Tapping into Positive Experiences

Sometimes I’ve had clients say they don’t have anything to coach around, so I ask them to tell me about something positive that has happened in their life.  Clients are often surprised by this, thinking of coaching as a way to address problems or areas in their lives where they feel stuck.  But when we coach around something positive in their life, by the end of the session they are energized and grateful.  So, what’s the value in coaching around positive experiences and emotions?

When we take the time to focus on our appreciation of even small events in our lives, we develop a sense of meaning.  A 2022 study published in Nature Human Behaviour focused on whether experiential appreciation, or valuing our own life experiences, contributes to finding meaning in life.  Through seven studies, the authors found support that experiential appreciation does influence our perceptions of whether or not we are living meaningful lives.  There’s also a lot of research on the relationship between positive emotions and its impact on chemicals in our brain.  For instance dopamine, the chemical related to our reward system, seems to spike when we experience positive emotions.

It’s easy for us to experience something positive, smile, and then move on with our day.  As one client who struggles with procrastination told me, “It feels so good when I accomplish something on my list, but I never hang on to that feeling.”  Coaching around a positive experience, whether it’s a brief moment with a family member, a fun night out with friends, or checking off something on our to-do list, allows us to strengthen the memory of the experience and the feelings associated with it.  Recalling those moments and staying with those feelings strengthens the neural pathways in our brain so that the next time we are down or just want to boost our spirits, we can quickly recall these events and tap into the energy of the feelings that arise.  I’ve also found that coaching people around these positive moments reveals how the experience aligns with their deeper values, giving them greater insight into what’s truly meaningful in their lives.

So the next time you have a coaching session and aren’t sure what to talk about, try focusing on a positive experience in your life.  You just may be able to strengthen the memory and find deeper meaning.  And, at bare minimum, sitting in those positive emotions just feels good.

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