Coaching yourself – how to change your thoughts to change your life.


If you caught the blog or the podcast last week, you’ll know that we started to explore the theme of self-coaching. We concentrated on how understanding the relationship between your thoughts and the results you are getting in life is central to the self-coaching process, and demonstrated how it is your thoughts about your circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves, that have the most impact on your life. 

Recognising this connection between thoughts and results is just the first part of the two-step self-coaching process. This week we are going to explore the second part – how to actively use your thoughts to solve problems, achieve your goals and dramatically change your life – for the better.

Changing your thinking so you get better results is simple. But not necessarily easy! It requires practice and a willingness to challenge any deep seated beliefs about the way life works and how much control you have over your circumstances. Don’t expect this to be like a magic wand – but with practice and a willingness to try, the results you can achieve will astound you.

Before you start on the self-coaching journey though, it’s important to anticipate your own objections.

Perhaps you think your thoughts about circumstances in your life are facts. Perhaps you feel that in order to get better results, those circumstances need to change.  Most of us feel this way a lot of the time! In many ways it is easier to believe that our circumstances steer our lives and that we have no control over them. That way, we don’t have to accept responsibility for bad results or things that go wrong. We can blame external factors – a bad career choice, an unsupportive partner, too much to do. We can tell ourselves that if only these circumstances were different, our lives would be different, and that we would be more successful, or happier. But this, comforting as it may be, doesn’t get us anywhere.

Remember that the purpose of coaching is to empower you to rise above your current circumstances, stand back from them, review how you think about them, and find a way you can change your experience or results.

To start the process, work through these steps:

Step 1: The Default Model
Take an issue you are currently struggling with and work through part 1 of the self coaching model – see last week’s blog. It’s helpful to write this down:
1. What are the circumstances (facts)?
2. What are your thoughts about the circumstances? 
3. What are your feelings (determined by your thoughts)?
4. What are your actions (driven by your feelings)?
5. What are your results (the outcome of your actions)?

This is your default model, ie, the chain of thoughts, feelings and actions that are not giving you the result you want.

Step 2.
Consider the same circumstance from Step 1 above, and explore how you could think differently about it. The way I do this is to try and think of the opposite thought to my default thought. I ask myself, ‘What if the opposite were true?’. For example, If I think something is difficult, my replacement thought is ‘This is is straightforward”. If i think something is impossible, my replacement thought is ‘This is possible”.

Step 3: The Intentional Model.
Rework your Default Model by substituting your new thought for your old thoughts about your issue. You can then complete the model by identifying the feeling this thought produces, the actions this drives and the results this would produce. This becomes your intentional model – ie. the thoughts, feelings, actions that you are consciously choosing to help you get a better result.

Here’s how it might work in practice.

Issue: a colleague who you feel is no more qualified or experienced than you, is put forward for partnership and you are not.

Default Model:
1. Fact – You are not on the list of partnership candidates.
2. Thoughts    this is outrageous. It’s because you’re a woman and partnership is a man’s club. There is bias at play – conscious or unconscious.
3. Feelings – angry, resentful, despondent.
4. Actions – you start considering your options elsewhere; and/or you scale back your contribution because you don’t feel valued. Perhaps you express your frustration/anger to anyone who will listen.
5. Results – you are not approached for partnership in the future.

Intentional Model:
1. Fact – You are not on the list of partnership candidates.
2. Thoughts –  I am as qualified and eligible as the other partnership candidates. Is there something I’m missing?
3. Feelings – curiosity.
4. Actions – arrange meetings with the relevant partners (your mentor or sponsor if you have one, the partner you work closely with, other partners who you know and trust) to discuss the issue and find out the reason you haven’t been put forward. Perhaps you discover that although your billings are impressive, not enough partners know you globally and so with the help of your partner or sponsor you make a plan to raise your profile and meet the other partnership criteria over the next 12 months.
5. Results – you become a partnership candidate next time round and are in a significantly stronger position than you would have been.

You can see from the above examples how the results achieved in both cases are the consequence of thoughts, not circumstances. Negative thoughts will produce negative results – and positive thoughts will produce positive ones. It really is as simple as that. The bad news is that it means you are responsible for your experience (because only you are in charge of your thoughts). If you’re hating your life, it’s not because your life is hateful, it’s because of how you are thinking about your life. The good news is that you have the power to change the results you are getting in your life, simply by changing your thoughts and reframing your experience positively. This is what it means to take ownership of your life and create the results and experiences you want. This is what self-coaching can do for you. I urge you to give it a try.

Tune into this week’s podcast for more tips on coaching yourself to achieve your goals.