Posts Tagged ‘brain-based coaching’

The Myth of One-and-Done

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

“I tried networking once. It didn’t work.” These are the words of a job seeker who was convinced that all the hype about networking was underrated. He tried it. Once. And it didn’t work. And so he was right. Right?

Wrong! The truth is, there’s not much in this world that is a “one-and-done.” Here’s why: we rarely learn a new behavior or habit in one try.

o   Kids don’t get on a bicycle and nail it on the first try.
o   Students don’t learn a new language in one sitting.
o   Even the most gifted artist can’t master a new technique in one attempt.

Likewise …

o   A job seeker cannot master networking in one try…
o   A coach doesn’t perfect the art of powerful questions in one session…
o   An entrepreneur won’t get the many nuances of closing a sale in one attempt.


Why not? In a word: WIRING.  Neural wiring, that is. Our brains need repetition to get it right.

brain wiring 2When my daughter was young and taking roller-skating lessons (the kind where she learned to do fancy jumps and flips like the ice-skaters do), her coach would make her do certain moves over and over and over again. He would drive her crazy with his line, “Just one more time.” As soon as she did it, he’d give her feedback, and then repeat his request, “Just one more time.”

Of course, no kid wants to know ahead of time that she’s going to have to do 27 toe loops or Salchows in one lesson, so perhaps his “just-one-more-time” mantra was wise. Regardless, this coach knew that it would take repetition to get the “muscle memory”—the wiring—needed to master those jumps.


Your New Thing

next best thingWhat’s the new thing you are learning, or the not-so-new thing you want to take to the next level of mastery? If you’re coaching others, what’s the new thing they are learning, or that they want to take to the next level?

Write it down. Maybe it’s getting in shape, maybe it’s learning a new specialty area, maybe it’s acting more confident. Whatever it is, write it down using a pen or pencil. Find a Google image that represents the new thing. Express it with your body. All of these things add to the neural wiring.

Now, here’s an idea for strengthening neural wiring, a la the acronym “W.I.R.I.N.G.” which stands for:

Want It, Repeat It, and eNjoy the Gains

Here’s how it works:

  • Want It: We must want/desire the behavior or the outcome of the behavior in order to stretch ourselves to do something new, different, or better. There must be meaning behind it. If not, the brain won’t make sense of things, and our brains are loathe to do things that don’t make sense.So name your “want it”—why will this be meaningful to you?
  • Repeat It: Repetition is king in creating new wiring. Giving focused attention to the behavior, over a period of time, with intention and repetition is critical. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a psychiatrist, researcher in neuroplasticity, and internationally recognized expert in obsessive-compulsive disorder notes that “focused attention wires the brain, for good or for bad.”List your “repeat it”—how will you start small? How will you practice? How will you repeat it? How will you sustain it? Who will help you be accountable? (Social activity adds to the neural wiring.)
  • eNjoy the Gains: Rewards help rewiring. Give yourself positive feedback to encourage your brain to keep with it. The reward might be a treat you give yourself, or a compliment that someone else gives you, or a sense of accomplishment from having done what’s meaningful.How will you reward yourself? Is it tangible? Intangible? How will you celebrate?

Warning: when you get in the rhythm of “wanting it” and “repeating it,” you’ll begin to feel and think differently on the inside, even if your new behavior isn’t fully observable on the outside. Don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking, ‘this isn’t really working.’ It is! The fact that you feel different inside is evidence of that new wiring starting to form.

Join me in dispelling the myth of one-and-done. The reality of often-and-accomplished is more accurate, and brings lasting gain!


Mirror Neurons, Monkeys & Modeling in Coaching

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

monkey see monkey doIn the past 20 years, scientists have uncovered that there is a neurological reason behind the old saying “monkey see, monkey do.” Mirror neurons were discovered in the early 1990s in a primate lab in Italy. A scientist returning from lunch one day entered the lab eating an ice cream cone prior to resuming his experiments. One particular monkey in the lab had sensors attached to regions of its brain that were involved in planning and carrying out movement.

