Life Coaching Helps People Perform at their Peak
By Millie Calesky, Personal & Professional Coach
(Originally appeared the Advocate – Vol. XI, No. 27)
Most of us know what sports coaches do. In the gym and on the playing field, they help athletes achieve far more than they would on their own. Many of us have memories of gym teachers who coached us to try harder and kept our morale high, especially when our muscles ached or our team was losing. They knew that we could achieve more than we expected for ourselves.
Although life coaching is focused on personal and professional issues, it still shares a lot in common with its counterpart in sports. Both are based on the belief that, given the support, motivation and guidance that coaches provide, their charges can excel and achieve greatness beyond their expectations.
Thomas Leonard, a CPA and financial advisor, is the grandfather of life coaching. He saw that what many of his clients wanted went far beyond advice about money management – they were really seeking support in making major life changes. Unwilling to wait for the future, these clients wanted a mentor to help them focus on and conquer their challenges.
In 1992, Leonard established Coach University, an institute devoted to training others to perform the consulting and mentoring function that he’d labeled “coaching.” He designed his school to be campus-free. Using cutting-edge technology to develop and promote his program, Leonard designed a curriculum that could be taught by phone. Classes were presented by conference calls on “phone bridges.” Registration and all administrative functions were transacted via the Internet.
Coaching sessions were designed to be held by phone – usually three or four times per month. The length of consultations (or coach calls) varied according to individual need, generally ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. This brief but focused discussion could easily fit into even the busiest of schedules.
In less than 10 years, life coaching has moved from obscurity to acceptance as a mainstream profession. Thousands have signed on for training, other schools have been founded, and a professional association – the International Coach Federation – was established.
Acknowledging the progress to be made in working with a coach, corporations have embraced it as a way to support their executives and managers in performing at their peak. The types of coaching available today are as diverse as clients’ needs, including health an wellness coaching, personal fulfillment, creativity, an spiritual development coaching.
The common thread among these branches is this: coaching helps people be more fulfilled and productive. To achieve this, clients are often asked to visualize how they’d like their lives to look. Once their vision is honed, goals are set with a timeline for achieving them. Coaches can provide support through some or all phases of this process. A commitment to working together often ensures success that might otherwise be impossible.
Many coaches encourage clients to take an inventory of their lives and honestly look at what feels right and what doesn’t. Clients may be asked to list their “toleration” – irritants or bad habits that they’re putting up with. Sample tolerations might include driving a car that keeps breaking down; working so many hours that there’s no time to spend with one’s family or for enjoyment; not going to the doctor for regular check-ups; or being addicted to caffeine, cigarettes or other drugs. As these are eliminated, the quality of one’s life starts to improve.
By committing to work with a coach and bringing greater attention to areas that need change, “coachees” start seeing their lives shifting. Clients often commit to get tasks done between calls. This increased accountability motivates them to take steps that they might otherwise resist.
Coaching provides a boost in morale for negative thinkers who tend to focus on the half-glass that’s empty. By learning to focus on the positive, clients start to appreciate how productive they really are. This shift ultimately leads to greater self-confidence and willingness to do what needs to be done.
Coaches provide the structure, guidance and encouragement that can help to make goals achievable. Willingness and a commitment to change are all that are necessary to get started. Most coaches offer free introductory consultations, so potential clients can try it out before making any commitments.