The "Holiday Season" officially kicks off this week in the United States. Hanukkah starts this Wednesday and American Thanksgiving is on Thursday, followed by a variety of religious and spiritual holidays, including Bodhi Day, Muharram, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwansaa; and it's all tied up with a bow (or bottle of champagne) on New Year's Day.
By then, many of us are exhausted, broke, and carrying ten extra pounds. It seems virtually every culture finishes the year with holidays and in this extra-small multi-cultural world we live in, we're all celebrating a lot of extra holidays, too.
I think of my personal end-of-year holiday trio, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, as Gratitude Day, Generosity Day, and Create the Future Day. So I regard the holidays as:
- Give thanks for what's gone before (past)
- Plug into the spirit of generosity (present)
- Decide how to create the new year (future)
And that's how I celebrate.
But already my clients are bringing problems to their coaching sessions that are directly related to the holidays: how to deal with difficult relatives, or co-workers, how not to blow the budget - or the waistline, how to deal with the extra-busy schedule - or travel, how not to give in to temptations, etc. All coaches, whether life, business or executive coaches, hear about holiday issues - and we have our own, as well!
In my book, holiday "problems" are "good problems", a.k.a. luxury problems, first-world problems, the kind of problems you want to have.Not being able to feed your children is the kind of problem you don't want. Fortunately, most of us are worry-free in that area.
So first, congratulate your clients on their great problems. That helps put it all in perspective.
Then remind them that becoming their best selves means sacrificing good for great. And everyone benefits when we're at our best (a.k.a.: Grump-free, Sarcasm-free, Tantrum-free).
Transforming holiday problems into holiday blessings boils down to just two things:
- Choosing what really matters to you (a.k.a. your Values)
- Setting boundaries (that protect what matters from what doesn't)
Help your clients identify what matters, according to what they most value, and from there, boundary-setting is pretty easy.
Here are a few ideas my clients have come up with, so far:
- Do plan what you really do and don't want with key family members
- Do set a time limit for family get-togethers; they don't have to be marathons
- Do decorate only as much as you really want
- Do shorten or eliminate activities you do solely out of obligation
- Do schedule escape activities, so you have an excuse to leave parties you don't enjoy
- Don't serve alchohol if some guests can't handle it
- Do attend extra 12-step meetings, if they help
- Don't expect the whole family to get together, if they don't like each other
- Don't invite people who repeatedly behave badly - and skip the guilt, please
- Don't be afraid to stay home if you really enjoy it
- Do talk to your therapist, if you get depressed
- Do emphasize the aspects of holidays that are meaningful to you and respect others who focus on other aspects
- Do cut back on your gift list - or make a contribution to a worthy cause, in their names, if they'd value that
- If you really want to get into the holiday spirit, do volunteer some time, face-to-face, with others who are less fortunate
The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to truly appreciate life. Don't blow that opportunity by celebrating on auto-pilot. You get to choose your life and your holidays. Have fun!
Plan to save on coach training in the New Year. Selected coach training programs are on sale at 10% off during our Holiday Sale. Ends January 1st, 2014. Call +1-877-224-2780 for more information.
Best Coaching Blogs 2013 is under way and already the social butterflies are pollinating hundreds of admiring voters. (If you haven't entered yet, you still have time to win, but sign up now.)
I'm going to share some secrets of Online Social Butterflies and how they win Best Coaching Blogs, each year. You see, mastering social media cross pollinates with mastering coaching. That's my evil, um... divine plan!
First, what's a social contest, anyway? It's a win-win online contest that leverages everyone's social reach (friends, contacts and followers on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) to attract large audiences for popular voting. Ultimately, everybody wins because contest visitors discover more great coaching bloggers when they visit the site.
Wait! Does that mean coaching bloggers could lose potential clients to their competition? Nope! I'll explain, uno momento.
If you want to see Online Social Butterflies in action, follow the Best Coaching Blogs 2013 List on Twitter. You can pick out the front-runners without even visiting the contest, because they regularly tweet about the contest. Also, search for hashtag, #BestBlogs for related tweets.
Best Coaching Blogs invites coaches who blog on coaching topics to enter their blogs and each year, both new and established blogs win top honors. The winners actively 'play the game' by inviting their readers, colleagues, clients and social reach to come vote for them. People can vote as often as they like, so the contest measures more than just the number of people who like a blog, it also measures passion: both the voters' and the bloggers'.
