Mindfulness Tools for Change
Have you noticed your coaching clients are increasingly prone to distraction and greater levels of stress and frustration? This is a product of today’s complex and often chaotic world. Clients report feeling overwhelmed, struggling to focus, being caught in patterns of cyclical thinking, or being otherwise distracted, internally and externally.
For many modern coaches, mindfulness tools have become the answer. Through mindfulness, your clients can achieve more positive focus, fresh insight, deeper sense of self, increased confidence, and substantially lower levels of stress.
To improve outcomes in your next session, consider mindfulness techniques as an effective way to inspire your clients toward a deeper understanding of the holistic and interrelated nature of their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Leveraging mindfulness allows you to deepen their awareness of the often unconscious patterns that affect their capacity to be their best, allowing them to be more adaptive and creative.
What is Mindfulness?
Taking its roots from the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness dates back 2,500 years. It was subsequently introduced into Western culture largely through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970s. Kabat-Zinn defines its practice as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is comprised of two central components: awareness and acceptance. Awareness is simply noticing your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Acceptance is where the non-judgmental component of Kabat-Zinn’s definition comes into play. This secondary element encourages us to acknowledge our thoughts and experience without labeling them as positive or negative.
While awareness and acceptance are inextricably linked, I would argue the latter is more important. This is where change happens—or not. By embracing acceptance, your client’s mind expands. Within this state, they become more open, creative and receptive to new perspectives, not to mention those life-enhancing breakthrough moments we all come to know and love as a coach.
Yet for many, this latter step also embodies a considerable struggle. Acceptance is tantamount to resolving inner conflict, a process that often results in deep physical discomfort. In my experience, it is this physical and psychological misery, caused by incessant mental processes, that keeps clients stuck in mental and emotional states. They tend to become rigid or chaotic, locked into outdated versions of themselves and their lives.
Effective Mindfulness Techniques for Coaches
Mindfulness practices vary. Some are guided, others silent. Many incorporate breathing exercises along with somatic scans or other bodily or environmental focal points. Your niche and the individual needs of your clients may offer some guidance as to the most effective techniques to employ.
In general, however, I’ve found clients across the spectrum often benefit from:
- Meditations: Sitting or walking to bring awareness to the mind-body connection
- Movement practices: yoga, tai chi and qigong, especially for those who are uncomfortable with the more traditional sitting practices
The how and when is entirely up to you. I frequently use them to initiate a coaching session, as well as a daily practice at the start of my day. It may be just as beneficial for you to hit the pause button midstream during a coaching session should the moment warrant a clearer, calmer or more reflective mindset.
Selecting the best mindfulness practice has a lot to do with what’s going on in the moment. If in doubt, don’t guess. Involve your clients in choosing a tool or practice that best meets their needs and desired outcome. The key to facilitating mindfulness is found within your own state of mind. If you don’t feel calm, present and open, your own energy could affect your delivery.
A couple options to keep in mind:
- Not everyone feels comfortable sitting with their eyes closed. Some prefer a soft focus, others might prefer a moving practice. Again, questions can help your client choose the mindfulness practice they will get the most out of
- You can offer to facilitate the mindfulness session in person, use pre-recorded meditations, or even invite your client to try apps such as MindSpace
Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Coaching Practice
Start by viewing your practice with an analytical eye. What kinds of mindfulness tools would best equip you to work with your clients? Do your clients need tools geared toward grounding and centering, or would they benefit from greater self-awareness and self-compassion related to internal experiences and external environments?
Don’t forget: mindfulness isn’t just for clients. You as a coach are most effective when you are present and accepting in a non-judgmental way. Feel free to share holistic meditation with your clients or use it to start your own day.