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Squeezing Your Size 12 Life Into a Size 5 Day

Posted by Julia Stewart

via GIPHY

Squeezing into a too-small box is cute when cats do it, sad when humans do.

And totally inappropriate when coaches do it. Coaches are supposed to model great self-care for our clients and, while we can't control everything in our lives, we can be honest about what's really going on. Telling the truth to ourselves is always positive, because, no matter how hard life gets, when we embrace what's true, we can start choosing something better.

Lately, too many of my coaching students are cramming too much into their lives and seem oblivious to the damage they may be doing. This post is for them - and for you, if you're over-doing it, too.

5 Reasons doing too much is a terrible idea...

  1. You're probably stressed. Over-doing it is exhausting and stressful. High levels of stress hormones over time are toxic. They can wreck you gut biome, which can damage your mental health, as well. You may be familiar with the Japanese word for death from over-work: Karoshi. Unfortunately, people tend to think they're doing great until it's too late. Wondering if you're stressed? This image, shared by a former client, will tend to "move" when a stressed person looks at it, but doesn't move if you're relaxed. optical illusion
  2. You're not giving your brain enough time to slow down. it needs that to see things for what they truly are. No wonder people can work themselves to death; they can't think straight when they over-do it. Poor choices result. And neuroscientists say those who over-do it have less gray matter in their brains, meaning fewer neurons to think with.
  3. You may not be fully present. You think you're doing so much for others, but often people just want you to really see and hear them. You can't do that when you're rushed.
  4. You're probably over-stressing those around you. Stress is contagious and can become a vicious cycle. Plus people take their cues from others. That's how cultures of over-work develop.
  5. The people around you are more likely to over-do it, too. Instead of making a better world, you may be making it worse!

What can you do instead?

  1. Practice a little self-compassion. It's okay to say "No" to more work, to ask for help, to prioritize what matters instead of pretending everything matters equally. It's okay to live by your own values instead of everyone else's. If you're over-extended, you're doing no one any favors. Give yourself a chance to just be and then start again with sanity.
  2. Notice what need you're trying to fill by over-doing it. Is it a need for significance? To win? To out-do everyone else? Are you a help-aholic who needs to be needed? A great coach can help you with this because you can get all your needs met in non-toxic ways and that's the gateway to true happiness.
  3. Identify what matters most and have the discipline to cut out everything else. It'll feel uncomfortable at first, but will get much easier. You may be surprised that no one else really cared if you did it, in the first place.
  4. Start using your strengths where they're needed most. Let people with different strengths do the other stuff. You'll save energy, stress, and discomfort for all. Everyone will be happier.
  5. If you really want to help others, model what a great life looks like. You'll be giving them permission to also live their best lives and be happier. Happy people are kinder. Everybody benefits!

Be a coach who models awesome self care.

Because potential clients are looking for this and because you'll literally coach more effectively if you're neither exhausted or stressed. Here's a course that teaches the three most important subjects in coaching so you and your clients can be your very best:

 

The Three Most Important Subjects in Coaching

 

Topics: self care, certified neuroscience coach, Needs, Strengths, highly sensitive, Values

Bringing Positive Psychology Coaching to Occupational Therapy and Beyond

Posted by Julia Stewart

Winnie DunnThis is the second in a series of interviews of graduates of the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program. Many have fascinating coaching careers and will share some of their secrets with you. Look for this tag: CPPC Graduates.

Welcome to the Interview with Winnie Dunn, PhD, OTR, FOATA, CPPC. Winnie is a Distinguished Professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of Missouri and is bringing positive psychology and strengths-based coaching to individuals and to the field of Occupational Therapy.

There are two parts to the interview. Audio, for those who prefer to listen, and written, for those who prefer to read. Different questions for each. Explore as you like!

 Here's the Fascinating audio interview:

 
And here's the in-depth written the interview:
 
Winnie, are you currently practicing positive psychology coaching? Yes.
 
What is your niche or specialty? I provide coaching for other health and education professionals so they can incorporate coaching practices into their work (e.g., teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists). I provide coaching for families who have children with conditions (e.g., autism, developmental conditions) to support them to navigate within their lives.
 
What else are you doing besides coaching? I am a Distinguished Professor at the University of Missouri.
 
