What Coaching Does to Your Brain – A Neuroscience Perspective

Coaching is self-directed change in your brain.

30 years ago most scientists thought the brain could not change once it reached the adulthood. Now they know it can change.

Neuroplasticity has been the buzzword in recent years. Neuroplasticity is brain’s nature to be able to change. And that’s what we do when we work with a coach – we change our brain in the way we desire. By changing our attention, we change how we think and how we feel, but we also anatomically change our brain on both microscopic and larger level – some areas get larger, some get smaller; new pathways, new connections are formed; different chemicals are released. Coaching changes who we are, changes our personality.

Neuroscience is the foundation of all good coaching models. Understanding the neuroscience allows us, coaches, not only to know which tools work best in which situations, but also why they work.



Amygdala is part of our limbic system and is traditionally regarded as a detector of threat, either real or symbolic. One of its functions is the “fight or flight” response.

Amygdala can hijack you. It reacts within 80 milliseconds, while conscious perception takes 250 milliseconds. Here are some examples of usual amygdala triggers in social or business situations:

Status: You perceive you compare unfavourably to others, or you fear you are about to lose status.

Feedback: also often perceived as threat to status – do I have to learn from you?

Micromessages: small subtle nonverbal messages – smile, raised eyebrow, checking mobile phone. They are perceived emotionally and nonconsciously. We each send around 3,000 micromessages a day.

Amygdala activation can profoundly reduce performance (just seeing a frowning face impairs performance); it can “steal” the blood and energy needed for conscious processing and can make the brain “go automatic”.

It’s very important knowing your amygdala and building up its tolerance to symbolic dangers. You can influence the size and the activity level of the amygdala today by exercising, healthy diet, enough sleep and meditation.


Do you have any unhelpful habits, or a habit that you want to change? Habits are fantastic neurologically and practically because they free up brain so it can focus on new things. Brain is designed to get into routines so that we don’t spend energy unnecessarily. How does it happen? The way neurons communicate is one synopsis sending signals to another. The more times a message is communicated through synopses, the stronger the connection. Cells that fire together wire together. Et voilà, a habit is formed.

Repetition is key. Take small steps, break down the habit you want to create into small steps, into small changes. If you want to exercise, start by exercising 5 minutes every day.

Nudging helps – putting your trainers next to your bed, or putting healthier snacks in a more accessible place in the kitchen, help creating new desirable habits.

What about the willpower? The neuroscience shows that it’s only by practicing the willpower that the willpower is built. Brushing your teeth with another hand during three weeks increases your willpower. And when you need to use it, then it’s there.


When goals are too big or the demands are too high, it creates a resistance and paralyses people. A large goal creates fear, which triggers Amygdala, which means that the access to your thinking brain, Cortex, is restricted, which creates failure.

With a small goal the fear is bypassed, Cortex is engaged, and you succeed.

Small steps approach puts you on a faster track, because you don’t have inner resistance, and by taking small steps and succeeding you change your beliefs about yourself.

Reality: It’s a Matter of Perception

Perception is reality.

People are constantly viewing and making judgements of you. Everything you do is remembered by somebody. People don’t judge you by your intentions; they judge you by your behaviour.

For example, if you make quick decisions, you can be perceived as decisive, or you can be perceived as someone who makes decisions without thinking them through.

If you are detail-oriented, you can be perceived as thorough, or you can be perceived as someone who’s unable to look at the big picture.

If you are quite and introspective, you can be perceived as thoughtful, or you can be perceived as being afraid to speak up.

If you like to share your knowledge and expertise, you can be perceived as instructive and knowledgeable, or you can be perceived as an arrogant know-it-all.

If you treat all projects as equally important, you can be perceived as reliable and methodical, or you can be perceived as unable to prioritise.

Perceptions Are Important

Perceptions are important, because once formed, they are difficult to change. Why? Because perceptions are self-sustaining – once people have formed an impression, they stop actively gathering new information. So attempting to change perceptions can take a long time.

How Perceptions Are Formed

Our brain goes through several steps when forming a perception. We observe something – we make an assessment and try to understand it – we make judgement based on our feelings and opinions. As soon as judgment is made, it becomes perception, which becomes reality. Our reality.

