As an expert coach, effectively using pattern interruption in your coaching can make or break the success of your sessions.

We humans are creatures of habit and we all have patterns in our lives that do not always serve us well. And yet, we do them over and over again, expecting different results each time.  

These patterns are driven by outmoded belief systems that were put into place very early on in our lives. In some ways, you might say we have a three, four or five-year-old running our lives and our businesses--which really isn't the healthiest way for any of us to proceed.

The Angry CEO

When I was younger, I remember a situation about a company's CEO going into the Marine Corp to become a drill sergeant because he liked yelling at people. That's how he got what he wanted: by yelling.  As a result, the company I was working for at the time decided not to work with his company, because he wouldn't stop yelling. 

Earning something like $75 million a year, his company was very successful. Unfortunately though, they ́d recently gotten a report projecting  huge losses over the next six months or so, which is why that company was talking with ours. 

Apparently, they had a high turnover rate in personnel and their top salesperson had also decided to move on. From what I can remember, he was tired of the CEO ́s yelling approach to management. In fact, he was so tired of it, he was even willing to disrupt his family life by moving his four kids to a new school district, just to get away from the daily shouting bouts in the sales department. 

If work was so miserable for the employees, imagine the quality of life the CEO was living; spending his days yelling both at work and at home. 

Yes, there are a lot of outmoded belief systems in this world that need updating. Consciously interrupting those negative patterns weakens the neural pathways wherein belief systems are grounded - or, as I like to say, rutted. 

Pattern Interruption, Facts & Opinion

If we, as coaches, are to be open to hearing feedback and examples that explain the feedback, these neural ruts must be interrupted. Thus the expression pattern interruption. It is only by conscious interruption that these patterns begin to reveal themselves to us in their entirety. 

Most people think that opinions are facts. They are not. They are just opinions. 

Understand also that examples are not opinions. Let's say you are giving a performance appraisal and, as part of that, you state that the employee sitting across from you is not a team player. For many, there is not a lot they can do with that phrase. What exactly does it mean? 

But, what if you qualified your comment as follows: 

You seem to struggle with being a team player. We ́ve noticed that in the last four meetings you have not said a thing. You have not asked a question and you haven't made a comment. Each time, you sit there with your arms and legs crossed, leaning back in your chair with what I interpret - and, now this is just my interpretation - to be an unhappy look on your face.

You see, we can never really know what's going on inside someone else. In this case, perhaps it really was sadness, or maybe there was something going on that we know nothing about. In either situation, giving the person feedback with examples they can relate to, opens things up for a conversation.

The 3 Elements of Pattern Interruption

As you prepare to use pattern interruption with your clients, keep these three things in mind: 


As your client confronts their belief system-generated imprisonment, watch closely. Waves of emotion will wash across their face. You don’t want to miss them because it is imperative that you confront them. Let your intuition guide you here. 


Patterns are largely survival strategies that were put into place under very emotional conditions when we were quite young. They are driven and perpetuated by our belief systems. Beliefs that tell us we have to be strong,  smart, cute, nice, good-looking, thin...perfect.


Listen for language that reveals some of your client's habits…words like “have to”, “need to”, and “should.” When you hear them using these expressions, make a note of what follows because this will lead to something deeper that you can address as you move forward with your sessions. 

Why Pattern Interruption 

I use the expression pattern interrupt to refer to a jarring of the neural pathways through confrontation. Those neural pathways lapse into confusion when they are not reinforced. It's at this point you can begin creating what I like to call pathways of intention; pathways that are put into place as a result of conscious focus.

By thinking differently, we create new neural networks that, in turn, trigger new behavior. That's why you want to start interrupting old thought patterns. So you can work on deepening the neural pathways and create new thought patterns that will then spark new ways of behaving. 

Quite often, as people think out loud, telling you about what's going on within and around themselves, they will feel the incongruence in their bodies. Watch for this. And do not be afraid to use questions to help you explore it when you do.

No time like the present!

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