Read an Excerpt
The Power of Self-CoachingThe Five Essential Steps to Creating the Life You Want
By Joseph J. Luciani
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-46360-4
Chapter OneSelf-Coaching: Get the Power
Barbara, a fifty-two-year-old insurance salesperson, had been struggling with apathy for years in her marriage, in her lackluster career, and in her life. Like those of many people, Barbara's problems weren't serious or debilitating enough for her to seek therapy. After all, she had always managed to get by-one way or another. She was a woman who had long ago conceded to a life of self-deprecation, doubt, and hesitation. Why? No reason-well, at least no rational, here-and-now reason. It had simply become her habit. It was only because of her frustrated husband's instigation that Barbara-with her typical ho-hum, detached attitude-agreed to talk with me. After a few months of Self-Coaching using the techniques outlined in my previous book, Self-Coaching: How to Heal Anxiety and Depression, Barbara had an epiphany:
Funny how you come to accept a view of yourself-even if that view is distorted! For most of my adult life it's as if I've been building a case against myself. Looking for reasons to say "I'm not okay!" Perhaps the biggest lesson I've learned these past few months is that I have a choice. For years I've been choosing-without really thinking about it-to accept a decrepit view of myself! Can it really be true that now I can simply choose to"not choose" negativity? The truth-once you see it-seems so simple, so obvious, yet for most of my adult life it's been eluding me. Then again, I haven't been looking that hard.
I'm not exactly sure what triggered my complete turnaround, but it happened, and I'm feeling intoxicated! It's as if everything became clear all at once. My life is changing before my eyes, almost as though all I've had to do is set the course and turn the switch. How can it be so easy? How could I have missed seeing it all these years?
Now that I'm finally beginning to see myself clearly, I need to ask: What's my first step toward satisfaction? I need to determine what I want or need. I realize that what I want or need may not exactly be what Tom wants or needs, so we must continue to talk and somehow mesh our goals. I hope our compromise will give both of us a sense of satisfaction. The very act of trying to work it out is a positive move, but really only one step in the right direction. Tom is thrilled that I'm not the way I was, that I am trying. Thinking about how I was (thoughtless, impetuous, anxious, depressed) is sobering. For now I'll be on my guard against careless actions, lazy patterns, thoughtless remarks and responses. But I must say, with my new attitude, nothing seems impossible any longer.
Stripes to Spots
You've heard it said that humans are creatures of habit. If you're anything like Barbara, you've probably never given this notion much thought, especially if you've been trying to figure out why your life seems to be wasting away, forever stuck in second gear or, worse, in reverse. Whereas other people seem so much more successful and downright blessed, you keep plodding along wondering when-or if-your time will ever come. Perhaps you have a dead-end job or a seemingly unending string of bad luck, or one personal rejection after another. Many people I've worked with come to me suspecting an assortment of reasons for their unhappy lives, but rarely-if ever-do they suspect the culprit to be nothing more than bad habits. Convinced instead that fate has been conspiring against them, many feel victimized by life, looking to be rescued from their own powerlessness and despair.
In twenty-five years of private practice you learn many things about human nature. You'd probably be surprised if I told you that many people who come into therapy aren't actually looking to change. It's true. What they really want is to become better neurotics! The perfectionist, for example, wants to become more perfect without feeling that nagging, uncomfortable anxiety all the time. The worrywart simply wants a lifetime guarantee to eliminate all those nasty surprises. And the compulsive workaholic isn't looking to slow down, just to get a good night's sleep once in a while.
How many times have you said, "I really have to change," only to go on and on with your incessant rituals? A big part of why you struggle is because you've become attached to your problems-your insecurity is the tar and your bad habits the feathers. And as uncomfortable and difficult as these habits may be, you're so identified with them that you'll actually argue with anyone who suggests that you try to change them. "But, Doctor, you don't understand, I've been a nervous wreck all my life. How do you expect me to relax?" Or, "There are people who live charmed lives and then there are people like me. Everything I touch turns sour. It's just the way it is."
