Life Coaching? What’s That?

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I often get asked when meeting new people or when I see a former colleague, "what do you do?" My response is that I am a Career and Life Coach. They tend to get the career element but then ask, "what's life coaching?" Today's blog is all about defining life coaching, identifying who coaching is for and who it isn't, my style as a coach, what the process is like and what you could get from life coaching if you were to experience it. The aim is to give you a bit more clarity about life coaching by the end of this blog.

Defining Life Coaching

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential."

Coaching is an empowering process whereby a trained professional, the coach, supports and guides an individual to make transformational changes in one or more area of their lives. Using techniques and models grounded in psychology, a coach can, amongst other things, help an individual identify future goals and a plan on how to achieve them, develop their existing strengths and skills, overcome limiting beliefs which prevent them from taking action or boost their confidence in a variety of settings or situations.

The aim of life coaching is help an individual move from where they are now in their life to where they want to be, learning along the way to take full responsibility for the goals they set, the choices they make, how they behave and the creation of the life they want. The focus throughout the sessions is both on the present and the future.

Life coaching is solution-focused. Any challenges or problems are addressed for the client to be goal orientated. Within the coaching process, the coach will help navigate the client to go beyond their realms of possibility in the present and create goals which encourage transformational change in the future. Change which is long lasting and driven by the desires of the client.

Who is and isn’t coaching for?

Life coaching is for anyone who is looking to achieve more, to grow and learn, and take their life to the next level. Clients who seek out life coaching, already have the necessary skills and resources to bring about change in their life or they have the ability and the willingness to develop those skills. The coach then works with them to enhance these skills, put them into practice for the client to realise their potential. From a coaching perspective, the client is not broken, in need of being fixed as might be the case within therapeutic areas. Life coaching is not therapy or counselling, which is often about resolving past issues before being able to move on. If, as the client, you are looking for someone to give you advice or the answers to your problems, then coaching is not for you either. You are the expert in your world, you have the answers you need, even if right at this moment you don't know it yet and can generate a whole host of solutions. You also know what is best for you and what you want from your life.  Coaching is for people who want to take what they have in the present and look forward to creating the future they want.

Life coaching isn't for people who want the answers provided to them. It's not for people who don't want to put the effort and work into making a change in their life. A coach is not someone to use as a friend to offload to. Every conversation is one with a purpose, designed to move the client forward, to act in order to achieve the desired goals.

The Coaching process and style

Within the coaching environment, powerful conversations take place between the coach and the client.  It is an open and safe environment where confidentiality is paramount. The coaching relationship develops over time and as deep rapport is established; long lasting change can be achieved. The sessions are a collaboration with the client's agenda firmly at the forefront of the conversations. Each person is unique and the challenges they face, the outcomes they seek and the support they need, are individual to them. The coaching sessions are tailored to each individual client, coaching is responsive and requires flexibility in the approaches within a session all with the aim of supporting the client meet their goals. As coaching sessions progress, more information comes to light and as a coach my role is to respond to this information, helping the client create more choices which makes the relationship dynamic and the flow of conversation fluid, taking twists and turns where necessary. Goals often do change throughout the coaching sessions are greater awareness is achieved.

There are no assumptions or judgements made and throughout the coaching process there is acceptance and respect, from the first Discovery Call to the final session. The relationship between coach and client is one of equal partners with the aim of the coach to empower, encourage and motivate the client to identify and achieve their goals. With the focus firmly being on the client, there is a strong emphasis on active listening and where my coaching is concerned, a genuine curiosity, being fully present throughout with allows us to have deep conversations giving us the space, time and opportunity to get to the heart of the matter and bring about change. My coaching space is a high challenge, high support environment because this is the best and quickest way to achieve the results the client is looking for. Both within the sessions and when the client leaves the room, there is accountability, again in line with what the client is wanting the outcomes to be by the end of the coaching programme. 

Life coaching provides the space for self-reflection and for the client to learn and improve aspects or the whole of their life in order to progress and create the life they want.

My coaching philosophy is, it is your life, your hands, your future.

What can you take from coaching?

Whether you have a dream you want to follow, want to make significant changes in your life or just tiny tweaks in specific areas, want to discover your life purpose, or want to show up in the world being true to who you are and who you want to be, life coaching can support you to achieve those goals and many more.

