Coaching and Presence
Presence, or being aware of existing in the moment, is a state that people can cultivate. Through recognizing what Tolle (1999) refers to as a space behind the voices, or the awakening and recognition of a self that is aware beyond the voice(s) in one’s head, one can become aware of presence. Presence can also be experienced as mindfulness, or “a state of active, open attention on the present … mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to that experience” (Mindfulness, para 1). Coaching can cultivate this space – this calm – helping clients to become more present in the moment. Many coaching sessions begin with a few moments of deep breathing, or other centering practices, which help clients to recognize that the session is a time for them to gain some form of presence. Whether the method suggested is deep breathing, articulation of feelings in the present moment, or adjusting physical position for greater comfort, coaches use various methods to support presence. As the session unfolds, many coaches ask a client to consider how s/he feels in the moment about a topic of discussion. These practices help clients to develop a greater understanding of themselves, and to gain presence and mindfulness.
Coaching and Resilience
Resilience is the ability to cope with stressful or catastrophic events, and “bounce back” with time. Everyone deals with stressful situations in life, but not everyone deals with these situations well, or knows how to overcome the challenges that can follow. While resiliency appears to be both genetic and learned, coaching can support clients in developing resiliency skills that help them cope. (Note that sometimes coaching can be paired with counseling or other therapies to help a client.) When a client in a coaching session is willing to address the source of a problem, the underlying belief, the pattern, or the frustration, there is often space for exploring how to move forward in more productive ways. Coaching can provide a space for healing and for developing practical tools and techniques to become more resilient. Psychologist Heitler (2013) explains that emotionally resilient people are able to find the good in situations and move more quickly from the emotional expression to problem-solving. When coaches work with clients who deal with problems in their lives, the focus is directed at both the present and future and is solutionary in nature. Coaches ask questions to help a client gain awareness, build inner capacity and strength, learn more, or take positive actions in building resiliency.
Coaching and Wholeheartedness
Wholeheartedness is a term used by social worker and researcher Brown (2012), who studied people who believed in their own worthiness, calling them the wholehearted. Brown describes living with wholeheartedness as:
engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night and thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging (p. 10).
Brown developed ten areas in which people can experience wholeheartedness. The wholehearted cultivate authenticity, self-compassion, resilient spirits, gratitude and joy, intuition and trusting faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, meaningful work, and laughter, song, and dance. Brown outlines a multitude of ways to promote these ways of living and being in our lives, as well as allowing vulnerability, which can lead to connection. Coaching integrates all of these concepts, as clients are offered a safe space in which to be vulnerable and are supported with connection. Coaches use a variety of tools to support clients in their personal growth. Offering opportunities for visualizations, role-playing, or challenging clients to experience more lightness, more trust, more gratitude, or any of the other wholehearted qualities are frequently incorporated into coaching sessions. Through a coaching relationship, clients often develop more of the skills Brown outlines as part of a wholehearted way of being.
Coaching, Conversation, and Connection
The foundation of coaching is powerful, transformative conversations that create connection. Turkle (2012) researches disconnection via mediated forms of communication, and explains that although technology has allowed people from all over the world to communicate with one another, people feel less real connection, because they do not experience conversations in the same way that humans have in the past. Short attention spans and little bites of interaction with one another via text messaging, Facebook, or Twitter do not substitute for two humans directing their attention at one another, discussing perspectives, issues, and feelings. Communication, after all, according to Wood (2013) allows people the opportunity to explore and attain many of our needs including belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization, aligning with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Coaching allows time and opportunity for people to connect in a healthy way to fulfill such needs. In this way, communication with others is
essential to our survival and happiness (Wood, 2013, p. 33).
From the outset of a session, the coach seeks to co-create with the client a safe, trusting environment, and this helps develop a connection. After a coaching session, it is common that both client and coach feel energized and equipped with action steps for moving forward. In the best situations, this energy, awareness, and planning around actions can lead to meaningful outcomes. Wheatley (2009) describes the power of conversations by explaining,
conversation also gives us courage. Thinking together, deciding what actions to take, more of us become bold. And we become wiser about where to use our courage (p.30).
Brown (2010) defines connection as,
the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship (p. 19).
The connection often occurs through the process of deep, active listening that the coach engages in with the client. Coaches practice mindful listening, or what Hanh (2004) describes as,
listening deeply to the other person to hear what is being said and what is not being said.
The Value of Intrapersonal Peace
Mother Teresa is famously quoted as saying,
if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Life coaches hold space for connection—for a client to be his or her highest self—and provide mechanisms for a client to achieve dreams more quickly. Coaching encourages people to recognize their values and goals, and work towards them. While people may succeed without the help of a coach, the process of coaching typically speeds up the process (Benefits of Using a Coach, para 1). When people are living out their potential, and thriving in the space of their highest self, magical things happen. Pressfield (2002) writes:
If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out business. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with junk food, cosmetic surgery…domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff (p.xii).
Pressfield (somewhat humorously) points out that, for a variety of reasons, so many people do not live out their dreams, and thus live unhappy and unsatisfied lives. While he does not go so far as to say that living more vibrant, fulfilled lives will lead to less violence, I will. In conversation with another, where one feels safe, clients are provided an outlet and space for meaningful conversations, in genuine connection, that bring them to a place of increased presence, resilience, and wholeheartedness. As a result, this has the potential to create a more peaceful reality for clients. At minimum, the concept of negative peace, or an absence of violence, could be an outcome. Ideally, this reality would look more harmonious and tranquil, and be an example of positive peace.