The Clear & Simple Framework for Behavior Change
As a coach you know you need to be rather dynamic in your skill sets and agile in your problem solving.
The challenge is that what clients articulate as what they say and what they really want are not always the same or consistent. It’s not always clear why this happens.
Sometimes clients know they need a change, but are simply unsure where to start. Other times they just do not have the right words to explain what exactly they want to achieve, or maybe a bit insecure about sharing what is really going on in their lives.
What is clear is that where your clients are on their life journey, the environments they spend the most time in, and their training history create almost endless combinations of individualized needs and wants. As such, there is no “formula” to effectively support everyone. Nevertheless, it is important to have a framework from which to begin to unravel the complexities of finding the best match between their lifestyle and potential goals.
By exploring the research and working with countless individuals on this journey, I have landed on a few key steps to starting this journey with clients. I have found the following simplified framework exceptionally effective to begin those conversations and put into focus initial behavior change.
So we know that some people are just happy to come to you to train and do some movement. Perhaps it serves as a decompressor from daily life or helps them maintain and improve their overall health. So, spending time with you each week working on mobility and strength is really all they need. No lofty goals or tracking, just time doing what they need and want to do. However, most of your clients will likely express some specific goals. They want help making some changes. As they share with you, it may become evident that what they said was a priority (I.e., mid-section weight loss) may be secondary to other issues (I.e, stress and relationships).
This is one of the reasons we created the Lifestyle Assessment Tool (included with the Weight Loss Behavior Coaching Certification) to get a quicker handle on where the real priorities lie. The bottom line during this initial phase is not to solve, but to listen. Simply acknowledging that you understand that they want change and that you are hearing them, which in turn, allows them to start hearing you.
It's important to establish trust with your clients, especially when suggesting that they make what can be at times challenging changes to their daily habits. It’s tempting to start right in with a ton of great information to show your knowledge, value and commitment.
But the reality is that throwing a lot of great suggestions at once doesn't typically achieve the desired results. This is because even if they tell you they heard you, they are not going to retain it all and even more certainly not execute it well or consistently. We do need to educate our clients, but we also do not want to set them up for another failure or guilt. How much you say is literally as important as what.
The human brain needs repetition and connection with previous knowledge to commit something to memory additionally, on a good day, the average brain can only hold between 4 to 7 pieces of information at a time. And trust me on this, what you are saying to them is not the only thing they are trying to remember at that moment (When were they supposed to pick up the kids?).
Pick key topics, or what we like to call “big rocks” to focus on. Hopefully, you are building a long-term relationship of support and top tier education to help and encourage this person for a lifetime of leaner, healthier, and happier.
Nudge, don’t push them along. Not only are we as humans working to hold on to 4-7 pieces of information at once, but furthermore we tend to do better if we chunk things we need to remember into sections of 3 to 4 (think about the framework I have outlined here, or phone numbers, even credit card numbers and how they are broken down).
This is why for example, we have two key areas - physical and lifestyle - in the Weight Loss Behavior Coaching course. Within physical, we work with clients to identify one of the three areas as a key priority (I.e, flexibility). Then we have them choose on key lifestyle priority (I.e, stress management). Whether you break it down like we do, or you use a different model, the key is to focus on just a few things at a time. This allows you to provide clear recommendations in each of the focus areas- and add them on slowly so they can effectively execute. As they explore new ways of thinking and engaging with their overall wellbeing, subsequent review of their goals will then highlight new focus areas or simply progress on the existing ones.
The goals your clients put on your initial intake form and the goals you eventually figure out they want might be vastly different. Often, you can gather this information over time with several conversations and trial and error. But your time is precious and your clients want results. This initial framework will assist you in getting to the real goals, and real results more expeditiously. In addition, we like to use the Assessment Tool included with the Weight Loss Behavior Certification to get a more precise look into what the real priorities and challenges are for our clients. Behavior change takes time and consistency. Use the tools you have to help refine your client’s perspective and desires. Then use that information as part of your process to systematically work toward growth in those areas.