I recently read a book called The Life Coaching Handbook: Everything You Need To Be An Effective Life Coach, written by professional Life Coach, Curly Martin. The book was published back in 2005, therefore some of the content now seems a little outdated, however the general principles of life coaching haven’t changed. There are also a number of skills and strategies detailed within the book, which I believe offer a useful insight for those who, like myself, are relatively new to the world of life coaching.
It would be quite a task to attempt to summarise all the relevant information I took away from reading the handbook, so instead I will just share a few a couple of the activities I’ve learnt about, which can be used as additional tools for coaches to implement when supporting clients in achieving their goals.
Reflecting on our priorities can often be helpful if we feel there is an imbalance in our life somewhere, or if we are looking for a change of some kind. Take the example of a client who is looking to start a new career but has a number of different paths they could choose. Martin suggests using a simple table such as the one below, to encourage the client to look at all the relevant options, whilst considering the impact of each one. This task is designed to focus the mind and provides the client with a numerical way of comparing the options, as you are simply measuring one against another.
The table has numerous applications, prioritising career choices being just one of them, but for this particular purpose the table should be used as follows. All career choices should be listed down the left hand side in the ‘ideas’ column for instance: doctor, social worker, investment banker, lawyer. Then each idea must be rated against the criteria listed along the top of the table. The score for each criterion will range between 1 and 4. 1 = low (meaning it is easy do, the cost is low, the effort is minimal) and 4 = high (therefore the opposite applies).
In this particular scenario, there are 4 criteria, therefore 16 is the maximum possible score for any idea. The ideas with the lowest overall scores are the priorities to work on. I’ve detailed an example on the table so you can see how this works in practice.
Limiting Beliefs Exercise
It is thought that our beliefs begin being formed the moment we are born and that all of our experiences and interactions influence our belief systems. We build up an image of our self throughout our life, based around other people’s opinions and attitudes towards us. Those of doctors, nurses, teachers, parents, neighbours etc. and we usually grow up accepting that these are correct. We store these and they can either have a positive, or a negative influence on us. They can add to our development, they can limit our development or they can do both.
Like a self fulfilling prophecy, we let these limiting beliefs of our self image become who we are. Only by choosing to break these can we move forward and out of our comfort zone. We are caught in a loop. A loop with three components:
- Our behaviour
- Our self-talk
- Our self image
The analogy of a a suitcase is used. The empty suitcase represents our self image. The clothes you shove inside it are the evidence that makes up our self image. Every pair of shoes, every shirt and every jumper you pack is another reference, it’s something said to you or about you that helps fill that suitcase and builds up those beliefs about who you are and what you’re capable of. Importantly, limiting beliefs can be changed. Those clothes can be thrown right back out of that suitcase. It’s time to re-pack!
- Identify a limiting belief e.g. ‘I’m not smart enough’
- List all references/evidence relating to that particular limiting belief e.g. I didn’t do very well at school, my mum said I’m stupid, I find science really confusing, an ex-boyfriend said the best thing about me is that I’m pretty, I don’t know much about politics etc.
- Decide to believe something different. To do this you need to come up with an alternative statement, something positive that can then repeat to yourself.
(I would suggest start small, there’s no point coming up with something like ‘I’m the smartest person in the world’ if you don’t and won’t believe that. Perhaps something like ‘My brain serves me well and I use it all the time’ or ‘I have the ability to learn and grow’).
Regularly repeat your alternative statement to break the limiting belief loop. This will take some time as it took a long time to build up the initial belief but it will become easier.
- Write down three additional positive statements about yourself in present tense e.g. ‘I am interesting’, ‘I am likeable’ and ‘I am inquisitive’. Use these statements as new references and pack them into your suitcase!
Visualise yourself with this new image and enjoy it. Let this be who you actually are. Interrupt your self talk (this is when you hear yourself thinking in your former limiting way) and repeat one of your new statements. REMEMBER: What you believe is a choice.