Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Techniques For Dummies®

Table of Contents

Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Techniques For Dummies®


About the Author

Helen Whitten is an experienced and accredited coach, facilitator, mediator, trainer and writer. She applies Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC) methodology to personal and professional development, enabling individuals to develop confidence, break through old patterns of behaviour and achieve greater potential in their lives and in their careers.

Helen’s career began in publishing and historical research. In mid-life she retrained and decided to work with people. She set up her company Positiveworks Ltd, London, in 1993. By applying CBC models and strategies to help launch herself in her new career, she became convinced of the power of CBC to enhance confidence and performance. She has since coached and trained individuals and teams in major organisations throughout the world.

Helen’s philosophy is that positive people deliver positive results for themselves and those around them. She believes that people have the potential to enhance every aspect of their life, happiness and performance when given the right tools and techniques. Her aim is therefore to share her methods and learning with as many people as possible.

Author’s Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my sons Rupert and Oli for their constant encouragement and support over the years. They are a continuous source of delight and wisdom – and new perspectives to challenge my thinking.

To my mentors Gladeana McMahon and Professor Stephen Palmer who always provide me with both knowledge and support.

My clients from whom I continue to learn so much.

For the team at John Wiley, for their editorial comments, encouragement and support in bringing this book to publication.

To my niece Antonia Fernand, who is also a coach, for her excellent editorial comments and professional assistance.

Publisher’s Acknowledgements

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at .

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Simon Bell

Content Editor: Jo Theedom

Commissioning Editor: Samantha Spickernell

Publishing Assistant: Jennifer Prytherch

Copy Editor: Kim Vernon

Technical Editor: Gladeana McMahon

Publisher: Jason Dunne

Executive Project Editor: Daniel Mersey

Cover Photos: © Simon Holdcroft / Alamy

Cartoons: Ed McLachlan

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Reuben W. Davis, Nikki Gately

Proofreader: Laura Albert

Indexer: Becky Hornyak


Cognitive behavioural coaching, or CBC, brings together the practice of coaching with the concepts and methods underlying cognitive behavioural psychology. In a nutshell, cognitive behavioural psychology works on the premise that how you think impacts on how you feel – and that how you feel impacts on your behaviour and the actions you take. For example, if you think ‘I’m not sure that I can do this’, you may feel uncertain of your abilities and competence. This uncertainty is likely to make you hesitant and the end result may be procrastination.

Coaching is a process that supports a client in achieving their life and work goals and in being the person they want to be. A cognitive behavioural (CB) coach provides an environment and process that facilitates this end, focusing on how the client’s current thoughts and approaches may limit the achievement of goals. Through using CBC models and questions, the client develops new ways of thinking and behaving that are more aligned to their objectives.

You may have heard of cognitive behavioural therapy and wonder how CBC differs. Put simply, CBC is solutions-focused and not remedial. In the past 20 years, psychologists have moved on from treating people with specific problems such as ‘neurosis’, ‘psychosis’, or ‘paranoia’ and applied psychology in everyday life to help people make the most of themselves and their lives. CBC has evolved as a method to enable anyone, at any stage of their life, to develop thinking patterns and behaviours that support their goals.

In this book I aim to provide a background to CBC and to introduce you to techniques that you can apply as a coach, in your own coaching sessions. Alternatively, you may be a manager wishing to coach your team, or someone who is interested in self-coaching. I have applied all the methods in this book, with clients or in my own life. I hope that you find the experience as informative and helpful as I have.

About This Book

I have worked in the CBC field for many years and am continuously delighted by how CBC can enhance a person’s life. CBC opens doors to perceptions and provides insights about yourself, others, and the world. CBC shows you how your thoughts may trip you up. Providing the key to those doors and helping a person move forward is some of the most fulfilling work a CB coach does.

Training in CBC showed me personally how I limited myself in so many ways through thinking habits that were negative, critical, or full of self-doubt. The important thing I discovered, and have shared with many clients, is how often our thoughts have no basis in reality. In this book I provide models and methods that check whether your client’s thoughts are rational or supposition.