Mike Myatt gave examples of different perceptions of the world’s most famous glass:

The Optimist: the glass is half full

The Pessimist: the glass is half empty

The Salesperson: How much water would you like your glass to hold?

The accountant: Does the glass really need all that water?

The Investment Banker: I’m only 50% leveraged

The engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

The Quantum Physicist: The glass has a 50% probability of holding water

The Philosopher: If nobody looks at the glass, who’s to say whether it’s half full or half empty?


How to Know How Others Perceive You?

Notice how your behaviour affects others. For example, when you speak up, do others begin to lose interest, look away, or make faces? Observing others’ reactions to you is the first step.

Actively ask for feedback. Most people are reluctant to give honest feedback, so when you get it, consider it a gift. Avoid responding with explanations for how and why you do it.

You don’t have full control over others’ perceptions, but you do have control over your actions, which can substantially affect others’ perceptions.

Be aware and proactively manage what people notice about you, what behaviours you display, what image you have, what attitudes you project, what opinions you hold. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”




Test your morality: should you pull the switch?

Here’s a question for you. There is a run-away train. If it is left to do what it’s going to do, it will go on the left track and kill five people. They can’t see the train coming.


You are the person at the switch. If you do nothing, five people will die. If you pull that switch, the train will be diverted and will go on the other track. Unfortunately, there is one other person there and he will be killed.

Should you pull the switch? Think about your answer to that.

And now compare it to another case. There’s a run-away train again. Unless something happens, that train will proceed and kill five people. You are standing on a bridge, and next to you is a big fat man. If you push him, he will fall down, land on the tracks, he will be killed, but he will stop the train.


 Should you let the train proceed, killing five people or should you push the man?

These questions have been asked to over 100,000 people in various studies. Most people  think it’s okay to pull the switch in the first case. But most people think it’s wrong to push the man.


One theory is that we unconsciously have in our brains a subtle philosophical principle called Doctrine of Double Effect. There’s a distinction between:

  • Doing something bad, like killing or harming somebody as an unintended consequence of bringing about greater good; and
  • Doing something bad, like killing or harming somebody in order to bring about a greater good.

Even if the consequences are identical, to our brain the first one seems the right thing to do, and the second one seems wrong. And the only difference is that in one case, the death is a regrettable by-product, while in the second case it’s an instrument through which you act.

Your Career: Learn the Rules of the Game and Play Better than Anyone Else

When people come to me for Career Coaching, one of the first questions I ask them is:

What do you think the most important factor determining your chances of getting promoted and having the career you dream of?

So far, none of them have answered correctly. “Being competent and getting results”, or in other words “good performance” is the answer I receive most frequently. And it’s wrong.

The reality you face at work is that your Performance alone does not allow you to have the success you deserve. Even more, if you are already at middle or upper management level – as most of my coachees are – your good performance becomes non-differential – it virtually does not affect your chances of farther advancing in your career.

So, what does? It’s the combination of three ingredients: Perception, Visibility and Influence. You need to consciously work on and leverage all three, if you want to continue being successful.


You will be surprised to see how little  Performance actually determines your chances of success once you have reached middle or upper management level (data from the book “Getting Ahead”):

New Employee Middle Management Upper Management:
Performance 51% Performance    8% Performance     2%
Perception    29% Perception       30% Perception        25%
Visibility        15% Visibility           42% Visibility            17%
Influence       5% Influence         20% Influence          56%

Improving on these three key factors – Perception, Visibility and Influence – is vital for your career. Among them they determine more then 90% of your success once you have reached middle management level!

Improve your Perception – create the right image of yourself.  Take control of how others see you.

Increase your Visibility – get noticed among higher levels of management by standing out.

Exert your Influence –  have impact and use your power to change and improve situations, regardless of your position or level of authority.

It’s not easy. It requires changes in your behavior and changes in your mindset. It requires action, commitment, and follow through. You need to dedicate necessary time and make it your priority. It takes a lot of courage and confidence. And no, it’s not in your job description.

But you know the rules of the game now. And as long as you are playing this game, why not play better than anyone else?

