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Super Charge Your Well-Being: Learn How to Be Coachable

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Coachability is a key to elite performance in any area of life. How coachable are you? How can you be optimally coachable so that you are ready to improve any area of your life?

People who are most successful at enhancing and protecting their well-being have acquired much knowledge, from many sources, on several subjects. As is the case with any field, to super-charge performance, people have to be willing to learn; to be coachable.

Optimally coachable people are those who genuinely want to improve, and believe that they can learn from nearly everyone, from nearly every circumstance. They are prepared to look at any aspect of their lives if there is a possibility for improvement there.

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In my experience, those who are most coachable are those who need coaching the least. They are already good or excellent at what they do. If you look at any aspect of their lives, it is usually way above average. Whatever hobbies they have, they are among the top performers. Whichever area of life they find interesting, they know more about than all but the professionals.

Their health is good or better. Why? Because for a long time, they have been motivated to improve, and willing to learn, and keep looking for ways to excel. There is a self-fulfilling cycle at work; they are high performers in nearly every area of their lives because they have been willing to learn and self-regulate and have developed several self-regulation habits.

Those habits become so ingrained in those who look after their well-being that they seem part of the person’s identity. Others observe and erroneously ascribe the supercharged well-being to luck.

Self-regulation is, in its early stages, before it becomes a habit, a series of conscientious and deliberate steps. The precise order of the steps matters less than the fact that the steps are taken.

Steps in self-regulation

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-monitoring, self-appraisal
  3. Self-goal setting
  4. Self-planning (including choice of method)
  5. Self-education
  6. Self-directed behaviour
  7. Self-encouragement, self-motivation
  8. Self-feedback control
  9. Loop to stage 1

To elaborate, using a different order from above (to demonstrate that the order can be changed as long as the steps are followed), here is a worked example:

A person sets themselves a goal, to maintain their health. They seek to assess their current health behaviours, (internal and external), and realise that they don’t know enough to self-assess. So, they plan to acquire more knowledge. They set themselves a knowledge acquisition goal, direct their own behaviour to achieve that goal, and intermittently self-monitor using whatever feedback loops seem most appropriate. From time to time they motivate themselves by focusing on what the goal will bring them if they achieve it, and what it will cost if they don’t.

Once they have enough knowledge, they can move on to planning how to improve and maintain their health, and the self-regulation process continues.

In several decades of coaching leaders, I have observed that the highest performers in any field have the most advanced levels of self-regulation, and central to that is their coachability: their willingness to learn from others.

At the other end of the scale, are the ‘uncoachables.’ Typically, their self-regulation skills are underdeveloped, or absent.

Most of us want to feel good. People whose self-regulation skills are underdeveloped, only look for ways to feel good in the short term. When they act on those all too human impulses in the absence of self-regulation, they can, and regularly do, destroy their well-being in the medium and long term.

Almost everyone knows at least one person who has destroyed their health, or ended their life, with dangerous drugs, smoking, or alcohol. Almost all people who have health self-sabotaged had been informed about the risks and the certainty of health damage from their behaviour. They are among the least responsive to any kind of coaching.

People who are coachable are willing to learn from the mistakes of others. As a psychology student, I remember working in the psychiatric wards and seeing people around the same age as I, whose mental health had been destroyed by drugs or alcohol, or both

Some people are so keen to learn that they are very difficult to coach. As unlikely as that seems, it is real. The problem for such people is that their motivation to learn is not matched by their desire to apply; to implement what they have learned. They are the self-improvement junkies who go from book to book, from seminar to seminar, and rarely if ever implement what they have learned.

People who are optimally coachable apply their knowledge; they turn observation into reality and theory into practice.

Another category of near uncoachables is those who are so expert that they think no one can help them to improve. This group is particularly sad, since they are, typically, just one mindset change away from being world-class.

Yet, their arrogance denies them access to the techniques that would enable that step forward. Many, if not most of the best sports coaches in history were mediocre performers in their sport.

They were among those who knew what to do to improve but simply didn’t have the genetic material to do so. Indeed, that frustration with their own limitations gives them a better appreciation of those who do have the genetic potential.

Most of the people I have coached are already brilliant at what they do, and know that they can always improve; another ¼% here and ½% there can and does translate to huge differences in the commercial world. The difference between the company that gets all the business and the ones who get none, can be just fractions of 1%.

The difference between sports winners and the huge numbers of ‘also rans’ is usually less than 1%. People who super-charge their performance in any field know that the big difference in outcomes is in the small margins; the tiny incremental improvements. That is the case in well-being, too. Just one slice of bread per day makes the difference between super-fit and morbidly obese in only a few years.

People who are stuck in their comfort zone are difficult to coach. They have worked hard to get where they are. They can perform their role half asleep; theirs is a stress-free, easy existence. They know that there is no comfort in the growth zone, and have lost sight of the fact that there is no growth in the comfort zone. Being optimally coachable means being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The most coachable people I have worked with are most content when they are on a steep learning curve. They feel as though they are letting themselves down if they are not learning, improving, or challenging their current level of competence. They apply that to every area of their lives: from their career to their health, physical and emotional, and they reap great benefits.

People who regulate their emotions well, for instance, are less likely to experience anxiety or depression (or other mental health problems) and are among the mentally fittest people in the population. As an aside, it may be that the primary cause of most mental unwellness is as simple as a skills deficit: the lack of self-regulation skills, specifically of thought and emotion.

The dual supercharge button for well-being seems to be coachability and self-regulation. What could you learn to improve your well-being? Which aspect of self-regulation could you improve to boost your overall health?

Professor Nigel MacLennan runs the performance coaching practice PsyPerform.


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