EN-VISIONING THE BEST FOR YOURSELF
One of the most important things I can do for you in this book is to encourage you to develop a better vision of your future health. Creating a mental picture of yourself enjoying a high level of wellness is an essential part of the coaching process. It helps you to connect your personal values to the importance of achieving a healthier life and it helps to connect you to what you will feel like and look like with your ideal level of health. Most of us spend more time planning our annual vacation than we do planning to improve the level of wellness that we enjoy every day, but in coaching yourself you will begin to change that by focusing your attention very clearly on your best potential.
ACTIVITY: TRANSCEND TIME AND SPACE WITH A WELLNESS VISION
Just imagine for a moment that you could somehow magically transcend time and space and that, within reason, all the obstacles that currently stand between you and your ideal state of health could just disappear. In your imagination, spend a few moments already enjoying your best level of health.
What would better health look like and sound like?
How would you feel different in your body?
Would you be able to move more easily, sleep better, breathe more deeply?
What would be different?
Now extend this image a little further and imagine that you could actually see yourself in a full length mirror. Would your body size or shape have changed? Would you stand differently, be more relaxed, or even smile more?
Would your body size or shape have changed? Would you stand differently, be more relaxed, or even smile more?
Would you stand differently, be more relaxed, or even smile more?
How will other people notice that you are healthier? Will you be doing different things?
Will you be doing different things?
Close your eyes if you would like to and let this picture of your future self come to life.
Take a few moments to enjoy this daydream. Use all of your senses to make it as real and as vivid as you can, so that it can help pull you forward towards greater wellness. Then, if you would like to, give yourself a couple of minutes to make a note about what you discovered.
Ideally, your wellness vision should stir up some enthusiasm in you. It should represent a way of life for you that you would be really pleased and proud to achieve. As you begin to think about this, consider what new aspects of your wellbeing you would like to enjoy in the future. Things that are realistically achievable but that you don’t have right now.
Use all of your senses to create a vivid picture of how your life will be different at the end of this coaching process. How will you know that you have improved your health? What specifically will have changed?
How will you know that you have improved your health? What specifically will have changed?
What specifically will have changed?
Throughout this book, you will hear me talk a lot about raising your awareness and then taking a greater responsibility for your health. After all, these are the key components of being able to coach yourself. So where better to start using these skills than in developing an inspiring vision for yourself.
This is an important step because before you can make important changes you must be able to envision what you are working towards and generate a strong desire for it to actually happen. Your goal must be your own and not just a lifestyle prescription that has been given to you.
ACTIVITY: LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE
What is the best state of health that you can picture for yourself in six months time? In one year from now, or in five years?
Up until now what have been the main obstacles that have prevented you from achieving this?
What resources internal or external could you call upon to help you move beyond these challenges?
ACTIVITY: DEVELOP YOUR WHEEL OF WELLNESS
This exercise is based on the Wheel of Life exercise as described by Whitworth in his book Co-Active Coaching (1998). It’s an excellent exercise, much loved by coaches everywhere because it gives you a very easy way to see where the gaps are in your wellbeing compared to your potential for health.
In this version, I ask you to begin by rating your actual satisfaction with a variety of different aspects of your wellbeing compared with what you know is possible for you. Then I suggest that you repeat the exercise again but this time measuring your willingness to change by closing the gap between what you have now and your potential for better health in the future.
STEP 1: DRAW YOUR WHEEL
Take a plain sheet of paper, or start a new page in your journal, and draw a circle divided into eight equal sections to represent your wheel. Regarding the centre of the wheel as 0 and the outer edge as 10, rank your level of satisfaction with each aspect of life that affects your health by drawing a straight or curved line to create a new outer edge. What is that new shape like? If this were a real wheel would it represent a bumpy or a smooth ride?
Let me introduce you to Jonathan, a 42 year old sales executive and a self-confessed workaholic who worked hard and played hard. He was apparently in the prime of health, his diet was impressively healthy, he enjoyed playing badminton and going for a run at the weekends and he was actively aware of the few minor health concerns that he had and was taking action to relieve them. But excessively high stress levels at work were really beginning to take their toll, he was no longer sleeping well and his relationship with his wife and children was deteriorating. For him, the Wheel of Wellness exercise was a sobering wake up call. Have a look at how he scored his wellness in the areas of life that he felt were most relevant to him.
These are fairly typical ways to compartmentalize your health but I recommend that you choose your own labels to reflect what is most important to you.
- Exercise and movement = 8
- Diet and Nutrition = 10
- Sexuality and relationships = 8
- Ability to cope with change = 6
- Rest and recreation = 5
- General health = 6
- Work and the wider community = 3
- Energy levels and sleep = 4
How did you get on with this?
