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What is Coaching Presence and Why Is it So Important?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Presence

Ask any master coach what they bring to coaching that's most important and they'll probably say, Coaching Presence.

But what is it and why is it so important?

Coaching Presence is ICF Core Competency #4. They define it in their ICF Competencies Comparison Levels Table in a way that's seems easy enough: "Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident", yet few coaches do this consistently and many, not at all.

At the masterful level, the ICF expects the coach to fully connect with the whole of the client, empowering the client to teach the coach. The coach is guided by their natural curiosity, is free of any need to perform or provide value, and comes from a place of not knowing.

What? The client teaches the coach while the coach doesn't need to know anything or provide any value? Isn't that backward? Who would pay for that?

Ah, the paradox of great coaching...

Coaching presence is a challenge because our egos think they know what to do, what to say, and what to advise; but egos make terrible coaches.

The neuropsychologist, Dan Siegel, describes presence, not necessarily coaching presence, but presence itself, as fully in the now, undistracted by the past or future, or by one's own personal needs, is calm, positive, maintains open awareness, hasn't decided how things should be, is supportive of others, curious about the next moment, and in the flow.

This is a state of consciousness that few experience in their day to day. Most are unable to conjure it on demand.

Why does it matter? The state of consciousness that is presence, is contagious. When we come from this state, others often slip into it, too. And this is the state that invites insight, expanded awareness, creativity, confidence, and agency; all qualities that help clients grow, find resourceful solutions and act upon them. And that is the goal of coaching.

This remarkable state of mind virtually eliminates the need to advise, solve, or teach our clients anything. You probably won't believe that until you've experienced it, though.

How do you get there?

A daily practice of meditation or mindfulness can prepare your brain for presence, so can experiencing the flow of nature without thinking or evaluating, because practices such as these have been shown to integrate the brain via neuroplasticity. Some forms of yoga and tai chi can help you develop it, too. But even just taking a deep breath can get you started.

In addition, getting all your needs met, via excellent self care, can help you maintain presence more often. And if you combine these with effective coach training, observing master coaching demonstrations in class, hours of practicing your own coaching, plus written feedback on it, you'll get pretty good at presence, over time. Our Neuroscience Tools and Practices Module is designed to help.

You will spontaneously ask the right questions at just the right times.

 

Learn more about the Certified Neuroscience Coach Program:

Visit the Certified Neuroscience Coach Page Here

 

Topics: ICF, master coach, mindfulness, Neuroplasticity, Flow, coaching presence, certified neuroscience coach

Your Recipe for a Happy 2019

Posted by Julia Stewart

Happy 2019

Each new year invites dreams for the future, goals to achieve, and evokes our desires for happiness.

Here's a secret about all that...

There is only one goal.

Every goal you have is a stand in for the one universal goal of happiness...

As the Buddha said, 2500 years ago, all beings just want to be happy and avoid suffering.

We have dreams and goals because we believe they will help us be happy and avoid suffering. Sometimes we have dreams and goals for others because we love them and want them to be happy and avoid suffering. But if we're honest, seeing our loved ones happy makes us happy, too.

Here's the thing...

Reaching goals doesn't make us happy. Sometimes we suffer to get things that leave us feeling disappointed. Other times we're happy when we reach our dreams but only for a short while. Psychologists tell us we over-estimate how happy we'll be when we reach our goals. One researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has even averaged out how long we're likely to feel happier upon reaching various goals. Buy a new car? You may feel happier for three months. Marry your sweetheart? Two years. Most other goals offer happiness for much shorter time periods. After that, we go back to our "happiness set point" aka "resting dissatisfaction level".

Fortunately, we now know better ways to raise happiness levels sustainably and here they are...

As a positive psychology and neuroscience coach, I help people become happier, reach goals, and flourish. The ingredients I use may surprise you. To create a personalized recipe for your own happiness in 2019, choose three of the ingredients listed below and commit to trying it out. See what happens. Keep practicing. Some ingredients are designed to be used daily, some weekly, some only occasionally. You get to customize your happiness recipe for 2019...

1. Gratitude. Are you an appreciator or a complainer? It's okay to grouse a little; it can help blow off some negative steam, but overdo it and it can pull down your happiness level and the happiness of those around you. Try appreciating more, even the stuff that's not so great. Difficulties, for instance, can be re-framed into opportunities, learning experiences, and endings that make room for new beginnings. Develop gratitude into a habit and it may become an enduring strength. I used to be a chronic complainer and I was pretty unhappy. Now gratitude is one of my greatest strengths and I'm happy most of the time. Try these...

