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Trump, Clinton, Spiral Dynamics Integral, and Coaching - Part 3

Posted by Julia Stewart


Here's the third and final installment in my three-part exploration of 2016 Presidential candidates and their Value Systems. As one reader on Facebook commented, this approach makes sense of a really messy topic. Each installment focuses on a different candidate.

Part 1 introduces Spiral Dynamics integral Values System, which is a theory used by coaches to understand their clients better, and it is mostly about Donald Trump and his supporters. Part 2 took a detour to look at the predominant Values System expressed by the Bernie Sanders campaign and today's post, Part 3, views Hillary Clinton and her supporters via their Values Systems. If you're brand-new to Spiral Dynamics integral, please go back and read Part 1, because it'll introduce you to the basics. Otherwise, this post will sounds like nothing but gobbledygook.

As Part 1 mentioned, the candidates' own Values Systems may differ from their supporters', because the candidates hone their messages to the voting blocks they hope to attract. It's important to note, though, that any candidate who makes it this far in the United States Presidential election is very strong on Orange, the Values System that is associated with rationality and productivity, because it tends to have an emphasis on winning and its values are consistent with those of democracy. Also, our media tends to be dominated by Orange values, so the information we get about the election is almost always filtered through Orange, which can't make sense of much of what's happening this year.

What we've found, so far, is that Donald Trump is attracting voters from the lower end of the Spiral, (Purple, Red, and Blue), while Sanders is hyper-focused on classic Green issues. And if you're wondering why Beige hasn't been mentioned, it's because we don't usually see Beige thinking in healthy adults, under most conditions, so Beige doesn't comprise a voting block. 

And before you Sanders supporters start to feel superior because Green is higher up the Spiral than most of the other Values Systems, I want to note that the Spiral is about Values, not I.Q. or sophistication. Thinking at the lower end of the Spiral doesn't make someone stupid; it just means their thinking is working for them, so they haven't been forced by circumstances to change it. For example: If you are a bully and it's working for you, you may live at Red your entire life, but you could be a very smart, very sophisticated bully.

Besides, there are levels beyond Green.

So where does Hillary Clinton live? That's a challenging question that points to why some people don't like her. She shows signs of nearly all the Values Systems. That's complicated and confusing. Voters prefer simple and clear.

However, that complexity points to the Yellow and Turquoise Values Systems, which are the first and second systems that become aware of, and see value in, all the systems, depending on circumstances. This allows tremendous flexibility to take approaches that works best in any situation. There are, so far, relatively few people who've evolved to these levels, which care about many of the same things people at lower levels care about, but in new ways. The general population is moving up the Spiral, though, rather than down, so numbers are growing, and there are notable politicians who've already taken this approach.

Among them are Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair. Sometimes called, the "Third Way", this approach seeks to integrate the best of conservative and liberal approaches. The results tend to focus on cooperation vs. competition, solutions vs. problems, positivity vs. negativity, and even forgiveness vs. blame.

The Third Way is a great idea, but it does trigger resistance from people who don't resonate with it, which so far is a lot of people. Obama came into office wanting to compromise with Republicans to get things done, but instead met resistance from Tea Party Conservatives who shut down the government, rather than talk to him.

No doubt, some of that resistance was based in racism, but some may have been for another reason: people intuitively understand others who agree with their Values Systems and even intuit the thinking of those who operate at lower Values Systems, but when they encounter someone who operates at a higher level, it feels false, foreign, and untrustworthy.

They can't get a gut or intuitive feel for them and that's scary. Democrats and Republicans working together? Government and business? There must be backroom payoffs! Something fishy is going on! These people are crooked!

I'm not claiming Third Way politicians are automatically more honest than other politicians, but I am saying that we can't assume they are corrupt just because what they're doing is different.

Is Hillary Clinton a Third Way politician? Yes, she appears to be. Her politics are generally liberal, but she seems to take the approach that she can destroy her enemies best by making them her friends (a point of view championed by Abraham Lincoln, who may have been a forerunner of Third Way politicians), rather than making friends into enemies, as Sanders does, or simply making everyone an enemy who isn't a supporter, as is Trump's approach.

