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Top Ten Coaching Tools that Can Help Your Thrive in an Uncertain World

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Does it seem like the world gets crazier every day? Are you worried about your future? Are you wondering what you can do to survive and thrive? Would you like to help yourself and others flourish tomorrow and beyond?

Hyper-complexity is the word for what you’re experiencing and uncertainty is its inevitable companion.

Both can be your friend if you let them. The truth is there have never been more opportunities to thrive. Complexity virtually promises that. Become someone who sees possibilities early and knows what to do with them.

Here are ten coaching tools that can help anyone thrive in this hyper-complex world:

  1. Be curious. A wise Zen master once told me that we really don’t know what’s going to happen. That seems obvious, but we tend to forget it. If you’re feeling anxious about the future, you’re futurizing (a.k.a. worrying about scary future scenarios). What if you were curious instead? A major side benefit of curiosity is that you notice opportunities before they become problems. How to become more curious? Learn to catch yourself making assumptions. You do it all the time. Then make uncertainty your friend: Don’t decide how things will be. Wonder instead. Be mindful. Be grateful. Wonder what the possibilities are. This is one of the keys to #10, by the way.
  2. Be informed. Find the best sources of information and connect with them often. Avoid addictive, manipulative, or frightening sources, such as cable news, infomercials, click bait, propaganda, social media, high-pressure sales, etc. They confuse and exhaust. You need energy and clarity to stay abreast of hyper-complexity. Subscribe to one or two high-quality newspapers, because great information isn’t free. Get more education and training. Become an expert in at least one field and hang out with other experts. Become an insider, because information is power.
  3. Be prepared. The founder of the coaching profession, Thomas Leonard, believed in assisting clients to afford risk by increasing their reserves. What are reserves? They can be almost anything the client perceives they need more of from postage stamps, to information, to sleep. When people have reserves of practically everything they need, they become calm. I experienced this after 9/11 when I worked in Manhattan. The threat of attack was everywhere and unnerving. I had no control over it. But I could control how prepared I was, so I created a terrorist-attack reserve in an old gym bag with water, food, goggles, you name it, and kept it in my car for months. Terrorist threats continued, but my fears evaporated. A fun way to do this is to shop at Costco, or another big box store, with the question in mind, “What will I need most in the zombie apocalypse? A lifetime supply of toilet paper? Clean drinking water? A katana?” But go deeper. I have friends with solar homes, who are investing in Tesla batteries and going “off grid”. You can go off grid in financial ways, too. Have multiple income streams, more assets than debts, an emergency cash reserve, more insurance. Kidding aside, whatever future catastrophe scares you most, get ready for it now. You may never need your reserves, but the peace of mind they provide is something you'll need everyday forever.
  4. Be well cared for. Too many wish others would care for them. That’s for babies. Although your significant other can care for you, learn to care for yourself. Your health is a perfect place to begin. If your energy and wellbeing aren’t what you’d like, work with a physician or alternative care professional to get into perfect health. You may need to change your diet and exercise. Don’t let that stop you. When I was a personal trainer, my most loyal clients told me that they hired me to look better, but they stayed with me because they felt so much better. In other words, it was worth it. Right after 9/11, they told me about an unexpected benefit: They were strong enough to walk down 40 flights of stairs. You never know when you'll need your good health, but do care for yourself in fun ways, too. Listen to good music, play your favorite sports, engage in hobbies, or find work you love. Optimum wellbeing is your goal, because it improves quality of life regardless what happens.
  5. Be growing. No matter what happens in the world, you can be your best and be getting even better. It’s fun and inspiring and it helps you meet unexpected challenges. Increase your spiritual practice, become a better person, get more training or education. Practice your best skills and learn some new ones. For many, constant improvement is an important part of happiness. For us all, it’s part of getting ready for anything. We know technology will eliminate up to 50% of jobs in the next couple of decades, including some professions. The winners in this work revolution are those with the skills that will still be needed most. Coaching, by the way, entails skills that so far, elude robotics and artificial intelligence and the most successful coaches are those whose personal growth is most developed. In fact, it’s part of our job description. How’s that for a new marketable skill?
  6. Be independent. The world around you may or may not come crashing down, but your personal world can continue to thrive. Become self-employed, for instance, and never fear another layoff. Never wonder if your employer will find a way to deny your retirement benefits. Never worry if you can find another job. What skills or expertise do you have that others would pay for? Service-oriented businesses are relatively easy and inexpensive to start and usually you can charge much more than a traditional employer would pay.
  7. Be well connected. Those who balance independence with connection are likely to succeed best and those who are most independent need connection most of all and are freest in choosing it. Thomas Leonard liked to say, “You become who you hang out with.” Hang out with successful people. Hang out with those whose personal growth is most developed. Hang out with people who are creating a better world and are optimistic, curious, and kind.
  8. Be guided by what matters. When you’re clear about your unique values, your choices get simple, even in a complex world. You may know who you care most for, what you’ve been told to value, or what you think you need to do, but hardly anyone is clear about their unique values. Those of us who are, have a powerful advantage. We can orient our lives around what matters most to us, rather than what scares us. That instantly upgrades both the meaning and joy in our lives, helps us pursue our passions, and succeed most easily. But knowing your unique values isn’t as simple as it may sound. The best way to discover yours is to work with your own coach, or take the Coaching Values, Needs, and Strengths course.
  9. Be wise. Wisdom helps us stay centered in a storm, so learn from every mistake. Upgrade your spiritual and personal growth. Hang out with wise people. Know your unique values and you will instantly upgrade your wisdom. But wisdom tends to grow gradually. We are one of the first generations that has an opportunity to possess wisdom while we’re still healthy. That’s an enormous upgrade. Welcome the challenges and problems that will make you wise.
  10. Notice opportunities. If you want to make friends with hyper-complexity and uncertainty, use all the tools in this post: curiosity, information, preparation, self-care, growth, independence, connection, values, and wisdom to help you see what’s coming faster and notice the opportunities for you to contribute, succeed, and thrive. Add one more: positivity. Research by Barbara Fredrickson shows that those who are more positive, notice opportunities for greater good, than those who are worried, trying to solve problems, or generally are negative. The first nine items on this list will help you engage positively with uncertainty. By doing so, you’ll notice the good that’s coming to you. You can also help those around you. Ultimately, you’ll help the whole world.

