WHAT DRIVES BEHAVIOUR CHANGE?
As a Coach passionate about making positive change to protect and regenerate Earth, I find it fascinating to understand what is it that compels humans to decide to do things differently, to change. It’s also one of the reasons I chose to study with Climate Change Coaches and increase my coaching skills in this area. Despite humans knowing for decades that our very existence is threatened by our lifestyle and behaviour, with eminent scientists providing ever more bleak predictions backed by empirical evidence, little action has been taken to address the biggest issue ever faced by humanity.
Why is it that humans wait until the proverbial flood water is at the doorstep before we feel compelled to act? Is this humanity’s epitome of avoidance & distraction?
Logic would tell us that we will choose what’s good for us but often the drive to seek short term pleasure over the perceived pain or effort of doing something different, can be incredibly powerful. We are designed to be creatures of habit, our brain seeks ways to operate efficiently converting frequent actions and thoughts to embedded software, that runs automatically in the background without us even noticing. We are also increasingly immersed in our tiny, skewed virtual worlds, our heads bent before screens of distraction. Dare I suggest that much of our lives can be filled with distraction of some shape or form, preventing us from facing that what we put so much effort into avoiding.
Going against our ‘tribe’ and social or cultural norms is another thing we are usually not comfortable with. There is safety in conformity and keeping in line with what everyone else is doing, raising our head against the parapet feels risky. Climate and the Environment are still emerging as topics that everyone needs to be concerned about, we need to disrupt the status quo which takes courage and ability to stand out. As change often involves a risk of some sort and our sub-conscious brain (around 90% of our brain processing power) steers us away from the scary and unpleasant (unless you’re Tom Cruise of course, the videos showing the filming of his latest movie….way, way too crazy for most of us).
Perhaps too in our modern western society, we are in an era of risk mitigation and many of us don’t need to regularly face fear or discomfort so we are even less likely to want to stir up the waters, especially when we are feeling vulnerable in a world that is feeling increasingly unstable for all sorts of reasons.
The constant gloomy narrative in the media, particularly about climate change creates fear, anxiety & overwhelm; denial or avoidance are other common responses, ignore or dispute the facts and hope that it all goes away. These disempowering emotions can send us into survival mode, here, we lose our ability to be creative or optimistic and just focus on the problem, how enormous it is and what a hopeless situation we are in, so stale mate. As we find ourselves in such a complex, pervasive, systemic dilemma it can feel impossible to tackle.
WHAT CAUSES THE SHIFT?
I find it so interesting to ponder what causes a true shift, rather than a half-hearted attempt! What makes the smoker of 20 years, decide that they are finally giving up, hunter turn conservationist, or apathy to activism. We often talk about changing hearts and minds when it comes to change management and therein, I think, is the answer. We can hear all the facts about why something is good or bad, but it is the emotional self that needs to connect with the need for change.
It’s partly about understanding the facts, of course, but it’s also about allowing ourselves to identify to those facts on a personal level; and have the self-belief that we can, want and have agency to make that change. In the case of climate change and environmental degradation we also need a belief (or at least realistic hope) that entire systems and communities can and will change too. I so often here ‘well it’s all very well us doing our bit but what about: USA/China/India/the rest of my community/society, (i.e. what’s the point of me changing if other people aren’t, I have no power).
HOW CAN COACHING SERVE EARTH’S REGENERATION
For both organisations and individuals it’s hard to know where do I/we start? What can we do to tackle this? We have built our entire society on consumption and a linear economy so it can feel like there is no way forward. For those working in the sustainability or environment sector it can feel so overwhelming and daunting, living and working with those hard facts day in day out. When we feel stuck and blocked we can easily lose our resourcefulness and creativity.
When I mention I’m a coach I often notice a slightly quizzical look, despite coaching being one of the fastest growing professions there is still a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding about what coaching is and how it can add value. At its core, coaching is a conversation but with specific qualities. The coach and coachee both agree to enter a relationship with the aim that this will be beneficial and useful to the coachee, helping them to find their way through a challenge or perceived barrier.
The Value of Listening
The coach is not there to provide answers, a key role is to listen, I mean really listen, listen in a way that rarely happens in everyday life. Coaches are trained to listen impartially, with curiosity, setting aside any judgements or bias that we might otherwise bring into the coaching space. This one simple, yet somewhat rare act, can have a profound effect on the coachee’ s ability to think resourcefully about their situation. In a noisy world where opinions are shouted far and wide, I would suggest that quality listening is an underrated and underutilised skill.
Discussions about climate and the environment can become heated and challenging, with one ‘side’ trying to shout down the other. It’s a complex and challenging topic but coaching with Earth’s regeneration in mind asks us to explore ways to communicate that seek common ground and shared values our rather than differences, we are likely to have a more constructive conversation and provides a base to build on. This makes a great topic for a coaching session!
Digging Deeper, Finding Solutions
Other tools in the coaches’ kit include reflecting back to the coachee there words and thoughts, acting as a mirror enables the coachee to reflect and view themselves from a different angle. We only need to watch a video of ourselves or listen to a voice recording to know that how we perceive ourselves from the inside is different to what we see when we observe ourselves from an external perspective. Awareness is the first step of the change journey.
Our words, body language and unconscious assumptions form part of an obscured self. A coach will question and challenge our assumptions and encourage us to face the difficult issues, delving persistently, beneath the surface to help the coachee identify what might be influencing their thoughts and behaviours. What is on the surface is only part of the story, when we truly connect to our inner selves, we start working with core values and sense of purpose. It is here, that meaningful shifts, at an identity level, can create quite profound shifts, this fascinates and enthrals me.
Handling Difficult Emotions & Volatility
The course with Climate Change Coaches built on my existing coaching skills with a focus on handling the emotions that surface when we connect with the state of our climate and our environment. I learnt techniques to work with these emotions and help to develop ways of using the energy they produce to drive resourceful action rather than become paralysed and introspective.
A key outcome of coaching is usually some form of goal setting but in an uncertain and volatile world, how can we ‘be’ with the fact that we can’t have control of the outcomes, learning to accept and thing about how we will respond is another key component of the Climate Change Coaches course.
Both coach and coachee can be vulnerable to the overwhelming nature this issue, so creating space to identify and leverage self-care techniques is another key factor in this work. Avoiding collusion is key for me as the coach, so I can provide a clean and clear space for my client. I am just as vulnerable to the emotions my clients feel. Connection with our ‘Why’ and tools such as meditation, journaling, good nutrition, sleep, exercise and connection with others are crucial to enable us to maintain energy and tenacity to keep going.
This is a challenging but incredibly rewarding space to operate in. If we are to maintain energy, momentum, and motivation we need to tap in to all our resourcefulness and abilities. Coaching for Earth’s regeneration supports individuals and teams to tackle these challenges, tapping into our hidden resources, navigating the path, adapting, changing and regenerating with open hearts and minds. If you are interested in having a chat about how coaching can support your sustainability targets and regeneration goals book to have a chat over a virtual cuppa.
Jules is an ILM Level 5 coach, EMCC certified practitioner & Goal Mapping Coach & Facilitator. www.julesetheridge.com
Check out my previous Blog for ways to develop a positive mindset Stories – 4 Ways to Create A Positive Self Narrative