Dancing In The Moment: Awareness of The Coaching Process/Interaction

I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes I find that the coaching I am doing with my  clients flows into a combination of elements in their lives, their own wellness, their businesses, their families and their leadership opportunities.  Such a client related a story today that unexpectedly led us into talking about what worked so well in our coaching relationship.  She had just recently attended a sales motivation seminar that was so big it took place on the field of a professional football stadium.  The keynote speaker was an extremely aggressive and directive consultant masquerading as a business “coach”.  (Yes, this is one of my pet peeves!)  She was tremendously turned off by his yell-at-your-audience condescending style.  Despite all of his financial accomplishments, which he seemed to enjoy telling the seminar participants about, my client was not impressed. Rather than perseverate about his shortcomings as a “coach”, I asked her what it was about our coaching (by contrast) that made it so effective.

Without hesitation she said “You don’t remind me of my father!”  The seminar’s keynote had reminded her of the opinionated, always right and you’re living your life wrong style of her dear old Dad.  “You have conversations with me that are adult to adult not parent to child.  You listen to me and treat me like an equal.”  We went on to discuss and reinforce what really enhanced our coaching effectiveness.

Awareness of the coaching process is about being aware of the dance, as you are dancing with your partner. This is where you tap into your “third person observer” and take a look over your own shoulder.  Your three-fold challenge is to now be able to move fluidly with your awareness between yourself, your client, and still notice what is going on between the two of you.

Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance. ~Mr. Miyagi, The Next Karate Kid, 1994

Move From Center. Again, the more centered you are in calm awareness the easier this dance becomes.  Like a dance, it all becomes easier with more time out on the floor.

Bring your consciousness to the interaction that is taking place between you and your client. What patterns are you observing? What feelings are coming up for you about the interaction? What dynamics of the relationship are becoming apparent?  Is your client showing up regularly and on time? Are they prepared for the appointment, perhaps having filled out a “prep form”? Are they succeeding at tracking their behavior where they’ve committed to do so? Has coaching degenerated into you providing a lot of suggestions that your client simply hits back at you with “Yes, but…”?

Process the process. Instead of waiting for problems, like romantic partners who never talk about their relationship until it starts to enter rough and stormy waters, discussing how coaching is being experienced by both client and coach can be very beneficial when done on a regular basis. Sometimes you just have to talk about what’s going on! In coaching we like to help clients to look at “the elephant in the living room”.  This is usually an issue that everyone knows is there but nobody is talking about.  An example might be a family where there is an unwritten rule that nobody talks about how little time Dad spends with the family.  In wellness coaching it might be a client who is coming to coaching to “get their ticket punched” (an insurance discount, some kind of incentive, or compliance with departmental orders), but whose heart just isn’t in it.  Open, honest, and even blunt conversation and exploration about the coaching client interaction can clear up so much.  Perhaps the client and coach never got clear enough about roles and “who’s responsible for what?”.

Agreements not expectations. Processing the coaching process on a periodic basis can help keep both parties satisfied with what is going on and clear about just what the agreements are.  Unspoken expectations (on either side) are often where conflict begins.  Operate on clear agreements that are always open for re-examination.

Dancing In The Moment. This is a term used a lot in life coaching and for good reason.  As we become more skilled in our coaching and stay with our client in the present it does indeed become a dance.  As our partner “throws a move” we go with it fluidly and keep the rhythm of the interaction intact.  When we explore a subject we are sometimes surprised by what arises.  The weight loss client really wants to talk about feeling lonely and isolated.  The client trying to exercise more to manage their stress zeros in on a confusing and stressful relationship with their boss.  We coaches have to dance with this.  In Gestalt Therapy there is a principal that the gestalt which is seeking completion the most will naturally rise to the surface.  I’ve certainly seen that in action!  When it happens be centered enough to not let it throw you, go with it.

Awareness, mindfulness, presence, all seem to add up to being with our clients in a way that is totally respectful of them, their personhood and their experience while being as in touch with our own experience as we possibly can.  It is about right here, right now.  It is about being present with our clients within the context of clear agreements that support them in achieving lasting lifestyle improvement.

