Practise an Attitude of Gratitude — and bring joy to your life as a Coach

Gratitude in coaching

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude”

G.K. Chesterton

When beginning a new vocation as a coach — and much as with any new role — there is a lot to learn, and intrinsic pressure to perform. For instance, we may be experiencing the pressure of creating the magic moments of insight and self-realisation within our coaching clients at every session.

This anxiety can be compounded by comparing ourselves to the coaches that are training us (not paying attention to the fact that they have been practising as professional coaches for a long time) as we try to integrate and apply the structures, frameworks, and psychological modalities that we are learning.

Over time, we can be left focusing on what we did not do well and experiencing feelings of not being enough. Internally there is likely to be a lot of unhelpful self-talk and evaluation happening, which left unchecked may create a corrosive cocktail of unworthiness: trying too hard and becoming too serious about being the perfect coach.

We know that feelings of self-doubt are normal for new and experienced coaches; the imposter syndrome is a key learning edge that every coach will work through as part of their career. To support your development on this learning edge, I’d suggest reading our blog post on taming your inner critic.

The challenge for all coaches is that we will meet confidence as a key coaching theme, and unless we are present and resourced it is likely the coachee’s feelings of unworthiness may contaminate us; subconsciously, we start to make this about us and begin feeling that we are not good enough.

This is the reason that self-care forms such a cornerstone of our coach training programmes. Without this, when we are in the grip of ‘busyness,’ it is likely these feelings will be left unchecked, and they will start to erode self-confidence.

From mindfulness practice, I have always found the analogy that our mind is a garden helpful; as the late Thich Nhat Han put it, “the wholesome and unwholesome seeds are aways there sleeping in the soil of your mind.”

So, the question for us to consider as coaches is: which seeds are we consciously or unconsciously watering?

Neuroscience demonstrates that what we focus on fundamentally changes our brain. As the psychologist Donald Hebb said, “When neurons fire together they wire together.” We now know that our mental activity creates new neural structures, so our thoughts, feelings and activities leave a lasting mark on our brain.

So practically, what can we do?

There has been a large number of studies from positive psychology concluding that developing a practice of gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with:

  • greater levels of happiness
  • greater experience of more positive emotions
  • savouring positive experiences
  • enjoying better health
  • greater capacity to deal with adversity
  • greater ability to build strong relationships.

When we become more grateful for our life — experiencing the feeling of being grateful and wanting to express thanks — we experience letting go of self-criticism and judgement. We consciously step out of autopilot and acknowledge the miracle of this life.

Through practices such as mindfulness, we experience how life is transformed when we bring an attitude of gratitude to the present moment. For example, by noticing the amazing living body and this incredible world that we live in, our experience fundamentally changes.

With this in mind, how about experimenting as a coach and bringing the attitude of gratitude to your coaching practice? What might be the impact?

Try experimenting with:

1. Consciously practising positive neuroplasticity

We know that our brains have a negativity bias and are biologically wired to pay more attention to what is missing and what went wrong. As an antidote, we can experiment with dialing up our experience of the positive experiences within our coaching practice.

“Every time you take in the good, you build a little of neural structure. Doing this a few times a day — for months and even years will gradually change your brain, and how you feel and act, in far reaching ways.”

Rick Hanson

Try reflecting after a coaching session on what you did well as a coach. As you do this, connect to and imbue the feelings of gratitude so that you are not thinking but feeling and sensing the gratitude in your body for:

  • your development
  • the impact you are having
  • the privilege of working with your coaching client and making a difference.

Really pause and take the time to experience these feelings and consciously take in the good; breathe with the feelings and the sensations for a while each time you do this.

2. Acknowledging and owning your impact

In the future, at the end of a coaching session or programme when a coaching client thanks you for the impact you’ve had, it can be easily to deflect this comment and project it back onto the coachee (especially if you are not feeling enough as a coach). For example, you might find yourself saying “Thanks but it was not me, it was you.”

Instead of doing this, when you hear your coachee’s gratitude, consciously take time to acknowledge this and let it in; again, pause and imbue the feelings. Owning this will make you even more potent and impactful within your work and with future clients.

3. Consciously practising appreciation within the coaching process

At the end of the coaching session, try ending with an appreciation of the coachee and the coaching session that you have shared. Notice the felt sense of the impact this has over time.

Try one, two or all of these experiments over the coming months, and feel the impact this has on your experience of being a coach. Who knows, these practices over time may create a trait from the state of experiencing gratitude and bring joy into your work and life as a coach. Enjoy!  

“Gratitude is the confidence in life itself… As gratitude grows it gives rise to joy. We experience the courage to rejoice in our own good fortune and in the good fortune of others.”

Jack Kornfield

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