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Positive Psychology Coaching: How Do You Define Happiness?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Happiness_Big

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

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

"The state of being happy".

Google, I think we can do better.

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

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

So what is happiness, anyway?

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

First, what happiness isn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what makes life wonderful?

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

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

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

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

That's what I call happiness.

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

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

Register: Coaching Values, Needs & Strengths

 

 

 

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

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

Posted by Julia Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there are these pitfalls of the Law of Attraction…

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

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

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

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

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

Find a Certified Positive Psychology Coach® here.                  

Download the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Fact Sheet below:

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

Positive Psychology Coaching: Strengths and Flow

Posted by Julia Stewart

Strengths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit Positive Psychology Coaching: Strengths

 

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

What Voice Coach, Adam Levine, Can Teach You About Client Attraction

Posted by Julia Stewart

Adam_Levine2

I've written about why coaches love NBC's The Voice, before. And last night's season premiere was just as positive and entertaining a usual, except for one big difference...

Sexiest Man Alive and Voice Coach superstar, Adam Levine, was off his game. Way off.

Adam didn't attract a single singer to his team last night during the Blind Auditions. Every other coach, Pharrell Williams, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton, picked up multiple singers, but neither Adam's charm, looks, nor winning record could persuade any singer to take a chance on him. 

His arch rival, Blake Shelton gloated that Adam's pitch was all wrong: Adam pleaded with singers to join his team, because he "needed" them. He wanted to "share" their glory when they won.

Would you hire a coach who pitched you like that?

Even Adam admitted his mojo was gone; his supreme confidence had run out on him. 

Well, every now and then I hear from a new or not-so-new coach who can't seem to attract any clients. They are frustrated, discouraged, feel like somebody's played a bad joke on them, and/or a little desperate.

Sometimes they are very desperate.

They are mystified by the problem. And yet, most folks can watch them in action and see it: They are unsure of themselves, needy, and suspect something is terribly wrong.

You know, like maybe they are...failed coaches?

Not attractive.

I feel for them, because I've had that experience. But I don't worry, because the situation is fixable and the lessons learned can be priceless.

If Adam Levine, who's been accused of being obnoxiously confident, can lose his mojo, so can any of us. And the pattern is the same for everyone. If we can't take a few "No's" in stride, our brains actually change and we start to think like losers, instead of winners.

Martin Seligman calls this "learned helplessness". The survival value of learned helplessness might be to discourage rivals from fighting to the death and instead encourage losers to behave like good followers, instead of conquering kings.

Fortunately, most of us don't fight to the death for anything, these days, but unfortunately, our brains still learn to be helpless pretty easily. For someone like Adam, a young man who's enjoyed phenomenal success, this experience could be new, so he may have little or no idea how to handle it.

You are probably older, wiser, and perhaps have experienced a loss or two. So how did you come back from those losses?

There are loads of tools that can shift your brain state easily, such as somatic tools. For intance, standing with your hands on your hips (Think: Superman) for a few minutes, or raising your arms in the air (Think: V for Victory) can raise your testosterone levels the way winning does (Don't worry, Ladies, you won't grow a beard). By the way, winners naturally adopt these postures and thereby condition their brains for more confidence and winning.

The real value of confidence is that it allows you to shift your focus away from yourself and onto the task at hand. If you take it far enough, it begins to look like humility - in the most attractive way.

Keeping the focus on the potential client, and off yourself, can make all the difference. Offer them something with no strings attached, like a complimentary coaching session and give them tons of value whether or not they hire you.

By the way, Pharrell Williams is the perfect model of an attractive coach: passionate, insightful, generous, humble, and still offering value even after the singer has already chosen his/her coach, because he's a different kind of winner, someone who leads from behind.

He's really not there for the win; he's there for the talent. Be that coach.

If you've never experienced a loss, pursue coaching clients like an obnoxiously confident Adam Levine and you'll attract some.

But if you're like most coaches, be a little wiser.

Channel your Inner Pharrell.

Want to learn more about the subtleties of client attraction? Explore Coach 100:

  Get Paid to Coach. Join Coach 100.

 

Topics: Coach 100, coaching clients, attraction, The Voice, clients, Martin Seligman

Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program is Now ICF Approved

Posted by Julia Stewart

Certifed_Positive_Psychology_CoachR_Header

We got the news, Wednesday, that the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program has been approved for ICF ACSTH. They actually approved us for 125 hours, which is 25 more than we expected (yay!). This means that our grads will have a streamlined experience when applying for the ICF ACC credential and even the advanced placement members will have an easier time qualifying for CCEs and the PCC credential. This is important, because coaches who've gone the non-approved 'portfolio route' to ICF certification tell me it's pretty arduous and not recommended. So I'm excited for our members!