What positive psychology coaching tools do you find most useful for your clients? It is particularly important for the professionals to remember to be CURIOUS. In their training, they learned how to be experts, and so can jump forward to anticipated outcomes and begin asking leading questions. Remaining Curious reminds them to stay in the present moment. I have also found PROVOCATIVE questions to be useful. It takes courage to use them, and lots of reflection to identify when they will be helpful to move insights along.
 
Which of your strengths do you find most useful in coaching your clients?
Creativity: I can see many facets of a situation, giving me an exploratory spirit
Notice patterns: I see relationships among factors that others might not consider
Be strategic: I understand the importance of context to someone's decision making and insights
Show compassion: I recognize the emotional part of someone's journey even with what seems like practical decision making
 
What project/job/initiative that you are working on are you most excited about? The state of Kentucky has embraced the use of coaching for their Early Intervention services [birth to 3]. They hired 3 experienced providers to serve as the Master Coaches for the state. I designed their entire training and competency plan. I am working with the Master Coaches to become excellent coaches themselves while also supporting them to create the materials and activities they will use with the rest of the providers across the state. We are also using a web platform for self reflection and feedback [TORSH]. We can upload coaching video sessions, and provide feedback and reflective questions in real time on the videos.
 
How has becoming a Certified Positive Psychology Coach® helped your career or helped you serve your clients? I had been conducting studies about coaching with families as the coaching profession was growing itself. I decided that someone on our research team needed to learn coaching from not just the literature, but from a substantial program. Since I use strengths based approaches in my work, the CPPC program was particularly suited to my philosophy and approach to care [I am an occupational therapist]. Having this certificate has provided external validation for our work in coaching, and has the added benefit of a positive psychology approach, which resonated with our research designs and practices. Colleagues ask more questions and are more reflective in their consideration of coaching approaches now.
 
What else have you studied since graduating as a CPPC? I am already an occupational therapist, special educator and have my doctorate in Applied Neuroscience. The CPPC program enhanced those areas. The CPPC program provided additional structure for how we teach coaching to others for their projects.

What’s next for you as a positive psychology coach? I am starting on a research project with a colleague at Thomas Jefferson University. I will be supporting interdisciplinary providers to coach families of children who are living with a spinal cord injury. We are working on additional studies of coaching using Telehealth communication to serve families in remote locations.

Do you have a quote about positive psychology and/or coaching that you’d like to share? Positive Psychology Coaching empowers others to live their best lives with our support...what could be a more satisfying way to engage with others but in service to their goals and aspirations?

What else would you like people to know about you and about what you do? People contact us through our website: www.dunnandpopecoaching.com

NOTE: Winnie's partner, Ellen Pope, also studied at School of Coaching Mastery
 
We're proud of the great work that pioneers like Winnie Dunn are doing to serve others. If you're inspired to keep learning and offering more to your clients, consider joining the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program:
 
Explore the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program
 

Topics: CPPC Graduates, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, positive psychology coaching, Strengths

101 Terrific Positive Psychology Coaching Questions

Posted by Julia Stewart

Positive Psychology Coaching Questions

Here are 101 terrific coaching questions all based on positive psychology theory.

To get full value from these questions, it's important to understand the research and theories behind them. In a nutshell, positive thoughts and emotions are correlated with greater happiness, better health, and more success. That said, 100% positivity is never the goal. Even negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences can have positive outcomes, especially when we take the time to learn from them and to look for benefits and work on our personal growth.

Here is a quick course that will get you started as a positive psychology coach. Or to become masterful, enroll in the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program. You'll learn masterful coaching skills, such as how to know when to ask which question, how to follow up regardless your client's answer, how to craft your own questions, right on the spot.

If you're just getting started as a coach, print these awesome questions out for reference.

Download the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook to learn more.