  • Daily practice: Three Good Things. According to researcher Robert Emmons, practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful tools for raising happiness. At the end of each day reflect on three good things that happened. Did you help them come about? Thank yourself for that. Did someone else contribute? Thank them tomorrow. Many people find writing down three good things is especially helpful, but even just thinking about them works. I like meditating at night and I start by spending a few minutes appreciating at least three good things. If you pray, you may want to thank God for the good you've received. Why does this work? It primes your brain to notice the good. Most brains naturally notice what's wrong more than what's right, but we can train ourselves to think more positively. We seem to get more of what we notice, so this can set us up for future happiness, as well.
  • Weekly practice: Gratitude Journal. Choose one day per week when you sit down and write a paragraph about each thing you most appreciate in your life. Put your heart into it. If you treat this as just another to-do it will have little benefit, but if you take a deep dive into what really matters and how grateful you are to have it, allowing yourself to really feel it, this practice will enrich your life immensely. I recommend getting a beautiful journal and hand writing in it. Whenever you need a happiness boost, read through your journal entries and you will naturally re-experience the positive feelings you had when you wrote about them.
  • Occasional practice: Gratitude Visit. This practice, designed by the Father of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, is perhaps the most profound. Think of someone who has made a real difference in your life, but whom you never fully thanked. It could be a teacher, parent, friend. They may have no idea what a difference they've made. Write a letter to them about it. Tell them in detail how they made a positive difference in your life and what the results have been. Now, if you possibly can, deliver your letter in person and read it aloud to them, making frequent eye contact. Research shows this practice boosts happiness levels even six months afterward for both the writer and the receiver.

2. Be Kind. Kindness to others also raises happiness in ourselves and others. We feel good about helping others especially if we can let go of the desire to be thanked or recognized for it. That said, learning to recognize kindness in ourselves and others and acknowledging it goes a long way toward hard-wiring this positive habit.

  • Daily Practice: Do one unexpected kindness each day and try not to get caught at it. Make it a fun game. You'll start noticing many opportunities to be more kind. Consider using your personal strengths for this. One person may be great at doing favors, another might be a wonderful listener. Still another may know when to give someone more privacy. Be careful about imposing acts of kindness on others. It's only kind if they truly benefit from it. The only aspect of kindness that's about you is the good feeling you get to have as a result. Never attain that good feeling at someone else's expense. Keep score in your gratitude journal. Note how you feel about what you did.
  • Weekly Practice: Track acts of kindness in your journal. Read your journal entries about your acts of kindness for a boost any time you're not feeling good about yourself. Also make note of acts of kindness you observe in others, whether you are the beneficiary or someone else is. When my mother had to be admitted to a nursing home, my first reaction to the place was how depressing it was. But when I began noticing the constant acts of kindness performed by the nurses and aids toward my mother, myself, and other members of my family, my experience transformed. I began to feel honored and grateful to be surrounded by so much kindness and I made a point of acknowledging the staff for it, which made their days happier, too.
  • Occasional Practice: Experience Awe. According to researcher, Dacher Keltner, when people experience awe, which can come about via witnessing natural beauty, human achievements, or spiritual wonder, people spontaneously engage in acts of kindness right afterward. I've experienced this at spiritual retreats, walks in the woods, especially when wild animals appear, going to the top of extremely tall buildings, flying over the Grand Canyon, watching a total eclipse of the sun, experiencing great art, and watching hot-air balloon races. Prime your brain for the extraordinary and let the extraordinary in you spontaneously blossom. You and those around you are likely to receive a happiness boost.

3. Practice Mindfulness. Being mindful is about learning to be present. Like gratitude and kindness, this can be strengthened into a habit and even become one of your greatest strengths. The benefits include actually experiencing your life while it's happening. The cost to not being present is you miss out on everything or feel empty even when life is good. That's a pity.

  • Daily Practice: Use mindless activities to be mind-full. Choose between one and three activities that you do daily but may not really be present for. I often use walking my dog, doing dishes by hand, or eating alone for this because none of these require difficulty or much thought. If you're accustomed to distracting yourself with your phone, tablet, computer, or TV, turn it off during these times. Keep yourself present by noticing information coming to you from all your five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. Once you've done that, ask yourself what about this moment you are grateful for. Then look for the opportunity to be kind. Consider following through on that and acknowledge yourself for being present, grateful, and kind.
  • Weekly Practice: Make at least one conversation per week all about the other person. Listen without formulating a response. If the person is going through something difficult, resist the urge to fix it or give advice. Be curious instead. Ask deeper questions. Notice what feelings come up for you. Notice the other person's feelings. Acknowledge their feelings. Notice how this impacts the conversation and even your relationship with this person.
  • Occasional Practice: When difficult situations or conflicts occur, instead of reacting with your usual feelings, count ten breaths first and imagine yourself calm and centered. Let the urge to feel victimized or guilty, or to blame others and resist, fall away, if possible. Then from this relaxed and centered place, choose the best response for all. You'll likely create better outcomes and less suffering.

