Our mindsets have been shaped by our upbringing, genetics, and experiences throughout life.
Consequently, all of us view the world through uniquely different lenses.
These lenses can act like a set of assumptions through which we interpret everything – at least until we become conscious of them. Mindsets can be an especially important focus in coaching if we hope to live a happy life and achieve our goals.
In this article, we’ll explore the value and importance of mindset coaching as a tool to help clients notice and revise their way of thinking for the better and point you toward a wealth of resources to help strengthen your mindset coaching today.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Mindset Coaching?
- 2 Topics Explored by Mindset Coaches
- 3 Growth Mindset Techniques to Apply
- 10 Questions to Ask Your Coaching Clients
- Helpful Templates for Your Sessions
- How to Become a Mindset Coach
- 3 Training Courses, Programs, & Online Options
- Best App for Your Mindset Coaching Practice
- 3 Fascinating Books on the Topic
- Resources From PositivePsychology.com
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Mindset Coaching?
Mindset coaching focuses on clients’ existing beliefs and patterns of thinking. A good mindset coach works to help clients recognize, question, and revise persistent patterns of thought (Kholghi, 2021).
But why the focus on mindset in particular?
When we operate in the world with a particular mindset, that mindset will determine how we view and interpret the world around us. That is, we will look to confirm what our often unconscious mindset already believes to be true, whether that serves or hinders us in our lives (Klayman, 1995).
For instance, imagine a man named Steve who, when growing up, often received the message that working hard to secure his future and stability is one of the most important things in life.
This message was communicated to Steve directly as a teen when he was praised by his parents for securing a prestigious summer internship. However, given that money was tight for his family growing up, it was also communicated indirectly, such as when he could sense his parents’ anxiety each time a bill arrived in the mail.
As a young adult, internalizing this message of diligence was mostly useful to Steve. It drove him to secure a well-paying job and put down a deposit on his first home. However, at age 30, Steve still finds himself driven to work extremely long hours. This has placed enormous strain on his relationship as he now struggles to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
In this example, a mindset coach would work with Steve to unearth and question his long-held assumptions underlying his compulsion to work, helping Steve rewire his mindset and gain greater enjoyment from life.
What do mindset coaches do?
Questions are the primary tool that mindset coaches use to understand how a client views their reality. By asking clever coaching questions, mindset coaches can uproot clients’ assumptions about the world and their place in it to identify more direct paths to achieving their ideal life.
To illustrate, look at the following video by mindset coach Bijan Kholghi.
In the video, Kholghi describes how the simple topic of money can evoke vastly different responses from different clients, depending on their prior associations and experiences surrounding finances.
“You get answers like… money is freedom for me. Other people say money is like a curse for me… You ask ten people, and you get ten different answers.”
Besides asking questions, some mindset coaches employ communication and therapeutic methodologies as part of their practice. Many of these are taught via training programs that package these skills together (see 3 Training Courses, Programs, & Online Options below).
These methodologies include:
Neurolinguistic programming is the study of how humans create their reality using communication. By combining psychoeducational interventions about neurology and language, coaches can teach clients to organize their thoughts effectively so they can consistently achieve their goals (Erickson International, n.d.).
Time Line Therapy™
Developed by Dr. Tad James (2017) in the ‘80s, Time Line Therapy™ is a powerful methodology to help clients unpack painful emotions from the past and clear away limiting beliefs that can prevent forward momentum toward their goals.
Although less common, some mindset coaches may employ hypnosis techniques with their clients. These coaches will put clients in a relaxing, trance-like state that unveils the subconscious. From there, they will work with clients to reveal existing mindsets and consider how to approach life’s problems in a more adaptive way (Armatas, 2009).
2 Topics Explored by Mindset Coaches
All of us will unconsciously adopt self-limiting beliefs or create walls for ourselves at some point in our lives.
Regardless of the specific coaching focus, the mindset coach’s role is to highlight and help clients critically assess restrictive thought patterns that block forward momentum toward goals.
To this end, many mindset coaches begin by assessing two high-level facets of mindset: growth mindset and locus of control.
