How-To: Life Coaching

A walking bridge in New England covered with fall leavesBy Caleb John Clark, 1995 What life coaching is, how to find a coach, what to expect from a coach, and some things I went through while being coached. This how-to comes from working with life coach Matthew Fincher. Life coaching is about hiring someone to help you live the life you want. I think of it like a good coach I had in high school, you might have had one too. You know, the the one who respected you, challenged you, and was totally behind you succeeding and doing your best, as long as you were a good team player. So to me, life coaches are about helping you play the game of life to your full potential. Generally speaking I think life coaching is an integration and evolution of career counseling and psychotherapy, but it’s more action oriented for all aspects of your life, from work to relationships to health. Life coaching is also seems to me to be a response to a need that has developed as the nature of professional type work changes. People are realizing more and more that money and security are not all they are cracked up to be, that you can make money, give and take love, and also add to the mix the ability to follow your unique purpose in life and discover your own personal power that comes from following your instincts and intuition. Life coaching is a young profession, so relying on credentials can be tricky. Often life coaches are trained as therapists or other councilor types. Or they may not have any formal training. There are some organization that are granting credentials, but often a great coach won’t have any. Either way, look for a good reputation in the community and experience in similar fields or in coaching. If someone is just starting out, you might be able to get a good rate, but make sure they are working under someone who is experienced and reputable. Life coaching is likely to keep increasing in popularity because it is responding to a need in the market. Hopefully Universities and Colleges will start to provide degrees and credentials that are consistent in quality so that credentials start to have more meaning and training can be based on a canon of knowledge and pull from psychology’s rich history of scientific knowledge and studies. Why I got a coach I was between computer consulting contracts working on some of my own projects when my roommate got a life coach. He would tell me about his homework and it sounded pretty exciting. One day I met his coach, Matthew Fincher, at a cafe and he gave me an impromptu sample session around some issues I was having with a woman I’d recently fallen in love with. I was also wondering what I was going to do and where I wanted to live next, when my money ran out. I loved his style, which was active and direct, but still let me do the work. And I especially liked Matthew because he was a former computer consultant and he understood my world. So I followed my instincts that it would be a good time to get some help from someone who could coach me on what do to and hold me accountable, but I felt I wanted more active and direct help, vs. therapy which I’d been in and felt complete with, for the moment. So we started once a week and the work began. How-to find a life coach The best way to find a coach is to talk to someone who had a good experience with one. You can also find a life coach by looking in the phone book or internet under therapists or career councilors. Here’s a good site to start a Web search at: International Coaches Federation Sample Sessions Once you find a coach, request a sample session. Most good life coaches will meet you the first time at a reduced rate. What you’re looking for is chemistry, trust, respect, etc. Just like any relationship really. Follow your instincts and don’t settle for something that doesn’t feel right. Example ProcessLife Coaching should be a process and there are lots of different processes. Matthew has developed his own 4 step process which I’ll outline here. This may take from three months to a year or more. You could stop whenever you wanted of course, but ideally you’d get into #3 and #4 for a few cycles.

  1. Authentic = Acknowledgement: You meet and your coach gets to know you. You may go over your resume, childhood, etc. You dive into what is now. Who you are and what you are doing right now. What are your issues, blocks, problems, successes, etc. Your coach may read your resume. You get real comfortable with the reality of you now and do some work on habits, patterns, and ways of thinking that might be holding you back and self-sabotaging your efforts.
  2. Clarity=Declaration: You work to define your purpose in life. A short general statement that describes who you are and what you do is crafted. You fill in the blanks of “I am the blank that blanks” for example, or craft a mission statement.
  3. Intention=Mission: You plan out ways to live your purpose and a mission to go on to get there
  4. Action=Results: You plan actions for certain results and your coach holds you accountable for them.

#3 and #4 then loop and repeat with your coach helping you from the sidelines. My Process I’m not going to get too personal here, but I’ll give some examples of things I did that helped me and I found interesting. Matthew and I met and went over my resume and upbringing to start and and I filled in this questionnaire:

  1. What do you want to get from coaching?
  2. If you could wave a magic wand and change anything in your life, what would it be?
  3. What has to happen for you to know coaching has benefited your life?
  4. If you trusted me enough to tell me how to support you most effectively, what tips would you give me?
  5. What are the three most important things in your life right now?
  6. When you are most stuck, what would I say to you that will support you in connecting to your power?
  7. What are you naturally good at doing or being? What is easy for you?
  8. What would your closest friends say are your best abilities?
  9. What are some of your favorite things, places and people?
  10. What else would you like to share about yourself?

As I progressed through the process I was surprised what came up. At first anger surfaced in terms of my relationships. Then some “characters” emerged from within my head that were not helping me out. For example, I found a very good “judge” in me that tends to, well, judge. But he doesn’t do much else except be critical. I also spent a week or so on a “Hippie kid” that runs around in the shadows of my mind, popping put to be rebellious and say things like “I don’t know what I want to do” or “I don’t have to do anything” which are counter productive. Matthew had a good quote here I wrote down:

“Integrate the hippie kid. Get complete with the judge. Transcend them both, And step into your soul.”

After each session there would be homework assigned. Some examples of homework were: – Find examples of people who do something you respect and are attracted to for a living. – Observe feelings of anger. Physical and emotional. Write it down. – Make a sign by bed, on a cell phone display, or in car that says: “What am I angry about?” – Call Matthew every day for 30 seconds or less, anytime 24/7 and leave a message reciting your declaration of self. My most salient work came out of Matthew step #2: Declaration. Over a three week period we worked to fill in the “blanks” in this sentence: “I am the blank that blanks.” I went through many drafts, but ended up at: “I am the communicator that helps humanity.” After trying it on for a few months now, I like it. It grounds me but provides flexibility in terms of details and careers. Incidentally, Matthew is, “The voice that integrates,” and I think my mother would be “I am the teacher that educates children,” since she’s a 35 year public school teacher. Matthew and I worked from there on achieving goals (one of them being this site) with him being my coach and holding me accountable. We’re currently still in process working on actions and intentions. Life coaching was very useful to me, but I was ready to actively change my life and I’d been in therapy, so I don’t think I was looking for that, which would be a mistake unless your life coach is specifically trained to be a licensed therapist. And beware of life coaching as a “quick fix.” Real change takes time and energy and is often a challenging process. I believe the discipline needs to continue to become more academically and scientifically rigorous and I hope it will so it can improve its reputation. Eventually I see becoming a life coach to be similar to becoming a licensed therapist. More Info.

  1. Great Book!: “Zen and the Art of Making A Living”
  2. International Coaches Federation
  3. Wikipedia Definition with Link


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