A Coaching Power Tool Created by Beatriz Peña
(Diversity and Inclusion Coach, Leadership Coach, MEXICO)
Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi
If the need or want to change was enough for people to go through an important transformation, then the world will be a better place….
After many hours of coaching clients with different challenges and desires, I have realized that working on the mindset is a key element to support the changes clients wants to commit to.
A specific Mindset can either empower the client and help him to pursue his desires and goals, or either act as a ghost that plays you a “trap” that stops or even generates the opposite result that the client wants to achieve. Mindsets can act as enablers or as
Behind the client’s mindsets, there’s fears, beliefs, assumptions that if not uncovered and processed can stop the coaching journey to succeed.
Mindsets are the beliefs, assumptions, and mental frames, often unconscious that shape people’s actions. If our coachee is unaware of his mindset, they might find that their good intentions to change lapse in the face of stress, and then old habits kick in”, (Connor, J, and Hirani, K 2109)
Neuroscience explains this. The frequent firing of neurons in the brain creates deep pathways or “rivers of thinking”. To change those paths new connections must be built. Without creating new connections, natural reactions will be automatic and predefined by the already established pathways.
Roberto Assagioli mind model: Assagioli Egg or Psychosintesis
The human brain can perform more than a thousand operations for the second, but it also tends to fall into mindtraps which weaken our intellect and influence, sometimes negatively, our decisions.
Mind traps can trick our consciousness. This leads to questionable choices or biased perceptions or decisions.
The science behind:
What happens to our brains when we are Mindtrap?
Daniel Goleman, author of emotional intelligence describes the effect being “mindtrap” has on our brain. Our amygdala situated in our temporal lobe is one of our most primitive brain parts to unleash response to danger, is our “survival partner”. The tricky part is that when we can unleash the survival response to an actual dangerous situation or a person, situation, or problem that our brain reads as threatening. Our response to a real life-threatening event or a situation that the brain interprets as dangerous can be similar. Physically we can experience changes in our heart rate, breathing our thoughts and reactions become exaggerated, distorted from reality. When we are mindtrap we get into a negative spiral of negative thoughts and feelings that lead to certain behaviors.”When triggered our amygdala is responsible for our fight or flight response, the emotional response takes over and it shutdowns abilities in the cortex, and our perception is clouded.
This is an evolutionary response that enables human beings to respond quickly without waiting for conscious thoughts about the danger. Goleman calls this the “amygdala highjack”. A triggered mindset has taken over in other words we are Mindtrap.
In most cases being in a real “life-threatening situation” is rare. Then people need to learn to self manage the mindtrap state.
What happens to our brains when we are Mindful?
I always tell my executive coaching clients, that to become more mature leaders they must learn to lead from their frontal cortex and move their reactions from the amygdala (mindtrap) to the frontal cortex (mindful)
In the amazing book and ted talk “The upside of stress” Kelly McGonigal points out that when we can see things from a different perspective and in a more realistic way our frontal cortex is activated and the oxytocin system is activated. This network inhibits the fear centers of the brain, increasing the ability to respond in a more balanced, way. You feel more empathy, connection, courage, and trust.
The reward system releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. Activation of the reward system increases motivation while dampening fear and you feel optimistic about your ability to do something meaningful.
The attunement system is driven by the neurotransmitter serotonin. When this system is activated, it enhances perception, intuition, and self-control.
A Mindful mindset helps us to reframe our thoughts and respond in a more social, brave, and smart way.
It provides both the courage and hope we need to propel us into action and the awareness to act skillfully.
Reframing our thoughts and get free from the cage that the mindtrap impose allows us to look at negative situations more realistically and takes clients to a place of possibility where they can commit to action. Analyze and focusing on small steps they can put in place to tackle de mindtrap.
Instead of approaching the problem from the exaggeration, generalization, and powerlessness that the mindtrap can inflict on the client’s minds and feelings.
Besides working with our clients to help them clarify the values and mindsets behind their decisions. A big part of the coaching process is “putting in evidence” clients’ mindtraps, that do not serve the results they want to achieve. This is one of the most powerful impacts of the coaching process.
This power tool Mindtrap vs Mindful allows the client to make a shift, this is where the “aha moments” happen. This shift from mindtrap to mindful leverage the changing process.
This power tool can help coachees to develop the self-awareness to identify the difference between being “trapped” by a constraining mindset, vs identifying the kind of mindsets that serve them. Empower the client to identify the shift and chose a different perspective, growth mindset, or behavior is crucial
Also, a client can show a pattern or tendency to certain mindtraps: guilty, negativity, judgment.
Being able to identify those patterns can be very powerful during the coaching process.
Mindtrap: will be any state of fear, anguish, a limitation that the client exhibits. It doesn’t serve the client’s goals and success image.
Mindful: Consists of being conscious and present, in an emotional or mental state that serves the client and the goals they established for the coaching process.
This power tool can help the client to identify their inner talk, thoughts, emotions, and impact when they are mindtrap vs. mindful.
Applies not just to a specific mindset but to any situation where the client is trapped in a mindset that doesn’t serve him. It can be used throughout the process to identify many situations and states.
Let´s illustrate its application with a client’s case.
Lizzy was a top executive who was having a lot of problems setting boundaries with her team and boss. During our conversations, she identifies that saying no to her boss or delegating things to her team make her feel guilty and led her to think that “she wasn’t” good enough. I challenge her beliefs but saying so anyone that sets a limit or asks you to do something is doing something against you or is not good enough? She discovered this wasn’t true, it was a belief. With the coaching process, she started to be more self-aware about this belief, and we started to call those moments “mindtrap moments”.
Then I asked how it looks like to be “mindful” about this situation, she discovers it was the moment where her inner talk was about: “setting boundaries” is part of my growth, is respect my self and empower my team to do thing by themselves.
Being able to differentiate the mindtrap mindset vs the mindful, allow her to be more self-conscious but also impacted her behavior.
Powerful questions that can help the client move from Mindtrap to Mindful
- Invite the client to analyze if he must be having an exaggerated, distorted, pessimist approach to the topic
- Invite the client to breath
Is all that you’re thinking true?
If we do a reality check about this thought can you affirm that this is entirely correct?
If you look at it with a more compassionate perspective will it look the same?
McGonigal, Kelly, 2015The Upside of Stress, Penguin
Goleman, Daniel,2014 Leadership, No Fiction
Connor, J, and Hirani, Karim The four greatest coaching conversations, NBA