Someone who possesses a growth mindset believes they can develop their talents and achieve their goals through hard work, effective strategies, and support from others (Dweck, 2016).
It is important to note that there is no such thing as a pure growth mindset, whereby a person believes they can develop talent across all domains of life. Rather, we all possess domains in which we tend toward a fixed mindset, believing our capability is mostly fixed (Dweck, 2016).
Ensuring clients believe in their capacity to improve, at least in their main domain of interest, is critical before delving into the deeper work of mindset coaching.
Locus of control
Locus of control refers to the degree to which a person believes that they, as opposed to external forces, have control over their life outcomes (Rotter, 1966).
For instance, when receiving performance feedback, someone with an internal locus of control will be more likely to attribute their performance to their own effort and abilities. In contrast, someone with an external locus of control will point to external factors for an explanation, such as luck, timing, or other people.
Some people who seek coaching may feel that their lives have been at the whim of external circumstances. Yet, the fact that such a person has approached a coach in the first place suggests at least some belief in an internal locus of control and their capacity to create positive life outcomes for themselves, indicating that people are not wholly one or the other.
3 Growth Mindset Techniques to Apply
As noted, the development of a growth mindset is a cornerstone of mindset coaching.
If you’re looking for strategies to help develop your clients’ growth mindset, consider the following three recommendations put forward by the developer of mindset theory, Carol Dweck, in a presentation at Stanford University.
Move outside the comfort zone
It has been shown that by explicitly teaching students the benefits and neurological consequences of stretching beyond their comfort zone, they will adopt a stronger growth mindset (Sarrasin et al., 2018).
Persisting with challenging pursuits strengthens connections between neurons in the brain, helping us become smarter and develop new skills (Mateos-Aparicio & Rodríguez-Moreno, 2019).
Research with young children has found that in the long run, it is much better to praise children for their perseverance, effort, and hard work rather than their talent or intelligence. This is because receiving positive reinforcement for effort rather than innate abilities encourages further effort (Gross-Loh, 2016).
As a coach, you can do the same with your clients, recognizing their efforts to persist with challenges, irrespective of the outcome, and encouraging them to view failures as valuable learning opportunities.
Encourage malleable thinking
Notice the labels that clients use when describing themselves, as these can be strongly indicative of mindset. For instance, if a client regularly refers to themselves as ‘dumb’ or ‘uncoordinated,’ this may be a sign that they are locking themselves into a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding their intelligence or capabilities.
Instead, encourage the client to think about their capabilities in a more malleable way, such as by encouraging them to think, “I can’t do this task yet, but with practice, I will be able to.”
10 Questions to Ask Your Coaching Clients
A useful starting point for tapping into a client’s mindset is the miracle question.
Drawn from the therapeutic practice of solution-focused therapy, the miracle question invites clients to imagine how their lives would be better if they could instantly resolve their primary problems (Strong & Pyle, 2009).
From here, you can then ask some of the following questions to explore facets of the client’s mindset that may be stalling their ability to make this desired situation a reality (adapted from Olubiyi, 2019):
- What do you feel is holding you back from achieving your goal?
- What’s preventing you from making this future a reality?
- What beliefs or ideas are limiting you?
- What emotions do you feel most strongly when you get stuck?
- When’s the last time you felt like you were making progress toward this goal?
- What would make the most difference between success and failure?
- What’s one step you could take today to move you closer toward your desired future?
- What would the people closest to you say about this situation or what’s hindering you?
- Why is this desired future so important to you?
Helpful Templates for Your Sessions
Looking for some templates to get you started with mindset coaching? Consider the following free worksheets.
- Adopt a Growth Mindset
As discussed, a growth mindset is a necessity for learning and development, no matter a client’s goals. This exercise illustrates fixed mindset examples clients may notice in their own thoughts and behaviors. The exercise helps them consider how to shift toward a growth mindset.
- Fact Checking Thoughts Worksheet
When we’ve lived with a particular mindset for a long time, it’s easy to mistake the thoughts associated with that mindset for facts. This exercise helps clients differentiate between facts and opinions as the first step toward challenging harmful opinions about ourselves and others.
