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Coaching to Flourish #098: Resolutions Redefined

January 16, 2024 by Coach Training EDU

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Join host Raj Anderson, MCC, and CTEDU founder John Andrew Williams, MCC, for a discussion of New Year’s Resolutions from a coaching perspective. They explore how experimentation and flexibility are key components to resolution design, how ‘progressive resolutions’ allow for adaptation and growth, and other approaches for positive change in the new year. Join us for this journey into practical wisdom for all coaches and clients!

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Raj Anderson: Welcome everyone, to Coaching to Flourish podcast. Happy New Year, we're in 2024! And I am your host, Raj Anderson, Executive Life Coach and Coach Assessor. And I'm delighted to be here with John Andrew Williams, who's the founder of Coach Training EDU. And we're excited to be here for the new year, aren't we, John?

John Andrew Williams: It's good stuff. Happy 2024 everybody!  Can't believe it's already 2024. Feels like we're just zooming through, right? The whole…  

Raj Anderson: We are. And John, your picture behind you has caught my eye. It looks like there's a rainbow there.  

John Andrew Williams: This is rainbow season in Hood River, where the clouds and wind create. Today's not a rainbow day, but yesterday was, two days ago was? It's amazing, you just see them and you get used to them, and certain times of days you get, you know where they should be. I didn't know that, it's because the sun's all over. 

Raj Anderson: I love it. What does that symbolize for you this year?  

John Andrew Williams: I love rainbows. They mean a lot. I mean, yeah, they mean a lot of things. They have a long, long tradition. For me personally they mean peace, healing. Whatever I was thinking about, finding peace in that. That's mostly what rainbows are.  

Raj Anderson: And how were your holidays, John? Did you get any time off, or?  

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah, it was good. Christmas for us was lovely. You know, this is one of the, we only have a couple more when all the little ones are still, not college age yet. So we're running up against, our oldest is getting up to college age, which is amazing. That's a thing. I mean, you always theoretically know it's going to happen, but I don't think I've ever thought that clearly of, it's going going to happen. But I did make a new vision recording earlier this week, which I haven't done for a couple of months. It felt really good. So I feel like, you know, using all the tools, trying to make the most of this next year and a half is part of the big focus. How were your holidays? How are things going for you? 

Raj Anderson: Really great. And we'll come back to tools. John and I never plan what we're going to talk about, but I was going to ask you about that. So we'll come back to the tools.  

John Andrew Williams: We do have a thing though, after our hundredth session next week I want to start doing coaching demos. Like listening to me coaching people, so I think we will start to have things prepared. We'll let you know, everyone listening in here. We do riff, and it is fun. 

Raj Anderson: Yeah, and we always seem to be in sync. So watch this space, more to come on tools and demos. But yeah, you asked me how were my holidays. It was lovely. It was also a time of healing for me because I ended up getting very sick, yet I like to think of a cold as an upgrade. So I think I was going through the biggest upgrade that I have had last year. You know, I had a bit of a cold and a cough, and I was kind of releasing and letting go of certain things. There was a lot of self acceptance that I was working through. And then we had family come to visit, which was wonderful, because all the family is in the UK. So for them to come and visit and just experience life with us here, and some of the things that we love and think of as magic in our lives. That was really lovely to share. Yeah, I went through a very healing and accepting kind of process and period though at the end of last year.

John Andrew Williams: That's cool. It's good to hear.  

Raj Anderson: Thank you for asking, John. So, I've got some questions for you, as usual, on tools and different things. But I did want to let everyone know that we have got a fantastic workshop coming up on Friday with Hannah, haven't we, on Word of the Year. I really think people should go and access these wonderful resources and workshops from coach training edu. I think Brittany is going to be doing one on sampling coaching, so anyone who's interested in signing up for a coaching course. But is there anything I'm missing there John, on what's coming up this month? 

John Andrew Williams: I have a team course that I'm leading. It'll be the first time I'm leading a course all by myself, this will be eight weeks. It's Wednesdays, 9 to 11 pacific time. We're going to start in, I think, January 24 will be like an orientation. The coursework will start in earnest January 31. It’s exciting, I feel like it's been a while, I've been working on the curriculum now for a while but really intensely over the last 2 months. And covering a lot of things with not just with working with a team, but also the business of working with teams and what that looks like. Even how to set that up and, you know, from a marketing standpoint, how to get teams on board, what it looks like, doesn't look like. So yeah, that's happening too in this space.  

And the more immediate idea, you know, the word of the year is something that I used to do way back in the day and Hannah's run with it the past couple of years now, and it's one of our most popular workshops. So basically it's a workshop to help you clarify and really - picking a word that you want to carry with you for the year as a focal point. It's the basis of the workshop.  