101 Terrific Positive Psychology Coaching Questions:

  1. What's going great this week?
  2. What have you accomplished so far?
  3. What are three good things that happened at work?
  4. What are you grateful for today?
  5. What are you feeling really good about?
  6. What do you want to accomplish in this session?
  7. How will you measure success?
  8. Shall we explore your reasons for making this change?
  9. Which of your personal values will be expressed by achieving this goal?
  10. How will achieving this goal help you express your purpose?
  11. What other reasons might there be that you haven't explored yet?
  12. Are you ready to make this change or do you need to talk about it more?
  13. What would happen if you improved this by just 5%?
  14. What other benefits are there to accomplishing this?
  15. What reasons have been stopping you so far?
  16. How have you been stopping you so far?
  17. How could you address those reasons?
  18. How could you eliminate some the the drawbacks to changing?
  19. What preparations do you need to make before you start this project?
  20. Which of your strengths can help you here?
  21. What will you tell yourself as you take steps toward this goal?
  22. Who else can acknowledge you for your efforts?
  23. On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to your success?
  24. How hard are you willing to work on this?
  25. What obstacles could you encounter and how can you overcome them?
  26. If everything goes perfectly and you're at your very best, what will that be like?
  27. What strategies will help you focus on what you want vs what you don't want?
  28. What's already going well?
  29. When was a time when this went well for you?
  30. What strengths were you using when this went well?
  31. How can you apply the same strengths to succeed this time?
  32. Who do you work well with?
  33. Who has complementary strengths who might collaborate with you?
  34. Who else will benefit from your success?
  35. How will you feel when you've succeeded?
  36. How will your strengths help you express your purpose?
  37. What are you curious about?
  38. What would you like your legacy to be?
  39. What circumstances are effecting your positive or negative emotions?
  40. How would you like to feel? Can you imagine feeling that way right now?
  41. How positive are you on most days?
  42. What are you currently doing to raise your positivity?
  43. What might be possible if you increased your positivity?
  44. How could you increase your positivity?
  45. Who are the most positive people in your life?
  46. How could you spend more time doing what you enjoy?
  47. How would your relationships be impacted by more positivity?
  48. How could you decrease your negativity?
  49. How could you be happy even before you reach your goals?
  50. If you're fully present for a few moments what do you notice?
  51. If you turn off your thoughts for a minute what do you know?
  52. What does your body need?
  53. It sounds like you're using a strength. What would you name it?
  54. How could you master this strength?
  55. What other situations could be improved if you started using this strength there?
  56. How could this strength help you meet an important need?
  57. How can you use your strengths to express your personal values?
  58. Where else could you use your strengths in new ways?
  59. Who could you collaborate with who has complementary strengths?
  60. What strengths do you need to develop to be more effective.
  61. What strengths do you wish you had?
  62. What can you appreciate about the strengths you do have?
  63. How could a weakness also be a strength?
  64. Do you ever overuse a strength? What happens then?
  65. Do you strengths ever get you into trouble?
  66. What would help you feel more engaged at work?
  67. What activities excite or energize you?
  68. Where else could you use your strengths?
  69. How can you use your strengths to help you reach this goal?
  70. When does time seem to fly for you?
  71. Who or what makes you laugh?
  72. What makes life meaningful for you?
  73. What activities feel most valuable to you?
  74. When is a time in your life when you were at your very best?
  75. What's most significant to you about that time?
  76. What do you do to help others?
  77. How could you build resources to support a happier and more successful life?
  78. Who has helped you immensely who you might want to thank?
  79. How do you want to thank others?
  80. Who or what could you be grateful to?
  81. What makes this accomplishment so important to you?
  82. What will help you persevere until you succeed?
  83. Who can support you to reach your goals?
  84. What will keep you on track?
  85. What do you need more clarity about?
  86. What's your first step?
  87. When will you get started?
  88. How will you remember?
  89. Once you've succeeded, how will you maintain it?
  90. What clarity do you still need?
  91. How confident are you of your success?
  92. What will your life be like when you succeed?
  93. What other aspects of your life will be impacted?
  94. How will you take care of yourself while working on this?
  95. How will you maintain other important aspects of your life such as your relationships?
  96. Who are you willing to tell that you're making this change?
  97. How will you maintain your positivity while persevering?
  98. How will you feel about yourself when you succeed?
  99. How will you celebrate?
  100. Who will you include in your celebration?
  101. How will you savor your hard work and accomplishment?

This is just a sampling of terrific positive psychology coaching questions.

Learn more by joining the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program. Get a fact sheet to learn all about it.

Get Certified Positive Psychology Coach Fact Sheet

 

Topics: positive psychology coaching, coaching questions, Strengths, Needs, Values, positivity, Certified Positive Psychology Coach

People Are Terrible at Assessing Their Own Weaknesses. Here's What Works

Posted by Julia Stewart

Strengths vs weaknesses - photo by ashley nicastro

According to scientists, people, including coaches, are generally terrible at assessing their own skills for two reasons.