CBC aims ultimately for the client to become their own coach. As a CB coach, you share your knowledge and techniques so that your client can continue their journey alone, challenging themselves and devising strategies for success. This process is an empowering one. I hope that you enjoy reading this book and discovering how you can apply these concepts for yourself.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you to gain the most from this book and be able to pick up information as quickly and effectively as you can, I use certain conventions:

check.png I refer to a cognitive behavioural coach as a CB coach.

check.png I refer to the person being coached as the ‘client’, whether they are in a formal coaching session or a member of staff being coached by their manager.

check.png The case studies are taken from specific experiences of CBC but are not a direct representation of any one particular client.

check.png Arbitrarily, I have decided to use the term ‘him’ in even-numbered chapters and ‘her’ in odd-numbered chapters to demonstrate that coaching is inevitably inclusive of both genders.

check.png I used italics to indicate key concepts.

Foolish Assumptions

I assume, though I may be wrong, that some of the following applies to you:

check.png You are a coach or a manager who wants to get more out of the people with whom you work.

check.png You’ve heard something about CBC and want to know what all the fuss is about.

check.png You want handy tools and techniques to apply in coaching sessions.

check.png You are a curious and sensitive person with an interest in the potential of human beings.

check.png You realise that CBC can help people achieve their goals and that you are interested in applying it.

check.png You know that these techniques can also be applied for self-coaching.

How This Book Is Organised

This book is designed for you to be able to dip in and out and pick up tips and techniques as speedily as you need. You don’t have to read it cover to cover. You may have a specific issue with a client and want ideas about how to manage it. Alternatively you may be seeking background information on coaching and cognitive behavioural methodology. Just pick the chapter that looks most relevant to you – but don’t let that stop you reading it from start to finish if that is what you prefer.

I have divided the book into five parts, as follows:

Part I: Introducing Cognitive Behavioural Coaching

In this part I introduce the fundamental principles of CBC and show you how different patterns of thinking impact on a person’s behaviours and decisions in life. I introduce specific models of thinking – ‘thinking errors’ – that show that not all thoughts are rational or helpful. I demonstrate how CBC has developed over centuries, originating in Stoic philosophy and applied today as a way of thinking and a way of life. I also introduce the aims, scope, and boundaries of CBC, explore what being a CB coach involves, and show the importance of your client’s participation and their responsibility for their own continuous development.

Part II: The CBC Process

In this part I take you on a coaching journey from undertaking a coaching assignment to the final session. I explain the importance of agreeing terms, expectations and responsibilities and how to develop trust and collaboration between you and your client. I consider the importance of listening and working at your client’s pace, how to be sensitive to specific ‘tell-tale’ words that illustrate limiting beliefs and how to apply the CBC questioning process to unlock new approaches. I show that no one can be a ‘perfect’ coach and that you, like everyone else, are fallible and need supervision and support.

Part III: The CBC Toolkit in Work and Life

In this part I introduce specific aspects of coaching that you may encounter as you go through the CBC process, including enabling a person to understand and manage themselves and to develop confidence so as to be able to develop their ability to broaden their goals and perspectives. I cover the all-important area of relating to others, and managing and respecting their own needs alongside respecting the needs of others. I offer hints about helping your client develop choices for work and life within the long-term context of their whole life, and I show that CBC is a lifetime’s journey that your client can continue on their own, as their own coach.

Part IV: Applying CBC in Organisations

In this part I focus specifically on workplace issues and introduce some of the topics that clients are likely to raise in such sessions. I explore career transitions such as promotion, redundancy and retirement, and cover how to help clients to maintain peak performance under pressure of targets and workload. I also cover managing other people, including issues such as conflict, influencing, motivation, and building effective and creative teams.

Part V: The Part of Tens

In this section I give lots of quick reference hints and tips. These include ways to help people develop a positive focus and imagery exercises to develop confidence. I provide gentle reminders to you, as the coach, to remember that both you and your client are human and fallible. We all screw up occasionally because everybody does so I include tips about self-acceptance and continuous development.


Here you find an ABCDE form that you can apply as a CB coach, as well as a list of useful organisations and websites that provide further information about CBC.

Icons Used in This Book

I use the following icons in this book so that you can quickly identify which areas of the book are relevant to your needs.

