When I was studying for a Ph.D. in Psychology, I felt miserable. Focusing only on research wore me down. I felt a gnawing desire to go out and practice. To apply psychology. I famously (infamously?) decided to quit grad school not just once, but twice in the span of a year. Facepalm.
The second time around I was so embarrassed I didn’t even say goodbye to most of my friends in the program. Why was it so hard to just quit and start working on my career, the first time? Why did I have to prolong the misery?
We’ve known how to help people change for over 30 years. Yet, despite that, most of us struggle to make the changes we want to make in our lives. Even those of us that know the science. One of the reasons change is so hard is because of the psychological principle of loss aversion. The reality is, humans hate losing more than they love winning. A setback will feel 2-3 times more frustrating than a win will feel inspiring.
What does that mean?
To make up for the disappointment caused by gaining 5 pounds, your clients will need to lose 10 pounds. To make up for losing a customer, your employees will need to find 2 new customers. Just to feel like they are back on track. And this brings me to one of the most important lessons I learned from Coach Stevo:
Most clients do not know what they want. They just don’t want to be where they are any more. They just want to get from Point A to Point ‘Not A’. So like an airplane in a dogfight, the most important quality for success is maintaining momentum. Get them moving. Keep them moving. Your only enemies are inertia and friction.
When I quit grad school the first time, I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do, let alone how to get there. So it was easier to just go back and “figure it out later”. Loss aversion explains why it’s so hard to break up with your ex… or grad school. I avoided the pain of breaking up with my then “current self” to work toward my “better self”. To overcome the pain of losing something valuable, people need to create a lot of momentum toward a new path. It might not seem like it, but the status quo (your current self) is serving you in some way. So at Habitry, we help the people we coach to build momentum toward their better selves by asking them The Two Questions:
- What did you do well?
- What did you learn?
We’ve found The Two Questions work extremely well to help clients feel like they are moving forward. In a group setting, the momentum building power of The Two Questions is downright dangerous. We didn’t invent these. We stole them from the Positive Psychology literature. The “magical” thing about The Two Questions? They get clients talking about their strengths. They help clients see everything they’re doing right. And they help clients become more invested in whatever habit they are working on. Because let’s be honest. It’s likely your clients hired you because they couldn’t make themselves do the habits they know they should be doing to reach their goals. Beyond that, The Two Questions are just fun to answer. Who doesn’t like to show off a little?
Of course, you don’t have to stick with The Two Questions. Any method that gives clients the opportunity to reflect their strengths, why they want to change, or why the habit they are working on is helpful to them, is potentially motivating. Let’s check out some of the methods coaches in our Essentials of Habit Coaching training program came up with to help their clients build momentum, just this week.
5 Momentum Building Tips From Coaches
Tim Duff says: “Even if the client doesn’t complete the goal, as along as they are moving in a positive direction, they are making progress. They are building momentum and still pushing towards the goal. My affirmation was “you’re still pushing towards your goal. Even if you take a day off but still make positive effort, you have won the day.” I learned that clients are not robots, and have to motivate themselves with us accompanying them when they need guidance and support. They are the masters of their own destiny and willpower and we just help them draw out the map.”
Mitch Heaslip says his trick with a client who’s temporarily seeing only the negative is to find “all the positives in their message…reflect all the things they did well. Giving affirmations moves the conversation along in a much more constructive direction than continuing to focus on what the client feels is going wrong.”
Sometimes, when progress isn’t happening fast enough, the person you’re trying to help can become a little withdrawn. How do affirmations help people get engaged again? Luis Diaz had an insight: “an affirmation can really give way to a positive conversation where people feel more open to sharing more…it’s sort of like a key at times that can open up the relationship.”
Kim Robinson offers an example affirmation for nutrition coaches: “I know you have been doing great with cooking more meals at home – what have been your favorite new recipes?”
Susan Ogilvie advises us on how to meet clients where they are at with momentum building: “Try to be careful to meet them where they’re at with affirmations if they are a client who is likely to brush it off or deny it. In my mind, I may be thinking about their amazing progress that they are failing to see, but I will affirm them with something that I can expect them to accept. And I keep pushing that bubble a little bit farther each time.”
These five tips are the kinds of quality insights that get shared in Essentials of Habit Coaching, every day.
Interested in Essentials of Habit Coaching?
It’s a five week program, in which coaches practice the five habits of successful habit coaching. You’ll receive daily feedback from an amazing guide (that’s me! ;-)) so you’ll know exactly what to do to improve every day. The result? Transformative moments in your client relationships. And new connections with coaches just like you who you can lean on for the rest of your career.