Confidence

Module: Confidence

People have presence when their outer behavior and appearance conveys confidence and authenticity and is in sync with their intent. It is about being comfortable and confident with who you are and allowing your real self show up.

This is  a large part of coaching presence as it helps create a special and strong bond between coach and client.

According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the coaching competency referred to as Coaching Presence is:

The ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.

This means the coach:

    1. Is present and flexible during the coaching process, dancing in the moment.
    2. Accesses own intuition and trusts one's inner knowing—"goes with the gut."
    3. Is open to not knowing and takes risks.
    4. Sees many ways to work with the client and chooses in the moment what is most effective.
    5. Uses humor effectively to create lightness and energy.
    6. Confidently shifts perspectives and experiments with new possibilities for own action.
    7. Demonstrates confidence in working with strong emotions and can self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client's emotions

Understanding your value

For new coaches, one of the biggest blocks to confidence is doubt in oneself. We may be worried that we might not have enough experience or education. We might feel like a fraud in some ways. Or what if, at some point in the session, we don’t have an answer, or don’t know what to say?

So here’s the message for you: YOU HAVE A LOT TO OFFER! Even without specific skills and background, here are some of the wonderful things that you may already provide:

Listening: Not many people really listen. Good listeners are few and far between. Most people practice the art of waiting for someone else to stop speaking so that they can have their turn. Really listening is a fantastic service to provide.

Providing structure: It’s amazing how much someone will get done when they know someone will ask them next week: “How did you do?” By being there – across the table or on the other end of the phone – you’re helping them focus their attention on what is important in their life. You are a support.

Partnering in their success: Many people run with a running partner. Without their partner they might not run as far, or even at all. However, with a partner, their attention is focused on running. Partnering with someone in his or her success is a powerful service to offer.

A sounding board: Hearing ourselves speak out loud takes our thoughts to another level. Speech brings thoughts out into the open and allows us to ‘test’ our ideas/thoughts. It also helps us to hear them in a different way as the coach repeats back to us what we have just said. Putting ideas into words helps them become clearer. As they speak, clients get clarity about an issue. There can be value for them in simply speaking aloud whatever has been in their mind all week. Stating an idea, dream or vision gives it a life.

A different perspective: We all have “blind spots”: aspects of our lives that we can’t see clearly because of habit, emotions or being too close to the situation. Often when we get a different perspective on our lives, it comes from someone who, in turn, has their own particular take on the issue based on their habits, emotions and relationship with us. Having someone who is both an objective third person and trustworthy is a winning combination.

Your life experience: No matter who you are, you’ve learned things that could be helpful to someone else. There are things you’ve learned along the way that will allow you to empathise with another. You can use your life experience to understand, listen, perceive, and help someone through a situation similar to yours.

Your prior training: You may have an education, therapeutic or HR background, taken more than a few professional development courses, read self-help books, earned a degree and spoken to groups of people. Undoubtedly, You have a very rich canvass of experiences and skills.

Re-framing and Confidence

How comfortable do you feel five minutes before a coaching session? How do you feel if it doesn’t go as planned? Are you comfortable enough to invite ALL of your friends and colleagues to experience a coaching session with you?

If you’re not, it may be because of your perspective. For example, if you feel that people have serious problems, which MUST be fixed, you might feel some pressure, or reluctance, even concern as a coach to move forward. Just as we support our clients to distinguish a perspective, and re-frame it, we invite you to do the same. You will know when you have made the mental shift, because you will feel complete freedom to coach anyone.

First you will need to find the perspective you are currently using so that you can then re-frame it. If you feel anxious about coaching, try to identify the messages that are going on in your head that are leading to this anxiety.

Here are some perspectives, which dis-empower:

    • I MUST convince them I’m worthwhile and worthy
    • I MUST keep them as a client
    • I MUST make sure I get them as clients
    • If I don’t know what to say I’ll look stupid
    • I’m a fraud (they may think I am one)
    • This client is counting on me! What if I let them down?
    • If I give the wrong advice, I’ll feel terrible
    • What if, deep down, I’m really not a good coach or person?
    • I don’t know enough yet. One day I’ll be a good coach
    • I really hope I impress this person with my coaching

This last one is especially common. Notice how much attention you have on YOU and how you come across, instead of focusing on your client and what’s best for them. This can limit your coaching presence and the success of the session.

The following are examples of re-framed perspectives that empower coaches:

    • The client must live their life. I’ll support them in the best way I can
    • The client gets the credit for the work they do, and is also responsible for their own actions
    • I create value simply by being there, being present
    • Every session is an exploration of possibilities
    • I give up my need to look good
    • How can I be of service in every moment?
    • Life is fun! I’ll remember that when I become too serious or significant
    • I respect myself as a human being and as a coach. I know I’ll do the best I can
    • I trust that whatever happens with each client is for the best
    • I give up my need to control everything and I am ready to be in the flow
    • I will offer my coaching to EVERYBODY
    • I’m going to have FUN in every session

With a perspective shift here, you can be more present in the moment, instead of feeling that you have to quickly do something and fix something, or feeling nervous about whether or not the coaching session will work out.

Here are some questions to consider:

    • Can you sit with a client in silence?
    • Can you hear a complaint and be still?
    • Can you say to a client: “I don’t know?”
    • Can you sit and create an intent for your coaching session or for your client?

These are all evidence of confidence and coaching presence. Coaching, like many of the so-called “human professions”, requires a high level of physical, emotional and spiritual health. If we are feeling low, we might find it hard to maintain enough emotional reserves to really be present for clients. If we are feeling physically unwell we might find it hard to muster the energy to listen intently for the length of the coaching session.

Trust yourself and continue to move forward. Ensure you have a support team working with you to achieve the success that you wish. This means of course getting a coach.

How does a coach develop confidence and presence?

The following are key activities that develop coaching presence:

  1. Developing the practice of observation, becoming mindful with the use of meditation practices, e.g. focusing on breathing.
  2. Developing self-awareness. By paying attention to ourselves in the coaching relationship we can become aware of things that get in the way of being fully present and work to address them. This requires a practice of self-reflection as well.
  3. Supervision. This is key to developing and sustaining our presence. Regular supervision by a masterful coach helps us understand when and how we are present and how to deepen this in our practice. We have the benefit of regular and objective feedback.
  4. Grounding and centering your body. Unless we are grounded and fully settled in our bodies we cannot truly be present and achieve a kind of flow. Somatic practices such as developing awareness of our bodies will help a coach become present.
  5. Creating an ideal coaching environment helps in the grounding process. Limited distractions, calming or focused artwork and a comfortable supportive chair can support our effort to be present and in flow.

Most importantly, a coach is always working to be fully present and engaged. It’s a skill to develop – to be spacious in your listening and be in full connection with your client.

Reading and Resources

Creating Awareness

Module: Creating Awareness

Self-awareness is the foundation of personal growth and success. Daniel Goleman, author of the internationally best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence calls it the 'keystone' of emotional intelligence.

Our notion of awareness is likely to mean being aware of others and how they are affecting us. We sometimes consider ourselves to be very aware beings because we notice everything that people are doing around us. We notice the achievements of others, we notice the gains of others, and we notice what others have.

However, awareness is having an inward focus, not an outward focus. Awareness is knowing the patterns in our everyday life, understanding our beliefs, our mind, our spirit, our body. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was about understanding levels of awareness that we need to have as a person. He saw total awareness as self-actualization, the highest level in the hierarchy.

Self-awareness offers many benefits to help you live a happier, more fulfilling and genuine life:

    • Able to act consciously instead of reacting to people and events.
    • Able to genuinely appreciate yourself.
    • Greater depth of experience and enjoyment of life.
    • Able to redirect your negative thoughts and emphasize positive ones.
    • Behaving positively instead of creating additional obstacles.
    • Enjoying positive interpersonal relationships.
    • Living courageously and without limits.
    • The ability to make your dreams come true.

Self-awareness is a powerful tool to help you live the life you’ve always wanted rather than settling for whatever comes your way.

First Step to Creating Awareness

The first step to creating awareness is recognizing that you want to. Having awareness could be described as having a learning pathway for your life. Learning more about yourself is part of growing as a person. If we choose not to gain self-awareness then we stagnate and don’t grow. This may sound very harsh but how many times have we looked at others and wondered why they have never moved on in life or grown.

Creating awareness also supports us in identifying the areas of our life that work for us and the ones that don’t. Think back to the time when you wanted to change something in your life, and you kept trying to do this but it just never happened. Eventually you gave up, possible feeling unsuccessful and defeated. We often take on new things to change our life, adding more things to what we do rather than unpacking or looking at what we already do to understand this more.

Consider Anita’s in her quest to be a better leader.

Anita reads a book and decides that the path to becoming a great leader is to be just like the leader that she read all about in the book. She outlines the behaviors and tasks the leader took and decides that the next day she will take on all of these new behaviors.

Each day Anita puts all her energy into taking on these new behaviors. What people notice however is not a new leader emerging but rather a person who is unfocused and scattered, and acting out of character. People around her become unsure of how to respond as what they are observing is nothing like the person they knew.

After two weeks of struggling to take on these new behaviors Anita gives up. No one at work is listening to her, she doesn’t feel like a great leader and, if anything, work has become more stressful and chaotic.

Anita decides that she is not a great leader and her self-esteem is plummeting. She begins to wonder if she’s chosen the right career and she has lost sight of her strengths and positive qualities.

We can see what is wrong with this picture (perhaps because we have done this as well). It is an understandable human desire to want to be like someone who we see as successful.

However, imagine this story opening with Anita deciding she wants to learn more about herself to determine how best to move forward in life. She begins to read books on leadership and finds she had some of the qualities those leaders speak about. Next she takes time to understand what her qualities and strengths are. To do this, she employs a coach, completes several assessments to understand herself more and begins looking at all of her strengths.

She also begins to work out what her vision is for herself. All of these actions make her feel more focused. She now believes that leadership is her strength and realizes that being a great leader means knowing more about oneself. Her confidence increases and she relies on her supportive actions to stay focused. She continues to look more and more at who she is and commits to a practice of self-discovery. She heads to work and explains her own awareness to her team. She asks them for their support by helping her know more about their strengths so she can manage everyone more effectively.

This outcome is quite different from the first one. Anita’s pathway to knowing more about herself opens up the pathway for others to know more about themselves. What an amazing shift in focus.

