Self-improvement

coaching faq

Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions and Short Answers

Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions and Short Answers1280720Manolis Stratakis

What does a coaching session look like?

In essence, a personal coaching session is a systematic discussion between two people: the Coach and the Client. Coaches support their clients to think in an open, innovative and inspiring way. As a result, they will find better solutions to the problems they face. More importantly, they create important awareness.

Every session is a powerful experience. Usually, it is enjoyable although sometimes, it can be a bit tough. Coaching takes courage as a new, intense realization is not always pleasant. In any case, a successful session is not fading away in the next few hours. Most often, it will linger in our mind for days, weeks or even months, maturing and creating new awareness.

What kind of issues are discussed in a coaching session?

The potential topics to discuss in a coaching session are limitless. Any issue related to work, family, relationships or self-improvement is rightful and applicable.

Clients usually bring on the table:

  • a problem they are struggling with and seek the best solution
  • an aspect of their personality they would like to enlighten
  • a change or transformation they need to go over in an effective way
  • any complex situation would like to simplify
  • a business idea they want to implement, or
  • a new project they are planning

Our first concern is that the client becomes aware where they stand now and where they wish to be in the future. The second is finding how. That means, we identify all our options, and choose the best. The third is to start deploying our plan and secure its successful implementation.

What is the approach used in Coaching?

Coaching helps discover new knowledge about ourselves and our environment. It stirs our mind to find better solutions to our problems. Moreover, it equips us with new skills, to continue our journey through life in a more efficient and self-sustained manner.

The coach asks questions, doesn’t provide advice. Coaching creates awareness. Sheds light upon all invisible aspects. Clears a good part of our brain fog and this brings clarity. Provides inspiration and encouragement. Helps us understand the why which hides behind what and how. This increases abruptly our motivation.

coaching faq

Coaching is not therapy. It considers the person to be integral and naturally creative. The point is to find the best we can do, as we are. We focus more in building on our strong points and less in fixing our weaknesses.

Also, in coaching we are not so much interested in the past. We focus on the present and future. We create powerful awareness about who exactly we are and who we can become. Then, we look for ways to achieve this transformation.

How is a coaching session conducted?

It can be conducted over the telephone or via video-conference. It can take place in a park or during a nice walk. And of course, by meeting in person at the office, at home or in a quiet café. The place is not that important, as long as there is not a lot of noise or other distractions. We need to be calm and quiet, so we can help our mind operate to its fullest!

What is the Coach doing exactly?

Coaches act more as experienced conversationalists than experts. Initially, they will ask ample, targeted questions until they get the juice running. Subsequently, they shed light on unseen aspects or propose different viewpoints. They will not hesitate to bring the discussion out and away of the client’s comfort zone.

Good coaches avoid “knowing” what is right or wrong for their clients. They simply help them realize themselves what is right or wrong. The two of them, together, create valuable awareness, as of what works and what isn’t.

Finally, they create clarity and provide interesting food for thought until the next session.

How can I find an appropriate Coach for me?

The right choice of a Coach is very important for the successful course of coaching. To some degree, it is a matter of luck to find an appropriate coach right away. However, if you are not lucky, then you need to search patiently, until you find the one with whom you have the perfect chemistry. When you find him (or her), you will realize it straight away!

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Try to have a first, simple realization about your life, with the exercise in the article: Improve your Life Quality starting with the Cantril Ladder tool!

 

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comfort zone

Stepping out of comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development

Stepping out of comfort zone to pursue personal growth and development18141598Manolis Stratakis

What exactly is a comfort zone?

The comfort zone is the known, the familiar, this which we can do automatically, without too much thought, without too much difficulty. It is where we feel comfortable, sheltered and pleasant. Wherever we feel that we are not in any danger. Where we do not need to try, therefore we do not need to spend any energy.

Although it is often blamed, there is nothing wrong with the comfort zone. It is essential and sometimes indispensable. It often provides us with an oasis of tranquility, relaxation and replenishment. It is the charger we are all looking for when our batteries are going low.

So why can we not stay there forever?