Tip.eps This icon highlights practical advice for applying the techniques of CBC.

example.eps This icon indicates a client story or experience that illustrates a specific issue that has arisen within a session and that you may also encounter.

Warning(bomb).eps This icon indicates an area that you may need to consider carefully within sessions.

thinkaboutit_cognative.eps CBC touches on many broad and deep areas of life and work and this icon signals that you may want to reflect on this information further between sessions.

Remember.eps This icon emphasises important points to remember during CBC sessions

TechnicalStuff.eps Background detail on CBC which enhances your understanding of the subject. Not essential, but useful.

Where to Go from Here

I suggest you take a look through the table of contents and then flick through the whole book to get a feel of the topics covered and familiarise yourself with the layout. In this way you may spot sections that jump out at you and look interesting. You may want to bookmark those pages that appear to be most relevant to you.

The main thing is that you feel in control of this book: this book is not in control of you! You can pick it up and use it exactly as you want to. You can mark areas that you want to remember, scribble in it, highlight tips, and turn down pages. Most of all, relax, stay curious, and enjoy the process.

Part I

Introducing Cognitive Behavioural Coaching


In this part . . .

This part introduces the basics of CBC, and shows you how different patterns of thinking impact on your behaviour and the decisions you make. In it I introduce specific models of thinking and show that not all thoughts are rational or helpful.

I also introduce the aims, scope, and boundaries of CBC, explore what being a CB coach involves, and show how important it is that your client participates and takes responsibility for their own continuous development.

Chapter 1

The Principles behind CBC

In This Chapter

arrow Focusing on solutions and the future

arrow Watching and evaluating thoughts

arrow Understanding the evolution of CBC

arrow Accepting oneself as fallible

Some fundamental principles and concepts underpin the practice of CBC. These principles developed from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), whose founders were Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis.

The keystone principle of CBC derives from Epictetus, who was a Greek Stoic philosopher. Stoic philosophy promoted theories of mind that encouraged the development of logic and self-control as a way of living life wisely. Epictetus lived in the first century AD and stated that ‘people are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by the views which they take of those things’ – that is, your own thoughts and opinions shape your feelings about and reactions to an event. By accepting this principle, the individual takes personal responsibility for her own reaction to a situation, whether she is stuck in traffic or made redundant, on the understanding that another person may have a different viewpoint and therefore a different reaction. This attitude opens up new perspectives and approaches to everyday events. The client learns to become an observer of her own thoughts and can assess whether those thoughts help her to achieve her life and work goals.

As the client investigates her thoughts, she may discover that the mind leads her astray occasionally, and therefore she exaggerates difficulties, fears situations that may never happen, or assumes that someone has a bad opinion of her although she has no concrete evidence of the fact. The CBC process applies what is known as Socratic dialogue, which is a form of philosophical enquiry that originated from the Greek philosopher Socrates. In Socratic dialogue, the questioner explores the implications of the opinions and statements of the other person, in order to stimulate rational thinking and insight. Applied in CBC, this form of questioning is designed to reveal the reality of a situation rather than a ‘twisted’ version of it. The aim is to develop thoughts that are both realistic and in perspective. The process encourages the individual to develop more self-enhancing and supportive ways of viewing the world so as to manage life’s challenges. The questioning aims to help a person analyse her thoughts and, should she in some way not come up to her own standard or expectations, to accept herself as a fallible human being.

In this chapter, I explain some of the theories and concepts underlying CBC, and introduce models that you can apply to the situations that your clients bring to coaching sessions.

Investigating the Evolution of CBC

CBC evolved from cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. In addition, sports, acting, and singing coaching have all influenced CBC, as have theories of motivation and goalsetting. The focus of CBT is on treating people with disorders. In CBC, we shift the focus to helping people develop and achieve their goals. This transition has been influenced by interest in personal growth and by the focus of organisations on learning and development as a means to productivity. My own definition of CBC is ‘an alliance of cooperation between client and coach. The coach supports the client in developing and achieving the specific goals and objectives identified by the client at the outset. The focus in CBC is developing constructive thoughts and behaviours to support action towards the identified goals.’