Passion is a big deal in coaching. It's what ignites clients and creates success. But competition? Not so much. At least not for a lot of clients.
Cooperation, mutual support, acknowledgment, belief in others; that's the stuff of coaching. And it's also the stuff of social media mastery. Both realms, coaching and social media, require that we get our little egos (that part in each of us, that always wants to WIN!!) out of the way and make it all about other folks - without turning ourselves into robots or doormats.
Winning Best Coaching Blogs usually requires more than just a great blog, although great writing and content definitely help. Winning requires the right balance of competition and cooperation. I don't know an English word for that, so I made one up: coopetition.
Here are Some Winning Secrets to Coopetition:
- Start early. Be the kind of person who supports and champions others, as a matter of course. The more history you have doing this, the more people will want to do the same for you. Wait until you need something from them (like a vote) and it could backfire.
- Embrace your selfish reasons. Yes, it's totally okay to be for yourself. Just don't be that way, only. If you try to deny your agenda, people won't trust you. If you fail to express it, people will walk all over you. So go ahead and ask for people's votes. If you've been supporting them, they'll want to help. Even if you haven't, they'll respect your request.
- If you're already supporting others and clear with them about what you want, you're ready to play a fun game. In Best Coaching Blogs, that could mean leaving comments on competitors' blog entries that acknowledge what's great about those blogs. It could also mean voting for your competitors (!), or even telling the world why they should vote for your competitors (!!). You could even ask your competitors to vote for you (!!!). This can get icky and manipulative fast, though, so take care.
- Why is coopetition a winning strategy? Because being a model of coopetition is extraordinarily attractive. It seems like people who act that way should lose out, but they win, instead. The bloggers who do it best always attract more voters, readers and clients, rather than lose them. So it's about a lot more than winning a contest.
- Trust the process. This is hard for high achievers, but you really can't control most of the moving parts in this process; you can only influence them. Resist the urge to pester people, or to obsess about whether or not all your votes get counted. Not even Zuckerberg has total control of Facebook.
- Even in life, it's the folks you support who 'vote' for you and what you want. That's the coopetive advantage. In Best Coaching Blogs, it's the finalists who pick the top winners, so those who play the game well, immediately become the biggest influencers. But 'winning at any cost' is a losing strategy in this contest, as well as in life.
- How does this relate to coaching? People who can let go of their need to win, to be right, to never fail, and who can support and champion others, make great coaches. Entering Best Coaching Blogs is a 'game theory' approach to coach development. If you're interested in becoming a great coach, be sure to participate. Vote here through August 31st. Enter here only through July 31st.
Each year, at about this time, people start visiting our site, looking for the Best Coaching Blogs Contest and this year is our Fifth Anniversary, so it's going to be extra special. Best Coaching Blogs is the only coaching blog contest, that we know of, which is decided by popular vote and that's hugely important.
For instance, this blog, the Coaching Blog, was named Number 3 in the Top 100 Life Coach Blogs of 2013, which is awesome. But it would be even more awesome if our readers, subscribers or fans voted it #3, because they're the folks we write it for. And that's the coolest thing about Best Coaching Blogs.
Best Coaching Blogs contestants attract more readers, subscribers, fans and even clients just by actively participating in this contest - especially the bloggers who make it into the coveted Top Ten. Either way, it's cool to be able to refer to you 'award-winning blog' ever after.
Hundreds of coaching blogs have been entered in Best Coaching Blogs over the years, so it's super cool to win it and each year, there seems to be an upset or two, with surprise winners coming from out of 'nowhere'. That makes it fun for everyone, whether you're a new coach or a big coaching organization.
So how do you enter Best Coaching Blogs 2013? This year, the contest will run a little later. Instead of running for one month in late spring or early summer, the actual contest will run in July and August this year. But you can enter as an early bird and get a head start on winning.
Click the button below and fill out the quick form to join Best Coaching Blogs 2013 for free. Then make sure you write some award-winning-worthy content between now and then. The contest tends to be won based on your most recent blog posts. Also add the contestant badges to your site and plan your social media campaigns. The bloggers who actively promote their blog entries via social media have the best chance of winning Best Coaching Blogs. Good luck!
I'm always looking for new ideas that'll upgrade, broaden, or deepen my coaching, so it's more effective. You too? Then you'll love this post.
It's a challenge to keep readers like you, well...challenged. You're a pretty sophisticated bunch.
