What does self-coaching really look like?
Over the years, the critic on my shoulder became the coach on my shoulder. I have learned how to navigate difficult circumstances easier than ever before, and I find myself so much happier for it. And I truly have to credit self-coaching for that.
I know I have been talking much about the think-feel-act loop, and how thoughts create feelings and feelings drive actions, but how does that really work in everyday life? How do we recognize and change that loop? How do we create a new loop?
Self-coaching has five key parts to it:
- Building awareness
- Interrupting thoughts, actions, and feelings
Today, we are going to talk about the first two components: awareness and acceptance.
Awareness requires time.
Unstructured time to be alone with yourself and God in which you create space for yourself. As you do, you begin to understand what your automatic thoughts are.
This may look different for each one of us.
For me, creating awareness is wrapped up in two simple daily activities: journaling every single morning and taking long walks as often as I can.
Daily journaling is scheduled but there are no play-by-play actions that are planned. I know that I will fill three pages, no matter what. So I just sit down and start writing–about my day, the weather, my relationships with people, my body, my thoughts, my circumstance, my finances, my kids… you name it.
By getting my things out of my head and onto the paper, I create a bit of distance and I can start to see more clearly. I can read back and look at my thoughts more objectively. Then, if necessary later on, I can separate thoughts, feelings, and action and notice what is out of alignment. I can then journal about that and uncover what is going on in my head, recognizing what my circumstance is, and what my thought about it is.
I can see whether my thoughts serve me or not. I can then decide to practice new thoughts, thus changing the neuro-pathways in my brain. More on this next week.
These are almost daily occurences for me, and they are just for God and me to enjoy the moments. By walking and giving myself time to think, I become aware of where I am at on the inside, noticing simply what is there: what am I thinking about, what occupies my mental real estate, what worries me, what am I wrapped up in?
I purposefully journal and walk without any interactions from the outside–no people, no social media, no emails. Just God, me and my thoughts.
This is definitely a skill that took time to develop, but it truly started me on this journey of mental health, and I feel strongly that this time spent on myself is not selfish at all and never, ever wasted. It makes me a better person, better mate, a better friend.
The next piece of this self-coaching practice is acceptance.
Acceptance starts out with simply naming what we are feeling–what is the emotion we are feeling?
Most of us just want to skip that part; we don’t want to think about what we are feeling, we don’t want to dwell on it. We just want to feel good, and that’s it.
Yet, once we name our feeling, we know what we are dealing with, and we are on the way to allowing ourselves to accept where we are at.
If I am feeling sad, I can simply say, “I am feeling sad right now. And the reason I am feeling sad is that I am thinking sad thoughts.”
It is important to accept what we are feeling in the moment and realize that this emotion is the result of specific thoughts.
You will find that your brain doesn’t want to think that your feelings are driven by your thoughts. It wants to say that you are sad because your mom is sick for example, and something has gone very wrong. Yet the truth is, you are sad because of the thoughts you are entertaining about your mom’s sickness: she is hurting, she is going to die, she won’t be able to enjoy my children, etc.
And it’s okay to be sad, nothing has gone wrong, this is a normal emotion. We don’t have to run from it, we don’t have to shove it down.
Just naming what we are feeling and then recognizing that it has to do with our thoughts give us our power back.
Crayons: We all start with a single color. Eventually we grow to the six color box. We can grow to develop nuances into the big 128color box. That’s with regard to our feelings. But, depending on where we’re at in our growth, we might need help identifying even the basic six to start with. By starting here, you can grow, identify your feelings and then learn to cope with them.
Do you see how useful this will be for you in everyday life? Next week, I will continue on the other components of self-coaching. For now, want to practice these two and tell me how it’s changing you? I can’t wait to hear from you! Please comment or shoot me an email!
And please share with anyone who could use this information!