Self Application

Being self aware is a key leadership skill whether we are leading others or ourselves. A true leader leads their life from strength to strength. The great leaders we know are great because they follow their own pathway, they know who they are, they have planned out their pathway for learning and they are on the journey of greater self-awareness. They recognize that self-awareness is valuable and is part of their journey.

Ways to Develop Self awareness

    • Write in a journal everyday so you can see patterns that emerge in your life.
    • List your strengths and think about how you would like to develop them further.
    • Employ a coach who will support you on your journey of self-awareness and tell them 
this is the goal of your coaching.
    • Ask your friends and family to support you as you learn more about yourself. Ask 
them to share what they see are your strengths, your qualities, etc.
    • Attend a workshop or read books on self-awareness to find the approach you want to 
support you on your journey.
    • List your goals for self-awareness, and how what you need to achieve them.

Self-awareness Exercise

Observe Your Self

This exercise comes from dream work and enhances self-awareness from within. Practice this during meditation or try it while falling asleep.

When you are fully relaxed, lying down and with your eyes closed, focus your awareness within and ask yourself: what does it feel like to be me right now?

Start with very basic awareness, such as the physical sensation of lying in bed. Is the mattress soft or firm? Are the sheets cold or warm? Rough or smooth? Does your body ache or are you completely comfortable? Do you feel heavy or light?

Then take some deep breaths and focus:

Do you feel calm or stressed? Why is that?

Can you remember a time when you were MORE calm or MORE stressed? What did that calm/stress feel like?

How would you describe the feeling if you were talking to an alien who had never experienced it before? Are there different layers to this feeling? Is it tangible? Can you move it around, build it up, or sweep it away? What might it look like if you could see it?

Direct your focus to whatever emotion or state of mind is strongest and probe it in every way you can think. Like manipulating clay in your hands, try to manipulate any feeling (happiness, peace, amusement, boredom, even pain) to get a better understanding of how it affects your experience of reality.

To be self aware is to recognize your feelings as they occur, to understand the impact they have, and put them to an effective use.

When dreaming, this improvement of your self-awareness will help you to recognize unusual or extreme feelings and thereby trigger lucidity.

For instance, the feeling of intense fear from being chased or attacked (or whatever your nightmare is) can provoke the realization: "I must be dreaming!"

Application

  1. Do you value self-awareness and what does this mean to you?
  2. Do you believe you are on a pathway of self-awareness and if yes, how do you know 
this?
  3. How comfortable do you feel about talking about yourself to others and how do you 
think these feelings reflect on your self-awareness?

Coaching Application

As a coach you support others to become aware of their behaviour. One of the reasons people work with a coach is to encourage more positive things in their lives and rid themselves of unhelpful behaviours that lead to negative effects. To do this they might need some help to actually see such behaviours in action and to begin to articulate this awareness.

Our inner self-talk can be quite critical and can go round and round in circles never moving us forward. Its aim is to question our good intentions. Talking aloud to a coach can begin to change your inner self-talk. It also requires a person to speak their intent, to out their thoughts into words and this can be the first step to committing to a new way of doing something.

Using Powerful Questions

Powerful questions support your client in stopping in their particular pathway of thought and looking at a situation from a different perspective. This creates distance and allows the client to see a situation much easier. Powerful questions also support opportunities for growth and creativity. Asking questions will support your client in knowing more about themselves and what they need to do.

Effective Feedback or Outlining Observations

Another way coaches can create awareness with a client is through the use of feedback. Feedback is an observation. It is information that we have noticed, discerned, or are picking up from what they are saying. The difference between feedback and advice is that feedback is nonjudgmental. It is not based on opinion nor beliefs but rather on the moment of observation. Feedback never includes the words “you should”. Feedback helps the client to realise that your listening is complete and real.

Effective feedback creates a kind of awareness that makes a difference in how one sees things. It is neither positive nor negative. It is simply feedback. By stating what is or what is not from another perspective, may just help your client get insight they can use.

We are often unaware of the language we use. When we notice and share particular language used by the client it can help them gain greater understanding of themselves. For example, a client may make the same statement about themselves over and over again but may be unaware that they are doing this. As the coach, you can share what you heard and what he or she has been saying about themselves and repeat back to them their words. This is a very awareness-creating exercise.

To give feedback is to simply mirror back to the client the way we see it. For example, a coach may say to a client, “I hear you are really angry about that, do you want to talk more about it?” There is no judgment here about the emotion being conveyed by the client. It is simply being noticed for the client to evaluate the feeling and move forward.

Role-play and Feed Forward
Role-play is a very effective technique to create awareness with your clients. It is particularly helpful when a client is unsure how to have a conversation with someone; or has some fear around what to say and how to proceed. In this case, role-play becomes essentially a practice conversation. This is done so the client can find some powerful and clear ways to communicate to resolve the situation. As a coach, you can provide them with effective feedback on what you observed.

Reading and Resources

[Document] Eastern Body, Western Mind by Judith, Anodea

[Document] Emotional Intelligence by Goleman, Daniel

Self Management

No one is coming to the rescue. Everything you are or ever will be is entirely up to you.

- The starting point of maturity is the realization by Brian Tracy

Self-management is really personal management, time management, and life management all wrapped in one. It’s putting your hands firmly on the steering wheel of your life and taking yourself in your chosen direction.

For coaches, the ability to know and manage emotions and take responsibility for their behavior and well-being is especially critical. Without such skills, we may find releasing judgment, opinion and subjectivity challenging.

When we experience emotions without being controlled by them, it helps build strong, lasting, and rewarding relationships – both in and out of professional coaching.

What is Self-Management?

Self-management is more than knowing yourself – it’s about knowing how to conduct yourself. That's why one person said, "Anyone can be angry; that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way ... that is not easy."

A self managed person is able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.

It requires going beyond spontaneous reacting to thoughtful responding. Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in emotional intelligence research, associates self-management with such characteristics as self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement, initiative, and optimism.

Let’s take a closer look at these characteristics:

Self-control

Remember the old ‘count to ten’ advice when you are really upset? That advice is about self-control and making sure that what you are about to do or say is in your best interest and the best interest of the people around you.

Self-control is the ability to stop and think before acting, and to pause and consider the best course of action in the present situation. It involves knowing what is important to you, what isn’t, and how that will translate into your actions and behavior.

Trustworthiness

In today’s world we have a tendency toward over commitment. We say yes to more than we can actually do and end up stressed or unable to follow through on our promises. Self-management involves being trustworthy and honest about what you are and are not capable of doing. But how does this relate to our emotions? If you trust yourself, you can trust that you will respond to your emotions by doing what is best for you in the given situation. Even if your first emotion is a knee-jerk reaction, your values will hold sway in the end and you will do what is right in the situation.

Adaptability

The truth is things are always changing. People come and go, budgets get cut and positions get eliminated, divisions reorganize and duties get reassigned.

To enhance your adaptability, you will need to be able to identify what about the change might be causing a negative emotional response. For example, let’s say that you are reassigned from one department, team or committee to another.

Why might that cause you to have negative reactions?

Some possibilities are:

    • Fear of not getting along with the new boss or colleagues
    • Fear of not having customer accounts that are as lucrative
    • Fear of not being granted the privileges that your old boss did

Obviously, these are just suggestions – every situation will be different. But once you understand why you might be resisting the changes that you face, you can choose to handle it appropriately by addressing the fears or other feelings you have. The more we practice using this and other tools of self-management the more adaptable we become.

Initiative

Another skill involved in self-management is initiative. People who have a high level of initiative are those that look to continually develop themselves. They recognize that to be truly happy or content, they have to take responsibility for their lives.

That may involve making lifestyle changes such as learning new skills, developing new habits, or other pursuits. They don’t blame others or the universe for their problems and can see their own part in their current situation, and accept responsibility for making any necessary changes.

They also take initiative in problem-solving and conflict resolution. They take the necessary actions to clear away negative emotions that are stopping or hindering them, and they take action to prevent further similar occurrences.

Perhaps most importantly, they look forward to taking next steps because they have experienced the positive benefits of doing so and they want more.

Self-Management and Coaching

As a coach you want to be fully present for your clients. The heart of self-management is the ability to set aside personal opinions, pride, defensiveness, needing to look good and being right. It involves an awareness of yourself, an ability to notice where you are or where you have gone in relationship to another person, and the ability to get back and reconnect.

If you notice you have become distracted when listening to another person be honest about it. If it’s an ongoing distraction difficult to ignore, resist pretending it’s not happening and push through it.

For example, if your environment is distracting you from fully being present for your client (dog barking, traffic noise, etc.) ask the client’s if he or she minds if you take a minute to put the dog in another room or close the windows.

If you notice a pattern of being distracted with the same client, be curious. Ask yourself, What’s happening here?’ ‘Is there a judgment or frustration at play ?’ If this is occurring with a number of clients, what do you need as a coach?

Self-management also involves what we do to prepare for our sessions. Reading client notes and reminding yourself of the agenda you are holding for the client is good preparation. Recording sessions with the client’s permission is a good way to reflect your skills.

Coaching requires responsibility, accountability and ownership of our choices. It short, it requires both the coach and the client to be self-managed.

The coach is responsible for focusing solely on the agenda of the person being coached. This requires an awareness of any emotional reactions, bias or blame. Once identified, the coach can let them go and attend to the conversation and what the client wants. A coach who wants to master the coaching process will be able to do this is real time with little or no effort. But this takes practice!

The client is responsible for taking control of his or her desired outcomes. Often clients come to coaching because they’re stuck - unwittingly allowing others (or a idea, thought or belief) to dictate their choices. Here is where the coach can support them in seeing the situation from a different perspective – one that explores other possibilities and what they have control over.

Self-Management in the Workplace

Self-Management is an organizational model where traditional functions of a manager (planning, coordinating, controlling, staffing and directing) are distributed to all participants in the organization instead of just a select few.  Each member of the organization is personally responsible for forging their own personal relationships, planning their own work, coordinating their actions with other members, acquiring requisite resources to accomplish their mission, and for taking corrective action with respect to other members when needed.  Each member of the organization is responsible for their own IDP (Individual Development Plan) and ensuring they work closely with their management time to align their goals and objectives with opportunities for growth and advancement within the Company.    Each member of the organization is responsible for identifying strengths and areas of challenge as well.

This form of organizational structure is slowly becoming more viable alternative to the traditional, hierarchical method of organizing we see most often in modern organizations.

