Research Paper By Tolga Hayali
(Leadership, Career and Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
To achieve and live the American dream, students are programmed early in life to work hard, do well in school, get into a prestigious college, and graduate from college. This poses stressful challenges for many students because the adolescent brain is in one of its most vulnerable stages when it faces stress, including high-school preparation for college admission—taking SAT and ACTs, building a portfolio of extracurricular activities, volunteering, securing letters of recommendation, writing college application essays, etc.
Transitioning from high school to college and succeeding in freshman year of college also is stressful. Many adolescents lack the coping skills needed to combat anxiety associated with test-taking, meeting deadlines, managing priorities, timing deadlines, and so on. Academic pressure and social pressure can weigh heavily on a student’s self-esteem and self-care, and unfortunately, can lead to severe negative physical and emotional consequences, such as depression and other mental health problems.
Despite all the pressure and demands to succeed, students are still looking for answers to WHY they have to do things. If they are not satisfied with the reason why they must do well in school, complete schoolwork, or take a test, they will resist while their parents and teachers will insist. This often results in students answering, “I don’t know” when asked what they want to be or do in the future, or what they currently are interested in doing. In today’s fast-paced world, it is difficult for them to determine what they are interested in doing in the future because brand-new professions such as a YouTuber are popping up that we had no idea would become a profession ten years ago.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. Our thoughts impact our feelings and result in our behavior or actions. Exploring an adolescent’s thoughts, feelings and current state require a coach to be present, to listen, and to empower by asking powerful questions. Coaching can help adolescents get to the heart of what’s truly important to them.
Today’s adolescents are eager to learn and discover themselves by examining the meaning and purpose of whatever they are doing. To create and build self-awareness in an adolescent, a coach needs to utilize direct communication and powerful questioning. Self-awareness is an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality (Merriam Webster Dictionary,2020). Throughout the Exploration stage, a coach’s active listening, presence, and direct communication with the adolescent will enable assessment of the current realities, client beliefs, what the issue is and how important it is, and the strengths and passion of the adolescent. There are many ways to make assessments in the current stage, such as the Wheel of Life approach, whereby adolescents see the balance in their life. They can determine what is important to them and define the most meaningful areas in their lives. Coaching can help adolescents understand what success looks like to them and for them—not for their friends or parents.
Adolescents come to coaching for the content, but the context will help them heal. Through coaching, they can lighten some of their stress and create self-awareness, enabling themselves to see what support system is needed and build upon it.
Thus, using the Wheel of Life (Figure 1.) approach during coaching can create the contextual foundation on which adolescents place all the other parts of their daily lives. This approach can be modified according to the adolescent, for simplicity. As a starting point, four parts are placed in the wheel. The number can be increased to eight and so on. With some powerful, tailored questions, clients can become aware of what is in their control and how their actions, thoughts, and feelings can change a response—and produce different desired results, rather than limit themselves to beliefs that hold them back.
Some powerful Exploration questions include:
- What brings this topic now?
- What makes this topic important for you?
- Can you tell me more about it?
- What would be different if you achieved this?
- How will you know that you reached your goal?
- What would a great outcome look like to you?
- How can you measure success?
- What is the opportunity here?
Once adolescents identify the area(s) they want to work on to achieve their desired outcomes, coaching will enable them to see points of view from different perspectives.
Perspectives are gained by asking and answering powerful questions. This process enables a client’s way of thinking to change, resulting in a shift from seeing and visualizing negative, limiting, blaming, self-defeating perspectives to positive, empowering perspectives that are aligned with the client’s intended outcomes. The client will shift his/her perspectives by reframing the narrative, which then starts to feel the emotion and fuel the hope tank. The client then can see possibilities and opportunities to overcome the obstacles brought by his own way of thinking. Reframing the narrative will create a new motive for the adolescent to act upon.
Motivation Understanding the WHY can ignite intrinsic motivation and develop self- awareness. It helps students gain a better understanding of what they want and what will motivate them. Motivation comes from two words: “motive” and “action.”It involves understanding why you do what you do (the motive) and identifying the appropriate action to take to achieve the goal. At the end of the day, once an adolescent can identify the motive for his or her newly reframed issue, coaching can help the adolescent build the action items needed for the support structure and to navigate the path toward achieving the adolescent’s desired outcome.
It has been observed that most of the time the main transformational change that can last comes through human beings’ intrinsic motivation rather than many of the extrinsic rewards or avoiding punishments. One tool that can be useful to foster intrinsic motivation is visualization. Visualization can increase the energy needed to activate intrinsic motivation in the adolescent. Visualization helps to describe the desired state in which the client can feel and see how to achieve his/her successful outcome by utilizing his/her strengths. Powerful questioning and partnering from a coach can support the client by helping him/her identify benchmarks on the path to success that can lead to the desired outcome. “What else” questions can push the client to dive deeper and further clarify the path for the desired outcome.
Powerful Visualization questions a coach can ask a client:
- What are you learning about yourself?
- What would you think about this situation five years from now?
- How does this relate to your life purpose?
- What possible options/solutions do you see?
- Which one seems the most effective/realistic/appealing to you?
- Who do you want to be in the situation?
- What would you advise your best friend in a similar situation?
- What kind of milestones and checks would you like to include in your plan to ensure that y
- you are on track to achieve your target goal?
Acknowledgment Young people often need to feel valued. They want their opinions to be heard and to matter, which can make it difficult for their teachers and parents to dictate assignments, rules, and expectations that they do not value or believe in. When a parent or teacher insists, students resist, which causes conflict. When youth become self-aware, understand their own motives, and decide which actions to take to achieve their goals through coaching, we may want to step aside and support them with our presence. We also may want to acknowledge their determined actions through encouragement rather than praise, according to the growth mindset vs. fixed mindset work done by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.,(2006). She describes encouragement as focusing on the adolescent’s effort, which is a variable the adolescent can control. With encouragement, the adolescent comes to see himself/herself as in control of his/her success. Dweck found that students who were praised for being smart for what they accomplished chose a simpler task to ensure they would not make a mistake. As coaches, to encourage, she suggests focusing on:
Effort: improvement, contribution, enjoyment, and confidence.
Praise: “I am so proud of you or you did such a great job or outstanding action items.”
Encouragement: “You worked hard. You must be so proud of yourself, you put a lot of effort to list the action items to achieve your goal.” Or “you put a lot of effort to create your action plan and how to keep yourself accountable with specific and detailed milestones.” This feedback encourages the client to keep his/her commitment to complete action items.
After the client’s conviction to keep the commitment sounds strong, the coach can ask the client how he or she would like to celebrate after achieving the goal, which will further reinforce the commitment to celebrate themselves for accomplishing the desired outcome they value and find meaningful. It also is a means of promoting self-care and self-worth, which in turn produces the feeling of having a better sense of self-efficacy.
Dweck, Carol. (2006).Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
The International Coach Federation (ICF).https://coachfederation.org/about
Merriam Webster Dictionary. (2020). Self-Awareness.https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/self-awareness