Deciphering each unique participant.
Understanding how to coach in that moment.
Sometimes, I’d love to think I’m a know-it-all after decades in the fitness and wellness fields. The truth is, each participant in our wellness program is extraordinarily unique. They each have a set of values, experiences, a personal background and educational history. Each one has experienced different things when it comes to managing life and their health. So, though coaching guidelines exist and we follow them, there really are no black and white rules that will be equally effective to all. Furthermore, we each have seasons of life that can affect our capacity to make healthy changes for an improved lifestyle. These need to be taken into account.
Most people can identify the changes necessary for well-being as large chunky areas, like “eat better,” “lose weight,” “exercise more,” or “quit tobacco.” And that is true, at a very coarse level. But why do individuals bring these large, ambiguous desired goals to a health coach? Why do so many people struggle with these goals for years or decades? In most cases (and our clients are smart, accomplished, and skilled/educated, mind you!), there are underlying reasons he or she hasn’t been able to achieve them alone. And too few professionals are scoped in practice to guide them through eliminating these underlying reasons. What are the reasons? Well, they can include taking responsibility for their own health status (rather than just hearing what others have to say and taking their word for it), increasing their readiness to make even small changes, setting realistic goals (in terms of behaviors, not results), modifying their environment, and gaining social support (especially from those who are role models of effective health behaviors).
Our 20/20 coaching method hones in on the underlying reasons a participant may be struggling to succeed in health behavior change.
There are many relevant theories from the fields of psychology and sociology that bear on a person’s behavioral patterns. I plan to write about them one at a time in future posts. But for today, as my first post on this topic, I’d like to talk briefly about the role of stress. It is the most recognized determinant of behavior among Lean and Green participants trying to make healthy changes. It is also one that has a tremendous effect on self control.
Picture an interaction where a participant is dealing with a large workload at work and home, barely able to make time for the wellness consultation. Pointing out to them that they really need to eat more green, leafy vegetables is pretty off-point. It may be true(!) and can be on the list of possible new habits, but it may not be what the participant can attend to in that moment. Giving him or her the opportunity to talk about the stressful schedule may yield more benefit than flying the green leafy banner. Why? It is much more difficult to change any habit while under stress. And it can be stressful to have a gap between their health goals and current status. I’m sure you can see the vicious cycle. But it can be broken by developing habits that require less self control and recognizing the role of life’s stressors on their achievement.
Stress is a most recognized determinant of health behaviors among Lean and Green participants.
There you have part of our solution to your participants’ behavior change challenges. We, as health coaches, must learn what a participant brings to each interaction to optimize their success within their one-on-one time. As your partner in caring for the participants under your umbrella, we will keep you generally apprised of how things are going in your group. Though we do not share personal information about individuals, we often see themes and patterns in a group that can provide feedback for you as leaders to add to your own” 20/20 vision!”