There are a few key aspects central to the Self-Management philosophy that have a lot in common with coaching, namely that:

    • People are generally happier when they have control over their own life (and work.)
    • It isn’t reasonable to give the decision-making authority to the person that is furthest (literally) away from the actual work being done.
    • When you give good people more responsibility, they tend to flourish.
    • There's an undeniable link between freedom and economic prosperity in nations around the world.  The same is true of human organizations.

Interestingly coaching others to be more self-managed is critical to succeeding in the self-managed organization.

Self-Management Competency Development Activities

    • Analyze your goals and the kinds of skills and expertise you need to achieve your goals. Create a list of the things that you want to learn over the next several years. Focus development on these areas.
    • Assess your performance for the past three months and decide which three things you are most proud of doing and which three you are least proud of doing. For those in the least category, consider what kinds of courses and/or other developmental activities or assignments would help you improve your performance.
    • At the beginning of each workday or week, list the things you wish to accomplish and the dates by which you wish to accomplish them. Periodically evaluate the progress you are making towards your goals.
    • Create an opportunity for learning out of a "failure". Ask yourself what you can learn from such situations and solicit feedback from others.
    • Ask for feedback. Ask others for specific comments, suggestions, and feedback in areas you are attempting to improve. When you solicit feedback, ask questions that effectively uncover what you are trying to learn about yourself. Avoid responding defensively to feedback. Defensiveness prevents learning and will cause others to be reluctant to provide feedback.
    • Get involved in a variety of experiences to maximize your development. For example, take on additional responsibilities, even if there is no additional compensation for your work.

Reading and Resources

[Article] Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance
By Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee
https://hbr.org/2001/12/primal-leadership-the-hidden-driver-of-great-performance

[Article] Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Through Self-Management
http://bookboon.com/blog/2012/12/imrove-your-emotional-intelligence-through-self-management/

[Article] What is Self-Management?
http://www.self-managementinstitute.org/about/what-is-self-management

[Book] Pivot: How One Simple Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success by Dr. Alan Zimmerman
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/814584.Pivot

 

Releasing Judgement

Module: Releasing Judgment

Like many words in English, the Oxford English Dictionary lists a number of definitions for the word “judgement”. One of the definitions is “discernment, good sense”. Further down, however, another definition is “criticism, against what one really feels to be advisable.” The first definition of judgement is more about using your intuition to make a decision. To weigh up everything you have before you and using your intuition, make a decision. The second definition is crippling. It is this notion of judgement that we are going to explore, looking at the impact it has on our lives.

What Coaching is Not

As a relatively new profession, coaching is a methodology that draws on a range of other more traditional professions including psychology, business consulting, mentoring management theory and adult learning. However coaching is a unique field and there are significant differences between coaching and these fields.

When Judgement Happens

A strange thing happens when human beings feel that they are being judged. The first response is to feel guilty, even if it's only for a very short time. Most human beings, even those who are extremely emotionally strong are susceptible to feeling guilty when they are being judged. Research into the way the brain functions, tells us that this is because strong negative emotions like guilt and fear, actually bypass the cognitive pathways of the brain. Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, refers to this experience as an “emotional hijacking”. It's a largely uncontrollable phenomenon where the brain makes an immediate emotional response before it has time to process whether the particular emotion (in this case, guilt) is even justified.

The next stage of the process is where the cognitive part of the brain kicks into work. Nobody likes feeling guilty. It is one of the most damaging and distressing of emotions. When guilt surfaces, the standard human response is to try to relieve it. All of our energy goes into trying to repel the guilty feeling by repelling the judgement that created it.

Let's consider that concept for a moment. Those who judge others usually justify it to themselves on the basis that the judgement has some basis in “truth” or “expertise”. However, our knowledge of the way human minds work, tells us that the “truth” of the judgement doesn’t make one iota of difference. Our response to judgement is emotional, not rational, so even if the advice is based on years of data and experience, we are still likely to have a negative response to it. When we are being judged, we go into defensive mode; we cease feeling comfortable, we stop listening, and worst of all, we begin to see the person judging us as someone who is capable of hurting us instead of someone we can trust.

Judgement is not only unhelpful; it is counter-productive. We believe that creating a “trusting space” is a pre-requisite to powerful living. Judgment destroys a trusting space quicker than anything else. It closes people off at a time when they need to open up. It shifts the power balance from one of partnership to one of inequality. It is impossible for you to create a trusting space when judgement is present.

Judgement and Criticism

Judgement and criticism come from the same family. Criticism is sometimes interchanged with the notion of critiquing. Critiquing is about measuring something against a set of competencies or theories, an assessment. Criticism is sometimes confused with the notion of critiquing, believing that we are criticising against a set of measures. However these measures are our own measures, our own beliefs. Critiquing is not the definition of criticism that we are referring to. The Criticism we are referring to is where you decide to criticise a person, judge them and the result is that they feel "put down‟. The Criticism we are referring to is where you decide that your opinion is the right or better one and the other person‟s is wrong or not as good. This may be a very black and white perspective about criticism but criticism is really black and white. You are either criticising or you are not.

Criticism is the practice of judging. Let's think about judgement in the sense of judging or being a judge. If you think of a judge in the legal sense, their role is to look at a situation and to judge, according to law, what the ramification should be of a certain action. In a legal system, judges refer to the law. If we take this concept and relate it to our life, we are the judges of our life. We have a rule book, a book of beliefs, a set of laws if you like, that we live by. Unlike societal laws, these are the laws or rules that we have decided to live our life by. These rules were created a very long time ago, often by our parents or the adults in our life as we were growing up. As children these rules are reinforced to us over and over again.

The rules were initially built around a value system or a set of beliefs. An example of different rules is someone who believes it is fine to be late to an engagement as opposed to someone who believes you should be there five minutes early. Let's call this rule one and rule two. Rule one comes late, rule two comes early. Rule one was perhaps creating around the belief that it is impolite to arrive early. It shows no social grace to be early. It is much better to arrive a little after the set time to show you have respect for the person. For rule two being early is about respecting the time you are going to be taking of the person you are meeting. It is impolite and rude to be late and being early shows eagerness and commitment to the appointment and thus respect for the person you are meeting.

Now as you read this example you may be aligned with either rule one or rule two. It does not really matter. What does matter is that you live your life according to one of these rules. You decided to accept a rule some time ago about the notion of time and engagements. This in itself is okay. The judgement enters when you see the other rule as being wrong. As we know both rules are about the owners of the rules anyway and not the person they are meeting up with. We may though tend to believe that we are really abiding by our rule because it respects the other person. As you can see by both rules, they are interpreted as being respectful to someone else. But they are actually about ourselves and our value of respect. Again this is okay if we are aware of this. Sometimes though we are not and we sit in judgement of others who do not value the same rules as us. We think that they are not as equal to us.

Self Application

We judge people because our self esteem is low. Judging is a form of comparison. We compare ourselves against others. When we do this, we initially feel better about ourselves. We think our life is better than someone else‟s. However this feeling is very very short lived. We judge others because we do not like who we are. This is the sad outcome of judgement. Imagine if all the energy we put into judging others we turned back on ourselves and spent that energy on liking ourselves.

Judgement is a sign

A great way to bring about awareness is to know that when you are judging someone, you are not feeling on top of your game. There is something about yourself that you are not valuing or liking. Every time you judge someone, you are projecting outwards what you are feeling about yourself. Think about the underlying value of a judgement next time you make it. If you think someone does not respect you then it is likely that you are not respecting yourself.

Judgement is also a conversation that occurs in our mind. It is based around our own self talk. Our self talk can be quite destructive, weighing up all the reasons why someone isn‟t equal to you. Again notice your self talk and put a stop to it. Self talk is not about being present in the moment. It is about going back over the past or thinking about what might happen next. It is not an activity of presence.

To move away from judging others is to move towards loving who you are.

The Cure for Judgement

The cure for judgement is not simply acceptance of the other. The path is slightly more circuitous than that. The cure for judgement is self- love. When people lack love for themselves, they move into the world from an unstable base. In order to try to gain a sense of their place in the world, they begin comparing themselves to others. When you compare yourself to others, you are in a state of judgment, because no two people are the same and you will always end up with a conclusion that you are better than the other person or they are better than you.

People, who truly love and value themselves, don‟t feel the need to compare themselves to others. Where they do make comparisons, it is with their own performance at an earlier point in time, and their vision of themselves in the future. They become their own touchstone for achievement and success. Once you are in this state of feeling in control of your own success, you have a stable base from which to engage with others. Instead of comparing other people‟s lives to yours, you are able to allow them their own journey.

When you practice self-love and focus on your own life journey, it is a natural extension to then allow others to do the same. A person is able to look at another person, without comparing their life to his or her own. Instead, they support the person to go through a similar process of growth, to become their own touchstone for achievement and success. A person who doesn’t judge is able to respect and celebrate the separate and unique human journey of another person.

The world is not divided up between those who practice self-love and those who don‟t. Self-love is a long- term disciplined practice, which all human beings struggle with over time. If you feel that judgement is creeping into your relationships, perhaps this is a signal to stop for a moment, and focus on nurturing yourself. Revisit your own goals, acknowledge yourself, reconnect with your support circle, celebrate your magnificence, and then feel the judgement simply fall away!!

Coaching Application

The Leading Question

One way that judgement can become present in a coaching session is through the “leading question”. Fans of courtroom dramas will be familiar with “leading questions”. These are questions that imply a criticism or a judgement. For example, “Would you agree that you were the last person to see the victim that day?” In this example, the speaker is not really asking a question but making a judgment and “dressing it up” as a question.

In a coaching context a leading question usually begins with “why?” For example, “why did you call your colleague so late at night?” The implication of this “why?” question is that the client has done something wrong that they need to justify. Parents wanting to reprimand their children often use leading questions. For example: “Why is there a tear in your brand new dress?”, “Why are you still awake at 9 o‟clock at night?” “Why is the television still on?”

Below are some examples of leading questions and below them is the implicit judgement that each question implies;

    • Why did you call the meeting on a Friday afternoon?
    • There is something wrong or unusual about meetings on a Friday afternoon.
    • Why didn’t your boss attend?
    • Your boss should have attended. If she didn’t, this might indicate a problem.
    • Why did you feel the need to include your PA in the discussion?
    • There’s something wrong or unusual about including a PA in a discussion of this kind.
    • I’m wondering why you couldn’t have held the meeting earlier in the day?
    • It would have been better to hold the meeting earlier in the day.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of asking a leading question. Asking powerful questions that are devoid of judgement takes practice. When you are beginning as a coach, a good strategy can be to write down some useful, judgement free questions to use as a prompt until you become more practiced. Some examples of judgement free questions are the following:

    • What makes this an issue now?
    • How important is it on a scale of 1 – 10?
    • How much energy do you have for a solution to this issue?
    • What have you already tried?
    • Imagine that this challenge has been overcome. What would it feel like? What‟s standing in the way of an ideal outcome?
    • When you’re at your most resourceful, what do you think of this issue? What are the options for action here?
    • What criteria will you use to assess the options?
    • So what’s the next first step? (Rogers, 2004)

Criticism is at the extreme end of judgement. It‟s easy to see criticism coming, to recognise it and to combat it. Most clients would not stand for criticism from a coach. Any coach who engages in criticism would be unlikely to find any success in the coaching field at all.

