Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Looking back, Looking Forward and being in the here and now




The end of the year approaches and as we look forward to a break of some kind, (usually well-deserved), and wonder where that year went, it’s a great time to look back and take stock of what we actually did in those last 12 months. What did we achieve? What memories did we make? This brings to mind Dr. Martin Seligman’s description of how to have a healthy relationship with the three time dimensions – the past, the present and the future.  

It’s easy to get stuck in the past, ruminating over what went wrong or what we didn’t do, yet we can create some wonderful positivity in our lives if we observe two things – making sure we have let go of any grudges or resentments over things people have done – perceived injustices or hurts, in other words practice forgiveness, and the second thing is to be aware of all the good things that have happened to us – in other words, to express gratitude. We often dwell on the negative things that happen but if we take time to review  the last year, we can usually find some good stuff that happened. Make a list of all those things that went well, or that we achieved and give thanks for our good fortune and our accomplishments.

Then we have next year just around the corner. Already we are thinking of what has to be done, what we might do differently; will it be a good year or a bad year? At times it’s easy to get anxious about all we have to do and we can experience some concern about not knowing what the year might hold; yet if we follow Seligman’s advice we will make sure we have some pleasant plans to look forward.  Because our relationship with the future should include anticipation of what’s lies ahead.  So when we’re planning our work commitments, make sure to slot in those little breaks or special holidays or treats that you can feel warm and excited about!  We’re also frequently encouraged to set new goals for the coming year.   This can be a great motivator and help reset out direction and compass, if you like, but once again, an important point to remember - when we set goals we often focus on the outcomes.  How it will feel when we get whatever it is we’re aiming for.  But there’s something called the “progress principle” that we need to remember.  It has been shown that although achieving a goal can be satisfying, we get more pleasure and satisfaction from achieving the steps along the way - ie the journey, not the destination.  So make sure that the actions you need to take, are structured, maybe challenging, but certainly have some degree of pleasure inherent in them. 

And finally, let’s not forget that dimension that is of utmost importance. And that’s right now.  With the holiday season upon us, we often have many things to do.  And we get caught up in the preparations and task list that we have to accomplish by various deadlines.  How many people feel exhausted by the sheer complexity of the holiday?  Above all else, we need to remember to enjoy the moment - to practice mindfulness and to savour that time that may be take many forms – enjoying the company of friends and family, having a change in routine and time off work – whatever it is, be sure to focus on right now!  Remember the most valuable present we will get, and that we can give to ourselves,  is the present!  

So on that note, I would like to say a huge Thank You from the team at WCA for all your support over the last year.  I would like to share with you the satisfaction of all we have accomplished together in 2016 and wish you all a wonderful holiday time.  Finally, to express our excitement over what lies ahead in 2017 and which we hope to share with our students and readers.

Merry Xmas to you all.

Getting Your Blog Noticed




There are a few ‘internal' and 'external' ways to share blogs without feeling icky. There are forums you can tap into, like FB groups and discussion forums, but there are also many other ways to get your blog noticed and shared. 
Here are 10 broad ideas to share your blog! 

  1. If your ideal client includes entrepreneurs or business people, you can join one of the many FB business groups and share there. 
  2. Reach out to allied, non-competing businesses and ask if they are looking for joint venture partners who might welcome regular guest blogging or collaborative marketing (you need a formal arrangement for this). 
  3. Reach out to non-competing businesses for guest blogging, or who might be interested in linking to your blog. 
  4. There are online forums that allow you to share blogs, like https://www.quora.com 
  5. If your ideal client includes professionals, you can share your blog on Linked In. 
  6. Put a link to your latest blog into your newsletter and ask people to comment on it, and share it with anyone that might benefit from reading it. 
  7. Make sure your FB business page or group has a SIGN UP button that links to newsletter subscription, where you regularly share your blog. 
  8. About once per month, post an invitation on FB to SIGN UP to your newsletter (where you will share links to your blog).
  9. When you write a blog and share it on FB, make sure you ask a question in the post that invites people to comment on the post, so the blog link gets shared more. 
  10. Write something controversial - then you will stand out, attract YOUR tribe, and get shared much more than a 'safe' post.

What’s been the most successful blog-sharing tactic you’ve used?