But here goes: some of the best ideas I've encountered, which ultimately changed my life and the way I coach and may change your life and coaching too.
1. The Power of Negativity. This first one is possibly the most powerful idea to come out of positive psychology. It's the concept of the Positivity Ratio and the upper limit of positivity, which can be measured as both positive thoughts and feelings, as well as whether you're curious or defending your point of view, and/or focused on yourself or on those around you. To flourish, you, your relationship, your business, or your coaching, needs at least a three-to-one ratio of positivity to negativity. AND there's an upward limit around eleven-to-one, beyond which things go down fast. So, if you're a Law of Attraction Nazi, or if you focus only on the good stuff in coaching, stepping over the problematic stuff, or if you relentlessly reframe problems into opportunities, or (as one of my clients famously put it) FLO's (F*cking Learning Opportunities), you may hinder, rather than help your clients. (Read Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity.)
2. The Tyranny of Mild Praise. This one also comes from positive psychology and it's about relationships. Let's face it, the relationship between coach and client does much of the coaching for us. Therefore, the concept called, Active Constructive Responding (ACR), is critical. What is ACR? It's an over-the-top form of acknowledgment that includes positive tone of voice (genuine excitement, awe, wonder), positive body language (smiling, eye contact, touching), repeating the specifics of what the other has said, commenting on it's importance to the other, suggesting a celebration; all of which leads to flourishing within the relationship. NONE of the other types of responses, including Passive Constructive Responding (Flat tone of voice, general praise, "That's nice."), Passive Destructive Responding (ignoring, changing the subject, turning away), or Active Negative Responding (showing concern, pointing out problems); I repeat, none of these promote relationships. In fact they ALL have a negative impact on relationships, which obviously can negatively impact coaching. I've listened to thousands of coaching sessions over the years. Even "good" coaches tend to rely heavily on Passive Constructive Response, or a hybrid of ACR and PCR, which clearly limits the value of their coaching. ACR can be a challenge to weave into coaching and for some of us, it's a challenge to make it truly genuine, but master coaches do it all the time. For others, over-using ACR (see above) damages our credibility. This is a tool that we can't afford not to master. (Read Martin Seligman's Flourish.)
3. Change Your Brain to Change Your Mind.
This one comes from neuroscience and it has profound implications for positive psychology coaches
, as well as every other type of coach. As members of my positive psychology course
know, the Positivity Ratio can be used to measure and increase your current potential for flourishing and it'sa nifty coaching tool. There are also tools, founded in modern neuroscience, that can change the brain to sustainably increase peace, happiness, love and other elements of positivity. Literally, you can grow some areas of your brain so that they become more dominant, relatively permanently. And over-developed areas that may be problematic (such as the over-sized amygdala of those who suffer from anxiety) can shrink, again causing sustainable change. Change your brain; change your life for good. I just took a neuroscience seminar on this, but you can read more about it. (Read Rick Hanson's Buddha's Brain
4. Coaching's Not Complete If It's Not Integral. I'm taking a course from Integral Philospher, Ken Wilber. Some people say he's the most important philosopher since Plato, but that statement begs an argument, so I won't say it. Suffice it to say, if you don't know his work, your evolution may be stymied. And that of your clients, as well. As coaches, we say our clients are whole, complete and perfect. Trouble is, we may be blind to some of that perfection. And our clients almost certainly are. Blind spots make trouble (see #5, below). Wilber's Integral Model, known as AQAL, is an elegant map that streamlines how we know anything and how we evolve. It's closely aligned with Spiral Dynamics, which I'll be teaching next month. But AQAL goes even further. The AQAL Map is a beautiful tool to use when helping our clients design accountability structures, supportive systems, environments and strategic habitats (or whatever you prefer to call them). With AQAL, we can easily see if we're leaving anything out, or if the client is blind to some aspects of reality (almost everybody is). Plus, we have an evolutionary framework. It makes the complex simple, when you understand it. I'll be teaching an introductory course on integral coaching soon, but start reading books on Integral Theory now. (Read Wilber's simplest book, Integral Vision.)
