Brain Plasticity and Coaching
As the relatively new profession of cash flow coaching starts to take shape, a common question, from the first set of practitioners, is “Why is it so hard to change client behaviours?”
The answer lies in an understanding of ‘hard-wiring’ and brain plasticity. Historically, scientists believed that the human brain was ‘hard-wired’ or set for life, once it was fully developed by the age of 22. However, recent studies, using brain scanning technology, have confirmed that the human brain can continue to make new neural connections. It does, in fact, remain plastic, although not as plastic as it was during its development stages.
The new research has unearthed some interesting facts about brain plasticity. Some of them that relate specifically to cash flow coaching and working with clients are:-
Despite the fact that we ‘feel the same’, and there is no discernible difference from day to day, our brains are constantly rewiring. For cash flow coaches, this means that every client has the capacity at any point in time to change. Of course, this, in itself, doesn’t make it easy.
Following coaching sessions, clients have been ‘measured’, and the scans reveal positive changes in their brain and physical states. Initially, these positive changes are temporary; however, as coaching sessions continue, with regularity, the positive changes in state last longer and become sustainable and relatively enduring. As a cash flow coach this means that you are not only working towards a successful habitual change, you are helping clients become happier and even healthier.
Sudden changes in the brain can occur. Clients will have ‘light bulb’ moments when new information is assimilated or old information is discarded. At these junctures, the brain produces chemicals which makes the client feel good about themselves. Sometimes, these moments of enlightenment are powerful enough to facilitate ever-lasting change. Normally though, they require development and support. This is when a cash flow coach can be of great value, capitalising on these sudden changes and formulating actions and plans to propel the moment into a constant state.
Procrastination can be the enemy. The more time that is spent thinking about a problem, without moving towards a solution, the stronger the wiring or neural connections, around the habit, become. This makes it even more difficult to get out of the rut and achieve the future positioning the client desires. The role of the cash flow coach is to generate new connections by working with the client to highlight alternative pathways and shift their thinking to proactive activities.
The human brain has a reactionary instinct for fight or flight. This inbuilt defence mechanism is controlled by a part of the brain called the amygdala, and it serves us well in situations of real danger or peril. However, in the modern world, we have become susceptible to the so-called amygdala hijack - when the amygdala’s fight-or-flight response is triggered before the cortex (our logical, rational brain) has time to overrule it. This mechanism can be quite debilitating, leading to procrastination and even correlated to depression and anxiety. Again, cash flow coaches have an important role in helping clients who are caught in these patterns and provide them with support to promote greater mindfulness and optimism.
All of this is food for thought and generally good news for cash flow coaches. However, before we can start to work with the plasticity of the human brain, we need to remember that everyone is different – we all have our own brains maps.
“Our perception of reality is not reality itself, but our version of reality – it is our brain map.”
While we all have similar neurological structures, no two people have the same brain map. How we interpret incoming stimuli is different and is the basis for how our brain maps, or how two people’s perceptions of the world differ. Learning to recognise the structure of another person’s map helps us ‘see the world through their eyes’.
Before working with clients, it is important that, as a cash flow coach, you acknowledge and recognise the following: -
When you offer your views and translate your experiences into words, it is from your unique perception – from your map of the world. This is why experienced cash flow coaches are active listeners and encourage clients to vocalise their own solutions.
When you assume your client shares your assumptions, it is likely that vital information is overlooked. This can lead to confusion.
When you fill in gaps for the client, you will be doing it from your brain map and not their map of reality. This can cause misunderstanding.
Changing Brain Maps
In essence, to assist a client in changing their brain map, you need repetition and practice. Such a thing as competitive plasticity exists in the human brain so that a bad habit can be ‘hogging’ the brain map, preventing new learning from occurring. For new learning to occur, the old brain map needs to be altered, and this process takes time and consistency.
Cash flow coaching helps people identify what they want to achieve and then makes them accountable to keep taking action until the new brain map takes hold.
It may sound simple, but the difficulty exists in the way the human brain reacts to changes in the environment. When changes occur, the brain emits strong signals that something is unfamiliar. As noted, these signals come from our amygdala, that part of our brain which controls our innate, automatic self-preserving behaviour patterns.
When things are unfamiliar, this oldest part of our brains tells us something is ‘not right’. This is that amygdala hijack that tells us to ‘fight’ or to ‘flight’.
When clients are in this state, it is difficult for them to focus on making changes because the signals are compelling them to hold on to their familiar, well-known behaviours.
The important role of the cash flow coach is to assist the client in concentrating on what they truly want and in overcoming the natural tendencies that were critical to primitive man but are a distraction to our ability to assess unfamiliar situations in a positive context.
As well as time and repetition, neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwartz recognised the impact of attention density - “the amount of attention we pay to something.” For cash flow clients to make a truly transformational shift, they require high levels of focus on the new behaviour or future state they want to achieve. New neural connections are more easily made when there is complete attention given to managing their cash flow.
The cash flow coach’s role and partnership with clients is about increasing and maintaining attention density. The tools and techniques that cash flow coaches utilise for this include powerful questioning, exploring insights, reflecting, asking for action and commitment, and holding client’s accountable. This can start with the commitment to the cash flow coaching journey and the regularity of meetings and analysis of the client’s position and progress.
elevateB provides the training program as well as support and ongoing development for certified cash flow coaches. Individuals who choose to work with a certified cash flow coach are better placed to achieve financial independence and security. If you would like to make a difference and help everyday Australians be more financially prudent and savvy, consider becoming a cash flow coach today. Click here.