I recently completed an 18-week Health and Wellness Coaching course through WellCoaches. I spent 90 minutes a week on a teleclass with individuals from all over the country. It was an amazing experience. I didn’t realize that by taking the course I would also be learning more about myself than I ever have and would be forced to dig deep into my own health and wellness.
I’ve always been interested in this topic and have a Masters in Public Health in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, so I went into this thinking it would be a breeze…maybe I was a little over confident. While I did pick it up quickly, I realized that health and wellness coaching is an entirely unique skill set. I believe the skills I learned and insights I had throughout the course are transferrable to other aspects of my life, so I wanted to share what I learned with you all!
Listening, really listening is really hard
Sometimes my husband will be telling me a story and throw in a curveball like, “The Pope pooped his pants” just to see if I’m listening. Most of the time, I will nod my head and make some sort of “yeah I’m listening” noise, although I’m really thinking about what food is in the fridge that needs to be used soon. He gets me every time. I should have realized that I was a poor listener in those situations, but I never truly realized how terrible I was at listening until I spent 90 minutes learning about the different levels of listening. Let’s be real, I probably only really listened to about half of the lesson. There are three different levels and it’s safe to say that I still haven’t graduated from the first level aka I’m easily distracted.
My take away from the lesson was that “Level 1 Listening” means you are not giving that person your full attention and you are more focused on yourself than them. Have you ever heard someone say something then either in your head or verbally related it to something about you or an experience you have had? Until taking this course, I had no idea how frequently I did (probably still do) this. It’s so easy to get sidetracked and relate their experience your own instead of deeply listening to what they are saying. A good listener would not relate it back to themselves. They would reflect what the other person said back to them. There a variety of reflection techniques, but the jest of it is that you are letting the other person know that you hear them and are clarifying how you interpreted what they said.
I’ve been really focusing on becoming a better listener and let me tell you, it’s hard! I deeply admire individuals that are good listeners and value my conversations with them. Having a conversation with someone that is truly listening to you and reflecting what you are saying is an incredible experience and doesn’t happen enough, in my opinion. There are so many distractions these days, from phones to overbooked schedules, so I challenge you to join me in putting that aside and becoming a better listener.
Focus on the positive: Your strengths and learning experiences
I’ve always considered myself a positive person, maybe even overly positive and annoying to some people in certain situations. However, the concept of strengths-based coaching was entirely new to me. Wellcoaches teaches you how to leverage clients’ strengths and best experiences to help them develop confidence and self-efficacy to change their behaviors. For example, let’s say an individual wants to quit smoking and they have done so in the past, but are smoking again now. The coach would say, “What allowed you to be in successful in the past?” not “Why did you start smoking again?” Another question could be, “What was your best experience with quitting smoking in the past?” Essentially, you are helping the client realize that they have the strength within themselves to lead healthier lives.
I’ve also begun to view goals as learning experiences. Every session with a client you do weekly goal reviews and are supposed to ask questions like, “What was your best experience with this goal?” or “What did you learn from pursuing this goal?” It’s easy to get down on yourself for not accomplishing a goal, but viewing it as a learning experience takes away the failure aspect. Since we, as humans, tend to have a negativity bias, it’s crucial to change clients’ mindsets about goals. Let’s say someone wanted to run three times for 30 minutes, but only actually ran once for 10 minutes. They might enter the coaching session feeling pretty bummed about the goal, but coaches can help shift their mindset so they leave feeling motivated and excited for the next week ahead. Maybe they didn’t meet their goal, because they realized they actually just hate running. Rather than continuing with that goal then, they can switch it to something they enjoy and look forward to trying again instead of quitting.
You don’t have to have a wellness coach to practice this strategy in your own life. Although if you’d like one, you know who to reach out to 😉 You can have these conversations with yourself in your own head. If something you were hoping to do didn’t go as planned, look at is a learning experience instead of saying hurtful and shaming things to yourself. Focus on what went well. Ask yourself what was the best experience with the goal, not “why can’t I ever do anything right”. Be your advocate and friend. Support yourself and remind yourself that you’re awesome and capable of amazing things. Because, YOU are.
Interested in learning more about your own strengths? This VIA Character Strengths Assessment is a fun way to do so! http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey