My life coach, Marti Benjamin, once told me that describing life coaching is like trying to explain the flavor of chocolate ice cream. The only way to know what life coaching is like is to actually try it! Not only that, but your experience will change from life coach to life coach, as we have quite a variety of methods, strategies, tools, and areas of focus. We all bring our unique gifts to the coaching dance. I often hear myths and misconceptions about coaching. Here I will explore some of these, taking a contrary approach to describing coaching through the process of showing what it is not.
For example, I hear people say, “I don’t want advice from a coach telling me how to live my life.” As a coach, I don’t offer advice. Rather, I ask powerful questions to help clients to arrive at their own inner wisdom. I come from a place of curiosity, while accessing my intuition and utilizing metaphor, to help clients transcend their typical thinking patterns that often leave them stuck. The wisdom we unleash at Sage Spirit is yours!
I often hear people say, “I don’t need a coach to help me solve my problems,” or “I don’t really have any significant problems, so I don’t need a coach.” Life coaching isn’t like counseling, which typically focuses on solving behavioral or emotional problems. Sure problems are part, but certainly not all, of the human condition, but that’s not necessarily the focus of coaching. Often we explore what’s even better and bigger in the realm of possibilities so that we are actively focusing on our best possible life. In my coaching training I learned that nothing is broken and no one needs fixing. In other words, there’s no judgment. Problems are regarded as learning and growth opportunities rather than as failures or defeats. We ask, What’s the meaning in this? How can we turn this into a win-win?
I hear people say, “I’ve already explored my childhood and my past. I really don’t want to do that again with a life coach.” In counseling, the focus is often on the past, and making sense of it so we can move forward in life. Of course in coaching the past will also come up. However, the focus in life coaching is mostly on the present and the future, exploring who we are now and who we are becoming. It’s about exploring and creating space for bigger possibilities, rather than exploring pathologies. Yes, there’s a huge need and demand for counselors, but most coaches (including me) are not counselors.
Here’s another that comes up. I hear people say, “Oh I have lots of friends who will listen to me and make me feel better, so I don’t need a coach.” Having friends is wonderful and, in fact, essential to our well-being! A friend will usually let you talk and talk and talk, collaborate with your view, and comfort you when things aren’t going well. They play a hugely valuable role. Coaches, however, play a different kind of role. They ask questions to help you arrive at the deeper meaning running underneath your stories: “What’s important here to explore? What can you learn from this experience? How are you growing and evolving as a result of this experience?” Coaches won’t stand by while you envelope yourself in your story in a way that prevents your growth. Instead, we’ll help to free you, so you become much bigger than your story. It’s quite liberating, actually! Try it sometime!