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Steve's Life And Business Coaching Notes - May 2007


Steve in Africa

Dear Friends,

This Spring I returned home from a spectacular 3 weeks in Tanzania. While I am very happy to be back, it will take some time to fully integrate the range of extraordinary, rich experiences. (For those who want to hear a little more about the trip, you can check out a few photos and comments at Steve's Gallery.

I believe experiences that pluck us out of our daily routines and expose us to new people, places and ways of looking at the world, are very good for the soul. Not that you have to go to Africa to create this. 

Here are some thoughts and observations that I hope will help you make some positive shifts in your world.

Enjoy,

Steve

P.S. - I notice my newsletters are becoming longer, more "meaty", and less frequent, which bucks the industry trend towards shorter and more frequent ezines. My natural inclination is to write about a topic I think is important to you, in enough detail so you can learn something about it. However, please let me know what you prefer. Long and meaty? Short and pithy?  steve@acoach4u.com   

P.P.S. - If you have trouble viewing this newsletter in your email, you can see it online at Life And Business Coaching Notes May 07.htm

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

- Mary Oliver, from the poem "The Summer Day".


CONTENTS

1) Coaching The Unconscious.

2) Interviews - A Great Way To Connect With Clients.  

3) Announcing - Summer Programs To Move You Forward.


1) The Forgotten Client - Coaching The Unconscious. 

When I was 10 years old my buddies and I signed up for Little League baseball. By sheer luck I ended up on a team that actually made it to the local championship. At the time, this was a big deal for me. I had never won anything and I secretly longed for one of those little gold trophies I was sure was going to change my life. 

In the deciding game of the series, I was playing third base. One of the other team's heavy hitters came up to the plate and smacked a ground ball in my direction. I saw it coming and moved into position, glove ready. On its last bounce the ball hit a divot on the infield and ricocheted high, smashing into my face - teeth through lip, blood streaming from both nostrils. I was rushed home by my mother to nurse my wounds. 

Even though we won the game and the championship, this event marked the end of my baseball career. Because from that point on, no matter how hard I tried to keep my eye on on fielding grounders, any fast, bouncing ball coming in my direction caused me to automatically turn my head away. No amount of intention could override my unconscious mind's desire to avoid the possibility of being hurt again.  

The same challenge plays itself out almost everywhere people attempt to make changes in their life, changes they want or know would be good for them. However, no matter how hard they try, they just can't will themselves to follow through and actually accomplish their goal. Intention it seems, does not command behavior.  

Looking at the volumes of self-help and motivational literature out there, you would think the only thing standing between you and your perfect life is a lack of will. However, this is simply not the case. The true dynamic between our conscious and unconscious mind is characterized well by this analogy of University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt.  "The image that I come up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness, was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I am holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop or to go.  I can direct things but only when the elephant doesn't have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I am no match for him." 

Psychiatrists Lewis, Amini and Lannon at UCSF make a similar observation, "Because people are most aware of the verbal, rational part of their brains, they assume that every part of their mind should be amenable to the pressure of argument and will. Not so. Words, good ideas, and logic mean nothing to at least two brains out of three. Much of one's mind does not take orders."

With modern science confirming what most of us have directly experienced, I am amazed to observe how much of the fields of coaching, training, self-improvement and education focus almost exclusively on clarifying, educating, persuading and organizing the workings of the conscious mind, while virtually ignoring the more powerful and mysterious ways of the unconscious mind. There seems to be a universally held misconception that if we convince the thinking mind to do something, a change in behavior will naturally follow.

For those many times when it doesn't - perhaps when you, a friend or a client are really struggling to make important changes - understanding some of the factors that most influence the unconscious mind can prove instrumental to actually translating intention into action. Here are some of the key factors modern science is showing best influence your ability to manage the unconscious mind:

Start With Stress - Countless change initiatives are undermined by stress. Individuals may want to change their job, change their management style, improve their relationships or commit to a fitness regime; but if they do not actively manage their stress, little change is probable. Under stress we default to a fear state. In a fear state old behaviors trump new ones.    