But there's something else. Clinton, being female, has a tough time running for what has traditionally been a masculine job. She seems to resonate best with the values most obviously associated with female concerns, for instance, Purple family and children. She picks that concern up again and again at the "feminine" levels of Blue, Green, and Turquoise. Each level approaches it a bit differently. But these "soft" concerns don't play well next to grand visions of wiping out terrorism, or of retooling the entire economy. 

Also Clinton is not a great speech maker. She doesn't attract enormous crowds. If she talks too loudly, people complain she's screaming. If she talks too quietly, they say she's "low energy". She is pioneering how a woman can run for president, because no other woman has made it this far.

What do they say about pioneers? That you can always spot them, because they're the ones with the arrows in their backs.

There's another thing about Hillary's reputation for being dishonest. If you recall the Jimmy Stewart film classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the main character, perhaps the only honest man in Washington, was vilified for profiteering and worse, by the corrupt old guard who didn't want him and his idealistic plans getting in the way of their graft. My point is, you can't believe what politicians and their surrogates say about each other. Whenever I've taken the time to look up whether Hillary has done something dishonest, I've been pleasantly surprised. 

But she has some cards on her side. Yellow and Turquoise are disinterested in rallies and protests, so you won't find them there. They are too busy in their offices, labs, and workshops; innovating solutions and creating the future. But they do pay attention and they vote. This is one reason Clinton fails to attract the crowds of her rivals, but still gets millions more votes.

Crowds don't elect presidents. Voters and delegates do. 

Plus, with Trump running as the ultimate alpha male, he has handed Hillary the opportunity to run like a woman, as a woman. She's at her best in small groups talking to women and children. Women, people of color, and those at the highest levels of the Spiral are her base. When Sanders drops out, his liberal supporters will mostly go to Clinton. His populist supporters will mostly go to Trump.

May the best man or woman win.

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Topics: Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Barack Obama, Values, Trump, Sanders, Clinton

Trump, Clinton, Spiral Dynamics Integral, and Coaching - Part 2

Posted by Julia Stewart


Yesterday, I published Part 1 of this blog series, which now looks like it'll be three parts long. I mostly focused on Donald Trump, because people (love him or hate him) are absolutely fascinated by his campaign and Spiral Dynamics integral (SDi) explains a lot about it.

This is a theory that helps coaches understand their client's more quickly. When we understand what matters to them, also known as their values, we can empower them to get what they want more easily. 

I finished that first post with some research that claims Trump appeals to authoritarians ("Authoritarian" is one of those words, like "communism", that freaks out Americans) and I described what authoritarian values look like through the SDi lens. It explains so much!

If you missed yesterday's post, start with it here, especially if you're new to the levels of SDi.

Well, it turns out there's other research that refutes Trump's authoritarianism (So relax, already!) and it helps explain why Trump and Sanders supporters share some characteristics, even though they live at different levels on the Spiral. And since Sanders has been eating up the headlines, lately, I thought I'd wrap up Trump and compare and contrast Sanders, today.

Stealing the cable news cycle from Donald Trump for 24 whole hours is like getting your song to Number One on iTunes the day after Adele releases a new album, so let's reward Bernie with the attention he deserves. We don't know how much longer he'll be with us, but he's loud and clear, right now. (Don't worry, Hillary, I'll get to you, Hon.)

So this other research measured populism, contrasted with authoritarianism, and focused on several candidates' supporters, instead of just Trump's. It turns out Ted Cruz's supporters scored higher on authoritarianism than Trump's. Yup, I'm sure they did; as a candidate playing to evangelicals, Cruz's message appealed mostly to Blue traditionalism/authoritarianism.

So what is populism and where does it live on the Spiral? Populism combines anti-elitism, mistrust of experts, and nationalism (American identity) and it can live almost anywhere on the Spiral, except Blue, because Blue reveres those at the top.

Populism believes The People are good and the elites and experts have stolen their power away from them.

