Research Paper By Irene Adams
(Mindful Coach & Consulting, CANADA)
Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale
This paper is written to facilitate transformation on how coaching can support you in achieving your goals and fulfilling your dreams.
Before beginning, I would like to speak of my own experience on how I have transformed my own life through self-coaching, and learning how to practice and control my own negative thinking about myself and situations.
As a result, I have been able to release a lot of unnecessary stress, and live a more balanced and fulfilled life. In addition, and a huge bonus, I feel I have found my calling… my passion… my purpose… to be a coach.
I am now grateful for my life and all that I have. I discovered that when I believed my negative thoughts I suffered, but when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer. Suffering is optional. I learned that by controlling my negative thoughts, I became a different person, happier, more content, less stressed and fulfilled. I also started taking the steps that I needed to in order to be the person I really want to be.
With my graduation in December, 2014, I will be a Certified Professional Coach, and my new job is to help others transform their lives like I did mine, one thought at a time.
The Power Of Thought
Do you believe everything that you think?
The way you think profoundly influences the way you feel, the way you act, your behaviour and essentially your life. So learning to think differently can enable you to feel and act differently, and ultimately change your life.
Our mind is very powerful and our thoughts can either help us or hurt us. Learning to keep our thoughts positive and in forward motion all the time can be challenging, and even more so for people who tend to be negative and/or have negative thought patterns, or similarly for those who listen to that inner voice, who I like to refer to as the “gremlin” who says things like “I can’t do that, how is that going to work, I don’t have the proper education, I’m not qualified enough, it won’t work anyway, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough time, etc.”
Who is this “gremlin” any way? The “gremlin” is in fact your own negative thoughts, and you have all the power to control them. Learning to control your negative thoughts and eliminating the “gremlin” can provide many benefits to your life.
Simply put, negative thoughts can impair your life and prevent you from maximizing your personal and professional potential, and maintaining a constant negative thought cycle and/or succumbing to the “gremlin” will continue indefinitely unless you choose to break the pattern, and just exactly how do you do that?
Cognitive Behavioural Theraphy
One technique known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (“CBT”) is effective in changing behaviors which are derived from our thoughts. Dr. Aaron Beck, psychiatrist, regarded as the father of CBT, defines CBT as a form of psychotherapy that has been scientifically tested and found to be effective in hundreds of clinical trials for many different disorders. In contrast to other forms of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy is usually more focused on the present, more time-limited, and more problem-solving oriented. In addition, patients learn specific skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. These skills involve identifying distorted thinking, modifying beliefs, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors.
Basically, the evidence of CBT is that suffering is not caused by people, places, conditions or things, but rather from our own negative thoughts about them.
In addition, Dr. Beck also introduced the term “automatic thoughts”. Although some automatic thoughts are in fact true, many are either untrue or have just a grain of truth. Our automatic thoughts spring up like a reflex; they are rapid and often times very brief. In fact, many people are barely aware of their automatic thoughts and are more likely only to notice the emotions that follow instead. As a result, many people accept their automatic thoughts as being true, without evaluating the validity of them.
Negative automatic thoughts have several characteristics:
- Automatic – they just pop into our head without any effort on our part;
- Distorted – they do not fit in with all the facts;
- Unhelpful – they keep you feeling the extreme feelings that you experience, making it difficult to change, and stop you from getting what you want out of life;
- Plausible – you accept them as facts and it does not occur to you to question them;
- Involuntary – you do not choose to have them and they can be very difficult to switch off.
Dr. Beck also found that many patients’ automatic thoughts fell into three categories:
- The patients had negative ideas about themselves;
- The patients had negative ideas about the world;
- The patients had negative ideas about the future.
How does this relate to coaching?
Coaching as defined by the International Coach Federation (“ICF”) is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The ICF is the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches. ICF goes on to state that coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.
Coaching is about change. People come to coaching because they want to change their life in some way. The reason for change varies from person to person. For instance, some may seek personal goals relating to relationships, time management, work-life balance, health, fitness, stress reduction, simplification, etc. Others may be more interested in professional or business goals such as leadership, getting a promotion or even starting a business.
Nonetheless, regardless of what your desired goal(s) may be, coaching is about personal development and moving forward.
Professional coaches must possess a variety of skills and attributes, and active listening is one of the most vital services coaches can provide. In a coach-client relationship a coach listens intently to what a client is saying and feeling. Active listening is truly attending to and “tuning in” to the client talking. The focus is on and all about the client, with no judgment passed by the coach.
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them – Ralph Nichols
The primary purpose of listening is to truly understand the client’s point of view, how they think and feel and how they move through the world (Zeus and Skiffington, 2000).
When a coach is working with a client, the coach is not only listening about what the client is saying, but also how the client is saying it, what feelings and emotions are being expressed or withheld, as well as the pitch, tone and rhythm of the client’s speech.
Of further significance is for the coach to also actively listen for what truly inspires a client. What lightens them up, excites them, frees them, and keeps them from resignation, in addition to what would fulfill that inspiration and what is getting in the client’s way. Above all, a coach listens to a client as a magnificent, extraordinary person; as their greater self, and relates to them that way.
