This is the continuation of a post from a couple of weeks ago in response to a request to know more of who I am, outside of a life coach. I decided to structure this task in an interview format, addressing what I would want to know about someone I'm just meeting.
What don’t you enjoy?
Eww. I don’t like cleaning up and putting things away. This is something I’ve made a conscious and concerted effort to improve within the past year, and I have been successful--but it is a work in progress. I’ve discovered and created techniques and tricks that facilitate being neater, and they really help! I dislike cardio workouts. I am not athletic, and tend to be sedentary. If something requires a lot of physical exertion with subpar payoff, I’m not a fan. I have a limited diet, which I really dislike with my love of food; there are a lot of things I can’t eat that I wish I could. Although emails are a necessity and can be convenient, I don’t enjoy tending to them.
What are three important lessons you’ve learned?
This is a biggie! 1.) If you commit, persevere, try, and put in the time, you can overcome weaknesses and things that are a problem and actually turn them into a skill and a strength. I’ve experienced this a couple of times: I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disorder in high school (terribly late because I was able to compensate for it until that point). I worked terribly hard at my writing, and was fortunate to have skilled mentors who helped me overcome my challenges with writing. When I took my GRE’s (the test you take after college to get into grad school), I had a 4.5 on the writing section, and 4.5-5 was the highest rating you could get.
2.) Self-love is so important. At some point, people will likely reject you, exclude you, hurt you, judge you, make fun of you, etc. Ultimately, you are the one person you have, from the beginning of your life to the end of your life. What other people say and do can and will affect you, but at the end of the day, other people don’t matter because you are the executive of your life and you are the person experiencing your life. If you don’t love yourself and only look outward for acceptance and love, you are giving who-knows-who a lot of power over your life experience. Know who you are, know who you want to be, and love yourself- flaws and all. The best life is going to be the one that you choose based on your values, not one that you create based on being pushed, pulled, and controlled by others. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love someone else; you will be too consumed looking for and needing that person’s love to be able to give freely and accept the love that they have for you. You have to know you’re worthy of being loved! 3.) You gotta dig in and face it. Avoiding whatever it is will not make it go away. Distracting yourself is not going to make it go away. It will only fester, maybe get worse, or have additional negative consequences. There is a time and place for avoidance and distraction, but it is not a long-term solution. Being able to tolerate and “work with” uncomfortable feelings at times is part of a healthy life. AND I’m adding a fourth: 4.) It is okay to say “No” and set limits!
What is your philosophy of life?
I’ve spent much time since I was very young thinking about the meaning of life. Although I still don’t know, I’ve logically concluded for now that a good life is one that you enjoy and one where you give back. That logical reasoning also vibes with me at an emotional level, and it’s what guides much of what I do.
There are still a few questions as part of my interview, which I will save for a later post. If there are any questions you'd like to add to my interview, please let me know, and I will include them!
Loss is an inevitable part of life. We experience loss in many ways, beyond the death of a loved one. For example, we can experience loss with our health, relationships that end, or with our career.
Impermanence is the nature of life. Our world is always changing; sometimes that means we permanently lose what has had a meaningful presence to us.
As is our nature, like almost every other mammal, we are built for attachments at the neurological level (oxytocin, vasopressin, etc). Although our primary attachments are likely to people, we can be attached to more than just people: ideas, activities, objects. Adjusting to a loss that has been a big part of our lives affects us at a core level. There is a piece of our world that is missing. Some of the thoughts that we habitually think are no longer relevant; what we normally expect every day will not happen; the behaviors we have routinely engaged in will not happen. All of these changes affect how we feel.
What can be even more startling, buried under the actual loss, is being faced with the reality that our worlds can change so quickly; what we depend and rely on can disappear. Although we might not be consciously aware of it, I think that “losing” in and of itself—separate from whatever the actual loss is—is unsettling and can threaten our safety and security. We have beliefs about who we are, how our world is, and what our future will be like. We function every day according to these beliefs. When a chunk of this falls out, especially when the loss is unexpected, it can really shake us. We have to get through the days, mourn the loss, and re-work our worlds.
When we re-work our worlds, it needs to be with awareness and intention. We need to reconstruct and put together a world that accommodates the loss, but also so the loss does not steal from our future. Every loss can be a learning and growing experience. Learning and growing from a loss does not take away the hurt and the pain. However, approaching the loss from a learning perspective helps us to recalibrate our world in a way that is healthier and better for us, as opposed to developing a world that is bitter, pessimistic, and cynical. Avoiding re-working our worlds isn’t helpful; this results in being stuck. We can also choose to look at the glass half full: we had something to lose. We will always have the memories. We got to experience *that* (whatever it was) in our life. It wasn’t forever, which would be divine, but we did have it—and it was good while it was. Appreciate it, savor the memories, feel the pain, and then focus on creating your new world.
