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Life Coaching: The Path to Clarity

Posted by Jerry Logan

The_winding_path_by_tinyfroglet_flickr_commonsHave you ever participated in a game or exercise where a group of people get to view a picture for several minutes, then write down everything they recall? Sometimes the responses vary so much they may be quite a topic of conversation. They can, however, give some insights into the interests and perspectives the participants have. While they all witness the very same image, what they see may likely have many interpretations.

In any situation, person, place, or thing we encounter, there is always the potential for the experience to be understood as positive, negative, or neutral. What makes the difference in the interpretation, of course, is our perception of what occurred. Our culture, history, heritage, values, relationships, and work ethics may affect what we see, and what is truly present when we take another look. In a group setting, this can merely entertain, or it may be a window into our insights on one side, or biases on the other. In a one-­on-­one encounter, this can lead to strong opinions and a heated debate, if neither party is willing to concede that the perceptions may be so disparate.

How well does our “interpretation” match what seemingly truly happened? What is the possibility of altering it, if necessary, especially after some focused dialogue? When we are willing to accept that there are other ways to see, we gain awareness and understanding of the other person's world view. Is that not at the heart of any relationship, and, for our purposes, at the core of coaching? I believe we are called to gain insight into the client's interpretations, so that we may know what questions to ask to invite the person to get to a refined concept, deeper level, a better view, a greater awareness.

In the aging process, vision usually changes for the worse. In the coaching experience, my goal is for Jerry_Logan_Life_Coach“vision” to change for the better. I truly want the client to succeed, to be able to live a more peaceful life. By actively listening, gently probing, refining, and asking more, I invite the client to “change the lens” for sharper viewing, whether it is by internal means, or by making better use of the available resources in people, or by using any tools that may achieve the goal. Sometimes, it is only a matter of fine tuning, while others need extended time to make the connections. No matter how long it takes, the overall desired result is the client's contentment, and the ability to take another step on the journey. In this, I recall the words I use also for myself: “New vision is the path to clarity.”

 

Jerry Logan is a Life Coach located in Jacksonville, Florida, and is also a member of the Certified Positive Psychology Coach ProgramGo here to find out more about Jerry.

 

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Topics: life coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Life Coaching, 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.

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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 Neuroscience Coach Program includes the upcoming Coaching with Neuroscience, Science of Goals and Achievement, and Neuroscience Tools and Practices courses, among others, which together will prepare you to be an effective and successful neuroscience coach.

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 correlated 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 and children, 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 occurrence? Take a moment to be grateful to and acknowledge yourself and everyone connected.
  • Now imagine this wonderfully layered experience of your positive event sinking 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, neuroscience coaching courses start soon and you can get in by joining the Certified Neuroscience Coach Program. Or take them as stand-alone modules and qualify for Coaching with Neuroscience Certificates.

 

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

Master Coaching Tip: How to Coach with Ease and Power

Posted by Julia Stewart

 

 

master coach training

 

Master coaches have learned many concepts and communication skills that make a dramatic difference to their coaching clients.

But as with many endeavors, the 80/20 rule applies in coaching. That is, about 80% of the value is created by approximately 20% of the effort. The secret is to learn which 20% makes the difference.

So here's part of that secret: connect your client's goals to what matters most to your client, i.e. their values, their calling, their life purpose, or the legacy they want to leave. A powerful "why" generates resourceful "hows".

The result? Coaching is much easier for the coach and much more powerful for the client.

Learn to coach masterfully:

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Topics: coach training, coaching clients, Become a Master Coach, master coach, Masterful Coaching, masterful coaches, Master Coach Training, Values

How to Coach Your Clients Through the Holidays and Into the New Year

Posted by Julia Stewart

coaching gratitude

Written by Julia Stewart
The "Holiday Season" officially kicks off this week in the United States. Hanukkah starts this Wednesday and American Thanksgiving is on Thursday, followed by a variety of religious and spiritual holidays, including Bodhi Day, Muharram,  the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwansaa; and it's all tied up with a bow (or bottle of champagne) on New Year's Day.

 

By then, many of us are exhausted, broke, and carrying ten extra pounds. It seems virtually every culture finishes the year with holidays and in this extra-small multi-cultural world we live in, we're all celebrating a lot of extra holidays, too.

