Turning Learning into Doing, from Day One

A prospective coaching student once wrote to me to ask how quickly they would be able to apply their new skills from WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Fundamentals course. My answer was “Immediately!” This question energized me, because the student was clearly motivated and ready to go, and also because it connected to a theory about change that we teach early on in our course, and which informs our approach at WBI. 

Psychologist Daryl Bem’s self-perception theory posits that we form our beliefs about ourselves in the same way we form our beliefs about others—by witnessing a person’s behavior. A generous person is one who grabs the check quickly. A brave person is one who shares an unpopular but wise opinion. A person who sets a fitness goal, and then sticks to it, is determined and committed.

Coaching teaches us to help clients break down their deepest desires into small pieces and to actively work towards them. It helps clients get unstuck, and allows them to see themselves as capable and capable of changing. Over time, they develop a different story about who they are. A coach student can see themselves becoming a skilled practitioner by working with peers, then with clients. They also gain confidence and forward momentum. It’s an upward spiral.

As a beginner coach taking WBI’s training, I remember when I was first introduced to the concept of asking powerful questions. With new purpose, I raced to get to the bus stop. My kids were barely settled into their seats before I threw out, “What interesting challenge did you tackle today?” 

To my absolute delight, that first question was answered correctly. The techniques I learned transformed the way my family connected and shared their lives. It was a natural progression. As soon as I studied VIA character strengths, which are core to our Positive Psychology Coaching approach, I asked my daughters to do the VIA survey, and began to “strengths spot” them (name their character strengths as they used them). We began to grow together, as our family conversations shifted from being problem-oriented to becoming solutions-oriented. I also instituted a simple gratitude practice at the dinner table that persists to this day. My reach grew beyond my immediate family and extended to include other clients, and eventually, clients who were paid.

Now, as a faculty member for all levels of Wholebeing Institute’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification program, from Fundamentals through the Coaching Mentorship, I get to witness students move from complete beginners to varying degrees of mastery. Students don’t need to wait for certification to start using their skills. They can also jump in and practice the information they have learned in class. 

Our teaching philosophy supports students in applying a growth mindset—something we explicitly teach in our coaching program—in order to turn the learning into doing. This is done by embedding it into the course structure. On day one of our introductory course, Lynda Wallace, director of the certification program, introduces active listening, the art and science of “other-focused listening” that is at the heart of all coaching. Instead of planning what the client might say next, this method allows the listener to take a non-judgmental, curious approach to what the client is saying. It’s simple and yet revolutionary for many. 

Immediately following that class, students begin to work with peer partners to ask questions, mirror back some of what they hear, and learn more about their partner’s strengths, values, and hopes for the future. For further demonstrations and practice, students meet with faculty members. We teach students research-based tools and support them as they apply the learning in their own contexts. This could be anything from school pick-ups or experienced executive coaches. 

Our coaching courses are designed for students to be empowered from the beginning. We start with the first class. This includes basic coaching skills (a review for others) and positive psychology techniques. From there, we give our students tools to create a rich, diverse toolkit that they can use however they wish. And rather than tucking these away for when they feel “ready” or “qualified enough,” we ask our students to pick them up and play with them straight away, with the belief that using them is the best way to embed the learning and start building greater wholebeing, for themselves and others, from day one. 

Learn more Positive Psychology Coaching Fundamentals and WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification.

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