We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. - Japanese Proverb

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.  ~Japanese Proverb

We educate and support great wellness coaches! http://www.realbalance.com

The Mindful Embrace: Awareness of The Other

Two Oak trees, each strong, yet connected. Photo by M. Arloski

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
-Thich Nhat Hahn

When we work as any kind of human helper we are living on two levels at once. There is the role and function of being the ally for our client, and yet there is always the inescapable essence of ourselves, of who we are, present at the same time. I love to teach that coaching is partly about what to do, but mostly about how to be. To really bring mindful awareness to our work with someone, or even to a precious moment with a friend, we have to get ourselves out of the way by setting our own issues and our own agenda aside, but the paradox there is that if we ignore ourselves completely we face at least three dangers. 1) We cut ourselves off from vital body wisdom. Feedback from our senses, if trusted and discerned from reactions coming from our own issues, can be a valuable contribution to the interaction. 2) We can get lost in our client’s world simply mirroring them, following them like a shadow and supplying little value to the conversation. 3) We can collude, unknowingly, with exactly the dynamics that are keeping them stuck. So, to really focus on our client effectively, to observe keenly we need to be centered in ourselves in a very neutral way. Again, it is like a dance where we hold our center, yet move with the rhythm and flow of the music.

Coaching begins with self-awareness but quickly moves into awareness of your client on many levels. Here your own powers of observation need to be honed. The first challenge is just to observe, to notice, and just to notice. Once again don’t play detective looking for the “real meaning” of those arms folded across your client’s chest. This is about listening with your whole person, not just your ears. Notice your client’s nonverbal signals (even the vocal ones that come through on a telephone) and rather than interpret either file them away for future reference, or feed them back to your client. “I notice that each time you’ve referred to your boss today your voice gets louder and sharper.” You’ll also find that when you “just notice” without judgment, or trying hard to figure it all out, you naturally are less critical and your client feels more supported.

Be aware of your client’s context. Did they just rush to see you after begging their reluctant supervisor for the time? Are they not entirely present with you because of stress and worries about what is next? Inquire so you will understand where they are at, where they are coming from. Affirm their experience, be compassionate and check out their ability to engage with you right now.
As your client tells their story, checks in on commitments they made for the week, etc., be aware of patterns that emerge and feed those back to your client. This is often were great insights are born.

Be aware of your client’s expression of energy. What are they passionate about? What sounds flat? Follow the energy by paraphrasing and reflecting what you are hearing (matching the energy in your own voice as you do), and by asking powerful questions where the energy is highest.

Be aware of your client’s emotional expression. This is partly about “following the energy” (an old axiom of Gestalt Therapy), but also a barometer of motivation and perhaps even the need for referral. Sustaining motivation for lifestyle improvement is a long-term challenge. If your client’s enthusiasm for an area of focus has faded, if they don’t seem to “buy in” to the effort as much anymore, check it out. You’ll be tipped off by your own awareness of their emotional expression regarding that area they are working on. You’ll also need to always be aware of the emotional qualities of affect that point out the need for referral to counseling rather than coaching. See the ICF’s “Top Ten Reasons For Referral” (http://www.lifecoachtraining.com/resources/articles/articles/GearShift.pdf)

We’ll dive deeper into Awareness of the Coaching Process/Interaction more in our next post. Please add your own comments about what brings more awareness to your own experience with others. What helps you remain more mindfully aware in the moment?

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.”
-Thich Nhat Hahn

Inner and Outer Awareness: Coaching and Living Mindfully.

What we become aware of improves...we just need to get still sometimes.

Suzanne Ballantyne, Wellness and Health Coach and Yoga Teacher, recently shared this piece below with me and her classmates from her Wellness Mapping 360°training course.

“I am taking more anatomy classes for my yoga teaching and Thursday the topic was breathing anatomy.  The first thing the teacher did was have us breathe – no big surprise there.  Anyway, she left us in silence for several breaths and then asked what happened when we brought our attention to our breathing – paying attention or awareness or mindfulness I thought to my self – and I realized I went inside immediately and then she asked how does that effect your breathing – and the answer is, it improves it! So, she said, things we bring our attention to improve. And I thought – what a simple and powerful way to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness.

Perhaps you’ve made this connection already!? I felt it was worth sharing ’cause it’s such a great example of what coaching can do for us – bring our attention to the things we want to change. And then Glenna Batson (my anatomy teacher) made it even better by pointing out how naturally we/our bodies have the inner wisdom to allow that breathing to fall into its natural order – the divine plan… so simple, so powerful, so wise. Trusting our bodies, the universe, ourselves to make wise choices by bringing out attention to our intention. Just noticing without judging ourselves is also key (I’ve been listening to Pema Chodron as well).

