It seems you’re never more than 6 feet away from a mindset coach right now. But what is a mindset coach and why are celebrities not just being coached, but actually becoming coaches themselves?
Strictly fans will remember Camilla Dallerup as one of the early dance pros. But for the last 15 years, the 49-year-old Dane, now LA-based, has shunned the sequins to work as a mindset coach. But what is mindset coaching – haven’t we been here before with life coaching (which Camilla also practices alongside hypnotherapy)?
“Mindset coaching is about wanting to understand the potential of our minds and how we speak to ourselves,” she says. “As a former elite athlete, mindset is something I’ve always been interested in. When I was 13, my dance coach taught me how to visualize success.
“At 16, I had a sports psychologist, who talked about ‘mindset’ and in my twenties I read books by Tony Robbins [the Californian personal development guru]. For me, competing was 40 percent about my dancing and 60 percent about my mindset. I could practise and practise and be the best of the best, but if one little trick of the mind told me that I didn’t know what I was doing, that could be a huge problem.”
I’ve interviewed many former sports stars and have noticed that many go on to work in mindset coaching. It makes sense, having a ‘growth mindset’, which is encouraged by coaches and sports psychologist, (i.e. you believe that you are capable of change and improvement) is a transferable skill from sport to business to relationships to parenting and beyond.
Another sportsman turned mindset coach is Paul Sculfor, 52 (and husband of GTG contributor, the nutritionist and medical scientist Dr Federica Amati), who was a successful boxer in his youth. Sculfor was also one of the most high profile models of the ’90s and early 2000s, an actor, and the one-time beau of both Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. These days, like Dallerup, he coaches Hollywood stars, as well as civilians. “There’s been a big increase in interest in this kind of coaching since the pandemic,” he says. “That time led a lot of people to re-evaluate their priorities and what their values are. It turned up the dial on some people’s fears and their ability to cope, while for some it was the perfect time to take the time to change.”
“There’s a huge interest in personal development now,” says coach Leanne McCafferty, founder of Mind Your Mindset. “You see the success of Roxie Nafousi’s book Manifest and Steven Bartlett’s Diary Of A CEO podcast. There’s a wider acceptance that we need to pay attention to our personal development and mindset coaching is a form of this.”
What is mindset coaching?
“It’s a collaborative form of coaching which helps you uncover limiting and negative beliefs to help you find your true values,” says Sculfor. “It’s about helping people gain clarity on what they truly want and create a plan to help them align their true values to make better life choices.”
Mindset coaching intersects with NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), which helps people use the language of their mind to achieve desired outcomes. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck first started researching the idea that there is a growth mindset and a fixed mindset in the 1970s, prompted by observing how her students reacted differently to success and failures. Her conclusion was that success is predicated on having the right mindset rather than innate abilities.
Tony Robbins, a larger-than-life, self-styled guru, helped the concept of mindset coaching go mainstream 30 years ago, coaching Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and, he claims, Princess Diana, and writing books such as Awaken The Giant Within. And, as mentioned, mindset coaching gained traction in elite sport in recent decades, when athletes realized success was as much about training the mind as the body. A common technique is to visualize yourself winning your race or competition.
What’s the difference between mindset coaching and life coaching?
Mindset coaching is about working on how you view the world, while life coaching is about using strategies to achieve specific goals. “It can be useful to use mindset and life coaching together,” says Sculfor. “Mindset coaching is like learning to drive a car in a way that is true to your values and that can be adapted to any car or location. Life coaching is like learning the best route to confidently get you from A to B, using a detailed and structured plan.”
Is mindset coaching linked to manifesting?
Manifesting is the notion of thinking your dreams into reality, so there is overlap. As someone who instinctively eye-rolls when people start enthusing about manifesting, I was surprised to discover that there is some solid neuroscience behind what at first glance seems to be woo-woo. In the same way that the Instagram and YouTube algorithms feed us more of the type of information we interact with, our brain does the same thing. It’s called the Reticular Activation System.
“For example, have you ever decided to buy a new car and then see it everywhere? It’s not that they are suddenly everywhere, it is that you have been thinking about it so your RAS has said ‘that car is important,’” explains McCafferty.
The RAS is a brain filter that we need because we’re bombarded with more information each day than our brains can cope with. “It is influenced by our thoughts and belief system, so whatever we believe about ourselves or we think about, the RAS brings us more of to our attention,” says McCafferty.
This is mindset coaching in a simple form, she says. “If you think more about your own strengths, your goals, your reasons to be grateful, then your RAS will bring more and more of those things into your mind.”
For more on the science behind manifesting, it’s worth watching GTG contributor and neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart’s video below.
8 ways to improve your mindset
A mindset coach tailors their advice to each client but here are eight expert tips that can benefit everyone. Hurray for free therapy!
- Reframe a ‘bad day’
A bad start to the day doesn’t have to set the tone, says Dallerup. The brain’s negativity bias means we tend to dwell more on the crap things that happen, but it can be overridden. “If things go wrong in the morning, we often say, ‘Oh god, I’m having a bad day.’ But you can choose how you think about it. Instead, you could say, ‘OK, I’ve got the bad stuff out of the way, I’m ready for the rest of the day now.’”
- Don’t be a people pleaser - work out your values
“Take some time to really get to know yourself and what you value,” says Sculfor. It’s important to pinpoint what’s truly important to you so you can make life choices accordingly. Beware though of getting sidetracked by other people’s opinions or being a people pleaser. “It’s not about what others think of you or what you think you should be, but who you truly are.”
- Find 3 daily non-negotiables to make you feel positive
“I have the best results with clients who do three things daily, without fail, that make them feel connected and calm,” says Dallerup. “I’m not talking about spending the day in a spa here. For me, it’s having a five-minute coffee in peace when I first wake up, doing a 15 minute Cara Fitness workout and 10 minutes of meditation. So I’m done in half an hour and set up for my day.”
- Write down your wins every day
“Recognise your wins either daily or weekly by journalling,” says Leanne McCafferty. “This will greatly improve your confidence over time by switching the focus from what you have not done to what you have achieved.”
- Use mind mapping to make tricky conversations easier
“This is a way of reframing your attitude to something,” says Dallerup. “Say you need to have a difficult conversation today. Write ‘conversation’ in the middle of a piece of paper, then draw lines from it, noting all the emotions you’re feeling, e.g. ‘nervous’. Then draw another mind map, but write all the emotions you’d like to feel, such as ‘confident’.”
You then chuck the first one in the bin. “This simple exercise offers you a different perspective, it gives your brain a different option and approach.”
- Challenge yourself every day physically
“Doing something every day sets foundations and shows yourself that when you commit to something you are the kind of person who does it,” says McCafferty. “This will transfer your mindset into ‘I show up for myself’ and ‘I do the hard stuff because it’s good for me.’” This could be a workout or a cold water plunge – as ex pro footballer and PT Steve Gregory told me, his daily dawn ice bath shows him if he can do that, he can do anything.
- Check in on yourself when you wake up
“Check in with yourself regularly, thinking about what you’re working towards and whether you’re honouring your intentions,” says Sculfor. The minute you wake up in the morning can be a good time to do this, according to Dallerup, as you’re already in a meditative state, just emerging from sleep, and you can focus on yourself for a moment before your day becomes dictated by the demands of others.
- Talk nicely to yourself!
“Be mindful of how you speak to yourself - it matters,” says Dallerup. “For an entire day try to talk to yourself in the way you’d speak to your best friend. You wouldn’t be unkind or unsupportive, would you? If you’re considering applying for a new job, don’t say, ‘No, you’re not good enough to get that,’, say ‘Yes! Go for it.’