Unlike therapy, coaching focuses on the present and the future. Coaching applies problem-solving methods to enhance happiness, performance, and the achievement of personal objectives. CBC focuses specifically on analysing the thoughts and behaviours the client applies to a challenge, and checks whether the client’s approach supports or limits her efforts. As thoughts and behaviours are a part of every human endeavour, CBC can therefore be applied to address any situation your client brings to her coaching sessions, such as:

check.png Enhancing performance at work

check.png Developing confidence

check.png Taking action to achieve specific goals

check.png Gaining perspective

check.png Developing thoughts and behaviours to develop skills

check.png Managing situations more effectively

Moving from CBT to CBC

The founders of CBT, Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, identified that we all have a constant chatter going on in our heads. They termed this chatter internal dialogue. Study of this dialogue lies at the heart of both CBT and CBC.

thinkaboutit_cognative.eps Beck and Ellis’s research in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated that some internal dialogue is muddled and contradictory. Perhaps you’ve noticed this fact yourself. Imagine today is the first day of a new year. Last night you made a resolution to get fit. You lie in bed thinking ‘I really ought to go to the gym,’ while another voice (but the same brain) argues ‘But it’s so lovely and warm here in bed. . . .’ The voice that ‘wins’ impacts on your behaviour and actions. Our thoughts are at the heart of the decisions we make about our lives and the actions we take. The key to CBC is to think about thinking.

A report by the London School of Economics, published in June 2006, commented that CBT, being a fixed course of task-oriented sessions rather than an open-ended programme that can extend over years rather than months, makes it attractive. The UK Government has pledged £170 million to train new CBT therapists so that the NHS can offer this form of therapy to around 1 million more people in due course. Rhena Branch, a psychologist who practises CBT at the Priory, believes CBT is more empowering than certain other forms of therapy: ‘CBT doesn’t just provide someone with an hour of introspection which is then forgotten until the next session. There is much more interaction, and the aim is to give someone the tools to be able to function as her own therapist in the future.’ The effectiveness of CBT as a remedial intervention provides credibility to CBC as a development process, because CBC adapts the techniques to help clients move forward and achieve their work and life goals.

Beck and Ellis identified that many people have thoughts, or cognitions, that are unhelpful to their goals. When a person changes the way she thinks, the way she feels also changes. Beck and Ellis applied their CBT methodologies in counselling and therapeutic sessions for remedial purposes. They used a psycho-educational model in which they shared models and methods with their clients, who can then apply the techniques themselves.

The development of positive psychology

Until recently, psychology focused on repairing mental illness using a disease model of human functioning. Now the focus is on how to apply psychology to build on existing strengths in order to help people live happier and more productive lives. Dr Martin Seligman, a psychologist working at the University of Pennsylvania, termed this approach positive psychology. He applied cognitive behavioural methodology to develop resilience, hope, and optimism in clients, and was instrumental in creating a positive psychology unit at Harvard University. David Burns’ book Feeling Good, which popularised CBT in the 1980s, also influenced therapists and coaches to apply psychology to people who were not necessarily suffering from disorders but wanted to experience personal growth. Psychologists Professor Stephen Palmer and Gladeana McMahon (who have also been change-makers in my own professional life), Windy Dryden, Michael Neenan, and Nick Edgerton have all been leaders in this evolution, lecturing, practising and writing on the application of CBC as a solutions-focused practice. This book represents what I have learnt from these founders, and reflects my own interpretation and experience of applying CBC methods with clients since 1993.

Focusing on Solutions

CBC focuses on the future, on solving problems, and on developing solutions to your client’s challenges. Because of its speed and efficacy, many people use CBC in the workplace to enhance their performance by challenging limiting beliefs and behaviours and enabling them to move forward into situations they may not have dared to enter before.

CBC uses a time-limited three-stage process to help your client achieve her goals:

1. Current situation: What’s happening?

2. Goal-setting: What do you want to happen?

3. Strategies and action: What do you need to do to achieve your goals?

Remember.eps CBC has a psycho-educative aspect: you share knowledge, models, and methods with your client, so eventually she becomes her own coach. In order to integrate new discoveries and habits, you give your client assignments to practise between sessions – homework, if you like. This home practice reinforces your client’s new thoughts and behaviours and helps her take responsibility for her own change rather than relying on what takes place within the coaching session.

