Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Expert Series: Positive Psychology is Good for Coaching. Part 3 of 4

Positive Psychology is Good for Coaching

Part 3 of 4: Positive Psychology When It Matters


As coaches, we know that some of the most important work we do with clients is not so much supporting and encouraging them as they make positive change, but in helping them overcome the internal and external obstacles to growth, and cope with setbacks they’ll face along the way. Often, the most transformative work happens when clients learn how to stay resilient and maintain momentum during the hardest of times. Teaching skills to facilitate psychological resilience is at the heart of applied Positive Psychology.

Ironically enough, I came to Positive Psychology at one of the most difficult times in my life. In 2006, I had the honor of teaching with my dear friend and mentor, Tal Ben-Shahar, when he taught Positive Psychology to 856 undergraduates — the most popular course at Harvard that year. I was one of Tal’s teaching assistants, along with my now-famous colleague Shawn Achor, and 19 other dedicated educators. Class started February 2, my Dad died on February 6, and I and was expected to return to class on February 14 to teach the first of five weekly sections, and assume responsibility for helping more than 100 students integrate the course material and practice the Positive Psychology strategies they were learning in class.  A tall order, after just losing my tall (6’9’) father, who my personal fan and hero.  It was daunting and exhausting, but I survived and thrived that semester by teaching, practicing and living Positive Psychology.

I found strength in gratitude and in my loving relationships.  Most of us know by now about the positive effects of keeping a gratitude journal, thanks to research by Robert Emmons and efforts to spread the practice by Oprah and others. After my dad died, I was grateful for every visitor who shared a story, every person who attended his funeral and every email and card that reminded me of how much my dad meant to others. That semester, gratitude toward others fueled me, love of family and friends supported me, and the thrill of seeing students transformed by the class energized and inspired me.

The only way to get through hard times is, well, to get through them. Positive Psychology strategies do not help people avoid the pain and reality of life, but they do help them become more resilient and bounce back quicker and stronger.

What does Positive Psychology teach about overcoming hard times? Creating an optimistic mindset can help you see negative events as “temporary and contained.” Journaling for two minutes about the magic of hot tea and Netflix can boost your mood while you are sick in bed. Being grateful for your good friends and family when you lose your job will remind you that you still have many blessings to count. Exercising to get your endorphins running, along with mindfulness, can help you cope with parenting and keep you sane for one more day. Doing kind acts, even one day a week can do wonders. The stuff we learned in kindergarten is now backed by research and can be placed in our coaching toolbox for use during the best and worst of times.

Now you try. Start your next coaching session with one minute of mindfulness, two minutes of journaling, a new gratitude list to get you started. Make and exercise or kindness plan for the week and hold your client accountable and see what happens.  Positive Psychology interventions are like cold lemonade on a hot summer day, so indulge. Simple and good.

Workout 3: it starts with gratitude.

  1. Every day, every other day or once a week, write a gratitude list of five things you are grateful for. Be specific. Pick one and visualize it in as much detail as possible.
  2. Write a gratitude letter to someone you owe a debt of gratitude. Send it, read it to them or pay them a “gratitude visit” and read it live.

Good luck!

About the Author:

Deb is a coach, consultant, and educator with over 20 years’ experience helping individuals, parents and businesses thrive. Deb applies Positive Psychology methods in her successful practice, Coaching Is Good. She helps her clients set challenging goals, take risks and capitalize on strategies that energize and breed success. For kore information Impact Coaching Academy’s Positive Psychology Coach Training Course

The Expert Series is brought to you by choice Magazine as part of our ongoing efforts to bring opportunities for learning and growth to the coaching community. Delivered in four parts every two weeks, each series covers useful topics for business development and coaching insights, serving the needs of leaders in all areas and walks of life. Archived copies of the previous series can be found here.