The power of awe in a ballerina

The Power of Awe in Coaching: Elevating Transformative Experiences

March 6, 2024

Posted by BOLDLY

In the fast-paced world of coaching, there's a profound yet often overlooked ingredient that can catalyse transformation for working professionals and executive leaders: awe. Defined as an overwhelming feeling of reverence, wonder, and amazement, awe has the potential to inspire, uplift, and shift perspectives in powerful ways. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of awe in coaching, how coaches can harness its transformative potential, and the evidence-based benefits of integrating awe into coaching engagements.

Unleashing the Potential of Awe:

Awe has the remarkable ability to shift our focus away from ourselves and towards something greater, whether it's the vastness of the universe, the beauty of nature, or the complexity of human connection. Just imagine standing at a lookout point, high on a mountain top, watching the sun set with your loved one. Or perhaps sitting in a packed auditorium, watching a world-renound performer deliver a complicated piece. In both cases, you can imaging being lost in the moment, sharing a beautiful experience with your fellow humans, and bathed in gratefulness and appreciation. In coaching, incorporating awe-inspiring experiences and discussions into the adult development journey can create profound shifts in perspective, leading to greater openness, creativity, and insight for coachees.

Evidence from Psychology:

Numerous studies in psychology have shed light on the neurological and psychological effects of awe on the brain. Research published in the journal Emotion and conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, delved into the profound effects of awe on human cognition and behaviour. In one study, participants were taken on guided nature walks through awe-inspiring landscapes, such as towering redwood forests or expansive mountain ranges. Through various measurements, including self-report surveys and physiological assessments, researchers found that individuals who experienced awe during these nature walks reported reduced self-focus and an expanded sense of self. They described feeling interconnected with something larger than themselves, whether it be nature, the universe, or humanity as a whole.

Furthermore, studies conducted at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley have demonstrated that experiences of awe can promote prosocial behaviour, creativity, and well-being. In controlled experiments, participants induced to feel awe through stimuli like awe-inspiring videos or guided imagery were more likely to display altruistic tendencies, such as increased willingness to help others or engage in acts of kindness. Additionally, individuals who regularly experienced awe in their daily lives reported greater levels of life satisfaction, happiness, and overall well-being.

These findings suggest that awe serves as a powerful catalyst for fostering positive social connections, enhancing creativity, and promoting psychological flourishing. Whether it's gazing up at the starry night sky, witnessing a breathtaking sunset, or standing in awe-inspiring natural landscapes, moments of awe have the potential to profoundly shape our perceptions, attitudes, and actions, leading to greater empathy, creativity, and well-being.

A coach integrating awe into executive coaching

Implications for Coaching:

For coaches, integrating awe into coaching engagements can open doors to deeper exploration, insight, and growth for coachees. By incorporating awe-inspiring exercises, discussions, or reflections into coaching sessions, coaches can help coachees tap into a sense of wonder and possibility, expand their perspectives, and break free from limiting beliefs or self-imposed barriers.

An example of an activity a coach might encourage a coachee to do is attend a live performance of a symphony orchestra or a contemporary dance performance. The coach could encourage the coachee to immerse themselves fully in the experience, allowing themselves to be swept away by the power and beauty of the music or the grace and athleticism of the dancers.

Before attending the performance, the coach could instruct the coachee to set an intention to be fully present and open to the awe-inspiring moments they will encounter. During the performance, the coachee could focus on letting go of any distractions or preoccupations and instead tune into the sensory richness of the experience—the soaring melodies, the intricate choreography, the interplay of light and shadow.

After the performance, the coach could guide the coachee in reflecting on their experience, prompting them to identify specific moments that evoked feelings of awe, wonder, or transcendence. The coachee could journal about these moments, describing in detail how they felt and what thoughts and emotions arose for them.

Through this activity, the coachee can tap into the transformative power of awe, expanding their sense of self and connection to the world around them. By integrating awe-inspiring experiences into their coaching journey, the coachee can cultivate a deeper appreciation for the beauty and mystery of life, fostering personal growth, creativity, and well-being.

Why HR Leaders Should Care:

HR leaders are increasingly seeking evidence-based coaching practices that deliver tangible results and drive meaningful change within their organisations. Coaches who incorporate awe-based interventions into their coaching approach offer a unique value proposition, backed by research and proven outcomes. By equipping coachees with awe exercises as take-away skills or homework, coaches empower them to cultivate awe in their daily lives, fostering resilience, creativity, and a sense of purpose.

In conclusion, awe has the power to elevate coaching engagements from mere conversations to transformative experiences. Coaches who harness the potential of awe can facilitate profound shifts in perspective, foster personal and professional growth, and empower coachees to thrive in both their professional and personal lives. As HR leaders seek coaches who offer evidence-based practices and deliver measurable results, integrating awe into coaching engagements becomes not just valuable but essential for driving meaningful change and fostering a culture of growth and innovation within organisations.