, then this theory works well. By the way, this is also why coaching isn't a regulated profession.
Coaching is unregulated, so buyers must be extra careful.
Reportedly, Rodger's parents did everything they could to give him a good upbringing and tried to help him with his emotional problems by getting him therapists and life coaches. He doesn't sound at all like a high-functioner to me, so most likely he was never a good candidate for coaching. His obsession with his perceived victimhood suggests something seriously wrong.
That doesn't necessarily mean Rodger was harmed by his life coaches, but apparently he also explored another type of "coaching": the Pick-Up-Artist Coach (such as the guy to the right), who left Rodger feeling more frustrated than ever. The "coach" in the picture, and his website, look so creepy to me that I would call into question the mental health of anyone who hired him (or worse, slept with him).
Then there's the guy, below, who according to Slate and Jezebel, SPAMMED Rodger's YouTube channel with ads for his Dating Coach business. He claims his products could have saved lives!
That's one of the many ways over-hyped coaching harms coaching clients: the marketing, itself, over-promises and misleads potential clients, while pretending the coach just wants to help. People with common sense often see through the sham. But not always.
I've known some very smart cookies who've been taken in by scam artists posing as coaches. Their sole purpose is to empty clients' bank accounts and max out their credit with ever more personal and exclusive "coaching programs". I've known more than one coaching client who lost their house, as a result.
And not every harmful coach is a scam artist. Some are well-meaning, but operate on false beliefs and methods that can leave a client dazed and confused.
Apparently Rodger tried learning "game", as PUA (pick-up-artist) Coaches call it, and it didn't help him with women. Then he join a PUA hate site.
Therapists didn't stop Rodger from going on a killing rampage, so it's not fair to blame the coaches that worked with him, except for this: ethical coaches know they don't have tools to overcome mental illness and even if they can't diagnose illness, they can observe whether or not they are helping and send a sick client to the appropriate professionals.
Here are 10 more ways over-hyped coaching, scam artists, and untrained coaches can harm their coaching clients.
1. Over-hyped coaching often encourages people to focus on false goals, such as becoming millionaires. Everyone wants more money, or at least thinks they do, so get-rich-quick schemes are always popular with scam artists. These days "spiritual" get-rich-quick schemes are especially in vogue. "Coaches" who promise wealth are one of the most likely groups to be preying upon unsuspecting clients. Sex is also a big seller.
2. The fact that most people don't know what coaching is, inspires nefarious people to call themselves coaches. "Coaches" are sometimes scam artists in sheeps' clothing. That includes an alarming number of spirit-based coaches.
3. Well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) Law of Attraction coaches may encourage overly extreme optimism, which can mimic bipolar mania, which tends to be followed by failure, including loss of money and disappointment. Then the client is told they are "doing it" wrong, that they must buy a platinum program to learn LOA better, which then leads to further failure and disillusionment. When the client finally accepts that the process doesn’t work for them, they may sink into depression. Manic Depression is the old name for biplor disorder. Really bad coaching encourages manic-depressive extremes.
4. Too many coaches are only interested in grandiose goals, when in some cases, more modest goals can transform a client's life. To paraphrase the old theater saying, "There are no small goals; only small coaches."
5. Confused coaches often expect to completely change a person’s mindset instantly, when in reality, permanently changing one’s thinking takes time and consistent effort. Sometimes the most successful coaching sessions merely open the possibility that change could happen.
6. Misguided coaches may over-emphasize environment and under-emphasize action. I was trained this way and environment is quite powerful, but coaching clients aren't passive creatures. They relearn how to be in the world by taking action and observing the results. Action trumps environment. Just ask Oprah Winfrey.
7. Over-hyped coaching promises outrageous success ("Make quantum leaps!", "Millions of dollars the easy way!", "Get beautiful women to sleep with you!", "Attract everything you want just by thinking about it!"), missing the subtle possibilities that are genuinely transformative.
8. Fake coaches focus primarily on advice-giving, which often is inappropriate for the client. Finding out the client's strengths, needs and values, helps them step into resourcefulness, which is almost always more valuable than advice.
9. Then there are the coaches who avoid any advice-giving at all, which can limit a client’s options. Effective coaches know when clients need more information. If they have it, and the best coaches have a lot of empowering information, they share it at the right times and in the right ways.
10. Finally, nefarious "coaches" make stuff up, instead of using tools that actually work. What kind of stuff do they make up? In the beginning, whatever the client wants to hear. Later, when the client has already sunk thousands into the coaching and is desperate to get some value out of it, scam-coaches tell the client whatever will make him or her spend some more money.