We are behooved to engage life in a way that appreciates the present, expects impermanence, knows there will be pain, and knows it will lessen; we also need to know that we can adjust after a loss--our worlds are not over, but have shifted. Being mindful of these these things and practicing them can offer comfort and peace in a life that has changes and losses. Every loss provides a lesson, and an opportunity.
Me, as A Person, Not A Life Coach
Who Am I, Besides A Life Coach?
I once wrote an 80-page paper on my life, and that was ten years ago. I’ll spare you that novel! It seems me interviewing myself might be one way to tackle summarizing who I am as a person—even though anyone can’t really be summarized.
What is most important to you in life?
I value freedom and integrity/the truth. I’m very close with my parents and family; they are a big part of my life and have taught me so much! As I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to realize the value of being healthy. I rescued a kitten about a year ago, without the intention of keeping her, but ended up keeping her; she is my little love! She acts more like a dog sometimes: always greeting me when I come home, cuddling with me, engaging me in play, etc. She has quite the personality. I take her out places occasionally, and people are always surprised to see in a cat in a bag. (No one has ever described me as conventional.) I am lucky to have a handful of amazing friends who completely get me, are there for me, are great for being my own resource with perspective-taking, and are lots of fun! It’s important to me to give back and help make the world a better place. If everyone had that goal and followed through with it, I think the world would be very different. I think making choices that value the environment and other species are also important.
What do you enjoy?
Enjoyment! Yes! I love to enjoy things! This is a fun topic. Of course, I love laughing and good food. I like things that are new experiences and having adventures. I love travelling, even though I don’t have the opportunity to do it frequently. I like learning new things and meeting people. I love makeup! I’ve been working on improving my eyebrows (among makeup addicts, this is referred to as “brow game”), and have made progress during the past year. Again, this is what I enjoy, not what’s important! I also enjoy fashion, especially shoes. I love animals and playing with my cat, Sophia. I like to make things and be creative. I am such a psych nerd and am so into it. I could talk about psychology and have philosophical conversation for hours and not even know that much time passed. I really enjoy working with people and understanding how they “work.” One of the biggest highs is when someone has an insight that just sorta shifts their world, or being able to look back at where someone was a year ago and where they are now and how that person has grown. It’s a feeling that gets me at my core and is pretty awesome.
I have the rest of my self-interview, but I will save that for another post so this isn't too long. I hope this starts to show some of who I am!
Conscious Living, Aligned with Reality
Feelings and beliefs are a big push and pull in our lives. Often we have beliefs how x will make us feel—sometimes they are accurate, other times not. Additionally, sometimes we should have expectations about how x is likely to make us feel, and we don’t—or, we have those expectations, but ignore them. There are always unknowns, embracing uncertainty, and taking calculated risks are part of life. At the same time, being attuned to reality and consciously choosing what pushes and pulls you is important for getting the most of what you want out of your life without getting lost or stuck places where you don’t want to be.
We might not always be aware of it, but our expectations (belief/assumption) of what will make us feel a certain way can significantly affect what we seek and what we avoid. Sometimes our expectations of how something will affect our feelings is accurate; other times our expectations are not accurate. Having inaccurate expectations of how something will make us feel might simply mean over- or underestimating the intensity of the feeling we think we will have. For example, there has been a time when you’ve dreaded something you’ve had to do, and, afterwards, it felt as negative or uncomfortable as expected. However, there have also been times when you’ve dreaded something you’ve had to do, but you realize afterwards that it didn’t make you feel as uncomfortable or negative as you expected. These beliefs about how x will make us feel can determine much of our behavior, and sometimes they aren’t even accurate.
By the same token, sometimes, based on experience, we know how something will likely make us feel—our beliefs and expectations are accurate—but we ignore what we know and do the opposite of the “logical” action which would either increase our positive feelings or decrease our negative feelings. For example, you might realize you have patterns of going into the same kind of relationship when all the other similar types of relationships you have entertained have had the same, unwanted outcome that results in pain. Or maybe you know that saying, “Yes” to working those extra, unnecessary hours will leave you feeling physically ragged and bring extra stress, but you choose to work them anyways.
Ultimately, we need to be aware of the expectations we have of going different directions and check their accuracy. Similarly, when we make decisions and go different directions, we need to be aware of potential likely outcomes—based on reality, not our belief system. There is no way of predicting the future or absolutely knowing how something will affect us. However, it is critical that we are aware of our expectations and choices, checking the accuracy of our expectations, considering likely outcomes, and making purposeful decisions based on what we know is accurate. Life is too precious to have your choices be swayed by inaccurate perceptions or have your path unfold by walking blindly.
