Cognitive skills, or cognitive abilities, are the ways your brain remembers, reasons, holds attention, solves problems, thinks, reads and learns. Your cognitive abilities help you process new information by taking that information and distributing it into the appropriate areas in your brain. When you need that information later, your brain also uses cognitive skills to retrieve and use that information. By enlisting the help of a coach you can develop cognitive skills more effectively so that you can think more clearly and show more mental agility.
Coaching has an underlying philosophy that we don’t need to accept our lives as they are, we have the power to take control and shape them to what we want them to be. We can engineer our way past limiting beliefs using a range of techniques and skills to move towards the life we’re seeking and our purpose in life.
Cognitive skills reflects a different method that your brain uses information and divided into nine different categories:
- Sustained attention
- Selective attention
- Divided attention
- Long-term memory
- Working memory
- Logic and reasoning
- Auditory processing
- Visual processing
- Processing speed
Each of your cognitive skills plays an important part in processing new information. That means if even one of these skills is weak, no matter what kind of information is coming your way, grasping, retaining, or using that information is impacted. In fact, most learning struggles are caused by one or more weak cognitive skills.
Here’s a brief description of each of our cognitive skills, as well as challenges we may experience if that skill is weak.
1. Sustained attention
What it does: Enables you to stay focused and on task for a sustained period of time.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Lots of unfinished projects, jumping from task to task.
2. Selective attention
What it does: Enables you to stay focused and on a task despite distractions.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Easily distracted.
3. Divided attention
What it does: Enables you to remember information while doing two things at once.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Difficulty multitasking, frequent mistakes.
4. Long term memory
What it does: Enables you to recall information stored in the past.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Forgetting names, doing poorly on tests, forgetting things you used to know.
5. Working (or short term) memory
What it does: Enables you to hang on to information while in the process of using it.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Having to read the directions again in the middle of a project, difficulty following multi-step directions, forgetting what was just said in a conversation.
6. Logic and reasoning
What it does: Enables you to reason, form ideas, and solve problems.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Frequently asking, “What do I do next?” or saying, “I don’t get this,” struggling with math, feeling stuck or overwhelmed.
7. Auditory processing
What it does: Enables you to analyze, blend, and segment sounds.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Struggling with learning to read, reading fluency, or reading comprehension.
8. Visual processing
What it does: Enables you to think in visual images.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Difficulties understanding what you’ve just read, remembering what you’ve read, following directions, reading maps, doing word math problems.
9. Processing speed
What it does: Enables you to perform tasks quickly and accurately.
Common problems when this skill is weak: Most tasks are more difficult. Taking a long time to complete tasks for school or work, frequently being the last one in a group to finish something.
The problem with cognitive coaching is that...
Too many trainers and coaches rely solely on instructional techniques, which can actually get in the way of successful performance and the development of expertise in these key areas.
Obstacles often arise as we’re developing core skills in these areas. Underpinning these obstacles to developing expertise are often mistaken beliefs about cognitive skills and neophobia (a fear of what’s new); so the first step in the coaching process is to enable a change in mindset.
Why is this a critical first step?
The effective principle behind cognitive coaching is that...
what we think about a situation affects how we feel about it.
As we can control what we think – we can therefore subsequently control how we feel.
The aim of utilising coaching in this context is to identify the root of an issue that may be preventing an individual from developing or accessing their full cognitive capabilities. These are often core beliefs and values an individual may be unconscious of. Specific coaching techniques can bring these insights to the fore to be examined.
As such it has real practical applications across a broad range of issues and can be effectively used to resolve indecisiveness, procrastination, impatience, lack of self-confidence and assertiveness, to name but a few examples. These might be familiar now from the challenges listed above that arise when some specific cognitive abilities are weak.
And as with all of these unconscious behaviour patterns, we cannot see our own blind spots. This is why most high performers enlist the services of a skilled coach.
If you would like to explore the possibilities of enhancing your cognitive capabilities feel free to book a time for a more in-depth discussion tailored to your individual needs.
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