Why Measure Happiness?



We often use the terms wellbeing and life satisfaction in favour of the sometimes wrongly interpreted label of “happiness”, yet there is no getting away from the fact that happier people do better in life – on many fronts! But first, how do we measure happiness? There are two commons ways of measuring “happiness” – firstly, subjective wellbeing – people are asked about the degree of life satisfaction they experience and this is matched with a high level of positive emotions and a low level of negative emotions. This is more about a snapshot at any one time. The second way is of a more enduring measure – how much fulfillment we are getting from our relationships, how much meaning we are experiencing in our life and whether we feel we are developing as a person. 

So when we have this “score” what correlating relationships do we then look for?  Well, research has shown that happier people experience the following:

  • Greater productivity at work;
  • Greater creativity;
  • Higher earning and better jobs;
  • More likely to be leaders;
  • More satisfying relationships;
  • Better overall health;
  • More likely to be helpful and generous.
Sonja Lyubomirsky presented at a Coaching conference in September this year and emphasised that the research also showed that happier people tend to be more focused on others, and sadder people more focused on self.  We might question which comes first, for example, if we are not experiencing good health, then surely we will be unhappier.  However, Sonja described a study which exposed people to the cold virus (after measuring their happiness levels).  The virus was actually injected into their nasal passages. And guess what? The happier people were less likely to develop a cold. This gives weight to the notion that happiness is the cause rather than the effect of all these other positive factors.  

So we know that around 40% of our overall happiness can be influenced by the activities we do.  (The other 60% is either genetically determined – 50%, or linked to our circumstances.)  What are those activities?   Well there are many but here are a few tried and tested:

  • Express gratitude;
  • Be physically active;
  • Be mindful and savour experiences;
  • Practice forgiveness;
  • Set life goals;
  • Perform acts of kindness (make someone else happier).
The important thing also to note is that the activity needs to be a good “fit” for the individual. It needs to fit your personality, culture, and even strengths and what might work well for one person may not work for another. We need to remember this when working with clients and at times help them find the source of their unhappiness and come up with an activity that will counteract this.

Helping our Clients Define Success



Inevitably, our clients want to move forward - in a direction that they may have struggled with in the past. In fact they may even have failed in that area. So their drive is to succeed this time, which is why they have a Wellness Coach.

Our job as a Wellness Coach is to help them define exactly what it is they wish to achieve and of course to help them get there. But first, conversation around this concept of “success” is essential. Closely related to the idea of achievement is the notion of  ”ambition” and an exploration of both terms can reveal interesting insights for both ourselves and our clients. 

Some people describe themselves as ambitious and others may not relate to the term. The word is often associated with competition and succeeding at the expense of others, but if we accept that a better and more accurate definition is “a strong desire to do or achieve something", surely we would like our clients to become more “ambitious” around their goals? Words can do strange things to our interpretation of life. Success and ambition are really very personal constructs and relate purely to what a person truly wishes to obtain in their life. So to be motivated and enthusiastic about working towards goals is a great thing as it can lead to success, but in this sense, “success” is not about “winning”, neither is ambition.

The first question to ask a client is “what makes you fulfilled and happy in life?”  By doing this we can uncover a person’s core values.  So let’s take a look at a few examples. They may identify strongly with any of the following:

  • Imagination and creativity;
  • Kindness and compassion;
  • Lifelong learning;
  • Building relationships and connection with others.
These are all values and also strengths and if we can recognize what really drives us, we can then set goals accordingly and ensure that the steps along the way give us opportunities to incorporate these core values.

The next question is, “How do you measure success?” The answer to this could be anything, and you may hear responses such as:

  • How much fun I have in life;
  • How peaceful and calm I feel;
  • How much I can contribute to the world.
These bigger picture questions and answers can help shift someone’s mindset and help them identify changes they would like to make that may be somewhat different from what they thought they wanted, or at the very least affect the choice of the ways in which they choose to move forward. When we work with clients to help them define the steps they wish to take, we must never forget to explore their bigger world view first.

