Coaching is a game for high stakes: happiness. People come to be coached because they want to be happy or happier. They want a satisfying life filled with good experiences. They want good relationships, a job they enjoy and are proud of, where they can use their talents and make money.

They want to experience life’s pleasures to the full. They want to see the good dreams come true and feel they are living their highest values. They want to be liked by many, loved by some and respected by all.

Happiness is not a prescription you can go and have filled by the happiness chemist. It’s not something you possess, but something you are. Everybody has a different idea of what will make them happy and a coach cannot know in advance what will make a client happy. Sometimes the client does not know either.

Ther is some interesting research that suggests that about two – thirds of us do not know how to be happy. In 1957, there was a research project in the United States of America asking a large number of people whether they were happy with what they had in life. About one third said yes. In 1992, when the same study was repeated, the same percentage said yes, despite the fact that the standard of living had increased considerably. What does this mean? It means that about one-third of the people know the secret of being happy: that it comes from inside. It does not depend on what you have, but what you are and what you experience. Being happy is in the small things in life, that series of small decisions, each one making you happier. Happiness is in the everyday details of life.

Many people think of pursuing happiness. When they have that next possession, the new car, the bigger house then they will be happy. This is a mirage. The very language betrays it. If you are pursuing happiness, you have put it ahead of you. As long as you continue to pursue it, it will stay tantalisingly out of reach. You cannot pursue something you have. You can only be happy right now right in this very moment. And the only person’s happiness you can deal with is your own. It’s a choice you have every minute of every day.

When a client comes to me for coaching one of the first questions I ask them is “What do you really want?” They inevitably reply “I want to be happy”.

How happy are you? Coaching is about increasing self-awareness – finding out where you are and looking for ways to move forward. One way is through self- observation exercises. I’m are going to offer you an exercise.

Take a few moments to think about the next questions. Some may appear simple, but often coaching is asking simple questions. The quality of a question is not judged by complexity, but by the complexity of the thinking that it provokes. There are no right or wrong answers.

Happiness self-observation

What does being happy mean to you?

Think of a time when you were happy. What was it like? What did it feel like?

Excerpts  courtesy  of Joseph O'Connor and Andrea Lages