- Simple Thought Diary Worksheet
Often, ingrained patterns of thought will be triggered by situations and events throughout our day. This simple thought diary template can help clients systematically link experiences and situations to thoughts and emotions, serving as a useful tool to review a commonly adopted mindset.
How to Become a Mindset Coach
According to Ajit Nawalkha, founder and CEO of the leading coaching platform Evercoach, there are three steps to becoming a successful mindset coach.
Understand how mindsets are created
Mindsets that drive our behaviors are a function of our past experiences, such as traumas or negative experiences.
These experiences may translate into stories we tell ourselves about our limited capabilities, such as “I got booed on stage that one time, so I’m not a good public speaker.”
Initiate mindset shifts
Mindset coaches draw on a toolkit of strategies from psychology, behavioral science, and spirituality to help shift their clients’ mindsets.
In particular, mindset coaches help clients learn emotion regulation to deal with stressful events, empower them to employ more adaptive ways of thinking about their present situation, and encourage positive habit change and behaviors.
Help clients maintain the mindset
Mindsets don’t change overnight. Rather, we must work to rewire our brains to support new, more adaptive habits and thinking patterns.
Given that research suggests it can take up to two months to ingrain a new habit (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010), commit to providing ongoing support to your clients for at least this long.
3 Training Courses, Programs, & Online Options
Looking to be trained in mindset coaching? Check out the following certified training opportunities from around the world.
Mindset Coach Academy Certification
The Mindset Coach Academy is a leading provider of mindset coaching training and tools to suit anyone from aspiring coaches to master coaches at the peak of their careers.
This four-month small group training includes access to a vast online library of coaching materials and guides you through a 90-day plan to launch your mindset coaching business.
Importantly, you can apply the skills gained from this certification to a broad range of coaching foci, including fitness, finances, and life coaching.
Learn more at the Mindset Coach Academy website.
FIRE UP Coaching® – Mindset Coaching Levels 1 and 2
The Level 1 module provides a high-level introduction to mindset coaching, touching on the topics of habit change, motivational interviewing, and positive psychology. This module can be paired with the Level 2 module, which goes deeper into the REACH Coaching Model.
Learn more at the FIRE UP Coaching® website.
Empowerment Coach Academy – Mindset Life Coach Certification
This training covers topics including growth mindset, emotional freedom techniques, and the development of your coaching business. The training offers two levels of certification and the opportunity to be listed as a certified mindset coach on the Empowerment Coach Academy website following completion.
Learn more on Udemy.
Best App for Your Mindset Coaching Practice
If you’re a mindset coach searching for ready-made tools to support your practice, we encourage you to check out the huge library of activities available through our very own coaching app, Quenza.
A powerful feature of Quenza that can help you assess and support the development of adaptive mindsets is the platform’s Care Pathways function.
With this, you can review clients’ responses to surveys or reflections about their recurring thought patterns and assign sequences of psychoeducational, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or mindfulness activities to facilitate self-inquiry and questioning of existing mindsets.
With this self-managed approach, your clients can gain more control over their mindset sooner, enabling them to make progress and confidently pursue goals outside their formal sessions with you.
If you’re interested, be sure to check out the platform today with a 30-day trial for just $1.
For more insight into psychoeducation, read this article offering 48 Ways to Apply Psychoeducation as a Coach.
3 Fascinating Books on the Topic
If you’d like to learn more about the power of shifting mindsets, here are some of our favorite coaching books on the topic.
1. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success – Carol Dweck
In this book, leading psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck presents decades of research and stories unpacking the difference and benefits of growth versus fixed mindsets.
In the latest edition of this bestselling book, Dweck explores the dangers of a false growth mindset and extends her mindset theory to apply to cultures, groups, and organizations.
Find the book on Amazon.
2. The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher’s Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve – Annie Brock and Heather Hundley
An invaluable resource for teachers, this book explores the science and benefits of a growth mindset for unleashing your students’ potential.
This highly practical book includes a range of real-life case studies, done-for-you lesson plans, and evidence-based activities to show students everything they have to gain from believing in their own capabilities.