How does a billionaire, like Trump, who travels around in a Boeing 757 with his name plastered on it, attract anti-elitists? Simple. He's an amateur, when it comes to politics, so he's a Washington outsider, not a member of the Party elite. That gets him around mistrust of experts, as well. The dumber his policies sound to pundits (elites), the more his populist supporters love him. His followers hate Washington, but love their country and they mostly live at the lower levels of the Spiral: Purple, Red, and Blue. Remember, he also scores pretty high on Blue traditionalism, so apparently some of his followers do love the American-Royalty veneer of Trump's family.

But Trump's not the only populist in the race.

Sander's supporters, who live mostly at the level of Green egalitarianism, also score high on one dimension of populism: anti-elitism. They don't mind experts, in fact most are at least college educated, but they're not particularly patriotic.  They hate both government leaders and the very rich (elites). That helps explain why they detest Hillary Clinton so much, even though her policies are often similar to Sanders'; she's a political insider and multi-millionaire, so she can't be trusted. That's not the only reason, though.

The brand of populism that fits with Green is sometimes referred to as, "flatland", because Green hates hierarchy (Blue), only recognizes its own values, and wants everybody to be on exactly the same level (Green thinkers, by the way, hate the idea of levels so much, they will argue that the Spiral in Spiral Dynamics integral should really be flat, but that's another conversation.) No surprise that promises of socialized medicine and free college tuition are hugely popular with Sanders' supporters.

Green populism demands rights for the disenfanchised.

We need Green, because it helps point out what's unfair in our world, but it reacts emotionally and distrusts rational Orange, while detesting traditional Blue (remember, when Blue is weak, Red spills out). Because it blames the elites, who it believes have stolen its power, it is particularly prone to paranoia and conspiracy theories.

That last point is interesting, because the Sanders campaign has been accused of intentionally spreading misinformation about conspiracies against his campaign and some of his supporters say things that are mind-bogglingly paranoid. I'm not so sure the Sanders campaign even has to try to scare their supporters; they seem to come pre-loaded with paranoia.

A few days ago, Sanders' supporters failed to add any delegates to his side at the Nevada State Democratic Convention. There was anger and yelling; a few chairs were thrown, but nobody got hurt. That's actually not unusual for a political convention. But then they emailed the contact information for all the delegates and party officials to their supporters, who then sent hate texts and voicemails to the NV President of the Democratic Party, saying they were going to set her on fire, hang her in public, and that they knew where her grandchildren went to school. Wow.

To be fair, not all of Sanders' supporters engaged in terrorizing Democratic officials and, so far, nobody has turned up dead, but it's hardly surprising that party officials are incensed and demanded that Sanders publicly condemn the actions of his own supporters. For four days, he avoided saying anything, while campaign officials claimed he couldn't control them (Previously, Trump also claimed, for a while at least, that he wasn't responsible for violence among his supporters.) Last I checked though, a great leader say, Martin Luther King Jr. for instance, could definitely cool public outrage by appealing for calm.

Finally, Sanders made a public statement condemning violence, but it focused primarily on perceived slights against his campaign and hinted that those slights excused his supporters' behavior. That hurt him. A lot.

But with Green blame and self-righteousness, mixed with populism's foregone conclusion that The People are always right, while elites are always conspiring against them, that statement is hardly surprising. Remember, Green only recognizes its own point of view, so their own viciousness feels completely justified to them.

The philosopher, Ken Wilber, dubbed this thinking, "The Mean Green Meme."

So both political parties appear to be cleaving apart amidst a hot campaign. Where does Hillary fit in? Do you see her anywhere on the Spiral, yet? No? Don't worry, you will. Just give me a couple of days.

We'll revisit all of these questions in...

