Let’s admit it, everybody likes telling our friends our aspirations and future plans. Some search for encouragement or advice while others just want to moan or the opposite, show off. Whatever the reason, we have been told from a very young age that telling others about our plans is not a good idea. The main explanation was quite obvious – you risk to be outrun by your rivals and so-called friends. I am pretty sure that we all have learned this lesson at some point in our lives… some have learned it hard way.
What I like about the science is that it manages to prove something we already know scrutinising the issue form a completely different angle. Thanks to a recent research of neuroscientists we have learned the actual reason of the old as the hills saying and the science behind our mental patterns.
And the reason is…
In short, the way our mind works is that it doesn’t make a difference between the actual experience and the dream or imaginary events. That’s why it is hard to realise a dream while we sleep – to our mind, it is all real. So when we paint a picture of our future plans to our pals, our mind re-lives the experience ‘as if’. On its own, the process is not in any way harmful and even strongly recommended by all life coaches and motivational speakers of all kind… but only if it happens in a right context. A chat with a friend, as you might have guessed, is not always the right context.
Understandably, as a good friend, we believe that it’s our duty to encourage our friends. That’s where the misplaced encouragement does us all a bad favour. When our not-yet-achieved ‘achievements’ are being applauded –rewarded in any way- our body releases the feel-good hormones. These, in turn, create the euphoria similar to the one we experience when we have actually achieved our goals. And since for our sub-conscious mind there is no difference, it is tricked into believing that we have accomplished the task.
Once all necessary components are met –re-living the experience ‘as if’ and the reward- our determinations drops down dramatically. We are therefore far less likely to achieve our desired outcome – sounds familiar?
So what are life coaches –and ‘good’ friends- doing differently?
To understand that we have to understand the real motives of a life coach. The duty of a life coach is to help the client to find the inner resources to allow them to accomplish the goal. It is not the duty of a life coach to either encourage or dis-encourage the client. Instead, a good pro will explore the goal and surrounding circumstances as well as obvious or hidden driving factors – all using various questioning techniques. The conversation is very much practical and result-oriented and at no time will professional life coach either impose their opinion or offer an unnecessary reward. A one-hour long session is an hour spent on productive exploring of the situation and self.
In such context, the visualisation techniques e.g.re-living ‘as if’, are used to create the deep emotional response and commitment to the outcome. With no instant reward, the sub-consciousness it more focused on the outcome and if a client has difficulties with staying focused, the life coach will make sure to keep the client accountable.
What are ‘good’ friends doing differently?
I know it may sound weird, but the best thing we can do is to not to reward our friends for every minute aspiration. Our society is raised on rewards for doing a bare minimum –from a chocolate for doing the homework to a bicycle for the end of the academic year. As a result of the rewarding culture we often chose to give up before event putting first serious efforts in or seeing the first results.
We are told to dream big but more often than not, to dream alone is not enough; we at times also need someone to help us on our journey. We need the advice and the encouragement but we also need someone to give us a space to work out the right solution for ourselves. We sometimes need someone who can actively listen and without inflicting the ‘right’ solution upon us or rewarding us for nothing, can help us through the challenge.