There are many reasons that people find it difficult to act on health advice and why health coaching, as a way of helping people find their own way to improve their health is becoming more common. We are very sensibly and frequently told in so many places and ways, that to be healthy, we must not smoke and should maintain a heathy weight, do the right amount and type of exercise, eat and drink healthily and reduce stress. This is important, we know, to avoid getting chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Despite that, putting all of this into practice consistently, or even at all, can be difficult for many of us and the reasons for that are complicated.
First of all, health advice can be hard to understand and inconsistent because it comes from so many places, both within health and from other sources. Broad messages can be tricky to relate and apply to our specific situation. Also, we might need to learn something to be able to put the advice into practice, like how to read food labels for example (and don’t forget your glasses if you need them, they are small!), or how to cook differently. For many people the monetary and/or the personal cost of making the changes without help can put them out of reach, as can their level of health-related knowledge, or health literacy (Beauchamp et. Al, 2015).
Secondly, in relation to our behaviours, none of us exist in a vacuum, instead we are all part of systems. This means that we each impact and are impacted by other people and contexts all the time. These systems can be relationships, family, social, work and community networks. They will have influenced how we think, what we believe, what is normal for us and what we do and don’t do. This has been happening since we were born and continues and evolves through our lives (Prevention Centre, 2014).
Thirdly, for change to be successful, it has to be something we want to do and are ready for. It is made up of stages and processes that include thinking about it, deciding you want to do it, planning for it and giving it a go. Sometimes this process works the first time, sometimes not. Successful change tends not to be a straight line upwards, but is often more like a series of steps, some big, others tiny. Some of them will be going backwards before they go forwards again (ACI, 2020; Prochange, 2020).
I have learned that with any kind of health improvement change, support and help from family, friends, co-workers and/or professionals is important. Also, small and incremental changes over time can make a big difference. I have learned this from reading research and talking to other health care workers, from co-designing health promotion strategies with patients (lots of wisdom there) and from hours of individual health coaching with clients/patients around health improvement and wellbeing. And by small changes, I mean things like, changing what you know about your health, or food or exercise by learning something, by changing what you eat for breakfast on Tuesdays or what snack you swap on Fridays. Changing how much you move compared to last week and throw in maybe a 2 minutes breathing exercise in the shower.
Now I’m not suggesting that we all go and do any, or all of these things because the things you do need to mean something to you and where you are headed with your health. Which brings me to my final message. For change to be successful (in anything, not only health), there are three things to consider. Where you are now, your current reality. Where you want to be, by when and finally and most importantly why (by that I mean what will the change give you?). When you know all of that, assuming you are ready for change, all you have to do is work out which small change will start you on your way. When you have consistently mastered that, decide and begin the next one.
ACI (2020). Consumer enablement Guide. Available: https://www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/resources/chronic-care/consumer-enablement/guide/how-to-support-enablement/motivational-interviewing
Beauchamp, Alison, Buchbinder, Rachelle, Dodson, Sarity, Batterham, Roy W, Elsworth, Gerald R, McPhee, Crystal, Sparkes, Louise, Hawkins, Melanie, & Osborne, Richard H. (2015). Distribution of health literacy strengths and weaknesses across socio-demographic groups: a cross-sectional survey using the Health Literacy Questionnaire (HLQ). BMC Public Health, 15(1), 678. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-2056-z
Prevention Centre (2014). What is systems thinking and how does it apply to prevention in tappc? Available: https://preventioncentre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Systems-thinking-paper1.pdf
Prochange (2020) The Transtheoretical Model, Available: https://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-changeReport this
Strengths Finder Assessment and Feedback
Doing Strengths Finder coaching has enabled me to see how I can make the most of my natural abilities. The test itself outlined 5 particular strengths but it was the coaching that meant I now know how to actually utilise this information. It is going to help me a great deal when it comes to my academic life and in particular how I can study in the most effective way. The coaching helps access the key to knowing your strengths and Deb has helped me devise a plan of how I can move forward with these skills. Her work with me has been vital to the Strengths Finder process and I would absolutely recommend the coaching as vital to finding your strengths.
Family Harmony Workshop for Parents
The course gave a great framework to build a more harmonious family - I find it difficult to explain to my teens why I don't like their behaviour but with this toolkit I am able to articulate this easily and less emotionally, resulting in better communication and a less charged atmosphere. Thanks Deb for the lifeline
Team Building Facilitation and Coaching
As a new Manager to a newly formed team of eight staff, I engaged Deb to facilitate our first team planning day. The objective of the day was to identify a shared vision and to start a process of strategic planning for the next three years. The day was a great success and set the team up with greater clarity of purpose and a framework for future planning.
Deb demonstrated a great understanding of the team, its context and challenges. This was due to her careful and thorough planning and reflections prior to the day. Deb managed the varying levels of engagement among the team exceptionally well; she did this with the establishment of clear ground rules and a sense of trust and respect. Deb listened actively and regularly questioned for greater clarity before reflecting on the team’s contributions.
We ended the day with a clear vision that was shared and in which all members felt they had an investment. Deb followed up regularly after the session to check in on progress and to provide advice about next steps. We were extremely lucky to have been able to work with Deb at this important stage of the team’s development and I would not hesitate for a moment in engaging Deb again.
Angela Hehir, (Manager)
Business Leadership Coaching
Debra's help in getting me to focus on the strategic direction of my business and my work-life priorities has proven invaluable. She has the ability to ask simple questions to create greater clarity and focus in both work and personal goals. Debra is a great listener, follows up on her clients and creates a great support base for her clients through recommending network groups, courses and reading material. For those who want a leadership coach that goes that extra mile,
I highly recommend her.
Yvette Audet, Sport & Recreation Management Services
360 degree feedback and Mentoring
Debra provided feedback on my 360 leader/manger profile. I have taken this style of development tool on two prior occasions and found the feedback underwhelming. This time I found that Debra has an empathetic and approachable feedback style. Previously I have felt very much that I was being placed in a stereotypical box.
I liked Debra,s approach and understood more that the outcomes of the survey reflect a favored management leadership style and this could be flexible. Debra is able to draw out your thoughts on how you feel others perceive you rather than preaching which was a great attribute.
We talked about the outcomes and the way forward and I was left with a comfortable feeling that I could achieve my higher aims. Debra provided positive feedback and kept in contact after the initial interview. Her trouble in organizing some key topic papers and net links was commendable. I hope very much to take Debra up on some future mentoring and would highly recommend Debra’s leadership skill set to you.
Professor Tim Lyons, Newcastle
Concrete personal career goals
I have appreciated my coaching sessions this year more than I can say. Deb has challenged me at every turn which I have loved, making me work hard to find my own solutions during an extremely professionally challenging year. This has been extremely satisfying.
I also now have concrete personal career goals and a plan on how to get there – non existent when I started coaching and really not something I consciously thought I needed. As a consequence I feel more focused and motivated for the next year and beyond.
Finally I would have to say my coaching session with Deb have been an absolute lifeline for me this year, keeping me on track, helping me to grow and learn and ultimately make a monumental shift in my approach and style as a leader. I am very grateful for her time, patience, humor and professionalism – I am certainly am better leader thanks to coaching with Deb.
Bernadette Hollis, Sydney