A Coaching Power Tool Created by Sherry Maklary
(Health & Fitness Coach, UNITED STATES)
A client who I will call with the pseudonym “Nelson” for anonymity and security purposes, had been struggling with feeling unhappy because he felt like he did not have the ability to have a strong future. At the age of 53 years old, Nelson often spoke of his lack of parental emotional and monetary support as the main elements that led to his “lack of motivation” in life. He also developed a thirty-year habit of weekend binge drinking. Nelson explained the older he had become, the more hopeless he felt. He discussed that his job of working in construction, was one where he had no joy, and he described it as a “dead-end union worker job”, one in which he would “never be able to retire because of a lack of savings.” Nelson also lost his license due to drunk driving, his second offense, and this he claimed, added to his feeling unhappy. Lastly, Nelson had to move back to his parents’ home in his late forties, because he was not able to afford to live on his own.
As Nelson shared these issues, I asked open-ended questions to help him explore the successes within the challenges he shared. Nelson began to shift his perspective to see some positive areas within the negative. This power tool of reframing helped Nelson realize although he had been drinking heavily for more than thirty years – his health was quite good. He reframed the loss of his license as a positive because he had not hurt anyone nor got into any accidents that could have devastated his life, killed him, and/or others. His belief that drinking was the way to “forget” his unhappiness, he realized, was due to his family often celebrating with alcohol for positive events. Through our sessions, Nelson realized that he had an underlying belief that alcohol was equal to happiness. By focusing on Nelson’s strengths and helping him become more aware, he gained clarity that each time he became sober he was in the same spot in his life, hence the cycle of his binges was not creating happiness.
Nelson’s reflections became deeper as I asked probing questions on reframing “negative issues” with a new perspective. As I listened to Nelson after our fifth session his energy became more positive, his voice more energetic, and he began to reframe his perspectives on positive areas and opportunities in his life. I asked Nelson in that session if I could share an observation, and he permitted me. I explained that it sounded as if he was feeling happy versus unhappy, and he quickly concurred. I was able to observe his shift in consciousness and his ability to see things from a quite different perspective. Nelson was able to see how his second driver’s license suspension, forced him to take a safe driving course. In this course, Nelson spent three months in a weekly class discussing alcohol, and the destructive patterns that can result from its abuse. These classes contributed to his empowerment to quit drinking and thus he shifted from feeling unhappy about his loss of driving to one where he was given a situation to find the “positive light” in it.
Nelson continued to make progress during his re-reframing, resulting in his ability to continue to feel more positive, happy, and hopeful. During our sessions, a few insights became apparent to me. Firstly, I researched that the word happiness and in many European languages were synonymous with the word lucky. The word hap meant a chance in Middle English. Thus, I realized, people often associated happenings to one’s happiness – if they were lucky enough to have good things happen to them. Secondly, I discovered, that focusing on the past or trying to overly control the future often makes people unhappy. Nelson was focused on the past, and initially felt he was “done” with progressing to happiness in his life. He also felt that his past controlled his future. Once Nelson was able to look at his present, and see the choices he had, he was able to reframe. He also gained clarity that the things that “happened” in the past, would not dictate his future and that these happenings of the past could have been much worse. Thirdly, happiness is often when one focuses on their personal ego, where one believes things only happen to them, another underlying belief that Nelson was able to shift away from.
According to Izzo (2017), he claimed most people believe their happiness is directly related to things that happen, but that this premise did not explain why some people could find happiness regardless of their circumstances, while others are chronically unhappy, even with the most fortunate of circumstances. Izzo (2017) further contends that happiness is the natural state for people. Happiness is “a deep sense of rightness about one’s life and a sense of inner contentment about oneself in the world” (Izzo, 2017). He believes that happiness does not need to be sought through work or to be longed for – but is there and we need to get out of the way to experience it (Izzo, 2017). He makes references to thieves that take away happiness. Izzo (2017)asserted there are five thieves and one included the thief – comfort. He claimed when one had comfortable patterns in their life, they remain stuck. Yet, when one gains clarity, they have the power to change and the ability to choose a new path (Izzo, 2017). Through using the power tool of reframing perspectives, Nelson became empowered to recognize his happiness and good fortune in the present moment versus unhappiness.
The reframing perspectives power tool is one of the most effective because it allows clients to have a greater awareness of their decision-making, how they see things, and the empowerment to shift their perspective. Very often clients focus on the negative in their life without any focus on the positive. This can result in over-generalizations, polarized thinking, and filtering, to name a few. These perspectives can be dis-empowering rather than empowering. Asking clients questions such as “what can you learn from this” or what in this situation can you be grateful for” can help the client reflect and gain clarity, self-awareness, and empowerment to change.
Izzo, J. (2017).The five thieves of happiness. Berrett-Koehler.