How can this help our coaching? The way we listen? How we bring our clients’ attention to what they need/want?”

Awareness, Mindfulness and CoachingReally great coaching takes place when the experience of coaching and being coached is rich, fulfilling, grounded in the present moment and yielding movement towards growth. It is easy for the beginning coach to be so concerned about following a process or procedure, that they have and provide an experience that is a lot less than what was hoped for. Let’s take a look at how the coach can be more aware of themselves, their client and the coaching process/interaction to yield the successful and satisfying coaching experiences we’re all looking for.
• Awareness of Self
• Awareness of Client
• Awareness of Process

Awareness of Self: Coaching From The Inside Out
Call it what you will, self-awareness, consciousness, mindfulness. Despite all the hair-splitting distinctions we are talking about the degree to which you, the coach, are aware not only of your client and your surroundings, but of what is going on inside your own skin. “Reality is nothing but the sum of all awareness as you experience it here and now.” (Perls 1969). Coaching from the inside out is about being cognizant of: 1) your bodily sensations, 2) thoughts, 3) feelings, 4) intentions. Let’s look at them one at a time, even though we experience them simultaneously and all four are affecting one another all the time.
Body Awareness. What is happening and what is it telling you? It’s about noticing the tightening in your stomach when your most difficult client calls, instead of ignoring that sensation. It’s scanning your bodily awareness periodically throughout the coaching session instead of getting lost in your head. It’s practicing body awareness techniques and methods such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Qi Gong, dance, etc. to help you connect with your body more, to identify with your whole person, not just your cerebral cortex. It’s about being aware of your body and it’s position in space much like a dancer would in the middle of the dance. When you’ve danced enough you automatically are maintaining that awareness without giving it any conscious attention. You hold your frame in a centered way that allows you to be even more sensitive to the movements of your dance partner. It’s body, breath, posture, movement, all combined in an amazing living wholeness.

The “How To” of Body Awareness. 1) Notice. Don’t jump into interpretation or the paralysis of analysis. Just notice and “take note” of what you’ve become aware of. File it away and see if a pattern develops. Does your breathing become short and shallow each time your client pushes back and rejects a suggestion of yours? 2) Be centered physically. This is part posture, and part being “centered in your life”. Perhaps you notice that working with this client actually has you “back on your heels”. Sit up! You’ll be amazed at how different you coach when you are consciously aware of your posture and sitting (or standing) up and feel grounded. Think of the martial artist in their “horse-riding” stance. The purpose of this stance is to be able to respond to absolutely anything that comes at them with 360 degrees of choices. Being “centered in your life” is about being engaged in a process of living a true wellness lifestyle that is fulfilling in all areas of your life (and accepting that you are working on that process to the best of your abilities at this time in your life). Let’s face it, when you don’t feel well physically, when you’re emotionally going through a crisis, it’s hard to “be here now” and give it your very best. What I’m talking about though is what do you do on a regular basis to get your needs met, to come into the present moment, to return to a state of balance. I know that I am a better coach when I’ve had more exercise, more rest, more contact with friends and with the natural world. Do what “centers” you in your life, be it gardening, reading fiction, writing, hiking, meditating, praying, connecting with dear friends, etc.
Thirdly, 3) get centered for your appointment. Do this on a practical and mental level (as we’ll discuss below), but also on a physical level. Break your routine of what you have been doing. Stand, stretch, move, and breathe. Develop little rituals that help you prepare for your next client so you will be with them like they are the one and only person you are seeing that day (even if they are the eighth).

Awareness of Thoughts, Feelings and Intentions
Being present in your body helps you to be more present in your mind, but it takes more than that to be a good coach. Before your client arrives or calls, become conscious of your own intentions in coaching this person. Get grounded in your intention to be your client’s ally in their wellness journey. Affirm your coaching mindset as the ally not the expert as the guide not the guru. Get grounded in your own confidence to be that ally remembering the training and experiences that have brought you here.
Recall the “facilitative conditions of coaching” that need to just be a part of who you are in the coaching process: empathic, non-judgmental, warm, compassionate, genuine/authentic. This is what adds up to “coaching presence”.
The next step is to sit in “gentle vigilance” regarding your own issues and filters that might get in the way. As your thoughts lead you into your own world (your past, your worries, etc.) you leave the world of your client. As your own prejudices (how do your really feel about someone who seems to shirk responsibility for improving their own health?), stereotypes, and opinions get in the way you do your client a real disservice.
Focus on the present moment. Zero point zero multi-tasking, other than a limited amount of note-taking. Be totally with your client. This is a great part of what makes a powerful listener. This is not Chess! Don’t be thinking two or three moves ahead. It’s OK to be developing a strategy to facilitate what is happening with your client but trust the coaching process and don’t over-think it.

