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What is a life coach anyway?

When I talk about being a life coach, there are two things people tend to say. The first is “what exactly is life coaching?”.

Everyone seems to have heard about it, but when it comes to what it actually means it all gets a bit vague. And it’s not surprising really as there are a plethora of practises and personalities all operating under the title life coaching. Plus, being a relatively new discipline, there are no hard and fast rules.

For many, the term life coach conjures up images of some kind of guru who will tell you exactly what you need to do to find enlightenment. Or perhaps one of those motivational speakers who will whip you up into a frenzy of excited enthusiasm. Well, here’s what Wikipedia says:

‘Life coaching is the process of helping people identify and achieve personal goals through developing skills and attitudes that lead to self-empowerment…A life coach does not act as a therapist, counsellor, or health care provider, and psychological intervention lies outside the scope of life coaching’

That’s a pretty good summary. Let me add some flesh to those bones with my own interpretation.

As you evolve and grow as a person, so does your idea of fulfilment. Life coaching takes you on a journey of self-discovery from where you are now to where you want to be.

You may have great friends, an amazing partner and a supportive family but you can’t rely solely on these relationships. A life coach is there to truly listen without judgement, remain objective, cheerlead, challenge, motivate and ultimately lead you to personal empowerment.

Your mind is as important as your physical health and a life coach is a bit like a personal trainer for your mind. A way to release the weight of the thoughts running around your head. A coach is not there to give advice but to listen and ask the right questions that will unlock your way forward.

The second thing people tend to say is “I understand why some people might need a life coach but it’s not for me”.

A couple of years ago, that person was me. 100%. So how on earth did I flip from that perspective to being one myself?

Well, looking back, I suspect the seeds were sewn when I found myself contemplating a sky dive to celebrate my 40th. Alarm bells started to ring. Crap. Is this the classic mid-life crisis heading my way?

When I look back it all starts to make sense. There I was, happily going through life, ticking many of the boxes – university, corporate career, a lovely wedding to my wonderful husband. Everything was pretty peachy. I liked things just so.

But then things started to get a bit trickier. The emotional rollercoaster of pregnancies – the elation of the successful ones, the utter heartbreak of those that were not. The pressure I put on myself to have it all, to be perfect, to show it could be done. The realisation that my heart wasn’t really in my job even though I was pushing myself to the max. The fact my body and self-esteem had never really recovered to what they were pre-pregnancy. The confusion about who and what I was now meant to be. Suddenly, everything was a bit messy and I found myself turning to my nightly gin and tonic as a way of chilling out, or more likely, tuning out.

Just as I was contemplating the skydive, my husband got a call that would take his job and all of us to Tokyo. Within 2 months we were there and as a first-time ex-pat, I was feeling pretty scared. Here I was in the middle of the largest city in the world with my young children, no friends, no idea how to speak the language and no idea where or how to even buy groceries. But. Slowly. I figured it out. And once I found my feet, I felt stronger. I felt like, if I could do this, I could do anything. So, I decided it was time to do something about the messy bits of my life.

I started with my physical health and signed up to an online programme on a whim. It turned out to be about much more than fitness. The focus of this particular programme was on changing the way I think about myself. Being kind to myself and seeing myself in a new light. Within a month my body felt strong. Buddha got it right when he said ‘what we think, we become’. So, if a mindset shift could radically change my physical health, what could it do for me in other areas of my life?

Feeling buoyed up by my stronger body and mind, I researched everything I could. And all my research kept taking me toward the discipline of life coaching. I decided to take it a step further and signed up for a rigorous training programme to become a life coach and I also found my own life coach to help me on this journey.

So, what has my life coach done for me?

Well, I feel I have become more self-aware with a greater inner confidence (although this is not yet constant by any means!). I’ve improved my relationships with others and importantly with myself. I feel grateful for what I have now but with a better understanding of what I want and I’m moving towards this much more quickly than I would ever have managed alone. I have a sounding board, someone who will listen objectively and challenge me when I need it.

The more I learn, the more my passion grows. I want to empower other people to navigate the ups and downs of life and find a way forward. I want to take them on a journey to greater confidence, purpose, opportunity and ultimately a more content and fulfilling life.

No sky dive required. After all. This is it. There is no dress rehearsal.

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