When Positivity Doesn't Fit with Wellness Coaching




As Wellness Coaches we work with our clients using principles of positive psychology as often as we can. Yet there are times when asking clients to “look on the bright side” is inappropriate and it is of more value to help them explore the not so pleasant emotions they may be feeling.  There is a phrase known as “the tyranny of happiness”,  which is referring to the potentially harmful habit of always assuming that positive thinking should be the end goal, which may cause us to enter into a trap that ignores the reality of life.   Instead, Susan David encourages us to develop emotional agility, which she defines as “the process of being with the fullness of human emotions”.  It is anticipated that by 2030, depression will be ranked number one in the list of illnesses.  It is essential that we take preventative measures by learning how to manage the sad parts of life. 

When faced with dealing with negative emotions it is important to remember that our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves, are just that –they are not facts and not who we are.  
To help our clients work with their more distressing feelings, we might follow these steps:

SHOW UP

Drop the “should” and “shouldn’t” suggestions about our emotions.  We often fall into the trap of thinking, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, which adds more pressure and layers further negativity on the situation!  Instead, don’t push them away and don’t judge them.  Accept them for what they are.  Think of them as “data” not “directions”.  

STEP OUT 
Move away from the emotion itself and step outside, observing them from a distance. Finding a name to describe the feeling is a great way to start this process.  Notice what you are feeling and separate them from your sense of self.   “I am noticing that …. “, “I am having the thought that….”  Hone in on the exact feeling and perhaps look for alternative ways of describing it.  Is it stress?  Is it frustration?  Is it disappointment?  

So rather than ruminate on their sadness/anger/distress, we can help our clients to work in a more productive and less destructive way when bad things happen -  which is inevitable.

We sometimes talk of counseling as following “the trail of tears” whereas coaching follows “the trail of dreams”.  Yet, tears are as important as joy and laughter and can teach us a lot about ourselves.  


Reference:  Susan David, Emotional Agility

More on Happiness



Positive psychology underpins health and wellness coaching. Our conversations with clients are drawn from its principles and the outcomes that are frequently achieved involve at least in part, greater life satisfaction, and of course happiness.

We owe a lot to the researchers who have managed to research and quantify the effects of various interventions that lead to this all important resource and yet there always seems to be more to learn from these people.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, (The How of Happiness, the Myths of Happiness) presented a summary of her findings in Boston recently and highlighted some of the things we already know, yet still managed to catch our attention and expand on existing knowledge.  A summary of what was stood out for me follows:

Research has shown that happy people are:
  • More productive at work and more creative
  • Earn more money and have overall better jobs
  • Are more effective leaders
  • Have better relationships
  • Have better health
  • Are more helpful and generous
Note that happiness is measured in two ways – overall satisfaction with life and self report of positive emotions at any one point in time (eg over the course of a day etc.)

Of course we wonder how these things and this was explained.  Studies measure happiness levels of a wide cohort of people and at a later point in time compare where these people have ended up on the above list of life factors.

A fascinating study showed  that when injected with the cold virus (into the nasal passages, the people in the study were thenkept in confinement away from other life factors that could influence the result.  The findings showed that happy people were less likely to develop a cold than the less happy subjects.

But can be actually become happier and how do we sustain this state?

There are three factors that suggest that happiness is pretty static over life. These are the “set point” theory, the adaptation principle and the idea that our personalities are fixed.  However, we now know that we despite these ideas, 40% can be we still have the ability to improve our happiness by up to 40%.

There are many strategies that have been used, all of which have been shown to work. These include:
Gratitude and appreciation exercises
  • Performing acts of kindness
  • Savouring
  • Practicing forgiveness
  • Setting and working towards life goals
  • Working on relationships
  • Visualising best possible future
  • Making someone else happy

These are not new ideas but what was interesting to note was that some work better for certain people and some may have no value at all, possibly because of  cultural factors.  And also, that the dosage is important. So for example, expressing gratitude in some cultures might be inappropriate and actually make the person feel less satisfied with life and somewhat uncomfortable. Similarly, whereas one person might find the “three blessings” exercise useful on a daily basis, someone else might find that it actually becomes less meaningful than if they did this once a week.

The learning for us as coaches, one size does not fit all and we need to take the research and apply it in our work but never in a prescriptive way and always taking into account the individual ‘s values and stage of life.