Trump, Clinton, Spiral Dynamics integral, and Coaching - Part 3

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Topics: Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Values, Trump, Sanders, Clinton

Trump, Clinton, Spiral Dynamics Integral, and Coaching - Part 1

Posted by Julia Stewart


These days, everybody is trying to explain the Trump phenomenon. How did this guy, Donald Trump, who expresses bigotry against practically anyone who isn't a supporter, who has no experience in politics, and whose own party seems to want nothing to do with him; how did he become the presumptive Republican Party nominee for President of the United States? And what makes people at Trump's rallies so passionate, so unruly, so violent, even? And why did each of Trump's Republican rivals shrivel up like the Wet Wicked Witch of the West, every time Trump made fun of them?

Then what about Hillary Clinton (Donald calls her, "Crooked Hillary")? How is it this "unlikable" female Democratic candidate takes Trump's insults and, instead of shriveling up, turns them into millions of dollars in contributions? (Woman Card, anyone? How about the Stop Trump Fund? Republicans for Clinton?)

And then there's that liberal guy, Sanders, who Hillary can't seem to shake off, completely. What keeps him going? What makes people so passionate about his promises? And why do his followers troll the internet, attacking anyone who disagrees even slightly with their candidate, virtually mirroring violent Trump supporters, only with liberal views instead of conservative? How can it be that Sanders' supporters have anything in common with Trump supporters?

And finally, what does all of this have to do with coaching?

Three words: Spiral Dynamics integral (SDi).

What is Spiral Dynamics integral (the "i" in "integral" is usually small case)? It's a psycho-social-spiritual "theory that explains everything", based on the research of psychologist, Clare Graves, and popularized by the 1996 book, Spiral Dynamics (by Don E. Beck and Christopher Cowan). I had the opportunity to study Spiral Dynamics integral intensively with Don Beck several years ago and have been teaching it to coaches ever since.

Understanding this theory is like turning the lights on: suddenly you see everything clearly.

The theories of Spiral Dynamics integral can be complex, but they make perfect sense of our crazy political dramas in a way that nothing else can. No, the nuttiness of this political season isn't just because older white men are angry that they don't always get special treatment, anymore (although that helps fuel it), and no, it's not because feminists just want a woman President (although many do), and no, it's not because millennials are saddled with student debt and a lousy job market (although they certainly are).

Governments, politicians, and political campaigns, among other groups, have been employing Spiral Dynamics integral consultants for decades to help them understand how different demographics think. For instance, SDi was used to help peacefully transition South Africa from apartheid to democracy. No small accomplishment!

Here's the bottom line: It's Values, or Values Systems, to use SDi jargon, that make the difference.

Values are what matter most to you. As any great coach knows, values are one of the most, or perhaps the most, important topic for any coaching conversation, because they are often transformative. But what we've learned from Clare Graves' research is that people also develop psychologically, (or evolve, as SDi puts it) according to their Values Systems.

Values change our brains as well as our choices. They impact individuals and entire cultures.

We think of values as being positive, but they often conflict with each other, which causes real problems. If you value freedom, but also security, for instance, you may desperately want to quit your job and travel the world, but may choose to keep your regular paycheck, instead. We all experience conflicts like this and they often point to our level of development, as well. Savvy coaches help their clients understand their values and make the most of them.

In addition, our values conflict with the values of other people and most of us are so unconscious of this that people who disagree with us can seem like idiots, or crazies, because what's most important feels obvious - but different - to each ot us.

This is why most people avoid talking about religion and politics at parties. Our religious beliefs and political choices are governed by our deeply held values. In fact, sociologist, and author of the book, Cultural Creatives, Paul H. Ray, says our values determine our actions much more so than our demographics.

So how do we talk about Values Systems? Don Beck, co-author of the book, Spiral Dynamics, devised a color coding system while consulting in South Africa, to take people's focus off skin color and ethnicity (types of people) and focus instead on Values Systems (types of thinking). Focusing on types of people, versus types of behavior or thinking, leads to  stereotyping and bigotry.