If our mobile phone always needs to be plugged in, it is not a mobile anymore!

There is a reason why we cannot stay for long in our comfort zone. That is, that human needs are much more than just having food and fun. Give a rabbit some carrots every day and it will never ask you for anything else for the rest of its life. Humans however, are equipped with imagination and creativity. Imagination gives birth to ideas and as soon as a good idea sparks, the need to bring it into reality arises. A quick look around, reminds us of all the miracles human civilization has achieved: science, constructions, technology, socialization, art. All these, could never have been made possible by people locked inside their comfort zones.

A cost-benefit relationship

There is an obvious cost-benefit relationship in the process of moving out of our comfort and into our growth zone. Generally, we take the leap whenever the benefit is higher. Whenever the cost is higher, we stay where we are.

As we remain in our comfort zone, the benefits are small but guaranteed. We are having a good time and we are in no danger. Yet, we cannot expect anything spectacular to happen. If we linger there for long, boredom will inevitably strike. People get bored eating crisps and watching TV all day. If they are solving the easy crossword for months, sometime they will feel the urge to try a harder one.

When our comfort zone becomes practically identical to our boredom zone, then there is no more joy. No satisfaction. No benefit. When there is no more benefit, we start feeling the desire to move towards our growth zone. The comfort zone is a pleasant place to be, however, not much is growing there. When we have eaten all the grass around us, we will need to search a little farther away.

Stress, fear and resistance

Usually, we have to pay something in order to buy something. Accordingly, there is a fare to pay in our trip from the comfort zone to the growth zone. Eventually, we have to pass through the zones of fear and learning. The fear zone makes us anxious, lowers our self-confidence and increases procrastination. There are two forces within us. One wants us to move while the other wants us to stay still. One is pushing us forward, the other is pulling us backwards. The first is our creative brain which pushes for changes and improvement. The second is our animal brain which fights to make us stay where we are. Excuses are the way the two of them negotiate. The creative mind provides logical arguments for the potential benefits of change, whereas the animal brain brings up all the excuses, difficulties, problems and obstacles.

Any attempt to depart the comfort zone poses a risk and can lead to an adventure. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to be accompanied by an increase in fear and stress.

In other words, whenever we intent to go out of our comfort zone and try something new or difficult, we have to expect with absolute certainty that stress will step in. Consequently, we have to reassure our mind that everything is fine. In this way, our mind will not be taken by surprise and will be less resistant.

Transform your stress into enthusiasm

A nice trick to use, is learn to perceive stress asenthusiasm. These two seemingly different emotional states are in reality one and same. Stress and enthusiasm cause almost the same chemical reactions in our brain. The actual way however we perceive them, our attitude, makes a huge difference. Stress is blocking us up as it tries to protect us from defeat and failure. Enthusiasm opens us up so we can pursue success and win.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure, without losing your enthusiasm”

Winston Churchill

Enthusiasm is a pleasant feeling of emotional excitement. It is the active interest, the mood for adventure and risky behavior. Isn’t it very similar to stress? We all know the difference between creative stress and pathological stress. The first is pushing us forward, the second is holding us back.

Exercise: trick your brain by changing hat

Whenever you feel the stress building up, takeoff your stress hat and wear the hat of enthusiasm. Remember that both hats are almost the same, only their name differs. Now, just act as you are full of enthusiasm rather that stress. After you do this for a few times, you will see that it’s not so difficult. Τhe result on your stress levels is quite impressive.

The four zones in detail

The Comfort zone

We already talked a lot about this zone. Here, we have a sense of safety and control. As nothing really interesting is happening, there is not much we need to control. This is the area of relaxation but can also be a stagnation place. If we stay in this area for long, we will eventually feel boredom and apathy.

