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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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:
Coaches are advanced communicators. We're positive, spiritual, creative, and empathic. So what do we need science for?
Professional coaching has changed dramatically over the 20 years of its existance. Early coaches and their clients were pioneers and early adopters. Those are very special people. They got an intuitive sense that coaching was "right" and they had the courage to dive in and act on their intuition.
But like every profession before it, coaching has grown up. This brings good news, and depending on your point of view, maybe some bad.
Here are five important reasons your coaching business needs science, now:
- Coaching has gone mainstream and the Wild West is over - this means there are many more potential coaching clients, but what they want has changed. The days of dreaming up an awesome-sounding coaching program - without first testing to see if it actually works - are over.
- Potential clients are skeptical of the hype and unproven claims of entrepreneurial coaches. Coaching is still unregulated, which makes the barrier of entry quite low compared to other professions, such as medicine, yet coaching fees are quite high. Unfortunately, this means there are more ineffective coaches than effective ones. Stories of clients who've been burned by bad coaches are everywhere. It is imperative that you distinguish yourself from "coaches" who don't know how to coach.
- Potential clients are less likely to be attracted to New Age or Consciousness messages. Also known as the LOHAS market (Lifestyles Of Health and Sustainability), and sometimes derided as the "Unicorns and Rainbows Folks", these were the early adopters of coaching in days gone by. Yes, those movements are growing, but they're still a tiny segment of society. Their members often have limited disposable cash. In other words, they may want coaching, but can't always pay for it. If your ideal clients are yoga teachers, massage therapists, Reiki masters, vegetarians, organic farmers, etc.; you know what I'm talking about. However, as the coaching profession penetrates deeply into the mainstream, we find huge numbers of different potential client who are interested in being happier and more successful and can afford to hire coaches - but they're looking for very different marketing messages than the LOHAS folks. There are simply too many life coaches today for them all to be tarketing LOHAS.
- Today's potential coaching clients want evidence and proof that the service you offer can truly help them. You don't need to be a research scientist to gather evidence that this stuff works, but a little science goes a long way in today's competitive coaching market.
- The science of coaching offers the evidence and proof you need to attract today's coaching clients. What worked ten years ago has changed. What will work in the next decade will be dramatically different.
No, you don't have to become something you're not in order to add science to your coaching. If you're like me and the big-picture, creative, communicative, empathic world of coaching comes naturally, (but the detailed, linear, siloed, objective world of science? Not so much), then becoming a researcher will never be for you.
Good. There are lots of researchers in the world. What we need now are more effective coaches.
That's why I created a series of science-based coaching courses that are designed for coaches, not scientists. They translate the research you need to know on what really helps people be, do, and have what they really want; and present it in easy-to-digest formats specifically for people who think like coaches. Now you can learn what you need to know rather quickly, without wading through mountains of information that doen't pertain to your coaching.
These science-based coaching courses are now woven together into our Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, which gives you the info and tools you need to start coaching your clients with science, plus the data and credentials to communicate your authenticity as a positive psychology coach.
Apparently, the International Coach Federation (ICF) agrees with me that science is
the next big thing in coaching, because its next ICF Advance conference in May is called, The Science of Coaching.
It's a perfect fit for the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, so School of Coaching Mastery is sponsoring one of the free introductory webinars that will precede the conference. By the way, we're applying for ICF approval for the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, so coaches who complete it will automatically become ICF ACCs.
Then there's the Institute of Coaching, affiliated with Harvard. They're devoted to research into coaching and positive psychology. Science is where the most exciting developments are occurring in the coaching profession.
If you'd like to learn more about Why Your Coaching Business Must Have Science, watch the webinar video by that name. It's free.
Want to know more about becoming a Certified Positive Psychology Coach? Click the button below and fill out the form to get the latest on this brand-new coach-training program:
Subtitle this post, 'Coaches Behaving Badly'!
One of the basic coaching skills, which collectively are called the Coaching Foundations, is Validate Everything. I define validation as any appropriate expression of support, whether positive ('That's great!'), or negative ('That sucks!'). There are lots of ways to validate in coaching and one of the most effective, is acknowledgment.
Except when it's not.
Mattison Grey wrote the book on acknowledgment and defines it as a statement about what someone did, or the results they got, shared with a tone of wonderment. She says acknowledgment works when other forms of validation, such as offering compliments, do not, because often, people feel judged when complimented.