Any time neurons fired in those regions, the attachments sent a signal to a machine measuring the activity. When the monkey saw the researcher move his hand to his mouth to eat his ice cream cone, neurons fired, the machine signaled activity, and yet the monkey had not carried out any movement.

The scientists later discovered that the simple act of watching a movement stimulated the same neurons that had previously fired when the monkey itself had moved his hand to his mouth to eat a peanut or banana.

Scientists now understand that mirror neurons are essential to learning. UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield notes, “we see that mirror neurons absorb culture directly, with each generation teaching the next by social sharing, imitation and observation.”

mirror neuronsSo how do mirror neurons relate to coaching? Clients observe and imitate. If we act with optimism, clients will be more likely to act with optimism. If we approach challenges as an overcomer, they will be more likely to do so. If we are tense, clients will be tense. If we are calm, clients will be calm. Clients can observe, imitate, and learn how to approach their challenges by watching us!

With this in view, what if we believed, felt, and acted in the following way:

“My role as a coach is to facilitate hope, options, choice, and meaningful action. My default mode, which is pervasive and contagious, reflects possibility and potential, optimism and overcoming, broadening and building, confidence and certainty, finding a way and moving forward, trusting that there will be solutions even if they are not readily apparent.”

What are the far-reaching ramifications as you hold out and act on these beliefs today?!


A Brain-Based Look at Why We Get Stalled and What To Do About It

By Susan Whitcomb | No Comments »

A Brain-Based Look at Why We Get Stalled and What To Do About It

Recently, I’ve been knee deep in developing curriculum for a new brain-based coaching certification.  What at first seemed an overwhelming task is taking shape, but I’ll readily admit that there were (far too many) times when I just sat staring at my computer without getting anything done or procrastinating with low-priority tasks such as email and laundry.

I’ve gone from “Where in the world do I begin” to “What’s most important to teach?” to “What material do I keep/let go of?” to “What order do I put this in to make this flow” to “How do I get this particular concept across more clearly” and more.

As the process unfolded, the obvious dawned on me: our clients get stalled for similar reasons. They often:

  • Don’t know where to startshutterstock_150935408
  • Don’t know what they want
  • Are missing a piece of the puzzle, an answer, a resource
  • Have competing priorities and time management challenges
  • And more

Underlying all of these “stalls,” I discovered, is an interesting brain phenomenon. It’s what I call the “No Map Syndrome.” The No Map Syndrome looks something like this:

Here’s what happens during each phase:


  • Lack: We tell ourselves, “I don’t have …” (e.g., the right answer, the right system, the right resource, enough wisdom, enough time, etc.). In essence, “I don’t have a map that tells me how to fix this lack.”
  • Uncertainty: The lack leads to uncertainty. There are no maps yet wired in the brain that tell us how to fix the uncertainty.
  • Fight-Flight-Freeze: Uncertainty triggers a subtle threat in the brain that draws resources away from the prefrontal cortex (the place where we can think rationally, clearly, creatively). This is similar to what Daniel Goleman refers to as an “amygdala hijack.”

The next time you or a client experience the No Map Syndrome, consider these steps:


  • Acknowledge the Situation: Simply say to yourself, “I’m noticing that I don’t have an answer for how to …” (e.g., for clients it might be, reach out to this networking contact, explain why I was let go, find enough time to practice for my interview, etc.) Here, your language shifts from “lack” to “situation.”
  • Notice your response to the Situation: “Hmm. I notice that this situation triggers a desire for me to move away from my computer and watch television.” Notice the response without making any judgments. Stay neutral.
  • Allow Insight: Because you have acknowledged the situation and noticed your response, your brain has now shifted into operating in the prefrontal cortex. This gives it additional time to figure out what to do next. Insights often come at this moment. Engaging in movement can also help, as it oxygenates the brain.

We’ll be covering these types of brain-based coaching techniques in the NEW Certified Brain-Based Success Coach program soon!  You can learn more here.


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