These are three of the most powerful ingredients for happiness, but you can design many more, yourself.

Savor good experiences for up to 30 seconds, for instance, and you're more likely to develop a happier brain over time. And what about goals and dreams? It's good to have them and to reach them, because they offer meaning and purpose, which are additional ingredients of happiness. Just put them in perspective because they often fail to increase your happiness and reduce your suffering for very long.

Put together three or more ingredients for a happy 2019, notice how they "taste" to you and adjust the mixture as needed. And practice. That's the other secret. Keep practicing and you can raise your happiness over the long term.

To boost your happiness even more, share these ingredients and your journey toward greater happiness with a friend, colleague or client because sharing happiness makes it even sweeter. Be the one who lifts spirits just by being you and have a "happy new year" every year.

Want to learn more?

Our Certified Positive Psychology Coach® and Certified Neuroscience Coach programs go far deeper into the science of happiness, success, and flourishing. Use the tools in your own life and help others have greater lives. It's fun and well-paid. Or just add an important new skill set to your resume.

Learn more, download a free eBook, take just one module, or jump into a fabulous new career.

Click below to get started:

Explore the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program

 

Topics: gratitude, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, mindfulness, happiness,, certified neuroscience coach

Neuroplasticity Coach: How Brain States Become Enduring Traits

Posted by Julia Stewart

neuroplasticity coaching

Lately I've been reading the excellent book, Altered Traits, by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, two giants in the fields of emotional intelligence and  neuroplasticity.

If you're a neuroscience geek, like me, you may enjoy reading all about the research, but if you're just curious, here's the lowdown, plus the connection with coaching.

They wanted to set the record straight about research into neuroplasticity, meditation, mindfulness, and how states developed via positive practices can, over time, become enduring traits.They're concerned about the hype that surrounds these popular topics, especially mindfulness, because it's so trendy right now, and they share what science really knows about tools that change the brain instantly, and over time, sustainably, leading to greater happiness, equanimity, resourcefulness, and transformation.

States are temporary changes in the brain that impact how we think, feel, and act. They are an important driver of human experiences, relationships, well-being, and success.

Brain states can be measured in a variety of ways, such as fMRI imaging of blood flow to various parts of the brain, EEG measurements of brainwave patterns, or measurement of neurotransmitters present in the brain; to name three. They also can be measured indirectly via observance of behaviors or via self-reports by subjects, but this is more the realm of psychology, specifically positive psychology.

States are fleeting. We may not always notice when our brains change states, but trained observers, such as coaches, often can witness these changes. States can be positive or negative, which are generally categorized by how pleasant or unpleasant they feel, how likely they are to promote behavior that results in desired outcomes, and how they may promote wellness or pathology.

Many so-called positive states are pleasant, promote desired behavioral outcomes, and can result in greater health.

Skilled coaches help alter their clients' states in virtually every coaching session. Our main objective is to move the client from a less resourceful to more resourceful state and take advantage of that greater resourcefulness to plan strategies and actions that can promote desired change.

It's pretty profound that coaches can alter their client's brain states, but truth is, we all alter the brain states of others' without even knowing it, often with undesirable consequences. Coaching amounts to communication that leads to positive, or desirable, outcomes for the person being coached, because they are, temporarily at least, more open, more solution oriented, more optimistic, more creative, and more resourceful.

How are traits different from states?

Traits develop over time when someone repeats the same thoughts, emotions, memories, habits, and behaviors. The brain actually changes physically as a result, because the neurons involved strengthen their connections every time the thought is repeated.

As the famous saying goes, by neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, "Neurons that fire together, wire together."

For example, if you live a stressful life, and especially if you worry and ruminate about what stresses you, the neurons in your amygdala, called "the brain's alarm bell" by neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, will strengthen their bonds and over time, will cause that structure to enlarge. The downstream results could include more stress, more worry and rumination, and perhaps behaviors that make things worse rather than better.

