I recently attended the Institute of Coaching conference co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. Unlike other conferences I have attended, it was an academic conference focused entirely on coaching. I loved it because I learned really interesting new things at every session I attended. Additionally, a number of ACO coaches were there (Nancy Ratey, who was one of the presenters, Dan Pruitt, Tara McGullicuddy, Becca Colao, Ose Schwab, Kathy Peterson, and others) and it was nice to spend time with them.
The first presentation was all about the importance of a strengths-based approach in solving problems and motivating clients. This, of course, is not news to ADHD coaches. However, the second presentation was fascinating because it drilled down on an important aspect of working from strengths: positivity. The presentation, Positive Psychology: Science at the Heart of Coaching, was given by Carol Kauffman, PhD, PCC, and Margaret Moore, MBA. Here’s what I found to be most compelling:
First, we all know that it’s common to focus on problems. This is probably evolutionary in nature—we evolved in a dangerous world where being able to notice threats was key to survival. Therefore, negative, troublesome, threatening things tend to capture out attention like nothing else. Yet narrow and negative thinking can lead to stress and depression, which can lower performance and reduce connectedness, both in relationships and in thoughts.
Second, we also know that if you have a broad and positive focus, you can identify more resources and make more connections. Positivity—feeling good—helps creativity, perseverance, confidence, competence, and even longevity. It is tempting to feel that health, wellness, and financial success are what contribute to happiness, but it turns out that happiness predicts these things, not the other way around.
In further studies of positivity and negativity, it turns out there is an ideal ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of positivity to negativity is at least 3:1 but not more than 11:1. In this range, people have the resources to change, grow, and bounce back from adversity. They feel both supported and challenged, which develops resourcefulness and creativity. Business teams operating in this ideal zone have the highest profitability, customer satisfaction, and performance reviews.
But people existing in an environment where the positivity to negativity ratio is below 3:1 languish. They don’t have enough resources and inspiration to pick themselves up out of the muck and see all the things that are available to them. Unlike the more positive folks, they are on a downward spiral. Sadly, it is estimated that 80% of people fall into this category.
So as coaches, what can we do about it? Well, we can encourage our clients, each other, and ourselves to notice, remember, articulate and savor what is already there. We need to practice noticing the good stuff, because there is plenty of it around. From the aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning (even if we made a mess making it), to the parting “Bye! I love you. Have a nice day!” (even if we had to say it several times because we kept forgetting things as we tried to get out the door), to the great coaching session where both feel pumped by the end, there’s a lot to notice and feel positive about. Notice, too, how we contributed to the good stuff, notice how we are actively creating the positive experiences. Then we feel empowered to improve our lives and develop our own resourcefulness and creativity.
Volunteering at the ACO is another great way to experience the positive. It’s pretty clear we fall solidly into that optimal zone. Given the can-do attitude of everyone, the excitement around our various programs, and the constant flow of ideas on how to improve, it’s a great place for any coach to feel connected and inspired.
Right now we’re looking for volunteers for our conference committee and contributions for Circle. Soon we’ll also be looking for Leadership Team members (similar to a junior board position) for the first half of next year.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, if you’re looking for something new, some connection, and some inspiration, just let us know! Any Board Member will be happy to give you the skinny, or you can just email me or call me directly at 760-436-8766.
All my best,
President, ADHD Coaches Organization, Inc.