Raj Anderson: Well, thank you for sharing, John. So if any of you are interested, get in touch to learn more or enroll. And I know we're talking about coaches development here, but one of the questions I was curious about, since you mentioned your own vision recording, is as we go into the new year - and I've had lots of clients reach out to me, especially this week. It's got really busy because everybody wants to be setting their intentions or their goals, or they want to get re-motivated on certain things. So what are some of the tools that you would be using as a coach with your clients at the beginning of the year?  

John Andrew Williams: I feel like January is the life coaching month. It's the month when everyone comes back and has resolutions, and they say, this is the year I finally do this, or this is what this looks like. I mean, just get a coaching session. I feel like the tool is, the coaching session is the tool. 

I've been thinking too about this idea of resolutions. You know, new year - I'm actually a fan of resolutions. I know a lot of people aren't, they get a bad, not so great of like - stay away from them, do this instead. I mean, I think they, they worked for me, they've worked for other people close to me. I think a resolution can work, especially if it's surrounded with other life coaching tools. Like if it has some sort of accountability, if it's not so incredibly rigid that there's no way to recover back to it if you need to. I don't even know if the idea of it being realistic, but I do think it is helpful to just pick one action to either start-do or stop-do. And that's it. Just one though. I think that's the key, is you just get one. When I think about the most success, like in my own life, that kind of thing, I have a couple ideas of what my one thing is, but I haven't set on like, this is the one thing, like the only thing, so we'll see what happens.  

Raj Anderson: John, I'm interested in your perspective, because I keep seeing these things around, Oh, people break their resolutions the third week into January, or various things like that. And you said, I like resolutions. So what is it that you like about them, and - what is it that you like about them? And then of course I've got lots of other questions, but let's start with that. 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, so let's talk about it. And I'll make it real too. So my resolution this last year was to stay away from any endless scroll. So we're talking social media, YouTube, chess videos, even news. So it's forced me to look for very specific ways - so I sign up for like a news digest. So it's one email once a morning, all the things, that's it. So at least I'm informed, but I'm not like there - there's an end point that happens. I started that last February, so it's almost a full year. And I think part of the idea of a resolution too is it's something that you can lead into, like gradually get towards. It's not like, I think some people say, Okay, I'm no longer going to whatever it is, or I'm going to start going to the gym every day. I think there has to be a little bit of planning, a little bit of grace on the entry point, and then if, if you do lose your streak or you do go back, there has to be grace. Okay, so let me recover back to it.  

This year I'm thinking about avoiding alcohol completely for a year. I started in September on a whim. You know, let’s just try it a week. Then two, the week became two, then two became four. That's kind of how it goes for me. It's the kind of thing where I'm just like, I think I might be done. And then, all right, let's try it for a little bit of time. And that's where I feel like resolutions are at their best. Where it's like, you know what, I'm only going to do this resolution for three weeks or for one week. See how it goes. All right, let me try it for another two weeks. Like, it's not like you can't will yourself to make a shoe fit if it just doesn't fit. You know, but you can try the shoe out for like 20 seconds in a store or whatever. And like, Nope, doesn't fit, try another one. 

This is why resolutions work in my, you know, when I'm thinking back, like, let me put some parameters around even the picking of a resolution. I'm realizing even as I'm processing, even as I'm saying this out loud, I think this might be one of the key factors. It’s, yeah, the resolution picks you just as much as you pick the resolution.  

Raj Anderson: Okay, so what I'm hearing from you is keep it simple, pick potentially one thing, put some parameters around it, and maybe experiment with it for a short period of time.  

John Andrew Williams: Yeah. Is it something that you can even continue to commit to, or even want to commit to? Yeah, it became immediately clear to me when I stopped doing Endless Scroll - and I wasn't even doing that much. Like, I'm not even on social the same ways that I probably need to be for business stuff. But even that little bit, I was surprised at how much mental-emotional space opens up. That's when you know. You know when the resolution is feeding you back really quickly, like, yeah, you got a good one. 

Raj Anderson: And why do you think resolutions have had a bad rap in previous years? 

John Andrew Williams: I think they're a lot like goals where, you know, somehow the magic of writing a goal down means that it's somehow going to happen. It is more likely to happen, sure, but it's just such a small part of a larger ecosystem. I think resolutions get, in them we attach our hopes and dreams for what we think we can be, and the purpose and the potential of what's possible. But sometimes the shininess of that purpose and potential, and the idea that, yeah, I can get there, is so shiny that people lose sight of the - no, you really have to roll your sleeves up and do some work in order to make this thing work. 

Really, if you look at where you want to be in your life, what I've found is if I want to get someplace, and I really want to get there, the level of focus that's required - there's a certain intensity, there's a certain kind of, if this larger vision of what you're trying to accomplish is worth it, and there's a time frame and pressure, use that time frame and pressure. Don't, you know, don't try to fight against it so much. 