1. We don't know what we don't know. This is also known as Unconscious Incompetence, a.k.a. the Dunning-Kruger Effect. A recent article in Smarter Living in the New York Times says about it:

"The effect creates a vicious loop that boils down to this: The less skilled you are at something, the less likely you are to recognize how unskilled you truly are, and thus you overestimate how your abilities. Worse still, because you can't see your errors, you'll never know what you need to correct."

2. We don't know what we do know. This is sometimes known as Unconscious Competence, a.k.a. Imposter Syndrome or the Fraud Factor. Sometimes we have an abundance of strengths, but don't know it.

Both these issues are common among newer coaches and sometimes even veteran coaches.

Sometimes coaches who have little or no training aren't as skilled as they think, or may be skilled in only a few tools that a coach would use, or may be advising or consulting instead of coaching. For example, I recently had a conversation with a coach who's been an "internal coach" for major corporations for decades. She has a masters degree in counseling, and even an ivy-league background, but recently discovered that she can no longer get hired without coach certification. She called me for advice and I gave her some. But at the end of the conversation, she said something telling. She said, "Thanks for the coaching." I didn't coach her. Advising isn't considered coaching in today's world. Coaches have more powerful tools. That's one of the reasons organizations require proof of certification, now.

On the flip side, some highly skilled coaches don't realize how extraordinary they really are. They generally assume others can coach as well or better than they can. They literally need someone to tell them what they are doing well in order to own their mastery. Owning it can help strengthen it.

Mastery happens when you've practiced your skills to the point they are second nature to you. You can call on them without thinking about it. They have become implicit, rather then explicit, or "Unconscious Competence."

Here's the Mastery Matrix:

Matrix of Mastery

What are the solutions to reaching competence and even mastery?

There are three. One is learning. Work with people who are ahead of you on the path. In coaching, that would be qualified coach trainers and mentor coaches. The second is a tool used by all effective trainers and mentors to help their coaches strengthen both their strengths and their weaknesses: Feedback. The third is time. If you're getting effective training and feedback, all you need is time spent practicing what you've learned and applying your feedback and you will progress.

Getting feedback from clients is helpful, but usually incomplete. Getting feedback from fellow students may fill in some of the gaps left by clients, but may not cover everything. Getting feedback from experts helps fill in all the gaps. Best of all, get all three types of feedback, if you can.

Without any training or feedback, even people who've been calling themselves coaches for decades may not realize they haven't developed all the skills of coaching, or perhaps they are truly masterful, but don't know it, and neither do those who would otherwise hire them.

Don't lose even one client because you aren't a certified coach.

Get on the path to mastery with evidence-based coaching skills and get certified:

Explore the Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program

     
     

Topics: Strengths, masterful coaches, certified coach, Coach Certification

Can Positive Psychology Strengths Coaching Actually Weaken You?

Posted by Julia Stewart

positive psychology coaching photo by Denis De Mesmaeker.jpg

Lately, I've read a couple of blog posts, from reliable sites, that attack the effectiveness of positive psychology, positive psychology coaching, and specifically, strengths-based coaching*. I appreciate a well-written contrarian point of view, because it can highlight incongruities and exceptions to rules that we might easily miss, because the accepted wisdom on a particular topic, would rarely address it.

Plus contrarian titles make us curious.

That last point is the real reason you see so many contrarian articles: Angelina Gives Birth to Alien Baby! Man Bites Dog! Stand in line at the grocery store and entertain yourself with contrarian titles in the magazine stand. The good ones make you want to buy the magazine.

I frequently write contrarian articles, myself. My post on why Tony Robbins wouldn't qualify for ICF certification has had nearly 100,000 hits, because it suggests one of the most famous coaches, worldwide, couldn't get certified.

That was pretty cheeky of me.

I've been certifying coaches for nearly 15 years. I know something about coaching standards, but I actually admire Robbins and say so in the post. He doesn't need coach certification, because he's famous, skilled, and has a powerful reputation. My post isn't a condemnation of him, but a nuanced look at coaching and certification, plus a suggestion that there are multiple ways to coach well. I raise points that most coaches don't talk about. Hopefully, that gets them thinking more deeply about a controversial topic.

So lately, when I read a couple of take-downs of positive psychology, I first thought, "Okay, fair game. These posts create curiosity."

But these articles don't just offer contrarian points of view. They are more like beatings and the writers betray a shocking ignorance of their topics, especially considering their platforms. One was from The Atlantic. The other from Harvard Business Review.

Ignorant writing, hiding behind contrarian titles, on well-respected sites, is the academic equivalent of "fake news". It's misleading, creates confusion, and promotes discordant thinking.

