Mindfulness means paying attention in the current moment and being awake to the experience of your present awareness. Clearly, mindfulness is an essential quality that coaches use in interactions with our clients. It features prominently in the IAC Coaching Masteries® where it shows up most obviously in Mastery #4, “Processing in the Present.” The quality of our mindfulness—our ability to be present and engaged with our clients as they reveal their inner processes to us—is a mark of high-value coaching.
While the connection of mindfulness to high-quality coaching is easy to see, few coach training programs specifically include training in mindfulness. Mindfulness training is an opportunity for many coaches to make breakthrough improvements in their coaching quality through simple and practical training exercises. Let me offer six reasons you should consider adding a mindfulness training routine to your learning and development practices as a coach. I will also share some clues on how to do it.
1) Mindfulness is an essential capability for masterful coaching
Mindful listening provides our clients with a rare and highly valuable sense of being heard, understood and accompanied. It deepens our ability to sense root causes and hidden solutions.
2) Mindfulness training is a very powerful and versatile method to address many of our client’s issues
If we develop our understanding of mindfulness and practice it ourselves, we can then introduce it to our coaching clients. Mindfulness training has proven to be effective at reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing empathy, improving focus and concentration, reducing overwhelm and increasing emotional stability.
3) Mindfulness increases our capacity to change and grow
As we become more mindful, we become more aware of what we are doing in the moment. We can make choices to change our habitual or unconscious patterns as we are doing them. That greater level of self-awareness dramatically increases our ability to change our behaviours at will.
4) The nature of our times increases the need for mindfulness and for training in mindfulness
Technology and globalization are changing our lifestyles in dramatic ways. We and our clients face increasing pressure, over-stimulation, complexity and change like never before, and the trend is continuing relentlessly. Mindfulness keeps us connected to life beyond our over-stimulated, confused and stressed minds.
5) Mindfulness training takes very little time and provides rapid results
Ten minutes of dedicated daily training can make a significant difference. We can also use our everyday down time, chores, breaks or traveling time to practice.
6) Mindfulness practice is a doorway into deeper insights regarding the nature of reality
As we journey with our clients through the games of work and life, we need to be personally grounded in some form of meaning that gives us stability and confidence. Our clients value us for our broader perspectives and deeper insights. Mindfulness training provides experiential insight beyond our own thinking processes. As we learn to let go of our thoughts, we can sense beyond the everyday world of words and problems and tap into a much deeper sense of self and humanity. These deeper insights underpin our value as coaches.
How to Develop Mindfulness
Just like training a muscle, the mind can be trained to be aware in the present moment through regular exercise. The general instructions for mindfulness training are:
- Sit with your back straight in a stable and relaxed position and close your eyes.
- Place your attention on your breath by observing the sensation of the belly rising and falling. This is the main task of the training.
- In order to keep your attention on your breath, you may choose to count the breaths from one to ten and then back from ten to one. If you lose track, simply start over at one.
- Every time your attention gets distracted from your breath, and it will likely happen frequently, gently let go of the distraction and replace it on your breath.
In addition to a dedicated daily training, you can also adapt the general instructions to train in mindfulness while you are walking, traveling or taking breaks. Active mindfulness practices are very effective and convenient since you can easily integrate them into other parts of your lives. Of course, as a coach you already practice being mindful while you are in client sessions. You can extend that mindful present-focused awareness to all aspects of your life. All you need to do is bring your mind to the present moment, focusing on the body, the breath or your immediate real-time surroundings.
I highly recommend getting some outside guidance in mindfulness training. Despite its relative simplicity, it is difficult to start a new habit and it is easy to get discouraged with this simple activity that is often surprisingly difficult to achieve. Incorrect practice is a big waste of time. Please refer to a mindfulness training source near you and prepare to learn a method that will bring you a lifetime of growth and development. [Note: The Potential Project offers such training in Hong Kong. Angela Spaxman is a Senior Trainer.]
This article originally appeared in VOICE, the newsletter and blog of the International Association of Coaching (www.certifiedcoach.org) in December 2011/January 2012, and is reprinted with permission.