Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

My First Six Months in Business with Sarah Rusbatch


Sarah Rusbatch is a qualified Health and Wellness Coach who trained with Wellness Coaching Australia through 2020. Sarah finished her course with the Passion to Profit business program. This article is about Sarah’s first six months in business and how she has built a global following and a viable business as a Health and Wellness Coach.

This article is an excerpt from two podcast interviews: one about why she was starting this business (Oct ’20), and one about how her business is going gangbusters! (Feb ‘21). 
It has been edited for length and clarity.

A Career Change
Before training as a Health and Wellness Coach, Sarah Rusbatch had worked for over 20 years working as a Recruitment Advisor, Executive Legal Recruiter and Career Coach at a global level.

But Sarah also had a growing concern about her alcohol intake and she had the personal experience of seeking help and taking steps to develop a better relationship with alcohol and ultimately, herself. With the right support over an 18-month period, Sarah stopped drinking altogether and as a result, found more meaning and purpose in life and a great sense of enrichment.

Training as a Health and Wellness Coach with Wellness Coaching Australia was a natural progression that helped her to turn her own experience with alcohol into a purposeful business so that she could help others do the same.

Here’s how the fist six months in business have panned out, after graduating with a Professional Certificate in Health and Wellness Coaching in December 2020.
 
Getting Started and Choosing a Niche
MW: Was there anything else that was difficult or that you were afraid of in the beginning? And how did you overcome that?

SR: I didn't have an understanding how to launch a coaching business. How was I going to work out what to charge? How was I going to build a program? How was I going to structure it? Because it's all very well having the qualification. But then what do you do after that? 

What Passion to Profit did really well was just gently guiding me step-by-step through what's needed, finishing with everything you need to know from a systems perspective; also just really practical things like sending out coaching agreements and all of the legalities, plus who is the niche, where are you going to market to your niche, and how are you going to build your program? I was really scared of all that just because I didn't know it but by the end of the program I felt really confident. 

MW: What helped you get ready to build your business and launch? 

SR: It was choosing a niche, and part of that was knowing that it's natural to be scared to niche down but that that's the only way to get success.  

I'm forever grateful for what the course has taught me in terms of just being able to back myself and know that what I was doing was the right thing to do. Because when you've got the qualification, there are so many avenues that you can go down and as a new coach you don't feel like you want to say “no” to anyone. 

I felt like I wanted to set up a business that could cater for every single person that came across to me so that I was never turning anyone down, but of course when you go through Passion to Profit you realize - how are you going to market to anybody if you look like you're covering every single thing?

What you helped me to do was really get to know who the ideal client was. I wanted to work with what their challenges were, what they were looking for and how I could help them.

Working with a niche just brings me so much more joy, because I feel like I'm an expert in my area. What I realize now is that without a clear niche, I could never have been an expert in terms of really understanding my area and be able to offer a great service in that area.

MW: That's a good point. So, by being general you don't get the chance to become a specialist and it affects your confidence in being able to being able to put yourself out there and see how you can tangibly help people. 

SR: Yeah, I found when I've been dealing with the same issues within my niche, I've learned so much from that and that's what made me a better coach in a very short space of time. I have been able to take that forward with the next clients that I work with. 

Creating Energy and Momentum in The First Three Months
MW: Okay, and so when you did finish and you graduated you got your Professional Certificate in Health and Wellness Coaching including Passion to Profit, was there any challenge that you had then or was it easy for you to go out and get into the market?

SR: I knew exactly what I was doing by that point. I was really clear, and I just ran a challenge, and I sold my program off the back of the challenge and filled all my spots.

MW: You make it sound so easy. “I just did a challenge and launched a program off the back sold all of my spots!” 
Let’s backtrack a little. Walk us through it.

You started by creating a free Facebook group in around October 2020, and quickly grew it with a sobriety challenge in January 2021, where you went all out and showed up daily to support your audience. 
What was the experience like?

SR: It was exciting, a little bit overwhelming and I felt a little bit lost at first. But I know the direction to go now because there are so many opportunities coming up, and I feel very proud and very excited with how well it's going in such a short space of time. 

I guess it's useful here to explain that I'm working in is women who want to stop drinking and discover more about themselves and find more fulfillment and purpose and passion in their lives, and I realized that I was starting the challenge at a good time of year because it was January. 

Everyone had just had a very boozy Christmas, feeling a bit rubbish, the start of the new year setting intentions, so I ran a challenge, and I knew that I was going to do this. 

At first, I thought I was going to do a five-day challenge, but then I thought, “well most people do dry January. I'm going to run a 21-day challenge in January to support people who want to take a break from alcohol.” 

I was overwhelmed with the number of women that joined that challenge, which boosted my confidence in knowing that I had so much to offer.

Every day I did a live video. Now, I would not recommend this because this is 21 days at 5pm Perth time every day. 