How do you avoid being harmed by bad coaching? There are plenty of good coaches. Only work with coaches who have pledged to uphold professional ethics, make sure your coach has been trained in evidence-based coaching, opt for a certified coach whenever possible, and never ever try to substitute coaching for therapy. Even those things won't absolutely guarantee a good coach, though. Also use your common sense. If your gut says to run, run!
Elliot Rodger was a tortured soul who believed he was a victim of injustice. One of Rodger's victims was Christopher Michael-Martinez. His father, Richard Martinez, believes his son is a victim of injustice, namely that current laws in the US make mass-murder more likely. His call to action, "Not One More", has spurred a movement to demand that lawmakers change the laws. Will it be effective? No one knows, but what we have currently is a travesty. If you'd like to send a message to your elected official in support of Martinez' movement, click here.
What scientists and coaches have in common is curiosity and a need to ask the right questions. Wrong questions elicit the wrong data, or insights, goals, actions, results.
The right questions literally create new realities, when asked at the right times.
View a list of 101 Incredible Coaching Questions here.
View an infographic on how and when to ask coaching questions here.
Ask your own questions. Join the next live Q&A class:
Practicing gratitude, or appreciation, is a classic tool in positive psychology coaching. It's not every coaching client's cup of tea, but for those who are willing, or eager, gratitude pays handsomely. And the following ten discoveries about gratitude may help influence a skeptical client. All are well researched.
- What you appreciate appreciates. This one from positive psychologist, Tal Ben-Shahar, is a teaching mnemonic based on years of research. Apparently, the more grateful you feel for something, the more of it you'll likely get. Example: let's say you're about to pass the 2-year mark with your new marriage, when your happiness "marriage boost" may expire, like most other newlyweds'. However, you're smart enough to take a few moments everyday to remind yourself what you appreciate about your spouse and to share that with him/her. Guess what? You have a much better chance of staying happily married!
- Gratitude needs to be heartfelt. Like many women in America, I started a gratitude journal back in the nineties, because Oprah guaranteed it would make me happier. I kept at it for years and, although I thought it was well worth my time, I didn't get dramatically happier. Now I know why: as positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson says, in order for gratitude to have full effect, it must be heartfelt - everytime. I made the mistake of turning my gratitude journal into a habit and missed some of the benefits. Read on for ways to make your gratitude practice heartfelt over the long-haul.
- Gratitude promotes savoring. This discovery and the seven that follow can be found in positive psychologist Sonia Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness and it uses a neuroplasticity tool, called savoring, which is basically slowing down and experiencing something fully. When we take a few moments to savor, we create more extensive neural nets in our brains and that causes sustainable change. You can use your mind to change your brain - and your life - for good. Read to the bottom for an example of how I used gratitude and savoring to give myself a profound happiness boost.
- Gratitude promotes self-worth and self-esteem. Your brain, like everyone's, has a negativity bias, that likely kept your ancestors alive back when they still slept in trees. But in today's world, most of us can afford to focus most of the time on the positive. When we're grateful for the ways others have helped us, we actually feel better - more confident and capable - about ourselves, as a result.
- Gratitude helps you cope with stress and trauma. About one quarter of us (myself included) are genetically predisposed toward depression after bouts of high stress. We can obsessively try to control our environments, so we never get stressed (good luck with that), or we can find better ways to cope with stress. In fact, the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, has been working with US Armed Forces (they have a huge Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder problem) to promote Post-Traumatic Growth. Gratitude can be a handy tool for handling difficult times with resilience and can help reduce pathology, as a result.
- Grateful people tend to be good people. Gratitude promotes moral behaviors, such as helping others, giving more generously, volunteering, being fair and compassionate, and generally caring more about the welfare of others. It even helps us be less materialistic, helping to break what chains us to the rat race.
- Gratitude strengthens relationships. People who practice gratitude tend to have more harmonious relationships, both personally and professionally. And a large and varied network of engaged relationships boosts our resilience and success.
- Grateful people are less likely to compare others. All great coaches know that comparing others just limits them and comparing ourselves to others is a fool's game. Practice gratitude and you'll find it easier to appreciate everyone - yourself included - on their own merits.
- Gratitude reduces negativity. Emotions like anger, fear, sadness, envy, worry and more tend to take a hike while you're practicing gratitude, because you just can't feel heartfelt gratitude and feel bad at the same time. And what you practice daily becomes your habit. Practice the habits you want to have.
- Gratitude thwarts "hedonic adaptation". That's a fancy term for something you already knew about: humans tend to get used to pretty much everything. So helping your clients get what they want can make them happy briefly, but helping them appreciate what they have can boost their happiness forever.
Here's a suggestion for how to boost your appreciation and get more of what you want - and stay happy with it. Every night before bed, I meditate on Three Good Things that happened that day. This is a classic positive psychology exercise that's been shown to significantly boost happiness levels.
