We know by now that improving wellness is a complex affair. What do we want to achieve? Why do we want to achieve it? And for heaven’s sake, what’s stopping us?
I have always had a strong interest in this last question as I feel that this is where the richness of health and wellness coaching really comes into play and where we can support people where they need it!
Barriers/obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. what we do, how we live, what we think and what we feel, are the pillar stones of most blocks to our desired life. But how do we go about changing these things?
Coaching can help people in many ways – creating realistic small goals, working towards new automatic behaviours, understanding what needs to be done to make change possible -but the really complex area is helping understand how our automatic emotional responses can get in the way of – let’s say a good life!
The topic of “Emotional Agility” is described in Susan /David’ book of the same name. She neatly reveals a model that can help people stop being “hooked” into rigid negative patterns that have no value in their present-day life.
Advantages of being Emotionally Agile?
- Allows you to be in the moment and pay attention to what is actually happening
- Allows us to live in accordance with our intentions and values
- Helps us recognise the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world – stories that may be quite unreliable!
- Prevents us from being hooked into accepting our thought as facts
- Enables us to create space between stimulus and our response
- Allows us (the thinker) to be in control – not our thoughts
David’s four step approach works like this:
In this context, showing up means “facing into our thoughts, emotions and behaviour willingly, with curiousity and kindness”. We know from research that life satisfaction is not about what happens to us – what challenges we face – but how we respond to those challenges. It has also been shown that self-acceptance creates the biggest increase in life fulfillment than any other shift, including helping others!
A few gems from this part of the model include:
“Acceptance is a pre-requisite for change” is a wonderful paradox. Until we accept things the way they are, we cannot begin to change them.
“Self-compassion is the antidote to shame”. Shame is a destructive emotion that focuses in a person’s character and leads to feelings of worthlessness. It is different to guilt that may drive us to make amends and avoid repeating the mistakes. Self-compassion is the difference between the two emotions. Our first step to becoming more emotionally agile is to face up to what torments us with acceptance and compassion.
After facing our thoughts and emotions, we then need to detach from them and observe them, recognising that they are just that – thoughts and emotions – not facts, reality.
We can learn to identify the trickier feelings we are experiencing and learn better ways of reacting. A very powerful tool in processing emotions is to write about them. Studies have shown that by writing about experiences that have cause regret, trauma or sadness can have a significant improvement on wellbeing. Somehow we are able to step away from our experience detach from the charged emotions and take a different perspective. Mindfulness is another very important aspect of this stage and it can prevent us from being “hooked” into those old patterns by creating space and letting go.
WALKING YOUR WHY
Right in line with the coaching model is this important stage. What are our long term values and hopes for the future and how can these inform our “choice points” in daily life? We often make decisions based on influence from outside. Social media, messages from advertisers, our families, our friends can cause us to act under pressure. Making comparisons is a sure-fire way to head down a slippery path, yet the phenomenon called social contagion causes our behaviours to be “caught” from other people. The way round this is to identify our values about what truly matters to us and make decisions based on the way we hope to live – going forward. Values aren’t rules, nor are they about right or wrong. They are freely chosen, can guide us, are active, not set in steel, give us freedom from social comparison and encourage self-acceptance. They are something we use. Acting according to our values can take courage.
“Courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking” is a beautiful description.
Making small, achievable changes that are in line with our values can create massive difference in our lives. Building new habits by automatic, repeated behaviour will keep us moving in the right direction. Having a growth mindset rather than fixed is an important part of being able to “move on”. “Engaging our autonomy” is a notion that coaches will be all too familiar with – again ,this will help create the change we want. The motivation has to come from a desire to change rather than a feeling of obligation. Stepping out of our comfort zone can take courage but needs to happen if we are to reach our optimal self and be truly alive!
This book is a wonderful source of wisdom. Although many of the concepts are familiar, David brings together so many ideas that result in our being able to step out of old familiar ways of reacting and enter a new life filled with challenges, possibilities and self-acceptance.
I highly recommend adding this book to your library!
Emotional Agility. (2016) Susan David. Avery, New York.