Have You Already Broken Last Month’s New Year’s Resolutions? Here Are Some Tips to Get You Back on Track.

By Susan Hunt-Bradford, Healthy Planet Publisher

Linda Nissenbaum is a certified professional life coach who does executive and life coaching. She has helped many clients all over the U.S. and other countries achieve their goals. I asked her some questions to help us stick with our resolutions that many of us started in January but have already abandoned. Linda’s answers might shed some light to get us going in the right direction. 

SHB: How long have you been a life coach?

LN: I have been coaching since 2006. I was drawn to coaching because it is such a positive way to help people grow and be all they are meantto be.

Originally, I received my certification through the Coach’s Training Institute (CTI) and then received additional certification from the International Coach’s Federation (ICF) which has different levels of coaching that coaches can receive.

I’ve taken many, many classes including Emotional Intelligence, Organization and Relationship Coaching, Positive Intelligence and all kinds of coaching classes.

Based on my education, training, testing, and number of coaching hours, I am certified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). Then every three years I have to take a minimum of 40 hours of training and classes to be recertified. In recent years because of the value and increase in the need for qualified coaches, many Universities are now offering coaching programs. I have been fortunate that I’ve coached and continue to coach chancellors, college/business presidents, lawyers, doctors, engineers, business executives, faculty, and college students at the undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. level, and others. 

SHB: What is the difference between coaching and therapy?

LN: Much of what a therapist focuses on are mental health issues that can be deep-rooted and keep clients from living their best life and feeling stuck. The therapist often helps the client by creating a treatment plan. One of the things that coaching does is to help people stay in the present and recognize that when they are depressed, they are often in the past, and when they are anxious, they are often worried about the future. 

Coaching is not therapy. In my former positions, I have supervised therapists and counselors. Sometimes people will do therapy along with coaching. And there is a definite place for both. Coaching’s goal is to help people understand where they are and where they want to be. 

It’s a natural human phenomenon for people to worry or be concerned or question themselves. The coach may ask the client such questions as, “Are you in the past, present, or future? “Do you want to stay where you are? How is it serving you?” Coaching encourages clients to learn from the past, stay in the present, and plan in the present for what’s desired in their future. The coach will listen closely and get the direction needed from the client. 

SHB: Describe being in the past, being in the future, and being present. 

LN: When you’re in the past, you may be upset or depressed about things that have happened in your life or be emotional about all those things that didn’t go right. And when you are in the future, there’s the worry about whether something is going to work or not going to work and what’s going to happen. So, helping clients learn to take a breath and determine where is their mindset so that they can get their mind back to the present is so important. This is something that people don’t often see. 

SHB: How do we start living in the moment? 

LN: We can recognize if our thoughts are in the past, present, or future and choose to be in the present. Often people want to change something, and they allow their emotions to stop them from moving forward. So again, just practicing being aware. The more we do it, the easier it is. I will draw my client’s attention to where their brain is by letting them know that I noticed that he/she is feeling anxious or worried and ask them, “Tell me what’s happening? Where are you when you are feeling this way?” Getting the client to recognize these things is very important and helps them to find a balance within them.

“Where’s your head? Past, present, or future? What is one thing you can do to stay in the present?” Explaining to them that the coaching research says that staying in the present helps to make positive changes and achieve goals. When clients are in the past, they are often dealing with depression, and when they are in the future, they are often dealing with anxiety. So, asking them, “When you are in the present, what can you do to keep yourself focused?” These questions can be very helpful. 

SHB: How do we stay in the present? 

LN: It’s an ongoing process. It’s not something that we can all of a sudden press a button and become perfect. It’s getting up every day and recognizing that we have choices. Someone I learned a lot from is author Elie Wiesel who wrote Night about his life being a prisoner in the concentration camps, and I often suggest that my clients read his book. Wiesel knew at a very young age that he could not change how the Nazis treated people or know if he would live or die, but he could choose his mindset each and every day. You see, people who come out of negative situations often become very bitter and angry, and often raise children who become very bitter and angry adults. Elie was never bitter or angry as he was not going to allow the brutal Nazis and what he saw and experienced firsthand to control his mind or his future. He had a choice in his reaction. Many times, we don’t have a choice in our circumstances. And while there are times we can change our circumstances, sometimes we find ourselves in a situation that is negative, and we have to stay there longer than desired. However, even though we find ourselves in adverse conditions, we can choose how we want to be with it. And that is what’s important for people to learn to recognize.