Connecting with Groups


I remember many years ago taking part in an exercise class. It was in the days when aerobic style dance styles classes were all the rage and the top instructors used to attract big crowds. Often it was because they just looked so good up there and could move so well but I loved this guy’s classes, not only for those reasons, but because he had the ability to make you feel that he knew you were there!  And cared whether you were enjoying it or not. How did he do that with over 50 people in the room? 

I used to observe these things and soon noticed that eye contact was the thing that made him special. Instead of looking at some distant point above people’s heads, he kept coming back to focus on each individual. I still don’t know how he did it but I felt special. I felt “seen” and it made all the difference. I spoke to other people about his popularity and they said the same thing.  

I have tried to remember this ability or talent that this man had (his name was Marcus for any old aerobic fans) and it has helped me in countless presentations when I felt nervous or just wanted to connect better with people. I have tried to make sure that everyone felt seen and listened to if I could draw them out. Not always possible in big groups but eye contact works. It makes the person listening feel recognised and it can relax a presenter. And if there are any skeptics in the room, don’t ignore them – focus on them!! 

Now of course we are developing the area of group coaching and we need to be even more aware of building connection in the room.  It is very important that the facilitator makes each person feel that their presence is important and if they can build a good connection with each individual in the time they have, then that will be very powerful indeed.  But there is something else that will have an even greater effect on the group’s cohesion and success.  And that’s building connection between the group members.

Another old health club story. Years ago we used to think that the success of a Health Club was largely due to the quality of the team we employed and their ability to “connect” with the members. Until a report came out that stated that “member to member interaction” was more important than anything in their rating of satisfaction and enjoyment in the time they spent in the Club.  

So when we hold group coaching, we need to remember some key points.

  1. Connect with each and every member – even if it means taking some time at the end.. We can do this by eye contact and trying to draw them out but respect that some people are less likely to speak out than others
  2. Try and help the group  create an inclusive “vision” of what they want to achieve – even if they have specific health outcomes that they alone are there for.  This will build cohesion and a sense of belonging.
  3. But even more important – help the group members connect with each other. As often as possibly and with each and every other member.   Only in this way will you guarantee they will keep coming back when life might otherwise have got in the way.  Having buddies to work with is also a great “connector” but being part of a team is everything!

The Language of Connection - Connecting with Wellness Coaching Clients


As a Wellness Coach, our first and foremost aim is to connect with the client. But often it’s quite tricky to define how we actually do this. 

There are many meanings of the word “connect” but some of the less obvious that may resonate with you include “meld with”, “come aboard”, “relate”, “ally” and “unite”. All of these words really describe what we try to do as coaches. Connecting is an extremely important first step – we want to engage the client, gain their trust and create a solid foundation to work from. We know the importance of body language and the human skills of coaching: warmth, zest, calmness and authenticity, but how much difference do the words we choose and how we use them make?    

Here are some reminders of their significance:

Speak slowly, allow pauses.  There is nothing quite so overwhelming as a coach who rattles off observations and questions.  When you slow down, the client slows down.  In a fast-paced world this can be a really restful experience.  

Ask more than tell – come in with curiosity and go where the client wants to go.  If you are curious, your questions will come from the right place and be delivered in an engaging manner.  Clients know when they are being “led” in a certain direction.  Curiosity without judgment reveals interest and suggests caring!

Reflect what they say and know that this can be as effective as any probing question in helping the client connect more deeply to their emotions and to the truth.  Questions are great but they often make the client go into analysis mode, searching for the right answer.  Reflections activate a more emotional response.

Use the same framework as they do.  If a client uses a metaphor that involves physicality, such as “I’m stuck”, don’t respond with, “How does that make you feel (emotion)”, but ask how “they can move forward”, for example.

Never talk over the top of someone.  This would have to be one of the biggest mistakes and often comes from the excitement of sensing something that the coach wants to share with their client or a great idea of their own.  Remember that the client’s own words are much more powerful than anything we can say. 

Creating a connection is an essential element in providing valuable and significant Wellness Coaching experiences to clients, it is a foundation "puzzle" piece. Becoming a Wellness Coach is a career path for those of us who are passionate about supporting individuals in healthy lifestyles and empowering clients to achieve their health and wellness goals. Even the most experienced Wellness Coaches often reflect on the language of connection, and revisit the points above as each client may present a new perspective.

