The modern world is full of stresses and strains. The demands of a competitive working environment and the challenges presented to couples by rising house prices and bringing up young children often means that even the sharpest operators can sometimes find themselves struggling to keep up with the pace of life in the 21st century. In this high pressure world it’s an easy thing to lose focus and allow the important things to become hidden beneath a self made shroud of uncertainty and confusion. Rather than talk about problems and express ourselves through conversation and interaction, many of us can feel excluded – sometimes by our own actions – from the people and places around us. Certain individuals will look at therapy as an option whilst others may consider alternative forms of counselling. Others still – especially professionals – may turn to the relatively new but increasingly popular assistance and advice that a Life Coach can offer.
Life Coaching was first brought to my attention by a female colleague of mine who told me that after several years of working within an industry she loved and wanted to progress in, she found herself struggling to make any headway in her career field, no matter how much time and effort she put into improving her standing at work. “I work all the hours available to me, bend over backwards to be as accommodating to my employers as I can – sometimes even at the expense of my husband and children – and still it gets me nowhere. Still I am forced to watch people less qualified, less dedicated and less deserving of success, overtake me and go on to occupy roles I could do with my eyes closed.”
My colleague, frustrated by the opportunities which appeared to be passing her by on a regular basis, took the advice of a close friend and sought out the guidance of a Life Coach. A year down the line and she has left the company and taken up position in a new firm, with an infinitely superior role to anything she might have achieved at her previous employers and in her previous state of mind and she attributes it all to the principals of Life Coaching.
Life Coaching has undergone a substantial period of growth since it first sprang to prominence just over two decades ago in the United States. Now, all around the world there are thousands of practitioners who call themselves ‘life coaches’. Since the late 1980’s there’s been an explosion in interest in coaching. The downside is the bandwagon effect where everybody is a “coach”. The upside has been the development of numerous coaching schools, a drive to establish professional standards, the undertaking of research into the efficacy of coaching and more recently business and academic recognition. In 1998 the members of the Professional Personal Coaches Association and the International Coach Federation came together to form the International Coach Federation with a view to enhancing the standards and standing of coaching. Initially, largely North American, the ICF now become internationally recognised and accredits at a variety of levels. Other bodies such as the European Mentoring and Coaching Council have also been formed which seek to develop standards. However to date the ICF is far and away the largest non-profit professional association of coaches worldwide with coaches worldwide and chapters in over 30 countries.
Even so, there is no single, governing body that monitors entry or practice in the field - either with respect to training institutions or actual coaches. Some training organisations and coaches say they are members of disparate organisations or groups, but the truth is that anyone can call themselves a life coach, and anyone can claim they are qualified to train others to become life coaches. As a prospective client, it means that you are pretty much on your own when searching for a coach. Of course, you should research all the available resources such as the web, the press and trusted friends but, ultimately, you will have to rely on your own judgment and trust your gut feeling about anyone you find. With this in mind, I followed up my initial research by meeting up with Deborah Price, a trained Life Coach who has just moved from working as part of a group to setting up practice alone. Like many Life Coaches, Deborah did not embark upon her current profession immediately and for the first 15 years of her working life she was a fully qualified barrister, working in the music industry. “It was a good life, with good opportunities to earn plenty of money and secure myself a comfortable existence, quite independently of my husband’s successful career. However, I was never passionate about law or the legal profession in general – it was just something I sort of fell into – and after the birth of my children and an extended period living in Dublin the music industry no longer held its former appeal and I started to feel a great yearning for something else.” And that something else proved to be Life Coaching. “You need to experience a bit of life before you can embark on a career as a life coach so I don’t look back on those early years of my life as a failure or a waste of time. On the contrary, I raised my children, worked my way up a successful career path developed specific skills and managed to identify certain aspects of life along the way that I felt I could share with others.”
Naturally, there are a great number of sceptics out there when it comes to this profession – I met a few of them myself in the course of my research – but that is only to be expected when one considers that as a service, it is still very much in its infancy. Whatever the philosophy, I can’t deny that it most definitely seems to be working for Deborah Price since her enthusiasm for her work was clearly evident as she spoke to me. “As I see it, life coaching aims to help you achieve clarity and confidence so that you are better equipped to work through issues that are holding you back from enjoying a challenging and rewarding life. Life coaching is not about making simplistic judgments about someone's life and telling them how they ought to live it. It’s more about helping someone find the answers and solutions within themselves.”
I went on to ask Deborah if her clients came from any particular walk of life and was interested to discover that their backgrounds ranged from unskilled to professional, company chairman to housewife and mother, demonstrating perhaps that there was not one single demographic that fitted into the mould. Life Coaching could be all things to all people so that rather than offering a formulaic set of rules and guidelines towards the resolution of someone’s problem, it leaves the individual in question to source out an answer from within themselves. Deborah was also keen to impress upon me that it was not just issues with work that brought people to her “surgery” and that there were often many other scenarios that had clients seeking out her services. “Weight loss, marital problems, crisis of identities, simply a feeling of not quite being on the right track – these are all trigger points and issues that I have assisted people to deal with, using a variety of practical techniques. “ I am a certified trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy® and Hypnosis which enables me to combine a deep understanding of the conscious and unconscious mind that combine to shape a person’s experience of the world. “Life Coaching is a powerful process that supports people in releasing their true potential and in making change in their lives. It is an effective collaboration between client and coach which is non judgemental and unconditional. The coaching takes place through conversation – dynamic, focussed and designed to move my clients towards what they want in life. My task is to raise their awareness of their mental processes, unspoken assumptions and how they align their rational thinking mind with their inner feelings. I encourage them to take responsibility for your life and my clients reach a satisfactory solution through more than just verbalisation. “Sessions can last anything from an hour to a day; it all really depends on the individual. I have assisted clients over the course of one session, a few months or in some cases even on an ongoing basis over a period of years as they achieve their initial goals and want to achieve even more.”
At the end of the interview, when I had time to reflect on everything we’d discussed, it was clear to me that Life Coaching is a proven discipline, even though it may still be a difficult thing for some people to accept. Just like anything else, it’s really only effective if the respondent believes in the process but then I guess people aren’t going to approach a Life Coach in the first place if they don’t have an element of belief in the process to start with.
As for Deborah Price I think I’ll leave the last word on what she does to one of her former clients. "Don't go to Deborah if you want an easy ride, or a sympathetic ear - she's definitely determined to get a result, however difficult the process! She isn't satisfied until you have drilled down to the 'real issues' that are preventing you reaching your potential - and rest assured, if you don't know what they are before you begin, with her help, you will definitely know what they are when you finish!” DeborahPriceConsulting.com