The intention was every day for five minutes most days. But it ended up being about 40 minutes each day! 

Even so, that made me realize how much I had to say on the matter and how much people were really enjoying and learning about the support and the tips and in the market, not many people were out there talking about these things. 

MW: How did you map out your strategy to really launch and grow so quickly? 

SR: I developed a clear strategy of how to sell my product to the audience, which evolved while I ran my pilot program as part of Passion to Profit.

I think you know from my last session in P2P that my program was not how I thought it was going to be. It was definitely a journey of me learning who I wanted to work with and really getting to identify what their pain point was and what their issue was, that I would be able to support them with. 

So my strategy was to build the group, run a free challenge that was important to a lot of people at the time, and then I built a waitlist during that time for my program. 

That is, I started talking about my program while I was doing the challenge. I said, “I have an exciting program coming soon and it would be a natural step on from taking the alcohol free challenge.” 

People joined the waitlist and I sold all my waitlist spots in two days - amazing! - and then I opened it up to people that were not on the waitlist. Then I think was about a week before closing that I sold all of the spots that I wanted to sell.

(Note: Sarah’s first offer was three groups programs with six spots in each (18 clients), plus four individual programs.)

MW: I'm hearing that you started with a free thing that people could join - your challenge - and you were very present and engaged. 

SR: I had a lot to say every day not just doing a static post using a posting service. When you run a Facebook group, you are actually in the group interacting with them and spending a lot of time. That’s important to know.

MW: It sounds like it was worth the investment because then you also had this the enticement of a call to action, which was your waitlist for something coming soon, which created some intrigue and that got them interested and excited about being part of that next thing to continue past the 21 days. 

SR: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, and that just seemed to just work really well.

Lessons Learned
MW: Sarah, did anything come up in the challenge that you think would be generally relevant for other niches? Like what were some of the issues that might have been raised in the group?

SR: Well, the one thing I learned is that I gave far too much away for free, and I gave far too much. I think there's a fine line between how much information you're prepared to share and it's not even about it being free, but it's about you know, as I said 40 minutes a day for 21 days. That's an awful lot of information that I was giving away. And if I was doing it again, perhaps I wouldn't do it quite that way because not only is it exhausting but there's too much information. I could have kept some back a little bit. 

But overall, the most amazing thing is that we're seeing the connections that the people in the challenge had with each other and were creating that real sense of community. 

So many of them have continued to stay off alcohol since then and most of them tell me that that group on Facebook is their favourite group ever and that they absolutely love it because they're all forming connections with each other. It's not just about me and so I'm creating an actual community which is great. 

MW: Yes! I mean you have lived experience and are very credible you're showing up and creating those connections. The timing of you is perfect. And also, at the bigger picture level there is a bit of a movement toward being sober curious, right? It's the start of a new thing. And so, there's you've got lots of ways of getting traction. Plus. It seems you're very good at networking too and you have extended networks around the place.

SR: Yeah, so I had the foresight before I even ran the challenge. I knew that I would use the Facebook Community to create a group because I knew that in this sobriety world that that really works well, and it gives people a lot of support so I had to set that up about four months before. I didn't realize how useful that was going to end up being because not only to the ladies in the group but to me as well because and they knew me already, but even to get them to do the challenge they had come across to me and they knew me, and I dumped some live videos and I shared my story. 

SR: So I think and because I decided that was going to be my way of marketing. I've done that ahead of time which definitely accelerated how quickly I was able to get success one side qualified and was ready to launch. 

Becoming Visible, Engaging and Attractive
MW: I was going to ask you about three or four things that you did to become very visible and engaging and attractive? 

SR: One of them would be starting that group earlier on and getting it all set up and starting to build those slow burn connections over time as we discussed in Passion to Profit - when you're creating a Facebook group or don't sell for the first six months just build the community and just build and get them to know you and each other, and that's what I did 
I've been very blessed that I've had the group has grown very quickly. There's 1700 women in it now (note: at publication date this is over 3000) all around the world. 

I have had no issues. There has not been a single problem. You know, women can sometimes pull other women down and I had just haven't had that at all. They have been the most supportive and amazing group of women. 

I do still monitor it and I do still have to get approval from me before posts will go live in the group. I don't feel quite ready to let it go free for all yet. But it 's definitely been a massive help for me having that group. 

MW: What are some other things that you've done to become visible?

SR: I sent an email to every radio station in Perth and told them what I was doing and so far. I've been on ABC Perth, I've been on 6PR, I'm going to be on 98.5 tomorrow and I also looked for all the health and sobriety podcasts out there and I just sent an email to all of them with my story and what I'm doing and starting to get some bookings.

It was literally just literally just writing emails to all the places that I could think of that might be interested to talk to me, right? 

MW: So obviously one of your marketing strategies is public speaking and that's whether it be in a Facebook group or on a guest podcast or a radio or a webinar. That's your jam. It's playing to your strengths and you enjoy that.

