The following is from a book I’m currently writing on coaching. But it’s a valuable lesson for everyone, so please enjoy! If you’d like to learn more about how to conduct coaching sessions, please join me for Mastering the Coaching Session, which begins in early July. Do join me!
EFFORTLESS MINDFULNESS WORK
The more clients become self-aware, the harder it is for them to repeat their mistakes, think thoughts and engage in behaviors that don’t serve them, and get and stay in their own way. That a client has become more self-aware means that he has bravely dealt with his own defensive nature, that he is not denying, rationalizing, intellectualizing, and all of that, and is instead seeing things more clearly and for what they are. We want this for clients, don’t we?
Nowadays, we have come to call this self-awareness “mindfulness,” and so helping clients become more mindful is a between-the-lines goal for them. But this doesn’t mean that we are asking clients or inviting clients to begin a meditation practice. “Mindfulness” has gotten associated with “meditation,” but the two ideas need not be connected. You don’t have to sit cross-legged to be more self-aware. Indeed, we need our self-awareness to be more portable than that, so that we can get a good grip on our mind not just when we are on the mat but in the hurly-burly of life.
As coaches, we can think of “mindfulness” as simply quiet, practiced self-awareness. We can sell our clients on the idea of self-awareness, support their efforts at becoming more self-aware, and go a step further and teach them a simple mindfulness technique or two. This is easy to do, effortless really, and only requires that you learn a bit more about mindfulness yourself, if you aren’t much versed in it already, and that you feel comfortable bringing it up with clients.
For example, you can suggest to clients that before they do something in haste they “take a step to the side” and give themselves a chance to pause and reflect. This “step to the side” metaphor is an easy-to-remember and easy-to-use verbal and visual reminder of what self-awareness looks and feels like. I find that clients like this metaphor, take to it, and quickly begin to apply it in real life situations. You can reinforce this strategy by occasionally wondering aloud, say when a client presents a tricky situation that has just occurred, “Were you able to take a step to the side before replying?” or “Were you able to take a step to the side before hitting send on that email?”
With regard to mindfulness meditation, some clients will already have a meditation practice in place. However, most will not want to add a formal meditation practice to their already too-busy lives. For this majority, I teach them a simple, quick technique that marries the benefits of deep breathing with the benefits of right thinking and that amounts to a mini mindfulness meditation. Clients are taught to drop a thought that serves them into a long, deep breath. The thought might be “I feel supported,” “I’m completely stopping,” “I make my meaning,” “Right here, right now,” or any other similar short phrase. This is a super-simple technique that clients tend to understand instantly and can make use of right out of the box.
Whenever you work with a client on one of her stated goals, you can introduce a little effortless mindfulness awareness by saying things like, “As you work on that, what are you going to need to be aware of?” or “What do you need to pay attention to as you work on that?” These simple reminders help clients understand that one of the quite-likely-unstated goals of coaching is their increased self-awareness.
Exercises. Please try your hand at one or more.
EASY. Say, “I can help clients increase their self-awareness.”
EASY. Say, “I can help myself increase my own self-awareness.”
MEDIUM. Imagine that “what you need to know” is several rooms away and that between you and that knowledge is a series of locked doors. How might you unlock them?
HIGH BAR. Visualize a hypothetical client scenario. Your client has just said something which you feel reflects a significant lack of self-awareness. You could of course let the moment just slip on by; but, say that you wanted to help your client gain some self-awareness, right there on the spot. What might you do? What might you say?
Food-for-Thought for Informal Coaches
If you wanted to pay attention to the “level of self-awareness” that the folks you informally coach display, how might you do that? And does that seem like something that is part of your informal coaching “job description”?
Writing Prompt for Self-Coaches
Write to the prompt, “In order for me gain some greater self-awareness, I think that I need to …”