As you do focus on the present, note your own emotions. What feelings come up for you as your client speaks? Don’t be afraid to connect with these feelings and learn from them. At times, an appropriate self-disclosure of some feelings may be very beneficial to your client.

We’ll look at Awareness of our Client in our next post.

Please comment and share what helps “center” you in your work with others, and in your whole life. Please share your ideas about awareness and mindfulness in coaching.

Fall Classes for Wellness and Health Coaching are underway and coming up in October. Check them out at www.realbalance.com and E-mail Deborah@realbalance.com , or call 1-866-568-4702 toll free for more information.

Nine Keys To Readiness For Change And Improving Your Lifestyle

Are we "ready" or are we "stuck" when it comes to change?

“People don’t change until they are ready to.”
James Prochaska

Lifestyle improvement is all about change, as we explored in our last post. When it comes to changing our thoughts, beliefs, and our behavior, the big question immediately becomes “How ready are you to change?”. The answer is not a simple yes or no, and extensive theories have arisen around this question.

The most important step for the person looking to improve their lifestyle (or the wellness pro helping them) is to ASK THE QUESTION: “How Ready Am I to Change?”. If we ignore the factor of “readiness” and forge ahead with a “call to action” we may just fall on our faces. The Transtheoretical Model of change (TTM) or “Stages of Change Theory” (best explored in Changing for Good, by James Prochaska, Carlo DiClemente, and James Norcross) dominates the wellness and health promotion field, as well as the addictions field, and for good reason. This model provides vital understanding of some fundamental aspects of change. For an excellent exploration of it in depth check out this great blogpost by Temple Univ. prof. Jonathan Singer: http://socialworkpodcast.blogspot.com/2009/10/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of.html

“Theory is extremely useful, because your theory determines what you can see.” Albert Einstein

I’ll be honest. When I first heard about Readiness for Change Theory and heard James Prochaska speak at The National Wellness Conference, I was not impressed. It seemed so simple and obvious that to bother stating it all in an elaborate theory hardly seemed worth the effort. “People don’t change until they are ready to.” Well, duhhhh! Then it hit me. Wait a minute. In healthcare, and all related fields, that’s not what we are saying to our clients and patients. We’re saying “Change now!” and completely ignoring looking at where they are truly at in this process of change.

As I became trained as a professional life coach I realized that the coaching field was ignorant of this theory as well. We were taught to “request action” much too early in the process. Today, competent life coach training schools such as The Institute for Life Coach Training (www.lifecoachtraining.com) and wellness coaching schools such as Real Balance Global Wellness Services (www.realbalance.com) have caught on and have integrated TTM into their curriculum.

“Change is a process, not an event.” James Prochaska

So what does “Readiness For Change” theory mean for the “man (or woman) on the street” who wants to improve their lifestyle? Here’s some basics to keep in mind as you work on change and growth.

1. There are six stages of change and it’s important to give each stage it’s due.
* Pre-contemplation – Haven’t even thought about change, am unaware of any need to change
* Contemplation – Am giving it some thought
* Preparation – Am preparing to change, finding out more information, checking resources and options
* Action – Actually making the change
* Maintenance – maintaining the change
* Termination (or Adoption) – the new behaviors/thoughts are part of me now, I don’t need to constantly “work at it”.

• 2. We can be at a different stage of change for each different behavior. I may, for example, be ready to start improving my activity level and improving my diet, but I’m not ready to quit smoking. Change is not a light switch. We aren’t as a whole person either “ready” or “not ready” to change.