Coaching helps you:

  • Find direction and gain clarity on your goals.
  • Create more choices.
  • Map out what routes you can take on your journey.
  • Identifies what you're going to need to get there and achieve your outcomes.
  • Focuses in on what steps to take between where you are now and where you need to be.
  • Focuses in on what steps to take between where you are now and where you need to be.
  • Plans for obstacles/barriers and ways for you to get around them.
  • Maintain motivation and provides you with accountability.
  • Gives you tools to use outside of the coaching sessions to use every day and within a variety of contexts.
  • Understand your thinking, feelings and behaviour in way you had not considered before.
  • Find inspiration to make the changes you want to make.
  • Celebrate your successes

Whilst you can achieve a successful outcome on your own, life coaching can help you get where you need to be more efficiently and will, along the way, help you create choices and opportunities you have not been aware of or consider before. I would not be where I am at this moment in time, if it had not been for the coaches I have worked with and continue to work with now.

If you feel coaching is something which could help you achieve your goals and create the life you want, then you book a free 30-minute Discovery Call to discuss further and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have.

What I Discovered About a Career Change at 30

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Did you ever do one of those questionnaires at school where you answer around 200 questions and when processed you were provided with list of career options to which you are most suited. I think I was 12 years old when I completed mine and was told that my ideal jobs were either a kennel maid and a zoo keeper. I had no issue with these choices since I am an animal lover but living in Wakefield, there were certainly no zoos nearby and back then only one kennel business that I knew of. It's funny how throughout your teenage years, your potential future career was narrowed down through your responses to loaded questions and a set number of careers. Becoming a research chemist, probation officer and life coach was not on my list of potential.

During my school years, I wanted to be a police officer; I applied at 19 years old but didn't get in. 6 months later, I was starting my first ever full-time job as a laboratory assistant in Leeds. After studying for a chemistry degree at the same time as working, I never envisaged not remaining within this type of environment. I mean, I am from a generation whose parents remained in the same role throughout their entire working lives and I was brought up on the belief that if you got a good education, gained a good job, you would have one for life.

Even before I was made redundant, I was beginning to question whether I could do the job I had for the next 40 years. By the time I reached 30, I knew I had to change what I was doing. I wasn't interested in chemistry. For me, there was no future in it but what do you do when you are earning a decent income and have a mortgage? It was a big decision for me to make a career change at 30, but it was something I felt I had to make.

Is it any different for people today? There is still the pressure to decide what you want to do throughout your teenage years without even knowing what is out there in the world. For many, their first full time job is not really one by design but by default. By the time you have hit 30 and the realisation dawns on you that you are not enjoying the work and don't look forward to the future. By this point there might be children, a house, debt in the picture and whilst you wouldn't necessarily change any of these, they can hold you back from looking at different options.

I didn't have children when I decided to leave my job and go study psychology at Huddersfield University, but I realised I wasn't the only mature student on my course and there were people studying with me that did and still made the same choice I did. Here's what I discovered about a career change at 30:

Challenges and opportunities: Whether you are going off to retrain, return to studying or going into a different role, you'll be faced with a variety of challenges.

  • You'll either have no money or much less than you were getting before.
  • You'll be stepping out of your comfort zone into a totally new environment. Effectively you're the new kid on the block, only you have been working for the past 7-10 years and both your expectations and those of others sometimes get in the way.
  • Accepting your mindset needs to shift because you're starting over, taking a step sideways or more likely a step down.
  • The reaction from others when you are telling them what you are doing. Some people will just not understand.

On the flip side, there are many opportunities and positives.

  • If you choose to study or retrain, making a choice is empowering. You're not doing things by default, you are making a conscious choice to do something you are interested and invested in. Because of this, you'll take more from the experience which will benefit you further going forward.
  • Your network is going to get bigger and you'll connect with people with similar interests which you would not have met otherwise.
  • The scope for the development of your career is massive. You'll utilise strengths and experiences from your previous career and this will allow you to bring a totally different perspective and value to your new endeavours.
  • One thing that surprised me when I gave up an income to go to university to study was the amount of money I was wasting on things that were necessary. It made me appreciate more of what I had and was grateful for it. And because we didn't have as much money as before, we did activities which were free, such as spending more time outdoors and seeing much more of our local area.
  • Your relationships strengthen as you gain support from those around you and doing something you love has a positive impact on their lives as well.

In terms of your working life, and by working life I am thinking in terms of the traditional sense from leaving full time education to retirement age which currently is 68 years if you are 30 this year, you are roughly a fifth of the way through.

Or look at it this way by considering the diagram below (a brilliant concept by the SUMO guy, that's Shut Up, Move On , Paul McGee. If you haven't read any of his stuff, I'd highly recommend it.)

If each figure represents a day of the week, and each day represents a decade of your life, by the time you are looking to change your career at 30, you're currently at Wednesday evening, looking forward to Thursday morning. There is plenty of time to learn something new or switch careers, especially given most fun happens on a weekend.

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Don't let your career be defined by what a computer came up for you by what you responded to as a teenager or by falling into an occupation through default rather than by design. No matter what stage of life you are at, do something you love and enjoy.