More times than not, adults don’t change unless they want to change, no matter how many experts tell them to. The proof is in the overwhelming rise in chronic, preventable disease even though health providers have been saying “eat right and exercise” for decades. That is why ACE has become so focused on equipping exercise professionals and health coaches with behavior-change-coaching skills.
Behavior change specialists help individuals navigate the obstacle-laden change process. They are a source of inspiration, not a purveyor of their own expertise. In my seven years of observation, the three most common traits of a successful behavior change specialist are:
1) They turn the curiosity dial-up and the inform dial down and do not get caught in the expert trap. A great behavior-change coach doesn’t tell an individual what to do. He or she asks powerful open-ended questions that lead to self-discoveries about reasons for change. These reflections that result lead to clarity and connection.
2) They focus on the positive, and never point out what is wrong or needs to be fixed. They highlight possibilities, not roadblocks. If the goal is to stop an unhealthy behavior that is occurring five times a week, but success occurs only one time, the great coach celebrates that success. Stopping and restarting is fully allowed, and celebration is granted liberally.
3) They are relentlessly optimistic that change is possible. A great behavior change coach shelves his or her own biases and trusts wholeheartedly that each person he or she works with will be successful in their behavior-change journey.
Great behavior change specialists are empathetic, nonjudgmental and tirelessly curious about the realities of the life of the person they are trying to help. They build rapport and lay the foundation for claiming one’s own path toward a healthier lifestyle.