• 3. The change process is often like a spiral staircase. We ascend up from pre-contemplation to contemplation and then to preparation, etc. We also can get discouraged, slip and spiral back down to earlier levels where we have to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, start all over again” (to quote an old song).
• 4. Change is not just about will power and determination. It is a process that takes time to do right. Especially when we are talking about lifestyle behaviors that may have been in place for many years, just getting up a bunch of will power and thinking that we can suddenly change may be a very disappointing route to go. Instead see it as a process and give yourself credit for moving through each stage of change.
• 5. If you’re stuck at one stage, get an ally to help. The “forever-contemplating” or “forever-preparing” person may look like they are working on change, but the truth is they are stuck! Talk about it with people who you know will be supportive of your growth, not negative or pushing their own agenda of how you “should” change. Get a coach!
• 6. To maintain the change keep track of it! Taking action is great, but the key is maintaining it. I’ve had a number of wellness coaching clients tell me “I’m great at losing weight! I just can’t seem to keep it off.” Recording your new behavior, in someway that works for you, is a real secret of successful change. Don’t let it be a subjective estimation, get serious about self-monitoring and you’ll see more results.
• 7. Start where there’s motivation, readiness and likelihood of success. Don’t start climbing mountains by choosing the “Mount Everest” of your life first! Go for the more achievable and attainable goals where you are motivated to change first. Gain confidence and self-efficacy there and then take on the more challenging climbs.
• 8. Nothing succeeds like success! When you’ve achieved real progress in one area of your life, look at how ready you are now to improve your lifestyle in another area. Once you’ve seen success in being more active and eating better, take on getting more sleep or practicing relaxation training, etc. Take yourself through the Stages of Change from wherever you start, on up that spiral staircase.
• 9. No model has it all figured out. Even the much-revered TTM has it’s critics. We don’t always go through these stages of change in a nice neat manner. Sometimes change does happen as what seems like an event! We’ve all seen times when circumstances and motivation peaked and “cold turkey” success was achieved with great pride! So no single model can explain this incredibly complex phenomenon of change.

We’ll continue to explore more about what it takes to improve your lifestyle and succeed at change in future posts. We’ll also explore other areas of wellness and keep it grounded in what can really make a difference in your life.

“I don’t want to hear any philosophy that won’t grow corn.”
Sun Bear, Native American Teacher

Change: The Paradox of Fear and Attraction Eight Thoughts for Success at Lifestyle Improvement.

When it comes to change...Choose Big!

“Change” is such a powerful and loaded term. The very word brings out any number of wildly disparate responses: fear, anticipation, longing, uncertainty, attraction, loss and excitement. Change in attitude, and belief yielding change in behavior, or more specifically health and wellness behavior is what we’re after. Yet if the very idea of change is at all scary, isn’t that just one more reason not to change?

“Lifestyle improvement” was always the term of the wellness movement until more recently when “lifestyle change” became the buzzword. The cynic could counter with “Well, I’m smoking a lot more now, that’s “change”!” Personally I’d love to get back to the original term, but at the heart of any improvement, is, inevitably change.

Taking on the subject of change is complex with endless possibilities to explore and many great theories about it. I’ve even got some of my own. We’ll look at what we can learn from the broader topic of change and the work of theorists like Albert Bandura and James Prochaska on later posts.

Here’s some of my thoughts, gleaned from many years of helping people make the changes in their lives that they really wanted to see.

1. Change means loss. Even positive changes mean giving something up. “My new smartphone has endless features, but I miss the ease of handling that my old phone had.” “I love the new town I live in, but I wish I was still in Wellville.” “I’m so glad I quit smoking, but you know, there’s nothing like a good cigar!” Sometimes change seems to weigh out more negatively than positive right from the start. It’s OK to acknowledge our losses, and to even grieve them. When we don’t fully grieve, our attachment to what was persists and robs us of our full presence in our new reality.
2. Change reminds us that nothing lasts forever. The transience of life is perhaps the only thing we can all be absolutely sure of. Our attachment to what was is the primary source of our suffering according to one of the basic tenets of Buddhism. Letting go of attachment
requires real perspective on what is truly important to us.

“Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” Heraclitus (c.540-c.475 BC)

3. Own your choices. When people feel “trapped” change seems impossible, even though it may be greatly desired. I love to teach that a coach’s job is to remind people that they have choices! When someone can accept that they are choosing to remain at a job, in a marriage, or living where they live, for now, until they can improve that situation, everything changes inside of them. Suddenly they can go through the door at work knowing that for now it is the best thing for them, but that they are working on finding either a way to improve that situation or move on to something better. They are free.
4. Change doesn’t always require total abstinence, denial and deprivation. A way to guarantee the failure of a wellness program (at an organizational or personal level) is to make it all about giving up one’s current ways of living. “You folks have to give up your smoking, drinking and eating all of that Bar-B-Que!” Those words were the kiss of death for one wellness program I knew of. Most weight-loss programs recognize that when people feel deprived of what they truly enjoy (You can NEVER have ice cream again, as long as you are on the planet!) they fail at their attempts to lose weight. Perhaps a 100% abstinence is the right thing for you and your psychophysiology (maybe alcohol or sugar?), but as long a we keep track of our behavior and minimize self-deception, we can ease our way into change incrementally.
5. Change can be joyous! As fearful as we can be of messing with the status quo, the benefits of positive change, especially lifestyle improvement, bring joy to our lives. It’s kind of like what you learn about conflict and conflict resolution. Change is an inevitable part of life. Change is not inherently bad. Change is, in fact, an indicator that an organism is alive!

