In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to write a somewhat personal post about working with a life coach. It feels kind of awkward, like openly talking to someone you’ve just met about your last therapy session. But my ultimate goal in life is to make mental health less stigmatized and more conversational and actionable. And I guess that kind of change starts with yourself.
I fell into working with a life coach almost two years ago. My manager at the time had a good friend who was pursuing a new career in life coaching and looking for “guinea pig” clients to begin practicing with. Through many long talks over a glass of wine, my manager knew that I was passionate about mindfulness and personal growth. She recommended I talk to Jade about becoming one of her first clients.
Two years later, I can honestly say that I wouldn't be here writing about this experience if it weren’t for Jade, because BSM was born out of her support and enthusiasm for my passions. I’ll try to explain how below.
What Is Life Coaching?
In my own words, life coaching is having regular conversations with a trusted, trained advisor about all of the various aspects of life. That includes career, finances, physical and emotional health, family, friends, love, etc. With a life coach, you discuss how things are going in general, with an emphasis on “what’s on your mind?” and “how can we help resolve those things to advance you forward?”
Define "Life Coach"
It’s hard to define what exactly a life coach does, because it can be so different for everyone. That’s what’s cool about the experience -- it’s so customizable. So to give you a sense of others’ experience, here are some definitions from around the web:
“Part consultant, part motivational speaker, part therapist and part rent-a-friend, coaches work with managers, entrepreneurs, and just plain folks, helping them define and achieve their goals — career, personal, or most often, both.” - Newsweek
“Life coaching has grown to be a hugely successful form of talking therapy, to the extent that it has helped turn people's lives around. A life coach is someone that looks to empower others by helping them make, meet and exceed goals in both their personal and professional lives.” - SkillsYouNeed
“Life coaches work with their clients to help them achieve goals, overcome obstacles and make changes or shifts in their lives.” - National Coach Academy
Life Coach vs. Counselor: What’s The Difference?
In my opinion, a life coach is the positive psychology version of a counselor. If a counselor or therapist is focused on fixing what’s wrong with you, a life coach is focused on helping you identify and seize growth oriented opportunities in your life.
There are a few other differences; to become licensed, a counselor or therapist must have both an undergraduate and master’s degree. A life coach need only complete a variety of training programs in order to become accredited.
And perhaps I feel like I get a more holistic approach from my life coach, but a more in-depth analysis and sense of credibility from a therapist or counselor. For instance, I’ll talk to my life coach about everything from my career to my relationship to my friends to my physical health. I only really talk to my counselor about my most prominent emotions. Whereas we take stock of my emotional life in therapy (which is active as hell, so no problem there), we go a bit broader in a life coaching session.
That’s not to say that Jade doesn't hear plenty about my emotions. There’s definitely a ton of overlap between the two, with life coaching seeming to encompass more of my -- well, life. I think the Newsweek quote above is spot on, in that Jade is both my coach, my therapist, and my friend. I haven’t ever really felt that way about a counselor, but I also don't think I've ever found the right fit in a therapist.
How Does Life Coaching Work?
Here’s a bit on the nuts & bolts of what life coaching looks like in practice.
Life Coaching Format
You can do life coaching via phone, video chat, or in person sessions. My relationship with Jade has been exclusively via email and phone, mostly because we live in two different states and I’m often squeezing our calls in on a lunch break.
Most people do 1 to 2 hour-long coaching sessions per month. I’ve gotten away with 1x per quarter or 1x per month, depending on my schedule. Right now, I’m doing 1x per month and that’s great for me.
Life Coaching Process
There’s an excellent article by Life Coach Hub on how life coaching actually works. I’ll use their framework to talk through my experience:
Clarifying what you want. You’ll often start a life coaching conversation here. This can involve visualization exercises a la “Close your eyes & picture what your life looks like in a world where you were truly content.” True story, for me this involved wearing layers of gray cashmere clothing in a pristine yet homey apartment surrounded by a few sweet, loving cats. Dont ask, dont judge. Just live your best life.
Assessing where you are right now. Jade and I do a lot of interesting hands on exercises, like the Wheel of Life or pre-session reflection sheets, to take stock of my life at any given moment. I do a lot of this kind of reflection on my own, but I think it’s all the more helpful when you’re the type of person who doesn't.
Reviewing your resources or options. Jade asks me questions that help me see different routes that I could take to the destination I’m struggling to find on my own. How could you think about this issue differently? Who could help you bear this burden? Who could simply ease it?
Creating an action plan. I really enjoy this part of the process. We'll discuss -- what can I commit to in the next month that will help me reach my goals? One time, my action item was to come up with a list of things my friends and I could do as a group that didn’t revolve around alcohol. Simple, but powerful in helping me reduce the amount that I was drinking for no reason.
Instilling motivation and commitment. This step often involves a little more visualization; what will your life look like if and when you accomplish your goal? Motivation comes easy when you're drawing from an internal well of passion. Jade also always asks if I’d like to commit to my action item(s) and whether or not I’d like her to hold me accountable.
Calibrating and keeping on track. When I say I’d like to be held accountable, Jade will send an email at some point during our time away to check in, reminding me of my goal and inviting me to share my progress so far. There are very few people in my life who will hold me accountable for me, not them.