The Prison of Perfectionism


How many clients do we work with who admit to being perfectionists? (Often said quite wryly but we can sense the pride behind the statement.) It’s as if they know they are trying to achieve impossible goals yet are upholding a value that often defines them. So we get this sense of conflict which so often happens with our client. They know it’s unrealistic to expect to be perfect all the time but they’re driven by an internal measure. I.e. their heart dictates the value. Sometimes perfectionism comes described as being an  “all or nothing” person. Unless they totally give something up, they can’t cut down, they have to embrace change completely or they won’t bother taking the first step. 

Sound like perfectionism?  It is

Perfectionism has been linked to a wide array of mental health issues – depression and anxiety being the most common.  Instead of thinking it as a virtue, we need to think of it is a form of vice – or a prison that keeps us locked into unrealistic expectations - that we will never fulfill.

There is a better approach. moving from perfectionism to optimalism. Optimalists also strive for success for they are “more flexible, resilient and adaptive in the pursuit of their goals”, according to Tal Ben-Shahar.

So what’s the difference between an optimalist and a perfectionist? Here are a few, Which do you lean towards?  
  • Perfectionists have a fear of failure – optimalists view failure as feedback
  • Perfectionists are defensive – optimalists are open to suggestions
  • Perfectionists look for faults – optimalists look for bright spots
  • Perfectionists are rigid and inflexible – optimalists are adaptable and flexible
One of the most debilitating characteristics of perfectionists is their tendency to procrastinate – simply because unless they can do something perfectly, they hesitate to begin or to do it at all. They freeze. 
 
“Don’t let great get in the way of good” is an excellent mantra for these people.

So what do we do with clients who are perfectionists?

As coaches when we work with perfectionists we encourage the idea of setting goals as “experiements”.  As something they can learn from.  If we set them up in this way, they are more likely to enter the journey willingly and with a better attitude.  The answer to perfectionism?  Be authentic!  Be who you are, go after the things you love, use your strengths, accept your weaknesses and learn to get satisfaction from within no just from outside, i.e. other people!

Why Do People Resist Change?




“There is nothing permanent except change. “

Heraclitus. 

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. “
Andy Warhol

Change in life is inevitable, otherwise we stagnate. Yet people can often find change challenging. There are many reasons for this and two that we can easily recognise:

  1. Change requires stepping out of our comfort zones - familiarity is comforting.
  2. Change requires acceptance of the unknown – which can be scary.
Admittedly, we vary in our response to novelty and uncertainty.  Some people thrive on constant variety and unpredictability; others much prefer to plan ahead and be prepared for upcoming events. 

In coaching, we see this variability all the time. One of our jobs is to work with people where they feel comfortable, at a speed they feel fits their personality type.

So although the two reasons given above are extremely common, there is another reason why we come up against reluctance, ambivalence and at times resistance to change in our clients.
 
Because other people are trying to change them

Health and wellness is an area that is full of information, facts and guidelines.  Many people struggle with living their best lives, achieving optimal wellness. Our clients often come in with a series of failed attempts under their belts and although they realise they should do something about their weight/stress/sleep/fitness, they are already expecting not to succeed. If we coach for compliance  (with safe guidelines and recommendations about lifestyle habits that we “know” will make a difference),  we will simply add fuel to the fire and send the message that we want to change our clients. The end result – they resist. This hidden scenario can be very subtle and at times coaches don’t even realise they are playing it out. Even if we’re coaching well and asking sensible questions that lead the clients down the desired change path, somehow they will know that it’s really our agenda!  They’re expecting this pressure.


So what can we do to avoid this cycle?
Get right out of our clients’ way. Coaching requires the ability to put all our values aside and truly find out what the client wants for themselves.  And sometimes this means breaking down those subconscious beliefs that everyone else is planning out the steps to their improved health.  

It’s not easy. We know that to sit in the space of uncertainty is one of the hardest things to do. We want to help. But until we learn to do this, to curb our impatience and desire to help, to slow down and let the client lead, even if it takes an age to get started, we will not help anyone.

We know that slow change lasts...



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