A Coaching Power Tool Created by Kimberly Hickey
(Life Coach, CANADA)
Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. – The Hunger Games
The human mind is constantly thinking – even though we can only physically live in the present, our minds allow us to relive the past and attempt to predict the future. As someone who has had difficulty turning off the negative chatter and worries about the future, I know the importance of quieting the mind, reframing perspectives and highlighting the positive aspects of any given situation. I choose hope in the face of adversity and expect good things will happen, even if it does not make sense at this specific time.
Hope is an important element in creating lasting change. Since change is typically the focus of the coaching relationship, it is fitting to bring awareness to and increase a client’s level of hope. Our belief in our ability to positively influence a future outcome – our hope – is central to coaching success. Hope is possessing a positive mind-set, a belief in yourself to be able to set, pursue and achieve goals while solving problems and using setbacks as an opportunity for growth. It is our hope that allows us to take risks and persevere.
Studies have shown that high-hope individuals are more resilient, experience lower levels of anxiety and depression, are less likely to abandon their goals and therefore experience better outcomes in the workplace and at home.
C.R Synder, pioneer of Hope Theory, notes 3 ingredients needed for hope:
- Goal-oriented thoughts: goals that are short or long term, attainable yet challenging and represent our values.
- Agency thinking: belief in oneself to be capable and in control, at least partially, of future outcomes. Individuals who think they are capable are more likely to be hopeful, take risks and persevere.
- Pathways thinking: individuals can think of alternative solutions/paths if they run into a barrier or experience a setback.
Fear, on the other hand, is the dread of something bad to come with limited possibilities to avoid the dreaded outcome. It is the place where anxiety and stress develop. There are many types of fear such as, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of success and fear of change/the unknown. Fear of failing is one of the top fears that stop us in our tracks –we will literally avoid following through on plans or pursuing good ideas. Fear can drain us of energy and can destroy motivation to take action. Without action there can be no change. We learn early in life that failure is bad, even shameful. We hide our failures, make excuses for them or even ignore them – even worse, we begin to stop taking risks and become more cautious of our choices thereby limiting our options and probability of success.
You can’t be brave if you are wearing a strait-jacket of what will people think– Brene Brown
Brené Brown speaks of shame being the fear of disconnection (I am not good enough, pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough). Connection gives us purpose and meaning and for connection to happen we need to open ourselves up, to be vulnerable and believe that what makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful. Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
Hope can help us become vulnerable. There are no guarantees in life and we cannot control and predict the future but we can focus on positives and hope for outcomes that will make sense no matter which way it goes. Together hope and vulnerability will give you the courage to say ‘hey, this is me and this might make me feel uncomfortable, but I am going to do it anyway’.
Brown wonderfully quotes Theodore Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Those who are animated by hope can perform what would be seen impossibilities to those who are under the depressing influence of fear– Maria Edgeworth
Vulnerability is the core for shame, fear and anxiety but also the birth place for happiness, creativity and belonging. Brown uses the term foreboding joy, as a means of shielding ourselves from vulnerability and truly experiencing and feeling the positives moments and feelings in life. One such way that I experience this is when I am looking at my son with love, wonderment, extreme happiness, then in an instance a wave of fear, dread, worry come over me – what if’s take over, what if he gets sick, what if he goes down a wrong path later in life, what if I get sick, what if, what if, what if… When we use this time to test drive tragedy we are not really preparing ourselves at all. Imagining what would happen and how you would feel will not help us even if it does happen, and limits us from enjoying our present reality. What we need to focus on is connection, support and positive emotions such as hope – which will help us in times of adversity. Use that split second wave of fear to sink deeper into the moment and into those positive feelings.
Another way individuals might forebode joy is by living in disappointment. They think living in disappointment is better than feeling disappointed so they decide not to get involved and take action. They decide not to apply to that better paying job, ignore the people around them case they are not accepted and so forth.
But what if there was a way to maximize your fears? Use your fears to drive you and move you into a place of hope. Many times when you question the fear you will find that it has no real substance and lacks facts. It is your inner critic working at its best.
False Evidence Appearing Real
What can we do to overcome fear?
- Recognize and acknowledge your fear: just this, can actually weakens its power over you. Fear is one of the fastest ways of learning. We should celebrate and explore our failures.
- Dissect your fear: what is it telling you, what are the triggers?
- Reach out and share your story: speaking about the fear can sort of set it free, you may even find someone else who experiences the same fear and find comfort in the fact that you are not alone
- Turn off the negative chatter: your outer reality is a reflection of your inner reality – others are mirroring back to you the way you feel about yourself. Use kinder, gentler words when speaking to yourself. Talk to yourself as if you were speaking to a loved one – turn up the volume of positives expressions of love and gratitude.