Most coaches would never criticise their clients, however, there are other forms of judgement that are less obvious than criticism. These forms of judgement are harder to see so they are harder to guard against. It is these more subtle forms of judgement that a coach needs to work hard over time to avoid.

One of the basic premises of coaching is articulated in the following statement from our Philosophy of Coaching:

“We believe that the client is the expert in his or her own life. As coaches our role is to support the client to help them find the answers to their life challenges.”

If the client truly is the expert in his or her life, then what we as coaches “really feel to be advisable” is irrelevant. It is not our role as coaches to criticise or advise the client. It is our role to support them to realise their own magnificence so that they can find the answers to the challenges of their own lives. It is a process of empowerment, and judgement doesn‟t create empowerment.

Consider also this quote from the ICF Definition of Coaching:

“The International Coaching Federation ..believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole.”

If a client is creative, resourceful and whole, then there are no grounds for us to judge, nor advise them. Coaching doesn‟t assume that the service provider (the coach) comes to the relationship with greater skill or insight than the service recipient (the client). Coaching is a partnership of equals. If the coach / client relationship begins to feel like that of a master and apprentice or a teacher and learner or a guru and disciple, then you have moved out of the realm of coaching into something else altogether. The challenge is to remove all judgement so that you can return to being a “partner with” rather than a “leader of” the client.

Advice

If you look back at the Oxford definition of “judgement” you will see a clue to the most common form of judgement. The dictionary defines judgement as something that is “against what one really feels to be advisable”. In other words, any time you would “advise” someone to do something different, you are standing in judgement. The noun of “advise” is “advice” and, like its cousin “criticism”, it has no place in coaching.

Advice has a much better reputation than criticism. Most people would consider criticism a negative but might think that advice is okay. Even if they think some advice is unhelpful, they might think that “well- meaning advice” is okay. Or they might think that advice based on strong knowledge and experience is okay. Some people even think that one of the things that clients pay coaches for is to give them advice.

All advice, even “well meaning advice” or “expert advice” is a form of judgement. Imagine that a young executive is being coached around getting a promotion to a more senior executive role. The coach, who has been a senior executive himself, observes that the way the young man dresses is more casual than the senior executives in the companies where he has previously worked. After a few sessions working on strategies to prepare for promotion, the coach offers some advice. “You know, one of the best ways to be considered for a senior role is to display those qualities at a junior level. That way promoting you seems a natural thing and not a big leap. Can I give you some advice?” The young man agrees. “One of the ways you can do this is to begin dressing in the same way as the senior executives. Try to eliminate any differences between them and you so that people look at you and see a senior executive.”

This advice is undoubtedly well meaning. The coach genuinely wants the client to achieve the goal of a promotion. The advice could also be considered expert and based on sound data, (the coach’s experience as a senior executive). The coach doesn‟t criticise the client, and he even asks permission before giving advice.

Nonetheless there are a number of judgements implicit in his advice which the client hears as clearly as if they had been spoken. These are:

  • You currently dress like a junior staff member.
  • You don‟t know what the difference between a junior and senior executive is. This has to be pointed out to you.
  • Senior executives look at you and see a junior executive.
  • I know more about being a senior executive in your workplace than you do even though you have worked there for 8 years & I have never worked there.
  • Being different is not valued.

Although the coach did not make each of these judgements out loud, they are implied by his advice. This client has come to the coach for support to reach the goal of a promotion and instead has been given the subtle and unhelpful message that he is not ready. Even if the coach is completely right (and he may not be; there are very different dress practices in different organisations) and the client follows his advice, the client is left with this final disempowering message from the coach: “Live by my values not your own.”

Many coaches come from fields where advice is important. Consultancy, counselling, management, and career guidance counselling are examples of these. When they come into coaching they may find it hard to break the advice habit. However, break it they must in order to become a great coach. “Coaching is about drawing out …intrinsic human resourcefulness. It follows then that if you do genuinely believe in the resourcefulness of your clients, you will have to find alternatives to giving advice. So the first step to establishing trust is to abandon advice-giving as a coaching tactic.” (Rogers, 2004)

Hidden Advice

In the example above, it is obvious that the coach is giving advice. Once coaches have learnt how unhelpful advice is as a coaching strategy, they soon learn not to give it. However, sometimes advice can be even subtler again. We call this “hidden advice”.

Advice doesn’t always begin with the words “My advice is….” Advice can begin with the words “Have you tried……” or “Would it help to do……” or “Is it worth checking with …..” This type of advice is gentler than saying “I advise you to do ….”, but it is still advice, and therefore, it still includes an element of judgement.

Because it is subtler than other forms of advice, hidden advice can be much harder to overcome. Many coaches come to the field with a strong desire to be of service. Their motivation is to help the client. They may acutely feel the client‟s distress at facing a challenging hurdle and may find it hard to resist the urge to rush in and rescue them with some well-meaning advice. It seems counter-intuitive that something motivated by positive emotions can produce a negative result with a client. However refraining from advice, including hidden advice, is one of the disciplines required of a coach. The way to gain this discipline is through practice, practice and more practice.

Advice and Feedback

As we have mentioned earlier, advice is unhelpful in coaching; however feedback is important to coaching. So what are the differences between advice and feedback?

Feedback is an observation, it is data that the coach has gathered through working with the client that the client might be able to use to help them make decisions and move forward. For example, using the scenario of the young junior executive being coached, the following is feedback: “I’ve noticed over the session, that you are talking in a more and more passionate way about this promotion. You sound really determined” or alternatively “I noticed when you began talking about the promotion that you used the term „when I get this promotion‟ and now you’re saying „if I get this promotion‟. Can you tell me about the shift in language?” Both of these observations are free of judgement. They are statements of observation, which the client can either use or discard. Neither of these statements tells the client what to do and therefore there is no judgement implicit in them.

The differences between feedback and advice can be complex and subtle. It can take practice to give effective feedback that is devoid of judgement and is not “advice in disguise”. Sometimes new coaches can be so fearful of being in judgement that they hold back from offering feedback. This is unfortunate. Feedback is an art developed over time through practice. If this is an area that you find challenging, ask your peer clients for their support. Ask them to give you feedback on your feedback! It‟s a fantastic way to learn.

Releasing Judgement

This next aspect of judgement is less about what you say and do as a coach, than how you feel. It is less about behaviour than attitude. Even if you never criticise clients, and don’t ask leading questions and don’t give advice, and hold back from asking questions that imply advice, you might still be operating from a position of judgement.

To ensure that you are operating without judgement in a coaching situation, ask yourself the following questions:

    • At this moment in time, do I value the client and do I equally value myself?
    • Do I accept this client‟s life choices including when they are very different to my own?
    • Am I guiding the coaching process but completely letting go of the coaching agenda and entrusting it to the hands of the client?
    • Am I comfortable in this state of “not-knowing”?

If you are unable to answer yes to all of these questions then you have not fully released judgement, even though you might not be exercising any overly judgemental behaviour.

Simply recognising that you are in a state of judgement, is often enough to release it. Judgement is a human weakness that even the most reflective and self-aware human beings can fall into. We all make judgements. The answer is not to feel bad or wrong about judgement, after all, this would be judging you! The answer is to recognise the judgement, take a deep breath and then LET IT GO!!!

Reading and Resources

[Book] Emotional Intelligence,
Goleman, Daniel, (1996), Bloomsbury, London, UK.

[Book] Coaching Skills,
Rogers, Jenny, (2004), A Handbook, Open University Press,
Berkshire, England Sorenson, Marilyn J, (1998).

[Book] Breaking the Cycle of Low Self-Esteem,
Wolf Publishing, Sherwood, USA.

Underlying Beliefs

Module: Underlying Beliefs

Remember the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable shipwrecked by an iceberg that was just below the water’s surface? The iceberg is like our Underlying Beliefs – we may not see them but they are there and they are often the reason we don’t start or complete the journey toward what we truly want.

These beliefs are ideas, thoughts, and assumptions we perceive as absolute truths. They are emotional and psychological and often irrational. They are formed through our experiences and interactions with the world and make up our mental model.

Some beliefs we are unaware of and often do not serve us but rather hold us back from pursuing our goals and living freely and fully to our potential.

What is an Underlying Belief?

We are aware of some of our beliefs since we have made them consciously. When we decide to set goals for ourselves such as: getting married; saving money; losing weight; running a marathon, etc. we then begin to create a list of behaviors to achieve these goals.

This is a conscious decision, we are aware of creating new behaviors or observing existing behaviors so they align with the goals.

There is, however, another kind of behavior. It is the behavior that is programmed into us based on a belief formed sometime ago. This is an Underlying Belief picked up somewhere in our lives as a result of a totally different set of circumstances or perceptions to the ones we may find ourselves in now.

Underlying Beliefs often live alongside more conscious stated beliefs with no difficulty. We may make a conscious thought and follow through on it without any problem at all. We create that thought and manage to maintain it in our lives and gain fulfillment in that area. However, sometimes our conscious thoughts can conflict with, or even be in complete opposition to a belief and this is where they become problematic.

There are times when no matter how hard we try we are unable to experience that which we say we want in our lives. We set a goal, keep trying to make it happen but it just doesn’t occur. This experience can be frustrating and detrimental to our confidence and self-esteem. But rather than judging ourselves, allowing this experience to define who we are, and developing or enforcing a belief as a result of this, the key is to use this opportunity as a place of exploration. By approaching the experience with curiosity and inquiry, you can unlock the belief that stops you from achieving your goal.

Let’s look at a belief you may have around learning. Ask yourself “What type of learner am I? ‟ Observe where your thinking goes when you answer this question. Are you thinking back to your school experiences, are you equating the type of learner you are with the success you had in learning? All of these thoughts are based on the beliefs you have about yourself as a learner.

