This article was updated in November 2020 by Team JRNI to incorporate new information.
Okay, so life coaching is like eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup. There is no one right way to life coach someone.
You can coach people a million different ways. It all depends on what they are coming to you for and how you work, how you go into your sessions. But there’s one technique that can be used in every session, no matter the topic or your style of coaching. It’s something that affects every person every day of their life, and every session can benefit from it.
Exploring false beliefs.
Now this doesn’t have to be what the session is about. It’s just something that’s always playing in the background. It’s something you can examine peripherally but it’s a great door to enter at any given time when you feel it’s appropriate.
First, what are examples of false beliefs? My own personal false belief definition is that they are beliefs we have about ourselves that are untrue and limiting. They live in our subconscious. Since 90% of our actions stem from our subconscious, our false beliefs play a huge role in nearly everything we do. Also since they live in our subconscious, we may not be aware of them and how they affect our daily lives.
For example, If you believe you are unlovable, you may sabotage relationships, hold on when you shouldn’t, avoid getting into relationships, etc. But logic may provide you with explanations on why you are doing this when at the core it’s fueled by your false belief that you are unlovable. Our behavior stems from our beliefs. And what our life looks like is a result of our collective behavior. So if we change or dissolve our beliefs, especially our false beliefs, we can change our behavior and ultimately change our life.
Once you discover your client's false beliefs, you can start to help them rewire themselves. And changing their wiring will change their life.
There are many different ways and theories on how to rewire yourself. Everything from NLP to subconscious work. And a lot of it feels hokey to me. Here’s a simple technique I use that won’t turn your session into a seminar or get in the way of how you coach.
It’s three easy steps.
1. Listen for the false beliefs
As your client is talking, a false belief will leak. For example, you may be talking about the trouble in her relationship and she mumbles under her breath “I don’t deserve him.” Maybe you explore that statement deeper and find out her statement came from the false belief “I’m not worthy”. And surely this belief is preventing her from loving fully. Make the client aware of her false belief. Then you can start following this string down. Where did this belief come from? Did something happen? How long has she had this belief?
The next question to ask is how this belief manifests in behavior in her life. So because of this belief, she compromises herself? Stays in things too long? Will never break up with someone? What is the behavior that stems from this belief? It’s important for her to see it, to know how her false belief affects her life.
As you are processing this together, she may have other revelations. It came from her dad. Or the emotional abuse from her first relationship. Just knowing where it stems from can be helpful in releasing the belief. As a life coach, you may have resistance when it comes to talking about the childhood stuff or the past because you think that’s what therapists do and you don’t want to go there. But I encourage you to not think about what a therapist talks about and what a life coach talks about. Go wherever the client wants to go.
2. Dissolving / Redefining
What does she need to do to start dissolving / changing this false belief? Ask her. She may have some great ideas. Many coaches stay away from asking their client for answers because they feel like they should have all the answers and if they don’t, they’re not a good coach. That is not true.
No one has all the answers. I don’t care how many letters you have after your name. So if you don’t, it’s okay. Don’t pretend. Remember, you and your client are in this journey together. You are not behind a podium or on a soap box. You are with, not at. So if you don’t know, it’s okay.
Once you discover what the false belief is, explore the emotion behind it. It will be a depowering emotion, something that makes them feel weak, invisible, less than. Have the client note that feeling. Now put a book mark there.
Next have the client play detective and ask her to prove that the false belief is true. You want facts not feelings. Remind your client just because she feels something doesn’t mean it’s a fact.
Help your client by challenging her false belief. One way to do this is to redefine. For example, if someone’s false belief is “I don’t think I’m good enough”, ask: What does “good” mean to her? Challenge the client by exploring her definitions. As you do this, she may end up coming up with a brand new definition. Every time this happens, there’s a shift in thinking. We start questioning ourselves, in a good way.
Now go back to the feeling part. Have the client think of a time when she felt “good”, according to her new definition. Let her soak in that feeling. Don’t just remember it, feel it. We need to use both mind and body. As people we are whole. But many believe they can just think their way out of something and get no traction. Feelings are always more powerful than logic.
Finally, as cheesy as it sounds, have the client say the new belief out loud. “I am good enough”. “I am lovable”. “I am an athlete”. Etc. It’s important for them to say it. There is tremendous power in saying something out, announcing it, especially with a witness. It’s much more convincing than just thinking it. Consider the difference between thinking "I love you" about someone and actually saying the words to their face. Huge difference, right?
3. Set up a new experience
This is the homework piece.
There’s nothing more convincing than experience. So the goal would be to set up a new experience(s) for the client that disproves their false belief.
I’ll use my story as an example. My false belief that I was trying to dissolve was “I am not an athlete”. This came from my high school football days. I was the kid with the whitest uniform. I was a bench warmer. So because of this experience, I developed a false belief that I wasn’t an athlete. Twenty years later, this false belief showed itself when I discovered CrossFit. CrossFit attracts a lot of athletes. So I was going against the kids who were first string in high school, the athletes.
Because of my false belief, I would self sabotage, not go as hard as I could, etc. I wasn’t even aware of this. It’s something I discovered when I started asking myself a lot of "whys". I started to dissolve the false belief when I gave myself a new experience. That new experience was beating an “athlete”. That shifted my thinking. It disproved my false belief. Of course, it took many, many more experiences but that initial new experience was the most important because it was the first domino.
So you and your client come up with a new experience that may change her false belief. But make sure it’s realistic and something your client will and can execute. If your client’s false belief is that she cannot be in a relationship, although the goal may ultimately be to get her to be in a healthy relationship, it’s probably not something that she can give herself soon. So then the homework would be to do something that works toward that.
From there, your sessions can be about processing what her experiences are like, how they make her feel, and what her revelations are from them. Or if she can’t execute, explore the whys.
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Coaching is a rapidly growing field that is continuously evolving. Even for seasoned coaches, there’s always more to discover. If you’ve not already earned your ICF coaching certification, there’s no better time than now to get started!