This blog is the third in a series focused on the journey of coach and client—from the celebration of success to the moment of getting started. 

Many of the clients I work with are preparing for an event that they experience as stressful. They may be preparing to deliver a speech, interview for a job or admission into a program, or take an exam required for licensure or certification. The client featured in this blog series was preparing to take an exam she had taken once before. Given what she had shared with me when we began working together, we decided to use a fifty-fifty approach.  Half of our attention was focused on developing mastery of content. The other half of our focus was devoted to working on the less obvious, but equally important, aspects of preparing to engage successfully with an exam.

Many clients don’t realize that the stress-response they experience in the testing environment creates barriers in their brain. If the brain is focused on survival and protection, it may be much harder—or impossible–to access all the content and strategies that have been mastered.

To ensure the client would have full access, while in the testing situation, to all that she knew, we worked on these areas:

  • releasing an attachment to the outcome (i.e., receiving a passing score) and shifting focus to areas the client can control (what experience she wanted to have while taking the exam)
  • practicing stress-reducing activities such as deep breathing exercises and meditation
  • reflecting on what did not work about previous experiences in the testing environment and developing strategies to transform how the client will handle the situation if similar circumstances are present
  • planning nutritional choices to keep the client energized and focused both at the beginning of the test and throughout the test
  • setting a clear intention for how the client wants to ‘be’ during the testing experience and developing strategies to address anything that might get in the way of that
  • identifying specific techniques to increase confidence and focus and making a plan to use these techniques before and during the test

By focusing on both of these areas during our coaching sessions and in the time between sessions, the client developed mastery of content and her ability to access all of their knowledge and skill during the event. For this client, this dual-approach made all the difference.