Coaches have been using these tools successfully for decades. They are as timeless as they are powerful.

If you’d love to learn powerful coaching tools and join a profession that is high-paid and growing, and you’d like to do so quickly, the Certified Competent Coach course is starting soon. Become a certified coach in eight weeks and learn more tools for success.

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Topics: Coaching, Thomas Leonard, Become a Certified Coach, Barbara L Fredrickson, certified competent coach

The Tyranny of Positive Psychology: Can Emotional Intelligence Save Us

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Can positive psychology actually be bad for you? Can positivity = tyranny? Is there an upside to your downside?

There's a trend in positive psychology, called the second wave, that says, "Hold on. Don't get over-positive. So-called negative emotions can be beneficial, too." That's where emotional intelligence comes in; it teaches us how to recognize and use all our emotions for optimal benefit.

People often confuse these two areas of psychology. Truth is, there is some overlap.

Among the important distinctions between them is that positive psychology focuses mostly on what individuals can do to experience greater wellbeing, whereas emotional intelligence focuses on how individuals can recognize their own emotions, positive or negative, as well as those of others, and how they can leverage them to develop more harmonious relationships.

We can all learn a lot from both positive psychology and emotional intelligence.

People go off the rails with positive psychology when positivity becomes aspirational to them, or when they assume that their thoughts and feelings must always be positive. I see this sometimes when my students take positive psychology assessments and are bothered that their scores aren't perfect. Or when people judge themselves for not always thinking and feeling positive, or when they blame others for being negative, or when they avoid people who have problems or illnesses, as if they might rub off on them. Notice the negative reaction in of these examples? Both positive psychology and emotional inteligence teach us to accept the reaction and learn from it.

Actually, positive psychology research has long since demonstrated that 100% positivity carries its own problems. Check out Barbara Fredrickson's work on positivity, for more on this, or take the Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches course.