Neuroplasticity can go the other way, too. Positive practices, such as mediation, mindfulness, appreciation, shared warmth, and many others, seem to have a cascading effect on the brain and resulting behaviors, over time. Theoretically, coaching and being coached, as well as following through on many coaching exercises, such as journaling, practicing gratitude or mindfulness, or even following through on resourceful actions and developing new positive habits, can make enduring changes. The new becomes the default.

So there you have the connection between states, traits, neuroplasticity and coaching.

If you'd like to learn much more about these topics, consider taking the Intro to Coaching with Neuroscience course that is coming soon, or even join the new Certified Neuroscience Coach Program. 

Check it out here and download the Fact Sheet:

Download Certified Neuroscience Coach Fact Sheet

 

Topics: gratitude, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, coaching with neuroscience, mindfulness, Neuroplasticity, positive psychology coach training, become a positive psychology coach

The Critical Missing Link in Positive Psychology

Posted by Julia Stewart

Photo by Justin Kern - Missing Links in Positive Psychology.jpg

Positive psychology has been ignoring what matters most in life.

You already know we love positive psychology and that emotional intelligence picks up where positive psychology leaves off. But here's a missing link to positive psychology that hardly anybody mentions...

Because for on thing, the way most people talk about this missing link just isn't sexy. That's because it's been presented to most of us as a "should" (something we should care about and act upon), rather than what it really is: completely unique and personal to each of us.

When we approach this missing link from our uniqueness, it becomes inspiring.

When we approach it from what's been imposed upon us, as a "should", it deflates us. No wonder we don't talk about it! Some coaches even think they should avoid asking questions about it!

I'm talking about what matters most to you: your personal values.

These are often not the same as what you parents, schools, religious, or political leaders taught you to value. Taught values help us fit into society. They make us homogeneous. They may be uninspiring, but you find yourself living your life around them - and then wondering why your life feels flat, boring, or lifeless. 

Personal values are unique to you, uniquely energizing and inspiring to you.

Recently some fascinating research was done on values under the guise of mindfulness, a positive psychology tool that is so thoroughly researched, it has its own research journal called, Mindfulness. It's well-known that practicing mindfulness leads to greater wellbeing, which is the ultimate measure of positive psychology. New research shows people who practice mindfulness are more likely to act on their values. Current research is attempting to prove whether lived values are the main reason mindfulness increases wellbeing. 

Personal values contain the blueprint for your calling in this life.

Nothing could be sexier! And like finger prints, everyone's values are unique. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what their personal values even are.

Here are a few more important points about personal values:

  • Values are personal, unique, and individual.
  • Values help us show up authentically.
  • Values are what matters most to each of us.
  • Values point to our unique long-lasting happiness and fulfillment.
  • Values point out your calling and life purpose.
  • Values integrate heart and mind.
  • Values integrate us with other people.
  • Values help us feel fully alive.
  • Values help us serve others.
  • Values determine our actions more than anything else.
  • Values give meaning to our lives.
  • Values help us harmonize our relationships.
  • Values help us integrate our emotions.
  • Values inspire us.
  • Values help us reach our goals.
  • Values give us greater freedom if we're aware of them.
  • Values are catalyzed by mindfulness.
  • Values lead to greater wellbeing.

All of the above is wonderful, but most people don't even know what their personal values are and often we confuse our needs with out values and needs are a whole different thing.

We can't make the most of our lives without identifying and activating our true values. 

Positive psychology coaches are perfectly positioned to help people identify and act on their true values. But most positive psychology coaching is strengths-based only and without our personal values, using our strengths feels empty and meaningless. It's time we fully integrate values with strengths. 

Values are the missing link in wellbeing.

The Certified Positive Psychology Coach program thoroughly integrates strengths and values and two modules that focus on values are coming up soon: The Psychology of Values and Personal Evolution and Coaching Values, Needs, and Strengths. Each course can be taken individually and is approved for 8 ICF ACSTH or CCEs.

Coach with the missing link of positive psychology and help your clients achieve what matters most to them.

Click below to choose a values-based coach-training module.

Upcoming Coach-Training Courses

 

Topics: Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Needs, mindfulness, Values, positive psychology coaches, personal values, wellbeing

Great Coaching, Mindfulness, and Noticing the Keys to Success

Posted by Julia Stewart

Mindfulness is Ellen Langer resized 600

Positive Psychology researcher, Ellen Langer, reminds us that to notice - something that great coaches excel at - requires mindfulness. In coaching, we call that "presence". Without presence, you'll miss what matters most to your client. With it, the keys to their success are revealed.

Learn more about mindfulness and coaching presence:

 

Become a Certified Positive Psychology Coach

 

Gorgeous Photo by Elan Sun Star

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

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