Dr. Richard Boyatzis at Case Western University has illustrated that prolonged exposure to elevated stress levels actually reduce our ability to develop new neural patterns.  This affects our ability to learn, grow or make change. Remarkably even the everyday stresses of career, relationships, parenting, and money concerns are sufficient to trigger our sympathetic nerve system which can get us stuck in "fight or flight" mode.  Finding a daily renewal routine that stops the thinking mind for at least 20 minutes a day, ideally split into 2 ten-minute intervals, can prove instrumental in reversing upward creeping stress levels. These daily breaks relax you by triggering the parasympathetic nerve system which is a critical precursor for anyone wanting to sustain learning, growth or change. 

One quick way to assess your current stress level, developed by Dr. Tim Lowenstein, is to touch your fingers to your neck. If your fingers feel cold, chances are you are under stress.  If your fingers feel warm, chances are you are relaxed. 

If you are like most of us, you are more stressed than you think and would benefit from a daily renewal routine. The key to great renewal is finding something you enjoy that stops the thinking, planning, judging, optimizing mind.  Of the various common approaches for stress management, meditation, yoga, non-striving exercise, gratitude journaling, getting out in nature and socializing with friends are proving the most effective.  A key to succeeding with any of daily renewals - a foreign concept to many of us Western high-achievers - is to get the necessary instruction and support (like a partner, teacher, class or coach) to keep you on track.  

Cultivating Mindfulness - Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn of the University of Massachusetts describes mindfulness as "moment-to-moment" awareness. More specifically, people with low levels of mindfulness are unaware of what is going on within them, and tend to simply react to events in their life. People with high levels of mindfulness are continuously aware of their intentions, thoughts, feelings and actions. They can routinely exercise a higher degree of choice in how they respond to events in their life. This directly leads to higher levels of joy and meaning. 

Mine Your Thoughts - Over 40 years ago Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Beck discovered that much of the malaise his patients exhibited originated from negative automatic thoughts. Further investigation showed that many of these automatic thoughts were based on hugely exaggerated and negative assumptions that would not pass conscious scrutiny. In other words, we have a propensity to unconsciously fixate on a lot of unfounded negative imaginings, that then affect our moods and behaviors. 

Beck's work spawned a whole new approach to helping people move past old behaviors. This approach is often referred to as Cognitive Restructuring. It involves being aware of any situation which generates an emotional response. Once aware of the emotion (or its physical manifestation, such as shortness of breath, tightness in your stomach or shoulders), you look to identify and write down the underlying negative automatic thoughts that are giving rise to the emotion. 

Once brought into the light of conscious scrutiny you can assess if this thought is indeed true (not wildly exaggerated or unduly negative) and whether it serves your intention. Typically you would then replace the faulty negative thought with one that is true and empowering. Better thoughts lead to better feelings which lead to better action.  (Resources on Cognitive Restructuring include the books; Loving What Is by Byron Katie, and The Ancestral Mind by Gregg Jacobs.)

Feelings Really Matter
In working with the unconscious mind, feelings are of paramount importance. It seems our unconscious has a very simple decision making process; it moves towards things it likes, and away from things it doesn't like. If a plan doesn't have the power to inspire or move us, change is doubtful. 

Change initiatives solely focused on the intellect are highly vulnerable to being undermined by the veto power of the unconscious mind. More integrated coaching approaches to change, ones that actually explore and align intentions to feelings, logic to behavior, are required.   Approaches such as somatic, body-centered or process coaching that directly connect the individual to their feelings can be far more effective in instances where there might be a conflict between the rider and the elephant. Further, images or thoughts that inspire or prime the mind with positive emotions are also very useful.

Don't Forget The Peanuts
To the stoic logic of the thinking mind, rewards for progress can be seen as superfluous or premature. "I don't have time to celebrate small victories, there is so much more to accomplish."  However to the feeling-driven, unconscious mind, even a small celebration or reward (actually anything that could be expected to release a little shot of congratulatory dopamine) reinforces the behavior. It seems the elephant loves its peanuts.

Carefully Choose Your Relationships - In their book A General Theory of Love, Psychiatrists Lewis, Amini and Lannon state, "The neocortical (thinking) brain collects facts quickly. The limbic (unconscious) brain does not. Emotional impressions shrug off insight but yield to a different persuasion: the force of another person's Attractors {established neural patterns} reaching through the doorway of a limbic connection {relationship}."   We are hyper-social creatures who revise our behavior best  through emotional connections to others – not through the power of reason or will. Our emotional fields mingle and influence each other. This points to the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who have the outlook, attitudes, and behaviors we seek to acquire.  We learn best by immersion.