The Fear zone

As soon as we open the door and step out of our comfort zone, we find ourselves in the zone of fear. The further we walk away, the stronger our fear gets. Often, we are so frightened that we regret and return back. At the same time, we usually start complaining, focusing on problems and obstacles and finding all sorts of excuses so we can ease off the embarrassing retreat. Our self-confidence hits rock-bottom and our procrastination celebrates.

comfort zone

The Learning zone

If we managed to come any close to the learning zone, we have already achieved our first win: we passed through the fear zone. Here, we are facing our challenges, we focus more on the solutions rather than problems, spot new opportunities and acquire new skills. Most importantly, we have expanded our comfort zone and feel more comfortable and secure than before.

The Growth zone

The more time we spend in our growth zone the more our comfort zone expands. Old fears slowly fade away. On the other hand, some new ones may appear. We have increased our resilience and we are setting more ambitious goals. We honored our talents and developed our skills. As our personal development continues, our life gains a lot more meaning. Progressively, we find our higher purpose and start to create a long-term vision. Our self-motivation ability is also considerably improved.

Baby steps

The most effective way for growth seems to be leaving the comfort zone in baby steps. Expand your boundaries in a progressive, gradual manner.

If anxiety comes sharply or in a high dosage, it may block you. But if it comes smoothly in smaller dosages, you can use it to build a healthy immunity, which in turn will help you drive further away, more often and with more confidence. With practice, you can do with ease, what some time ago seemed impossible.

The concept of Desired Discomfort

Let’s look at it backwards. We could say that leading ourselves purposefully through adversities, will help us develop and grow faster. No-one has ever excelled in too much convenience.

The lack of difficulties makes us soft and weak, while discomfort in healthy dosages will make us strong and resilient.

Get used to welcome the difficulties which you will inevitably meet. Learn to make peace with discomfort. Understand that anxiety is just a normal emotion which we feel as we grow. Then, passing through the fear zone will become quite straight-forward.

The theory of plasticity of the brain coming from neuroscience, confirms that our mind is a program which continuously learns, changes and improves. It creates new neurons, new paths, new subprograms. It self-upgrades daily depending on our thoughts, actions and behavior.

Therefore, walks away of our comfort zone helps us develop new skills and grow.

How do we move out of our comfort zone effectively?

Here are a few tips:

  • Reading and gathering new knowledge
  • Asking ourselves clever open and challenging questions about what we can improve
  • Trying every day something new even if it’s not easy, expanding our limits
  • Taking trips and meeting new people
  • Acquiring new skills or exercising those we have new line creating and make a note
  • With systematic self-reflection
  • Creating art and innovation
  • Soothing our animal brain and relieving our fears
  • Replacing our perception for stress with enthusiasm
  • Establishing a better relationship with failure and disappointment
  • Learning how to welcome discomfort and life’s inevitable adversities

Exercise: Epic Failures

  1. Write a list with your biggest life failures so far.
  2. Can you think of something positive in each one of those?
  3. What lessons have you got?
  4. In what ways have you become better after each failure?

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If you want to delve deeper into how you can transform the stepping out of comfort zone into art, read the article How often do you experience Flow?

 

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Time management

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool

Eisenhower’s Matrix: An essential time management tool25601784Manolis Stratakis

Is the time in our day enough?

Time is one of the most democratic things on the planet. Not intelligence. Neither money. Not even health or beauty. Not happiness. Time! Everybody has 24 hours. If you think about it, time is our most important asset. We start off as babies, having all the time of the world and as we grow up we come to a point when every single minute of our day is occupied with something. Then we complain we don’t have time. Wrong! We still have 24 hours. But our day is now filled with stuff. Now, it’s time for.. time management!

The Matrix as a time management tool

“When you don’t have time, make time”. It may sound counter-intuitive, but perhaps it is a perfect advice. The Eisenhower Matrix is the tool we need to make time.

US General and President Eisenhower once said:

I have two kinds of problems: Urgent and Important.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important

Eisenhower Matrix

A common pattern in businesses but also in our personal life is that we often move insanely from one urgent matter to the next, having practically no time to attend to the important issues. Like a never-ending queue of urgent things which, no matter how many we complete, new ones continuously appear. We are at a constant war with a modern Lernaean Hydra. We cut one head and two new heads spring out of nowhere.

