This week, I had a final coaching session with an amazing man. During our call, we noted how very different he is now than when we began six months ago. Then, his stress levels and blood pressure were high. He was consumed with self-doubt, constantly comparing himself to others and coming up short. He struggled with interpersonal issues at work. He was overweight and struggling with a debilitating health condition.
Today he has a new job where he works with his strengths every day. His inferiority story is gone and he now exudes authentic confidence. He told me that he now regularly reaches out to senior executives, where before, he avoided them. He is a trusted advisor the department head, helping make decisions that will affect many lives. His daily practices have brought his stress and blood pressure under control. He changed his diet, which brought his health condition under control, and as a bonus, lost over twenty pounds.
He now has the tools to help him think and feel the way he must, in order to be the person he wants to be.
My mission is to turn my clients into their own coaches. I teach them a means for handling challenges, so that when they inevitably fall into a hole (thanks to exhaustion, hunger, overwhelming calendars, health challenges, self-doubt, or a traumatic event), they will have tools to help them climb out quickly.
While I love my clients, I don’t want to work with them forever. If they remain dependent on me, I’ve failed them.
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? Maybe you started with training wheels. Then you took off the wheels, and some trusting, caring person held the bike as you rode. Then one day, this trusting person let go, knowing (probably before you did) that you were ready to ride. My job is to unlock the potential in all my clients, so they become masters of their lives, directing themselves toward their highest vision.
The One Skill that Changes Everything
My clients can fire me once they learn the most valuable skill I teach: upgrading thoughts.
Too often, we struggle with things that are outside our control, when there is always one thing we can control about any situation: our thoughts. For years, I’ve been teaching my clients that results don’t just happen. Instead:
Our thoughts prompt emotions and actions that create our results.
In life, the bike represents our thoughts and emotions. Painful thoughts and emotions feel like trying to ride on flat tires with the handlebar locked. You’ll feel out of control, held back, and eventually, you’ll crash.
When you notice, and then deliberately upgrade your thoughts, it’s like inflating the tires and taking back control of the handlebars. You end up steering to the results you consciously desire.
My mission is to teach my clients how to manage thoughts and emotions so they spur actions that get them the results they want in any area of life. When my clients learn this, they no longer need me.
Before we can upgrade thoughts, we have to notice them and realize that they are not who we are. Thoughts are messages that a clump of cells in the left side of our brain creates to make sense of the world. And because of our primitive tribal wiring, they are often incorrect, painful, and unproductive.
Here’s the process I use with my clients to help them STEAR themselves to better results. I’ll fill it in with a challenge a client recently brought to her group coaching call.
- Situation – I’m in back-to-back meetings most of the day, every day.
- Thoughts – People are judging me poorly because I arrive late. It’s hurting my reputation.
- Emotions – frazzled, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, worried, embarrassed
- Actions (or inactions) – I apologize for being late and spend the first few minutes I’m tuned out, taking notes about the last meeting.
- Results – My stress goes up and I don’t make a good impression on others.
The most effective people constantly notice and “reframe” their thoughts, to create more positive emotions and actions. I like to call it “upgrade,” a term I learned from author and coach Victoria Castle. Many of us know what it feels like to upgrade from a tight coach seat to a more expansive business or first class seat. The situation (flying on a plane), hasn’t changed. We can never change the situation. But we can change how we think about it and react to it, which will change our results for the better.
My group-coaching client was stuck. She couldn’t find an upgrade about her frustrating schedule. So, I asked her what she wanted to feel about the situation. She said, “ease, present, and confident.” Then I asked her what she would need to think in order to feel that. She decided that she would need to think that it’s better to take two minutes to capture thoughts and action items from the last meeting, and arrive at the next meeting fully present. She also realized that top executives often come to meetings late, and they come in smiling, unapologetic, and ready to participate fully. And everyone knows that they came in late because they are in demand, and that they are doing their best. And she realized that her habit of apologizing probably wasn’t helping how she was perceived.
Then she took a deep sigh of relief.
You know an upgrade is a good one if it meets two criteria: you believe it, and it prompts positive actions that produce better results.
In the beginning, this will be hard. You will wobble and sometimes fall. But quickly, it will get easier with practice. Your life is too precious to vent and stew about things you cannot control. We will get you back in control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions so you can direct your life where it needs to go…toward your brilliant potential.
“If I want to retain my inner peace, I must be willing to consistently and persistently tend the garden of my mind moment by moment.”
~Jill Bolte-Taylor, My Stroke of Insight
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
~Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning