A personal trainer for your life
Feeling overwhelmed and out of touch with yourself? Want to make a change but don't know how to go about it? It might be time to hire a life coach.
Rated a top growth industry by PROFIT magazine, life or personal coaching has leapt from obscurity a decade ago to an accredited new breed of consultant/personal advisor. The reason? It's helping an increasing number of people achieve fulfillment or balance in their lives.
"A personal coach is like a trusted family friend who doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome of your decisions," says Bob Hancox, a Nanaimo-based management consultant who's been coaching for the past three years. Family and friends often like to offer advice -- with a preferred end result in mind, explains Hancox.
Based on the idea that the answer to your well-being lies in yourself, personal coaches are trained to listen and observe, to elicit solutions and strategies from the client, rather than offering advice themselves. Often, clients don't end up where they started, says Hancox. In fact, he "can guarantee that in a half-hour session, they'll see something they haven't seen or thought about before."
With that kind of promise, I skeptically took up his offer to try a half-hour telephone session with him to pin down exactly what a life coach does. Within the first 10 minutes, his guarantee held up. After asking me to describe my ideal life -- job, house, activities, relationships -- he asked (ridiculously, I thought) if I was happy in this fantasy scenario. My answer, I realized, was a surprising no. The International Coach Federation (ICF), the industry's largest professional association, suggests people hire a coach when they are starting a new business, making a career transition, reevaluating their life choices, or simply feeling ready for a personal or professional breakthrough. In short, a life coach is for anyone who wants to make a change in his or her life, says Hancox.
I would describe it as the equivalent of a personal trainer, only applied to your life. The distance in speaking over the phone helped me stay honest and the session warm, but professional. He or she can bring out your particular talents and strengthen your weaknesses by keeping you motivated and accountable for your actions. In line with the credo of self-improvement, it's a way to fully actualize your potential -- be it in your career or your personal life.
Coaching is not therapy
Unlike therapists, counselors and psychiatrists, life coaches focus on making changes for the future, rather than looking into the past to deal with issues or to understand human behaviour. But like these professions, they do have a code of ethics to abide by - including confidentiality. The ICF accredits both coach training schools and coaches themselves depending on experience and training. A Professional Certified Coach would have about 750 hours of coaching experience while a Master Certified Coach would have 2500 hours.
Linda Sartorio is a busy human resources manager in Nanaimo, BC. For her, an average day involves responding to 100 emails and 30 phone calls. Hancox has coached her for the past six months. "It's an opportunity to stop every two or three weeks to really focus on the issues outstanding on my mind. It's like a mirror to your own interactions," says Sartorio.
"It's a validation of your values in lots of ways, but I expect it's probably different for other clients."
That's what makes the specific role of a life coach so hard to define. From helping with a career transition to dealing with troubled teens to clarifying what it is that's not quite right with your life, a life coach is part mentor, part taskmaster, part motivational consultant and part sounding board. It all depends on what it is you want to fix, change or clarify in your life.
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