The More You Celebrate Your Life, the More There’s in Life to Celebrate

Last weekend I was at a friend’s party. Rose was celebrating! She was celebrating having completed the first one of the six stages of very challenging studies she is undertaking. She was celebrating it with champagne! Above all, she was celebrating it with her loved one and her friends!

In the midst of endless quantity of great food, wine, music and fun I rediscovered something: the importance of celebrating!

When you celebrate with loved ones, you bask in the energy of those around you who feel happy for you. And what is more, your success inspires them too.

When you celebrate, you send a signal to your subconscious that you are thankful for the progress you are making toward your dream.

It is essential that we notice and appreciate our progress regularly. It helps us stay inspired and excited about our long-term goals. It allows us to continue our journey with joy.

Photo Credit: chrisps via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: chrisps via Compfight cc

Celebrate anything that is meaningful to you. It can be something big, like finally taking that dream vacation, or something small – like having had the courage to step out of your comfort zone. Only you know how big or small it is for you. Only you know how meaningful it is for you personally. And that’s all that matters.

Celebrate it your own way. Treat yourself to a spa day. Go to your favourite restaurant. Schedule a celebration with friends or a loved one – whatever gives you pleasure and is a meaningful way for you for a good celebration.

When we neglect to acknowledge and celebrate what deserves recognition, we start taking things for granted and lose the sense of how powerful we are in creating our own destiny. By celebrating where we are and what we have already achieved, we open ourselves up to more. In a sense, we get even closer to our dreams.

Regardless of whether you have achieved something concrete or not, or even if you think you have failed, get what you can out of every experience and celebrate your progress along your own path. Remember, where you are right now was once a place you could only dream of! So take some time to celebrate – you deserve it!

Thanks to Rose I decided to celebrate one thing every month.

So, what are you celebrating this month? I’d love to know!

How to Get Lucky? Four Simple Techniques

Professor Richard Wiseman made an extensive research  about luck. He distilled four simple techniques commonly used by lucky people.

Maximise chance opportunities

Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.

Listen to lucky hunches

Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.


Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

Expect good fortune

Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure and shape their interactions with others in positive way.

Turn bad luck to good

Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on their ill fortune, and take control of the situation.

Good luck!:-)


Coaching – Preguntas Frecuentes

As an exception this post is in Spanish. Here is the same post in English.

Puede ser que tengas muy claro lo que es el coaching, o que no tengas ni idea. En cualquier caso, creo que podrías encontrar algo interesante en este documento.

¿Cuáles son algunos temas típicos de coaching?

  • Tengo un gran objetivo y quiero que en el camino me apoye alguien.
  • Tengo muchos planes pero no llego a implementarlos.
  • Estoy montando mi propio negocio y me siento abrumada con todo lo que tengo que hacer.
  • Estoy estresado, trabajo demasiado.
  • Estoy pensando en cambiar mi carrera y quiero explorar las posibilidades.
  • He perdido la motivación y la claridad hacia dónde voy, y necesito un empuje.
  • Tengo un tema en el trabajo (una tarea que no sé cómo hacerla, le pasa algo a mi equipo, el jefe no escucha/no entiende etc.).
  • Siento que quiero hacer un cambio pero no estoy segura qué tipo de cambio.
  • Estoy atascado, no avanzo, y no sé qué es lo siguiente que tengo que hacer.
  • A la vida le falta emoción. No sé exactamente qué pasa pero me falta algo.
  • Quiero recuperar mayor significado en mi vida y en mi trabajo.

Los temas individuales varían mucho. Sea cual sea la situación individual, las personas hacen coaching cuando están llenas del deseo – deseo de brillar.

¿Qué es el coaching?

El coaching es una relación con un profesional altamente cualificado y formado, que trabajará contigo como tu socio personal. El coaching está enfocado a que consigas resultados extraordinarios. Se trata de poner todo tu potencial al servicio de alcanzar metas importantes.

¿Cuál es la filosofía fundamental del coaching?

Tú como persona eres creativa, llena de recursos y capaz de tener la vida y la carrera que realmente te mereces.

Puedes conseguir lo que deseas mucho más rápido haciendo equipo con un coach.

