‘Coaching is a therapeutic relationship with somebody who challenges you, who supports you, who believes in you more than you believe in yourself,’ says Kim Morgan, CEO of Barefoot Coaching.
Kim is an ICF master certified coach, a visiting research fellow in coaching at the University of Chester and a best-selling author of some of the most popular life coaching books in the UK today.
Full disclosure, I’ve known Kim Morgan for over ten years, and I’m a superfan. I will always go to her for advice when I’m struggling and when I’ve got a life dilemma, I always ask myself: ‘What would Kim do?’
She’s the original Yoda of the coaching world (she’s been training coaches for over 20 years), so I’m delighted to be talking to her about how to be happier.
What’s the secret to being happier?
Start by defining what does make you happy. I invite you to try the ‘pick your peak experience’ exercise. Think back to a peak experience, then write or talk about when you felt really fulfilled and happy. It doesn’t have to be a big moment, just describe a small moment you felt happy. I give the example of when I did the London to Brighton bike ride with all my Essex girlfriends. We were really useless cyclists, and it took us forever. I think we’re the last ones to get to Brighton. But people fed us cake along the way, we ate fish and chips when we got to Brighton, and had a glass of wine on the beach. We went home tired but happy. If you deconstruct all of the elements of that experience – there’s female friendship, achieving something but not taking myself too seriously, cake and wine! So, name a few peak experiences and see if you can see which elements make you happy.
How can coaching make us happier?
A coach’s currency is great questions which invite you to find your own answers. It’s not telling. It’s not consulting. It’s not even mentoring. It’s like having a self-help book come to life and you get a live experience of encouragement and appreciation. A coach will challenge you to find ways to be happier. Coaches offer support and powerful questions to help you rethink yourself and step out of your comfort zone.
Think back to a peak experience, then write or talk about when you felt really fulfilled and happy.
Many of us can get very comfortable in our comfort zone – how do you make the leap?
Ask yourself this question: imagine you in five years, and you are in exactly the same place that you’re in today. How would that feel for you? If the thought horrifies you, think about where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. Visualise and try it on for size, and then look back at the self you are today and give yourself some advice. And then think about what the first step you need to take are.
What are the most powerful questions you can ask on a daily basis?
When you’re trying to make a decision, ask yourself: ‘By saying yes, what are you saying no to?’ And then also ask: ‘By saying no to this, what are you saying yes to?’
Another great question would be: ‘What would you tell somebody else to do if you saw them in this situation?’ Other spins on that would be: ‘What would someone who really loves you and appreciated you say to you in this situation? What support do you need and where do you get it from? What could stand in your way as you move towards your new goal? And what can you put in place to prevent that?’
Imagine you in five years, and you are in exactly the same place that you’re in today. How would that feel for you?
Often the behaviours we have in adulthood are built on the foundation of childhood beliefs. When those beliefs are negative, they can scupper us. Can we change limiting childhood beliefs?
Yes, it’s possible. I’ve got evidence of watching thousands of people change their childhood beliefs. And the good news is, we rarely develop such powerfully limiting beliefs when we’re adults, because by the time we’re adults, we bring all our experiences and wisdom to them.
But how do we change our childhood beliefs? First, we have to identify those beliefs that are holding us back. And we do it in in a number of ways. We can ask questions like: ‘What are you assuming that’s keeping you in this place? What are your underpinning assumptions that you’re holding on to?’
Often it helps to understand how beliefs are formed. Beliefs are formed when someone who you perceive as an authority figure says something to you when you are in a state of high emotion. They can say it in one defining moment, or they can say over time repetitiously. For example, someone might say to you that your sister is the clever one, and you’re the sporty one.
Once you’ve identified your beliefs, write them down on post it notes and stick them all over the wall. Ask: ‘Would you say these things to your children? Who said this about you?’
Take each one in turn and ask: ‘Is it true? Is it true that you’re the sporty one and you’re not clever?’ Just start questioning those beliefs and then find new beliefs that are true about yourself as an adult. ‘I’m probably cleverer than my sister in some ways, I have my own unique type of intelligence.’ Try different beliefs on for size, say it out loud. I encourage you to just keep your new beliefs front of mind, and find evidence then, to support the new belief. Then do some kind of a ceremonial ripping up of the old beliefs written on your post it notes – it’s very therapeutic.
What are the best self-development tools to make you happy?
Building better boundaries. Often that links back to childhood like most things do. My parents said to me, you have to be nice to everyone and you have to put everyone else first, but they didn’t mean it as literally as I took it. That worked to my detriment for decades. If you have no boundaries between yourself and the other because you’re only okay if other people are okay, you can only be happy if the other person is happy so you’re never going to be happy.
Work on your boundaries by finishing these sentences: ‘I no longer allow…’, ‘I need X for myself…’ Being overly compliant leads to unhappiness.
What are the biggest blocks to happiness?
Having an unrealistic, fairy tale expectation of life can cause great suffering. You need to be able to accept that life is full of joy, happiness, as well as sadness and challenges.
Coaching helps people have a more objective view of life. It’s acknowledging the losses along with the happy moments. Being able to acknowledge both is a very healthy path to happiness. It’s not about idealising the good or demonising the bad, but seeing it all as a whole and acknowledging your feelings about both together.
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