“He who’s not busy being born, is busy dying.” Bob Dylan

6. Change is not just about “will power”. Determination helps but is far from sufficient for lasting success. This is the classic “New Year’s Resolution” approach to change. Pumped up and poorly thought-out. It’s the reason you can always find an exercise machine readily available at the health club come March or April. If we’re changing old behavioral or cognitive habits they will re-emerge. This is not evidence that we are weak and lack enough “will power”. It’s evidence that we are truly engaged in the process of changing life-long habits.
7. Be true to your own beliefs and values. Make changes that are your changes, not someone else’s. Let celebrities live their own lives, even wellness gurus. Find your own ways of improving your life that are completely congruent with who you are. Discovering more deeply who you really are, what values truly reside in you, may be your most important first step towards effective change. Changes in behavior flow from changes in belief.

8. Sometimes “lifestyle change” means changing your life. Lifestyle changes can be pretty cosmetic at times, yet we struggle even to make those improvements succeed. Maybe it’s not about twenty pounds, or bigger biceps. Maybe it’s about being happy, content, and comfortable inside our own skin. Perhaps it’s about unconditional friendship with ourselves ( to reference Pema Chodron. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s-rRMUl04I). Perhaps it’s about getting some great career guidance, making that move to where you really want to live.

Blogger Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) who writes beautifully about living a fuller, and more effective life recently posted this excellent piece on change. He encourages us to embrace change and find the joy in it! http://zenhabits.net/elements-of-change/

When it comes to succeeding at lifestyle improvement, what are the elements of change you would add to our discussion here? What has really helped you to step forward into change and find the benefits and joy of it? Please leave a comment, and be well!

15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Three

Vital Books On Health Challenges & Wellness Coaching

Continuing our “must read” list of vital books for wellness coaches here is the last group, the books focusing on health challenges and wellness coaching itself.

Health Challenges

11. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Brian Luke Seaward
12. The Open Heart Companion, Maggie Lichtenberg
13. Facing The Lion, Being The Lion, Mark Nepo

Wellness Coaching

14. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, Michael Arloski
15. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, Michael Arloski

Health Challenges

Health challenges come in all shapes and sizes from the bothersome to the deadly. Calling them “challenges” is not meant to diminish their seriousness, but rather, a first step in re-framing our approach to them. The wellness coach does not provide treatment. When the wellness coach is also a treatment provider (nurse, therapist, etc.) they need to “switch hats” and do so very clearly. When it comes to helping people with chronic illness, or other health challenges to improve their lifestyle to help affect the course of the illness in a positive way, the coach’s job is to be the lifestyle change expert. Therefore knowledge of the vast array of illnesses out there is not the same as for the treatment provider. The wellness coach knows enough to understand what their client is facing but knows when to refer the client back to their treatment provider or on to a great resource for more health education.

So! That’s a long-winded way of saying, that my choices for books in this area are not a lengthy list of medical texts! Instead, I’m giving you just a couple of books that can have a real practical and philosophical impact on you and your clients.

11. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water: Reflections on Stress and Human Spirituality , Brian Luke Seaward. So what health challenge does this book have to do with? All of them, it’s about stress! Let’s face it, every one of our wellness coaching clients will be looking to us for help with stress. Stress, as we’ve been told by endless evidence, is either a cause of many health problems, or at the very least exacerbates them. Brian Luke Seaward’s little book Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, is one of the very few books on this topic that you or your client can read and feel like they actually learned something truly useful, something they can actually implement in their lives and make a difference!
12. The Open Heart Companion: Preparation and Guidance for Open Heart Surgery, Maggie Lichtenberg. The psychological side of a major health challenge is often ignored. Maggie Lichtenberg, a PCC level coach, went through mitral valve repair surgery, saw a big missing piece and filled it admirably with this excellent book. As a wellness coach, whether you deal with heart patients or not, this book is an ultimate guide to helping your client with self-efficacy and self-advocacy. I make sure anyone I know (client or not) who is headed into any kind of major surgery (but especially heart surgery) either has a copy of this book or knows about it.
13. Facing The Lion, Being The Lion: Finding Inner Courage Where It Lives, Mark Nepo. At the National Wellness Conference I once sat in the front row and ignored the sweltering conditions of a keynote being delivered in a hot gymnasium and was entranced listening to a poet talk about courage, cancer, survival and deepening of spirit. Mark Nepo blew me away, and does so every time I open this book of his. To find your own inner courage to help your client’s find theirs, read this book!

