Over the summer, while I was away from my teaching environment I threw down a personal, or rather, professional challenge to myself. I decided that I wanted to re-ignite my coaching passion. Like most people, I run the risk of saying the same thing to my clients because it is comfortable and familiar. I risk falling into a rut though and I think it was a very good challenge to myself because it really freshened me up when I finally did return after nearly 3 months of not teaching.
First of all, I want to make it clear that doing what is comfortable and familiar to you is not a bad thing. It is nice to have a repitoire to draw from, especially on days when it feels a little harder to tap creativity and inspiration. So don't misunderstand and think that I'm asking you to scrap what you have and what you do. I'm just throwing down the challenge to reinvigorate your engagement with your clients, spice up your word choice, savor some silence and wring out some possibly stale tidbits in your coaching.
I did my challenge in several ways. Some involved internet surfing, and some involved taking on a new activity: running. I also talked to others about how they conjure up motivational imagery and I'll suggest all three ways here.
First - internet surfing. This was harder than I thought it would be. I googled things like "motivational coaching" and often pulled up ways to push CEOs in the business world. I searched for Sports coaching and that seemed so technical on watching for signs of fatigue and psychological shifts in elite athletes.
What words would you use to search for ways to elicit committment from your participants? If you find a great site - by all means - share it here in a response.
As far as talking to others about it - I had to get away from my own Spinning® participants because they were contaminated and misunderstood what I was asking. I didn't want their praise of what I do, I was asking them what inspires them to dial down their personal/psychological resistance to having a great training session and dial up their participatory effort - whatever that looks like in the moment: it is hard to describe "full participation" in endurance...when a heart-stopping all out sprint seems to be what full participation looks like.
The best thing was for me to take on a new activity - and in particular I took on running which is exceptionally challenging for me. My rationale behind the decision to take up running was two-fold. For three months I had no access to Spinning® or a bike, and I wanted it to be something I have felt for a very long time was out of my reach. This put me in the mindset of new exercisers.
(and I am suggesting this now because you are about to be hit at your gym, as you are every single year, with new exercisers who may feel that joining your classes is simply beyond them.)
While I was running - it took me literally from doing about ten minutes of run/walks to being able to do a smooth 10k - I went through the range of emotions that I think are not only common for people who are facing a new challenge but pretty necessary.
It includes self doubt, fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of others' judgement and lack of support. It also includes moments of exhilleration for tiny little milestones of progress and big moments of disappointment when my effort was shrouded in my personal perception of a shortcoming.
From being in tune with this range of emotion, range of success/failure, range of mental feedback I was able to keep track of words that were meaningful to me, like "C'mon Cori...what's holding you back today?" and "bringing a smile across my face seemed to lift my spirits when running felt really hard." I also turned to my friends who are better than me at running (which is probably most every one I know!) and their passion, peppered with their experience and memories of moving through the process of going from non-runner to runner really helped. More than just asking coaches would have. It was real - not phoney, rehearsed and tired words.
All of this lead to my authenticity when I got on my lead bike again after the long break. It was such a valuable experience for me that I wanted to share it with you.
Are you aware of your cache of motivational coaching words? Do you want to reinvigorate your coaching? What are you willing to do for it? Of course I recognize that you get paid by the class and that doing this would be so much more practical if you were paid to do it. But honestly it has been a priceless experience for me.
It doesn't have to be running or anything in the fitness arena, I would argue. If you take up violin, or go back to school or learn to fly an airplane, you will go through a similar process of what your new clients will face in the new year, when they stop pressing their noses against the gym window, fogging it up, and actually walk through the doors. Your empathy will go a long way in reaching them, motivating them, inspiring them and re-booting your creative engine.