How Professional Coaching Can Advance Human Potential

Written By Tania Burrows – 76th Cohort – Tauranga –

In the past four decades the world’s understanding of the potential of a human being, especially as it relates to our understanding of how the brain learns, how habits are formed and how the brain copes with pressure has grown immensely. In a world that is rapidly changing a different way of thinking and communicating is required. Coaching has provided a tool to support humans to use these new understandings to maximize their potential and thrive in ways that are individually fulfilling
Around the turn of the century psychologists observing the insights emerging from neuroscience research began to consider the idea of ‘positive psychology.’  Psychologists began to ask; what if we could identify what makes life worth living? What if we could utilize the potential of a persons’ strengths and the way the brain learns, processes ideas, makes connections to support positive choices, emotions, health, achievement in peoples’ lives? Dr. Seligman, now President of the American Psychological Association (among others) began to investigate these thoughts through a new line of investigation in Psychology. “Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play” (The Positive Psychology Centre, 2017).


Extensive research has been conducted into how  we can support a human being to flourish. Research into positive psychology, including emotional intelligence, and how the brain works have given us great insights into the ways we can support a human being to grow, to realize their potential, to create positive outcomes in their own lives. Emotional intelligence is defined as “…knowing how to read people’s feelings, regulate your own emotions (especially anger), and understand what you’re feeling, and why” (Goleman, D.,2017) We now understand that by heightening our emotional awareness, deepening our thinking about our own thinking and focusing on what is serving us well (utilizing our strengths and interests) we can influence and even choose the future we want to live, for the better.

By applying the science of appreciative inquiry (positive psychology) and emotional intelligence (sometimes considered more art than science) coaches support their clients to heighten their awareness of themselves. Observing or noticing the way the client thinks; their habits; their emotional responses (or lack of); acknowledging the clients’ own strengths and interests; and the dispositions they are applying to their lives that are serving them well; and those that are not serving them currently. The coach actively and empathetically listens, providing constructive feedback and uses powerful questions to co-create awareness with the client (social constructivist theory.) The coach holds true to the belief of co-construction theory emphatically believing the client already has the innate power and potential to solve their own problem and realize their own desires.

The coaches’ role is to be an expert in the process of coaching – allowing the client to flow in and out of their own story. Acting as a guide the coach invites discovery. Supporting and empowering the client to bring their thoughts to a conscious level. The coach then supports the client to deepen and clarify their understanding of themselves. Growing an emerging understanding of their own individual thinking and behavior that acknowledges the clients’ context and life experiences (Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model.)  This holistic view of the individual creates relevance and motivation for the client as it acknowledges our basic human need to be ‘seen and heard.’ (attachment theory)
The coach marries together the art and the science by harnessing the power of the clients’ mind, utilizing the clients thinking and learning style to focus their thoughts, identify their core values – bringing the unconscious ‘why’ of the clients thinking to a conscious level. Once thinking is at a conscious level a person is able to make choices and decisions about this thinking. This helps a client understand their personal way of generating solutions (meta-cognition).Inside this holistic coaching conversation is meaningful learning that allows the client to align their actions with their thinking (creating clarity) so they can move boldly forward. The client is pro-active in identifying possibilities, creating their own fulfilling solutions, goals, and actions. Leading their own learning and creating the future they desire.

In summary, professional coaching is so powerfully able to enhance human potential because it draws from the schools of science on human learning and behavior so strongly. It promotes self-awareness, acknowledges an individuals’ context, optimizes the power of the human brain and empowers the client to develop thinking and solutions that they are connected with, personally. Ownership and authenticity allows the client to create meaningful, bold outcomes and ideal solutions for themselves that are much more likely to be followed through with.



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