The Neuroscience Behind “What’s Yet to be Discovered?”

Posted on February 26, 2018

Impactful coaching is founded on the art of asking challenging questions.

Challenging questions trigger deep thinking. They create a sense of curiosity and wonder around the unknown and in doing so, open up an ocean of possibilities. Possibilities that the coachee may never have thought to embrace and explore prior to receiving coaching.

‘Challenging’ questions differ from ‘safe’ questions. Take a moment now to ask yourself the following:

Question 1) What challenges do you expect to encounter in the coming months?

Question 2) If everything worked out ideally in the coming months, what would you be doing in 10 years?

Question 3) What SHOULD you do?

Question 4) What COULD you do?

What did you experience within yourself as you asked yourself Questions 1 and 3 compared with Questions 2 and 4? What difference did you notice in the quality of your answers?

A study published in Social Neuroscience observed the brains of participants who received two types of coaching; a positive psychology coaching session that incorporated visioning-based questions, and a more traditional coaching style.

MRI scans of the participants’ brain activity revealed that a positive psychology coaching style influenced activity in:

  • ‘Visual Processing’ and ‘Perceptual Imagery’- the regions of the imagination.
  • ‘Global Processing’- the cognitive ability to see the big picture before the small details. This has been found to stimulate positive emotions and an optimistic engagement with the world.
  • Regions associated with empathy and emotional safety. (Moore, 2014)

Asking challenging questions framed in a positive outlook that triggers the imagination activates certain neural circuits in the brains of those being coached. This coaching style neurologically sets coachees up to be more open emotionally, more compassionate, and more motivated to pro-actively make lasting behaviour change.

Challenging questions that take coachees optimistically into the mystery of “What’s Possible?” and invite them to select new actions, thoughts and feelings from a place of “What’s yet to be discovered?” empower those on the receiving end of these questions to think bigger, bolder and more imaginatively.

So here is challenging question for you to take away with you:

What will it take for you to seize the moment and stay curious throughout today? 

We’d love to hear back from you!

Reference: Moore, M. (2014) The Neuroscience of Good Coaching, Greater Good Magazine.

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