Over the past few months I've had the good fortune to work with one of the most interesting, funny, and brilliant coaches I've ever encountered. I couldn't reach him, so I asked Tim Brownson for an interview instead.
Just kidding!! (I'm trying to match Tim's great wit to no avail.)
Tim recently served as a guest expert for both the Habit Course (which I run with Leo Babauta and Katie Tallo) and Simple Self-Confidence (which I run with Erin Falconer). The course participants were so engaged with what he taught them that I knew I had to share a bit of Tim's wisdom here with you.
I asked Tim some questions about some of the highlights of his personal development philosophy and what he teaches as a life coach.
Tim, what is one foundational concept you can share with my readers about making positive, bold life change for the better?
Tim: Be conscious. This sounds obvious and in many ways it is, but it’s an aspect of self development that so many people don’t consider, and those that do often don’t cultivate it.
The executive part of your brain (the cerebral cortex) that is responsible for thought, language, awareness and memory is, in evolutionary terms, brand spanking new and not very energy efficient.
On the other hand most of the rest of your brain, especially the limbic system, which controls your emotions and habits, is very old and can easily run all day on auto-pilot, requiring little or no input from you at the conscious level.
Consequently, changing behavior requires effort and consciousness/mindfulness because, without those two things, your brain starts to conserve energy and slips back into familiar patterns of behavior.
If you can’t be conscious of the changes you would like to make your best intentions will probably be wasted, because the mammalian and reptilian parts of your brain much prefer to retain the status quo.
Once we become conscious and mindful, what is one of the first things we should use our conscious awareness to change or improve?
Tim: Use it to begin taking personal responsibility.This is an aspect of personal development that many people get completely wrong.
In seven years of coaching, I have never had a client tell me they perform better when they’re beating themselves up — never!
Personal responsibility is not even close to being the same thing as giving yourself a hard time. In fact they are polar opposites.
Giving yourself a hard time shows a lack of personal responsibility because it demonstrates a lack of care for yourself. How responsible is it to beat yourself up, especially when you know it seldom changes behavior?
Taking personal responsibility means accepting your mistakes and learning from them without judging them and/or rehashing them in your mind again and again and again.
Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean being easy on yourself, so do it!
You write a lot about core values. In fact, you've written a book about them. Why are they so important?
Tim: Values define who you are, they define what you do and they define your life. Therefore, if you don’t know what your core values are, you don’t truly know yourself.
I specialize in working with people who feel stuck in their life, and that nearly always boils down to the fact that they aren’t living in alignment with their own core values.
If “family' is your number one value, then you shouldn’t be working 100 hours per week — no matter how you might frame it as necessary for your kids college fund or paying for a vacation for your spouse.
Similarly, if you value “integrity' and “honesty” highly, then don’t write that post claiming all is brilliant in your world when it’s not. Equally, don’t take the office glue home from work or take credit for another person's work.
All of the above may offer a short-term fix (especially the glue), but in the long run being out of alignment with your values just feels wrong and leads to long-term unhappiness.
On the other hand, being in alignment with your values feels a lot like the flow state (although technically speaking I realize it’s not the same), and life seems easy and much more enjoyable.
Understand your values and then get in alignment with them pronto!
I definitely agree that living in alignment with your core values is essential to being a happy and balanced person. But what practical applications do your core values have for life?
Tim: They help you define exactly what success means to you. This springs directly out of knowing your values, because it’s tricky to define what success looks like to you without knowing your values.
Too many people chase a version of success that is not even their own. Maybe it’s their parents, maybe it’s society's values driven by the media, or maybe it’s just what they think success should be like.
More money, greater status, more possessions, etc. are supposedly signs of success. But how can people who have those things but are deeply unhappy really be successful?
My personal definition of a successful person is happy person. We all want to be happy, so to achieve happiness has to indicate a high level of success.
However, your definition may well be totally different and that’s cool. But if you don’t know what it is, how will you know when you achieve it?
You teach your coaching clients many interesting techniques for taking control of their thoughts and behaviors in order to make positive change. Can you share one of those with us?
Tim: Reframing is probably the single best technique I know for allowing you to rapidly improve the quality of your life.
A reframe is simply looking for the positive aspects in a negative situation. It’s not acting like Pollyanna, and it’s not being delusional because you are never changing the event, just the way you look at it.
When a reporter once asked Thomas Edison how it felt to have failed 10,000 times before creating the light bulb, he responded by saying, “I didn’t fail, I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work.”
Now that’s what I call a reframe! Was Edison delusional, or was he deciding how he wanted to view a situation to make him feel more empowered?
A client canceling at the last minute can be a bummer for me, but I always reframe it as an opportunity to do some writing, clear up some admin, or even take the dogs for a walk.
It’s dead easy to dwell on the negative — anybody can do that. But it feels a lot better when you take the opposite approach.
In fact, reframing has now been proven using MRI’s and PET scans to change the physiology of the brain, in a good way.
Can you explain the method you teach for setting goals and how they relate to your core values?
Goal setting isn’t hard, in fact you or I could teach our readers how to set goals in under an hour.
The method I use is an expanded version of the SMART method that you may be familiar with.
Specific: Too many people have vague goals, and vague goals are seldom achieved they need to be nailed on.
Measurable: If you can’t measure it, you can’t track your progress, and you can never know where you are in relation to hitting your target.
Action-oriented: You have to do something, otherwise it’s just a wish and not a goal.
Realistic: I'm not ever so keen on this because I like unrealistic goals. So to me this just means make sure your goal is physically possible.
Time-bound: Your end date can (and often should) be flexible, but you still have to have one. Otherwise your goals will slip because next week, next month, next year will always do.
I then add ER to make it SMARTER.
The “E” stands for “Ecology” or “Environment.” By that I mean you should recognize the effect your goal pursuit will have on people around you. If you have four kids, a spouse, and a huge mortgage, a goal of backpacking solo around the world for two years may not fly.
The “R” part means “Reward” — in other words, what’s in it for you when you hit your goal?
This has to be value based, so I’m not talking about money or material possessions. Take it deeper than that and keep asking yourself, “what does this give me” over and over and over again, until eventually you will have your true reward.
Then if/when things get tough, you shift your focus to the reward and the reason why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. That’s going to motivate you to dig deeper.
The setting of meaningful values-based goals has been scientifically proven to improve overall happiness levels, and I’m guessing you’d like some of that, right?
Do you have a final piece of advice or insight for my readers?
Tim: Have fun and smile . . . a lot!
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when people are making other plans.” He was right.
To the best of my knowledge and with deference to any Hindu’s who are reading this, we only get one shot at this thing called life. We never know when it’s all going to be over.
So don’t take life too seriously, smile whenever you can, and be kind to yourself and others. To quote another dead rock star, Jim Morrison, “No one here gets out alive.”
Many thanks to Tim for his amazingly useful coaching insights and strategies for re-creating ourselves to live more fully and authentically. If you have any questions for Tim, please ask them in the comments below.
Tim Brownson is a Life Coach, NLP Master Practitioner and published author who specializes in unsticking people. He also owns the A Daring Adventure blog where he doesn’t take life too seriously and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.