¿Qué obtengo del coaching?

En coaching nos enfocamos tanto en ser como en hacer.

A nivel de hacer:

  • Clarificarás tus objetivos.
  • Harás un plan de acción y lo cumplirás.
  • Alcanzarás objetivos importantes y de gran significado para ti.
  • Cumplirás tus sueños.
  • Tendrás éxito en el trabajo y en la vida con más facilidad.

A nivel de ser, te llevaras cosas que mejorarán tu vida ahora y en el futuro:

  • Mejor auto-conocimiento.
  • Tomar riendas/ ser responsable de tu vida.
  • Mayor auto-confianza.
  • Mayor rendimiento.
  • Mejores habilidades de toma de decisiones.
  • Mayor motivación y compromiso.
  • Mejores habilidades de liderazgo.
  • Mayor calidad de vida/ mejor equilibrio de trabajo/vida personal.
  • Mayor claridad en cuanto al propósito de tu vida.
  • Mejores comunicación y relaciones.
  • Crecimiento personal sostenible y habilidades de auto-coaching duraderas más allá del proceso de coaching.

¿Qué diferencia hay entre coaching y otras profesiones?

Vamos a considerar un ejemplo: quieres aprender a montar en bicicleta.

  • El terapeuta explorará que te impide que consigas a montar en bici. El coach pondrá el foco en tus fortalezas y asegurará que las utilizas en el proceso de aprender a montar en bici.
  • El mentor te dará consejos de su experiencia de cómo aprendió a montar en bici. El coach te asistirá en le proceso de poner los consejos en práctica.
  • El asesor te asesorará sobre como se aprende a montar en bici. El coach te acompañará para que siguas adelante con el proceso y te apoyará a que realmente llegues a montar en bici. 



¿Cuál es la diferencia entre coaching y terapia?

Ve a la persona como creativa, llena de recursos y capaz Ve a la persona desde un punto de vista médico
No se asume ninguna patología síquica No se asume nada sobre la salud mental
El coach y el coachee están al mismo nivel El terapeuta y el cliente están en distintos niveles jerárquicos
Enfoque en el presente y el futuro Enfoque en el pasado
Enfoque en hacer y ser Enfoque en introspección
Orientado a las soluciones Orientado al problema
Orientado a la acción Orientación pasiva (escuchar)
Orientado al crecimiento/desarrollo Orientado a la patología o la curación
Explora acciones y comportamientos que manifiestan autoestima alta Explora el origen del comportamiento que crea baja autoestima
El coach y el coachee preguntan:

¿Cuál es el siguiente paso?

El terapeuta y el cliente preguntan:

¿Por qué? ¿Cuál es la causa?

Trata creencias limitantes como obstáculos temporales y las vence con coaching Analiza las raíces históricas de las creencias limitantes
Coach y coachee diseñan juntos el proceso El plan de tratamiento está diseñado principalmente por el terapeuta
Se reúnen en el trabajo de coachee, sitio neutro o por Skype Se trabaja en la oficina del terapeuta
Hay contacto entre sesiones para informar de los logros o celebrarlos Hay contacto entre sesiones sólo en caso de crisis

¿El coach trabaja sobre asuntos personales o profesionales?

En coaching creemos que los asuntos personales y profesionales están entrelazados y afectan unos a otros. El coach está formado para trabajar de forma profesional sobre todos los aspectos de la vida.

¿Puedo contratar a un coach sólo para un objetivo y proyecto concreto?

Sin lugar a dudas. Muchas personas buscan a un coach para que les apoye en alcanzar objetivos o realizar proyectos específicos.

Muchas veces los objetivos evolucionan en el proceso, ya que las personas descubren que son capaces de conseguir mucho más de lo que pensaban. También, muchos continúan trabajando con el coach ya que aparecen nuevos retos y proyectos como consecuencia de su éxito en haber conseguido los objetivos iniciales.

¿Por qué el coaching funciona tan bien?

Tu eficiencia general aumenta ya que te mantienes centrado, en acción, y tu coach te mantiene responsable para cumplir tu plan de acción.

Tu coach tiene herramientas para conseguir cosas de forma más fluida y fácil.