To be fair, both HBR and The Atlantic shared multiple sides of the topic via separate posts and that's legitimate. But the writers of these articles (see below) still betrayed an ignorance of positive psychology. They sounded like hacks, who did a quick Google search on the topic, then reacted negatively to their superficial understanding of the material, and then wrote a pounding about it. And if you found the articles via Facebook ads, or Google searches, you might never read the opposing view.

Before we knew about online Russian propaganda, this type of article was known as "click bait." Click bait sites are blogs intended to pull in traffic, with false or misleading material, in the hope that readers will click ads, while on the page, to make money. Has journalism fallen so low that even Harvard has succumbed to this type of cheesy approach? By the way, I found an excellent rebuttal to the HBR article, on a different site, here.

Many people, who left comments on the HBR article, display a stronger understanding of positive psychology than the author. Below, is one concise comment from Peter Peckarsky:

"This is not a HBR-quality piece. It's speculative and published for clicks. An accurate title should read something like "Poorly Applied Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You - Just Like Any Program With No Balance."

I'm going to address the basic misunderstandings displayed by both the author of The Atlantic article, When Grit isn't Enough, and the HBR article, Strengths-Based Coaching Can Actually Weaken You, below.

  1. Positive psychology was never intended to to replace other valid psychology tools or theories. It's intended rather to balance them and fill out gaps in theories that previously fell short of helping people thrive. As with any other theory, when applied ineffectively, it may actually harm. When used appropriately, it can transform lives. The founders of the positive psychology movement set a goal, twenty years ago, to make positive psychology obsolete, because psychology interventions should never be a binary choice between positive vs. negative.
  2. Positive psychology interventions such as strengths, grit, and growth mindset; are descriptive, not prescriptive. They describe what people, who are already flourishing, have been doing, with the suggestion that those who want to flourish, may choose to experiment with similar behaviors. Of course, there are environmental, personality, and other factors that impact outcomes. To turn these tools into dogma, political correctness, judgmentalism, or any other type of rigid thinking; is as wrong-headed in positive psychology as it would be with virtually any other topic.
  3. Thousands of peer-reviewed research studies have been published in the two decades since Martin Seligman declared positive psychology an official field of study, while president of the American Psychological Association, and they continue. In fact, they have since early days, addressed many of the deficits the authors raised, but failed to find in their own research. Apparently, if you were to read even one book by Seligman, you would know more than a writer from Harvard.

My takeaway in this age of fake news, click bait, and Russian propaganda; is that truth still matters and those of us who care about it need to be more vigilant than ever. Reading a blog doesn't make you knowledgeable, not even this blog.

Also, the fantasy that education would become obsolete in the era of Google has proven itself to be a lie. But where will education come from if educational and journalistic institutions lower their standards?

I don't have any easy answers, but I can say that at this school, we're still taking responsibility for the content we publish. We don't run ads on this blog, because we don't think it's wise to put our motives in conflict. So, If you trust us and are curious about becoming a positive psychology coach, you're welcome to download the following eBook.

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

 * Thanks to Coach Louise Santiago, PhD, for sending me the HBR post mentioned above.

 

Topics: Positive Psychology, positive psychology blogs, Strengths, Martin Seligman, Tony Robbins, ICF, become a positive psychology coach, Free

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

Should Business and Life Coaches Ask "Why" Questions?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Coaching Questions The_Forgotten_Jetty_by_Daniel_Sallal_CC.jpg

Coaching questions are the stock and trade of professional life, business, and executive coaches. Knowing what to ask, when to ask, and how to ask coaching questions is a major part of becoming an effective coach. But there are certain types of questions that tend to be frowned upon, because they often yield poor results.

Those include "leading questions" that back clients into corners, as well as "closed-ended questions" that reduce curiosity, and then there are "Why questions" that slow down the process.

The ICF Core Coaching Competencies encourage a different type of question, what coaches sometimes call "powerful questions", or "awareness-building questions". These can often be spotted by the words they start with: What, When, How, Who, If.

Some powerful awareness-building questions:

  • If you had everything you need, what would you do?
  • Who would you have to become to succeed?
  • How could you do it?
  • When have you been in a situation like this, before?
  • What does this mean to you?

Questions like these help to open up a client's awareness of who s/he is and what's really possible. They take coaching to a higher level and help clients expand their impact in more ways than just goal completion. They also make coaching more fun.