And that's what I feel like happens with resolutions. Where it's like, okay, I want to, like, I really, really want to get Coach Training EDU and Academic Life Coaching, to get these organizations to a point when we are - the level of staff and the processes and the systems that we're using, just continue to make things run more smoothly to a point where you can almost have a manager truly manage this thing, and I can truly step back and then just start looking at each individual piece. Not from a standpoint of, okay, I'm running a startup that's intense, to, I'm now polishing a startup. And it's taken years, a decade. I mean, we're a decade into this and we're still, it's still build stage. 

So I think there has to be a level of focus and intensity of, if the larger vision of your life is worth it, for a two week period of time, experiment with a level of focus you've never achieved before. Try it out. Try it for two days. Try something for two days. And if you like it, do it for another day. You know, and then, I think at a certain point in time, the, how do I say it? I think at a certain point in time, it becomes just easier to do the thing. Like, do the thing that you really want to do, and the thing that will feed you the most, that becomes the default. And it's lovely. So lovely. 

And that's where I feel like, that's where the magic of the resolution starts to help you back. Like, I don't even think about it anymore. Like, endless scrolls? I'm like, yuck. It's like, no, I can't. So I’ve got to find a way to deal with, you just got to find a way. Because it's just, there is a lot of dopamine, like it does feel like an overwhelm. Yeah, it's a thing. But the mental-emotional space that's created with that is pretty intense. 

Raj Anderson: I like the way you're sharing that, John. Because we're talking about focus and intensity and what I always admire about your approach is the trying it out, or we've talked before about experimentation. And that's what I really enjoy in my own coaching sessions, is we might set a resolution or intention or goal, whatever it might be. I might do that with my own coach and we might set the intensity and focus, but there is always this freedom around, it's experimenting. Because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and that has given me the freedom to release the inner critic, or release the perfectionist, because there is experimentation there versus pressure. And it to me becomes more enjoyable. How would you work with a client on that?  

John Andrew Williams: Well, that's what coaching does, right? Like this, every single outcome of a coaching session is an experiment. Let's try this out to see if this insight has legs, you know, and that's it. I'm kind of curious Raj, cause you work with a wide range of people. And when you look at accountability structures and experiments, what do you see is the link between experiment and accountability? 

Raj Anderson: Well, I just want to repeat that out loud as well, because it's so valuable what you just said - every single outcome of a coaching session should be experimentation. And there's so much freedom in that. And there's freedom for you as a coach, when you look at it from that perspective of experimentation, versus, it has to be this way, or fixing something. And it can take a while for individuals to grasp that. Especially leaders that I'm working with who have high expectations of themselves, incredibly high achievers. I mean, I'm like that myself. You know, one of my values are around progress and outcomes. 

So I think sometimes when I'm working with leaders in particular, that it's hard for them to grasp the experimentation bit. They can see it either as, I wasn't accountable to myself, I didn't follow through with this, or I didn't achieve it in this way. And that can really get in their way of, as I said, the inner critic, or how they see themselves, or how they focus on achievement. Or if they haven't executed what they'd set out to do perfectly. Or there isn’t a real tangible outcome to it, right? Very quickly. And I think coaching helps to shift that perspective.  

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, I agree. I think there's even, even the structure of a coaching session, like, you know what I mean? Like, I'm sitting down processing out loud, someone is listening  and then responding only with curiosity. Just that structure alone produces an experimental mindset. Because you're asking questions like, it's almost like, what if? That's what we're looking for, like that's the implication. Not that we as coaches are offering suggestions, but I think that each question is an invitation to experience a different perspective, or a different way of looking at whatever we look at in our daily lives quite habitually. Every question is an opportunity to shift that.  I can just see the clients you are working with, even just having sessions, how amazing. Just the structure of the session itself is a gift.  

Raj Anderson: And that gift, what I've learned along the way is creating that safe space for people. And still occasionally happens, where I start to see clients are avoiding sessions, or they haven't booked a session. Or they've come to a session and said, well, I was a little bit worried about showing up today because I really didn't, I didn't do X, Y, and Z, or I didn't think I followed through on X, Y, and Z in this way, and I don't want to let you down. So it's really important to me when I'm Designing the Alliance that we talk about experimentation, and what accountability means. 

