I came across an article today that struck a chord with me. When I reflected on why it caught my eye, I realized that it gets to the heart of my belief that any intervention, coaching or scientific, needs to the right one for that individual.

The article was on mindfulness, and how it can improve mental health and well-being but is unlikely to work for everyone. Here’s the full scientific article, if you’re curious. Having explored mindfulness with four cohorts of an organizational coaching program, this certainly rings true. Some people find mindfulness to be an important part of centering themselves for coaching, and even use these tools with their clients. Other people find it uncomfortable and struggle to connect with the concept. As a program, our response is that whatever your reaction is, it’s the right one for you – mindfulness is just one tool of many.

A long time ago, I started work on a PhD looking at finding out how to safely, legally and ethically optimize breathing for each individual within a 7 rider team. Some had asthma, which affected their ability to exhale, and some didn’t. Some had vocal chord dysfunction, affecting their ability to inhale, and some didn’t. Some panted when they were working hard, and some did deep tidal breathing. Why would we make the assumption that a single intervention would work for all of them? I realized that all of the normal statistics you would present in a scientific paper were meaningless for my work – group averages would not represent what was going to make a difference for each person. The statistician I spoke to about this quandry was wonderfully supportive, and told me about “action research” – using each person as their own control group, such as in HIV studies where withholding potentially life-saving treatment is unethical. You can’t divide an Olympic team in half so you have a trial group and a control group, and only help one half.

Bringing this idea forwards, how can you find the right tools and techniques to help you with whatever your needs are? Use yourself as your own control group. Learn to see you patterns, and notice what works for you and what doesn’t. Just because someone else’s self-care looks like drinking lots of water and getting up a 6am every day, that doesn’t mean yours does. Reflection helps you see these patterns – for some people, keeping some type of journal helps them notice things they otherwise wouldn’t.

What tools work for you? What’s worked for you in the past? What have you tried before that just didn’t land for you – why didn’t it? How would knowing these things help you build your strength and well-being?

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