The power of knowing where to go towards to
If we take a look into the motivation literature and into Neuro Linquistique Programming to get away from and to GO towards to both are well known motivational strategies: At some level, if the reward (potential pleasure) is big enough or the consequences (potential pains) are bad enough everyone will move towards to or away from(1). But if we look into the research on that topic we can learn, that highly effective people tend to utilize both strategies simultaneously. Giving them both, the double motivational power of push and pull.
So, what makes out the power of having both motivational strategies in place?
One effect, that describes the power of this tool is, what our brain is doing with negative information: As soon as our consciousness goes to the Don’t ….be impatient or I shouldn’t smoke now our unconsciousness indeed receives the messages ….think of a blue elephant or …smoke or … be impatient . In other words: Every time we use a negative our brain first registers the exact opposite of what we mean. So we might be successful in making our unconsciousness quiet as long as we are focusing on really NOT smoking, consuming…. , being … – but what will happen as soon as we do not willingly and consciously let watch our consciousness what we are doing? “The unconsciousness will take over as the following example shows:
We met a friend the other day with a swelling on her head and asked her what happened. She replied, “I was shopping and had just was on my way out of the store when a salesperson said, ‘Be Careful, don’t hit the door frame.’ A few moments later, I hit the frame” The unconscious processed the helpful salesperson’s message as “Hit the door frame — Don’t,” and she followed the initial command to the letter!“ (2)
This highlights the importance of having a clear vision of where to go towards to is based on the awareness that our brain cannot process negative information. It shows us why “Getting Away from” vs. Going Towards to” is a successful and energizing power tool for coaching practice: If you tend to exactly know what you don’t want (and you won’t be alone with knowing that better than knowing anything else) the key question you need to ask yourself is:
What do I want to have in place instead?
Answering this question precisely will give our brain something to work towards to. The more you can specify what you will see, hear and feel the more the brain is given a map to create new solutions and guide it to its outcome. So, if you find yourself thinking something like, “I don’t want to be nervous in front of a group,” ask yourself, “what would I be doing instead?” You might answer “I will have steady hands, breathe easily, feel relaxed in my stomach, make eye contact, have a clear voice, be humorous, etc. etc.” The more detailed, and the more specific you are, the better. Therefore it is important to have a desired state in mind and to hear, see and feel it with all your senses to make it a desirable and trusting vision to reach that enables a positive pull-motivation.
What else makes the “Going towards to“- part so important?
Studies on behavioral change can bring some light into the darkness of that question as well. Knowing towards, what we are heading to:
a) provides us a destiny
b) makes us think about which action to take in order to replace an old and unwanted habit or thought by a more empowering one.
Something of importance if we want to enable real change: The psychologist Kurt Lewin identified already in the early 20th century three primary stages of change that are still the basis of many approaches today:
- Unfreezing – becoming motivated to change
- Changing – change what needs to be changed & to move to a new state
- Refreezeing – making the change permanent“ (4)
Whereas stage one refers might be nurtured by what we don’t want as well (the getting away from– part of this powertool) stages two and three refer to what we want (the going towards to– part of this powertool): if we don’t develop an idea of alternatives ways of behaving, thinking or acting we cannot change as we have no new state to refreeze and to make the change permanent. That implies that successful changes are only possible if we know what we want to change and what we want to have in place instead.
Seen from that perspective Going Towards To transfers our enemies into goals, that are worthwhile and important to reach. It gives us a destiny and nurtures our motivation to take on the efforts we need to take to really change our habits. It transfers a push into a pull -motivation, desperation into inspiration, pain into pleasure, problem-orientation into solution-orientation , negativity into positivity and finally brings us into a place of positive energy, having control, commitment and trust, as it is focusing on the positive outcomes and helps us developing new ideas of acting or behaving.
Seeing it this way you can either aim in a specified direction and/or maintain the course of avoidance, or you can say, ‘Que c’est ra, c’est ra’ and indeed, whatever will be will be: But this will be outside of your control.
2. Coaching Application:
What does this tell us for our coaching?
1) It is important to find out whether our clients are rather motivated by “Away From” or “Towards” to. Are they rather the type who is moving away from failure, and thinking how much you don’t want poverty, boredom, embarrassment or are they motivated by moving towards success and thinking of healthy relationships, accomplishment, financial security?
2) It is important to help our clients to discover the other motivational direction as well in order to embrace all motivational forces and to empower real change.
3) Regarding the Coaching Competencies (5) that shift might help us to …
- … confidentially shift the client’s perspective and experiment with new possibilities for own action
- … help the client to understand from another perspective what he/she wants
- … inspires the client to shift their viewpoints and to find new possibilities for action in situation of stuckness
- … help the client to focus on and systematically explore concerns and opportunities
- … challenge the client’s assumption and perspectives to provoke new ideas and find new possibilities for action
To 1) How can we find out about a clients motivational pattern?
As coaches we need to understand both types of people, but should approach them differently:
Usually we can easily recognize their motivational pattern by simply hearing what they tell us and which language they use:
Whereas Getting away-people tells us what they don’t want and seem to be rather focused on the difficulties than opportunities Towards to – people tell us about their goal and strive to achieve an outcome. Toward people will tell you what they want. Away from people will tell you what they don’t want. – Just ask them what they would like to change and listen actively and consciously.
To 2: How to communicate and to coach people who have either a TOWARDS To or AWAY FROM strategy in place?
That means a Towards to person should be presented with goals for the session, what they will get through the session, and further supported to explore their ideas and visions whereas an Away From person should be reassured that you are acknowledging their problems and be supported in getting access to their visions, that can be transformed into SMART goals to achieve.
Work out what the goals are and what they can do to achieve these goals. Focus on the outcome and what they will gain by reaching that goal. Watch and use their own language (achieve, strive for, gain,…) in order to keep them motivated. But help them explore also what they would gain by this new behavior and what they would leave behind to enhance their motivation for change.
Most people have had plenty of practice moving away from what they don’t want, with little or no direction where to go from there. As coaches we need to support them in becoming access to what they want to have in place instead and lead them into the towards-to part in order to enable real change. One technique to enable access to their visionary goals is visualizations that build up a picture and view of what our clients want to see in their life’s. (3) Therefore ask them to feel the change and the perceived pleasure, relieve, easiness,… of the new state. This way we might get insight into their visions and energize them positively. In this case the motivation arises out of inspiration and perceived pleasure as soon as we have reached what we tend to reach. By speaking these things out loud that might wishes and ideas that might be hold back move into a conscious level and will be recallable in future.
But as Coaches we also should acknowledge their tendency to be motivated by going away from something and should support them in gaining insight how applying a new behavior might help them to leave behind what they want to leave behind also anticipating potential problems and finding ways how to minimize or avoid these.
Icoachademy Module 4 Visualization
Darrel Steinbach Personal Change“in Ichoachademy in Coaching Trends & Thoughts
The ICF Competencies