And also from my own learning, how things have changed for me. I think we talked about this a few months back, where I would be setting goals and things that I thought that I needed to work on were not even relevant after a few sessions. Because it wasn't really what I was seeking, it was what I thought I was seeking. 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah. Yeah sessions shift, session goals shift, and can shift quite regularly. Yeah, I think when it comes down to a resolution, like something you're gonna keep for a year, it's almost like I want to have a different word for what we’re creating. Because what if the resolution after three months shifts? You know, like progressive resolutions? I don't know, like a progressive party, you go from like place to place to place. It's kind of like, well, this resolution might go from place to place to place. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, because it's also interesting too, so what happens with the resolution and you keep it for a year, and then how  do you like de-plane from the resolution? You know what I mean? Like, you know, do you de-plane mindfully? Or is it just like, you know what, no, I'm done. Like, this resolution has been lovely, but I'm just going to get on, you know, some social thing and just go for two hours and see what happens. 

Raj Anderson: I love that concept of progressive resolutions. It might be because my word of the year this year is evolve. 

John Andrew Williams: There we go, it’s the evolving resolution. My resolution evolves. 

I think there's definitely a sense of like, this is the entry point to it. You know what I mean? Like, this is the design of the resolution. You can't think it, you know, because all of this is just guesswork. All of this is just, I think this is probably going to be really good for me. But then can you keep it up? You know, just try it for a week, two weeks. I mean, I imagine there's tons of science around this, you know, people look at does that work or don't work? Works for me. Works for other people I've seen.  

Raj Anderson: So John, what words of wisdom do you have for our coaches that are listening, and the clients that they're working with, on progressive or evolving resolutions?  

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, this is fun. It's fun to put a word to it. And it's also fun for me because I do this. You know, this is something I've been doing now, and I feel like I've been pretty successful with resolutions. Generally they work, and it's really helpful for me to process out loud why. Because I mean, I often see the things that come in and say, don't do this. You know, don't set resolutions, do this instead. I agree with them. I'm like, yeah, that makes sense if your definition of resolution is this, then yeah, that totally make a hundred percent sense. 

But this idea of like, you allow something, you allow yourself space to even design the resolution. Which is part of the reason why I started in September. I'm like, you know what, I'm gonna start in September to see how I can manage alcohol, and then see what happens after that. Is this something I even want to try to do for a year? And I'm not gonna be like super, super intense on things, maybe. But maybe. 

And I think there's a certain freedom in allowing it to hold it lightly, hold it as a guideline, and hold the guideline as taut as you need it so that, you know, if you need strict rails, you have strict rails, but if the rails need to be flexible, then have flexible rails. Like, you can design it completely to be how you need it to be to make your life work. And that's probably, that's probably the bottom line on resolution design. It's not just waking up one day and thinking, I'm going to fold my socks forever now. Maybe not. I don't fold my socks anymore. I read a book, Algorithms to Live By, and it talks about how sorting is a waste of time, searching is actually a more efficient use of time. So we should just stop sorting everything and just, yeah, get better at searching. Anyway, that's another topic, but let's say that's, you know, your resolution is actually something that's not worth the time. That's an interesting idea too.  

Raj Anderson: I was getting a visual. I was like, what would I do with my socks if I didn't fold them? Would I just throw them into a drawer? I guess I need to experiment. 

John Andrew Williams: They have a party. Yeah, they have a party. I feel like, you know what would be really fascinating? I think we could do something like this. I have systemized almost every aspect of my life, even to socks. So I have a science, and I don't chart it yet, but I'm almost at the point of like, I feel like I could almost get to a point where I could write out like a description of how to have like the most efficient, ideal sock laundry system. Like this is, I've systemized it. It's tight.  

Raj Anderson: We're at time, and I really want to know about this system. 

John Andrew Williams: It's a good one. I got a good one. Got a good one from plant watering too. These are, these are videos that need to happen, I think. But I mean, it's all good. I feel like the most important thing is, bottom line of this is, experiment. Try it. You know, try not folding the socks, see what happens. But really, Algorithms to Live By, you just get the idea as you try it out the experiment, rinse and repeat. I know we’re at time. 

Raj Anderson: We are at time! 

John Andrew Williams: Thank you so much for the space and questions. I mean, I feel like I've got a lot going into the mind, and it's just, you create a lovely space and to allow me just to share with the things I've been thinking about. I really appreciate it. And thank you to the community, everyone listening. It's really fun to hear your feedback. Starting next month I'm going to start getting involved directly in social, so I'll start commenting, I'll start doing the things. And I will see what that's like after a year of not. Calling it my ‘authentic year,’ is coming to an end. 

Raj Anderson: Well, we're excited. Thank you, John. It's an honor to hold this space. I love working with Coach Training EDU and this community. I'm excited to see what else is coming in 2024. What I'm taking away today is experimentation, creating, and design. And please send us any questions that you have, look out for upcoming classes. And we will see you in our hundredth podcast next week! 

John Andrew Williams: Excellent.  

Raj Anderson: Thanks everyone. 

John Andrew Williams: It's going to be fun. Bye everyone!

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