Sooo…what the hell is a life coach?

Jun 30, 2015


Is this a question you’ve pondered?  I know my mother has, when, last Christmas, I told her I was going to be spending the next ten months in life coach training.

It’s been hard for me to articulate, even though my life has been dramatically influenced by the coaches I’ve worked with (like this amazing lady, and this groundbreaking multipotentialite).  Coaches have helped me come to a place of radical acceptance for who I am, and have helped me to entertain ridiculously wild dreams, not the least of which was starting Nalumana Women’s Wellness.

So, in my attempt to clarify and spread the good word, I bring you:  Coaching A La Carte.

I realized the other day that my offerings as a life coach are comparable in many ways to eating a meal at a restaurant. Given that I’ve been asked a lot, lately, exactly what a life coach does, and that most of the people I know eat out at restaurants at least once in a while, I thought it was a metaphor worth digging into. Pardon the pun.

Why would I eat out, if I could just eat at home?

I think, for many people, life coaching remains, at best, a bit of an enigma, and at worst, a service that could be considered extraneous, overly luxuriant and perhaps even a little bit self-indulgent. Maybe like massage therapy might have been ten years ago: now many of us consider massage an essential component of our self- and health-care, and it is a service that has been recognized by most third party insurers as integral to people’s wellbeing.

But I digress.

So the question is, why would you pay for life coaching services? What advantage does hiring a life coach have over, say, debriefing your life over coffee with a really insightful friend?

First of all, being engaged in a coaching relationship is all about you. Whereas your friend expects at least a modicum of reciprocal interest in her life, your coach’s job is to focus completely on where you are in your life right now and how to help you get where you want to be.

Your coach is there to partner with you as you envision and enact the steps you must undertake to live more optimally. This is one key difference between coaching and therapy, two professions which have many similarities. Whereas therapy is very helpful in uncovering and unpacking historic psychological trauma, coaching concerns itself with your future. It is action-oriented and solution-focused. In this regard, many individuals find coaching to be an excellent complement to their therapeutic work with a counsellor or psychologist.

Furthermore, perhaps unlike your very insightful best friend, your coach expects accountability from you, and will call you on your bullshit. In a relationship that can be as gently prodding or as lovingly militant as you wish, your coach will make sure you’re keeping your end of the bargain, moving forward and getting ‘er done. Whether that’s a regular check-in or a “homework” assignment, your coach is there to help you realize your intentions, even, and perhaps especially if, they’re tough and daunting and you don’t know where to begin.

The expertly trained chef

Another reason to eat at a restaurant is, clearly, to enjoy food prepared by an expert. So it is with coaching. There are many training paths a coach might take in order to call herself one, including, because it is an unregulated profession, no training at all. You’ll want to be mindful of this when choosing a coach. Personally, my coaching training, including practicum, was well over 200 hours long – more than your yoga instructor has before she is allowed to help you manipulate your body into gravity-defying poses. My training focused on the neuroscience of behaviour and how it relates to coaching, and explored topics such as the neurogenesis and changed neural connections that occur when we engage in positive thinking, and how the brain atrophies when you experience prolonged high stress. Through my training and practicum experiences, I have developed and sourced out hundreds of tools and insightful questions to help you work through whatever it is that you seek coaching for, whether that’s finding your passion, engaging in better self-care, communicating more effectively, or any number of other endeavours. My work as a coach is also supported by the foundation of my graduate-level academic education in Neuroscience and Health Promotion, many years spent supporting women and families as a doula, and my own personal trials and triumphs.

Many people wonder if it is necessary to hire a coach who has been through or experienced the particular issue that you hope to engage her to help you with? Not at all. A coach’s training focuses on asking powerful questions, deeply hearing your story, and engaging effectively in helping you catalyze change in your life by tuning into intuition and instinct. Your coach isn’t there to relate to precisely your life circumstances and echo “me too” as you try to make sense of them: she is there to help you delve into your deeper thought process, to bring you closer to your “aha” moment, to shake up the pattern of thinking that has operated in your life thus far and walk alongside you as you learn and grow.

What’s on the menu?

You might wonder if you have anything going on in your life that a coach could help you with. If you’re like many people, you might not have a totally clear idea of what a coach does, or could possibly do. The menu of services a coach could offer is unlimited.  

To read more about my coaching practice and the ways in which I support women as a coach, click here.

There are many other coaches, locally and beyond, who specialize in everything from supporting women solopreneurs to helping people find toe-curling happiness.  For a listing of some of these professionals, click here.

I hope this has helped you to understand a little bit more about coaching, why us life coaches are so riled up about its’ awesomeness, and how it might help you change your life.

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!