I think of my personal end-of-year holiday trio, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, as Gratitude Day, Generosity Day, and Create the Future Day. So I regard the holidays as:

  1. Give thanks for what's gone before (past)
  2. Plug into the spirit of generosity (present)
  3. Decide how to create the new year (future)
And that's how I celebrate.

 

But already my clients are bringing problems to their coaching sessions that are directly related to the holidays: how to deal with difficult relatives, or co-workers, how not to blow the budget - or the waistline, how to deal with the extra-busy schedule - or travel, how not to give in to temptations, etc. All coaches, whether life, business or executive coaches, hear about holiday issues - and we have our own, as well!

 

In my book, holiday "problems" are "good problems", a.k.a. luxury problems, first-world problems, the kind of problems you want to have.Not being able to feed your children is the kind of problem you don't want. Fortunately, most of us are worry-free in that area.

 

So first, congratulate your clients on their great problems. That helps put it all in perspective.

 

Then remind them that becoming their best selves means sacrificing good for great. And everyone benefits when we're at our best (a.k.a.: Grump-free, Sarcasm-free, Tantrum-free).

 

Transforming holiday problems into holiday blessings boils down to just two things:
  1. Choosing what really matters to you (a.k.a. your Values)
  2. Setting boundaries (that protect what matters from what doesn't)
Help your clients identify what matters, according to what they most value, and from there, boundary-setting is pretty easy.

 

Here are a few ideas my clients have come up with, so far: 

 

  • Do plan what you really do and don't want with key family members
  • Do set a time limit for family get-togethers; they don't have to be marathons
  • Do decorate only as much as you really want
  • Do shorten or eliminate activities you do solely out of obligation
  • Do schedule escape activities, so you have an excuse to leave parties you don't enjoy
  • Don't serve alchohol if some guests can't handle it
  • Do attend extra 12-step meetings, if they help
  • Don't expect the whole family to get together, if they don't like each other
  • Don't invite people who repeatedly behave badly - and skip the guilt, please
  • Don't be afraid to stay home if you really enjoy it
  • Do talk to your therapist, if you get depressed
  • Do emphasize the aspects of holidays that are meaningful to you and respect others who focus on other aspects
  • Do cut back on your gift list - or make a contribution to a worthy cause, in their names, if they'd value that
  • If you really want to get into the holiday spirit, do volunteer some time, face-to-face, with others who are less fortunate

 

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to truly appreciate life. Don't blow that opportunity by celebrating on auto-pilot. You get to choose your life and your holidays. Have fun!

Here's a gift from us to you: Thomas Leonard's 28 Principles of Attraction.

 

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Topics: Coaching, coaching clients, gratitude, How to, Values, Boundaries

Neuro Coaching: Threat Reactivity and Your Brain

Posted by Julia Stewart

Boston Marathon by soniasu

Bad things happen with no warning and they cause pain and suffering. We wish they wouldn't happen, but we're often powerless over them. We live with that.

But we do have power.

We have enormous power to prevent suffering, if not the actual pain.

So when the next Boston Marathon, Newtown CT, or Aurora CO happens, you have enormous power to both prevent and repair the damage done.

No, you can't bring back the dead, nor make broken bodies whole, but you can do three things that save humanity whenever bad things happen. 

1. You can stop dwelling. Your brain's warning bell, the amygdala, will register the alarm. It's primitive and will tell you to hide under a rock. Your anterior cingulate cortex, much more sophisticated, is connected to the amygdala via a complex network of neurons. It reflects on the horror, but watch out. It loves to ruminate itself into what's known to neuroscientists as threat reactivity or the negativity bias. Become aware of it and you have new possibilities. Turn off your TV. Don't get caught up in Facebook conversations about how bad and helpless you feel. Don't obsess over who did it and why. 

2. Do offer to help. Reach out to friends in the region. Give to the the Red Cross. Volunteer. You'll feel the love that makes you mighty. Your help and caring will heal others. Remember, you're not truly compassionate until you've acted on it.

3. Live your values. Don't get pulled into the anger, unless being a warrior (I call it my Inner Prosecutor) is truly your thing. This is an inside job only you can do, but allow a friend or coach to help you.

Humanity is wonderful. You are wonderful. Live that reality. That is your Greatness.

