Coaching World Issue 7: August 2013 - Page 23

nature, yoga, tai chi, dance, sports, photography, and the arts are just a few examples of mind-body practices that can build mindfulness. As Kabat-Zinn has pointed out, the simple exercise of meditating on the breath teaches us some important truths—the mind is at the mercy of whatever crosses its field of vision, hearing, smelling, thought. This truth is not bad or wrong but it can be humbling to try to focus on one thing—like the breath—for five minutes. The more we practice mindfulness, the greater our capacity for awareness and sustained attention. Moving Toward Change At its most basic level, coaching is about facilitating positive change for the client. There are many coaching-related theories about the process of change, including stages of readiness to change, inner experience of adult transitions, steps for motivating client change and processes for developing insight into why some change efforts fail. What these theories have in common is an underlying purpose—to expand the client’s awareness of previously unseen aspects of her experience. When we’re aware of something, we can observe, reflect on and act upon it. However, if an aspect of our experience is outside our awareness, we cannot see it and therefore cannot change it. This is why expanding awareness—bringing more of one’s experience into consciousness—is an inherent part of any process of authentic change. Recent evidence from the brain sciences indicates that the mind and the brain are intimately interrelated. It is now known that the brain can change itself in response to experience throughout life—a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Mindfulness encourages behavioral change by harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to create new neural connections and pathways, laying the groundwork for new habits that lead to changes in behavior. Moreover, recent insights from the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology describe the mind as an embodied and interpersonal process that regulates the flow of energy and information. Thus, how we focus our attention matters, as it directly shapes not only our own minds and brains but also the minds and brains of others. Mindful awareness helps us cut through our habitual behavior—the automatic-pilot experience of everyday life—to open up mental space for choice and presence in action. Many coaching moves are designed to do just that—slow down the action and create space for choice. For example, a coach might gently interrupt a client’s narrative to inquire, “Where do you feel that in your body right now?” The question, if timed well, evokes immediacy and creates awareness. Journaling can cultivate self-reflection. Asking the client to keep a log of a specific behavior (“Just notice it,” we might say) creates space and time to observe the behavior and choose whether to do it or not. Such activities interrupt the automatic quality of habitual response, creating possibilities for change. Mindfulness benefits our clients by increasing awareness of not only their conscious behavior, such as setting a goal and taking steps to achieve it, but also less-conscious behaviors, such as subtle shifts in emotions, impulses and intentions. This kind of awareness is invaluable for a leader whose presence and behavior are scrutinized a ??????????????)?????????????????????????????????%?)???????????????????????????????????????)??????????????????????????????????????)??????????????????????????????????????)]???????????????????????????????)??????]?????????????????????????????)??????????]???????????????????????)???????????????????????????????????????)??????????Q????????????????????????????????)??????????????????????????????????????)???????????????????()??)???? ?????????????? ?()????Q??????A????5?????????????????????????)??????????????????????????????)???????????????????????????????????)?????????????????????????????????)????????????????U???????)??????????)?????????????????????????????????????)???????I????????????????????????????????????????)???????????????qQ???!???????????-???????? ???? ????????)???Q????????A??????t??)????? ??????????)????????????????)????????????????????????????????????????????????????)????????????????????????????????????????????Y?????????????)???????????????????????????1?????%?????????????????????)????????????????(($() ????????]?????()????????$((??((0