SHB: That falls right into last month’s New Year’s resolutions and how people can keep them. What is stopping us from keeping our goals? 

LN: Recognizing that you’re stuck and stopping yourself from keeping a New Year’s resolution is the first step. Coaching helps you recognize that something is stopping you. As the coach, I would ask my client to breathe and think about, “What can you do right now that would make the biggest difference?” Then, I might help the client create a plan to keep the resolution going in a positive direction and ask the client to let me know the direction taken. In coaching, the person I am coaching has to be willing to do the work and to get up and want to move forward. I might ask the person questions such as, “What did you learn from this? How did that make you feel? What was important about this? And what do you know now that you didn’t know before? What do you want, and how is that information serving you?”

SHB: How do you help people get unstuck?

LN: One of the things is to help them recognize, first and foremost, all that’s going right. To do this, I might ask my clients, “What are the things that bring you the most pride”? I often use a tool called, The Wheel of Life and ask clients to determine how they would rate themselves in different areas of their lives such as career, family, relationships, self-care, to name a few. This allows my client and me to get a “snapshot” of where they are in the present. If you are all over the place, it’s not a smooth ride. Most of us want positive life experiences, complete lives, and good relationships; we all want these things. So, a lot of times when people make resolutions, whether with their job, physical appearance, families, etc., they have great ideas but sometimes those goals are too broad. They’ve got too many things that they want to change all at once. This can be so overwhelming for some people and keeps them from getting started. Working with a coach who helps them pair things down and determine where they want to start and help them create a plan can support them in taking the steps they desire. 

 However, sometimes, people aren’t ready for the challenge. They want to make changes but they’re not willing to do anything different or the work that comes with it. Or they may be afraid of failure, so they stay stuck. 

SHB: And how do you help people overcome that?

LN: I have to be able to see the client, as creative, resourceful and whole, and help them believe that everything that they need is within them. Coaching helps clients recognize what they desire and be able to utilize their talents and skills to get there one step at a time. As a coach, I’m not “fixing” anything. My job is to help the client find the strength, the courage, and the talents that they have within themselves to be able to make the changes they desire and to show up even when things are hard. 

One of the most important things is learning to breathe. 

We go into the amygdala part of the brain when we are afraid or challenged. Our instincts might tell us that we must stop and “fight or flight.” That’s the way humans are designed for survival. I suggest that if people can stop for a moment and take 3-5 deep breaths and ask themselves, “What can they do in this moment that will make the biggest difference?” Often, this will let them take the first step to propel themselves forward in their lives. 

SHB: Do you do that by asking them questions reflective of themselves? 

LN: Yes, I ask questions that help them determine what is happening and if what is happening is getting them where they want to be. I might feed back to them what I am hearing them say and ask such questions as, “What stops you? What gets in your way? What have you tried and what worked? What didn’t work, and why didn’t it work?” These types of questions are dependent on what the clients say with the desire to bring things forward so that they can determine what’s going on, what they want, what’s stopping them, and what’s working. Often, as human beings, we’re so busy taking care of everything and everybody else that we don’t take enough time for ourselves. I often use the airplane analogy, which is that you have to put your mask on yourself first in order to be able to help others. This is not selfish; it is necessary and important in life. Truly, a person cannot be the best help to others unless they learn to take care of themselves first. 

And so coaching helps clients put the mask on themselves and learn about their own needs and what they desire. 

Sometimes clients get so overwhelmed by the fear of failure or anxiety that they miss the opportunity for growth. Often, I will share a quote that was once said, “The only person that does not make a mistake is someone who does nothing.” I ask questions that encourage clients to learn from their mistakes and help them understand that learning through their mistakes is part of their life’s journey which is not a straight ride. I might challenge them to step out and try some new things. If things work great, but if things didn’t work, asking them, “What did you learn from that? What might you need to put in place in order to get what you need?”

SHB: Maybe we’re wording our resolution incorrectly.