Essentially, whenever we are frustrated in fulfilling one of our conscious commitments, it is because there is an Underlying Belief lurking in the background. These beliefs are not only unconscious (underlying), but they are so automatic that they drive us despite what we say to the contrary. These beliefs are working away, continually causing the kind of outcome that we say we do not want in our lives.

Examples of Underlying Beliefs

Many of our beliefs were formed and accumulated throughout our childhood. We picked them up through our interactions with others – like when we were scolded or punished for doing something wrong or not doing something the way our parents expected us to. A common resulting belief is I’m not good enough, which then bleeds into other beliefs that affect us during adulthood, like, I’m not capable enough or I’m not talented or I’m stupid.

While people are different, there are universal limiting beliefs identified by experts and used, for example, in the work of Byron Katie who published a list of them which include:

    • I need to know what to do.
    • I know what is best for others.
    • Something terrible is going to happen.
    • People should not lie.
    • People should respect me.
    • I can control how others feel about me.
    • Life isn’t fair.
    • Parents should love their children.
    • I need to make a decision.
    • I can’t do anything right.
    • I don’t want to look foolish.
    • There’s not enough time.
    • I am worthless.
    • I need a partner to be happy.
    • I am a failure.

Think of a building. A new design can only be constructed with a very complete understanding of the foundation. When we want to make any changes to our lives we need to know the foundation the changes will be built on. This ensures that our foundation is aligned with the new changes we want to make or if the foundation needs to also go under a little construction.

However, this must be done with a complete understanding of what the foundation is and whether it is still aligned with who we want to be.

Our decision to renovate can be for a range of reasons – you want more balance, energy or to make a dream come true! Whatever the reason, you need to start with a firm foundation, rather than constructing from the roof down. We can sometimes be mesmerized by the height and view of things from the top. But the top is shaky if the foundation is not strong.

Where Do Underlying Beliefs Come From?

As we said, Underlying Beliefs most likely come from our past experiences. There is agreement among many theorists that experiences that occur when we are very young make the most lasting impression and lead to beliefs that are hard to shake.

The origin of Underlying Beliefs continues to be explored by philosophers, therapists and other practitioners such as Dr Bruce H. Lipton, a former medical school professor and research scientist who wrote The Biology of Belief exploring the role of our cells in how we develop beliefs.

We may be able to move forward by simply discerning what the Underlying Belief is, without having to uncover its origin. Sometimes all that is needed is to get clear on what the Underlying Belief is which may be enough to empower and free us from old patterns of behaviour.

Other times we may feel the need to explore the source of an Underlying Belief that has been dominating our life. By identifying both the Underlying Belief and its source, we may then find release from it and be able to move forward. However, be aware, it is not always possible to easily determine the source of an Underlying Belief. Human behavior is complex. It flows from a combination of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual elements. It may never be possible to discern the exact origin of an Underlying Belief.

Discovering Underlying Beliefs

Self-awareness is the first step to understanding what lays below the surface. It is the conscious observation of the way we think and act. Such awareness opens up an opportunity to see what the core beliefs are that drive your actions.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant had an interesting way of describing human behavior and tracing it back to underlying thoughts or beliefs. It goes like this:

    • I see a tiger (perception)
    • I believe that I am in danger (thought)
    • I feel afraid (feeling/emotion)
    • I run (behavior)

People often mistakenly believe their behavior is based on reality or truth. For example, “I see a tiger, so I run” seems to be a perfectly logical connection to make but what Kant’s point was our thoughts or beliefs about the tiger that leads to our emotions and then to our behavior.

Imagine you saw the same tiger in a cage at the zoo. Running away would be an illogical reaction, and yet you may still perceive the tiger to be dangerous and you may even feel a little afraid.

This is where awareness comes in. By bringing something from our subconscious into our conscious mind we become aware of it and we can self-reflect on our actions and behaviors. We may find that this unlocks truths about our beliefs that we were not aware of before.

The best place to look for an Underlying Belief is in a current situation that is causing us disharmony or frustrated.

For example, if a person who says they want to lose weight and they have tried everything, there could be an underlying belief that is stopping them from being successful. They may have an Underlying Belief called, “I don‘t deserve to be loved;” or “I don’t value myself or my health;” or “I’m a failure so why do I even try?”

Anyone of these Underlying Beliefs would lead a person to fail to loose weight over and over again.

To find Underlying Beliefs that we are unconscious of, we should firstly examine which emotions or thoughts cause us to feel that way. Are you feeling empowered or disempowered? Are your thoughts positive or negative? Are you filled with energy joy and excitement or with sadness, hopelessness, frustration or anger?

Your feelings are a good indication of your beliefs and thoughts. When they serve and support you, you feel in alignment and empowered. When your underlying beliefs are negative, they leave you drained and frustrated.

What To Do Once An Underlying Belief Is Detected

Once you become aware of an Underlying Belief, you are able to decide what to do with this new insight and choose to take a different course of action. Don’t let Underlying Beliefs make you feel “bad or wrong” as this is a disempowering perspective. Allow yourself not to self-judge but to “owning” it and consciously choose what to do next. See new possibilities or opportunities, taking action, understand that you have a choice to stay where you are or to create new beliefs and new actions with which you can move forwards.

Self Application

Fear of Letting Go

One of the reasons we hold tight to these old beliefs is, when we formed them, they made sense. They helped us. We saw them as a solution to our problem. It has been theorized that many of our beliefs are formed by the age seven based on our environment, how we were  loved and accepted and if we felt like we belonging, feeling safe and secure.

In her book, Your Life’s Calling: Getting unstuck and fulfilling your life lessons, Nancy Canning gives us this example:

Imagine you’re three years old and hear your parents fighting in the middle of the night. You get scared and hide under your covers, staying very still, closing out the sounds of their loud voices. That entire event can be programmed into your subconscious mind and become your blueprint for how to stay safe.

Your truth at that moment is: I’m safe hiding under these covers staying absolutely still and quiet. The terror feels so big within you, and you know there’s nothing you can do to make them stop fighting, or to bring peace into the household. The fear can feel overwhelming and you feel powerless as a result.

What terrifies this child is the thought that parents will stop liking each other and one or both of them will leave – and then what will happen to you? Who will take care of you? Ultimately, these thoughts lead to I’m going to die! That feels very real to a child. I’m going to die because there’s no one to take care of me!

This experience can make you fearful of moving out from under the covers and into new experiences. Here this is a belief or thought,

If I do this (move, change jobs, begin a new relationship, start a business), I won’t survive, I’ll fail, I won’t have enough money, I’m powerless to make it happen...I’ll die.

Anytime fear feels bigger than you or overwhelming, you are replaying a childhood fear. It’s not a current fear. It’s not the truth. Just because your fear feels real doesn’t mean it is the truth.

Typically, we make up a story about what might happen (bad things) and then we believe that story (we make it feel real and true) and take actions based on what we made up (don’t do anything, stay stuck). We make our story “real,” and then act upon it.

Fear is a natural part of our growth. Fear lets us know that we are at the edge of our comfort zone. It will show up as we continue to push our boundaries into new areas of experimentation, success, and achievement.

The moment in time when you choose to keep a belief that doesn’t work for you, you fundamentally deceive yourself and deny yourself the right to a great life. You decide that the best is not for you, it is too hard to attain or you may even go to that place of convincing yourself that a great life is not really possible.

The person who works to change a limiting belief like that they are not worthy and works on building their sense of self-worth begins to achieve, feel stronger and be happier. People are attracted to them. They appear to have good fortune or a great life.

This way of seeing life, having hope and belief, has been the way extraordinary people have survived even in the most difficult situations. In the movie A Beautiful Life, a man decides to believe in hope and to see the beauty around him even in a concentration camp during World War II. No one could take this from him. This belief has sustained ordinary people in the most challenging moments in their life.

Your Life's Calling: getting unstuck and fulfilling your life lessons by Nancy Canning

 

Reflection

    1. Why is it important to discover your Underlying Beliefs?
    2. Find unwanted behaviors in your own life, and write down what you think the issue is. Eg I can’t X because or because of Y. Y will give you a clue to your limiting belief.
    3. This about someone who may have a similar unwanted behavior. What do you think is limiting them? Reflect to see if those underlying beliefs might apply to you too.
    4. If you could turn your underlying belief around, what would that look like? Imagine you have no constraints, what would an empowering action be?
    5. Notice the shift in your feelings and energy when you allow yourself change your underlying belief. Really feel it so that you can recognize it in your clients.

Coaching Application

Supporting Clients to Identify Underlying Beliefs

Underlying Beliefs are unique to each person. The exact words that resonate with someone will also be unique to them and using the coaching technique of mirroring and repeating the client’s words will allow the clients to name their own Underlying Beliefs.

It is very hard to address something when it is not named but by bringing the belief out into the open and facing it head on, it becomes possible to change our behaviour.

Ask you client what belief, opinion, or judgement are they reinforcing when repeating the same outcome?

When an Underlying Belief is uncovered the client is able to stand back and make meaningful decisions from a position of awareness and choice. For example the client who wants to stop drinking but is unable to because of an Underlying Belief that says “no one will like me sober”. By identifying this Underlying Belief, the client has new knowledge from which to make changes. They may decide they need to stop drinking entirely or they may be able to identify specific times and triggers that make them drink and avoid those or they may need to so some work around self-love and self-destructive behavior before they can move forward.

How To Best Use The Underlying Belief Model

As a coach, the first step is to uncover your own Underlying Beliefs. This will allow you to help your client’s uncover theirs. By changing your own behaviors and developing new opportunities and creating your ideal life, you will inspire those around you, including potential future client.

You may choose to coach in around areas you have experience in so that you have compassion with your clients. Some questions to ask might include:

    • What about ___________is really important to you?
    • That's interesting because the evidence suggests (mention whatever they're NOT doing) you're not that interested/committed to ________.What else do you think could be getting in the way?
    • What hidden rules (or idea, thought, opinion, beliefs) do you think you have that could be stopping you from making the progress you desire?
    • What do you think was the original purpose behind the rule?
    • What would it be like to honour the intention behind ________ (the fear/belief) AND still move forwards?
    • What rule(s) would be broken if you did ________ (the goal/action)?
    • What about the rule applies now?
    • (If the rule doesn't apply any more): what are you going to do with this new information?
    • (If the rule still applies): What can you do to update the rule so it's more flexible and you can still achieve the ________ you want?
    • What would you like instead of ________ (negative effect)?

