Home Applications Personal & Life Coaching Ten Trends in Personal/Life Coaching

Ten Trends in Personal/Life Coaching

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Coaching and the Wiring and Firing of Our Brain

We are entering a new world of knowledge and understanding with regard to the complex processes ongoing in our brain and in the many other “thinking” parts of our body. The new findings in the field of neurobiology are likely to impact the way in which we do personal and life coaching in the near future—in large part because, in the coaching relationship, a client is often invited to discover the core values in their life, and then to begin altering their life to live in accordance with those values. This involved a lot of behavior change. The question of how the brain makes those behavioral changes is increasingly becoming an interest to coaches. The science of neurobiology is providing some answers.

The first insight recent findings in neurobiology provides us is in the area of memory.  We now know that habitual behavior requires the shifting of knowledge and skill-sets from focused, intentional and explicit (conscious) memory systems to another memory system located in a different part of the brain (often called “procedural” memory). This second memory system is holistic, much less accessible to intention, and implicit (unconscious) in nature. When personal or life coaches try to “break up” the habitual behavior of their clients, they may be trying to move stored material between two different memory systems.

Resistance to the disruption of habitual behavior may be based not only on our fear of changing established behavior patterns, but also on the profoundly difficult task of recovering stored memories, and the early beliefs associated with those memories, up from the implicit, unconscious system. This resistance makes it difficult to examine those memories and to address primitive beliefs created by those memories, let alone to take on the task of reprogramming the explicit, procedural memory system.

Furthermore, recent neurobiological research (often called social neurobiology) (Rock and Page, 2009) indicates that the social/psychological constructs which guide our life and our relationships with other people are deeply embedded in and reinforced by and through complex, highly-redundant and multiple-level neural connections and networks. To examine (let alone attempt to “break up”) these constructs may be quite difficult. The outcomes of such a disruption may be difficult to predict. This holds major implications for the personal or life coach who is encouraging her client to see things “in a different way?”

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One Comment

  1. Rey Carr

    June 9, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Something about this article left me thinking that I missed the connection between coaching and any of the 10 items mentioned. For example, all the three points that neurobiology is allegedly responsible for in contributing to knowledge of human behaviour (and changing behaviour) were clearly known prior to the advent of the current craze to quote brain research. I don’t think that neurobiology has contributed at all to improving the coaching relationship. And as if to strengthen my point, the authors give no examples or evidence of how coaches have actually used these principles to make a difference in their interactions with clients.

    The same holds true for the nine other trends mentioned. Cognitive psychology (via Jerome Bruner and others) as well as solution-focused work and the work of William Glasser and Albert Ellis and countless others are all cognitive approaches that turned traditional psychotherapy on its head and dumped it from working with dysfunctional individuals.

    I wish the authors had provided more direct evidence of the way in which these trends have actually influenced the work of coaches.


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