The consideration that neural maps are so nimble and malleable is important for how we approach our clients as coaches. Symbolism and abstraction can work more effectively than direct questioning. In this sense, the coach taps into patterns and in-roads that are available to the subconscious.
Habits are near impossible to change. However, adding-on new ones is highly possible far into old age. The Buddhist notion of where attention goes energy flows could not be more true when it comes to the brain. "If we literally put enough energy into the insight or idea, it will become a part of who we are. It’s an attention economy in our brains, at a million connections per second." (Rock, 2007) The more time is spent noodling on things like shoulds, coulds and can`ts - the more the brain transforms itself to project a fixed trait mind-set.
Conversely, the more fluid, flowing and open to novel concepts and constant iterations the less habitual and the more spongey the mind becomes. "Looking for the source of a habit literally creates more connections between this habit and other parts of our brain. The more we focus on a problem we have, the more ingrained we make it" (Rock, 2007)
In essence, there is a separation between thought and habit and the coach can act as a bridge for clients to connect the two. Keeping a future oriented and appreciative inquiry tone is beneficial as neurons need the affirmation to create long-term connections.
`` Put another way, we can make a tremendous difference to other people’s thinking by helping them clearly identify the insights they would like to hard wire, and over time reminding them about these insights. (...) We need to give up our desire to find behaviors to fix, and become fascinated with identifying and growing people’s strengths, an entirely other discipline. (...) (Coaching) is the art of enabling other people to have their own insights`` (Rock, 2007)
Enabling people to understand themselves in terms of a learning and growth mindset helps them to be more resilient when life hands them the inevitable and proverbial lemon. While classic measures of career success do not immediately show from the outside if an individual has a fixed or growth mindset; eventually, lack of resilience resulting in bouts of burnout will. As per ICF competency D: Facilitating Learning and Results, Creating Awareness, fostering a non-fixed mindset for our clients is one of the most valuable gifts we can offer as coaches for long-term stress management and coping.
Dweck, C.S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. (reprint edition). New York, NY: Ballantine Books. Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
Rock, D. (2007). Quiet leadership: Six steps to transforming performance at work. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Retrieved from the Books24x7 database.
ICF: https://coachfederation.org/core-competencies/, Last Accessed: 02.07.2018