Coach Interview Series: Bill Tollefson

by Brandon

Bill Tollefson

Certified Master Life and Trauma Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Bill Tollefson. Bill is a Certified Master Life and Trauma Coach based in Cape Coral, Florida.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Bill: My coaching business is different because I had previously completed a 40-year career as a therapist. I had my own company where my company did inpatient treatment in psychiatric hospital settings to work with clients who were abused or traumatized and had PTSD. That’s where the majority of my expertise comes from. After that, there was a big economic crash in 2008, and I lost my contract and my company. At that point, I decided to make a shift in my career. I went back to school and I got four certifications in life coaching.

Now I not only work with PTSD clients but I also work with clients who are experiencing negative thoughts, depression, anxiety, addiction, and life issues. I work with both adult men and women. My theory looks at resetting the subconscious mind’s script. I believe that it’s the script that is embedded in our subconscious mind — the core beliefs — that block and keep my clients from growing, being fulfilled or achieving what they want out of life.

NCA: Can you shed a little more light on the difference between your work as a therapist and your work now as a coach?

Bill: When you meet the client as a coach, you find out where they are at in the present, what their intentions are, what they want to achieve, and then you help them to move forward. Based on that you help them find their blocks and then teach them skills. When I was a therapist, the clients would focus on their past hurt and pain. Majority of the clients tended to stay focused on their past pain, hurt or disappointments. They would come back the next week and would rehash the same issues over again and become stuck in their past.

Life coaching is about finding out what the client wants to accomplish and teach skills so they could accomplish what they wanted. all through junior high, high school, and college and I was a gymnast. Due to my training I was really used to the coaching thing rather than insight orientated therapy. I wanted to teach my clients to move forward in their lives instead of staying stuck in old feelings that they could not fix.

Therapy really doesn’t present client’s with a lot of skills and methods. As I said therapy is more about feelings and insight. In life coaching, I’m able to help them discover what’s blocking them in their subconscious mind and help them to move forward. Understand, our subconscious mind rules 99% of how we think, how we act, how we feel, and how we react. If the client understands their negative script is blocking their success then with new skills they can change the script to positive. With a new script then they will think, act, feel, and react much differently.

As a therapist I felt like the answer man. As a coach I am the question man and accountability shift to the client. Life coaching is more about asking the correct question. Therapy is more about feelings, what happened in their past and insight.

In coaching, it’s the clients who have the correct answers, not the coach. If I ask the right questions, they come up with their answers. Clients are more responsible and accountable when it is their own answer. Homework or assignments is a big powerful tool in life coaching. I give them questions. Once I get their answers back, I spend a lot of time through the homework looking for core beliefs that make up a majority of their subconscious script. The core beliefs seem to just pop out of the paper for me. Put the core beliefs together over time and The script becomes very clear.

Examples of the top five negative core beliefs are “I’m not good enough. I’m not deserving. I’m not worthy. Everything I do is wrong. I’m criticized all the time.” After many core beliefs are gathered, I teach methods and skills to help them rescript their subconscious mind. If their script and core beliefs are changed, then the client’s mentally, emotionally, and behaviourally change according to the new script. Another positive result of rescripting is that their self-talk changes. The greatest learning I discovered over my years as a coach is that the subconscious mind only does what is written in its script.

It’s a lot more beneficial to the coach that they move clients forward instead helping them to gain “understanding.” Just understanding alone won’t change anything. You have to change the root cause – their negative core beliefs.

Therapy focuses on thought, not the root cause that forms their thinking – core beliefs. I have heard a therapist say to a client “That event happened to you 10 years ago, forget about it and move forward with your life.” But they can’t. They just can’t do that. If the root of the script isn’t changed then nothing else changes. Not their thinking, feelings, behaviors, or the way they react toward the world. Whereas in my coaching, I help them learn about the origin of their thoughts. The origin of thought comes from their core beliefs in their subconscious mind. Example of the process starts with a core belief – “I’m not good enough.” The core belief then becomes the content of the self-talk. The self-talk then becomes, “I’m not a good person.” It is the self-talk that forms one’s thought. The thought then becomes “I am a bad person”.

It’s the content of the self-talk that came from the core beliefs that forms thought. The thoughts then manifest themselves externally in emotions and behaviors. Think of it this way. It’s like a weed in a lawn. You see a weed in your lawn, you go out and pull off the top of the flower off the weed and you think, “Okay, it’s going to die.” Two days later, it’s back. So you decide, “I’m going to pull the stem and the flowers at the same time and then it’ll kill them.” That doesn’t kill them. You have to go to the roots. It’s the core beliefs in the person’s script that have to be changed or altered in order for everything after that — their self-talk, their thoughts, emotions and behaviors — to change.

I can do things in coaching in six months that we were not able to help clients do when I was doing therapy. It would take 10 years in therapy to get a client to the same place. The emphasis is completely different. It’s like taking an athlete who wants to be better at their sport. You help them to learn what is holding them back and then give them skills to improve their performance. You help them to understand what is decreasing their performance level and then teach them skills on how to do it differently.

My theory looks at resetting the subconscious mind’s script. I believe that it’s the script that is embedded in our subconscious mind — the core beliefs — that block and keep my clients from growing, being fulfilled or achieving what they want out of life.

NCA: In working with your clients today, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that whole process and on the flip side of that, for any coach who is interested in getting into this work, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Bill: The most challenging is to help them to learn about how their subconscious mind works. When our brain turns on before birth, it starts absorbing data (experiences) which I call mind code. Out of the mind code data our core beliefs form. If you grew up in a negative or abusive environment, you’ve definitely got negative core beliefs in you. If you grow up in a good environment, then you’ve got positive core beliefs. The most challenging is to help them to connect with those subconscious scripts that they have in their mind and then discover that this is what’s blocking them. They think “I don’t deserve any good thing to happen in my life,” so they subconsciously sabotage themselves due to that core belief. The mind will only do what it is scripted to do.

It’s like me asking my computer to draw a picture and I say, “Okay, draw a picture.” And it can’t draw a picture because there’s no algorithm or program in there to draw a picture on its own. Our subconscious mind operates the same way. If the majority of their script is negative, their life is going to be only that. The subconscious mind doesn’t feel. It just goes by the script.

The benefit is watching them grow due to their answer. When they start getting feedback from the outside saying, “Boy, you really changed.” or “You’re more positive.” or “You’re more happy.”, it starts to connect with them. But that’s the most challenging thing to do—to help them to connect and know that they have the answer and accept their accomplishments.

When I was a therapist, I’d tell them to do something and they wouldn’t do it. They’d come back and talk about the same thing.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Bill: Self-doubt comes from their own script. But it’s really daunting because our instinct is to give people advice as a coach and that’s really not the process that I learned from my training and coaching. You have to listen to the client and then you ask the right question. And then from what they write on that question, and you find their core beliefs that give you an ability to ask a custom question and it helps them to go deeper into their script. It’s like peeling an onion. You keep peeling that onion with questions and they keep feeding your back with answers and then you can show, “Okay, this is your script. You said in here you’re not good enough.” “Oh, I didn’t know I said that.” It’s the subconscious thing that comes out and then, “Okay, what are you not good enough at? Did you have anybody tell you that when you were growing up?”

Initially, I think coaches instinctively want to give advice. But that isn’t how it works. It is the questions that begin their answers forward. The challenging part is to pull out their old core beliefs and get them to form new core beliefs, and then help them to act, feel and think from new core beliefs they formed in coaching. Then positive change will occur.

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