Let’s dive deep in time management

If we analyze the four areas of the Eisenhower matrix, it will immediately become clear how it will help us in our time management:

Quadrant 1: (Urgent and Important): Do First!

This is the most critical area, it contains tasks that are both urgent and important. These are “do first” tasks because they are critical for our life or career. Typical Q1 activities include important problems, deadlines and crises.

Quadrant 2: (Important, but Not Urgent): Schedule!

Here we place the tasks that are important, but not urgent. This is where we need to invest most of our time. These are usually our personal and professional long-term goals and activities relevant to the significant areas of our life like education, career, family, recreation or personal growth. Put these tasks in suspension until you find enough time to work on them carefully. Beware, these tasks may not be urgent, but if left neglected, sooner or later they become urgent.

Quadrant 3 (Not Important, but Urgent): Delegate!

If a task deserves to be in this quadrant, then you don’t deserve to perform it. It is most likely a distraction and you better pass it to someone else or postpone it. Many tasks appear to be urgent when actually they are not. Most messages and telephone calls fall into this category. If you answer every call or text you receive immediately, then you will not be able to do anything that requires undistracted attention. The same is true with business meetings. You don’t have to participate in every meeting you are invited, you can choose if you need to be present or not. A common source of Q3 activities is other people. Saying “no” politely or encouraging them to solve the problem themselves usually does the trick.

Quadrant 4: (Not Important, Not Urgent): Eliminate or Keep to a minimum!

These tasks that are neither important nor urgent are simply time wasters and they should be eliminated, or cut down to a minimum. If you drastically reduce the amount of time spent in quadrant 4 tasks, you will free up lots of precious time for your quadrant 1 or 2 tasks. Mindlessly watching television, playing games or surfing the web are only some of the typical ways for wasting time. This does not mean of course that watching a good movie or resting is a waste of time. We need to be very careful when distinguishing what is and what isn’t important for us.

Procrastination and time management

Sometimes, procrastination kicks in when we are not very clear about what is important or urgent. It causes confusion and leaves us standing still while trying to decide what to bring on the foreground next.

When you first try this tool, you may have some difficulty labeling your tasks. It may be frustrating and you may feel you are wasting your time. You are not wasting time, you are investing some of your precious time learning a great skill that will empower you with precious focus and self-awareness. It will save you way more time for the rest of your life.

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Increase your awareness by reading our article: Awareness Sharpening Games

 

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Response style in communication

What’s your Response Style?

What’s your Response Style?25601784Manolis Stratakis

Response Style in Communication

Our response style plays an important role in our communication with people. Builds or destroys our relations in work, family or friendships. Finding our own, gives us the necessary awareness in order to change it, if we need to. It also helps us understand other people responses to us.

There are 4 different response styles:

  • Active Constructive
  • Passive Constructive
  • Active Destructive
  • Passive Destructive

Response style in communication

Response Style Example:

Let’s take for example a response at the good news of someone else. In this particular case it is our spouse. Of course, it could be our partner, friend, kid or colleague.

The husband/wife returns home at the afternoon:

  • Honey! I got the promotion!!

Spouse: (Select one of the following to find your current response style!)

ActivePassive
Constructive
  • Excitement
  • Eye contact
  • Authentic smile
  • Joy

Welldonebaby! Amazing news, I knew you will do it! How do you feel now? (looks into her/his eyes)

Wait for me to open a nice bottle of wine to celebrate this!

  • Low energy
  • Delayed response
  • Quiet

Ah ok… [pause of several seconds] That’s very good for you.

(Gazing at his/her shoes)

Destructive
  • Quashing the event
  • Dismissive
  • Demeaning

Well, we have so many problems and you only care about yourself…

  • Avoiding
  • Ignoring
  • Turns focus inwards

And now we are going to see you even less? Are you sure you can manage with more obligations?

 

Introspection questions

Spend some time to think the following questions:
  1. Which of the four styles looks more attractive to you?
  2. How would you feel when facing someone with an Active/Destructive response style?
  3. Which style do you prefer to see from your spouse? Your boss? Your colleague?
  4. What is your own typical style?
  5. Do you have the same style at work, home or with your friends?
  6. In what ways you could perhaps improve it?