Find the book on Amazon.
3. Rewire Your Mindset: Own Your Thinking, Control Your Actions, Change Your Life! – Brian Keane
This highly acclaimed book is both a useful self-help resource and a practical aid for coaches that explores how our mindset, emotions, and fear may hamper achievement toward valued goals.
In this book, you’ll discover the tools to end cycles of self-doubt and self-sabotage and help your clients realize the success they deserve in life.
Find the book on Amazon.
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
For more on mindset coaching, you’re bound to find plenty of science-backed tools and resources across our site.
For example, let’s look at The Mindset Survey, which is available in full with scoring information from the Positive Psychology Toolkit©.
The Mindset Survey
The Mindset Survey is an easy-to-administer, eight-item assessment tool for gauging the degree to which a client possesses a growth versus a fixed mindset.
This tool takes approximately five minutes to administer and asks clients to respond to 15 statements on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Example statements from the survey are as follows:
- Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much.
- You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to change that.
- No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
Final scores across the two subscales will reveal whether a client possesses a strong fixed mindset, a strong growth mindset, or whether they lie somewhere in between.
17 Positive Psychology Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, check out this signature collection of 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.
A Take-Home Message
It’s clear that our mindset is fundamental in determining whether we realize success or crumble with self-doubt when pursuing our goals.
Thankfully, like any other muscle, we can train our minds to work with us rather than against us, helping us to approach life’s challenges with poise and a positive outlook and reach new heights.
Likewise, coaches who work with mindset are performing an important service not only by helping clients address their immediate problems and pursuits, but establishing a solid base of self-belief from which to tackle future challenges, too.
We hope this article has convinced you of the importance of mindset and given you the tools to strengthen your own mindset coaching. If you try any of the resources we’ve recommended, be sure to let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
We’d love to hear from you.
- Armatas, A. (2009). Coaching hypnosis: Integrating hypnotic strategies and principles in coaching. International Coaching Psychology Review, 4(2), 174–183.
- Brock, A., & Hundley, H. (2016). The growth mindset coach: A teacher’s month-by-month handbook for empowering students to achieve. Ulysses Press.
- Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Ballantine Books.
- Dweck, C. (2016, January 13). What having a “growth mindset” actually means. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
- Erickson International. (n.d.). Neuro linguistic programming. Retrieved from https://erickson.edu/neuro-linguistic-programming-training
- Gross-Loh, C. (2016, December 16). How praise became a consolation prize. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/12/how-praise-became-a-consolation-prize/510845/
- James, T. (2017). Time Line Therapy and the basis of personality. Crown House Publishing.
- Keane, B. (2019). Rewire your mindset: Own your thinking, control your actions, change your life! Rethink Press.
- Kholghi, B. (Producer). (2020). Mindset coaching – Explanation, techniques & examples [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/z-sQmUqU05c
- Kholghi, B. (2021). Mindset coaching – 13 Facts checklist. Coaching-online.org. Retrieved from https://www.coaching-online.org/mindset-coaching/
- Klayman, J. (1995). Varieties of confirmation bias. In D. L. Medin, J. R. Busemeyer, & R. Hastie (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Decision making from the perspective of cognitive psychology (pp. 385–418). Academic Press.
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.
- Mateos-Aparicio, P., & Rodríguez-Moreno, A. (2019). The impact of studying brain plasticity. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13.
- Olubiyi, M. K. (2019, June 28). Twenty mindset coaching questions to get your clients unstuck. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://coachestrainingblog.com/becomeacoach/twenty-mindset-coaching-questions-to-get-your-clients-unstuck/
- Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80(1), 1–28.
- Sarrasin, J. B., Nenciovici, L., Foisy, L. M. B., Allaire-Duquette, G., Riopel, M., & Masson, S. (2018). Effects of teaching the concept of neuroplasticity to induce a growth mindset on motivation, achievement, and brain activity: A meta-analysis. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 12, 22–31.
- Strong, T., & Pyle, N. R. (2009). Constructing a conversational “miracle”: Examining the “miracle question” as it is used in therapeutic dialogue. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 22(4), 328-353.