5. All Coaching is Shadow Coaching - Or Should Be. My first lesson from Zen Master, Genpo Roshi, included a joke - on us. To paraphrase, he said (with a laugh), evolved people like to say they're whole, complete and perfect, except the parts they don't like about themselves. But you can't be complete without all of it! So what parts of yourself don't you like? The part that overeats? The part that's naive? The part that gets tongue-tied at parties? It's not those parts that keep you fragmented, it's the fact that you try to disown them. Then they become blind spots, which grow into shadows, which undermine and sabotage you. That's what fragmentation really is. For many people, the first step toward wholeness is integration of the parts they formerly disliked. That's the underlying cause of stuckness and it keeps coming back until all aspects of the self are integrated (or Integral). Some people are so fragmented that they lose the ability to choose wholeness. That's what is known as mental illness and I'm not suggesting that shadow coaching can cure that. But even healthy people have shadows and we can choose to integrate them with assistance from a skilled coach. I use this approach in my Great Self Coaching. Genpo Roshi is incredibly masterful at it from a Zen perspective. (Read Genpo Roshi's Big Mind/Big Heart.)
6. Your Business Model May Be Too Infantile to Last. I've also been studying Adizes Management Methodology of late. Ichak Adizes is a legendary management consultant who deftly identified several different stages of a business life cycle. His theory explains, among other things, why the US Government is floundering these days (no, it has nothing to do with Republicans vs. Democrats). One thing that strikes me about it is that most coaches base their businesses on one of three early-stage levels and expect their businesses to continue at that stage forever. It won't happen. I'm happy to say, I saw this even before I studied Adizes and I'm ready for it. I'll write more at length on how you can design your business to last in a future post. But this issue could explain why our industry is so successful, but some coaches never enjoy that success. (Read Ichak Adizes' Corporate life cycles)
We all have access to too much information these days. But there really is no substitution for knowing the right stuff.
As a coach, you probably believe in powerful questions. And as TEDEd speaker, Michael Stevens, demonstrates, powerful questions make all the difference in teaching, too. In fact, questions such as, "How much does a video weigh?" and "What color is a mirror?" have made his Vsauce channel popular with millions. They foster curiosity, because most folks have never considered these quirky questions before.
Is there such a thing as unanswerable questions? Stevens can answer the above questions with science. But coaches are simply looking for clarity, inspiration and action, rather than actual answers. Or are we?
Sometimes an unanswerable question expands awareness. When tapping into a client's Higher Self, for instance, I'll ask, "What color is it?" and "Where is it located?", questions that don't make logical sense, because the Higher Self isn't a physcial thing. But my clients step into the present moment, along with their intuition, as they attempt to answer my questions and that's the whole point.
My favorite quirky question is "Is the truth really a question?" Coaches intuitively feel the answer is, "Yes." But it can't be, because "Yes." isn't a question. So the logical answer is, "No." But this question invites us to step out of linear logic into a broader, deeper way of thinking.
So then what's the answer? My favorite answer is the coach-y, "What do you think?" Which is all I care about. But the most concise answer is, "Yes?" Which embodies the perfect attitude to bring to a coaching session: open, positive, curious and affirmative.
Watch Michael Stevens for more on quirky questions:
Positive psychology turns the traditional psychology of illness on its head by redefining mental health.
Instead of cataloging symptoms of mental illness (which apparently we all have), health is instead defined as: flourishing despite the presence of some symptoms. Assets matter more than deficits, so the focus is off healing and onto increasing well-being. That makes positive psychology
an excellent fit for coaching.
For instance, strengths-based psychology
is a subset of positive psychology and is used by many coaches to help their clients succeed and enjoy life more. The client takes an assessment to identify core strengths and then works with a coach to cross-train their strengths and master them. It's simple, straight forward and can work brilliantly.
But do weaknesses never matter? Is strengthening your strengths really all you need? And is it possible for a strength to also be a weakness and visa versa?
Here's an example: I have a relative who is highly productive, organized and fast. I have another relative, who is a mental-health professional, who says this is obsessive compulsive behavior. Really? She is flourishing, so I'd say what she has is showing up as a strength, not a weakness. According to the Clifton Strengths Finder, she's a strong Activator, someone who, once she's decided what to do, gets it done fast. According to Clifton, I'm a strong Strategizer and should work with Activators. When I collaborate with my Activator relative, I suggest things we should consider and we decide what to do about them. Then, while I'm thinking about adding them to my to-do list, she gets them done. For me, this is a little like having a magic genie.
I haven't done exhaustive research on strengths vs. weaknesses, but I've deep dived into it more than most coaches. Here's what I've observed:
- A strength can get you into trouble and still be a strength, but if it causes more trouble than it solves, it's mostly a weakness.
