Motivation, Flourishing and Coaching

October 25, 2022

Posted by Sara King

A significant focus in coaching tends to be in unlocking potential and increasing psychological well-being. Coaches are frequently looking to promote “optimal functioning” for their clients, enabling them to reach their performance or growth goals.

There are a few things to consider when working towards optimal functioning. The first is, how would you define that for yourself? Are you considering it narrowly in terms of purely work performance or are you thinking about it broadly in terms of your whole life. Whatever your definition, there are a few things that can help you along the way.

The first is to consider your motivation. Are the goals you are working towards in your coaching ones that come from you, or do they address areas of feedback from your manager or direct reports? The chances are that you feel more attracted to, and energized by, goals that come from you, rather than goals that are suggested or imposed from elsewhere. The first thing to consider therefore is where does the motivation for this goal come from?

If you are intrinsically motivated to undertaking an activity because it is interesting and satisfying to you for its own sake, you may not require a lot of support from your coach to help you get moving. You’ll do it because you want to do it, and because it feels good.

On the other hand, if you’re working towards a goal because you “should” – maybe for you getting more regular exercise might fall into this category, it will be harder. And if you are working towards the goal for the purpose of achieving an external reward or outcome, it’s harder still. Not impossible, just harder. So one of the first conversations you and your coach may have is about what’s motivating you to work towards the goal – why is it important to you. It’s useful for both of you to identify whether your motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic, so you can identify what additional strategies you might want to use to scaffold your success.

The other connected concept is understanding that all human beings have three basic psychological needs, universally important for flourishing and motivation. In the same way that we have some baseline physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep), we also have the need for autonomy, relatedness and competence.

The need for autonomy reflects our need to feel that we are in control of our destiny, have choice, and feeling able to take responsibility for our own decisions and actions. The need for competence is satisfied by being able to use our unique skills, strengths and experience to achieve tasks and goals, and our confidence that we can successful. And finally, relatedness is about feeling a sense of belonging and understanding our contribution – feeling connected and supported by those around you.

A couple of key points can be made about all this. The first is that people whose basic psychological needs are being met are more likely to be able to thrive and achieve their goals. The second is that it pays to be aware of the source of motivation for our goals and activities. Understanding both of these things in working with your coach is incredibly helpful for how you partner to achieve optimal functioning for you.

How can coaching help?

Coaching is typically a goal-directed process, so you could take the opportunity to explore your motivation and ensure that you’ve got the right amount of scaffolding in place to help you to be successful, particularly with those goals that come from outside you.

Coaching can also offer a psychologically safe environment that can support you in meeting your basic psychological needs. Your coach will work with you in each session to identify goals and actions that are meaningful and relevant to you. They may also help you to identify, articulate and leverage your strengths, skills and other superpowers. And finally, your coaching sessions can offer support and connection – and perhaps help you to identify other sources of support and connection.

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