Wellness Coaching

14. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, 2nd Ed., Michael Arloski. Okay, guilty as charged, but let me tell you why I’m tooting my own horn here. Feedback from readers around the world. They tell me that of what little there really is out there on wellness coaching specifically, this book was the most helpful to them both practically and inspirationally. I wrote this book for the health and wellness professional who is already out there in the middle of the daily task of helping people improve their lifestyle behavior. The emphasis is on the practical, but grounded on the foundations of solid theory (from both the wellness and health promotion and the psychological/behavioral sides) and showing you a real methodology of coaching to help you accompany your client through the entire process of change. (Primary text to accompany the course manual for Wellness Mapping 360 Wellness Coach Training – www.realbalance.com)
15. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, Michael Arloski. A wellness journal for the client, this book outlines an entire wellness coaching process from self-assessment, to visioning, wellness planning, meeting challenges to change, tracking behavior and setting up accountability and support through connectedness for success. Many of the coaches I’ve trained use this with each of their clients either individually, or as a group guide (works very well in a 12 session format). Many coaches love it simply as their own guide for how they coach their clients.  (Additional text to accompany the course manual for Wellness Mapping 360 Health Coach Training – www.realbalance.com)


Please add your comments to this list. Keeping it to fifteen meant that lots of great books were not mentioned. Read. Be inspired. Stay perpetually curious.


15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf – Part Two

Four more vital books for wellness coaches.

Continuing our “must read” list of vital books for wellness coaches here is the second set, the books focusing on life coaching foundations and skills.

Coaching Foundations and Skills

7. Co-Active Coaching, Whitworth, Kimsey-House & Sandahl
8. Becoming a Professional Life Coach, Williams & Menendez
9. Leadership From The Inside Out, Kevin Cashman
10. Taming Your Gremlin, Rick Carson

7. Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life, 2nd Ed., Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House & Phil Sandahl. This book did indeed help define the coaching profession. It’s authors became the founders of The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and in this work set down the cornerstones that shape the coaching mindset. A great book to bone up on your coaching skills and to learn what the essence of coaching really is.
8. Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from The Institute For Life Coach Training, Patrick Williams & Diane Menendez. Pat Williams is one of Life Coaching’s pioneers and his earlier book (along with Deb Davis) Therapist as Life Coach was one of my favorites as I made the shift from psychotherapist to coach. Becoming A Professional Life Coach largely supplants this earlier book and provides the wellness coach with not only great skill building but lots of very practical guidance for practicing their coaching.
9. Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader For Life, Kevin Cashman. What’s a leadership book doing on this list? Well, Kevin Cashman is a coach and a darned good one. His approach to leadership is to help people be who they truly are, to get beyond any persona to the authentic self within. It’s about being the kind of leader that other want to follow. Cashman beautifully explores attaining mastery in seven areas of life: Personal,Purpose,Change,Interpersonal, Being, Balance and Action. Great stuff for any client.
10. Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way, Rick Carson. Whenever the wellness coaching client takes on change their own personal “Gremlin” or “inner-critic” will be there to oppose it, even if it’s the best thing in the world for that person. Our client’s have plenty of external challenges to their attempts at change, but the internal ones can be the most devastating. This great little book shows us how to spot the gremlin early and get it out of the way (as we get out of our own way!). Truly a must read. I know lots of coaches who supply their clients with copies of this book when folks sign on to coaching.

Again there are plenty of other great coaching books out there to learn from, but these are ones you can really sink your teeth into and feel like your inner-learner just got nourished. Behind all of these volumes are other more root-source books like Carl Roger’s On Becoming A Person, and Maslow’s Toward A Psychology of Being. Perhaps we’ll blog about those classics someday too.