This news comes on the heels of Certified Positive Psychology Coach® becoming a Registered Trademark belonging to School of Coaching Mastery. That's what the little, "®" means. Essentially, we own this certification and no one else has the legal right to use it or grant it. We took this step to establish a level of excellence in positive psychology coaching and to protect our certified coaches from possible imitators. 

We plan to keep our IAC License for the foreseeable future, but are more focused now on the ICF approach to coaching. One big reason is that, after years in the coach-training-and-certification business, I've observed an undeniable truth: coaches are far more likely to get certified when the certification they pursue is directly related to completion of a training program. This is, perhaps, one reason why the ICF certifies so many more coaches. Another is that the ICF has done a great job of making businesses and organizations aware of coaching and ICF credentials. A third reason is that the ICF Coach Directory does a good job of attracting clients to coaches.

So congratulations to our coach-members who become certified and get more clients!

One bit of related bad news, if you haven't yet joined, Early Adopter Tuition will now be phased out over the next several weeks. Don't delay, if you want to join and save!

Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®

 

Topics: ICF, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, IAC, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching

Positive Psychology Coaching: Three Good Things

Posted by Julia Stewart

3_Good_Things

There are tons of good things about positive psychology coaching, including a huge variety of interventions that have been tested and proven effective. One of those is the classic, Three Good Things exercise that's been studied by the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman.

Three Good Things is a great exercise to give your coaching clients for homework. It raises positivity, which leads to thriving and success in a vast number of areas, and it has been found to increase happiness and diminish depression and anxiety. 

In one study by Seligman with 411 subjects, 92% became happier in 15 days. In addition, the positive effects of the exercise lasted for 6 months or longer! Not bad for an exercise that takes a few minutes, once a day, for seven days. And it's quite pleasant.

When I first tried it a few years ago, I immediately noticed that it shifted my attention away from events that I thought I should have handled better (too late now!) and focused me on what was going well, leading to less stress and better sleep.

Want to try it? Make a commitment for the next seven days, to write down, or even just think about, three good things that happened in the last 24 hours. That's it! Best to think about it during your evening meditation, or evening journal, or while you're lying in bed at night.

Positive psychology coaches, who have taken the Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches course, have additional tools to help you get more out of the exercise and/or to apply it to teams and organizations.

To learn more about Three Good Things, or find a positive psychology coach click below:

Visit Positive Psychology Coaching: 3 Good Things

Topics: Become a Certified Coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Martin Seligman, FIND A COACH

Top 100 Life Coach Blogs Infographic: See Who's on It!

Posted by Julia Stewart

Once again, the School of Coaching Mastery Coaching Blog has made it in the Top 100 Life Coach Blogs infographic and we're in the Top Ten Blogs for the second year in a row. Congrats to all the top life coach blogs!! The Top 100 Life Coach Blogs infographic, below, displays all 100 Top Life Coach Blogs based on Alexa rankings, also known as website traffic, or web popularity. We did it with great content and inbound links from influential coaching sites. If you're a writer of great content and would like an inbound link from an influential coaching site (us), we're looking for a few good blog article submissions. No blatent plugs for you or your business, of course, just extremely useful articles, like this one on How to Write a Coaching Bio in 20 Minutes. Should be about 500-800 words long, and we'll include a brief bio, pic, and that all-important link to your site. Send your submission to julia (@) schoolofcoachingmastery (.) com. Who knows? Your blog could be in the Top 100 Life Coach Blogs, next year!

Top 100 Life Coach BlogsAn infographic by the team at Rebates zone Coupons

 

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Topics: life coach, blog, blogs, Top Life Coach Blogs

Positive Psychology Coaching: How Flow Appears In Coaching Sessions

Posted by Julia Stewart

Flow by VANCUSO

Have you ever participated, as a coach or client, in a coaching session when both the coach and client got on a wave length together that resulted in incredible insights and progress? After which, the client probably felt the coach did something amazing, while the coach may have felt s/he barely did anything, at all. If so, you may have experienced a "group flow" state.

Individuals go into flow states when they use their strengths in challenging situations, but groups of two or more people can also create group flow under specific circumstances. During flow, people are unusually creative, often feel that guidance is coming from without, and they may lose track of time. To learn more about flow, watch this TED video of positive psychology pioneer, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (rhymes with 'chick sent me high'), who coined the term, Flow.

Creativity researcher, R. Keith Sawyer, wrote a fascinating article on group flow for the Greater Good Science Center, based on his study of jazz ensembles and comedians. I've adapted his ideas here to describe the conditions that can foster group flow during a coaching session.