I'm not sure where the 100% positivity distortion came from, but it's a good example of how a little knowledge can be dangerous and why in-depth learning is important, especially with a topic as vast as positive psychology. In any case, writers, such as Robert Biswas-Diener and Tod Kashdan, are writing about the benefits of recognizing and exploring negative emotions and recently, Susan David, co-founder of the Institute of Coaching, has written about integrating these two disciplines to create what she calls, Emotional Agility.

Emotional Intelligence is a great counter balance to positive psychology.

That's why we're adding a new course to the Certified Positive Psychology Coach program called, Emotional intelligence and Leadership Coaching, in early 2017. It'll be part of the new master-level Certified Positive Psychology Coach program. Watch for it.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

Topics: Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, Positive Psychology, emotional intelligence

Positive Psychology Definition

Posted by Julia Stewart

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I write frequently about positive psychology and especially, positive psychology coaching. But how do experts define positive psychology and what exactly is a positive psychology coach?

Positive Psychology Definition: Positive psychology is based on research into what causes happiness and well-being and enables people to flourish (Stewart, 2016, A2-1 Coaching Guide:  Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches Class 1: Introduction).

This definition was gleaned from the writings of various positive psychology experts, such as Martin E. P. Seligman, Father of Positive Psychology, and Barbara L. Fredrickson, President, International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA).

Positive Psychology Coach Definition: A positive psychology coach is a coach who expertly coaches using research-based positive psychology practices.

Go here for definitions of coaching from the International Coach Federation (ICF) and School of Coaching Mastery (SCM).

How does one become a positive psychology coach? Currently, there are two pathways to becoming a positive psychology coach. One is to hobble together several courses in coaching and positive psychology. The second is to take fully integrated positive psychology coaching classes at School of Coaching Mastery.

How can you get a certificate in positive psychology coaching? Take the Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches, which is an 8-hour, 4-week introduction to the positive psychology practices that are most beneficial to coaches. 

How can you become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®? Enroll in the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program. Most coaches take about a year to complete it.

What's the difference between the Positive Psychology Certificate and the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® credential? The Positive Psychology Certificate is a certificate of completion. It means you completed a course in positive psychology. The Certified Positive Psychology Coach® credential is a stamp of approval from School of Coaching Mastery that says you have met the requirements for professional positive psychology coaching skills.

I hope these positive psychology definitions are useful to you.

Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach®:

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Topics: Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Martin Seligman, positive psychology coach, positive psychology coach training, positive psychology certificate

Coach-Assisted Neuroplasticity: How Mindfulness Changes Your Brain for Good

Posted by Julia Stewart

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Mindfulness is a popular buzzword in the fields of coaching, psychotherapy, neuroscience and psychology, because Westerners have discovered ample evidence of what Eastern contemplatives have known for millenia: that practicing simple brain activities, known collectively as mindfulness, reaps tremendous mental, physical, social, and spiritual rewards. 

Being told that mindfulness works and knowing how it works, however, can mean the difference between practicing mindfulness daily (and receiving the benefits) vs. forgetting about it all together. 

So here's how mindfulness works.

Mindfulness, itself, is one of a larger collection of brain-training modalities that comprise what neuroscientists now call, self-directed neuroplasticity. These are thought-based exercises that literally utilize the mind to change your brain for good. They don't just change the content of your thoughts; they literally change the size and functioning of specialized areas of your brain. Something that, up until about twenty or so years ago was believed to be impossible.

The ramifications of these discoveries and new approaches are extraordinary. People don't just feel better when they practice mindfulness; their relationships, health, even longevity improve.

Your coaching clients can change their own brains for good - meaning better focus, less stress, less negativity, more optimism, even more happiness and wisdom - but they will likely need your assistance in learning to do so.

That's where coach-assisted neuroplasticity comes in.

This article can get you started with coach-assisted neuroplasticity, but I want you to know, there's much more to be learned about it. Check the bottom of this blog post for where to learn more.

The brain, though highly plastic, never-the-less has quite a few areas that are specialized. Some are devoted to the senses; such as hearing, sight and touch; some for reacting swiftly, such as the fight-flight-or-freeze function of the primitive brain stem, some for emotion and some for thinking. These specialized areas can be coopted by other specialty areas when something isn't working right.