You're Thinking about Life Coaching...
There are a few important factors to consider when you’re thinking about starting to work with a life coach, aside from the obvious one: can my coach help me with the goal I want to pursue? Here are five questions to ask yourself before starting with a life coach.
2. Do I have the time?
Life coaching takes time and requires consistency. Only start life coaching when you have the time for it. If you don’t have at least two hours every other week for life coaching, talk with a life coach about how can make time in your schedule, see if your schedule will be “winding down” any time soon and wait until then, or look at taking a something off your plate. Changing and growth require consistent attention and effort, which also means you need to put in the time.
3. Am I willing to make a commitment?
Not only does life coaching require time, it also requires a commitment. Whether the commitment is for a few meetings or the commitment is several months for deep coaching, you need to be willing to stick with what you start.
4. Do I have a coach who respects me and with whom I think I can develop a healthy working relationship?
After an initial coaching session, you will hopefully have an idea of who your coach is, whether you felt your coach respected you, and if you will be able to communicate openly with your coach and work together. Do not feel pressured to continue with a coach after an initial session if you don’t think your coach can help you or if you don’t like the coach. The coaching relationship is the gatekeeper of the value in life coaching.
5. What structure works for me?
There are many different ways coaches offer services: over the phone, in-person, Skype, etc. Some coaches have very flexible schedules; others might not coach in the evening or certain times of day. Different coaches also have different payment structures. It is important to find a coach whose times, method of coaching (in-person, phone, etc), and fees work for you. If you have any special concerns, such as privacy, flexibility of scheduling, or concerns about payment, it is important to address these with your coach before starting coaching so you are both on the same page and have the same expectations.
Using Facebook to Be Happier
Research suggests that after perusing Facebook, people experience a decrease in mood. After all, most people post the highlights of their life and their best selfies on Facebook, not the worst parts of their day or the picture that gets permanently deleted. It’s a natural tendency to compare ourselves to each other; scrolling down your newsfeed and seeing the best parts of everyone else’s life can easily leave you asking “What about my life? I’m not doing x, y, or z that so-and-so and such-and-such is. What do I have?” So, how do you make Facebook a more positive experience?
Facebook can be a positive experience, but there are guidelines to make sure you benefit from it:
I have a challenge for you. I would like for the Facebook page for Paragon Life Coaching to be flooded with positives from people’s days. I want it to be an opportunity for each individual to focus on the positives in his or her life that day, whether it seems big or small. The point of this “exercise” is not to judge whatever the positive is as “big” or “little,” but to recognize the glass as half full more.
As I have written my own personal “positives” on the Facebook page for Paragon Life Coaching, I can tell you that it actually takes courage: you are sharing something with potentially *everyone.* Additionally, what is an accomplishment for you that you genuinely feel good about, such as buying back-up toilet paper, being assertive with your significant other, making the doctor appointment you’ve been putting off, washing your car, smoking 3 cigarettes instead of 5, playing with your dog, parallel parking perfectly, going out of your comfort zone and trying a new kind of food, the cup of coffee you enjoyed, holding the door open for someone, exercising—whatever it is--might seem like it’s not worth posting—BUT IT IS! These positives are not to be judged and they are not points of comparison for others; posting these things is about recognizing and celebrating the things in your life that make you feel good, regardless of how big or little they seem. If you want to be happier, you must remember that happiness is not about what happens to you or what you have--how big or little everything is, happiness is about how you see. I hope you accept this challenge and share the feel-goods in your day on the timeline on Paragon Life Coaching's Facebook page!
What is positive psychology?
Positive psychology focuses on strengths and flourishing. It is about taking the average life experience and making it better, making it extraordinary.
Why positive psychology for coaching?
The majority of people get through life, despite ups and downs. There are plenty of people functioning fine, not experiencing noteworthy distress, but who are not really taking full advantage of what life has to offer. They are getting through their days, are lost in their days, subject to a routine they ended up in, not aware of how to relish the time they have, or whatever the case is. These people likely have fun, have relationships, and enjoy things, but it is not what it could be. It is not exceptional. Positive psychology is about taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.
