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The Tyranny of Positive Psychology: Can Emotional Intelligence Save Us

Posted by Julia Stewart

Nervous Smile by Paul McDee Positive Psychology vs Emotional Intelligence.jpg

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

A Brief History of Positive Psychology and Coaching

Posted by Julia Stewart

History_of_positive_psychology_and_coaching_-_photo_by_Michael_D_Martin_via_Creative_Commons.jpg

Two fields, positive psychology and coaching, have radically expanded how we think about personal growth. They've taught us that human beings have far more potential for happiness than we previously thought. Both began in the 1990's, but until recently, they developed largely in parallel. Now they are directly influencing each other and a new profession, positive psychology coaching, has emerged. It's time to look back at how it all came about...

Both positive psychology and coaching reached back millennia for inspiration from western and eastern philosophies, as well as other ancient wisdom traditions, including some indigenous influences. In addition, 20th Century influences sought to describe what was best and highest in human beings and how more people could amplify their personal development, success, and wellbeing.

The most notable difference in the development of positive psychology and of coaching was that positive psychology always had a strong academic and research basis, while coaching had its beginnings as an innovative entrepreneurial service. Research into what actually works in coaching came later.

Positive psychology and coaching each have a "founder" or "father", respectively. For coaching, it was Thomas Leonard (1955-2003), a former financial advisor, turned coach, who founded what many consider the first professional coaching school, Coach U, in 1992. Thomas later founded the first not-for-profit professional association and certifier of coaches, the International Coach Federation (ICF) in 1995.

The recognized Father of Positive Psychology is Martin Seligman (1942- ). An address Seligman gave, while president of the American Psychological Association (AMA), is often cited as the official advent of positive psychology. Under Seligman's leadership, several initiatives proceeded over time, including the founding of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at UPenn in 2003  and the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) in 2007.

This short blog post can't cover all the achievements of these two great men, nor does it include all the contributions to both coaching and positive psychology by many other brilliant pioneers, but you can learn more by clicking links throughout this article, which will lead you to my references.

There were two 20th Century giants who seem to have had an impact on both positive psychology and coaching. They were Abraham Maslow, 1908-1970, and Viktor Frankel, 1905-1997. Maslow, himself a former president of the AMA, is referred to as the "Grandfather of Positive Psychology" by positive psychology professor, Tal Ben Shahar. Maslow may have even coined the term, "positive psychology", which appears in his 1962 classic, Toward a Psychology of Being (highly recommended). More important is Maslow's theory of self-actualization, often referred to as, needs-based psychology, which states that all humans have physical and psychological needs and that as we meet these needs, we grow and develop. The ultimate state we can attain via needs satisfaction is self-actualization, which is characterized by authenticity, flexibility, and even humor.

Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna and became a psychiatrist and neurologist, but during World War II was interned by the nazis in a series concentration camps, including the infamous, Auschwitz. He survived the war under dreadful conditions, which he later wrote about in his best-selling, Man's Search for Meaning, 1946. Frankl concluded that those who survived the nazi camps did so because they had something to live for: the need to see a loved one again, the desire to help a friend, or in Frankl's case, the passion to write his book about Logotherapy, literally the psychotherapy of meaning. According the Frankl, one cannot become self-actualized without becoming self-transcendent, or growing beyond oneself and one's own ego, which requires that we find meaning by helping others. Seligman later identified "meaning" as one of the most durable pathways to happiness. Echos of both Maslow's and Frankl's theories can be found in Thomas Leonard's Needs and Values.

Maslow and Frankl were especially important in their time, because the second half of the 20th Century marked a turn toward identifying, diagnosing, and curing mental illness, almost exclusively. Psychology's original purpose included psychopathology, but also the psychology of healthy people, and the study of genius. Seligman and colleagues were intent upon rebalancing the field of psychology to include the positive, as well as the negative, and their ultimate goal is to do this so thoroughly that "positive psychology" becomes obsolete, as a separate field.

Positive psychology and coaching are a natural fit, because positive psychology researchers and coaches ask similar questions: How can people become happier, more successful, and enjoy greater wellbeing? In other words, how can people Flourish, as Seligman would put it.

Although it's likely that early coaches and coach trainers drew from research into human potential, such as positive psychology, they usually didn't reveal their sources, which created a "guru-like" image for some and allowed others to make unfounded claims. Eventually, this caught up with the reputation of the coaching field and it was time for coaching to grow up and become a true profession.

By this time, the positive reputation of coaching had also grown. Clients, organizations, and researchers we curious how coaching was changing lives. Research into coaching started to boom and the Institute of Coaching formed in 2008 to foster research into coaching, positive psychology, and emotional intelligence.

One particularly notable researcher is Richard Boyatzis (1946 -) of Case Western University, who is associated with coaching, leadership, and emotional intelligence. His books, such as Primal Leadership, offer sophisticated evidence-based tools for coaching.

In 2007, Robert Biswas-Diener (1971 -), of Portland State University, published the first notable book on Positive Psychology Coaching and he has become a leader in positive psychology coaching research, writing, and teaching.

Today, there are numerous university programs in positive psychology and some in coaching. There also are a few short positive psychology coach training programs. The Certified Positive Psychology Coach program is currently the only positive psychology coach training program that includes the full 125 credit hours required for the ICF PCC credential. It was launched in 2014 and 75-100 additional hours will be added for the new master CPPC version in 2017.