Did you score ten in all areas? If you did well done. Keep on doing whatever it is that you are doing. For most of us though there is room for improvement.
As a general rule if you find yourself scoring seven or less in a particular area then it may well be worthwhile taking a few moments to identify the areas you wish to work on or use as topics for your goals.
Sometimes, it can seem that there are too many aspects of our lives that could benefit from improvement and if that is the case for you, just step back and focus on the one area that you can change most easily.
STEP 2: DECIDE WHERE TO START
To help you find out what aspects of your wellness you would be willing to work on, I suggest that you take a different coloured pen or draw a dotted line, and for each segment of your wheel, consider whether you would actually be willing to make a change. Again measuring your strength of commitment on a scale from 0 to 10.
If you are not ready to make a change or improvement in a particular area of your life, then just be honest about it and move on.
What do these two wheels look like?
Are they similar or completely different?
In Jonathan’s case, he clearly had a good intention to make further improvements to the way he exercised and to pursue some general health concerns but these were areas that were relatively easy for him to work on. Improving his ability to rest, relax and spend more time on family relationships was much more challenging and this was reflected by his low intention scores in these areas. Have a look at how he rated his intention to improve his wellbeing:
- Exercise and movement = 10
- Diet and Nutrition = 10
- Sexuality and relationships = 4
- Ability to cope with change = 7
- Rest and recreation = 3
- General health = 9
- Work and the wider community = 5
- Energy levels and sleep = 5
Wherever you find that you have given yourself a low ‘wellness score’ followed by a low ‘intention score’ you can be sure that these are the very areas that would most benefit from some coaching input. That said, it’s always a good idea to start with something a little less challenging, perhaps in an area where just a small amount of change will bring you valuable and noticeable results.
STEP 3: CHOOSE A GOAL OR OUTCOME
Now pick one or two areas where you have identified a gap in your own wheel of wellness and start thinking about a goal, or outcome that you would be willing to work on.
For example, in Jonathan’s case, his initial goals were focused on improving his quality of sleep and protecting his off-duty time for family activities.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HEALTH
If you find that as you work with this material it sheds light on more serious health concerns for you, then please do go and get professional help. This is what health coaching is about, raising your awareness of what you most need and then taking responsibility for using that new information. This includes getting professional help from a qualified medical practitioner whenever it is needed.
Health coaching doesn’t mean that you have to do everything all on your own, quite the opposite in fact. Nor does taking responsibility for your health mean that it is your fault if you have less than perfect wellbeing. Think of it this way, your response-ability is your ability to respond to the information you have. So if as you work through this book, you feel you need some skilled help along the way, then make getting that help into one of your goals.
For example, it is not unusual for the coaching process to flag up the need for specialist counselling. Sometimes when you shine the light of your attention on the gap between what you have and what you want, the apparent size of that gap can be overwhelming and for some people, it can exaggerate feelings of low self-esteem or even depression. So if this applies to you, know that this is a signal that you need to get some specialist help from someone who can work with you one to one whilst you close that gap. It is by no means a sign of failure. Coaching is meant to direct you to the resources you need, both inner and outer, to help you move towards greater health.
WHAT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH?
Curious as it may seem, there are times when the apparent advantages of remaining sick or injured can seem more appealing than getting well. It’s a challenge that is well known to therapists and I mention it here, just in case it might apply to you.
For example remaining ‘sick’, or never completely healing from an injury (where medically this should be possible), can be a great way to avoid taking responsibility for yourself, for looking after your family or even for playing your part within the wider community. Sometimes when we can’t say ‘no’ for ourselves we find a way of allowing our bodies to say ‘no’ for us. It’s a well known way of avoiding situations and responsibilities by not being fit to participate.
As a health coach, I come across this surprisingly often because the coaching process is essentially designed to fix your awareness firmly on your potential rather than on your limitations and just occasionally that can prove uncomfortable. In the end, it is up to you what you choose to do with that awareness.
ACTIVITY: “I CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE…”
If you were to raise your awareness of any reasons why you might not be willing to improve your health, what might come to mind?
Watch out for sentences that begin with the words, “I can’t do that because…”
- I’ll lose some or all of my financial benefits.
- I’ll have to go back to work.
- I’ll have to look after someone else.
- I’ll lose some of the attention I currently enjoy.
What unspoken, unconscious agreements might you have made to stop you from improving your health?
These are hard questions that only you can answer, don’t judge yourself, just be truthful, your wellbeing could well depend on it.
Now let’s take what you have discovered about yourself and consider how to put it all into a realistic and workable action plan.
“Most people don’t need advice.
They just need support and discipline in doing what they already know works.”
MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, AMERICAN AUTHOR AND LECTURER 1952