Removing or changing a belief can leave a person in a place of great uncertainty. This is where the role of the coach is critical. At this moment in time, the coach can reiterate the client's vision and where they want to go and enthuse them into seeing it. A coach can also identify any changes they notice about a client in a conversation.

By listening, observing and using powerful questions and feedback, a coach possess the wisdom to approach a client’s underlying beliefs with a variety of perspectives the coach should avoid take their time to uncover and dealing with the underlying beliefs. Give your clients the space to process their thoughts, go deeper, explore  the complexity of the client’s journey. Allow your client to make real breakthroughs and achieve sustainable change.

Reflection

    1. What is the role of Underlying Beliefs in the coaching process?
    2. What role do your Underlying Beliefs play in your coaching?
    3. What are some additional questions you could ask your client when they are feeling unable to visualise their success?

Remember the story of the Titanic, the unsinkable shipwrecked by an iceberg that was just below the water’s surface? The iceberg is like our Underlying Beliefs – we may not see them but they are there and they are often the reason we don’t start or complete the journey toward what we truly want.

These beliefs are ideas, thoughts, and assumptions we perceive as absolute truths. They are emotional and psychological and often irrational. They are formed through our experiences and interactions with the world and make up our mental model.

Some beliefs we are unaware of and often do not serve us but rather hold us back from pursuing our goals and living freely and fully to our potential.

What is an Underlying Belief?

We are aware of some of our beliefs since we have made them consciously. When we decide to set goals for ourselves such as: getting married; saving money; losing weight; running a marathon, etc. we then begin to create a list of behaviors to achieve these goals.

This is a conscious decision, we are aware of creating new behaviors or observing existing behaviors so they align with the goals.

There is, however, another kind of behavior. It is the behavior that is programmed into us based on a belief formed sometime ago. This is an Underlying Belief picked up somewhere in our lives as a result of a totally different set of circumstances or perceptions to the ones we may find ourselves in now.

Underlying Beliefs often live alongside more conscious stated beliefs with no difficulty. We may make a conscious thought and follow through on it without any problem at all. We create that thought and manage to maintain it in our lives and gain fulfillment in that area. However, sometimes our conscious thoughts can conflict with, or even be in complete opposition to a belief and this is where they become problematic.

There are times when no matter how hard we try we are unable to experience that which we say we want in our lives. We set a goal, keep trying to make it happen but it just doesn’t occur. This experience can be frustrating and detrimental to our confidence and self-esteem. But rather than judging ourselves, allowing this experience to define who we are, and developing or enforcing a belief as a result of this, the key is to use this opportunity as a place of exploration. By approaching the experience with curiosity and inquiry, you can unlock the belief that stops you from achieving your goal.

Let’s look at a belief you may have around learning. Ask yourself “What type of learner am I? ‟ Observe where your thinking goes when you answer this question. Are you thinking back to your school experiences, are you equating the type of learner you are with the success you had in learning? All of these thoughts are based on the beliefs you have about yourself as a learner.

Essentially, whenever we are frustrated in fulfilling one of our conscious commitments, it is because there is an Underlying Belief lurking in the background. These beliefs are not only unconscious (underlying), but they are so automatic that they drive us despite what we say to the contrary. These beliefs are working away, continually causing the kind of outcome that we say we do not want in our lives.

Examples of Underlying Beliefs

Many of our beliefs were formed and accumulated throughout our childhood. We picked them up through our interactions with others – like when we were scolded or punished for doing something wrong or not doing something the way our parents expected us to. A common resulting belief is I’m not good enough, which then bleeds into other beliefs that affect us during adulthood, like, I’m not capable enough or I’m not talented or I’m stupid.

While people are different, there are universal limiting beliefs identified by experts and used, for example, in the work of Byron Katie who published a list of them which include:

    • I need to know what to do.
    • I know what is best for others.
    • Something terrible is going to happen.
    • People should not lie.
    • People should respect me.
    • I can control how others feel about me.
    • Life isn’t fair.
    • Parents should love their children.
    • I need to make a decision.
    • I can’t do anything right.
    • I don’t want to look foolish.
    • There’s not enough time.
    • I am worthless.
    • I need a partner to be happy.
    • I am a failure.

Think of a building. A new design can only be constructed with a very complete understanding of the foundation. When we want to make any changes to our lives we need to know the foundation the changes will be built on. This ensures that our foundation is aligned with the new changes we want to make or if the foundation needs to also go under a little construction.

However, this must be done with a complete understanding of what the foundation is and whether it is still aligned with who we want to be.

Our decision to renovate can be for a range of reasons – you want more balance, energy or to make a dream come true! Whatever the reason, you need to start with a firm foundation, rather than constructing from the roof down. We can sometimes be mesmerized by the height and view of things from the top. But the top is shaky if the foundation is not strong.

Where Do Underlying Beliefs Come From?

As we said, Underlying Beliefs most likely come from our past experiences. There is agreement among many theorists that experiences that occur when we are very young make the most lasting impression and lead to beliefs that are hard to shake.

The origin of Underlying Beliefs continues to be explored by philosophers, therapists and other practitioners such as Dr Bruce H. Lipton, a former medical school professor and research scientist who wrote The Biology of Belief exploring the role of our cells in how we develop beliefs.

We may be able to move forward by simply discerning what the Underlying Belief is, without having to uncover its origin. Sometimes all that is needed is to get clear on what the Underlying Belief is which may be enough to empower and free us from old patterns of behaviour.

Other times we may feel the need to explore the source of an Underlying Belief that has been dominating our life. By identifying both the Underlying Belief and its source, we may then find release from it and be able to move forward. However, be aware, it is not always possible to easily determine the source of an Underlying Belief. Human behavior is complex. It flows from a combination of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual elements. It may never be possible to discern the exact origin of an Underlying Belief.

Discovering Underlying Beliefs

Self-awareness is the first step to understanding what lays below the surface. It is the conscious observation of the way we think and act. Such awareness opens up an opportunity to see what the core beliefs are that drive your actions.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant had an interesting way of describing human behavior and tracing it back to underlying thoughts or beliefs. It goes like this:

    • I see a tiger (perception)
    • I believe that I am in danger (thought)
    • I feel afraid (feeling/emotion)
    • I run (behavior)

People often mistakenly believe their behavior is based on reality or truth. For example, “I see a tiger, so I run” seems to be a perfectly logical connection to make but what Kant’s point was our thoughts or beliefs about the tiger that leads to our emotions and then to our behavior.

Imagine you saw the same tiger in a cage at the zoo. Running away would be an illogical reaction, and yet you may still perceive the tiger to be dangerous and you may even feel a little afraid.

This is where awareness comes in. By bringing something from our subconscious into our conscious mind we become aware of it and we can self-reflect on our actions and behaviors. We may find that this unlocks truths about our beliefs that we were not aware of before.

The best place to look for an Underlying Belief is in a current situation that is causing us disharmony or frustrated.

For example, if a person who says they want to lose weight and they have tried everything, there could be an underlying belief that is stopping them from being successful. They may have an Underlying Belief called, “I don‘t deserve to be loved;” or “I don’t value myself or my health;” or “I’m a failure so why do I even try?”

Anyone of these Underlying Beliefs would lead a person to fail to loose weight over and over again.

To find Underlying Beliefs that we are unconscious of, we should firstly examine which emotions or thoughts cause us to feel that way. Are you feeling empowered or disempowered? Are your thoughts positive or negative? Are you filled with energy joy and excitement or with sadness, hopelessness, frustration or anger?

Your feelings are a good indication of your beliefs and thoughts. When they serve and support you, you feel in alignment and empowered. When your underlying beliefs are negative, they leave you drained and frustrated.

What To Do Once An Underlying Belief Is Detected

Once you become aware of an Underlying Belief, you are able to decide what to do with this new insight and choose to take a different course of action. Don’t let Underlying Beliefs make you feel “bad or wrong” as this is a disempowering perspective. Allow yourself not to self-judge but to “owning” it and consciously choose what to do next. See new possibilities or opportunities, taking action, understand that you have a choice to stay where you are or to create new beliefs and new actions with which you can move forwards.

Self Application

Fear of Letting Go

One of the reasons we hold tight to these old beliefs is, when we formed them, they made sense. They helped us. We saw them as a solution to our problem. It has been theorized that many of our beliefs are formed by the age seven based on our environment, how we were  loved and accepted and if we felt like we belonging, feeling safe and secure.

In her book, Your Life’s Calling: Getting unstuck and fulfilling your life lessons, Nancy Canning gives us this example:

Imagine you’re three years old and hear your parents fighting in the middle of the night. You get scared and hide under your covers, staying very still, closing out the sounds of their loud voices. That entire event can be programmed into your subconscious mind and become your blueprint for how to stay safe.

Your truth at that moment is: I’m safe hiding under these covers staying absolutely still and quiet. The terror feels so big within you, and you know there’s nothing you can do to make them stop fighting, or to bring peace into the household. The fear can feel overwhelming and you feel powerless as a result.

What terrifies this child is the thought that parents will stop liking each other and one or both of them will leave – and then what will happen to you? Who will take care of you? Ultimately, these thoughts lead to I’m going to die! That feels very real to a child. I’m going to die because there’s no one to take care of me!

This experience can make you fearful of moving out from under the covers and into new experiences. Here this is a belief or thought,

If I do this (move, change jobs, begin a new relationship, start a business), I won’t survive, I’ll fail, I won’t have enough money, I’m powerless to make it happen...I’ll die.

Anytime fear feels bigger than you or overwhelming, you are replaying a childhood fear. It’s not a current fear. It’s not the truth. Just because your fear feels real doesn’t mean it is the truth.

Typically, we make up a story about what might happen (bad things) and then we believe that story (we make it feel real and true) and take actions based on what we made up (don’t do anything, stay stuck). We make our story “real,” and then act upon it.

Fear is a natural part of our growth. Fear lets us know that we are at the edge of our comfort zone. It will show up as we continue to push our boundaries into new areas of experimentation, success, and achievement.

The moment in time when you choose to keep a belief that doesn’t work for you, you fundamentally deceive yourself and deny yourself the right to a great life. You decide that the best is not for you, it is too hard to attain or you may even go to that place of convincing yourself that a great life is not really possible.

The person who works to change a limiting belief like that they are not worthy and works on building their sense of self-worth begins to achieve, feel stronger and be happier. People are attracted to them. They appear to have good fortune or a great life.