I couldn't agree more and Mattison is awesome at acknowledgment, but I've had yucky experiences with compliments, validations, and even acknowledgments, because sometimes, no matter how skilled people are at delivering them, they muck it up, anyway.
They just can't help it!
Most of my yucky experiences occurred with newish coaches, who most likely were just making mistakes with a new skill set and that's understandable. But sometimes it came from veteran coaches and then it looks like a character issue. As in, poor personal development, or lack of integrity.
Here are a couple of examples:
I used to work for a coach training company that called validation, championing. All the coaches there went about championing each other, because that's what good coaches do, right?
One of my coaching colleagues there used to champion me so lavishly that, one day, I asked her to stop, because I felt increasingly uncomfortable. I really didn't need, nor want to hear, over and over, what a great coach I was, what a fantastic coach trainer, how impressive my success was, nor how amazing was my devotion and commitment to my coaching clients and students. Ugh.
The next day though, she made several remarks that called into question my honesty and integrity regarding the coaching profession. Hmm, really? The same person's saying these things? It communicated to me that although she usually said over-the-top positive things to me, underneath she was judging me negatively on some major stuff.
She later apologized, which is great, but I never felt I could trust her. She had shown that regardless how syrupy her validations were, she was really thinking something else. In fact, to me, she was a suck up.
She left me feeling uncomfortable, insulted, and annoyed. That's how I still remember her.
You know, the IAC certification scorecard measures, among other things, whether the coach demonstrates consistency (a.k.a. integrity) between words and actions. If you validate, champion, acknowledge, or whatever you call it, and then demonstrate that you don't really believe what you said, you damage trust with the client.
Not validating enough during coaching is a mistake. Validating, but not meaning it, is an even more destructive mistake.
One of the problems with coach training is that sometimes we emphasize the 'how', instead of the 'who'. Thomas Leonard used to tell coaches to champion, because that's just who we are. If you do it for any other reason, you're manipulating. And the person you're manipulating will smell a rat.
I call dishonest validation, schmoozing. That's an Americanism, derived from Yiddish, that means to gossip or chat with someone, in an intimate manner, in order to manipulate, flatter, or impress them.
But you could just as well call it, INvalidation, because that's the effect it has.
Then there was the colleague from the past, who showed up in one of my classes at SCM. I was surprised she signed up, because I knew she had been coaching at least as long as I. The first day of class, she delivered some schmoozy validations of me, as a coach and coach trainer. Then she referenced her own great coaching skill and left a pause. I got the feeling I was supposed to reciprocate by acknowledging her prowess as a coach. Problem was, I had no memory of ever hearing her coach. Well, that was a little awkward!
There were any number of ways I could have navigated that awkward moment, but something blocked me. As my mind searched for any memory I had of her and her coaching, only one memory was vivid: She once called me up, offered me an interesting opportunity to teach coaching in a college, and said lots of nice, schmoozy things about how I was such a great coach and trainer and she knew I was the right person for the job, which basically involved coaching eight hours per day, at a college that was three hours away. The pay? $100 per day!! I don't consider myself to be thin skinned, but yes, I was insulted. It would have been better if she had asked me to volunteer for free.
Not surprisingly, she dropped the SCM course in a huff, before it was over. That's the kind of thing people do when they want you to acknowledge them and you don't do it. She also said some pretty nasty things about me and my training ability in an email.
And then, right on time, I opened an email from a coach I really admire. It began with a quote from Maya Angelou:
“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."
The takeaway? Schmoozers schmooze. They can't be trusted, much less deliver great coaching, because great isn't fake.
Of course, nobody has to be a schmoozer for life. I've caught myself being fake, and try to remember it when schmoozy folks cross my path. Like the time I got an email from a coach I didn't like and forwarded it to a friend with a snarky comment. Then I saw the disliked coach at a coaching function. He offered a hug, so I hugged him. The next day, he emailed me. I'd hit, 'reply' instead of 'forward', so he got the snarky comment, instead of my friend! How fake was that to criticize him in private, then hug him in public? That memory is an embarrassing reminder that I'm still a work in progress, like everybody else. I've used it to upgrade my own behavior.
