Neuroscience, or the study of the anatomy and chemistry of the brain and nervous system, is rapidly becoming more and more important in the field of coaching. The latest research goes a long way towards scientifically explaining human behaviour and how we can learn to change that behaviour – which is both the foundation and the goal of the coaching process. A combination of many different disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and psychology, amongst others, neuroscience is the subject of much on-going research.
One of the main areas of study is the concept of neuroplasticity, a term which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt to new thoughts and emotions by changing the electric patterns and chemicals within the brain. Brain imaging has shown that the brain and nervous system can actually be rewired and restructured in this way. Normally when we attempt to make changes in our life, the high levels of stress associated with the process activate the brain’s primal fear-circuitry, which reduces our ability to learn and grow. Following our well-worn, hard-wired pathways is habitual and therefore happens without much effort on our part, whereas creating new pathways for this circuitry takes a huge amount of energy. A co-created, safe coaching space empowers the client to identify, process and strategise steps towards a sustained positive shift away from old habits. Coaching thus enables the learning and energy necessary, with the Coach holding the client accountable to your vision and goals, creating the sweet spot for change.
As we become more knowledgeable about the factors that help and hinder change, we begin to understand how these factors can be applied to rewiring our brain. For example, we now know that where we focus our attention is where new connections are made. So when we place our attention on a solution rather than on a problem, through asking one question rather than another, we increase the chances of that change being more sustainable. Likewise, if we arrive at our own insights around a particular issue, rather than someone telling us what to do, the reflection involved engages a part of us that actually makes new links across our brain. The ‘rush’ that comes from solving a dilemma ourselves is actually a result of these new connections. The rewiring process has already begun, cutting through the fear response, and we can use the energy generated by it to commit to taking action. In essence, neuroscience explains how we can permanently change how we think, feel and act by working with techniques that allow the brain to be rewired with a minimum of stress and effort.
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