If you're like most people, you probably feel that leopards can't change their spots. For leopards this may be true, but for you it's dead wrong. If you've been limited by your "spots," whatever they may be-lethargy, anxiety, self-doubt, fear, panic, depression, apathy, or even bad luck-then you need to be convinced that the power for change, real change, is a choice that Self-Coaching can teach you to make.
Self-Coaching Reflection An ineffective, unhappy life is learned.
The fact that they weren't born ineffective, unhappy, frustrated, or insecure seems to elude many people. Regardless of what you may think, a life of struggle consists of learned patterns of perception and reacting. And if all your problems are, in fact, learned, then the good news is that whatever trips you up can be unlearned. In the chapters that follow you'll learn that the quest for control is the motor behind your unhappiness. But more important, you'll learn one of life's best-kept secrets: controlling life is a myth! Life simply cannot be controlled.
For now I have only one question for you: why do you go on struggling with your life if you're unhappy? Maybe it never occurred to you that you don't have to struggle, especially if you've become identified with your problems. You might, for example, throw up your hands and admit, "Yes, I'm lazy, it's my nature." In this case you're admitting that there's no difference between you and your laziness. Another reason may be that you've become a slave to the faulty perception that more control is the answer to your problems. "I can't let anyone see me without my makeup. What will they think?" Whatever the reason for your struggling, stumbling life, why not change? You can, and Self-Coaching can teach you how-not by trying to control your problems, but by living without them.
Before going farther, let's start off with a simple self-quiz to determine the quality of your life. After learning to incorporate the power of Self-Coaching into your life, you may want to retake this quiz to prove just how much you've changed. Then again, you may not want to bother-since you'll already know how much happier your life has become. You'll have the power.
Quality of Life Self-Quiz
Please read the following questions carefully, but don't overthink your responses. Circle your responses as being either mostly true or mostly false as they generally pertain to your life. Answer each question even if you're not completely sure. Scoring is at the end of the test.
T F I'm not a very positive person.
T F I usually wake up with a sense of dread about beginning my day.
T F I seem to have many regrets.
T F I'm often jealous of other people.
T F I hate my job.
T F I'm not as happy as other people.
T F I have many fears.
T F I'm often moody and/or depressed.
T F I worry/ruminate a lot.
T F I seem to have bad luck.
T F I often have thoughts that begin with "If only ..."
T F I'm insecure.
T F I'm often too negative.
T F I've had one or more panic attacks in the past six months.
T F I usually don't feel that I'm as good as other people.
T F Life is a constant struggle.
T F Something always goes wrong.
T F I have many self-doubts.
T F I'm a great procrastinator.
T F I'd much rather be safe than sorry.
T F I waste too much time.
T F I often find myself "what-iffing."
T F I'm often anxious or tense.
T F In relationships I often feel competitive.
T F I suffer from unexplained physical difficulties.
T F I often have nightmares.
T F I've been treated for anxiety or depression.
T F I always expect the worst.
T F I don't have many interests or hobbies.
T F I get bored too easily.
T F I spend too much.
T F I'm not a good listener.
T F I have no willpower.
T F I'm lazy.
T F I'm always tired.
T F I have a hard time saying no to others.
T F I watch too much TV.
T F I don't sleep well.
T F I fear getting older.
T F I often hold grudges.
T F My looks are too important to me.
T F I have trouble falling asleep.
T F I'm stingy.
T F I often drink too much.
T F I don't adjust well to changes.
T F I can't stay focused at work.
T F I'm not very efficient.
T F I always find fault in others.
T F I'm always feeling rushed; there's never enough time.
T F I don't consider myself an emotionally strong person.
Total your "true" responses. A score of 14 or fewer suggests that you have a satisfactory quality of life. Self-Coaching can teach you to cultivate an even deeper awareness, spontaneity, and enjoyment of life.