Thinking about Thinking

Thinking about thinking is an underlying principle of CBC. By considering the way she thinks, your client becomes an impartial observer of her own thoughts. Eventually, your client notices the impact of her thoughts. She learns to reflect on how her thoughts, beliefs, and expectations influence her feelings and in turn impact her behaviour, the decisions she makes, and the actions she takes. She also becomes aware of how her physiological responses differ depending on whether she thinks positively or negatively.

thinkaboutit_cognative.eps People behave differently according to their emotional mood. By using the principles of CBC, you client becomes a watcher or controller who mentally stands back from the situation and considers how her thoughts and feelings shape her actions and behaviours. For example, if your client is hassled by everyday concerns, she may question whether the events warrant the amount of emotional energy that she generates, or whether she exaggerates her problems. I give an example of how cognitions influence behaviours in Table 1-1.

Table 1-1 How Cognitions Influence Behaviours



I can’t stand this.

Procrastination, giving up

I can’t manage this.

Undermining ability to finish the job

I bet he thinks I’m unattractive.

Doesn’t ask him out on a date

Remember.eps As a CB coach, you provide practical models and processes to enable your client to develop an internal dialogue of constructive thoughts and pragmatic approaches that support the achievement of her goals. Practising CBC is like learning another language. And just like learning another language, CBC can be hard work and needs daily repetition to achieve change.

Putting thoughts into perspective

CBC works on the principle that people develop twisted views of themselves, others, and situations as they go through life. CBC investigates whether a client’s thoughts are based on evidence or are outdated or out of perspective.

As a CB coach, you help your client review how she approaches a situation. Your focus is to investigate your client’s thoughts; in doing so, you help your client become aware of her views and how those views impact on her emotions and behaviours.

Although your client may be aware of some of the thoughts going on in her head, many of her thoughts are unconscious and go unnoticed. That is where you come in – helping your client to stop and to reflect on her thinking habits, including:

check.png Developing healthy emotions to motivate actions: Check whether feelings are appropriate to the situation at hand.

check.png Developing perspective and reality: Challenge where your client is catastrophising or maximising problems, or imagining outcomes for which no evidence exists in reality.

check.png Identifying negative automatic thoughts: Negative thoughts block or limit your client’s actions.

check.png Observing thinking errors: Check twisted ways of thinking about herself, others, and the situation, which may be making the situation seem worse than it is.

check.png Shifting thinking patterns: This shift stimulates emotional and behavioural change.

Your main aim as a CB coach is to help your client develop the mental and emotional strategies to achieve her identified goals. Ask your client whether her thoughts are:

check.png Rational: Is there a law of the universe that says that she must think this way in this situation?

check.png Empirical: Must everyone respond in the way she is, or would other people respond differently?

check.png Helpful: Is her way of thinking and approaching the situation actually helping her to manage it successfully? If not, how else might she think?

CBC questioning methods

Remember.eps CBC is a process of questioning based on Socratic dialogue, which I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. The questions are designed to help the client analyse her thoughts and opinions so as to clarify whether her approach is supporting her to achieve her goals. The premise is that the client is the best person to make her own decisions. A CB coach does not tell her client what to think or do. The client has the answers, provided she is asked the right questions – you provide those questions to take her from the position she is currently in towards the thoughts and actions that help her reach her goals.

The CBC process is collaborative rather than confrontational, but it may be challenging because Socratic questions aim to provoke insights that help the client move forward. This process encourages your client to look at the evidence for her unhelpful or limiting belief and to see where she holds back.

You help your client to become her own coach by sharing the questioning techniques with her. For example, if your client feels overburdened by her workload but feels unable to say no to her boss, you may ask her Socratic questions that open up options for her:

check.png Tip.eps Where is it written that you must. . . ?

check.png Who says that you must. . . ?

check.png Does it follow that. . . ?

check.png What is the evidence that. . . ?

check.png Is this belief logical?

check.png Where is the evidence for your belief about this?

check.png Might you be exaggerating the importance of this problem?

check.png Are you concentrating on the negatives and ignoring the positives?

check.png Are you taking things too personally?

check.png What’s the worst that can happen?

check.png How important will this problem be in six months?

check.png Just because this situation has happened once, how does it follow that it must happen again?

check.png How might others approach this situation?

check.png How does failing (your exams, for example) make you a complete failure?

check.png Are you worrying about how you think things should be, rather than dealing with the situation as it is?

check.png Is your belief helping you achieve your goals?

check.png How else can you think about this situation?

check.png If you thought differently, how would that impact your outcome?