If you'd like to learn more about positive psychology coaching, download the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook, below.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Coaching, ICF, Thomas Leonard, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Martin Seligman

How to Coach Masterfully: Google's Top Coach Tells You How

Posted by Julia Stewart

I found this great video on how to coach masterfully at the Institute of Coaching's spiffy new website. In this 30-minute interview with Google's Director of Executive Coaching & Leadership, David Peterson, PhD., discusses what it means to be a masterful coach, how it is nonlinear, goes way beyond asking powerful questions, and how nearly everyone at Google is shifting to a coach approach, so those who call themselves, professional coaches, need to get really good at what they do to stay credible.Hence, the discussion on coaching mastery.

He also says that as the world moves exponentially faster, it's more critical than ever to be able to establish rapport quickly with clients, faciliate change rapidly and show results. A few years back, we posted a short video with then Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, in which he says, "Get a coach," was the best advice he ever received and how he believes everyone needs a coach. Apparently Peterson and his team really are getting those great results! Watch for more insights:

 

Get Master Coach Training. Check it out below:

 Get Business and Life Coach Training

Topics: Become a Master Coach, master coach, Google, Institute of Coaching, Masterful Coaching, masterful coaches, mastery, Master Coach Training, Google CEO

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:


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

5 Important Reasons Your Coaching Business Needs Science Now

Posted by Julia Stewart

Science of Coaching

Coaches are advanced communicators. We're positive, spiritual, creative, and empathic. So what do we need science for?

Everything. 

Professional coaching has changed dramatically over the 20 years of its existance. Early coaches and their clients were pioneers and early adopters. Those are very special people. They got an intuitive sense that coaching was "right" and they had the courage to dive in and act on their intuition.

But like every profession before it, coaching has grown up. This brings good news, and depending on your point of view, maybe some bad.

Here are five important reasons your coaching business needs science, now:

  1. Coaching has gone mainstream and the Wild West is over - this means there are many more potential coaching clients, but what they want has changed. The days of dreaming up an awesome-sounding coaching program - without first testing to see if it actually works - are over.
  2. Potential clients are skeptical of the hype and unproven claims of entrepreneurial coaches. Coaching is still unregulated, which makes the barrier of entry quite low compared to other professions, such as medicine, yet coaching fees are quite high. Unfortunately, this means there are more ineffective coaches than effective ones. Stories of clients who've been burned by bad coaches are everywhere. It is imperative that you distinguish yourself from "coaches" who don't know how to coach.
  3. Potential clients are less likely to be attracted to New Age or Consciousness messages. Also known as the LOHAS market (Lifestyles Of Health and Sustainability), and sometimes derided as the "Unicorns and Rainbows Folks", these were the early adopters of coaching in days gone by. Yes, those movements are growing, but they're still a tiny segment of society. Their members often have limited disposable cash. In other words, they may want coaching, but can't always pay for it. If your ideal clients are yoga teachers, massage therapists, Reiki masters, vegetarians, organic farmers, etc.; you know what I'm talking about. However, as the coaching profession penetrates deeply into the mainstream, we find huge numbers of different potential client who are interested in being happier and more successful and can afford to hire coaches - but they're looking for very different marketing messages than the LOHAS folks. There are simply too many life coaches today for them all to be tarketing LOHAS.
  4. Today's potential coaching clients want evidence and proof that the service you offer can truly help them. You don't need to be a research scientist to gather evidence that this stuff works, but a little science goes a long way in today's competitive coaching market.
  5. The science of coaching offers the evidence and proof you need to attract today's coaching clients. What worked ten years ago has changed. What will work in the next decade will be dramatically different.

No, you don't have to become something you're not in order to add science to your coaching. If you're like me and the big-picture, creative, communicative, empathic world of coaching comes naturally, (but the detailed, linear, siloed, objective world of science? Not so much), then becoming a researcher will never be for you.

Good. There are lots of researchers in the world. What we need now are more effective coaches.

That's why I created a series of science-based coaching courses that are designed for coaches, not scientists. They translate the research you need to know on what really helps people be, do, and have what they really want; and present it in easy-to-digest formats specifically for people who think like coaches. Now you can learn what you need to know rather quickly, without wading through mountains of information that doen't pertain to your coaching.

These science-based coaching courses are now woven together into our Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, which gives you the info and tools you need to start coaching your clients with science, plus the data and credentials to communicate your authenticity as a positive psychology coach

Science of CoachingApparently, the International Coach Federation (ICF) agrees with me that science is
the next big thing in coaching, because its next ICF Advance conference in May is called, The Science of Coaching.

It's a perfect fit for the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, so School of Coaching Mastery is sponsoring one of the free introductory webinars that will precede the conference. By the way, we're applying for ICF approval for the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program, so coaches who complete it will automatically become ICF ACCs.

Then there's the Institute of Coaching, affiliated with Harvard. They're devoted to research into coaching and positive psychology. Science is where the most exciting developments are occurring in the coaching profession. 

If you'd like to learn more about Why Your Coaching Business Must Have Science, watch the webinar video by that name. It's free.

Want to know more about becoming a Certified Positive Psychology Coach? Click the button below and fill out the form to get the latest on this brand-new coach-training program: 

Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach

Topics: professional coach, coaching business, professional coaching, ICF, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Institute of Coaching, certified coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Science of Coaching

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