For instance, if I lost my eyes, my occipital lobe, specialized for sight, would stop receiving visual input. Neurons from adjoining areas, for instance areas in my brain specialized for hearing or touch, might then move into the unused occipital lobe, the result of which could improve my ability to notice sounds (improved hearing) or to feel more acutely (ability to learn brail).

To understand the neuroplasticity of mindfulness, it's important to know about a few more specialized areas of the brain.

One such area is the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a part of the brain located right behind your forehead that's specialized in "executive function", which includes reasoning as well as modulating and integrating reactions and emotions that are registered in other areas of the brain. The PFC is the most modern, and in some ways, most human and most mature of brain areas. It is either absent or less developed in our mammalian and primate relatives and doesn't become "mature" in humans until around age 30. (This explains a lot about teenagers and twenty-somethings!)

The PFC has an interesting left/right duality of function. The left PFC tends to to reason calmly and is more "positive" than the right. The right PFC tends to get involved in negative evaluations, worry, stress, and even depression. 

Both PFC sides are connected to an older part of the brain, the amygdala, which is sometimes called the brain's alarm bell. The amygdala registers negative input. The more negative input it gets, the larger and more dominant it grows and the more negative thoughts you'll have, as a result. If the amygdala were a car, then thinking with the right PFC, the worry side, would be like stepping on the gas pedal. Thinking with the left is like putting on the brakes.

This is important for understanding the benefits of mindfulness.

Interestingly, the amygdala is right next door to the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and putting things in context. When the amygdala is working overtime, resulting in more negativity and growth, the hippocampus tends to shrink, resulting in a reduced ability to learn from mistakes or put things in context. So you have more negativity and stress, less learning and understanding of context. The fight-flight-or-freeze response could get stuck in the "on" position.

Whatever thoughts you habitually focus upon become "hardwired" into your brain, so the more you think with your right PFC, the more negatively you see the world, which then results in more stress, pain, anxiety and possibly depression. Not a pretty picture and all too common. So how can you change this negativity bias that we're all vulnerable to?

Mindfulness can help.

Let's say your client is a struggling small business owner who has laid off a team of ten, because his business isn't earning enough to pay their salaries. Some of them were  your client' friends and colleagues for years, making this was a highly emotional decision.

Now your client is faced with running a struggling business without help. He's overwhelmed and feels guilty, frustrated, even angry; and seems stuck in the fight-flight-or-freeze response. He can't keep up with the business and his home life is a mess. He's hired you to help him turn around the business, but you've observed that he also needs to turn himself around.

What are the options?

Although your client may view his business as a pressing emergency, the business will go under without him and his negativity may be pulling it down faster than he realizes (according to research by Marciel Losada and Barbara Fredrickson, negativity is associated with failure, while positivity is associated with flourishing, both professionally and personally). He could use less right PFC activation and more left PFC activation.

But your client may not take kindly to reciting positive affirmations or keeping a gratitude journal, two tools that coaches sometimes use to activate more positivity. In fact, people who are stuck in negativity tend to see those tools as silly and annoying. So start with something less obviously positive, such as mindfulness.

There are some tools out there, that are lumped in with mindfulness, that are expressly positive, but at its purest, mindfulness is about experiencing or noticing life without evaluating it. And since the fight-flight-or-freeze response is activated, to some extent, anytime we evaluate something negatively, just interrupting that habit on a frequent basis can begin to change negative wiring.

You do not have to sit in meditation to practice mindfulness.

In fact, it takes no extra time, at all, so even clients who are chronically rushed can do it.

Before you proceed, ask your client if negativity and distress have long been common for him, or whether his current state is specifically related to his situation. If it's the former, he may need more help than you can offer, as a coach. Don't hesitate to recommend a therapist, if he seems to need one. For the sake of this example, though, let's say he's generally optimistic, but the struggle of managing his failing business has gotten him stuck in some bad habits.

Explain to him the impact of his thoughts and feelings upon his brain and how his new faulty wiring may be confounding his attempts at success. Then explain that a mindfulness tool could help him rewire for success and ask if he'd be open to trying it. There's a good chance he'll say, "Yes".

Here's a simple mindfulness exercise that can make a dramatic difference.

