What is coaching?
What are the ICF’s core competencies relating to coaching and happiness?
Coaching can be defined broadly as a partnership between two or more people in which the coach provides a safe place for client to identify his issues of concern and develop a plan of action, to address this for him and therefore move forward in his life. There is no part in coaching curriculum that defines happiness as an ultimate goal, or that finding it is a part of the process. The goal of coaching is to partner a client in his journey whatever it is that he/she wants to achieve. It is untrue to assume that every client wants to be “happy”. People are often most comfortable in the state of mind that they are most familiar with. Not everybody is familiar with being in a constant state of happiness. The competencies state that a qualified coach should practice listening skills that allow him to mirror back what the client is speaking about. The coach should ask the uniquely powerful questions that cause a client to challenge his own thinking if called for. A coach is not charged with the challenge of helping his client find happiness. He IS charged with listening, acknowledging the client’s awareness, thoughts, and insights, asking those powerful questions, and holding the client accountable to steps of moving into action. It is up to the client to make decisions regarding the desired outcome of his sessions with the coach.
Connecting Coaching with happiness
Clients do not necessarily come to a coach because they feel unhappy. If the desire of the client is such that happiness can be discussed, explored, sought after, and possibly achieved, the door opens for discovery. It can be incorporated into the coaching process, respecting all of the IFC Competencies and Code of Ethics. The following are examples of how that can be done:
Mrs. Smith approaches coach with inability to get up in the morning, the youngest child has gone to college, her husband is gone all the time, she feels unmotivated. The first meeting with the coach could go something like this:
Coach: “What brings us together today?”
Mrs. Smith: “I cannot get up in the morning, my youngest has gone to college, my husband is always gone, I have no energy..”
Coach: “Can you talk a little more about your lack of energy?”
Mrs. Smith: “I drag through the day. I do get out some, but I find myself feeling tired and bored a lot of the time, and want to sleep the day away.”
Coach: “I think it is wonderful that you are aware that your routine is alarming you, that is a good sign. How would you like that to be different?”
The coaching conversation continues and the client talks more about her routine, the coach continues to acknowledge any awarenesses regarding the client’s recognition of her situation, and her dissatisfaction with it. At some point the conversation enters into a phase of the following:
Client: “I know I use to feel like I was doing something important, when my children were younger, but now I feel like I have nothing to do anymore.”
Coach: “Can you describe to me what it feels like when you have nothing to do?”
Client: “It makes me feel worthless, unhappy.”
Coach: “Can you tell me more about what happiness looks like to you?”
Client: “Happiness to me is people around me needing me, feeling like I belong somewhere, the days going by without my knowing it.”
Coach: “So are you saying you feel happy when you are helping others? Does being around others give you a sense of accomplishment?”
Client: “I think, I am not sure, maybe..”
The conversation goes from there. Happiness is a part of the explorative process, and the client has opened the door to exploring how this can be accomplished. All disciplines and codes are met, the coach is aware of client’s goals, and the client begins to find desired happiness. All coaching conversations are unique to the individual session, but they can lead to shifts that help the client move toward happiness if that is his desired outcome.
A coach has a unique opportunity to actually contribute to this world her sought after, trained, and skilled abilities. Happiness is something desired the world over, yet somehow it has gotten pushed into a corner, unaware of its placement. The desire for financial success, the competitive ways of the world, the high need for super sizing life has disguised itself as the ultimate happiness. Greater awareness of basic human needs, such as compassion, community, and shared experiences, can lead us to a movement toward finding true happiness.
This profession grants liberty in helping others find happiness. Because a coach is not driven to offer advice or suggest “how tos” for clients, the client has the ability to take charge of his own desires, his plan to achieve them, and his awareness along the way. A talented coach can make this process one in which happiness is incorporated. Happiness, like anything else, is contagious. The more happiness one is around, the more happiness one spreads to the next place he goes. Thus begins a change that could in effect make the world a happier place. If such a feat can be accomplished by a trained, skilled life coach, he has served his fellow man well.
References and bibliography
Lyubomirsky's 2008, “The How of Happiness”
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” (1990)
Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America,”
Happy the Movie www.TheHappyMovie.com
PSYCH-CENTRAL By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 5, 2008