Maybe you’ve felt it. That nagging sense that you need some hacks to get to the top tier at home or work, or that don’t have any direction or real accountability, no clarity about your path or capabilities. Maybe, as your anxiety and goals have gotten bigger, you’ve wondered if maybe it wouldn’t make sense to call in a member of the cavalry — a life coach.
Life coaching is a growing, massive market, with value expected to hit $1.34 billion by 2022. Entrepreneurs and business leaders, who are particularly keen to seek out good mentoring, are turning to this option as part of the larger self-help industry. So your idea to pull in somebody who can offer a little guidance is actually pretty common. But just because something is popular doesn’t always mean it’s necessary.
What does a life coach actually do?
As National Coach Academy points out, life coaches aren’t therapists, and they won’t tell you what to do or dive into your past. Rather, they’re meant to help you learn new skills and tap your own insights so you can figure out for yourself what you really want and how to get there. They offer some accountability and get you to focus to the best of your ability. They are great at offering encouragement when you need it most.
The glaring problem
The trouble with life coaches is that people often perceive them as gurus who can uncover what’s been in front of them the whole time. Success is just a matter of having the coach clarify everything for you, or them pointing you in the right direction (which you couldn’t see alone). This simply isn’t the case.
What actually moves you forward is a prerequisite mindset shift toward swapping “I don’t know” or “this is definitely true” with “I can find out”, “I can get this into manageable pieces” or “I need to let go”. Without that shift, you’re not going to be able to provide good answers to your self-inquiry or keep the stress of modifying your behaviors at a reasonable level.
Life coaches can’t make you go anywhere you don’t actually want to go. They can’t really work with you well unless you’re in the headspace to accept that you really are the master/mistress of your own ship. They need you to be at a point where you can think critically about the biases that are influencing you, such as your perceptions of what’s acceptable and cultural norms. You have to be willing not to settle for broad, generic or unspecific answers, and to be totally authentic and honest with yourself.
And where does that come from? Generally speaking, it arises from exposure. When you go do a lot of things, interact with lots of different people and visit different areas of the world, you start to recognize that there really is more than one way to skin a cat. You hear all kinds of views and perspectives, and those help you defend or deconstruct your own way of thinking and doing. You have more people serving as mirrors, offering feedback that contributes to a more complete sense of self. You get more comfortable going out on a limb and taking risks, can see far more options and grasp that life can be anything you make it.
So if you expect a life coach to drop solutions in your lap, good luck. They’re not going to do that. They can’t. All of the solutions come from how you respond to what they ask you. It’s up to you to unpack it all, and that is a deliberate choice.
All this said, once you’ve actually made the decision to dive deep, explore and be willing, then a life coach really can start to help you sculpt yourself. Their biggest skills are the ability to ensure that you face the hard stuff and don’t leave stones unturned, and in ensuring that you do what you said you would. And although you most definitely should seek support from friends, family and colleagues, too, a life coach’s greater objectivity and fiduciary intention for your success is priceless.
So get into the right mindset where you’re willing to confront yourself and your world. Then hire the life coach that’s the best fit for you. As long as you are willing to work, their fees likely be money well spent.
LaRosa, J. (2018). U.S. Personal Coaching Industry Tops $1 Billion, and Growing. Accessed October 30, 2020 from https://blog.marketresearch.com/us-personal-coaching-industry-tops-1-billion-and-growing.
Santana, K. (n.d.). What Does a Life Coach Do? Accessed October 30, 2020 from http://www.nationalcoachacademy.com/what-does-a-life-coach-do.