- Focus on the positives: focus on using fear to spur you into action to attain things you do want, rather than to move you away from things you do not want. Using guilt or shame to move you into action is not a healthy way to use fear. It may be helpful in the short term but not for lasting change – if using guilt or shame – hope is not at the root of this goal and it is focused on negative rather than positive mind-set. For example, setting a goal to lose weight because your partner thinks you look ‘fat’, rather than doing it for your own desire to eat healthy and exercise can lead to low self-esteem and resentment.
- Live mindfully in the moment: instead of reliving the past or anticipating the future, experience the present. Once you start taking risks and experiencing the reality of a given situation you will see it is not necessarily as you thought it would be, and confidence will kick in, making it easier for you to take risks again in the future.
Clients without failure are clients who are stagnate. So how can we help clients overcome fear and attain high levels of hope?
- Think of your fear as a superhero. Give your superhero a funny name, silly outfit and out-there slogan. Does thinking of your fear as a ridiculous superhero make it feel less scary and a little more silly? Although anxiety can be a serious mental illness which can have crippling effects on some people, for me, seeing this picture to the right provided me with a bit of comedic relief and allowed me to feel a bit more ‘normal’ knowing that others have some of the same fears as I do. This does not stop the fact that the fear is present, but acknowledging and accepting this part of who I am, also provides me with the courage I need to overcome and persevere in spite of the fear. Perhaps you can use your superpower fear as a motivator to jump into action.
- When you hear a distinct lack of hope in your clients try to listen for which type of thinking it represents. Statements such as “I will never be able to do it” hint at difficulties with agency thinking (actually being able to accomplish the goal) so try promoting a positive view of the self by acknowledging previous successes. Statements such as “I cannot see how that will work” suggest issues with pathways thinking (unsure of route to the goal) so this might be a good idea to help the client through a brainstorming activity.
- Use Powerful Questions to develop self-awareness and reframe perspectives: What is the fear really telling you? What is the worst case scenario? Best case scenario? Suppose there is a bigger plan for you, how would this situation fit in? What is it about the situation that is holding you back? What would you do if fear was not standing in your way? In what way do you see this fear controlling your life? Will this be important 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the road? What have you learned from this experience? What is out of balance that needs to be addressed? Tell me about a time when you were the exception to the rule (ie. if you consider yourself shy, tell me about a time when you didn’t act shy)?
- Use Appreciative Inquiry and Acceptance and Commitment Theory to encourage clients to notice and identify what is working well and what is strong in their lives and within themselves. AI and ACT focus on the positive but does not deny negative information but chooses to notice it and move on without judgement. The Change Theory states that if you want to change your story, you must change your inner dialogue. Visualize your experiences the way you would like them to play out in reality. When stuck, shift thinking patterns by finding an anchor, look back on a time when you were successful, mediate. Nothing the rational mind wants will actually happen if the inner dialogue is negative and therefore resistant to change.
- Live mindfully and with gratitude: be one with nature and part of the universe – what do you hear, see, smell, taste? Breath, tell yourself all is well, think of the things you love and are grateful for. It is useful to check in on what you are grateful for a couple times a day, perhaps once in the morning and once mid-day (or before bed). Spending 5 minutes loading up on positive emotions creates new wiring in the brain and you will be better able to tap into positive energy anywhere you go.
- Lean into the discomfort! Use the GPOWER Model to assist clients in moving forward with hope in their heart.
|G-POWER model designed as a hope enhancing tool:G What is the client’s goal?P Which pathways does the client identify to move towards achieving the goal?O What obstacles lie in the client’s path?W What sources of willpower keep the client energised?
E Which pathways does the client elect to follow?
R Rethink the process to reassess the choices made
- Reflect on a struggle you are experiencing or a something you would like to see changed in your life. Can you identify the thoughts you consistently have about this? Is fear at the root of this struggle or need for change? What type of fear is it, can you name it? What is this fear telling you? Can you look at this fear in another light and use this fear to move you into action?
- Reflect on how focusing on Hope might change the way you, your family or your organization might operate. How would focusing on Hope make a difference?
- How might understanding your own level of hope help you as a coach?
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure– Marianne Williamson
Biswas-Diener, Robert. Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities, and Strategies for Success, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2010
Brown, Brené. TEDTalks: Listening to Shame, http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame, 2012
Brown, Brené: TEDTalks: Power of Vulnerability, http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability, 2010
Mumford, Jenny. Life Coaching for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2007
Snyder, Charles D. The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get Here from There. New York: The Free Press, 1994
Worgan, Tony. Hope theory in coaching: How clients respond to interventions based on Snyder’s theory of hope, http://ijebcm.brookes.ac.uk/documents/special7-paper-08.pdf, 2013