So why shouldn't coaches ask, Why?

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. Here are some reasons:

  • Why questions encourage analysis of the situation and you'd be surprised at how little analysis helps in coaching.
  • Why questions often lead to interpretations that may or may not be true, but more importantly, usually aren't helpful.
  • Why questions can turn the client's focus on the past, rather then the present and future, where the action really is.

I used to discourage Why questions until I listened to an advanced coaching session in which the student-coach asked her client several carefully-worded questions that focused on analyzing and interpreting the past, but avoided the word, Why.

Example: What do you think the reason is that you have this problem? Which is gobbledygook for: Why do you have this problem? Not surprisingly, the session wasn't successful.

That said, I've heard dramatic turning points in coaching sessions when coaches asked Why questions. As I tell my coaching students, if it works for the client, it works for me, because ICF coaching may be powerful, but it's not the only way to coach. So if you feel compelled to ask Why, just ask Why.

What makes some Why question work in coaching, instead of just slowing things down?

Ah, I thought you'd never ask! Here's why: 

WHY matters more than anything else in coaching!

You read that right. That poor little much-maligned word, WHY, matters more than all the Who, What, When, Where, and Hows. Those still matter, but not as much.

“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor was an incredibly wise man. As much as I love How questions (and I truly love How questions) they are pointless until you get the Why. In fact, What, When, If, and even Who don't make total sense without the Why.

Here are some Why questions you MUST ask:

  • Why does this matter to you?
  • Why is this important, right now?
  • Why does this mean so much?

Powerful Why questions uncover what the client most values.

Values are the Why.

Our most important personal values are the driving force behind everything we do. As sociologist, Paul Ray says, values determine our behavior more than anything else. More than demographics, education, strengths, needs, you name it.

Values are what matter most. 

Asking about values in a coaching session is like asking Google an important search term. Within a few moments, you get a useful answer. But invite Google to analyze and interpret the past, and it might reply, "Well I was going to answer, but I wasn't feeling well, plus my boss is mad at me and I had an argument with my wife, plus, plus, plus... Not useful.

So should coaches ask Why questions? YES. 

Focus Why questions on values, not analysis, interpretation, or the past. My 2 cents.

Positive psychology coaching tends to focus on strengths, which are the HOW of coaching. At School of Coaching Mastery, we focus on strengths and also emphasize values, because we are all about making coaching as powerful as possible. Two modules that will help you master values are the Psychology of Values and Coaching Values, Needs, and Strengths. Both are included in the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® program.

Curious about positive psychology coaching? Get the free eBook:

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Topics: Coaching, executive coach, Business Coaches, Life Coaches, coaching questions, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Values

Positive Psychology Coaching: How Do You Define Happiness?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Happiness_Big

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

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

"The state of being happy".

Google, I think we can do better.

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

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

So what is happiness, anyway?

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

First, what happiness isn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what makes life wonderful?

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

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

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

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

That's what I call happiness.

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

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

Register: Coaching Values, Needs & Strengths

 

 

 

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

Coaching with Neuroplasticity Exercises: 9 Fascinating Facts

Posted by Julia Stewart

neuroplasticity exercises

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

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

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

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

Here are nine fascinating facts about coaching with neuroplasticity exercises:

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

 

Download the free Fact Sheet here:

 

Download Certified Neuroscience Coach Fact Sheet

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

Learn Strengths-Based Positive Psychology Coaching for Free

Posted by Julia Stewart

positive psychology coaching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Elan Sun Star 

One of the free services that School of Coaching Mastery offers to coaches is our free study groups, which are hosted by SCM coach members. Our newest study group, the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group is about to launch with Strengths-Based Business Coach, Nancy McCabe, CCC. Nancy is an awesome model of positivity and she happens to be a member of our Certified Positive Psychology Coach Program. Learn more about Nancy here.

Why would you want to join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group?

How can you join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group?

  • Go here to join the free Positive Psychology Coach Study Group

  • You'll be sent directions on how to register for the specific study-group webinar sessions you want to attend 

  • If you need to miss a session that you've registered for, please UN-register in advance, using a link provided in your confirmation email

  • REGISTER ASAP, BECAUSE SEATING IS LIMITED

Join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group below:

 

Join the Positive Psychology Coach Study Group

Topics: business coach, becoming a certified coach, Positive Psychology, positive psychology coaching, Strengths, Science of Coaching

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