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Also check out the article: How emotionally intelligent are you?

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Gratitude Jar: Empower your gratitude muscles!

Gratitude Jar: Empower your gratitude muscles!640426Manolis Stratakis

Things you will need for the Gratitude Jar

  • A large jar
  • Small-size paper or post-it notes
  • Lots of gratitude

Exercise

Perform one or both of the drills below on a daily basis:

  1. Firstly, think of a person to whom you would like to express your gratitude for something good he did for you, or for any other reason. He might have helped you at some point of your life or gave you inspiration through their paradigm. Perhaps they contributed indirectly by helping a person close to you or even contributed to a common cause you care about.

Write a few words expressing your gratitude to this person!

  1. Secondly, think of something for which you are grateful. It can be anything, small or large. Something you may have considered given, but with a closer look you realize it isn’t. Something which you possess and you don’t want to lose. Or something bad which you managed to avoid. Even something bad which actually happened but without affecting you. Or even something bad which simply never happened!

Write just a few words expressing your gratitude about this!

Drop all your notes into your gratitude jar. In some time you will have a jar full with plenty of reasons to be grateful for what life has given you so far.

Gratitude’s effect on your brain

According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the structure of the brain. Recently, fMRI has been used to study gratitude. The brain activity of participants was measured when experiencing different emotions, and found that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and activates the brain’s reward pathways. In short, just like anti-depressant drugs, gratitude provides your brain with precious neurotransmitters like Serotonin (the happiness and satisfaction hormone) and Dopamine (the pleasure and motivation hormone).

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life quality

Improve your Life Quality starting with the Cantril Ladder tool!

Improve your Life Quality starting with the Cantril Ladder tool!16141125Manolis Stratakis

Cantril Ladder

A first step towards improving drastically your life quality

The quality of our life and therefore our happiness level, can actually be measured! One simple and easy way for this is using the Cantril Ladder.

Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder do you feel you stand right now? Check the respective colored disk on the left column on the diagram (Present).

It is important to understand that our life is dynamic, it is always changing. It may change faster or slower, but it is changing. The question is: which direction will it take next? Will it change to better or to worse? Here, our active commitment comes into play!

Believing in change is the first prerequisite to trigger the actual change. The second is setting up a goal. A right goal should be specific, meaningful and feasible.

So, let’s try to place a realistic life-changing goal for the near future.

Exercise

On which step do you want to stand in five years from now? (Please take into account how feasible is your choice). Check the respective colored disk on the right column on the diagram (In 5 years).

Congratulations! You have just made a good step towards realizing you present situation and set up a realistic goal for improving it. Just by placing your goal in the radar, you increase the odds for achieving it. Now, hold on to your seat while you are getting there!

Also, check out the article: Wheel of Life: The big picture of your life

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The characteristics for each group (as set by the Gallup Organization, with some modifications by us) are described below:

Thriving (9-6) — wellbeing that is strong, consistent, and progressing. Respondents have positive views of their present life situation and have positive views of the next five years. They report significantly fewer health problems, fewer sick days, less worry, stress, sadness, anger, and more happiness, enjoyment, interest, and respect.

Struggling (5-3) — wellbeing that is moderate or inconsistent. These respondents have moderate views of their present life situation OR moderate OR negative views of their future. They are either struggling in the present, or expect to struggle in the future. Usually, they report more daily stress and worry about money than the “thriving” respondents, and more than double the amount of sick days. Also, they are more likely to smoke, and are less likely to eat healthy.

Suffering (2-0) — wellbeing that is at high risk. These respondents have poor ratings of their current life situation AND negative views of the next five years. They are more likely to report lacking the basics of food and shelter, more likely to have physical pain, a lot of stress, worry, sadness, and anger. They have less access to health insurance and care, and more than double the disease burden, in comparison to “thriving” respondents.

These characteristics are only useful to give you an idea and help you see if you have made a good guess. Sharpening our awareness is critical in understanding where we stand and where we want to go!

 

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