Conditions that promote flow during coaching:

1. A shared goal. In great coaching, both client and coach have a shared intention of moving the client towards achieving an important goal. To do this, the coach needs to let go of any personal goals s/he has to provide value, look smart, or get the client to do what s/he thinks is best. The coach also needs to create a safe, trusted environment for the client.

2. Engaged listening. Both coach and client need to listen deeply to themselves and to each other, putting aside preconceived notions about how the goal should be reached and checking in with each other frequently to make sure they are still on the same page. The coach takes the initiative here, modeling listening with intent, which can trigger the client to do the same. The coach also triggers deep engagement by asking awareness-building questions.

3. Forward motion. Acknowledgment, curiosity, and positivity all keep the session moving forward even when neither the coach nor the client knows exactly where they're headed. This means moving from "Yeah, but" thinking to "Yes, and" thinking, while remaining genuinely curious and avoiding judgments and closed-ended questions that can stop forward movement.

4. Undivided attention. Both coach and client need to be in private, non-distracting environments so they can attend fully to the shared present-moment conversation. Email, smart phones, other people and more can all derail a great coaching session.

5. Freedom and autonomy. Coach and client are equal partners who believe in each other, because the client needs the freedom to be exactly who he is while coaching. Flow emerges when they trust and respect one another enough for the client to find the answers that truly work best for him. 

6. Supportive egos. Sometimes it seems as though the coach and client think together with one mind for a few minutes. To do so, they both need their egos present, but not running the show. Trying to get rid of the ego leads to dysfunction, but too much ego just gets in the way. To move egos aside, trust must be strong enough for coach and client to experience moments of intimacy.

7. Equal partnership. Coaching is different from most professions in that it is an equal partnership between the professional and client. The coach doesn't fix or advise and the client doesn't need to be healed by the coach. This equality fosters full participation by the client, which leads to resourcefulness, resilience and greatness.

8. Unspoken understandings. Coach and client need to reveal just enough information about themselves that they feel sufficiently known by one another. This implicit knowing allows communication to jump ahead quickly, rather than consume time with polite posturings. Hours, weeks, or even months of processing can take place within minutes.

9. Spontaneous conversation. The coach needs to let go of the coaching models and structures s/he learned in coaching school and just coach from the hip, so to speak. While the client needs also to let go and allow flow to occur. That's one of the many reasons why practice and mastery are essential for the coach and why an excellent fit between coach and client makes such a big difference.

10. Risk. Both coach and client need to be willing to fail in order for flow to show up. If they play it safe, many of the above conditions will evaporate. The coach must be willing to explore the unknown even if it means asking cringe-worthy questions, while the client needs to be courageous enough to answer honestly. There is no other way to find the best outcomes. 

The above conditions don't happen automatically. The coach needs to know how to create trust and safety, while navigating the energy of the coaching conversation, in order to create this transpersonal experience. But when done well, coaching is often awe-inspiring.

Want to learn more about coaching and flow? Join the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program or download the CPPC Fact Sheet below.

 

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Photo by VANKUSO

Topics: coaching clients, coaching questions, greatness, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

Future of Coaching: Evidence-based or Intuitive?

Posted by Julia Stewart

evidence-based coachingI just watched a lecture by positive psychologist, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, on positive psychology coaching. In it he referenced his ICF International Conference talk, in 2009, on the future of coaching. Tal makes a strong case for the future of coaching being evidenced-based.

What are his arguments? That some of the tools of coaching, such as visualization, positive reinforcement, and positive self-talk have already been debunked by research. That is, they can hurt more than help, unless applied under particular circumstances. Plus, as he points out, without strong evidence to back them up, most human development fads just die out. Remember EST?

I'm inclined to agree with Tal, that evidence is where the greatest growth exists now for coaching. But that doesn't mean coaching hasn't been effective, just that it can become even more effective. Actually, it's the incredible success of coaching that seems to pique the curiosity of scientists. 

To point out the obvious: if people waited to do new things before scientists completed relevant research, we might still be sitting in caves waiting for the okay to use fire. 

As another positive psychologist who teaches coaching, Robert Biswas-Diener, PhD, has said, research doesn't just inform coaching, coaches themselves, often suggest what scientists should study next. It's a collaboration, not a top-down relationship.

In fact, the Harvard-affiliated Institute of Coaching, was founded by coaches to encourage research into coaching and positive psychology. And the Harnisch Foundation, headed by Ruth Ann Harnisch, herself an IAC certified coach, makes $100,000 available every year for coaching research and coaches are even taught and encouraged to do their own scientific research.