SR: Exactly yeah. 

MW: What about writing Sarah, is that something you enjoy?

SR: Absolutely, and I would love - my dream one day - is to write a book, but it's just finding the time. I've started a weekly Newsletter now for the ladies - some are in my group and some are not so the other people that have found out about it being through Instagram. So I have a page on there and then eventually I might start writing a Blog because I have lots of ideas but finding the time.

MW: And I guess you get to become known initially by getting on the radio and guest podcasting and being visible on Facebook – these things have been a foundation for you and Instagram as well. And then it may be that in future, you'll be doing less of that publicity stuff as you get better known and settle into some writing and blogging.

SR: Exactly exactly. 

Managing Time and Energy
MW: How are you managing your time and your energy and your clients with this big explosion in popularity?

SR: I am using a planner and I plan the night before I tried. This trick was just planning what I'm doing the next day because it's very easy to get distracted. If you even so much as look at Facebook, that's a half an hour gone so I'm very strict with when I let myself do that now so that I can get focused on what I need to do. I'm very strict with turning my phone off at night and being with the family.

I had to set boundaries because my kids are still young and they see me on my phone all the time because I'm always on Facebook and Instagram doing posts and responding and I've had to realize that I can't be like that in front of them. 

I've got a learning curve and I've got to create my bond with my daughter who said to me the other day, “mum why are you on your phone all the time?” 

That was a bit of a wake-up call because what I tried to explain to her I am actually working. It's the same mum who used to be in the office doing her work. My husband and I had a chat about it so now I do phone stuff in the office so that the kids don't get confused. It's just finding my boundaries and what works for our family and still keeping the momentum going to the business.

MW: Credit to you that you've got that awareness right at the beginning. 

SR: It's the context so taking your phone into the office and treating it formally like work really does make it work and probably makes it easier for you to not waste time on Facebook and not go down the rabbit hole. 

MW: Exactly. So you're a coach who's leading by example setting boundaries managing your environment.

SR: Yeah, being aware of the family. And I'm trying to just recognize when I'm getting full up and what I'm getting overwhelmed and when I need to take a break because that's everything. I talked to my ladies about that, and I've got to make sure that I'm doing that as well. 

It is recognizing when I need to go for a walk, when I need to go and take 10 minutes to read a book or have a bath or whatever it is. I'm making sure that I live by that example. 

MW: Fantastic Sarah. Have you got any last words of advice (which is very non coaching)? But any recommendations are opinions or even just advice for people who are scared of starting their coaching business and want to create the success that you've created so far.

SR: For me, it was a couple of things. It was developing my niche and knowing getting really clear on who that person was. So really, you know, we talked about the Avatar of who was that person and it was me five years ago and so in some ways it was easy for me because I spoke to me so loudly I was so grateful to you for encouraging me to run the pilot group. 

That was amazing, absolute gold because everything I've done with this program is based on doing the pilot group as part of, and in doing, Passion to Profit. 

I wouldn't have been able to go into selling this program confidently if I hadn't done that before so I would say to anybody out there if you're thinking about doing a good coaching pilot group is absolutely brilliant. 

Also, you have to go with what feels right to you because it does become all-consuming and it's exciting and so you have to be really passionate about where you want to help people.

For me, that's why I knew there were a couple of ideas that I was having but I was thinking “how does that make me feel if I'm working with people in that area all day, every day?” 

It was asking myself those questions around what lights me up and what makes me feel invigorated and where I want to spend my time that really helped me home in on that niche. 

I think that's so important because you are the business and then if you want to be doing this in 10 years time or even if you want to sell it even if you want to run a great business you have to love it. 

MW: I always think of Mick Jagger. After all these years he's still singing the same songs. He has to love those songs otherwise, he couldn't get out of bed and be a superstar every day. Imagine if he'd had enough of singing Satisfaction! 

Stretch Goals in Business



Goals are the challenging targets we set for ourselves and strive towards. They are the things we wish to achieve.
What fascinates me is the way we respond to the goals we set. 

Too easy and we get bored. Too hard and we give up. 

In other words, good goals are a little bit like the three bears and their porridge – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
To make a distinction, stretch goals are a little bit different in two ways:
1. They are usually harder than normal goals, and
2. They involve novelty (creative thinking, or total overhaul).
Stretch goals are for the brave.
They help you challenge yourself to get better at what you do.
And they are a bit like highly concentrated dishwashing liquid - you only need one or two drops to get amazing results.
Some people call them ‘impossible goals’.
I like to think of them as hard, scary but believable goals.
And in business, just as in life, stretch goals are a wonderful tool to help you move through fear, challenges and self-doubt.

What Is A Stretch Goal?

According to Harvard Business Review, a stretch goal is a blend of extreme difficulty and extreme novelty.

Extreme difficulty means going beyond your current capability and performance.
This could mean going all out to lose 15kg, or holding a big marketing event to attract 100 people to your business, or just saving an extra $300 this month.

