I was on the phone with a fellow coaching buddy, trying to make sense of straddling the two worlds of science and coaching and noticing this is a prevailing pattern in my life. For the last 15+ years, my job has been asking and answering questions about how things work. I’ve been conducting research about how memory and paying attention really work, especially when the brain has been damaged. How could all of my experience and knowledge in research help my clients? (see my previous blog post. It was back again– with a twist.)
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.
– Carl Jung
I asked her “How can I bring my years of experience into my coaching practice? All that research!” and she said easily, “internal research.”
That phrase clicked for me. Over 15 years ago, I also began conducting internal research. Research on what is true for me in this moment. I’ve always loved internal research, although I didn’t call it that at the time. Self-discovery, self-inquiry, self-help, spirituality. I love it all. It is the reason I chose psychology for my undergraduate degree. I always wanted to hear what others were thinking, what they felt, what they loved and why. I loved to read self-help or spiritual books.
Internal research is just researching the internal world–our own or others. Ghandi called it experiments in truth. If I’m not sure how staying up late will make me feel I just try it, and then I see how i feel. It is an experiment and it isn’t right or wrong; it doesn’t mean anything that I stayed up late or if I’m grouchy the next day. It is data. I’m just seeing what is true.
Is it True?
In science (or external research), we are looking for data that leads to (capital T) Truth. Asking questions to objectively measure which treatment is better or which part of the brain is responsible speaking or attending. With internal research, the Truth is reflective of an inner search which may not be observable by others. Byron Katie offers “The Work” as a way to search for internal truth in our own thoughts. If I notice what arises in each moment, and what arises might be the thought “I’ll never be good enough,” The Work is a process to question that thought by asking the important question “Is it true?” It allows me to step back and observe my thoughts, to question objectively, similarly to what we do in science.
Watching what comes up, or becoming a witness is also what happens in science. We watch and observe. We don’t judge or put our own spin on it (hopefully), we simply look at the data. From the data, conclusions can be drawn about the next step. The same is true for inner research: we watch our emotions, thoughts and feelings in the body. And then we look at the data. “When John walks by and scowls, I feel hurt and angry. Isn’t that interesting.” Just noticing and observing. In internal research it doesn’t mean anything that John walked by, we are just given opportunity after opportunity to collect data. Every moment of every day.
The Science of Coaching
This is where it gets really exciting. We are all scientists, everyday, all the time. By asking the right questions, we have an amazing potential to collect data! Who-hoo! Why is that exciting? Because having a data set is power. Data means you can make informed decisions about what do to do next and why you feel the way you feel. It isn’t all just random! For example, let’s take the thought “I want more money.”
I want more money.
To buy more chocolate.
Why does that matter?
So I can feel happy.
Bingo. Now we are getting somewhere! Now i know that the feeling I desire is happy and that I *think* money will buy this happiness (in the form of chocolate of course). As taught in Martha Beck Life Coach training, we can JUST GO TO THE HAPPY and stop chasing money thinking it will bring happiness. This, my friend, is good data and good science. Information that I can use to design my day, my month, and my life. And coaching is a way for me to guide others to conduct their own internal research. The science of coaching. What could be better than pulling together my experience with both external and internal research?
Peace and Research,
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