In our next post we’ll delve into our last two categories, vital books for the wellness coach having to do with health challenges and with the process of wellness coaching itself.

Share your comments here. Read-on! Be well!

For more information on the best in wellness coach training please visit www.realbalance.com

15 Vital Books For The Wellness Coach: Straight Off My Shelf

Some light reading on a rainy day? Vital books for the Wellness Coach!

What are the “must reads” for the wellness or health coach? These are the books that I have within arm’s reach on my own bookshelf and find myself recommending over and over again to the thousands of wellness coaches that I train and mentor.

What I want to share with you are books that will influence the way you do coaching right now. I’m holding off on all of the academic foundational theory and research types here. This is about application. This is a list, naturally, of my own opinion, but I’ll also share with you my rationale for each member of this list. Some of these books would make anyone’s list and some may be real surprises!

There are libraries full of good books out there and the list could be endless. Please share with all of us your own nominations for the list of vital reading for wellness coaches!

Let’s look at fifteen key books in the field and share them with you in four categories.

Wellness and Lifestyle Improvement

1. The Wellness Workbook, Travis & Ryan
2. High Level Wellness, Don Ardell
3. The Wellness Revolution, Paul Zane Pilzer
4. The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner
5. Changing for Good, Prochaska, Norcross & Diclemente

6. The Intrinsic Exerciser, Jay Kimiecik

Coaching Foundations and Skills

7. Co-Active Coaching, Whitworth, Kimsey-House & Sandahl
8. Becoming a Professional Life Coach, Williams & Menendez
9. Leadership From The Inside Out, Kevin Cashman
10. Taming Your Gremlin, Rick Carson

Health Challenges

11. Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Brian Luke Seaward
12. The Open Heart Companion, Maggie Lichtenberg
13. Facing The Lion, Being The Lion, Mark Nepo

Wellness Coaching

14. Wellness Coaching For Lasting Lifestyle Change, Arloski
15. Your Journey To A Healthier Life: Paths of Wellness Guided Journal, Vol. 1, Arloski  (serious bias admitted!)

1. The Wellness Workbook, John Travis & Regina Sara Ryan., 3rd Edition. This is the foundational book to understand what wellness is truly about. Jack Travis is one of the modern day founders of the wellness movement and he lays out his theoretical foundation and theories in the introductory thirty-six pages which is worth the price of the book alone.
2. High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease, Donald B. Ardell. This was a ground-breaking book when it showed up in 1977 and is still an important take on what wellness is and how to present it to the world. “Wellness is much too important to be presented grimly!”
3. The Wellness Revolution: How To Make a Fortune in the Next Trillion Dollar Industry, Paul Zane Pilzer. A better subtitle might be “A leading economist looks at the startling opportunity in the wellness marketplace.” While it may be a stretch to call Rogaine a wellness product, Pilzer grounds you in the demographics and stats that make his economic prediction look quite likely.
4. The Blue Zones: Lessons For Living Longer From The People Who’ve Lived The Longest, Dan Buettner. Longevity, we’ve found out is only 20% genetics (at the most) and is really 80% lifestyle (culture, behavior, beliefs, environment). National Geographic funded this synthesis of anthropological studies of the hot spots or “Blue Zones” around the world where people like to ripe old age quite often. The lessons for wellness are profound and based in solid evidence.
5. Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, James Prochaska, John Norcross & Carlo Diclemente. Despite being “the Bible” of health promotion and much of the addictions fields, “Stages of Change” or the “Trans-theoretical Model of Change” is still either poorly understood or relatively unknown by a surprising number of coaches, psychologists, and healthcare providers. If you do nothing else Part One, the first 69 pages is absolutely required reading for anyone who works in any capacity helping people.  (Recommended reading for Wellness Mapping 360 Wellness Coach Training).(www.realbalance.com)
6. The Intrinsic Exerciser: Discovering The Joy of Exercise, Jay Kimiecik. I find I’m recommending this little book whenever I’m talking about motivation for lifestyle improvement. Kimiecik, and exercise physiologist and health promotion prof, does an excellent job of helping make a mindset shift from fear-based “I’d better workout or I’ll die quicker” to the discovering the true joy of how it feels good to move and exercise. Intrinsic motivation is what makes lifestyle change last.  (Recommended reading for Wellness Mapping 360 Wellness Coach Training).(www.realbalance.com)

We’ll look at the next four on the list, Coaching Foundations and Skills, on our next post. Check it out and be well!