Extreme novelty means working differently, creatively, following new paths or approaches never tried before.
For you, this could mean trying a totally new exercise approach, or making a complete change in your business model.

Why Set A Stretch Goal?

You’re probably thinking that the whole stretch goal idea sounds a bit hard, a bit crazy and a bit scary. It sounds like a risk. 
And it is ALL those things.
BUT the results you get from a stretch goal are worth it:
courage 
determination 
agility 
the ability to manage risks, and
self-belief.
In summary, a stretch goal is a hard goal that really pushes you outside your comfort zone so you can truly discover what you’re capable of.
It requires you to be creative, resourceful and focused, to be courageous and determined, and well organised.
Top performers know that failure is part of the process so more than anything, stretch goals are an exercise in developing self-belief, acceptance and persistence by achieving bigger things than you thought were possible.

Choosing a Stretch Goal

When choosing an audacious stretch goal, it makes sense to select an area in which you have a good chance of succeeding, right?
Think about an area of your business that you find super challenging, but which is within your reach.
Maybe it’s the courage to speak at a networking group – if live conversation is generally a strength of yours already.
Maybe it’s submitting an article to an online magazine you’d love to be featured in, like Mamma Mia, or Thrive Global.
Maybe it’s running a free 5-day challenge to people in your audience and getting in touch with everyone you know to help you promote it.
Maybe it’s asking for help from a mentor to get some tech set up, or attending a course, so you can finally get your business going.

Alternatives to Stretch Goals

If you’re not quite in the right headspace or resource base for a stretch goal, you can choose something different.
Here are some ideas:
Choose a smaller goal that you KNOW you can win (confidence)
Choose a small-risk goal that might be a loss but that will teach you something (knowledge and growth) 
Create efficiencies in what you’re doing now (improve, enhance)
Create a buffer of time, money or other resources to help you overcome your current obstacles (build a buffer)

Smaller goals can still give you valuable belief-building wins and valuable lessons.
Recently, I challenged myself to do 30 minutes of exercise every day of the month. I managed to exercise every day, but it wasn’t always 30 minutes.
So, I won most days, and lost a few.
But I learned SO much in that process.
Committing to exercise no matter what forced me to be agile when situations changed, so I could still fit in some exercise. 
It made me schedule time each day to fit it in.
It made me think creatively to overcome my barriers to exercise: tiredness, rain, cold weather, a busy schedule.
Most of all, this challenge taught me to anticipate disruptions and plan for them so I could fit in some exercise every day, no matter what.
The result?
Yes, I ‘closed my rings’ on most days (still wearing the Apple watch).
But I also sharpened my agility, and I learned more about how I work and planning, how to get the best out of myself in any situation, how to persist, and I enjoyed more work life balance, a better mood, more focus and a sense of achievement. 
Stretch goals can be something that boost your business to the next level, by helping you muster the courage to propel yourself past, around and over the obstacles.

What is Hope and How Do We Get More Of It?



I often read articles and blogs that have direct relevance to our work as health and wellness coaches and I find it a really growth-promoting exercise to make notes on how a different model fits with our work with clients.  


The topic of “Hope” really struck me as highly topical at a time when many people -  if not feeling hopeless - are struggling with the challenges that lie ahead – be they financial, emotional (inability to visit loved ones), or physical (yes, many, many people have been touched by Covid-19)!

We have also seen some shocking scenes of anarchism – looting, rioting and terrible violence and of course this is what will appear on our screens each evening because BAD NEWS gets attention.  What the presenters often fail to show are the numerous acts of kindness and support that are given when times are at their toughest.  I was gratified to read that research actually  shows us that when disaster strikes, altruism is the rule – not selfishness!  High five to the human race!  Apparently kindness and cooperation win out. 

Now there’s a reason for hope!

So, in order to feel more hopeful, what do we have to do?  Well, what we can’t do is sit around and wish for things to be better.  We need to take action. And create a plan.  Sound familiar?  Eric Barker talks about “scientific” hope. 

So first let’s define it.  Here’s one definition. 
“ Hope is the sum of perceived capabilities to produce routes to desired goals, along with the perceived motivation to use those routes.”  (Snyder, 2000)

Goals

People with high hope tend to have a lot of performance-based goals that are moderately difficult to achieve.  Interesting. How does that fit with how we encourage our clients to go about their change journey?  Surely we want them to succeed.  Yes however, with the The research shows that with our goals, we want a 50% chance of success.  Now by goals here, we are not referring to behavioural goals. We are talking about outcome goals.  Human nature responds better to a mix of failure and success.  Hence, BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals). If we always succeed there is no sense of excitement and achievement; when we fail constantly we become disheartened. A mix is good!


