If you have read some of my previous articles, then you may know that I enjoy coaching a lot. It is for me a great tool of empowerment that should be essential for any company. For what concerns my experience in the corporate environment, this is often unknown, unavailable, or mixed up with mentoring.
My history with coaching is quite recent, I am actually practicing it just for a couple of years. However, I did not limit myself to the few tools and credentials offered by the company where I am working, and besides the one-to-one conversations and the team sessions, I have spent (and I still do!) a lot of time studying new techniques and related topics which are linked to neurosciences.
Recently I have launched a dedicated virtual workshop, together with some colleagues that share the same passion and commitment to coaching; such session focuses on raising awareness about this skill among professionals within our organization. It took a long time for brainstorming in order to produce some innovative ideas.
Our story starts here: when during one of the last sessions, we understood that there is also an interest in practicing self-coaching.
To be honest, such expectation sounded curious to me: coaching is truly still poorly known where I am working, although we have made huge signs of progress. So, you can imagine that this new interest raised my curiosity, for it sounds like fresh terrain for new discoveries.
What is Self-Coaching?
When we think of coaching as a separate asset from mentoring, consulting, and any other activity of dialogue between two or more individuals, we need to think of it as a process.
A thought-provoking process, that’s what we call it.
Specifically, in setting a conversation, there are two distinct elements: a person which is there to solve something, and one to listen to and share some input.
Guess what? The coach is not the one who is solving anything.
Coaching for how I mean it (and many like me do) is to enable the person to deal with his/her own issues, transforming even the worst Gordian knot into the most elementary problem. Hence, the coach is a listener which goes beyond his ears and is there with a full brain and heart.
The reason why coaches exist is that you can struggle with achieving something if you are too emotionally involved, or if you are stuck in a sole stream of linear thinking. Desires, frustrations, feelings, opinions – all those can be enemies of facts about the problem and your ability to solve it.
When is not easy to achieve clarity alone, you tend to seek advice. Yet often advice just isn’t a fit for you and what is working for someone could be not working for another one.
The solution is within you, even if there is no solution (yet). That’s how coaches enter the field.
Now that you know what coaching is, at a glance, will be easier to explain what self-coaching is. You can coach yourself when you are able to separate your personal challenges from your personal derailments. To do that, you need to be both the listener and the speaker. Yes, that sounds obvious, and does not sound easy; however, if there are things that you don’t feel to share with anyone, if it is about something very intimate, even the best NDA or confidential environment will make you feel comfortable; when you are not yet able to be your authentic self on the matter of the conversation, this may be a “rescue device” that you can count with.
How do I know? Because I am a frequent user of self-coaching myself. I have always been, if I consider my attitude toward inner investigation and philosophy; just that now, with many years of experience at hand with it and the more recent knowledge acquired as a professional coach, I have been able to boost my results. It does not mean that I stopped going for coaching conversations myself: my coaches know, indeed, how a tedious client I can be…
The point is, that if you are able to follow some patterns, it will most likely happen that you will be able to “hack” your Ego and have a frank, open and effective conversation with yourself.
When does self-coaching prove useful?
- When the issue is too intimate for you to share
- When you cannot afford a coach
- When you have no time to lose
How self-coaching is useful?
- To untangle your thoughts
- To keep in check your emotions
- To feel more motivated to pursue a solution and more engaged in the course of action
Bonus: it will help you a lot to improve the quality of your thoughts, to be more cold-blooded toward emergencies, and mindful of your priorities. It is a 300% win.
Note: self-coaching can be amazing, however, you might be in need of a coach for the long run. Think of it as a tactic weapon in bad situations, but then back up with a professional coach. If what you need is psychological support, then, you should focus on finding a specialist instead.
See here how coaching differs from psychological consultancy and psychotherapy (credits: verywellmind).
Techniques and tools
Now, what follows is a purely empirical outcome supported by studies and tools which have been demonstrated effective for purpose of coaching, brainstorming, etc.
Generally, you may think of a self-coaching conversation as a 3-steps process: preparation, conversation, conclusion.
Phase #1: Preparation
Before you even ask yourself a question, you need to put yourself in the right mindset. If you are panicking, angry, or particularly nervous, you can’t expect high-quality thoughts from yourself. I am not going to bother you with all the biochemistry behind it: all you need to know is that your conscious self may be outclassed by your safety instinct.
The same is if you have a genial idea and you can’t stop to be excited about it, and you are so looking forward to starting working on it. Well, unless that is art, my advice is to be in control of your emotions. Normally, a coach would explore your feelings to have a clear understanding of your goal; perhaps he/she would ask you to paraphrase them in the context of the idea or problem. You do not have a coach here, so here’s what you need to do.
1 – Do some breathing exercise. You may be in need of ventilating, and surely you are going to need more concentration.
There are more exercises, so I recommend you to look on the internet for something easy to start. One of my favorites involves some notions of auto-hypnosis and consists of a self-talk-and-count.
By the way, I added some additional content to this article. This complementary PDF will guide you to the 3 steps of self-coaching, to be always available. Just a warning: you may have issues with download or to open it using IE or Edge, any other browser should be fine.
2 – Relax. At this point, you should have spent a few minutes calming down. That eventually could not stop your thoughts to come in. Here the secret is not to aspire to have an empty mind. Instead, acknowledge whatever comes to it, and give yourself a moment of silence. If you prefer, put yourself in front of the mirror. If you feel like screaming or laughing in a liberating way, this could be the time.
I personally sit down at the table and I close my eyes for a few minutes: removing the visual stimuli helps me to focus on my next thoughts.
3 – Dare to visualize. You may want to grab some of the flying thoughts from your stream of consciousness and stick them somewhere. There are two tools here that can be helpful for you.
- Need to prioritize? The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a four quadrants framework that can help you to optimize your focus on what matters.
- Need to collect? If you have too many things messily whirling in your brain, a neural framework such as Mind Mapping could be the tool for you. More about it in the PDF at the end of the article.
Visualizing is the essence of a meaningful self-conversation, because we are made to understand and learn more from what we see than from abstract thinking.
Phase #2 – Conversation
Have you done your small homework? If yes, it’s time to uncover the cards with and to yourself.
By now, all the mindful exercises you did (likely in the previous 15 minutes) should have put you in an atmosphere where you mindfully seek clarity.
Ask yourself honestly:
1. What do you want?
2. What do you need?
Just to start. It is important for you to understand what is important to you, and how your values fit in your needs.
3. What is the real challenge for you?
4. What can you do right now?
The power of You is a great one. In particular, if you have tried the small auto-hypnosis exercise, it will be even more powerful, since you attempted to separate your I from your Ego. Imagine as if the “I” asks the questions to the Ego…
5. What is important to you?
6. What other options do you have?
And so on. You see, self-coaching involves powerful coaching questions. And as it is between you and You, dare to be concise on asking. However, do not put pressure on yourself if the answers don’t come straight away. Just enjoy your silence, maybe note down this question and move on.
Phase #3 – Conclusion
It’s time to make yourself accountable. Whatever you come up with in the previous two steps, now is when you declare to yourself your course of action. Find a spot on the calendar when you will check the status of your path.
Motivate yourself along the way and try not to over-commit. That would make you deal with a lot of frustration.
Is the issue too big for you? Maybe you should ask for help, and that’s fine, too.
What works for me is to write the outcomes of my self-conversations everywhere (on my mobile phone, or a paper stuck to my wardrobe… you name it). Reading them time by time reminds me of my decisions and to consider if it is time to revise them.
I hope you found all this interesting, but I’ll be more than happy if it would reveal useful as well.
The additional content in PDF format can be found here. Enjoy!