By the way, research has also confirmed that most of what masterful coaches do with their clients really does work quite effectively. That includes acknowledging what their clients do instead of who they are, which leads to growth instead of stuckness.  So far, the research has affirmed most of what coaches have been saying all along.

Research is good, very good. But it's not the only thing that matters in coaching...

So then there's this thing called intuition.

Tal doesn't mention intuition in his lecture, but positive psychology researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, considers intuition to be a knee-jerk reaction to things based on what "they say". In other words, it represents people at their dumbest. Scientific findings are therefore almost always more accurate than "intuition".

In coaching, intuition is something else altogether. It's what emerges when coach and client scrape the gobbledygook of life off their brains and get into a highly-connected conversation that the ICF describes this way: 

• Coach is connected to complete trust in new and mutual state of awareness that can only arise in the moment and out of joint conversation.
• Coach is comfortable not knowing as one of the best states to expand awareness in.
• Coach is willing to be vulnerable with client and have client be vulnerable with coach.
• Coach confident in self, process, and the client as a full partner in the relationship.
• Sense of complete ease and naturalness in conversation; coach does not have to “work” to coach.

In coaching, the emergence of this intuition, or insight, is what makes the coaching conversation pivotal to the client's growth. It's often simple; however it's anything but dumb. This type of intuition is related to Czikszentmihalyi's Flow and to Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity and Love 2.0, but the research into Coaching Presence or Personal Greatness, as it is variously called by coaches, is so far is pretty thin.

The distinction here is explicit vs. implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is what we can talk about. Implicit knowledge is that semi-conscious processing we do in the moment when we are completely present. The human mind is still the most powerful computer known. For instance, neuroscientists have discovered that babies learn language through a process of sophisticated statistical analysis. Since the babies studied are pre-verbal, by definition they are processing implicitly. That's what I call intuition. 

Coaches cannot afford to throw out this type of intuition in favor of evidence. We don't have time to check academic papers in the middle of a coaching session. Fortunately for us, the human mind is spectacular at processing information, that is if we stay curious and don't succumb to fears, ego and petty issues. But coaches also can't afford to ignore evidence that points the direction for growth in professional coaching, not when the research is so excitingly positive. Neither intuition nor evidence is perfect, but when we integrate the two, we get something even more powerful.

"The genius of the AND", is a phrase that Tal loves to use. And this is a good place to use it. I believe the future of coaching will be evidence-based AND intuitive. Scientists will eventually discover what coaching intuition is and why it's so powerful and then maybe we'll all be on the same page.

Until then, gather the evidence, but don't be afraid to use your intuition during coaching. Because remember, fire was cooking our dinner long before science was invented.

Oh and the guy in the picture? That's Flash Gordon, my favorite astronaut from the 1930's. I included his pic (love his friend's little hat) to remind myself how silly it can be to predict the future. Doesn't seem to stop me, though.

Learn more about coaching that is evidence-based AND intuitive:


Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach

Topics: ICF, Barbara L Fredrickson, future of coaching, Institute of Coaching, masterful coaches, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, intuition, Tal Ben-Shahar

Coaching with Neuroplasticity Exercises: 9 Fascinating Facts

Posted by Julia Stewart

neuroplasticity exercises

The Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program includes the upcoming Coaching with Neuroscience course, which is a fascinating look at the neurobiology behind the power of positive psychology.

Because coaches are not scientists, but rather personal change agents, we focus less on complex anatomy and chemistry and more on how human systems communicate within, without and between our clients and ourselves, so we can influence our clients to grow, transform,  transcend, and reach amazing goals. We're not just science-based, we're science-integrated.

When we talk about coaching and neuroscience, we're really talking about the applied science of positive neuroplasticity and how to use neuroplasticity exercises to create lasting transformation for coaching clients.

Neuroplasticity is perhaps the most ground-breaking and revolutionary finding in modern neuroscience. It helps explain why and how people can make real changes in their lives and it makes sense of the many surprising findings coming to us from positive psychology researchers. As such, it's virtually a required topic of understanding for every professional coach.