Build on Strengths
We live in a world that focuses on our weaknesses.  In seems millennia of evolutionary struggle has left us with minds that naturally focus on what might go wrong, or where we might be exposed. Unfortunately, weakness based change initiatives are not very enjoyable to the unconscious mind, so they rarely lead to anything other than mediocrity.  However, Dr. Martin Seligman's work at the U of Pennsylvania has shown that focusing on developing your natural strengths is a far more powerful and rewarding strategy for change.  It seems the very exercise of one of our natural strengths makes us feel good, and that is very attractive self-reinforcing to the unconscious mind. 

Practice Makes Progress - Modern neuroscience is delving deeply into the intricacies of the brain, and what actually helps us create the new neural connections needed to support new behavior. The bottom line of much of this work is the greater the intensity of focus, and the higher the frequency of repetition of a new behavior, the quicker it is learned. If you want to change, create support structures around you that reinforces any new behavior until it is fully owned. (This approach would have helped me overcome my aversion to bouncing baseballs. By simply fielding hundreds and hundreds of balls, starting with slow ones and then gradually increasing speed, I could have retrained my unconscious.)

 

The bottom line of all this is that there is a great deal more involved in making important changes than getting a new idea or plan, or convincing yourself that some outcome would be good for you. Truly successful change initiatives, and truly powerful coaching, involves aligning and managing both the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind. 

You can never afford to ignore the elephant in the room. 

Your vision will become clear only
When you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams;
Who looks inside, awakens.

- Carl Jung

2) Interviews -  A Great Way To Connect With Clients.

For many years I have devoted a portion of my practice to helping other coaches fill their practices by finding a profitable niche they truly love. And after going through this process with hundreds of people, I have refined it down to a series of sequential steps. Typically, once a coach has gone through the first few steps of identifying possible niches and then putting them through a set of criteria that filters out those groups that are not a good fit, a short list of promising potential niches is arrived at.  

The next stage in the process is to pick the most promising niche and go out and interview members of this community.  The goal is to learn all you can about them, to confirm it is a good fit for the coach's passions and strengths and find out what this group is really willing to spend money on, and how to best access them in large numbers.

Typically I will help the coaches assemble a short list of relevant questions to ask their prospects, such as: 

What are your biggest challenges?

What solutions have you tried, and how did they work?

What is the payoff if you solve this problem?

Where would you typically turn to get help with this problem?

What groups or associations do you belong to?

What magazines or web portals do you frequently refer to?

etc.

The steps of finding a dream niche, I have written on at length elsewhere.  What I want to share in this article, is that the very process of going out and submerging yourself in a potential market, is also an extremely good way of getting clients. For example, from an informal tracking of the success of a dozen coaches in my year-long Mentor Program, I find that on average, if you meet with 10 potential clients, just to ask them these sorts of questions and listen deeply to what they answer, you will typically get 3 clients - simply from the interview alone.

These interviews can be done on an informal basis if you know many prospects in a potential niche. Or you can set it up as a more formal research project in service of gathering information for a future book or report. Many potential clients are happy to participate in a short survey focused on the needs or challenges of their specific group, particularly if you commit to provide them with a summary of your results. 

It is quite easy to collect the info and produce a short report summarizing your findings and making some simple recommendations. And when you deliver this back to the prospects you initially interviewed, you will likely get at least another 2 clients - out of the initial 10 you interviewed. 

It seems when people take the time to consider what they are struggling with, and realize that they are not getting the results they want, a significant number decide to do something about it, by hiring you.

And as we all know, the individualized focus and ongoing support of coaching is usually a far better solution than the books, workshops or one-time consultations clients are used to relying on. 

3) Special, Small Group Mentor Program.
I have a number of patient coaches on the waiting list for the 6 FIGURE PRACTICE MENTOR PROGRAM. Not wanting to keep them waiting forever, I have decided to start another group before the summer. Unfortunately I only have room on my calendar to run a half-size group at this time. We only have room for a few more coaches, so if you are interested, get your name in quick. Here is some info on the program.

Is This True For You?

- You know coaching is your calling, and you love helping people.

- You are well-trained yet despite your strong coaching skills, you struggle to keep your practice full.

- You feel discouraged, and sometimes scared, at the gap between where your practice is and where you would like it to be.

-  You are prepared to undergo the growth necessary to move past these challenges.

