The not-so-new realm of life coaching has been growing for several decades and has become extremely popular and widely available. But finding a coach, making the time for an appointment, and sharing our innermost hopes and dreams is a step too far for many of us.
Perhaps we are shy, worried about uncovering “true” desires that cause us to make mistakes or necessitate hard work, reluctant to part with the money, or simply procrastinating. So is there an effective way we can use the wisdom of life coaches at home?
In essence, life coaches look at our current situation and help us identify and achieve personal goals. In doing so, they use many methods and approaches. Some draw on business consulting and leadership training. Others are based in areas such as sociology, psychology, mentoring and counseling.
To become our own life coach, we must identify what we are seeking, then define and make the positive changes needed to maximize our ability to attain them. These changes may center on our career, finances, lifestyle, self-confidence, organizational skills, relationships, or any other area of life.
Martha Beck, author of Steering by Starlight, says her life-coaching philosophy is based on finding and fulfilling our “destiny,” as she puts it. “Most of the time we’re off-center, and we don’t feel quite right so we’re always seeking something,” she says. “We think certain things will give it to us, most of them culturally defined – a lot of money, a bigger house, whatever. Those usually don’t fulfill the need, so we keep looking. You play your life like a game of ‘getting warmer, getting colder,’ consistently making choices that you hope will make you happier in a deep way.”
When acting as your own life coach, take these pages out of their playbook:
- Be completely non-judgmental when exploring your ambitions. Don’t get irritated if you start to daydreamthis is exactly how you will discover your heart’s desire. Write down all the ideas you think of, no matter how wacky they seem.
- Remain totally committed to the project, never forgetting how important you are. Give yourself support by acting as you would toward a good friend. Don’t get bogged down or stressed; take regular breaks to gain perspective. Encourage yourself, show empathy, and recognize your achievements. When you believe in yourself anything is possible.
- Be discreet. There’s no need to share these thoughts with everyone. They are personal to you, and you may get confused by well-meaning advice from people who think they know what’s best for you. The time for advice is once you have made your plans more specific.
- Be available at all times. Keep a notebook always at hand for ideas and insights, rather than pushing thoughts away for being “inconvenient.” This is particularly important at night and first thing in the morning, when many of us have moments of clarity.
As for the process itself, people vary in what suits them best. You may prefer a stream-of-consciousness writing session, pouring everything onto the page then analyzing it afterward for significant points which can be developed into actions. Or you may like a more structured approach, for example, listing your major life areas, with any problems written under each heading.
In addition to highlighting problems such as feeling isolated, overstretched, or lacking purpose, ask yourself what you feel most passionate about in life. When were or are you most happy? What would people say your strengths are? In order to focus on what you truly want, ask questions such as: Where do I want to be one year from now? Am I ready to make positive changes?
Life coach Gina Pickersgill from London, UK, explains her approach: “I try to get the person to realize where they want to go, and then to come up with their own solutions to get there. I challenge clients to accept that they have choices and can change. I try to help them get clarity about what they want, then I make them commit to specific goals and an action plan.”
There are, of course, dozens of self-help books available to help with these sorts of projects. Many are excellent. But there’s always the danger of getting caught up in the process and avoiding the crucial “action” stage. Unless you feel completely stuck, the suggestions above may be all the background you need to go ahead and create your plan. As Rudyard Kipling put it in the famous poem, “If you can dream, and not make dreams your master … yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”
With a concerted effort it is possible to guide yourself, take control of your own direction, and empower yourself to create a more fulfilled life.
Beck, Martha. June 2008. Steering by Starlight: A Step-by-step Guide to Fulfilling Your True Potential: How to Fulfill Your Destiny, No Matter What (Piatkus Books).
Jeffers, Susan. January 2007. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action (Vermilion).
Rudyard Kipling, “If”