In addition to active listening, another key skill that coaches must possess is powerful questioning. The art of powerful questioning lives within the art of coaching, and powerful questions have the ability to stop clients in their tracks in an effort to get them to start thinking in a different way.
Powerful questions combined with a CBT approach can help clients stop their negative thoughts, and the usual way their thoughts have been programmed to think. Examples of questions a coach can ask to help identify a client’s automatic thoughts are:
- What was going through my mind just before you started to feel this way?
- What does this say about you if it is true?
- What does this mean about you, your life, your future?
- What are you afraid might happen?
- What is the worst thing that could happen if it is true?
Asking powerful questions increases the acceptance of change, thereby creating awareness for the client that they did not have or realize. Such awareness allows clients to think outside of the realm that they have been used to, which can cause shifts in perspectives. It is in this new realm when perspectives are shifted that negative thoughts are switched to positive, facilitating transformation, and also enabling great ideas to emerge.
It is very important to note that asking powerful questions surrounding a client’s unhelpful thoughts is NOT therapy based. Although coaching does in fact draw on some principals of therapy, it is NOT therapy. Therapy is focused on past events. In addition, a therapist typically works with dysfunctional people to get them to become functional. Whereas coaching is action oriented, and coaches work with clients who are functional, helping them set goals and move forward.
Using a CBT approach in coaching is helpful for clients in controlling their negative thoughts and developing ways of thinking that are more productive and likely to assist and support them in creating action and moving forward to achieve their desired goals personally and/or professionally.
Continuously asking questions derived from answers is a methodology for discerning truth, and is not new, and commonly referred to as the “Socratic method”, and derives its name from the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. He would continuously pose questions to his listeners to trigger thinking. Questioning continued until the listeners provided the most logical answer to a particular problem and discovery followed.
For example, when a trail leads to an answer, we can uncover more truths by searching each answer to see if it presents a new set of questions. Eventually, there will come an answer which does not appear to present a new question, or which seems to answer all the previous questions. This becomes the basis of discovering the truth about an issue.
The Socratic method of questioning essentially led people to find their underlying beliefs, which can often be hidden behind our thoughts. Such process aims to help clients gain a perspective about whatever is at the root of their difficulty. Coach and client work together to identify what might be stopping the client from reaching his/her full potential and what action is needed to take charge of their situation.
Simply put, if someone can talk themselves into being miserable or ineffective they can talk themselves out of such feelings and learn the associated behaviours that will lead to success.
On a similar note, Byron Katie, an American speaker and author, teaches a method of self-inquiry known as “The Work of Byron Katie” or simply “The Work”. In February 1986, after a ten year spiral into depression, rage and self-loathing she experienced a life-changing realization. She discovered that when she believed her thoughts, she suffered, but that when she didn’t believe them, she didn’t suffer. Her belief is that this is true for every human being and freedom is as simple as that, and that suffering is optional.
The Work is a way of identifying and questioning any stressful thought. Byron Katie has essentially based her entire method on four questions and a turnaround statement. Her four questions are:
1) Is it true?
This is the most important question of all, however, Byron Katie suggests you answer with a simple “yes” or “no”
2) Can you absolutely know that its true?
Again, answer with a simple “yes” or “no”. This keeps you from going into your story once again.
3) How do you react and what happens when you believe that thought?
This question is an opportunity to take a look at how stressful your thought is affecting you, and state your reactions, what you feel, your emotions, physical sensations, etc.
4) Who would you be without the thought?
This question shows the opposite point of view from No. 3 above, and specifically asking how your life would be and/or how you would feel if the thought was not there.
For the thought: “I hate my job and I’m stuck in it forever”:
Is that thought true?
Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
How do you react when you believe that thought?
I feel unhappy, upset, angry, frustrated, unfulfilled
Who would you be without that thought?
I would be happy, energized, excited, more fulfilled
The next step is the turnaround statement which is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believe. For each turnaround it is important to give at least three genuine examples of how the turnaround is as true, if not more true, than the original concept. For example:
- “I don’t hate my job, and I am not stuck it in forever”;
- “I am grateful for my job because I make good money”
- “I am valued at my job because I do it well.
The turnaround statement is about welcoming all your thoughts and experiences with open arms, as it shows you where you are still at war with reality. If you feel any resistance to a thought, your Work is not done. When you can honestly look forward to experiences that have been uncomfortable, there is no longer anything to fear in life, you see everything as a gift that can bring you self-realization.
In summary, Byron Katie states when you question a thought you see around it to the choices beyond suffering. The turnaround is your prescription for happiness!!!
Coaching fills the gap between the life you have and the one you want.
Coaching is a relationship between a coach and client with the aim of helping the client obtain a fulfilling life by moving forward to achieve their goals. Through active listening and powerful questioning the coach can help create awareness and shifts perspectives for their clients thereby facilitating transformation and enabling them to make life changing decisions.
With the clients’ actions, commitment and perseverance the coach will help the client create plans and provide on-going support each and every step of the way until goals are met and their dreams fulfilled.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. Buddha
ICA Coaching Skills & Knowledge/Coach Skills/Power Listening
ICA Coaching Skills & Knowledge/ Coach Skills/Powerful Questions