Think about the courses, workshops, and summits you have been on. Which have been the most powerful? Which events, courses, and discussions have had the biggest, deepest, or most base-level impact on you?
I’d actually like you to think of one of these moments now. It shouldn’t be hard to choose. It probably still strongly informs how you coach today. Got one of those moments in your head? I’ll bet you that the moment you are thinking of is one which changed your perspective on a fundamental aspect of your coaching. One that made you question a deeply held tenet of your coaching philosophy. One that made you question everything.
The History of Questioning Everything
Often, when we question the value of our own experiences and observations, we turn to science as a guiding light. The word science is a Middle English word denoting “knowledge”, derived from the Latin scientia, from scire, which means “to know”. But the idea of science as being unquestionable knowledge needs questioning in itself. The question to ask: How do we know that science is true?
As always, it all comes down to bacon. Sir Francis Bacon, in fact. Around 1620, Sir Francis developed a method for philosophers to use in filtering the usefulness of knowledge. He agreed with the medieval concept that the human senses are inaccurate, but also realised that sensory experiences provided the best possible way of making, well, sense of the world. In order to reconcile these two ideas, Sir Francis implored that humans must doubt everything before assuming it is true.
But that’s an idea, not a system. And so Sir Francis devised a system, or method, for scientists to come up with a hypothesis, manipulate nature, and attempt to prove their hypotheses wrong. He also insisted that findings must be replicated numerous times before a truth could be determined.
The name of this method? The Scientific Method.
The Scientific Method
Knowing the origin of the word makes exploring the scientific method even more meaningful. We already know that “science” comes from a word denoting “knowledge”. “Method” is a late Middle English word (via Latin) from the Greek methodos “pursuit of knowledge”, from meta- “development” + hodos “way”.
So the Scientific Method, through analysis of its very description, means “The way of developing knowledge”. Pretty cool. And that is exactly what the scientific method is. The way we add or subtract from what we might call our body of knowledge. That’s how humans work. That’s how science works. And that’s how coaching works. Let’s look at the process involved:
- Ask a question
- Create a hypothesis
- Conduct an experiment
- Make observations
- Analyse the results
- Draw a conclusion
- Accept and communicate the results and move on
- OR ask another question and start the process again
Isn’t that how we coach?
- Ask a question about movement
- Create a hypothesis about what will improve the movement
- Conduct an experiment to make a positive change
- Make observations about whether that change is taking place
- Analyse the results about what actually changed
- Draw a conclusion on whether our hypothesis worked
- Accept and communicate the results to the athlete and move on to the next thing
- OR ask another question and start the process again because it didn’t improve signigicantly.
Questioning everything is a way of living, coaching, and evolving. But there is a caveat when it comes to making decisions on what to include in our new and improved body of knowledge, and what to disregard.
Question Something About Everything
This industry, and in fact society in general, is terrible for pendulum-swinging. Particularly, regarding an exercise (e.g. sit ups), a family of movement (e.g. anti-rotation), a methodology (e.g. CrossFit, Westside), or a person (e.g. Naudi Aguilar) as entirely right or wrong. It’s all too easy to label something as wholly correct or incorrect, especially when the rest of the industry divides into these two camps with fervour. But splitting everything into night and day disregards that it can be morning, afternoon, or evening. And that often, it’s not a case of right or wrong but instead, more or less relevant. Eating breakfast in the evening is not wrong, but it’s more relevant in the morning. Westside methodology is more relevant to a serious powerlifter. It’s less relevant for a beginner lifter. It’s neither wholly right or wholly wrong for either.
The purpose of questioning everything isn’t to wholly disregard ideas. It is, as Bruce Lee said, to “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” If you were cooking, the process of questioning everything would be the sieve. In other words, not just letting new knowledge and experiences pour into the bowl of truth, but sifting through a fine filter so that the good stuff goes through and the chunks of junk get left behind to discard or sift further. Then it’s time add your own ingredients and make into a dish of your choice.
Question Everything, Really?
Is it practical to ask your members to question everything?
Yes. Because whether they verbally question everything is almost irrelevant. It is the thought-process that matters. It is the thought process that you want to encourage. It’s like speed work. The process of trying to lift the bar fast is just as important as actually moving fast.
Yes. Because in reality, you’ll get few questions back. You know what it’s like – you barely get a response when you are the one asking the questions, so the likelihood you’ll get asked super-searching questions is slim. And if you do get asked pertinent questions, well, that’s a good thing. It will create better understanding for your members, and empower you to communicate your idea better next time.
You may be reading this and thinking, “OK, I get it, but what exactly does it have to do with my coaching?”. It has everything to do with your coaching. Let’s summarise:
- It is how you learn.
- It is how you assimilate and refine your coaching principles.
- It is how you create systems.
And this is why the concept of questioning everything is one of the first principles we teach on our Coaching Elements course – a 2-day live introduction to the principles of movement and coaching.
A good coaching system doesn’t give you, or your members
. the right answers. It helps you ask the right questions. The right questions help you to create a system. And systems, as we know, are powerful mechanisms for coaching. Also:
- It is how you create empowered members.
- It is how you create engaged members.
- It is how you create thinking members.
Questioning everything is an empowering mindset for your members. Asking your members to question everything will likely mean you get less questions, especially as time goes on. How exactly does that work? Because you are encouraging presence in the moment. Which means that if they start to actively listen to you, you will have likely already answered their question, or provided them enough clues so that they can answer it themselves.