Basically, I note three or more good things that happened and what I appreciate about them, including how I helped contribute (even if only to stop and notice them - this is important). Then I savor the experience by adding a neuroplasticity (and classic coaching) exercise to increase connections in my brain, creating a more sustainable level of appreciation.
So for instance, one night I appreciated that it had been a gloriously beautiful spring day. Then I asked myself what a beautiful spring day looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes like.
- Looks: lacy light-green leaves against a deep-blue sky, yellow and purple flowers blooming in the sun, long stretches of deep-green grass.
- Feels: cool air and warm sun on my skin, ease and relaxation, a sense of wholeness, and oneness with everything.
- Sounds: birds singing, lawn mowers running, kids playing softball.
- Smells: new mown grass, lilacs blooming.
- Tastes: asparagus, strawberries.
It only took a few minutes.
I started the next day with a conversation with my sister about a kitchen remodel that wasn't going well, the last hectic days before a big wedding, an argument with a boyfriend, trying to get Medicare to pay for my Mom's physical therapy. Basically, it was a laundry list of what coaches call, "good problems" (there's a kitchen remodel, a wedding, a boyfriend, and therapy for Mom - all good things), but we weren't appreciating the good.
Then I went out to walk my dog while mulling over our various complaints. Upon return, the lawn guys were busily mowing our lawn. Just then, as I was about to walk into the garage, it hit me: the smell of new mown grass!
Suddenly I noticed it's a gloriously beautiful day, TODAY. And I experienced both the joy and pleasure of noticing how great life is, right now. That feeling colored about 75% of my day, making me more positive, good-humored, kinder, and nicer to be around. I probably would have missed it, because I was so preoccupied, if I hadn't taken a few moments to savor it the night before.
I was able to multiply that wonderful day over and over with the same exercise. Eventually, I may have to replace this exercise with something else, because all habits can become boring and I want to keep it heartfelt. Fortunately, there's a whole host of positive psychology tools that I can try and/or modify and they all can work beautifully.
Positive Psychology researcher, Ellen Langer, reminds us that to notice - something that great coaches excel at - requires mindfulness. In coaching, we call that "presence". Without presence, you'll miss what matters most to your client. With it, the keys to their success are revealed.
Learn more about mindfulness and coaching presence:
Gorgeous Photo by Elan Sun Star
Every great coach has to master the art of listening.
Julian Treasure shares five ways to listen better at TED:
Get started on a great coaching career:
Interest in neuroscience as a part of business, executive, and life coaching is soaring. Sherpa Coaching just released the results of their 2014 annual executive coaching survey, and noticing a trend toward neuroscience in coaching, they for the first time, asked questions about neuroscience and coaching in their survey:
Should neuroscience have a role in coaching?
How much should executive coaches know about neuroscience?
How much should clients know about neuroscience?
Does a working knowledge of neuroscience alter coaches' credibility?
Sherpa defines neuroscience as "a combination of medicine, applied science and research that explains human behavior and the way it changes."
I'd define it differently: Neuroscience studies what goes on in the brain during thoughts, behaviors and emotions, often using technology, such as EEGs, PET scans, or fMRIs. It discovers the physical correlates that underly human psychology.
In any case, here are some of the survey responses from coaches on the topic of neuroscience and coaching, beginning with a quote from one respondent:
"Justin Kennedy, professor of neuroscience at South Africa‟s University of Pretoria, says: 'With the proper knowledge and training, you can use your conscious mind to change your physical brain. Really change it, so the way you think, the way you act, the way you feel can all be made better.' He tells us about neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain‟s ability to change and adapt. 'You really are in control, and you really do have choices. When you think new thoughts, you are actually changing the geography of your brain, changing the electric patterns that create and carry thoughts, changing the chemicals that control moods and energy levels.'
- 76% of executive coaches say that neuroscience should have a role in executive coaching.
- 62% of executive coaches believe they and their peers should have a full understanding or at least a working knowledge of neuroscience. Both internal and external coaches agree. Female coaches support this notion more often than male coaches do, by about a 10% margin.
- 34% say their clients should have a full understanding or at least a working knowledge of neuroscience. Internal coaches favor this at a slightly higher rate than external coaches do.
- 49% say a background in neuroscience improves a coaches‟ credibility. Less than 10% feel it is a negative.
School of Coaching Mastery recently launched its new Introduction to Coaching with Neuroscience course in response to the rise in coaching with neuroscience. It's part of the new Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program. We explore the thrilling possibilities of coach-assisted neuroplasiticity and the underlying reasons why positive psychology has the power to help people be happier and more successful - often in very surprising ways.
Learn more about coaching with neuroscience and positive psychology: