NOTE: I did my coach training through the Coaches Training Institue in 2001, and have been on the faculty since 2009, so this is, of course, the model of coaching I know best. However, I know that all good coaching schools help clients discover their values and lead more fulfilling lives, so even though I will explore what we call at CTI “Fulfillment Coaching” through a CTI lens, I know from working with many other coaches from different coaching schools that these principles have tremendous overlap. Would love to hear from all coaches how this resonates!
“The client’s definition of fulfillment is always intensely personal. It may include…outward measures of success (but) eventually the coaching will progress to a deeper definition of fulfillment…. At its deepest level, fulfillment is about finding and experiencing a life of purpose. It is about reaching one’s full potential.”
Fulfillment Coaching and The Brain
One of the first things new CTI coaches learn is how to identify and work with core values, in order to help clients find greater fulfillment in various areas of their life. We are taught to begin coaching relationships by spending focused time helping our client explore what is important to them, their values. At the end of an initial session, the typical client ends up with 7-10 powerful “values strings” (a group of words that fully expresses a particular value) which paint a portrait of who they are as a person.
There are a number of reasons that the process of reflecting on personal values is important to human satisfaction and development. To begin with, there is evidence that “Reflecting on personal values provides biological and psychological protection from the adverse effects of stress.” In 2005 study by scientists at UCLA, individuals were subjected to a stress challenge in a laboratory setting. Those who were also given the task of not only identifying their values but reflecting on them as well showed significantly lower cortisol levels (the body releases glucocorticoids, including cortisol, as a response to stress) in their saliva, in contrast with a control group subjected to the same stress test but not asked to reflect on their values. Thus, working deeply on personal fulfillment with a coach not only provides a way to focus one’s actions in the future, it can also be seen as a tool for dealing with any stress to come (although based on this research it might be important for coaches to train their clients to reflect on their values regularly and even in the middle of a stressful incident).
Another aspect of values work with a coach from a neuroscience perspective is that it helps the client reflect in a powerful and effective way. According to David Rock and Linda Paige, in their book Coaching with the Brain in Mind, “the potentiation of a new brain requires a self-reflective mind.” Thus, to help a client re-wire their brain for a calmer, more emotionally intelligent outlook, it is critical the coach provide a structured and supported action-reflection process.
The importance of reflection in learning and change has been well-researched over the years. For example, over 20 years ago David Kolb presented a powerful model of the experiential learning cycle (action-reflection-learning-action based on new learning) that is widely used to this day. In 2002, James Zull brought the theory up to date by showing the biology behind it, and proving that this action-reflection cycle “creat(es) conditions that lead to change in a learner’s brain.” (See related post on Forward the Action, Deepen the Learning.)
Additionally, in Fulfillment training, CTI coaches learn how to use values and life purpose exploration to help their client create a compelling vision for their future, which also contributes to a reduction of stress. Robert Epstein’s recent study on stress management explored four areas of personal competence that lead to a less stressful life. He found, counter to his own prediction, that “prevention is by far the most helpful competency when it comes to managing stress.” And part of prevention as he sees it is having “a clear sense of how…life should proceed over the next few years.”
In summary, the CTI principle of Fulfillment through reflection on meaningful values and creation of a compelling life vision proves buffer against stress and provides an avenue for self-awareness and learning. These aspects are critical for leaders in today’s world, who are faced with daily stressful situations and need to be aware of their own motivations so they can transcend old patterns and lead their teams with positivity and passion.