Agency (this is where motivation comes in)

This the sense that we can start and continue along the journey towards the desired outcome.  But make sure that outcome is accurately described – somewhere.  Does this sound familiar?  A bit like creating a vision and having a strong sense of self-efficacy?  It did to me too.  And not surprisingly, using your strengths to work towards meaningful goals is essential. 

Having a Plan

We then need the “resourcefulness” to create plans and recover from setbacks.  Anticipating problems, breaking down the steps into a plan and being able to be flexible enough to come up with a new plan when you need one are all crucial skills.  Also visualisation.  We often talk about that with habit formation, but when we think about the journey we have to go on, it is better to imagine the middle section instead of the end. That’s where it can get tough and that’s where the power of our mind comes in.  The beginning is exciting and the end is a celebration. The middle is the tricky part. 

Also remember - If the plan fails,– it was the plan that was bad – not you.  Then create a new one!

How is HOPE different from OPTIMISM?   I know many of you will have been pondering that question.  There is a difference.  Optimism at times can be directionless.  Hope involves action.  And it involves us coming together to support each other and get through this time.
We will and come out the other side stronger and wiser. 

Stay safe and hopeful.  

Barker, E. (2020) Barking up the Wrong tree
Snyder, C.R. (2000) Handbook of Hope: Theory, Measures, and Applications.
 

Four Ways of Living Through this Quieter Time




I have purposely not referred to the term that is appearing in every publication, as information on the virus that is changing the world is abundant and to be honest, I think we all can feel a bit bombarded at times - reading about what is happening and what we should be doing.  Instead, in this short article I will focus on four areas that seem to be relevant for most people.  I realise that we are all having very different experiences of what I like to think of as a “quieter time”.  There is so much sadness and loss occurring which will take us time to recover from and emerge into the new normal - whatever that looks like.  As coaches, we like to look at the positive and reframe where we can, but it is not always possible and grief is inevitable and necessary.  However, let’s consider some of the phenomena, (skill sets, qualities) that have come to the forefront during this unusual period of history!

The need to adapt –adaptability has been a buzz word in the popular field of resilience for some time and never has the need to adapt to change been more essential. We have heard some wonderful stories of how people have reinvented their businesses into new and profitable concepts that have filled a need that has suddenly been created due to our new restrictions. 
The creativity that is involved here is inspiring and generative.  The demise of one thing has led to the birth of something new. In a similar vein, I wonder how many of us have thought of “re-inventing” some part of our own lives – be it personal or professional? The advantages of being adaptable are many, not least of which is the growth of new neural pathways as we are forced to do something in a different way!  Out of change comes courage.

Compassion – the world seems to be overflowing with it.  What an unexpected outcome!  Sadness breeds empathy and a desire to reach out and connect. There are many stories of how the public are honouring the healthcare workers, how people are supporting their elderly neighbours, how we are watching countries around the world handle their unique situation and our hearts are full of love for those people. It has been said that this disease knows no boundaries and our common humanity is bringing us together – in a way that religion (and politics) have never been able to do. The other side of compassion is self- compassion. And it is something that is also very important as we struggle to take on a new set of values, be they temporary. There is now no need to measure up to the next person. We recognise that it is the luck of the draw whether we have jobs, businesses or are left with a big gap in our previously busy and purposeful lives. It makes it easier to be kind to ourselves (and others) when we know that feeling guilty is inappropriate.  Our only choice is what to do with the new situation. But starting with self love and self care are great places to begin. Our conversations with clients are going to be inevitably drawn into discussions about how we can look after ourselves with love and kindness.

Slowing down – how interesting that many of us have a sense of the world turning more slowly on its axis. Even if our routine is the same and the pressures of work and study remain, there is an innate need to take each day easier, to calm the busyness, to stop and linger.  What’s with the butterflies? The butterfly is a symbol of hope and regeneration and there is something awe-inspiring to watch them fly past in their hundreds. Were they always there? Or have we just got time to appreciate what’s going on in nature.  

We are now spending more time with friends and family (even if over zoom) than ever before!!  We’re getting to know the minor details of each others’ lives, sharing the challenges and the small wins and connecting more than ever with both empathy and humour!  Yes, when did we ever have time to watch those videos that are sent our way? Now we are amazed at the cleverness of everyday folk who can put together something that is entertaining without taking anything away from the seriousness of the situation. How many times did you cry this week when you watched a tribute to Captain Tom or heard an artist share their talents by sending a message of love and hope through their song or film making skills?

Reflection – finally, there seems to be time to reflect. Being introspective and getting to the heart of how we are feeling, looking back to the way we have been living and daring to hope that things could be different is a daily occurrence for many. Establishing what is important to us - really? And wondering (metaphorically) whether those “butterflies” will still feature in our lives when this is all over. How can we hold on to the lessons learnt, continue to live with the quietness if only in our minds?