Image by soniasu_

Topics: Coaching, coach, greatness, Values, brain

6 Ways Life Coaching is Like Hostage Negotiation

Posted by Julia Stewart

hostages freed by Mohammed Ghafari resized 600
Hostages being freed, Egypt, 2008. Photo by Mohammed Ghafari, Flickr, Creative Commons.

 

 

Life coaching is confused with a number of other professions. Hostage negotiation isn't one of them. So it might shock you to know that effective hostage negotiation shares quite a lot with effective life coaching.

 

Why? Both coaching and negotiation are basically conversations between human beings. The same 'magic' communication skills work well, whether between coach and client, salesman and shopper, parent and teenager, or negotiator and terrorist. In fact, these conversations are really not all that different from each other.

 

I discovered this yesterday while reading Wired magazine collumnist, Eric Barker's interview with former top FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, who now teaches business negotiation at places like Harvard. In it, Chris shares tips and secrets on how to negotiate successfully, stop thinking like a schizophrenic, and why you should never settle for a one-boob breast augmentation.

 

Here are six ways Hostage Negotiation is like Life Coaching:

 

  1. You can't ignore emotions. Chris says one of the biggest mistakes many negotiators make is that they try to ignore emotion and just be rational. The problem with that, as he says is, "There’s a lot of scientific evidence now that demonstrates that without emotions you actually can’t make a decision, because you make your decisions based on what you care about." In coaching, what you care about is called your 'Values'. Great coaches always clarify their client's values, otherwise their clients can't make good choices. I tell my coaching students that emotions always have an underlying logic. Once you understand the meaning behind the emotion, it always makes sense and moving forward gets easier.
  2. You have to really listen. Most people don't really listen to each other; they just formulate their responses while the other person is talking. The result is that they don't really hear everything the other person is saying. Worse, it means most of us go through life without anyone ever really hearing us. That's a soul-slaughtering experience. No wonder some people go postal. Chris says negotiating with a schizophrenic is especially challenging, because a schizophrenic is often distracted by voices in their head. He says when you listen to your own voice in your head instead of to the other person, you're behaving like a schizophrenic who can't really hear what's going on. I couldn't say it better.
  3. Feed back what you're hearing. Chris says, "The idea is to really listen to what the other side is saying and feed it back to them. It’s kind of a discovery process for both sides. First of all, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them, and secondly, you’re trying to help them hear what they’re saying to find out if what they are saying makes sense to them." In coaching, this is called mirroring, or you can double-duty it and also acknowledge them as you mirror. Both of you will get more clarity. The other person will know you're really listening, which helps make a stronger connection. The result is greater openness and willingness to work with you.
  4. Keep clarifying. Chris suggests, "You can say, 'What are we trying to accomplish here?'  Then, 'How is what you are asking for going to get you that?' Great coaching questions! Most people, terrorists and schizophrenics included, need help clarifying what they really want and how they're going to get it. That's what coaching's about. Apparently, that's an important part of hostage negotiation too.
  5. Never compromize. According to Chris, compromize is a terrible thing. The metaphor he uses is the husband who wants his wife to get a boob job. She doesn't want to do it, so they compromize and she just gets one. In other words, nobody gets what they really want. Coaches exist to help people get what they really want. Most people are so used to compromizing that what they tell you they want is usually just what they think they should want or what they think they can get instead of what they actually want. Trust me, your clients can get what they don't want on their own. They don't need to pay you thousands of dollars to help them compromize.
  6. Don't argue. If each side is presenting its arguments, neither is really listening (See #2). Instead of resolution, you get more conflict. If you want the other side to hear you, let them get their whole story out. Otherwise, that story will get in the way of their ability to hear you. It'll get in the way of getting what they want, too. 

 

Obviously, there are key distinctions between life coaching and hostage negotiation. For starters, a negotiator has an agenda to resolve a horrible situation without anyone getting hurt or killed. In coaching, our only agenda is to help the client think and act more resourcefully so they can get what they really want. The negotiator may only be trying to buy time until the SWAT team can either rescue the hostages or arrest the terrorist. Big difference.

 

But people are people. They want you to hear what matters to them, even if they can't articulate that, yet. Maybe if more people were coached, fewer people would go ballistic.

 

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Topics: Coaching, coach training, coach, coaching classes, clients, Life Coaching, life coach training, Coaching Certificate, Strengths, Needs, Values

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