But once again, Maya Angelou says it best:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you're going to validate, acknowledge, or champion, do it because that's who you are and it's what you really believe. Otherwise, you may succeed at making someone feel good at first, but your behavior will give you away, and the contrast will make your judgmental behavior even uglier to the other person. That feels yucky and that's how they'll always remember you.
How do you become someone who champions just because that's who you are, and not because you're manipulative? Like anything else, practice. Get a coach. And work tirelessly on your personal development. Learn to get your ego out of the way and trust the process.
Otherwise, you may be remembered as a schmoozer.
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I've blogged a lot about positive psychology coaching, in the past couple of years. It gives coaches and their clients a precision instrument for building happiness, success, and ease. But recent discoveries that point to how and why positive psychology works are truly fascinating!
You probably already know what positive pychology coaching is; it's evidence-based coaching that puts in action what positive psychology researchers have discovered about the power of positivity and how it promotes happiness, health, and success.
But just exactly how does positive psychology coaching promote happiness, health, and success?
Well, there are a number of scientific theories, such as systems theory and quantum theory, that can help to explain how positive psychology coaching works, but the explanations are speculative, at this point. No one has yet traced those theories, step by step, to document how exactly they influence human behavior and outcomes. It just makes sense that they do.
The field of neuroscience, on the other hand, thoroughly tracks what happens during insights, actions, learning, and repetition, explaining in detail what happens and why.
Neuroscience explores how the brain works via brain scans and other high-tech tools. It literally looks at what goes on in the brain at the cellular, and even the molecular levels, and they are quite surprising!
In fact, some coaching leaders, most notably, David Rock, go so far as to say neuroscience is the scientific field most closely related to coaching, in part, because it came of age during the decades when coaching was being born, so coaching has relied heavily upon it.
In my opinion, however, positive psychology is an even better fit with coaching, because not only did it develop at exactly the same time as coaching, but positive psychologists and coaches ask exactly the same fundamental question:
What makes people happy, healthy, and successful?
Contrary to previous assumptions, an absence of mental illness does not automatically produce happiness, health, and success. That latter state, often referred to as well-being, is a separate thing. It can exist, counter-intuitively, along side mental illness, or it can be completely absent in someone who is free of mental illness.
It follows then, that if we want to be happy (and everyone, from the Dalai Lama to Tony Robbins, says that's what every human being really wants), we need to understand the tools that produce happiness.
And here's critical news for coaches: getting what we want doesn't make us happy, at least not for more than a day or two. Happiness is literally an inside job. Anyone can have it, regardless their circumstances or mental health.
Up until now, only a lucky few stumbled onto the tools that produced lasting happiness. Yes, philosophers and spiritual teachers theorized and taught how to lead the good life for millenia, but they didn't always get it right. Today, maybe, just maybe, we can get it right - for everybody.
So that's the job of positive psychology researchers and the professionals who apply positive psychology in their coaching. And here's how and why, according to neuroscience, it all works so well:
- The brain and mind are intimately connected. Scientists disagree on which creates which, but evidence suggests they create each other and the mind definitely influences the brain.
- The brain grows and changes throughout life, making learning possible and desirable into old age. In fact, dementia might be thought of as the cessation of learning.
- New brain growth is triggered by new insights and learning, creating new neural maps. This is called, neuro-plasticity.
- Neural maps develop when existing neurons fire, then wire, together. Sometimes new neurons are produced, as well.
- Neural maps drive our assumptions and habits, saving us time and energy when we repeat experiences and actions, but those assumptions and habits may not be as resourceful, or flexible, as needed, when clients step up to new and bigger things, so they need to be replaced by new neural maps.
- More repetition creates stronger bonds within neural maps that are frequently used. Think: recording a song onto a cassette tape, rather than downloading it to your iPhone. Stronger bonds require more time to develop.
- Our internal chatter also creates neural maps - and it may be even more influential than our actual experiences!
- We can intentionally direct our thoughts and emotions to create more positive and resourceful neural maps. This is called, self-directed neuroplasticity.
- Because neural maps develop according to what we think and feel, positive thoughts and feelings don't just make us happy now, they also make it more likely we'll be happy later, regardless our circumstances.
- People who experience more positivity on a regular basis are more likely to thrive and experience success.
- Coaches who assist clients in developing resourceful neural maps are practicing coach-assisted neuroplasticity.
So solving your client's problems, or even helping them get what they want, falls short of positive psychology coaching's true power to transform client's lives from striving to thriving.
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