Your brain is a problem-solver: Episode 47
Hi there, Welcome to She Coaches Coaches. I’m so pleased you’re here.
The title of this episode is…your brain is a problem solver.
Depending on the day, depending on the moment this can be a good helpful thing or a so not helpful tendency.
We’re going to talk about three ways to use this in your coaching sessions to support your clients. And of course, because we coaches are human (I know it’s a shock), don’t forget to apply these solid tips to yourself too.
Your brain, my brain, all human brains love to look for problems to solve.
We want to untangle messes and solve puzzles.
If we give our brain a challenge it goes to work to solve it using what it already knows as the basis.
Remember too we have a negativity bias. Your negativity bias is our tendency to focus more on the negative than on the positive.
Now when we combine this puzzle solving with our negativity bias the result, we are always looking for problems to solve.
This is one of the things I find fun about being a coach.
Every coaching conversation is a space to listen and ask questions.
We use powerful questions, to help our client find their own way to a new perspective.
And this means, to question the assumptions that we live by and to find a new way of thinking, find new ways of processing thoughts and then learn how to feel safe experiencing our emotions. In a nutshell, how to be even more amazingly human. And to use our thinking to experience a more empowered and satisfying life.
I started with a new client yesterday. And one of the first things I told him was. Don’t be surprised, there are times when I will ask you questions where you don’t know the answer.
And then I added one more word…yet.
You won’t know the answer…. yet.
Meaning, you’ve never thought about this before or you’ve never thought in this way before, and your brain doesn’t have an automatic response programmed and ready to respond…. you’re going to have to think about it and figure it out and since your brain loves to solve problems, so it will figure it out.
Most of us adults have established thinking paths, this “thing” is good, this “other thing” is bad. Dogs are good, rats are bad. When this happens, I’ve done this in the past…so I’ll repeat the same response. When a telemarketer calls, I always hang up…and so that’s what I always do.
Imagine a metaphor for these thinking paths is like if your car has ever broken down. If your car stalled and you wanted to push it, you hope that it’s on a hill. You take the emergency brake off and then start to push it. At first, you’ve got to use some muscle to get it moving, but soon it’s rolling along and eventually you can hop in and coast because it’s got enough momentum to get to the bottom of the hill rolling under its own steam.
Your brain’s thinking paths can be like that car, once you ask it a question if it’s already answered something pretty similar it will automatically start to pick up speed all on its own.
Remember, the motivational triad from a previous episode, one of our common predispositions is that our brain likes to conserve energy. Well, these habit thoughts are its way of conserving energy.
So, we’ve got a puzzle-solving machine as a brain, and it comes complete with a negativity bias.
But we also have a craving or a desire to have a better life, a more satisfying life. Maybe you want a promotion or a new job, and you don’t know exactly how you need to grow to get that new job. Or more than anything you want to overcome procrastination, but you’ve got years of practising that unhelpful habit and a belief that you are a procrastinator as part of your identity.
As a coach, my goal is to help you, my client gets the best results, in the fastest easiest way possible. And at the same time, I know we are overwriting habits and re-wiring our brain. How much fun is this?
Here are three approaches I use often.
1., Question the obvious,
2. Break the cycle,
3. Look for the good.
I’m going to describe all three to you here:
Let’s dive in
First, question the obvious
This approach means we question the assumptions. If a client says, well of course I have to keep my word because otherwise, that would be terrible you could ask…. what exactly does it mean to keep your word? Because even though we say the words, we might mean something slightly different, or we haven’t taken time to look at the intricacies. In this example, of keeping your word. Sometimes we may find when we say we will keep our word to others we always do and live by this truth and then we discover we don’t always keep our word to ourselves. Understanding this could open up new perspectives and choices.
This is the place where we question the “truth” or what we assume is true.
If black is black and white is white, we could ask something simple like – what exactly is black?
The easiest way is to use a simple question. And the question sounds like this “what exactly does that mean?”
The words are important but even more important are the intention and the emotion you approach it with. The feeling of curiosity and openness the place where you are standing side by side looking at this with fresh eyes together.
There’s a big difference between “what exactly do you mean?”– with a sense of judgement and criticism.”
“what exactly does that mean to you?” from a place of curiosity and openness.
Second, break the cycle.
Here’s how to use this approach:
I love starting a coaching session off with an unexpected question.
I meet weekly with most of my one-on-one coaching clients.
And we get used to seeing each other frequently. I love this weekly format because it helps my clients get the best and fastest results. Coaching is about awareness of your thoughts and how you think about your thoughts. But we’ve got a human brain with years and years of programmed habits so it takes time and some compassionate persistence to see what you’re thinking and to create new patterns new habits, new ways of being and new results. To accomplish this, I’ve found that weekly does this best.
Here’s what I enjoy, I create a space for a different kind of conversation and instead of starting each call the same way….I like to shake it up. Because….let’s keep it fresh and add some fun too.
It’s so easy for us to judge ourselves. We always think we’re not changing fast enough, we get frustrated that those same patterns of self-doubt continue to play on repeat.
I want you to know nothing has gone wrong…those patterns are completely normal – you’ve practised them for years…. So don’t use it as an excuse to beat yourself up…. you see the irony here right? We have self-judging, self-doubting thoughts….then when we become aware of them we judge ourselves for having self-judging thoughts.
Anyway – one of the questions I’ve been asking
How have you grown this week?
Other questions or ideas for this break the cycle approach are:
What are you learning about yourself?
Who are you becoming?
Third, Look for the good.
This approach is simple.
Here’s the way it works. Deliberately break the negative cycle. We’ve got a negativity bias right, so don’t continue to reinforce the bias. It’s a bias it’s not set in stone and we can learn a different way.
Ask questions that require a positive answer. Sounds so simple right? But remember we (you and I, the coaches)have the same negativity bias, so we get to shift ours too. You could ask:
What’s going well?
What are you celebrating?
What are you proud of?
And then wait for the answers. At first they (or you) might fiddle around a bit, but eventually, our brains will find something. And when you find one thing, then you’ll find another and another. Ask questions like these a few times and pretty soon you’ll start to build a skill of finding the good.
So that’s it for today. The three approaches you can begin using are:
The first I call, question the obvious,
The second I’ve named break the cycle
The third, look for the good.
Hey, I so appreciate that you’re here and that you’re part of my community and I hope you’re pausing and rewinding these episodes and answering the questions I ask you and then taking the steps I recommend. The information and ideas that I share will help you best when you apply them in your own life. So use these practical podcast episodes as support on your way to becoming a fully booked coach.
Now, if you want more help, maybe you resonate with how I speak and what I share, and you want to work with me. Then we should talk. Like I said if you’re considering becoming a coach the first place to start is to work with your own coach and get started creating more of what you want in life.
So, if this sounds like you click the link to find out how we might be able to work together.
Alright, that’s it for today. I’m so appreciative that you spent this time with me.
I’ll be back to talk with you next week.
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