Simply turn off the usual chatter that most of our minds engage in throughout the day, such as mentally criticizing others, ruminating about perceived slights, or worrying about what could go wrong. A lot of it is negative. Instead, notice surroundings without evaluating them.

The brain is designed to think, so turning it off isn't as easy as it sounds. That's okay. The point of this exercise is to notice one's thinking and refocus again on non-thinking, non-evaluating. Refocusing is like a muscle that strengthens as it's exercised, so the more you catch your brain thinking, the more you get to exercise your ability to refocus. 

The second point of this exercise is that any additional amount of time that the brain isn't thinking negatively is time when the connection between the right PFC and amygdala is weakened.

Over time, the negativity habit is reduced.

It's not necessary to eliminate it altogether, just reduce. 100% positivity carries its own problems. Ask your client to practice this mindfulness exercise several times per day while standing in line at the bank, for instance, or walking the dog, washing dishes, or anytime he doesn't need his mind to explicitly process information. Occasionally, ask him what he notices as a result of "not thinking".

As little as 20 minutes of mindfulness can make a difference.

Over a period of weeks or months, the fight-flight-or-freeze response will be triggered less often, the negative amygdala may become smaller, the hippocampus may begin to grow, so learning and perspective can improve, and your client may think with his left PFC more and with his right PFC less. He'll begin to get the clarity he needs to make good decisions and be able to see more opportunities and act upon them appropriately.

There's a good chance your client will turn around his business without needing your expressed assistance, because he already has the skills and knowledge he needs from starting it, in the first place. He just needed to get back to a more positive outlook on life. However, he also will be easier for you to coach to success, now that his mind has shifted more toward positivity. This is just one mindfulness tool.

There are many more coach-assisted neuroplasticity exercises.

To learn more about neuroplasticity, read books by the following neuroscientists: Daniel J. Siegel, Richard J. Davidson, Stephen W. Porges, and Rick Hanson.

To learn more about the brain on coaching and coach-assisted neuroplasticity exercises, click below:

Register for Coaching with Neuroscience Here.

 

 

 

 

Topics: coach, Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, coaching with neuroscience, Neuroplasticity

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

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:


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

Positive Psychology Coaching: 10 Amazing Discoveries About Gratitude

Posted by Julia Stewart

Gratitude coaching

Practicing gratitude, or appreciation, is a classic tool in positive psychology coaching. It's not every coaching client's cup of tea, but for those who are willing, or eager, gratitude pays handsomely. And the following ten discoveries about gratitude may help influence a skeptical client. All are well researched.