Here, very simply, are the identified Values Systems of Spiral Dynamics integral:

  1. Beige: survival and comfort, kind of like a baby.
  2. Purple: safety and nurturance, family and tribes come together for this.
  3. Red: self expression and adventure, adolescents and warriors break free from the tribe to embrace these.
  4. Blue: tradition and rules, we find our place in the larger order.
  5. Orange: productive and rational, we work to create a better world through progress.
  6. Green: compassionate and sensitive, we notice and stand up for those who are disadvantaged.
  7. Yellow: flexible and aware, we innovate solutions to the world's problems.
  8. Turquoise: holistic and integrated, we feel one with the whole world.

Each of the above Values Systems has a shadow side (less healthy), which may comprise a rejection of the previous Values System, or a perverted version of it. Some Values Systems are more masculine or feminine than others, while certain Values Systems may resonate with others. For example, both Orange and Green tend to resonate with Red. No healthy adult exhibits just one Values System, all the time. In fact, most of us think at a variety of levels under different circumstances.

Here are some shadow sides of Spiral Dynamics integral:

  1. Beige: infantile and regressive.
  2. Purple: suspicious, controlling, over-protective, us against them.
  3. Red: angry, rebellious, destructive, violent.
  4. Blue, judgmental, rejecting, rigid, holier then thou.
  5. Orange, shallow, sleazy, corrupt, materialistic, win at all costs.
  6. Green: blaming, passive, irresponsible.
  7. Yellow: disloyal, dismissive, impatient, above it all, overly reliant on technology.
  8. Turquoise: hubris, superiority, overly reliant upon intuition.

Back to the Trump phenomenon:

Donald Trump was identified in the book, Spiral Dynamics, as a great example of Orange thinking. This productive and rational Values System dominates the world of Big Business and politics. In fact, virtually any successful politician has a strong streak of Orange. But Orange gets its ethical underpinning from Blue tradition and rules. Without a good streak of  Blue rules and traditions, Orange becomes sleazy and will say and do anything to win, succeed, or make money.

Sound at all familiar? Both Democratic and Republican leaders are shocked by Trump's refusal to follow the rules and traditions of American politics.

Also, Trump projects an air of hyper-masculinity and seems to be weak on the more feminine Values Systems of Purple, Blue, Green, and Turquoise. With these weaknesses, especially weak Blue, Orange tends to resonate strongly with unhealthy Red: angry destructive, even violent.

As Don Beck says: When Blue is weak, Red spills out. Remember the Trump supporter who was interviewed after sucker-punching a protester at a Trump rally, who said, "We may have to kill him,"?

This brings us to the research of Mathew MacWilliams, which shows Trump supporters are strong on authoritarianism. Authoritarians obey. They become angry when others don't obey the same rules. This group is similar to what Paul Ray calls, "traditionalists", and is strongly consistent with the SDi levels of Purple, Red, and Blue.

Whether you call them traditionalists or authoritarians, it's helpful to know why they think as they do. Purple, being about family or tribe, tends to follow the rules laid down by the chief, parent, or head of household; because that keeps everyone safe and avoids conflict. Think of the wife who doesn't follow politics, because she just votes the same as her husband.

Red, being about freedom, believes "might makes right" and tends to only follow leaders who who are "mighty" in some way. Tony Soprano from the old gangster TV show, is the perfect example: he was bigger and smarter than all the other members of his crew.

Blue, believes in a rightful order that includes a hierarchy of privileged elites. Think of the Queen of England, the Catholic Pope, or Hitler.

As a billionaire, Trump qualifies as an elite. If you've seen pictures of his homes, you know they are palatial. He's also a Big Boss, who seems to bully anyone who gets in his way. If you're thinking at Red, you will actually find this attractive. Finally, when talking about women, Trump says all they want is to be safe and secure, so he tries to present the image of the big chief who will build a big wall and keep all the terrorists out.

Trump may think primarily at Orange, but he resonates with Red. And, being weak on Blue, his sleazy Orange will say and do anything to stay popular with Purple and Blue authoritarians.

So are Trump supporters really authoritarian? Some disagree. Are authoritarians the same as fascists, as some Trump accusers say? Is this something to be alarmed about? What levels are Clinton and Sanders playing to? Are they any better?

Would you coach any of these people? And if so, how?