A score of 15 to 30 suggests that the quality of your life is significantly restricted. For you, it's safe to assume that Self-Coaching will make a significant difference in your overall happiness.
A score of 31 or more suggests that the quality of your life is substantially compromised. Self-Coaching can make a profound difference in the quality of your life.
It's time to stop making yourself miserable and start learning how to jump-start your life. You hold in your hands a powerful and unique program that works. For years I've been incorporating my Self-Coaching technique in my practice as well as assisting readers from all over the world. The results confirm, over and over again, that success and personal happiness-on the job, in relationships, or in your own mind-is a choice you can learn to make. Sounds kind of simple, huh? With the right understanding and uncomplicated coaching program to implement it, it is.
Self-Coaching is going to connect you with your inner power to no longer feel victimized by circumstances, self-doubts, or even bad luck. You can choose to create the life you want by training yourself to be a complete and successful person. And make no mistake, the power that can transform your life isn't something you have to develop or create-all you need do is unleash it! It's always been a part of you, hidden by insecurity, waiting for you to turn it loose.
How do you turn your power loose? Simple: remove the obstacles of self-doubt and insecurity that are blocking it. If you do this, your power will find you. It's up to you. If you already possess the power, why not use it? The only thing you have to lose is your misery.
Self-Coaching Reflection Who you are, what you are, and where your life is going are all choices.
This notion that you have the power to choose the life you want may take some getting used to. I'd like to take the concept of choice a step further. As I see it, life itself is choice. The person you are at this moment is really the end result of all the life choices you've made to date, even though that may be difficult to believe. Just as a building is made of many individual bricks, each life choice you've made has contributed to the person you are today-choice by choice. The sooner you learn to take responsibility for the choices you make, the thoughts you have, and the attitudes you embrace, the sooner you can have the life you want.
Self-Coaching Makes More Sense
Since Self-Coaching is so different from traditional therapy and other methods of self-help, I don't want you to think of it as therapy. Think of it as coaching, Self-Coaching (Self with a capital "S"). Although rooted in sound psychological and therapeutic principles, Self-Coaching is not only a totally different approach to solving problems, it's also a revolutionary new mind-set. So forget about analyzing your problems or dredging up the past in an attempt to understand why you suffer.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Self-Coaching isn't concerned with why you struggle. Although this notion may sound radical at first, it's no different than if you were a cigarette smoker who wanted to quit smoking. Do you really think it matters why you smoked that first cigarette? Of course not; it matters only that you break the habit. And if your goal is to create the life you want, then the only thing that matters is breaking the habits of control and insecurity that are ruining and ruling it. So, rather than finding out why you're insecure and struggling, Self-Coaching's five essential steps will allow you to cut to the chase by replacing "whys" with "how-tos."
A football game I played in high school can help clarify the difference between more traditional approaches to healing and the power of Self-Coaching. It was halftime and our spirits were as grim and as cold as the freezing November rain that soaked us. Losing by three touchdowns, we slumped into the locker room. Silence quickly replaced the clatter of cleats on concrete as we anticipated Coach Brown's choleric address. It started slowly, reaching fever pitch quickly as he ranted, raged, stormed, and kicked helmets with fire in his eyes. Let me tell you, it was a doozy! The mood, the atmosphere-whatever it was-shifted. Adrenaline pumping, hearts pounding, we stormed back onto the field a pack of warriors, confident, bold, and determined.
We lost that game in overtime, but compared to the defeat we were willing to accept at halftime, it was a complete and satisfying victory for me. We went out with pride and dignity. And that's exactly what a coach can accomplish. A coach lights fires, reverses negatives, defeats attitudes, and instills a can-do philosophy.
Can you imagine if a psychologist instead of a coach had addressed our team at halftime? It might have gone something like this: "Okay, boys, just settle down and reflect a moment.
Excerpted from The Power of Self-Coaching by Joseph J. Luciani Excerpted by permission.
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