  1. What you appreciate appreciates. This one from positive psychologist, Tal Ben-Shahar, is a teaching mnemonic based on years of research. Apparently, the more grateful you feel for something, the more of it you'll likely get. Example: let's say you're about to pass the 2-year mark with your new marriage, when your happiness "marriage boost" may expire, like most other newlyweds'. However, you're smart enough to take a few moments everyday to remind yourself what you appreciate about your spouse and to share that with him/her. Guess what? You have a much better chance of staying happily married!
  2. Gratitude needs to be heartfelt. Like many women in America, I started a gratitude journal back in the nineties, because Oprah guaranteed it would make me happier. I kept at it for years and, although I thought it was well worth my time, I didn't get dramatically happier. Now I know why: as positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson says, in order for gratitude to have full effect, it must be heartfelt - everytime. I made the mistake of turning my gratitude journal into a habit and missed some of the benefits. Read on for ways to make your gratitude practice heartfelt over the long-haul.
  3. Gratitude promotes savoring. This discovery and the seven that follow can be found in positive psychologist Sonia Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness and it uses a neuroplasticity tool, called savoring, which is basically slowing down and experiencing something fully. When we take a few moments to savor, we create more extensive neural nets in our brains and that causes sustainable change. You can use your mind to change your brain - and your life - for good. Read to the bottom for an example of how I used gratitude and savoring to give myself a profound happiness boost.
  4. Gratitude promotes self-worth and self-esteem. Your brain, like everyone's, has a negativity bias, that likely kept your ancestors alive back when they still slept in trees. But in today's world, most of us can afford to focus most of the time on the positive. When we're grateful for the ways others have helped us, we actually feel better - more confident and capable - about ourselves, as a result.
  5. Gratitude helps you cope with stress and trauma. About one quarter of us (myself included) are genetically predisposed toward depression after bouts of high stress. We can obsessively try to control our environments, so we never get stressed (good luck with that), or we can find better ways to cope with stress. In fact, the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, has been working with US Armed Forces (they have a huge Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder problem) to promote Post-Traumatic Growth. Gratitude can be a handy tool for handling difficult times with resilience and can help reduce pathology, as a result.
  6. Grateful people tend to be good people. Gratitude promotes moral behaviors, such as helping others, giving more generously, volunteering, being fair and compassionate, and generally caring more about the welfare of others. It even helps us be less materialistic, helping to break what chains us to the rat race.
  7. Gratitude strengthens relationships. People who practice gratitude tend to have more harmonious relationships, both personally and professionally. And a large and varied network of engaged relationships boosts our resilience and success.
  8. Grateful people are less likely to compare others. All great coaches know that comparing others just limits them and comparing ourselves to others is a fool's game. Practice gratitude and you'll find it easier to appreciate everyone - yourself included - on their own merits.
  9. Gratitude reduces negativity. Emotions like anger, fear, sadness, envy, worry and more tend to take a hike while you're practicing gratitude, because you just can't feel heartfelt gratitude and feel bad at the same time. And what you practice daily becomes your habit. Practice the habits you want to have.
  10. Gratitude thwarts "hedonic adaptation". That's a fancy term for something you already knew about: humans tend to get used to pretty much everything. So helping your clients get what they want can make them happy briefly, but helping them appreciate what they have can boost their happiness forever.
Here's a suggestion for how to boost your appreciation and get more of what you want - and stay happy with it. Every night before bed, I meditate on Three Good Things that happened that day. This is a classic positive psychology exercise that's been shown to significantly boost happiness levels.

 

Basically, I note three or more good things that happened and what I appreciate about them, including how I helped contribute (even if only to stop and notice them - this is important). Then I savor the experience by adding a neuroplasticity (and classic coaching) exercise to increase connections in my brain, creating a more sustainable level of appreciation.

 

So for instance, one night I appreciated that it had been a gloriously beautiful spring day. Then I asked myself what a beautiful spring day looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes like.

 

  • Looks: lacy light-green leaves against a deep-blue sky, yellow and purple flowers blooming in the sun, long stretches of deep-green grass.
  • Feels: cool air and warm sun on my skin, ease and relaxation, a sense of wholeness, and oneness with everything.
  • Sounds: birds singing, lawn mowers running, kids playing softball.
  • Smells: new mown grass, lilacs blooming.
  • Tastes: asparagus, strawberries.

 

It only took a few minutes.

 

I started the next day with a conversation with my sister about a kitchen remodel that wasn't going well, the last hectic days before a big wedding, an argument with a boyfriend, trying to get Medicare to pay for my Mom's physical therapy. Basically, it was a laundry list of what coaches call, "good problems" (there's a kitchen remodel, a wedding, a boyfriend, and therapy for Mom - all good things), but we weren't appreciating the good.

 

Then I went out to walk my dog while mulling over our various complaints. Upon return, the lawn guys were busily mowing our lawn. Just then, as I was about to walk into the garage, it hit me: the smell of new mown grass!

 

Suddenly I noticed it's a gloriously beautiful day, TODAY. And I experienced both the joy and pleasure of noticing how great life is, right now. That feeling colored about 75% of my day, making me more positive, good-humored, kinder, and nicer to be around. I probably would have missed it, because I was so preoccupied, if I hadn't taken a few moments to savor it the night before.

 

I was able to multiply that wonderful day over and over with the same exercise. Eventually, I may have to replace this exercise with something else, because all habits can become boring and I want to keep it heartfelt. Fortunately, there's a whole host of positive psychology tools that I can try and/or modify and they all can work beautifully.

 

 

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Topics: gratitude, Barbara L Fredrickson, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Martin Seligman, grateful

Positive Psychology: 25 Fun Facts About Love 2.0

Posted by Julia Stewart

Love 2.0

Since today is Valentine's Day, I thought you might enjoy some fun facts about love and positive psychology researcher, Barbara L. Fredrickson's new book,Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become , is loaded with never-before-heard-of facts about love, romance, health and success. So pull up a chair, grab a loved one and have fun!

