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The Power Of Choice – Why Non-directive Coaching Works

Written by: Gina Lokken, ICF PCC, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


No one likes it when their life feels out of control; when every option seems to be exhausted or the ability to choose has been stripped away by another person or circumstance.

Feeling “out of control” stimulates our most primitive self, the part of our brain that fiercely protects the will to survive, to self-preserve. When our amygdala (the fear center of the brain) activates, we are more likely to respond out of fear, and thus, in ways that are counter to who we really are. We will push back, quit, or procrastinate on things we know are important to us.

Take, for instance, the toilet paper shortage of 2020. It seems ridiculous that people would freak out over not having anything to wipe their behind with, in the middle of a pandemic. But according to neuroscientist Terry Wu, in his YouTube video, 3 Brain Hacks to Control Your Amazon Addiction, “buying toilet paper was a simple coping mechanism to help people deal with their stress.” It was something they felt they had control over (i.e., a choice) and that provide comfort and a feeling of “safety.” Even though toilet paper cannot in and of itself provide safety.

Okay, so what does this have to do with non-directive coaching?


If unpredictability and lack of control are major contributors to activating our stress response, then it follows that having a sense of choice is critical to living in a way that is wise, authentic, and thought through. Of course, this is as true for business as for everything else.

In order to set goals, build a business strategy, and follow-through, we need to have a sense of choice, of control, in where our business is headed. Unfortunately, well-meaning peers, hired professionals, or family members often end up “shoulding” all over us. Making us feel that their way is the ONLY way to reach our dreams or attain success in whatever our pursuits are, personally or professionally.

But what if your way is not my way? What if your path is not my path?

Would you be robbing me of precious experiences, opportunities, or even failures I need to move through to become the person I’m meant to be?

You see, “shoulding” someone else, telling someone “my way or the highway,” or giving advice to someone who didn’t ask for it takes away their choice and activates their primal self. Instead of helping them, it can end up harming them by activating the amygdala - pushing them into fight, flight, or freeze.

One of my clients told me her experience with a previous business coach. Her analogy to describe the interchange with this other coach was that she felt like a house cat who wanted to go outside. But instead of helping her discover the door, and thus the outside world, this coach had simply chucked her out in the front lawn. Her instinct was to freeze up in terror and then run back to the safety of the house because everything felt out of control. She hadn’t chosen to go outside; she had been thrown. So instead of exploring and learning what worked best for her, she ended up retreating to what was safe and familiar. As a result, her business went backwards instead of forward.

Non-directive coaching gives people choices, which reduces stress and calms the primal self. It allows each individual to choose-their-own-adventure in life or business without judgment or the feeling that there is only ‘one true way’ to reach success. It is, in essence, a partnership between coach and client. The coach simply helps guide the client towards a better understanding of their own expertise, strategies, and goals by asking powerful questions that elicit deep, meaningful awareness on how to move toward the desired outcome.

Think about it, all of us have different lives, problems, struggles, experiences, personalities, skills, families, brain chemistry, and on and on we go… why would we expect there to be a single path to experiencing a “great life.” God created each of us unique, one-of-a-kind. And what’s more, He gave us free will – the ability to choose.

When anything is forced or feels forced upon us, we instinctively push back and refuse to take hold of it – whether that is faith, financial planning, or a marketing strategy. We must have the ability to forge our own way forward, to feel a sense of control and to know we are always at choice.

If you could give the gift of choice to someone, what new possibilities would be created as a result?

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Gina Lokken, ICF PCC, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Gina is passionate about helping female entrepreneurs, business professionals, and leaders infuse God into their everyday personal and professional lives so that they can become the person He designed them to be. She firmly believes business and faith do not have to be separate, and business does not have to be boring. Gina specializes in strengths-based leadership and team building, creating cultures of joy through neuroscience practices, leadership and communication training, and creative coaching methodologies that propel her client's past what they originally thought was possible!



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