This is a very personal account of my experience in the last five weeks. There is also disappointment, sadness and worry ever present but it comes and goes. Our conversations with clients cannot help but change and go into a much deeper exploration of what they are feeling. What they are learning from this experience?  How they are growing, what they need to come through it intact. We can’t work with clients without, at times, sharing our experiences. This is the time to work together, to share our thoughts and feelings and to help each other stay well.  

How do we define success?


















This is not a new question and I am sure not the first time I have written about it, but it is such a significant area to explore that I feel it is worthy of re-visiting and reviewing our responses.  Answering the question will help us get a greater understanding of our client’s goals, aspirations and sense of achievement.  Like so many aspects of health and wellness coaching, as coaches we have to ask the question of ourselves to provide the most meaningful support for our clients.

There are many different factors that influence whether a person feels “successful” in life.
Let’s consider the external factors.  We live in a world where relativity is a fact of life - the inevitable tendency to compare helps us define normal, exceptional and perhaps just plain “odd”.  “We are wired for comparison” according to Mark Manson.  Success and failure are somewhere different concepts but both frequently influenced by what others think.

Common ways of measuring success:

Financial – many people feel that success is only theirs when they hit their financial goals.  Money is extremely important to them and they spend much of their life working towards that notion of “success”.  Whether this healthy or not is irrelevant – it just is what they do and how they feel. It may come from parental values, from a fear of not having enough or any one of a multitude of reasons from their past.  Interestingly, people who value money often report that they never feel financially sound and they are often striving for more to achieve that end.

Status – this is all about how other people see us.  Status cannot exist without there being a hierarcy.. Someone has to be below us to feel successful in this realm.

Accumulation – plain gathering of “more” drives many people and the sheer fact that they own an abundance of things makes them feel successful.  But do they ever stop the need to acquire?  Will there always be an empty void which can only be further acquisition?

The satisfaction that we get from achieving a goal  – or not?

“Society values success and there is a competitive edge to most aspects of our world” writes Chris Skellett when he describes why people can lean too much towards an achievement orientation.

Yet it is really useful to remember something about goals.  The pleasure we get when we succeed at an important goal can be quite short-lived.  We call this “post goal attainment positive affect”.  However, when we are working towards a goal, the steps along the way often provide “pre-goal attainment positive affect.  The reality is most pleasure is felt along the way – hence the term “the progress principle”.

But how does this all fit into our definition of success?

Define success internally, not externally
This phrase had a powerful impact on me.  It reminded me that so very often we define success based on what other people think.  (see all the above examples listed above.) If we can shift our measuring stick to one of internal values, we may well be on to something that can reduce stress, anxiety and the feeling of being continually deficient in our lives.

When we ask ourselves certain questions such as the following, we can get closer to refining the way we look at success in our own lives.
“Would you rather be well off and work in a job you hate, or have a lower income and work in a job you love?’
Would you rather be famous and influential for something that has little importance, or be anonymous and working on something that could make a difference to the world?”

When we truly define what is important to us, only then can we decide whether we are successful or not. Stand back and take a look at your life and decide whether there are days when you feel you are failing and ask whose measuring stick you are using?  Do you see yourself as successful in other ways?  Once we have this self knowledge only then can we support our clients identifying their ways of measuring success.

References:
Jonhathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
Mark Manson,https://markmanson.net/5-mindsets-that-create-success
Chris Skellett, When Happiness is not enough

Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 4: Transcendence


The fourth pillar of meaning that Emily Smith refers to is that of “transcendence” which comes from the word “transcend”, or “go beyond”.  ‘Go beyond what?”, we might ask.  The sense of going beyond our everyday world to a higher reality is what transcendence is all about.  
But how can that give a deeper sense of meaning to our seemingly trivial lives?

You would expect the opposite. Yet it works the other way.

Imagine looking at a sunset, imagine meditating for hours at a time, imagine looking down on earth from a spaceship. What those experiences all have in common is that we are faced with something bigger than ourselves that creates a sense of insignificance and this feeling can transform us!

How does this happen?

In two ways.  First, our sense of self tends to disappear and along with it all the petty worries and wishes. Secondly, we get a feeling of being deeply connected with other people and everything else in our world. This experience can help us get a greater sense of meaning and promote a state of peace and wellbeing.

This should come as no surprise to health and wellness coaches who instinctively now that time spent in nature is somehow more valuable than perhaps time spent working out in a crowded gym. Mindfulness meditation come directly from this understanding and works in the same way.

But back to nature. If you needed any evidence of the benefits of nature, consider this.  A study had students outdoors in two groups. One group spent one minute staring at the huge trees that were part of the environment, and the other spent one minute staring at a tall building nearby. They had no idea what the study was about. After this time, a researcher approached them with a questionnaire and “accidentally” dropped a box of pens. The group who had stared at the trees showed much greater willingness to help pick up the pens, than the group who stared at the building. The conclusion? Nature created a reduced feeling of self-importance and made that group more generous towards others.  


How do we use this in our work?  Keep encouraging our clients to experience and savour the wonders of the world!