LN: If you say, I want to be different, that’s so broad. What is it that you want to do? So, for instance, if a client wants to focus on being the best that they can be this year, I would ask questions to help them drill down and figure out what does that entail. Whether it may include better sleep patterns, better eating habits, or connecting with others, I try to help clients to hone in by asking questions like, “What does it mean? What steps can be taken? What are the things they like in their lives? What are the things that could be better?” 

Some people start off with so many goals that the goals become negative baggage that weighs them down. They start to feel broken and feel that they need to be fixed. The questions that I would ask my clients would be to help them realize that they are not broken and don’t need to be fixed. I might ask, “What is it that you want more of in your life that you don’t have right now?” 

SHB: If someone wants to start exercising, what would you tell them to do? 

LN: I wouldn’t tell them what to do. Coaching isn’t about telling anyone what to do but I would ask them, “What’s important about exercise? What is it that you are trying to achieve through your exercise?” Often, they are seeking good health, longevity, better movement, and as a coach, I ask questions to help them see where they could start. I help them determine their actions/next steps, and how they can create some accountability for those actions/steps. It might be that some people need a buddy who is interested in exercising, and I might ask, “What could you do to create some accountability with each other.” The accountability factor is important for some people, so I might ask them, “How will I know that you did what you said you would do? They might state that they will text me each time they walk, work out, etc., during the week.

 I had a client say he wanted to be in the gym six days a week, so to make it more manageable, I asked him how he could start off doing something physical every day and aim to be in the gym three days a week. Through our meeting, he was able to realize that he might be setting himself up since going to the gym six days a week is a huge commitment as life gets in the way, and there are things that happen. But, if he couldn’t go to the gym one of those days, I asked him to think about some of the things he could do that day instead so that he could still get 15 or 20 minutes of physical activity. 

SHB: What about for the people that have the I’m too busy excuse to go to the gym. 

LN: I would want to know why they were going to the gym in the first place. It could be they wanted to do something physical, or they wanted a connection to other people. The reasons can vary from person to person. For example, the client might say that he/she wanted to feel better. I might say, “If you’re too busy for the gym, what else could you do that doesn’t take as much time that would give you similar results? 

SHB: I like that because that takes care of all-or-nothing thinking. Many people would say I’m too busy for the gym and not do anything. But it sounds like there’s always a choice to do something else. When people stop doing their resolutions, what should we do? 

LN: You can do nothing to force the person to keep their resolution. You can support the person by encouraging them to think about why they created the goal and what was important about their resolution in the first place. 

SHB: Maybe there’s something else they can do that’s not so big as going to the gym every day.

LN: Yes, there are many options and choices to help the person reach their goal of being more physically fit. Walking the mall, their neighborhood, or walking about their house, using a steps app on your phone with a goal of walking a number of steps and then increasing those steps, are a few that come to mind. 

SHB: It seems like when people stop doing their resolutions, they often feel like a failure.

LN: It can also be a lack of self-care. Being there for everyone else but ourselves. When clientshave experiences that are sometimes not as positive as they would like, I might ask them, “If you were talking to a friend, what would you tell them?” I would encourage them to learn to be a friend to themselves. Often, we’re good at supporting others, but we need to learn how we can be more positive with ourselves. 

SHB: You have clients that have been able to achieve their goals. Is there a formula for their success? 

LN: Yes, many of my clients have grown and continue to grow and realize their goals. I think of some of my clients that are, to the outside world, at the peak of their careers, yet there are still things they want in their lives. I help my clients to recognize that we are all works in progress, and hopefully, we’re always learning and growing. We can learn to be happy where we are but still want to keep growing and learning.

SHB: It sounds like we could be making some changes to our resolutions. Instead of saying I want to lose weight. We should go deeper.

LN: The question is, why do you want to lose weight? What is it about losing weight that’s important? And what stops you? And what has worked in the past? 

Losing weight is one of the predominant resolutions. We have these big grandiose ideas. If you want to lose weight to be healthy, helping the clients to determine the steps they need to take to be healthy, learning what might get in their way, and what works can be a great help.

 If you are interested in working with a certified life coach and finally accomplishing some goals, you can email Linda at coachlinda4u@gmail.com (Please note that insurance usually does not cover the cost of coaching.)