This way of seeing life, having hope and belief, has been the way extraordinary people have survived even in the most difficult situations. In the movie A Beautiful Life, a man decides to believe in hope and to see the beauty around him even in a concentration camp during World War II. No one could take this from him. This belief has sustained ordinary people in the most challenging moments in their life.

Your Life's Calling: getting unstuck and fulfilling your life lessons by Nancy Canning

 

Reflection

    1. Why is it important to discover your Underlying Beliefs?
    2. Find unwanted behaviors in your own life, and write down what you think the issue is. Eg I can’t X because or because of Y. Y will give you a clue to your limiting belief.
    3. This about someone who may have a similar unwanted behavior. What do you think is limiting them? Reflect to see if those underlying beliefs might apply to you too.
    4. If you could turn your underlying belief around, what would that look like? Imagine you have no constraints, what would an empowering action be?
    5. Notice the shift in your feelings and energy when you allow yourself change your underlying belief. Really feel it so that you can recognize it in your clients.

Coaching Application

Supporting Clients to Identify Underlying Beliefs

Underlying Beliefs are unique to each person. The exact words that resonate with someone will also be unique to them and using the coaching technique of mirroring and repeating the client’s words will allow the clients to name their own Underlying Beliefs.

It is very hard to address something when it is not named but by bringing the belief out into the open and facing it head on, it becomes possible to change our behaviour.

Ask you client what belief, opinion, or judgement are they reinforcing when repeating the same outcome?

When an Underlying Belief is uncovered the client is able to stand back and make meaningful decisions from a position of awareness and choice. For example the client who wants to stop drinking but is unable to because of an Underlying Belief that says “no one will like me sober”. By identifying this Underlying Belief, the client has new knowledge from which to make changes. They may decide they need to stop drinking entirely or they may be able to identify specific times and triggers that make them drink and avoid those or they may need to so some work around self-love and self-destructive behavior before they can move forward.

How To Best Use The Underlying Belief Model

As a coach, the first step is to uncover your own Underlying Beliefs. This will allow you to help your client’s uncover theirs. By changing your own behaviors and developing new opportunities and creating your ideal life, you will inspire those around you, including potential future client.

You may choose to coach in around areas you have experience in so that you have compassion with your clients. Some questions to ask might include:

    • What about ___________is really important to you?
    • That's interesting because the evidence suggests (mention whatever they're NOT doing) you're not that interested/committed to ________.What else do you think could be getting in the way?
    • What hidden rules (or idea, thought, opinion, beliefs) do you think you have that could be stopping you from making the progress you desire?
    • What do you think was the original purpose behind the rule?
    • What would it be like to honour the intention behind ________ (the fear/belief) AND still move forwards?
    • What rule(s) would be broken if you did ________ (the goal/action)?
    • What about the rule applies now?
    • (If the rule doesn't apply any more): what are you going to do with this new information?
    • (If the rule still applies): What can you do to update the rule so it's more flexible and you can still achieve the ________ you want?
    • What would you like instead of ________ (negative effect)?

Removing or changing a belief can leave a person in a place of great uncertainty. This is where the role of the coach is critical. At this moment in time, the coach can reiterate the client's vision and where they want to go and enthuse them into seeing it. A coach can also identify any changes they notice about a client in a conversation.

By listening, observing and using powerful questions and feedback, a coach possess the wisdom to approach a client’s underlying beliefs with a variety of perspectives the coach should avoid take their time to uncover and dealing with the underlying beliefs. Give your clients the space to process their thoughts, go deeper, explore  the complexity of the client’s journey. Allow your client to make real breakthroughs and achieve sustainable change.

Reflection

    1. What is the role of Underlying Beliefs in the coaching process?
    2. What role do your Underlying Beliefs play in your coaching?
    3. What are some additional questions you could ask your client when they are feeling unable to visualise their success?

Effective Feedback

Module: Effective Feedback

Different aspects of communication are often referred to as the most important: listening effectively or building trust, for example. However, while these are important, the ability to give and receive feedback is critical to motivating and implementing change. And as such critical to the coaching process.

The great news is that opportunity for feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak or listen to another person we are giving feedback. It is in our tone of voice, word choice, posture, level of attention. And it can reveal how much we trust, respect, or love, like or even hate the person in front of us.

We cannot not give feedback and managing communication effectively. As coaches we need to be comfortable with receiving and giving feedback and work to make it supportive and non-judgmental.

Topic 1: Feedback Basics

There are four simple rules for giving effective feedback.

    1. Be specific versus general.
    2. Describe versus evaluate.
    3. Focus on the behavior versus the person.
    4. Maintain the relationship versus indulge in self-serving behavior.

Key points of effective feedback

  1. It’s a good idea to ask for permission before giving feedback “May I give you some feedback?” A client will be more receptive to listen when they grant you permission. You too will be more alert in how you express yourself objectively.
  2. However, if you and the client are “dancing in the moment”, as they say, you might find asking permission is not necessary and may even interfere with the flow or momentum of the session.
  3. Fully own the power of your words. Be responsible for what and how you provide feedback.  For instance, to declare how you feel about something, you may say: "When you said that, I felt sad because..."
  4. Become aware of your opinions and judgments and then let them go. Your viewpoint will not always make the biggest difference to your client because their point of view may be different than yours.
  5. Feedback is neither positive nor negative. It is simply feedback. By stating what is or what is not from your perspective, may just help your client get an insight that they may need.
  6. Hearing critical feedback requires at least two skills: the ability to respond to the person in a way that doesn’t make things worse, and listening for the kernel of truth in what they say and finding ways to check in with it objectively. These are also some of the most significant core competencies for coaches so the good news is you are already working on these!

Some believe there is always an element of truth in any kind of feedback, which offers us an opportunity for growth. If we can humbly and diligently scrutinize any feedback or perceived criticism for any elements of truth, regardless of how inconsequential, than we can become wise and masterful coaches and a fully present and engaged individual.

Discussion

Pick three of the following topics to contribute to a discussion on the Forum:

    1. How do you feel about receiving feedback?
    2. What kind of feedback has made a difference for you?
    3. What kind of feedback has left you disempowered?
    4. What is the difference between feedback and criticism?
    5. What is the purpose of feedback in a coaching situation?

Reflection and Application

    1. Choose three people who know you well and ask them for feedback on something in your life right now. (Choose something of low importance. This will help you stay objective. It could be the last dinner party you had or the state of your garden.)
    2. Evaluate the feedback you were given. How did you respond? Was some feedback better than others? What made it so? What did you learn from this exercise?

Topic 2: Role-plays

Role-play is a very effective technique in providing feedback to your clients.  It will provide a different perspective and allow them to not only practice receiving feedback, but also learn how to give it.

There are two ways in which to use role-play techniques:

    • Role-play takes place when the client plays themselves.
    • Reverse role-play takes place when you play the client and they play the other person in the situation.

This is a great technique when a client is unsure on how to have a conversation with someone; or has some fear around what to say and how to proceed. In this case, role-play becomes essentially a practice for conversation. This is done so the client can find some powerful and clear way to communicate to resolve the situation. As a coach, you can provide them with effective feedback on how to make it even more powerful.

Another way you can also use role-play is when there is an opportunity for the client to face their worst fear. For instance, when a client fears someone’s reaction about something. By doing some role-play, the client may come to realize that their worst fear may not be so bad! This helps the client greatly because they learn to manage the problem rather than run away from it.

Reverse Role-play

This is also a wonderful tool to use in your coaching sessions. It’s the same situation as role-play but instead, the coach plays the role of the client, and the client plays the role of the person they want to have a conversation with to clarify an issue.

Feedback vs. Active Listening

As a coach we are providing the client with information that we have noticed, discerned, or are picking up from what they are saying. Feedback is non-judgmental. It is not based on opinion nor beliefs but rather on the moment of observation.

Active listening is a skill, which helps coaches "hear” the client’s wishes, desires and possibilities. This kind of listening is different from daily, regular listening. In this case, the coach is listening for many things that are going on at the same time.

By carefully listening to the client, a coach is able to mirror back what is actually being said. The client may say something, but really mean something else. This is what the ear of the coach is tuning in for, to listen to the client’s real desires and wants. Therefore, listening requires the willingness to understand what is being said along with feeling the emotion that is being expressed by the client. When this takes place, listening is complete and real.

For example:

Coach: “I don’t hear a high level of commitment in your voice. Is there something missing here for you?”

Coach: “You sound really excited about that, tell me more.”

Sharing Observations and a Question

Very simply, the coach states what they notice, asks for the client’s perspective and then listens for the response to follow up even further. By asking for the client’s perspective with open-ended questions such as, “What do you see about that?” or “What do you think?” we are less likely to fall into judging the client or sharing an opinion vs. an observation.

We want to avoid, “Am I right?” or “Do you agree?” as they can be leading be invalidating and close down communication, they are also more likely to sound like statement of fact rather than a perspective.

Feedback is simply telling the client what has been observed. Active listening is a process of checking in with the client on what is being heard accurately or not. It is also about making sure, that as a coach, we are on the same level of understanding as the client is about a given situation. Active listening allows us to get the information we need in order to provide clear, effective, insightful feedback.

When we ask for feedback from the client, we can grow both as a person and as a coach and serve as a role model for client to experience the power of feedback and active listening.

Here are more examples of how a coach approaches their client to receive feedback:

Coach says:

    • “We have about five minutes left. What did you get from today’s session?”
    • “How will you use what you understood from today’s session?”
    • “Is this a good place for us to complete?”
    • “Is there anything you need from me as your coach to feel complete?
    • “Is there anything you would have wanted more of, or less of, from today’s session?”

Topic 3: The differences between feedback and criticism

When providing effective feedback to empower the client, it is important to remember the difference between being critical and communicating effectively.

The following is a list of some of the differences between criticism and feedback:

Criticism
Personal
Fault-finding
Opinion based
Unsolicited
Subjective
Focused on the past
Destructive
Emotional

Feedback
Not personal
Opportunity finding
Fact based
Often welcomed
Objective
Focused on the future
Constructive
Not emotional, neutral

Summary

Feedback is a statement offered by a coach to provide insight to the client. It is how a coach observes things. There is no judgment about it, it is stated, just as it is.

What we see as coaches comes from our perspective. Which comes from “the outside” of someone’s life. It gives us an advantage because we can often see what our clients are not able to see. This is so, because they are often too close to the subject matter.

To give feedback is to simply mirror it back to the client the way we see it. For example, a coach may say to a client, “I hear you are really angry about that, do you want to talk more about it?” There is no judgment here about the emotion being conveyed by the client. It is simply being noticed for the client to evaluate the feeling and move forward.