By answering these questions, your client reviews her approach and checks whether this approach is rational and helpful. You can then help her to develop more constructive self-talk and approaches based on evidence and reality. The ABCDE model developed by Albert Ellis provides a structure to identify and dispute old beliefs and exchange them, where relevant:

check.png Activating event

check.png Belief or expectation

check.png Consequence – emotion or behaviour

check.png Disputing the belief or expectation (B)

check.png Exchanging thoughts to be more rational and constructive

For more on the ABCDE model, check out Chapter 2.

Understanding the mind–body connection

In CBC, we apply what we know about neuroscience. Until the fairly recent advent of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists could only research the brains of dead people. Through MRI scans, we can see the brain in action, which gives us far more information about how the brain functions. We can now watch how a thought leads not only to a feeling but also to a physiological change in the body. Scientists recognise that how we think can impact many aspects of our body, including:

check.png Immune system

check.png Blood flow

check.png Heart rate

check.png Breathing function

Tip.eps Stressful thoughts lead to the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in your body, suppressing the immune system. When you’re fearful, your body becomes more rigid, you get butterflies in your stomach, and your hands sweat. Enthusiastic or supportive thoughts, on the other hand, cause the release of beta endorphins and human growth hormone, which make you feel physically lighter and full of energy. You can trick your brain into releasing immune-boosting endorphins by focusing your mind on a pleasant scene that relaxes your body.

Just as our thinking impacts our physiology, so our physiology impacts our thinking. When we are stressed, the brain is starved of blood and oxygen. You can show your client techniques to manage these physiological changes and enable her to develop thoughts that maintain her body’s homeostasis, or equilibrium. Such techniques include the following:

check.png Tip.eps Breathing exercises to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels

check.png Exercise such as walking and running

check.png Physical movement to relax the body, such as t’ai chi and yoga

check.png Meditation and progressive relaxation

See Chapters 13 and 21 for more information on keeping healthy and balanced.

CBC is based on your client’s thoughts and views. Because the brain impacts every area of the body, CBC is a holistic approach to self-development, which means that it does not just address the mind but addresses the life, work, and health of your client. As she takes more control of her thoughts and viewpoints, she begins to manage her emotions and physiology. As she feels more balanced, this balance can have far-reaching benefits on her health, creativity, and relationships.

Accepting Our Common Humanity

Remember.eps One of the principles of CBC is that humans are unique and marvellous, and also make mistakes. We make, therefore, a thinking error if we expect ourselves or others to be perfect. Acceptance of human fallibility is a theme that runs through all CBC models. Accepting fallibility is not to accept failure. You can show your client that she can continue to develop herself and her performance by seeking excellence and not perfection.

Many people get into the habit of blaming themselves and others for not coming up to their own constructed standards of behaviour. When people condemn and label others as stupid or heartless, they’re generally doing so from the point of view of their own needs and expectations, and frequently from the evidence of one or two specific occasions. Thus the statement can be an exaggeration. Although the person may have acted stupidly in one situation, it does not make her stupid in all situations.

Words such as should, must, and ought to denote personal rules of behaviour that your client has constructed about herself, others, and situations in general. You need to help your client to view behaviours objectively and learn to respect herself enough to be able to respect others even when they don’t agree with her approach.

Here are a few examples of thoughts your client may have:

check.png ‘I should have been able to get through all those emails last night’ demonstrates that the client did not come up to her own standards. This thought can reduce confidence and self-esteem.

check.png ‘He should have called me to tell me he was going to be late’ demonstrates that the client has expectations of how other people should behave, even though she may not know whether the person had a phone on her. This expectation can lead to anger and relationship problems.

check.png ‘I ought to have visited my mother this weekend’ demonstrates that the client had beliefs about how she should treat her mother. This kind of belief can lead to guilt.

