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Application of Cognitive Revolution Theories in Coaching Practice

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Hallmarks of the Cognitive Revolution

Five essential ideas were born out of the Cognitive Revolution.

(1) The mental world is grounded in the physical world through the concepts of information, computation, and feedback.

(2) The mind cannot be a blank slate.

(3) The infinite range of human behaviors manifest from a finite set of programs in the mind

(4) Although human cultures appear highly varied, they are superficial and are explained with a universal set of mental mechanisms

(5) The mind is a system of interdependent parts resulting in the emergent property of thought and human experience. (Pinker, 2003) .

These understandings have shaped the various subfields of psychology yielded from the cognitive revolution including the work of William Glasser on reality therapy and the behavior economic principles developed by Dan Ariely. These two subfields can be applied to the practice of coaching to help clients understand and proactively change their understanding of how they make the decisions that ultimately lead them to a positive or negative experience.

Glasser on Reality Therapy

Developed in the decade following the cognitive revolution, Glasser’s reality therapy model seeks to focus on realism, responsibility, and right and wrong. (Glasser, 2010) . This approach is useful as a tool in coaching because reality therapy is grounded in the idea that human suffering is a “socially universal condition” (Glasser, 2010) rather than the manifestation of a mental disorder. By focusing, in coaching or therapy, on here and now actions to help the client choose and create a more desirable future for themselves, this method supports clients in understanding their true desires and helps them to assess how the choices they are making are either leading them towards or away from those desires. If a desirable life results from the summation of choices made, then understanding how the brain makes choices is crucial in guiding a client towards making decisions that better resonate with their values and wants for their coveted reality.

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