How Coaching Develops Successful Habits

Dr. Purushothaman
January 10, 2014

This article explores what habits are, influence of habits on our life and how a Coach helps you to develop new habits through self awareness, reflection and actions in order to reach your goals.
What Habits are and Why they are Important
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water? David Foster Wallace told a class of graduating college students in 2005.And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day.

Habits make what we are, how we behave and what we achieve. Michale Phleps achived 19+ Olympic gold medals as the coach Bowman made winning a habit for Phelps. Phelps starts visualizing the final lap and winning streak before he gets into the race and he knows exactly what he needs to do to win. He won the race ( in his mind) half-through the laps and winning is just another step in his routine which became a habit for him.
Habits shape our life and destiny. They, so powerful, make our brain to go into auto pilot without any conscious awareness. These are unconscious things we do routinely like brushing our teeth, driving car. Study of brain scan proved that energy spent on performing a habitual tasks (routine tasks) is very minimal. Imagine what happens if you need think and decide every morning to carry out your day to day mundane activities like washing, brushing driving to the work. If you exercise your precious brain energy to do all these things, you will be drained out before you start your real work in the office!!. It is no surprise that our brain always wants to follow a Habit - an efficient way for the brain as it consumes less energy.
Habits create perceptions. Perceptions make you see the world as you are, not as the world is. This makes a big difference in how to we view see ourselves and how we see and feel everyone around us.
Almost all marketing campaigns are created based on the Habits techniques. Most of the ads address your craving (ex: fairness creams) to buy their product.
There are some types of habits called Keystone Habits, which can potentially create a chain reaction on other habits. For example - saving money as a habit can create better planning, better time utilization, reducing unnecessary spends etc.,. These act like a master habit and act as a lever to create wide spread impact. These are small but have lasting impact.
Organizations and Societies also have Habits in the form of processes and routines. These habits create culture.
Science behind Habits
Neuroscientists have discovered that our brain is a connection machine and works in defined and known path or processes or patterns. Brain always strives match what we see or experience with familiar patterns exists in the brain. We all know how one event triggers another event or memory and so on. Brain also hardwires everything it can thus automating the process so that it can be done faster, more efficient and at a lower (energy) metabolic level. It functions like a pre-programmed robot. Conscious or thinking, on the other hand is slow and expensive ( as choices to be made, decision to be taken based on various parameters like emotional, social and physical) as it consumes more energy.We all know how we get tired when we try to learn new thing or do lot of conscious work. It is because we over spend the limited resources we’ve in our conscious memory, prefrontal cortex.
Extensive study of brain scans helped researches to find that Habits reside in Basal Ganglia, our 2nd brain. Scientists also unearthed the anatomy of Habit or Habit pattern which consists of - a “Cue” which triggers “ behavior” and finally “ a reword” a person feels. “ Cue” could be as simple as a time of the day, sensory feeling, a person seen; behavior is how we react or what we do and finally the reward is either physical sensation or feeling. For example, brushing your teeth. You do this ever day morning (certain time which is the cue) and feel fresh in the mouth ( reward). The constant repetition of the behavior and expectation of reward results in neurological craving - subconscious feeling or expectation of reward which makes habits stronger, addiction like and make you unconscious of eventual results - basic animal instinct rules!
Can you Change the Habits
Extensive research found that brain has remarkable ability and capacity to create new connection continuously. Years of experimentation proved that habits can’t be erased or removed but new habits can be created with self awareness, belief, determination and willpower. Habits are analogues to gravitational pull - you can overcome the pull but you need booster energy in the form of self awareness, motivation, time, belief and will power. Once you escape the pull, you can have the peace or nirvana you deserve.
Habits can be changed by creating an awareness of habits (awareness is the key as Habits are auto pilot). Once you identify the Habit, you need to work on identifying the reward driving the behavior, the cue triggering it and the behavior itself. Changing the behavior is the obvious one but it is important to identify the right cues and rewards before attempting to change the behavior. You need a plan to change the behavior as you start again building the whole circuitry in the brain with right choices. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it.
Belief is another important component in habit change. If you believe you can change, if you make it a habit, the change becomes real. You can develop desired behavior by developing right habits.
How Coaching create Habits to gain personal effectiveness
Habits are so unconscious decisions you make in your daily life unless you consciously and deliberately pay attention to observe. Coach, who is dedicated to your success, focused attention on you and your behavior is a big help here. Coach listens to what you say and observing your behavior, helps you to identify the habits which are challenges for you and slowly makes you realize and understand the nature of those habits that are impediments to your success.
Coach uses set of tools and techniques which leverages many concepts, discoveries and advances made in Neuroscience, Psychology, and related areas like Emotional Intelligence and study of brain internals. These tools empower the Coachee to gain self awareness and develop insights to tap into his resources to develop a road map to reach the destiny..
The tools and techniques -
1.Develop Trust, Belief and improves focused attention
2.Creates Self Awareness ( of Habits) and develops insights
3.Helps to see big picture as well as develop detailed plan
4.Develop Habits through Goals setting, Actions and Reviews
Establish Trust and Belief
By using various approaches, Coach connects with Coachee and establishes the trust required to move forward with the transformation. The brain classifies people either “friend “ or “foe” based on the interactions. This happens unconsciously and impact the way the brain/we function to other person interactions. Trust is very important and vital for coaching engagement. Coach strives to establish trust and deepen the trust through out the engagement. Some of the techniques followed
1.Genuine care and respect for Coachee’s status and Coachee’s experience
2.Empathic listening
3.Have focused, direct and clear communication
4.Set mutual expectations
5.Give autonomy - ability to choose maong alternatives
6.Continuous encouragement by providing positive and constructive feedback
7.Non judgmental
8.Encourage risk taking
Trust and Belief are very important to move forward with personal growth
Create Self Awareness
Questions and clarifications is the main approach used by Coach to bring awareness and insights into the Coahee’s current reality. The questions Coach asks are contextual but varied in nature. They are personal, deep and inquisitive to peer deep into your life and encourages to reflect and understand. The questions focus on creating new thinking, awareness, attention, focus on vision, arriving at a plan and plan the details. Questions seldom focus on ‘why’ questions and questions on problems as coaching is to move forward rather than dwell in the problem and drama. These questions significantly affect the quality of connections brain makes and alters the patterns. Questions create attention, reflection, insight and can possibly results in actions if right techniques are used to harness the insight gained.
Along with effective questions, Coach used clarifications techniques to ensure that understanding is correct and reinforce the awareness.
The key to brain change or habit change is systematic training in self observation skills called mindful awareness, which empowers people to respond rationally than emotionally.
Setting Actions
Once the coahee gains awareness and develops his own insights ( it is important as your own thoughts and ideas are more likely to succeed than others advise and suggestions), coach gets coachee to move into developing actions with the insights gained. Taking immediate actions based on insights deepens the attention and develop new patterns that results into new habits. Doing something tangible as simple as writing down the actions will results in creating more attention and focus.
Actions are further strengthened by having regular reviews on progress, providing positive feedback focusing on the learning from actions and planning further based on the learning and progress. Coach continues pays attentions to the progress and provides positive feedback to move forward. By acting on the learning gained through actions, and repeating the actions, new connections are made in the brain and results in habits and long term transformation.
We are a mass of habits - emotional, physical and psychological, that shape our destiny. Fortunately, our mind is capable of learning new habits though self awareness, effort, time, attention and will power. Coach, who champions your success, provides the necessary support system you need to cultivate new habits which will take you to reach your destiny and perform at higher level for the benefit of you and everyone around in the society.

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