Here are nine fascinating facts about coaching with neuroplasticity exercises:

  1. Your brain is constantly rewiring itself. Not only does it change from one day to the next, it changes from one moment to the next. The brain you go to sleep with tonight will literally be different from the brain you woke up with this morning. This creates opportunities to rewire the brain for greater resilience and resourcefulness, which is the top focus for brain-based coaching.
  2. Coaching changes the brain positively. The brain-states and physical being-states, experienced by your clients during coaching, make temporary changes in the clients' neural nets. A neural net is a group of neurons that are wired together. These changes, when experienced repeatedly within and without coaching, become sustainable and relatively permanent. Coaches have an opportunity to shift clients to the states most conducive to well-being and resourcefulness, leading to greater success in virtually every realm: interpersonal, emotional, cognitive, and physiological. Clients literally become happier, more successful, and even healthier, as a result. 
  3. The "mind-body split" is simply wrong. The philosopher, Descartes, theorized some 300 years ago that mind and body were made of different stuff. Traditionally, science and medicine have embraced this notion and, although they've made many incredible discoveries since, it turns out the mind and body are intimately connected via chemicals, physical structures and electricity. Ultimately they are one and coaching with neuroscience acknowledges and integrates that.
  4. Insights, also known as "Aha" moments, are moments of sudden change in the brain. When new information is integrated, or old information is finally bridged, neural chemicals are released that feel good and often cause the client to light up or giggle. Some insights are peak experiences that help create lasting change for our clients. Others are less powerful, but can be strengthened for greater sustainability. It's extremely important for coaches to understand how to handle these moments so full integration occurs. Otherwise, insights evaporate like forgotten dreams and offer little benefit to our clients.
  5. Stuck clients are caught in neural loops. The old saying in neuroplasticity, that "neurons that fire together, wire together" offers both the good and bad news of brain science. When a coaching client is stuck, he thinks over and over about a problem without finding a solution. Each time he does so, he strengthens the neural connections around the problem, making it seem increasingly impossible to solve. It's like riding a bicycle on a muddy path each day. Eventually a rut will form that is so deep it's almost impossible to ride the bike anywhere but in the ever-deepening rut. Skillful coaches can instantly pull clients out of their ruts and refocus them on solution-producing thoughts.
  6. The human brain is naturally negative. This probably had survival value in the past, but causes toxic stress and other problems in the modern world. The good news is that the brain can be trained to think more positively and that can become a positive habit over time. Indulging in negative thinking is a form of brain abuse that scientists call "rumination", because it's rather like a cow chewing its cud. Rumination is highly corolated with depression and anxiety, but even in emotionally healthy clients, learning more resourceful ways to think can be life-changing.
  7. The brain communicates with structures and organs in the neck and torso via the vagus nerve. The vagus is probably what you're feeling when you experience strong emotions in your body. Interestingly, the gut and heart both contain so many neurons of their own that they are sometimes referred to as the 2nd and 3rd brains and they "talk" as much or more to the brain than it talks to them. When you know something in your heart or feel it in your gut, you're experiencing something real.
  8. Oxytocin, a.k.a. the "love hormone", works with the vagus nerve to create a sense of bonding between parents, partners and others. Oxytocin does have it's down side, but increasing it during coaching, via specific behaviors, creates trust and regard that are fundamental to successful coaching sessions.
  9. The mind isn't created by the brain, but rather appears to be the outcome of a variety of internal, and interpersonal, systems. In fact, given the power of neuroplasticity, it may be more accurate to say the mind creates the brain. Through neuroplasticity exercises, we can assist clients to use their minds to change their brains, and other systems, such as the heart and gut, in ways that help them integrate, grow, and transform their lives and themselves.
Try this positive neuroplasticity exercise right now to shift into a more positive and resourceful mind state. This is especially powerful if you're not feeling as happy, or as optimistic as you might.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a minute or two. It's ideal if you inhale for about 5 seconds and exhale for the same length, but don't worry about this or time yourself. Allow it to happen with a relatively relaxed, unthinking mind.
  • Now find something good, no matter how small, that happened today or yesterday. Allow yourself to feel good about this thing or event. Let it sink in. Savor it.
  • Now associate your five senses with this good thing. How does it look? How does it sound? How does it taste, smell, and most of all, feel? These questions may not seem logical, but play with them a bit.
  • Next, ask yourself what this event or thing means to you and why does it matter? Do you associate it with any of your values or strengths?
  • Last, what part did you play in the occurence? Take a moment to be grateful to and acknowledge yourself and everyone connected.
  • Now let this wonderfully layered experience of your positive event sink into every cell in your body. Enjoy it. You may even want to revisit it again several times and/or do this exercise with other experiences. Over time, they will help you experience greater joy, pleasure and gratitude.
If you'd like to learn a lot more about coaching with neuroscience in general and positive neuroplasticity exercises specifically, the Introduction to Coaching with Neuroscience course starts in two weeks and you can get it by joining the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program or take it as a stand-alone module and qualify for a Coaching with Neuroscience Certificate.
Save $100 on the stand-alone module only until Friday, October 3rd with this code:  CWN425914

 

Go here to register:

 

Register for Coaching with Neuroscience Here.

Topics: Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Values, Neuroplasticity

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