REFERENCE

Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning


Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 2: What creates Meaning in our lives?


Purpose and meaning are often referred to together, however, having a purpose is just part of what can create “meaning” in our lives. So how do we define “purpose”?  What does that mean exactly?  How can we become more “purposeful”?  

Emily Smith (The Power of Meaning) states that having a broad purpose helps us deal with the more “menial aspects of life”.  So although we have to spend a lot of our time just doing the mundane tasks of our daily routine, if we have a sense of what is behind that, we will be driven by a stronger sense of meaning and less likely to feel that life, well, is like a treadmill! If we’re not sure why we are doing what we’re doing – it can easily lead into depression.

Purpose needs to be defined. There are two aspects to it:
1) We are working towards a stable and far-reaching goal;
2) Somehow we are contributing to the world, in other words, we have a more meaningful purpose than just to please ourselves.

In order to fully define our purpose, we need to do a lot of self-reflection and have a great deal of self knowledge - because our purpose needs to fit our identity; our sense of who we are, what we value, what our strengths are and what is important to us.

Now don’t misunderstand this. Self knowledge does not come from spending long hours thinking about ourselves. In fact, Dr. Tasha Eurich, in his book “Insight” states that “ the more time the participants in a study spent in introspection, the less self-knowledge they had”.  He says we should start by noticing more rather than reflecting. Notice our behaviour and the results. Interestingly, he believes that questions that start with “what” can be more useful than with, “why”.  A “What’s going on for me?”, or “What would be a different way of thinking about that?”, might give more productive answers. Self awareness takes time and effort and we never stop learning. We need to avoid assuming that we know everything about ourselves and keep an open mind. 

But there is a time and place for “why” questions as we know in coaching. 

“Why is this important to me?” is an essential place to start when we are working with anyone around behaviour change.  We encourage self reflection and knowledge, particularly around identification of values. This gives a strong sense of purpose around the changes that need to be made to achieve their goals, and setting goals also creates more meaning in our lives!  

Back to purpose.  When we start to get a good sense of identity, we can then find ways of living with purpose. We may not find a “calling” but if we can find a purpose, we are on the right track. Health and wellness coaching help create meaning in peoples’ lives.


REFERENCES
Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning
Dr. Tasha Eurich, Insight
Eric Barker, Barking up the Wrong Tree

Power of Meaning, Pillar of Belonging Part 1: Is Happiness What We Really Want?


















We often refer to happiness as the holy grail. Surely this is all we would want for our children? If only we could achieve happiness, then it wouldn’t matter about the rest (because the rest would be what was making us happy?) Isn’t this what health and wellness coaching is really all about? Helping people find happiness by living “well”? It’s not quite that simple. Physical and emotional wellness is affected by many factors, but back to the holy grail.

The trouble with happiness is, the more we chase it, the more it will elude us. Although “feeling good” may be better than feeling bad, it does not mean that we are living a “good” life. This question has been researched and debated for many decades and there is now a growing recognition that having a sense of meaning, or choosing to pursue one, ultimately allows us to live fuller – and happier lives! There are times when meaning and happiness can be at odds with each other but the former will sustain us when times are hard.

So where do we get this sense of meaning? The meaning of life has never been revealed but much work has been done to try and establish where people can find meaning. Of course the answers are endless and individual yet, like most complex factors, they fall into broad categories.

Emily Esfahni Smith has written a landmark book called The Power of Meaning and she identifies four “pillars of meaning”. We are going to look at the first:

Belonging – our close relationships which often come from our community are critical for a meaningful life. But not only do our close relationships give us this sense of wellbeing but what has been referred to as “high quality connections” is also important.  Sharing short term high quality interactions with people we love gives us a great sense of meaning but it can be just as important to share those moments with friends, acquaintances and possibly strangers. People give value to others and feel valued themselves when their interaction is empathic, caring and showing mutual regard and respect.

Letting people be seen, heard and acknowledged creates bonds. Compassion lies at the centre of the pillar of belonging. Everything we strive for in our coaching practice supports this pillar. Our very conversations can add to our client’s and our own, sense of meaning.  

So how else can we use this information to add value to our coaching?  By helping and encouraging our clients to seek out opportunities for routines and activities that allow a sense of belonging. By exercising with others, joining groups, group coaching? But also helping them recognize and appreciate where they already “belong”. Often we forget that we have communities around us that if we took the time to acknowledge and promote those communities we would help ourselves, and others!

REFERENCE
Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power of Meaning.

Can Stress Become a Postive Force in our Lives?


Stress is generally seen as the bad guy in today’s busy world.  The belief that we have not got the resources to handle what is on our plate, creates stress!  Note – the belief.  Stress can make certain health problems worse and there are many downsides of prolonged, untreated stress.  But let’s get back to this idea of “belief.”

