A Coaching Power Tool Created by Belinda Needham
(Mental Wellness Coach, USA)
As a rule any sort of action or change carries the weight of past, present or future. That is why empowering perspectives are so important. Power is necessary to carry weight. By increasing the power the load seems lighter. Additionally if an unnecessary load is lightened power seems to increase. The dis-empowering thought or perspective of what we will call ‘fortune-telling’ makes it very difficult to nearly impossible to reach for goals or to accomplish things that are important to us.
I know exactly what they will do… I know it won’t work …I know what will happen. All of these statements when contemplating action are hints that this thought distorted dis-empowering perspective of fortune-telling is at work and it could derail a possible action or change. The perspective of curiosity can unleash the power necessary to take action.
Here are three of many thought distortions studied by A.T. Beck, M.D. and popularized by David Burns, M.D. that contribute to this particular perspective of ‘knowing’ a negative outcome in advance. Recognizing these kinds of perspectives is a start in giving power to our efforts.
- Polarized thinking also known as black-and-white thinking, “I always fail when I try to do something new; I therefore fail at everything I try.”
- Filtering. We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.
- Overgeneralization. In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.
Fortune-telling is dis-empowering because it saps our strength and enthusiasm to take on a new or difficult action. Everyone knows that predictions inevitably carry with them a percentage of chance and quite often they don’t turn out exactly as expected. Think weather forecast, political elections, stock market! So why be so sure that any one action will fail?
Using a cost-benefit analysis, the benefit of fortune-telling may be the security of
- not being rejected
- not being disappointed
- not failing
The cost may be
- never having new positive experiences of success
- never knowing the strengths that are within us
- never feeling the excitement of accomplishment
Many a time negative predictions are based on previous experiences that have convinced us that there is only one way to go or only one way to be safe. One may envision ruts in a road that seem to be the right way to go because they have never failed before. They work if you are always going in the same direction. However, intentionally and repeatedly going in other directions will eventually make it easier to have exciting new experiences and success Stay curious.
- What is it about predicting a negative outcome that is such a problem?
- Why do these two differing perspectives either stop us in our tracks or move us along?
- What can we do to lighten our load by choosing to let go of the past and not ‘know’ the future?
- How can we summon the same curiosity we were born with?
Curiosity is empowering because it leads to action without absolute judgement of what will happen. It doesn’t carry the baggage of the future because the future hasn’t happened yet. In other words, the fear of doing something new or uncomfortable is set aside in favor of trying despite the feeling of fear.
Curiosity doesn’t carry the baggage of the past because the past has already happened and no two experiences are identical. Curiosity is an attitude that opens possibilities.
Let’s say a person is facing a difficult conversation with someone who was rude to them once or was observed being rude to someone else. Does that mean that this particular conversation is not worth the effort? Would this difficult conversation lay down a new track taking us out of the rut of inaction? How might curiosity make a difference?
Looking at the conversation through the lens of curiosity may give us the necessary power to produce a different experience. At least we would not be paralyzed by the dis-empowering expectation of failure. We might develop more insight into our own character and that of the other person. We could become doers instead of victims of paralysis.
“I wonder what would happen if”…”it’s worth a try”…”who knows”…”maybe this time”…These are empowering thoughts and perspectives because they open the door to possibilities. How do those very words feel when you say them? These are empowering thoughts and perspectives that lead to success!
This very day try something new or difficult that you have been putting off because you ‘know’ you will fail. When we change our perspectives and approach new experiences with curiosity we can be more like the person we want to become or who we were born to be. We can’t live in the past or in the future by fortune-telling. We can only live now and approach life with curiosity to really savor life!
- How do I feel when I do something inspite of not knowing the result?
- What are ways that curiosity could make life more interesting and spontaneous?
- Think of a time when a negative event in the past did not predict the future.
- What would it look like if you approached this situation with curiosity?
As a coach, the next time you face a challenging situation with a client simply stay curious. Don’t be concerned with what has helped before or not. Remember that every client is unique and each situation presents opportunities to grow. Stay present and do not be attached to the solutions that you as a helper have decided will work or that have worked for others. Stay curious and notice the increase in power for both you and your client.
T. Beck, M.D.1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.
D.D. Burns, M.D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American
Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. (1987, 2007) Feel The Fear…And Do It Anyway