How many self-help books about coaching yourself are there? All promise a bright new future or a happier life, there must be millions. In fact, having just searched Google for “coach yourself” revealed 13,500,000 results in just 0.36 seconds. So it seems there is a lot of people ahead of me in this queue. However learning to coach yourself, well it’s all about balance.
Now all this depends upon where you are in your life or career. The rhetorical wise words and the range of self-help books can be both a pleasure and a curse. The pleasure being there are a number of guru’s ready to give you instant answers to life’s imponderables. The curse being having to read & make sense of them all. Though how easy is it to coach yourself so you can make sense of where you are and most all feel good about ourselves?
I am going to pin my colours to the mast and suggest we start to look at coaching yourself with a model that is tried and tested. Cognitive behavioural coaching or CBC. You have probably heard of CBT, well the model is from the same stable. Though more about moving forward by making sense of how things are and how you want them to be.
As Simple as ABC
One very simple and straightforward coaching model is the ABC Model. It is perhaps the most famous cognitive behavioural format for analysing your thoughts, behaviour, emotions and the consequences of it all. Cognitive behavioural therapy/coaching works on the assumption that your beliefs and thinking about yourself and situations influence how you feel. Subsequently, altered thinking changes the beliefs about ourselves that can alter behaviour, emotions and feelings etc. How many times do we feel things are going wrong we reach for a swift glass of wine or a comforting sweet treat? A good example of altered thinking/feeling and an altered behaviour. By identifying and addressing problematic and automatic thinking we can start to change behaviour and view experiences for the better.
The ABC Model
The ABC Model asks you to record a sequence of events in terms of:
A – Activating Event (also sometimes described as a ‘Trigger’ or “Hot Button”)
B – Beliefs (for example, the automatic thoughts that occur to you when the activating event happens)
C – Consequences – how you feel and behave when you have those beliefs (consequences may be divided into two parts: your emotions and your actions)
So let’s have a quick example of how this might work. You are at work and your boss stops you and says “have you got a minute”. Now if you are anything like me my immediate thought is “what have I done now!” (says more about me than what the manager said). So the trigger for me is negative. As it is my belief that I am in trouble yet again. As a result, I feel nervous, anxious, might need a strong coffee (won’t help the anxiety), might feel nauseous and generally a heightened sense of doom.
Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you a choice – a balancing thought. If I had used a balancing thought I would have seen the thing differently, as my boss is probably going to discuss something completely different. Could be a pay rise, promotion, a new opportunity or just about anything but the impending doom-laden thinking. The point is to suspend the negative thinking until there is more evidence to work on than a “have you got a minute” phrase from the line manager.
Of course, we can make associations with how things panned out in the past, or there may also be any number of things happening to us outside of work that is impacting on how we think in work. The only way we can try to feel better about these events or situations is to balance the thinking and challenge how we think. So perhaps in the example of the manager asking you for a minute just balance the negative thought about self with hearing what the line manager wants to talk about.
One of the approaches of CBC would be to ask you to reflect on whether the beliefs of the activating event are justified, rational or based on an assumption of an error of initial thought. If on reflection you consider that those beliefs about yourself are not justified you might think of some more realistic balancing statements, that you can remind you of when the activating event occurs to help keep what is happening in perspective.
So stop and think about those activating events in your life that kick off a whole body experience of something bad is going to happen. Ask yourself what evidence have you got for this thought and altered feelings about the situation? You can probably cast your mind back to an event in the past that have framed and strengthened the associations between a situation and a negative outcome. If it’s not relevant to this situation then change it, think differently about the event. Thinking about the event differently will change the way you feel and behave. Sounds simple but it is a tried and tested method to help bring a sense of perspective into your work & life.
Give it a go. It is sometimes hard work, as you have to engage in some meta-thinking or thinking about thinking. Plus examining the way that the thoughts can make you feel and behave. Think about the events that give you the collywobbles and ask is there a different or a more proactive way of approaching it. I bet you can and I bet it changes how you feel and behave. So coaching yourself can be a straightforward process that no wise guru can help you with. As you are the expert on how you think and feel about stuff and situations. You have the answers, trust yourself, turn off the autopilot for a while and balance your thinking.