If a client shares a situation, the coach can offer to provide feedback by saying: “Would you like a different perspective?” Or perhaps say: “Can I share with you what I am getting from that?” Again, feedback is simply about sharing an observation without judgment or opinion.

An opinion sounds more like this:

“Have you considered this solution?”

“Sounds to me like you need to end this relationship right now.”

”Well let me tell you what I think about that!”

Be aware that when we share feedback with a client, we may be totally off in our remark. If it happens, this is fine. Sometimes when we are off, we can help get the client back on the right track. They may say something like: “Well, I don’t really see it that way. Instead, I think it is more like this...” This helps them get back on the right track. Also, be sure not to hold back for fear of being wrong. Sometimes, we need to share what we notice, so the client can think about it, and then formulate an action.

In another instance, you may experience a client ignoring your feedback. This is fine. As a coach, it is still important to share it with them. Often times, we are planting seeds that may sprout later. It takes courage to give feedback, and be willing to patiently wait and see how your observation can have a positive effect on the client’s thinking and life.

Remember, clients really want feedback from coaches. They expect feedback to move them into action, so give it freely and generously. Of course, the timing is important. So be sure to listen and know when to ask for permission.

Clients need coaches to point out things that they may be missing out on, overlooking, or no one else is willing to point it out to them. Feedback is about sharing what we notice with a neutral and objective voice of observation. In other words, as a coach, simply communicate back to the client what you are really hearing and noticing. Your client will be grateful for the insight and the “organic push” you offer.

Reading and Resources

Values & Life Purpose

Module: Values & Life Purpose

Leaders exalt them, companies post them, parents transmit them, and our environment shapes them ... but what exactly are values? How do we represent our values? How do they influence our beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors? And above all, how can understanding our values help us create a life we want?

In short, your values define, who you are and how you relate to the world around you and the people in it.

That’s why values are such an important part of coaching.

To live in a strong, supportive way, we must live by our values. They form the foundation of our life choices and actions. Without them we risk living in a house without a foundation or a rocky one at best.

In coaching, we pay attention to a client’s values as they relate to his or her goals. It's important that clients select goals, which align well with their values if they are to be successful.

Identifying Values

What do you value in life? What in your world has the most importance to you?  Understanding our values is the building block, the foundation to everything we create in our lives. We need to look at our values to make sure they have not been imposed upon us from an outside source.  To be successful you must be living your own values and not following someone else.

You can get a sense of your own values by asking yourself, “What are the values which you most honor in your life?” Answers might include honesty, fairness, success, kindness, etc.

Some values may be easy to identify while others take some thought. Here are a few ways to further discover them:

1. Think of a recent incident, which made you very angry. The chances are that your anger arose from some violation of a value you hold. For example, if you were very angry because the restaurant staff served a well-dressed customer before you, even though you were there first, you might see that your anger arose because you value justice (first come, first served) but you may also feel there was a violation of your values around treating people equally and not based on appearance.
2. Think of something that makes you sad. Could be a film, a book or it could be something from real life. Sadness is another indicator that one of your values is being violated. What is it?
3. Write them down within 60 seconds without thinking too much. Then, when time's up, examine each one and see if you can find a value in it. For example, if you wrote down "I am well liked", it might mean that you value sociability in people.
4. Use these starter sentences to help reveal other values. Again, use your gut rather than your intellect to complete endings perhaps more than one) for any of these kinds of sentence:

      • People should ...
      • The trouble with society is ...
      • If I ruled the world..
      • It makes me so mad when ...
      • It fills my heart with joy when ...
      • I worship/despise because ...

5. The Values Game - This is an exercise that our students use to first understand themselves and their own values, and then use it with their own clients. You can find it in the resource section of this module.

What You Value Drives Your Choices

You know how if you're thinking of buying a certain type of car, you start to see that car everywhere. This happens in a part of your brain called the "Reticular Activating System" (RAS). When you load your new car into your conscious thinking, your RAS will note that you have an interest in it, and it will remain alert for relevant sensory data and make sure that your conscious mind it made aware of it. It will do this subconsciously - you will need no effort to make it work. That car was out there all along but your RAS wasn't programmed and so you never noticed them.

Now that you have examined your values, they will be in your RAS and they will start to trigger new awareness. Throughout your day, you'll see events unfolding and you'll see how these events relate to your values.

To leverage and prolong this effect, prioritise your values based on the impact you feel it has had on your life. Then arrange to have it “tap you on the shoulder” at regular intervals for a week or more. (You can use your mobile phone alarms, diary, Post It notes, etc.).

When we make decisions not based on our values, we either don’t achieve the outcome we want or we feel intuitively not right about our choices. We may try to ignore or suppress this feeling. When we do this we are out of alignment with who we are. The very foundation of who we are starts to shake. We are now on rocky ground and the energy around what we do is not strong and we feel very uncertain.

Your values can change over time. As you grow, your values will begin to grow as well.

Purpose

Knowing your life purpose can help you live your life on purpose - with focus and clarity. Your purpose gives you a clear direction for your life.

Imagine going from point A to B without any directions. You may turn left or right, go down several pathways to find they lead to nowhere, keep doing this for some time until eventually you find your way or you give up. You may take twice as long to get somewhere or never reached your destination at all.

Now imagine knowing exactly the direction you are heading in, you may at times feel a little unsure about the pathway but you check in with your purpose and wham! You are back on track again. Your focus is crystal clear and you get to your destination faster than you thought and you feel fantastic.

Identifying Your Purpose

You might want to begin by asking yourself what your purpose is in life.

If you’re a bit stuck, here’s a story about Bruce Lee that might help. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”

If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all).

So how to discover your purpose in life? You might create a mind map to understand your purpose beginning in the middle with the words ‘my reason for living is.............’.

Here is exercise anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — it will just take longer to converge.

Here’s what to do:

    1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
    2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
    3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
    4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry or vibrate or feel at peace. This is your purpose.

The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.

Try to distill your purpose into two words if possible, a verb and a noun. Some examples of a purpose might be; inspiring beauty, supporting women, challenging thoughts, creating value, valuing time, living passionately, building frameworks and so on.

Share your purpose with trusted friends and colleagues and see how they respond.

Achieving Your Purpose

To achieve your purpose you need to write down some goals. If your purpose is inspiring beauty then your goals will reflect this. You might have goals like design a range of products to inspire beauty. You might write a book or a make a film. You can see that having a purpose around inspiring beauty can mean many things but you will know what it means for you since it will be created by your unique strengths

Once you have your goals, list a range of actions needed to create the next steps. These actions need to be very measurable and specific. An example could be ‘draw up three designs by a particular date’. The more specific then the easier they will be to achieve. You will have long and short-term goals.

Self-Application: Rules for Living Well

Determining your life purpose is one thing. Making it happen is another. Most people who have achieved great success in their lives will tell you that the success was not a result of a few major choices; it was the result of a many, many small choices made every single day. If you look at an elite athlete, for example, their choice to join a league or swap teams, or to take up a scholarship, while important, will not figure in their success nearly as much as the choice to get out of bed and run around a cold running track, or do lap after lap in a swimming pool, day in, day out, year after year.

There are small choices that you can make every day that will take you closer to your dreams, or choices that you can make that will lead you further away. That’s why your purpose is so important. It is the reason for living and must be used to determine which small choices to make.

Making challenging choices every day requires a few ground rules to support you along your journey. These rules we call ‘The Rules for Living Well’. Once you have determined your purpose, then your Rules for Living Well will become obvious and while they may be similar to other people’s they will be different in key ways and unique to your life journey.

The Dalai Llama’s might include spending several hours meditating each day. Steven Spielberg’s might include watching movies by other director’s each week. Your Rules for Living Well might include anything from eating vegetables every day to dancing, to having a good, long laugh!

Any small steps that lead to your Purpose can be added to your rules. Try and create about 5 rules for living well that you can achieve each day. Keep a journal outlining every day if you have achieved them or not and don’t forget to celebrate when you do.

Focus

So let’s recap. To achieve your purpose in life you will have written down your values, designed your purpose, discussed it with some friends and colleagues, created some goals, designed some actions and written up your rules for living well to support you daily.

Each day you are checking in to make sure you are living by your rules or structures that support you in achieving your purpose. After having done all of this you will notice how your focus is totally different to before. Your purpose is before you every day, you are focused on it, you are achieving your goals, and you are sharing your purpose with others.

The energy around all of this activity is outward and forward. As you continue doing this you will notice how opportunities will come that support your purpose. Your rules will ensure you are open to receiving and seeing these opportunities as they arise before you. Now the positive energy is spinning around you, in you, out of you and it is noticeable.

If you have followed the process honestly and deeply then trust your purpose and your values, which means trust yourself.

Coaching Application

Some people will come to the coaching relationship with a clear vision for their life and a keen sense of their own personal values. Others will have spent some time reflecting on these but will find that coaching takes them to a deeper level and helps them to really clarify what they want out of life. Still others will have spent very little time contemplating any bigger issues than their goals or challenges.

Clients can use coaching to achieve any goal and to change any behavior. However, the goals that bring them closer to their purpose will be the most satisfying. When coach and client work together on these things, coaching moves to a new level. Things that seemed impossible before suddenly become possible. Pathways become clearer and obstacles smaller.

Take your client through the above process. You may use a visualization exercise to support them in knowing their purpose or you might ask them to meditate on it. Ask your client how you can best support them in achieving their purpose. It is always great to work with a client to support them in thinking big.

As a coach ask your client to imagine if anything is possible, keep getting them to create a bigger picture for themselves. Discuss any limitations they may have and ask them to put these aside whilst doing this exercise. All limitations and fears can be worked through.

Often these fears disappear when a client realizes their purpose. Everything falls into place and they suddenly smile and feel relieved. You can hear them take a big breath like a sigh. This is a great sign. They are releasing any fear and feeling certain of their purpose and it is comforting them. It is vital that you enthuse your client into knowing their purpose when they are ready to go there. It will give them the clarity they need and the direction to move forward in to be highly successful and confident.

When you first start working with a client you may ask them to do this process first. If your client doesn’t see this as relevant at the time then give them the space to move there when they are ready.

As a coach, know your purpose and how it relates to you as a coach. You may choose to share your purpose with your clients in your marketing materials. It is pretty hard not to talk about it once you recognize your purpose as it is so exciting and it will create enormous amounts of energy in you.

Reading and Resources