We'll revisit all of these questions in...

Trump, Clinton, Spiral Dynamics integral, and Coaching - Part 2

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Topics: Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Values, Don Beck, SDi, Trump, Clinton

What's Really Behind the Huge Success of Professional Coaching?

Posted by Julia Stewart

love_is_more_powerful_than_greed.jpgToday I turned down a potential client whose business would have brought me thousands of dollars. She seemed a like a good client, with clearly defined goals to build her coaching business, which is a coaching specialty of mine.

But there was one big problem: Her goals were simply to make more money.

And her requirements were that her mentor coach must  have made a certain amount of money, which I've made, but I still turned her down.

Why did I turn her down, when helping coaches succeed is one of my specialties? Because I went into coaching and coach training to help people succeed at creating a better future for themselves and others, a better world, if you will.

Money matters. Helping others matters more to me. That's because one of my highest values is: Love.

The funny thing is that coaches who love what they do and love helping others to have better lives and careers, are the coaches who most succeed at professional coaching.

And they often make the most money.

Because the professional coaches, who are most likely to succeed, want to thrive by helping others thrive.

They're not martyrs. And they're also not greedy. They're more complex than that.

Probably only 5-10% of people, worldwide, who are interested in becoming coaches, have achieved this level of complexity.

Have you achieved this level of complexity?

If you're interested in coaching only because you've heard it's one of the highest paid professions in the world, don't train at School of Coaching Mastery.

And if you're only interested in helping others, instead of also helping yourself and the people you most care about, then coach for a hobby and make a living doing something else.

I wrote a blog post about this, The Top Ten Worst Reasons to Become a Coach, nine years ago, and it is as true today as it ever was.

If you want to thrive and help thrive doing what you love, let's talk.

School of Coaching Mastery's training programs may be perfect for you. And my mentor coaching often includes training, as needed, at no extra charge. It's expensive and well worth it.


I'm in the thrive and help thrive business.


By the way, if you love someone or something so much that you'd change the world for them, World Clan Mothers on Facebook may also be right for you. It's about turning back the tide of Climate Change so our grandchildren, and Nature, have a chance to thrive like we do. I invite you to join and get involved.


Visit World Clan Mothers on Facebook

Topics: professional coach, Coaching, professional coaching, coaching success, successful business

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.                  

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

New Coaches: Which of These Entrepreneur Types Should You Be?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaches are often confused when first designing their businesses - and sometimes they feel guilty too! Maybe they think they're spending too little time with the kids, or bringing in too little money. Or maybe the house isn't as clean as it used to be, or key members of family aren't fully on board.

Relax: you're normal!

This infographic from My Corporation will help you see how you compare with other small business owners:

What Kind of Entrepreneur Should You Be?


New to the business of coaching, but want to attract clients quickly? Coach 100 has been helping coaches fill their coaching practices for a decade:

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Topics: business coach, life coach, Coaching, become a coach, Coaches, Coach 100, coaching clients, coaching businesses, new coaches

What is Life Coaching?

Posted by Julia Stewart

what is coaching?


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 ( + ).


Therapy vs Coaching formula

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.


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Topics: business coach, Coaching, professional coaching, executive coaching, become a coach, get certified, what is coaching, what is a life coach, Life Coaching

11 Ways Bad Coaching and Coaching Hype Can Harm Coaching Clients

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Hype

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. Pick-Up-Artist Coach

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.

Topics: Coaching, Coaches, Life Coaches, Law of Attraction, psychotherapy

Great Coaching, Mindfulness, and Noticing the Keys to Success

Posted by Julia Stewart

Mindfulness is Ellen Langer resized 600

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:


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Gorgeous Photo by Elan Sun Star

Topics: Coaching, Coaches, coaching clients, Become a Certified Coach, greatness, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, mindfulness

Coaching Tip: When Validation and Acknowledgment Backfire

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Tip


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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Topics: Coaching, Coaching Groundwork, Thomas Leonard, Mattison Grey, Coaching Tip, acknowledgment

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