¿Qué ocurre cuando contratas a un coach?

  • Te tomas a ti misma más en serio e impulsas tus acciones.
  • Inmediatamente empiezas a dar pasos efectivos y enfocados.
  • Dejas de gastar tu energía en asuntos inútiles y consigues resultados con más facilidad.
  • Te propones objetivos que tienen un impacto real en las áreas en las que más quieres crecer.

¿Por cuánto tiempo tengo que comprometerme a trabajar con un coach?

Habitualmente los coaches piden un compromiso de tres a seis meses de sus nuevos coachees. Puedes dejar el proceso si por la razón que sea el coaching no te está funcionando en este momento.

¿Cuánto cuesta tener un coach?

 La mayoría de la personas descubre que el coaching se paga a sí mismo, ya que consiguen cambios importantes en su vida y empiezan a ganar más dinero además de liberar su energía para probar nuevos caminos.

Probablemente tendrás que invertir en un rango de €150 a €750 por mes, para tres o cuatro sesiones de media hora o una hora.

El coaching ejecutivo o corporativo tiene otro rango de precios que es superior.

¿Por dónde empiezo?

Contacta con un coach (no hace falta que sea en tu ciudad, ya que todos los coaches trabajan por teléfono/Skype) y pide una sesión informativa. La mayoría de coaches hacen la sesión informativa gratis o con un coste mínimo.

¿Cómo escojo a mi coach?

Ante todo, el coaching es una relación, por lo tanto una conexión buena con tu coach es esencial.

Ten en cuenta la personalidad del coach  – tiene que ser una persona que sinceramente valora y se preocupa por los demás; es abierta, honesta y capaz de crear una relación efectiva; tiene autoconfianza para poder trabajar contigo sobre retos difíciles; es creíble por su madurez, inteligencia y experiencia vital.

Ten en cuenta la cualificación/formación del coach  – asegura que se ha formado en coaching en un programa acreditado por ICF (International Coach Federation).

¿Cómo puedo saber si estoy preparado/a para coaching?

Estás preparado/a para coaching, es un buen momento para tener un coach, y sacaras mucho provecho del proceso si varios de las siguientes afirmaciones son verdad:

Sabes/crees que:

  • Tienes potencial no realizado.
  • Eres capaz de tener una vida y una carrera que realmente te mereces.
  • Realmente deseas un cambio.

Estás abierto/a a:

  • Hacer las cosas de otra forma y mejor.
  • Descubrir más sobre ti mismo/a.
  • La aportación y colaboración de otros.

Estás preparado/a a:

  • Abordar algunos temas difíciles para llegar a dónde quieres llegar.
  • Tomar riendas en los asuntos que son importantes para ti.
  • Salir de tu zona de confort para crecer.

Te puedes comprometer a:

  • Ser honesto/a en el proceso – decir la verdad.
  • Dedicar el tiempo necesario, hacer las tareas y venir preparado.
  • Invertir en tu futuro.

¿Y las personas que ya tiene una vida genial – para qué querrían tener un coach?

Hay personas que ya se dedican a lo que más le gusta. Pasan suficiente tiempo con su familia y amigos. Están cerca de tener la independencia financiera. Tienen una vida emocional maravillosa.

La verdad es que estas personas también quieren esperar algo más de sus vidas. Habitualmente quieren explorar nuevas áreas y nuevos proyectos.

Otra verdad es que la gran mayoría de las personas de mucho éxito personal y profesional ya tienen coaches que les ayudaron a llegar hasta allí: desde Bill Gates o los fundadores de Google, hasta Rafa Nadal.


Estimada lectora, estimado lector,

Como coach, soy plenamente consciente de que muchas personas que podrían beneficiarse mucho del coaching sienten cierta resistencia por desconocimiento.

Si tienes curiosidad y te gustaría descubrir más, no dudes en ponerte en contacto conmigo. Como persona y como coach estoy comprometida a ayudar a las personas a que vivan la mejor versión de sus vidas, y siento responsabilidad para darte toda la información que necesites:

Ecatherine (Eka) Matnadze

E-mail: eka@thecoach.es

Skype: Ecatherine.matnadze

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ecatherine