A Coaching Perspective on a Buddhist Teaching: The Four Ways of Action

What happens when you mix Buddhist teachings with coaching tools? I just had a sneak peek, and this is what I've learned.

In a fall afternoon of 2016, I was fortunate to be attending to precious teachings from a Buddhist Lama.

These teachings were part of the "Training for Every-Day Yogis," by Lama Padma Samten, a spiritual retreat that took place in May in Brazil. This text is not a transcript of the teachings, but how it beautifully integrated my coaching toolbox.

The Relationship Between Identity and Judgment

More than being respectful to clients, when we're coaching someone, we don't allow clients to play the blame game. The reason is that when you find yourself guilty for something, you end up trapped inside an identity. Identities are a misconception of your true self that creates many emotional risks, including being judgmental while comparing yourself to others. This analysis perspective - characterization, guilt, judgment, and sentence is very problematic. For example, imagine a session focused on searching for someone to blame for a bad habit, judging that person, and choosing the best punishment to use. Now imagine how low the energy would get during the session, making it helpless. It's much better to focus on the four ways of action.

A statue of Buddha.
Some Buddhist teachings are 2,500 years old.

The Four Ways of Action

The first way of action is that, as coaches, we keep our mind undisturbed. We don't want to create a blur in our vision if we intend to help someone. Maintaining a controlled mindset is easier said than done, but it's a crucial requirement. Just imagine an alliance between two disturbed minds, and what kind of outcome would come out of the session.

The second way of action is to reassure by normalizing. When we are struggling with an obstacle, and our mind is troubled, we tend to concentrate our thoughts on ourselves, limiting our perception of the reality that surrounds us. We point to think that we're the only ones suffering from the consequences of whatever problems we're going through. But that's not the case. Of course, each one of us reacts a little differently, and some details may vary from case to case. But chances are there's always another human being going through a close version of what we're going through right now.

Another way of action is by realizing the unique qualities of every human being. Even when someone is struggling, it's possible to create proper conditions for anyone to come up with solutions. Highlighting positive capabilities is not only a matter of respect to someone's true potential but also creates an opportunity to nourish positive actions. Moreover, keeping attention on the beneficial goals a client came up with has two benefits. The first one is that it leaves less time left for harmful habits. The second one is that it creates ideal conditions for new neural connections inside the brain that are necessary to develop new salutary habits, changing the mindset, and positively impacting mental and physical health.

Finally, there's the fourth way of action, the wrathful action. Despite the name, the coach is not angry with the client but challenging the client, pushing them to be accountable for beneficial change and not miss the chance to practice a positive vision for their lives. As coaches, our compassion should not permit the success of harmful intentions or excuses for not acting.

As a coaching apprentice, I'm passionate about how challenging and, at the same time, rewarding it is to try to help someone rediscover their relationship with technology to create a more meaningful and balanced life. The integration of Buddhist studies and coaching tools was a surprising moment of happiness in my journey - even though I never apply religious dogma in sessions - and made me even more grateful for the opportunity life is offering me.