If positive psychology is about fulfillment, maximizing potential, and life satisfaction, and life coaching is for improving yourself and your life, they are a perfect match! Aside from the shared ideas and purposes of positive psychology and coaching, positive psychology uses research. This means that there is scientific evidence showing the effectiveness of strategies, which is very important if you are hiring a life coach and want your coach to be working with you in ways that are effective and yield change. Positive psychology also has a host of research to improve the nature and effectiveness of the actual coaching relationship, too. Lastly, positive psychology complements other approaches to life coaching. It works well in conjunction with a cognitive-behavioral approach, motivational interviewing, mindfulness, and neuroscience.
What are some basic ideas of positive psychology?
Positive psychology focuses on what makes individuals and communities thrive; it explores the virtues and psychological traits that lead to flourishing. Positive psychology assumes that people want to leave meaningful lives. The Character Strengths and Virtues book, developed by Seligman and Peterson, identifies the six core virtues of people: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence. When developed, these contribute to leading a fulfilling and meaningful life. Additionally, positive psychology evaluates the role of negatives in our lives, and how we can best respond to them to maximize our potential and not let them interfere with our growth or life experience. Grit, a trendy topic during the past few years, comes from the field of positive psychology.
Happiness: food for thought
Who doesn’t want to be happy? Our inalienable right to be happy is a founding principle of our country; we value happiness. However, much interferes with our happiness: demands, misinformation about what makes us happy, daily stressors, our own choices, being pulled away from attunement to ourselves and what genuinely makes us happy; we’re constantly bombarded with messages and directions on how to be—from friends, family, professionals, the media, our work environments. Do we even know what happiness is anymore? Or do we just confuse it with the temporary and shallow highs reinforced by our culture? Do you know what actually makes you feel genuinely happy? Or have you gotten lost in the daily demands and “shoulds” of your life? Maybe you know what makes you genuinely happy, but there’s not a priority placed on being happy; other things come first or get in the way. Being happy is easier for some people than others, but *anyone* can be happy--and, yes, research supports this claim! It just takes knowing what contributes happiness, being aware and attuned to yourself, prioritizing, and a commitment. If you want to, you can do that!
Stay tuned for more posts related to happiness, and check out the current Paragon Group Life Coaching sessions, Being Happier.
How does Ashley approach life coaching? What is her "philosophy"? What does "cognitive behavioral" mean?
In my “Who I Am” section, I describe several approaches and disciplines I utilize for life coaching: a cognitive behavioral approach, motivational interviewing, positive psychology, mindfulness, and neuroscience. So what are these things?! Each of these has basic assumptions and backgrounds of research which provide different lenses, information, and strategies for life coaching. Although I pull from other theories and research, too, these are the backbone.
A cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching borrows much from cognitive therapy (CT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) (which are technically separate therapies; however, for simplicity, I will use cognitive behavioral therapy as an inclusive term to refer to both CT and CBT). Utilizing a cognitive-behavioral approach as a foundation for life coaching has many advantages based on the assumptions and research of CBT; this approach yields measurable change. Outlined below are the assumptions that define the cognitive-behavioral approach:
1.) Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors: Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (TFB's) are interconnected and affect each other. Physiological states also influence TFB's, and TFB's influence physiological states. Understanding the connections among TFB’s and using them to one’s advantage is critical to creating lasting change.
2.) Focused: CBT and a cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching both focus on specific issues. This is not to say that life coaching must focus on the negative, but that is focuses on addressing specific targets. People are more successful when systematically working toward a goal with objectives, strategies, and tools. This aspect of a cognitive behavioral approach is similar to the GROW coaching model.
3.) Short-term: A cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching shares the short-term nature of CBT; CBT generally lasts less than a year. The goal is not to create a dependence on the professional; life coaching is about empowerment! Life coaching is not about eating time, but valuing time while moving forward.
4.) Relationship of Equals: CBT views the helping relationship as one comprised of two equals, which carries over to a cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching. The client and helper collaboratively identify the client's goals and work together to achieve them. There is no power differential or dependence; a cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching is empowering. This aspect of a cognitive behavioral approach is similar to Co-Active Coaching.
5.) Present Focus: CBT is present-focused. Although there are times when it is necessary to see how certain beliefs or behaviors developed by what was learned in the past, the focus of CBT is the here and now; the same is true with a cognitive behavioral approach to life coaching. Change happens in the present.
6.) We Learn: A cognitive behavioral approach, similar to CBT, assumes that we are not born with certain thought patterns or behaviors, but they have been learned. Since they have been learned, they can be “unlearned.” More accurately, new, more adaptive, replacement behaviors and thought patterns can be learned instead.
7.) Relationship Is Key: As in CBT, life coaching is dependent on a safe, trusting relationship between the client and helper. A secure, authentic, healthy, and constructive relationship is the gatekeeper to effective life coaching.
Ashley Belsinger, M.S.