Not all that long ago I heard a seasoned coach offer some words of wisdom to a novice coach. This was in the context of coach training so I expected the experienced coach to provide some technical pointers. Something to do with time management, or fee setting, or marketing, or asking better questions. Instead, what she said was this: “There is no turning back. Once you study coaching, the whole world looks different. You start paying closer attention to language. You see potential and opportunity around every turn. You ease into a life of listening, reflection, and planning.” I used to think that it was just a certain type of person who was attracted to coaching. People who were upbeat, extroverted and positive. Although there might be an element of truth to that hunch, I now also see that the very process of learning about coaching changes a person. I’d like to share three fundamental ways it has changed me
- Potential. Let me say at the outset that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a person who is prone to believe in unlimited potential. I don’t believe that every single person can be great at every single activity. I am convinced that improvement is possible, but also that there are true differences in natural talents and aptitudes. Even so, my experience with coaching has taught me this: Most folks are capable of more than they think. I call this phenomenon “You +1.” That is, whatever you think you can do, I basically think you can do it one point (+1) better than that. If you think you can run a half marathon, I believe you can probably squeeze an additional mile on top of that. If you believe that you can learn a foreign language, I think you can probably learn two. I’ve found that this mildly high expectation of my clients helps to stretch them.
- Process. We live in a success-oriented world. One in which many people desire money, enjoy vacations and similar experiences and want the comforts of stuff. We set goals and plan for the future. But all this attention to the metaphorical finish line can sometimes distract from the race of life itself. My experience with coaching has shifted my attention away from final results and toward the process. I like to see my work unfold and enjoy reflecting on the process and making changes where necessary. These days, I am more likely to create “experiments” than I am to “plan goals.” The former allows me to learn from feedback, make course corrections, and enjoy the steps toward whatever future awaits me.
- Causes. Many people with whom I interact are taken aback when I mention that I am not really interested in causes. It’s true: I don’t care all that much about how things came to be the way they are. I am more interested in where we are headed and what the next steps are to get to a desirable future. As an example, I am not very concerned with how I contracted the flu; I just want to know what I can do now to best recover from it. Similarly, I don’t care at all about how I came to be afraid of heights. It doesn’t matter to me a bit whether it is evolutionary, or whether it stems from an early childhood trauma or whether it was taught to me by role models. I prefer, instead, to think about what my fear of heights means for me in my present life and how I might deal with it. This attitude flies in the face of the notion that people need to identify causes before they can get on with the business of solutions. My coaching clients are routinely surprised, and laterdelighted, when they learn that they can usually skip the first of those two steps entirely.
I hope these small lessons offer some food for thought. I make no demands that you share my worldview or that you agree with me. I do, however, invite you to join us for the Positive Psychology Coaching Workshop, commencing on 2-4 April 2019 in Singapore. A small group of us from around the world meet to learn and practice these amazing skills. Curious if you will experience the same types of fundamental change I describe here? Find out by registering, or feel free to send comments or questions our way.
For enquiries on the Positive Psychology Coaching, commencing on 2-4 April 2019, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.