Okay first, this is science, so we need to define our terms. But rest assured, these are fun terms!

Barbara is the researcher most associated with the Positivity Ratio (Quick: go measure yours here. Then come right back for more cool stuff.) Basically, the Positivity Ratio says if your positive thoughts and feelings (a.k.a. positivity) out number your negative thoughts and feelings (a.k.a. negativity) by a ratio of at least 3 to 1, you'll likely flourish, rather than languish. The upward limit is around 11 to 1. Poliannas don't flourish.

Why do folks with strong Positivity Ratios thrive? Because, according to Fredrickson's research, positivity broadens your perspective so you notice more opportunities (Funny,  Thomas Leonard said 15 years ago that's how Attraction works! I'd like to suggest that positivity is highly attractive). Positivity also helps you build resources such as, values, strengths and skills, that assist you even in tough times, which creates longer-term resiliency. That's her "Broaden and Build" theory.

Barbara has recently shifted her research to shared positivity, which she terms, "Positivity Resonance" or "Love 2.0". Love in the English language is an extremely broad term. To measure it, she had to define love very narrowly. Keep that in mind, while reading the fun facts about Love 2.0, below. Her definition for positivity resonance is limited to positivity that is shared by people face-to-face or in physical contact.

 

"Love is our supreme emotion that makes us come fully alive." - Barbara L. Fredrickson

 

Here are twenty-five fun facts about Love 2.0:

  1. "...love, and its absence, fundamentally alters the biochemicals in which your body is steeped."
  2. Love is a momentary state that can pass between strangers who share a mutually positive experience together.
  3. Love is a skill that can be learned which impacts the expression of your genes.
  4. "The sheer complexity of love's biology is reason enough for awe."
  5. When you learn to prioritize love, you actually get more value from it and become resilient faster.
  6. Love literally changes your mind and enables you to see others wholeheartedly, helping you transcend your usual ego perspective.
  7. Love is the arising of three events: shared positive emotions, sychrony between you and another's biochemistry and behavior, motive to invest in each other's well-being.
  8. Other positivity emotions are not mirrored back in this way.
  9. Love reverberates between people and belongs to all parties involved.
  10. Safety is a precondition for love.
  11. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness and low self-esteem; have a limited ability to experience love 2.0.
  12. Eye contact is a potent trigger for positivity resonance.
  13. You can experience some of the positive effects of love 2.0 while alone, when thinking about a loved one for instance, but the effects are diminished.
  14. Love impacts your body on the cellular, even molecular level.
  15. Love physically impacts your brain's development, causing you to experience more positivity and less anxiety.
  16. Love 2.0 triggers cascades or oxytocin, sometimes called, "the love hormone".
  17. Oxytocin is the lead chemical in the "calm and connect" function; it literally reduces stress.
  18. Oxytocin appears to make people more intuitive about others.
  19. Love increases "vagal tone", which your doctor can measure to predict the likelihood of your having a heart attack.
  20. People with higher vagal tone regulate glucose levels and inflammation, as common denominator in many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  21. Vagal tone can be improved with training with positivity resonance. Got Love
  22. "In the very moment that you experience positivity resonance, your brain syncs up with the other person's brain."
  23. The effects of love can be carried to you by a person's voice.
  24. "Brain coupling" occurs between people who are experiencing positivity resonance and in some cases, you begin to anticipate the other person's thoughts, feelings and words, rather than just react to them.
  25. The causal arrow runs in both directions at once and drives self-sustaining trajectories of growth.
Well that's just 25 fun facts. I highly recommend you read the whole book, maybe with a loved one! Or just put some of these 25 facts to work in your life to enjoy greater health, resilience, flourishing, and love.

 

Want to learn more about Love 2.0 and other positive psychology tools? Take the Introduction to Positive Psychology for Coaches course. You can even earn a coaching certificate and get ICF CCEs:

 

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Topics: Coaches, Thomas Leonard, Become a Certified Coach, CCE, Barbara L Fredrickson, Attraction Principles, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching

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