- If you have a rigid need to use a strength, even in inappropriate situations, it has become a weakness.
- If you can negotiate and modulate a strength as needed, it's not a weakness.
- As your life changes, you may develop new strengths you didn't know you had.
- If you over-rely on your strengths, you may never develop some and that could be a weakness.
- If you work alone and expect your strengths to pull you through every situation, you'll likely fail in areas where you're weak. Outsource to someone else's strengths.
- Your idea of strength may be someone else's idea of illness. Focus on flourishing and ignore the the judgers.
The key is who's in charge. Are you using your strength, or is it using you?
If you'd like to add positive psychology to your coaching, plus get a certificate and 8 ICF CCEs...
Oddly, when you market your coaching, you really don't want to attract everybody. You only want to attract those who are right for you and your business. Erika Napoletano at TEDxBoulder 2012, explains in hilarious fashion, with a few swear words. Love her or hate her, hear her message.
Bad things happen with no warning and they cause pain and suffering. We wish they wouldn't happen, but we're often powerless over them. We live with that.
But we do have power.
We have enormous power to prevent suffering, if not the actual pain.
So when the next Boston Marathon, Newtown CT, or Aurora CO happens, you have enormous power to both prevent and repair the damage done.
No, you can't bring back the dead, nor make broken bodies whole, but you can do three things that save humanity whenever bad things happen.
1. You can stop dwelling. Your brain's warning bell, the amygdala, will register the alarm. It's primitive and will tell you to hide under a rock. Your anterior cingulate cortex, much more sophisticated, is connected to the amygdala via a complex network of neurons. It reflects on the horror, but watch out. It loves to ruminate itself into what's known to neuroscientists as threat reactivity or the negativity bias. Become aware of it and you have new possibilities. Turn off your TV. Don't get caught up in Facebook conversations about how bad and helpless you feel. Don't obsess over who did it and why.
2. Do offer to help. Reach out to friends in the region. Give to the the Red Cross. Volunteer. You'll feel the love that makes you mighty. Your help and caring will heal others. Remember, you're not truly compassionate until you've acted on it.
3. Live your values. Don't get pulled into the anger, unless being a warrior (I call it my Inner Prosecutor) is truly your thing. This is an inside job only you can do, but allow a friend or coach to help you.
Humanity is wonderful. You are wonderful. Live that reality. That is your Greatness.
Image by soniasu_
A good life coach can be everybody else's best friend and their own worst enemy if they don't know how to say NO at the right times. Why? Because people will naturally want your help and will eventually, accidentally even, suck you dry. (Imagine what would happen to Sookie Stackhouse if she didn't take a "Back off!" attitude towards most vampires.)
A dried-up grape = a raisin. A dried-up coach = useless.
But saying NO requires discipline, because it feels good to help. And it feels really good to help for free. And it's real easy to get clients when you're doing a great job of helping everybody for free. But it's unprofessional.
Charity is a beautiful thing under the right circumstances. Coaching isn't one of them.
Charitable coaching is unprofessional, because when you coach clients for free, or for too little, it undermines their potential. People play small when they don't have enough skin in the game. That's just how we're wired.
It feels challenging - scary even - to ask people to pay for coaching. But get paid you must, unless you're independently wealthy. So that's another reason why coaching for free is unprofessional.
Here's a third reason why coaching for free is unprofessional. It allows YOU to play small, because coaching for free lets you off the hook when it comes to delivering great value.
I'm not saying that coaches should never coach for free of low fee. It's okay to do that at first (I even recomemmend it), or later if you're changing your business, but be sure you know what you're getting in return, such as experience, learning, referrals, or something else that will pay off in the long run.
Bottom Line: People reach their Greatness when they are givers, but you can receive even while you're giving. And if you don't receive for your coaching, the other people (a.k.a. your clients) won't reach their Greatness.
And isn't Greatness what coaching's all about?
Image by Bradleygee
Sales-impaired coaches sometimes hide behind the yuck-factor and claim they don't have enough clients, because they hate to sell. That's a lie.
Not selling your coaching boils down to one thing: your refusal to own your own fear and vulnerability.
Sure, integrity and sales skills matter, but there's a risk you'll be judged when you sell something intangible like coaching and it's safer to hide.
Learn from the 8-foot bride, the art of asking. Then challenge yourself to trust that much.