Tip.eps To develop more balanced viewpoints, you can challenge these statements with questions such as:

check.png Do all your colleagues get through their emails every day?

check.png Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t call someone to tell her you were late?

check.png Is there a law that says you have to visit your mother every weekend?

Eventually, the client comes to see that every person struggles in her own way to make a success of her life, and that people have different methods of approaching situations. Like your client, other people try to do their best, even if that best does not match your client’s view of best.

Developing self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is fundamental to self-esteem and self-confidence. Many clients are hard on themselves, criticising themselves for mistakes, and not appreciating their good points. You may need to explain that self-acceptance does not mean any of the following:

check.png Giving up on self-improvement

check.png Saying ‘this is the way I am; live with it’

check.png Not learning from mistakes

check.png Not analysing what you can do differently

Remember.eps Self-acceptance does mean the following:

check.png Accepting that you’re human and that all humans have strengths and weaknesses

check.png Recognising that making a mistake does not mean that you’re stupid or a failure, just that you happen to have made one mistake

check.png Recognising that you have your quirks and can be sensitive to their impact on others

check.png Taking responsibility for yourself and working on behaviours that you wish to adapt

check.png Understanding that you won’t be loved and approved of by everyone – and nor will anyone else

check.png You can focus on your strengths and put your weaknesses in context

I cover many techniques that help you to develop your client’s self-acceptance in Chapter 9.

Seeking excellence and not perfection

A principle of CBC is human fallibility. This signifies that CBC regards perfectionism as unattainable. It would be nice, of course, if life were the way we wanted it to be and if all our expectations were met – but that’s in our dreams. And that’s the problem. We inevitably want things to go our way and turn out the way we want them to, but it simply isn’t a rational or realistic belief to expect this perfect outcome all the time. However, this belief causes a great deal of stress.

Ask your client to analyse her expectations of herself, others, and the world. You may unearth thoughts such as:

check.png ‘I should be more efficient.’

check.png ‘Others ought to treat me with more consideration.’

check.png ‘Life should be easier than it is.’

The underlying assumption here is that a perfect standard exists, which has to be reached. Your job is to show your client that this standard is constructed in her own head and is generally not a scientific law of the universe.

Perfectionism is irrational: your perfect may not be the same as your colleague’s. It also inspires a fear of failure, and this fear can lead to paralysis. Perfectionists can be driven, spending hours over a task that can be done to an excellent standard in less time. This kind of behaviour can play havoc with deadlines and have a knock-on effect on those with whom you are working, because it can lead to delay, especially when someone can’t start her piece of work until the previous person has finished.

Excellence is a rational and achievable goal. You’re endeavouring to do the best you can. This belief tends to remove fear and inspire an enthusiastic state rather than a fearful one.

In Table 1-2, I demonstrate some of the differences between perfectionism and the pursuit of excellence.

Table 1-2 Differences Between Perfectionism and the Pursuit of Excellence


Pursuit of Excellence

You’re driven by fear of failure.

You’re motivated by enthusiasm.

You work out of a sense of duty.

You enjoy the challenge of new tasks.

You’re nervous of change and taking risks.

You enjoy taking calculated risks and finding new ways of working.

None of your accomplishments are ever quite good enough.

You achieve a sense of satisfaction from your efforts even if they haven’t worked out perfectly.

You judge others by your own perfectionist view, so no one else is ever quite good enough either.

You accept that others are doing the best they can and can develop.

Your self-esteem depends on external achievements at work.

You feel you have intrinsic value in yourself, outside your external achievements.

You seek to impress people with your knowledge.

You feel accepted without trying to impress people all the time.

If you don’t achieve an important goal, you feel like a failure.

You realise that everyone makes mistakes occasionally, and, while you don’t seek to fail, you accept that you can learn from experience.

You feel you must be strong and not share vulnerabilities.

You can be vulnerable and share doubts and feelings with others.

You expect others to work in your way.

You allow others to work in their own way.

You miss deadlines because you’re still striving to get it just right.

You know when a piece of work is good enough.

Remember.eps These are very different ways of operating. The perfectionist will never be happy with her efforts. This results in low self-esteem and a fear-based approach to life and work. Enabling people to realise that it is more realistic to seek excellence enables them to free up their creativity and enjoy the process of working.