Hey, Coach! How’s your week been? Serving lots of great Clients, making a difference, changing the world? I hope so. In fact, if you’re a professional, dedicated Coach committed to your craft, then I KNOW it is so. Well done, you!
International Coaching Week is a time for celebration and appreciation of this cool, fun work that we do. It’s a time to renew our passion, connect with a wider Coaching community and share our hopes and dreams for the world of Coaching. And I think it’s also a time to reflect on our Coaching practice: looking back at how far we have come, and forward - to where we will journey next.
As I sit back and reflect on my Coaching practice and how it’s evolved over the years (as many of you will be doing this week), I can see how things have shifted. I have noticed lately that more and more Clients have already done some kind of self-development, and understand some of the basics of motivation, their subjective experience of the world, and what makes them (and even others) “tick”. So how can I keep evolving my knowledge and practice to meet them at higher and higher levels to keep upping my Coaching game – and their outcomes? I think the answer lies in science.
A few years ago, I recommended that a Client start to focus more of their attention on Gratitude – an intervention commonly recommended by Coaches. I knew it had worked for me in helping shift my own mindset, and felt it was the right approach for this Client, too. But he shocked me when he asked, “Why? What proof do you have that that will work?”… and I had to admit I didn’t really have any!
So began my quest, to find out more about not just the art, but the science of Coaching. I delved into many years of study and have now collected a small mountain of research (my bursting-at-the-seams-office is testament!) about the mechanisms at play behind some all-time favourite Coaching tools, and how to use them the right way. I have refined how I use them, and with whom…and the results are really quite extraordinary. I’m going to share them briefly below and hope you and your Clients might find them useful, too. Be warned: you might be familiar with these tools – but are you using them the way they were designed, to maximise their effectiveness backed by research? Read on to find out!
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Let’s start with a simple one…or is it? The Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) practice is far more complex than we might think; but done right, it can be incredibly powerful. The research says that to enjoy a significant boost in happiness you need to do FIVE Random Acts of Kindness in a SINGLE day! Next time you’re helping a Client find more ways to boost their happiness at work or home with RAK’s, make sure you tell them it has to be FIVE in a DAY (in the initial study found here, participants experiencing the greatest list in personal subjective happiness performed 5 RAK’s a day for 6 weeks!). The effectiveness of RAK’s are also boosted if your Client takes time to reflect on them and record their feelings about why they felt happy after completing RAK’s, each day. This one takes commitment…but it is worth it!
3 GOOD THINGS ACTIVITY
Another oldie but a goodie…having your Client think or speak about three good things that they experienced, at the end of the day. It’s a nice thought, but…this is only the tip of the iceberg! There’s a very specific way to do this exercise to help your Client get the most from it. The research, found here, says that the most effective way to do the Three Good Things activity for significantly increased happiness and life satisfaction, is as follows:
- Have your Client WRITE about the Three Good Things from their day – just thinking or talking about them is not as effective;
- Have your Client write about them in detail (I recommend about ½ a page), including how they felt at the time and how they feel now, looking back on it;
- Have them identify WHY they were “good things”; and
- Practice EVERY DAY for a minimum of one week.
With this activity, we are helping our Client orient themselves more towards reflecting on the good parts of their day, which can be very helpful if they have built a habit of ruminating on the negative.
KEEPING A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Let’s finish with an old Coaching favourite - the Gratitude Journal. With this one, you have a little more latitude – because the tidal wave of research and studies in the area of Gratitude show that it’s powerful, it works…and it can be done in a multitude of ways! Gratitude is a powerful activating emotion that helps us build resilience, positive affect, emotional intelligence and more – all of which can impact positively on the quality of our everyday experience of life. However, in the interests of your Client getting the most from even a simple Journal, I recommend these basics, backed by the research:
- Be specific – the more specific you are about what you’re grateful for, and why you’re grateful, the more useful the exercise is.
- Journal about a minimum of FIVE things you’re grateful for – which will help build your “gratitude finding” skills.
- CHILL – this is NOT a daily exercise! The evidence suggests that Gratitude Journaling is at its’ most effective when done in depth, but only 1-3 times per week.
- There is no “wrong way” to do it – so encourage your Client to journal using colour, images cut from magazines, sketches and free-form doodles accompanied by writing, in poetry, stream-of consciousness style or more! I’ve even had a Client sing me their Gratitudes which was very cool!
From my Coach heart to yours, Happy International Coaching Week everyone! Here’s to another great year of Coaching ahead, for you, and your wonderful Clients.
About the Author
Catherine Bell, ACC, is a member of the Leadership Team at ICF Australasia Victoria and a Professional Coach, Speaker and Consultant. Her background in Organisational Development at local, corporate and international levels informs her work with Leaders and Teams, helping them move from struggle to success!