- You are fed up with trying to do this all yourself and are looking for some solid, affordable, help to make a real breakthrough.

If any of these are true for you, here is advance notice of my next 6 FIGURE PRACTICE MENTOR PROGRAM.  The scheduled start is May 30th. You can check out the program at the link below.   If you are interested, please send me an email so I can reserve you a spot. 

FOR ESTABLISHED  COACHES WANTING TO MAKE A BREAKTHROUGH - THE 6 FIGURE PRACTICE MENTORING PROGRAM. 

This program was designed to provide affordable and convenient mentoring for good coaches who know the basics, have been in business for a while, and find themselves plateaued out making between 20 and 80K.

It is focused on providing the support, information, inspiration, accountability and the best business, marketing and personal development support available to help you get to a much more enjoyable and rewarding place in your business and life. (Einstein said the biggest problems we face cannot be solved at the level of thinking that gave rise to them.  This program is about getting you to the next level.) 

The program combines a monthly 1 to 1 call with me, a monthly group call, and weekly accountability calls with a small group.  (This program is getting rave reviews. Participants have told me they have really enjoyed the deeper work this program allows. We cover all the advanced marketing info you need, but the big breakthroughs occur on the "being" side. (When we help you find that place where your passions and strengths meet the biggest unmet need in your market, magic happens.)  You can read more about the program at Life Coach Mentoring Program.  

If you are interested, simply send me an email at steve@acoach4u.com and let me know. 

Summer Reading & Ongoing Learning

As summer approaches I thought some of you might appreciate a few suggestions to help continue your growth and development.

Here are a few books I have read recently that you may find interesting:

The Happiness Hypothesis

John Haidt is one of the leading lights of Positive Psychology and a professor at U. of Virginia. In this book he blends the best of modern science and ancient wisdom in an easily accessible read. This is a must read for coaches. 

The Happiness Hypothesis


Social Intelligence

The indefatigable Daniel Goleman shifts his focus to the nuances of social intelligence. A good read for coaches and anyone who works with groups and is interested in the science of relationships. 

Social Intelligence


General Theory of Love

A great read for anyone interested in the study of love, attachment, and growth.

General Theory of Love


The Ancestral Mind

Harvard's Gregg Jacobs does a good job of describing the difference between our thinking/planning/worrying mind, and our powerful/quiet/intuitive "ancestral" mind.  He also summarizes  what has been shown to help better access and balance the two minds.  

The Ancestral Mind


Resonant Leadership

I believe this is a very important book for anyone who works with people. Boyatzis's summary of the impact of everyday stress has important implications for all of us. 

Resonant Leadership


Primal Leadership

This is a good read for leaders, would be leaders, and leadership coaches.

Primal Leadership


Wherever You Go
There You Are

Mindfulness accelerates growth, reduces your stress, increases your access to creativity and intuition and deepens your wisdom.  Here is one of the most accessible approaches to mindfulness ever written. 

Wherever You Go


Loving What Is

This is a classic by Byron Katie that will guide you through the process of uncovering your negative automatic thoughts.

Loving What Is


Kosmic Consciousness

Love him or hate him, Ken Wilber is a force in modern thought. His Integral Theory is a broad and powerful framework that can be used to make sense of anything. If you tried to access Integral Theory through Ken's written work, and found yourself with a splitting headache, try listening to this series of tapes.

Kosmic Consciousness


Integral Spirituality

Of Ken's written work, this is the easiest read I have found. And his reconciliation of this broad and important topic is excellent.  

Integral SpiritualityIntegral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World



Another Great Suggestion

Body-Centered Coaching
Marlena Field, PCC, CPCC has always been fascinated by meaningful and sustainable change. As an expert in using the body as a resource for change, she has created a coaching method that combines mindfulness and the body's wisdom for the purpose of integrating body, mind and spirit.

I have experienced Marlena's work and can recommend it to anyone interested in deepening their coaching skills.

As a follow up to her book, "Body-Centered Coaching: using the body as a resource for change"  Marlena is offering a special deal on a 3 CD recording containing 215 minutes of live body-centered coaching demonstrations.

These demonstrations will help you take your coaching to a whole new level.

You can check out Marlena's book and recordings at: www.BodyMindSpiritCoaching.com 

 


Visit Steve at Life and Business Coach Steve Mitten.


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