Stress is very personal.  What creates pressure and anxiety for one person might be the minimum level of responsibility needed to motivate someone else to get out of bed in the morning!  We are different by nature, experience and genetic make up, but understanding more about what causes stress and how we can control it is a great step to harnessing the energy we can get from this powerful “force”.  And it is a force – the fight or flight response that is created from being under stress also creates energy.  Perhaps it appears as negative energy, but can we turn it into something positive?  How can we make ourselves more “stress-hardy”?  Perhaps by understanding the positive that can come out of the stress response.  The fight or flight response is not the only one that can be activated.

At times, the tend and befriend response comes about with the production of certain hormones such as oxytocin that can be released in situations when we feel the need to reach out to loved ones, or strangers, to comfort them and increase our social contacts. This is often seen after tragic events have hit a community and this very connection reduces stress and can assist in recovery.

But we don’t need extreme events to try and turn our mindsets to believe that we are able to handle stress and in fact, can benefit from it.  Some of the following are useful exercises for us to try out:

  • When we notice our heart rate increase before a stressful event, realize that this is happening so that we have more energy to complete the task and use this energy to perform.
  • Ask yourself, “Are nerves caused by the fact that what you are about to do is really important to you?”  Does this situation have value in your life and therefore provide meaning?
  • When stress rears its head, acknowledge it then turn your focus to the task at hand.
  • Is your stress due to the fact that you are setting unrealistic expectations around what you can complete in a set time (day/week etc.)?  Change your deadlines and to-do list so that they are more realistic and you can think clearly about one or two things instead of feeling overwhelmed by an undoable list.
  • Switch your attention to someone else. Do something kind for another to get out of your head.  You will feel differently about your workload.
  • Ensure that you have good social networks.  Communities support each other and caring creates resilience.
  • If small events stress you, like having to wait on the phone for someone, remind yourself why you are doing this – is there a larger purpose?  Are you gaining information for something that has importance in your life?  
  • Question why you are feeling stress and look for positive aspects.   Is it making you stronger, are you feeling energized?  Are you connecting with others?  Are you feeling alive?
Once we start to see stress as merely a challenge that can help us grow, then we can learn to view it a different way and do just that – grow from it!

If you want to learn more about this interesting area, we have a full module of learning with comprehensive information and tools to use. To learn more about our Understanding Stress for you and your Clients course, CLICK HERE.

References: Healthbeat, October 2017 Harvard Medical School
The Upside of Stress, 2016, Kelly McGonigal

Coaching and The Brain - Part 1



We now know that our coaching conversation can actually light up different parts of our clients’ brains and create an “environment” that makes positive change more likely to happen - or at least be considered!  There is a lot about the brain that we still need to understand and the field of neuroscience is rapidly providing this information.


The “split brain theory” refers to the left and right brain which we have known for some time to perform different functions– one being used mainly for linear thinking (left) and the other for creative, holistic thinking (right).  Our left brain organizes information and our right brain senses danger, recognizes patterns and creates imagination (amongst other things).   We could say the left brain sees the trees and the right brain, the forest!  We need both and we are aware of tapping into each side with our work with clients. There are times they need to dream and envisage and times they need to plan and rationalize.  

When we make decisions our brain is involved, yet what we may fail to recognize is the part that other organs play in this crucial process.

We need to revisit how our brain was formed.

The brain evolved by layering – as it became more complex it built on the existing structure and the following stages occurred:

Reptilian brain – our primitive brain served three purposes – sustenance, survival and sex!  All necessary functions to stay alive and prolong the species!

The next stage of development saw the Paleo-mammal brain – this appears still in horses, apes and certain other mammals.

Then came the sophisticated  “hardware”– the Neo Cortex which included the prefrontal cortex responsible for high level learning and thinking that occurs in today’s world.

So that’s three in total.  What people aren’t generally aware of is that we have many neurons (brain cells) in two other organs – our heart and our gut.  There are over a hundred million neurons in our gut alone.  Which makes these additional organs extremely important in decision making.  As often happens, when we look back to how our language developed and the expressions we use, we realize that on some level we have always been aware of the role of these body “centres”. Think of the term “heart felt decisions”, or “gut instinct”.  We learn something “by heart”.  The heart has the most powerful magnetic field in our bodies and many stories are told about heart transplant recipients taking on characteristics and knowledge of the donor.  90% of serotonin, the “feel good’ neurotransmitter is produced in the gut!

We will take a look at what happens in the brain when we coach in our next short article but for now the most important message here is that out of our five “brains”, only one is rationale! We need to use all of them to make decisions but when it comes to the final word, our emotions will win out.  And this involves our entire body.  It has been said that reasons (thinking) leads to conclusions, but emotions lead to action.  A very important awareness for anyone who is trying to help someone with tough changes that may need to be made to improve their health.

This is part one of our two part blog on Coaching and the Brain. Click here to continue to read part two. 

Reference:  Carlos Davidovich, MD.  2016



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