Celebrating successes along the way. When I launched my blog, no one was a bigger supporter than Jade. Making big life leaps can be really scary, and the people closest to you -- friends, family, lovers -- aren’t always going to know how to celebrate your successes. They’re worried you might be leaving them behind or even dealing with a little jealousy. But a life coach is completely bought in on your success and may end up being the one cheerleader you need.
Common Issues Tackled In Life Coaching
You're probalby thinking, this life coaching thing sounds pretty good, but what exactly does it help with? Here are the issues Jade wants to tackle with her clients:
- Lack of life purpose
- Lack of clarity around goals
- Lack of work/life balance
- Struggling with health, wellness, fitness, etc.
- Struggling with stress
And since Jade isn't the only life coach in the world, here’s another personal account of life coaching from a writer at Forbes. In her revealing piece, life coaching is a stepping stone for help with:
- Confidence or self-worth
- Life vision
- Habits (kicking destructive ones & adopting productive ones)
- Poor mood
- Periods of transition
- Purpose (or lack thereof)
Life Coaching Tools & Techniques
Life coaches use a variety of worksheets, visualization techniques, mindfulness exercises, and role playing to help clients understand different perspectives, which I honestly find to be a lot of fun!
PositivePsychology.com has an exhaustive list of life coaching tools, but I’ll just name a few that I’ve personally interacted with:
Wheel of Life. This is perhaps one of my favorite life coaching tools, possibly because I can relate it directly to the six core needs that I focus on daily
Session Prep Worksheets. These are meant to be simple homework prior to a session, a reflective aid intended to help you come to the session with some goals in mind. I find that it’s therapeutic in the same way that journaling is.
Spheres of Influence. This is less of a literal tool and more of a technique. For instance, in our last session, Jade reminded me that, “You can’t control the actions of others, you can only control your reaction to them.” Again, so simple, but we often need the reminder.
Visualization. As mentioned before, this is a handy tool for understanding your own deepest desires and actively setting a goal via mental image. Gray cashmere & cats, here I come (wait, should that be my blog’s name?).
Mindfulness. At the start of each session, Jade will have me take a few deep breaths with my eyes closed to get to a place of relative calm. Mindfulness too is more of a technique than a tool, but it’s right in line with what I need to live my best life.
I’m a huge fan of hands-on tools like this and sadly never got anything like it in traditional therapy. That’s another interesting difference between the two and why I think life coaching is often a bit more dynamic.
What Are The Benefits Of Life Coaching?
Loaded question! For me, it’s been really helpful in terms of taking stock of my life and the energy I give to each facet. Using the Wheel of Life to visualize this, it’s easy to see where the wheel gets off balance and begins to tip too far in a certain direction. Neglect your health for too long, and that’s what your wagon falls on top of. Same goes for your relationships, career, passions, etc.
Life coaching has been really helpful for me to realize my priorities as well. In our sessions about a year ago, all I could talk about was how frustrated I felt about not making enough money for the work I was doing and fantasizing about getting back into my passion -- writing. It was from those conversations that I started looking for another job and writing about my 2017 Bali trip...foder for what would become Blue Sky Mind today.
Another huge benefit to life coaching has been the ability to prepare for tough conversations. Two topics that Jade has helped me navigate are compensation questions at work and frustrations in one relationship or another. This usually comes about when I’ve been stewing about something and know I need to bring it up with someone, but don't know how to in a way that preserves the relationship.
The common thread through this is all is that a life coach helps you talk through the swirling tornado of thoughts in your head, however minute or trivial they may seem. A life coach helps you get to the heart of the issue, which is usually something much deeper and more emotional than those surface-level thoughts and helps you identify the steps you could possibly take to move closer to your goals. In more sessions than not, I end up crying or fighting back tears because Jade and I get really real, real quick.
But again, this is just my experience! Here are some of the other ways that a life coach can help do:
- Define life purpose
- Clarify goals
- Foster work/life balance
- Promote health/wellness/fitness (she’s Bulletproof Certified, too!)
- Manage stress and teach mindfulness
How Much Does Life Coaching Cost?
According to LifeCoach.com, “Most life coaches working with individuals charge about $200 to $1,000 per month for a 30- to 60-minute call three or four times a month.” In the Forbes article I mentioned before, the writer was quoted at $15,000 for a full program!
Until very recently, I was getting my sessions for free. Let that sink in -- $15K vs. free. Being one of the first few guinea pigs, I was merely volunteering my time when Jade first started out.
Now, as she progresses through her certification, she’s asked that her piglets pay either $15 per month for 1 session or $20 per month for 2. She’s currently charging $25 an hour for new clients, but that number goes up with experience. Anyone who gets in on the early stages enjoys a grandfathered rate, which I imagine will become all the more sweet when Jade starts charging hundreds per hour (as she’s worth!).
My advice: Find yourself someone on the ground floor to learn and grow with. A new life coach is still a human being willing to listen to your dreams and help you discover & remove the roadblocks in your way. The fact that you’re each helping the other to pursue their dream makes it all the more special.
Do I Need A Life Coach?
To be honest, I’m not sure. But unless you are already the very best possible version of yourself, I know you could benefit from one.
How Can I Hire A Life Coach?
Well, you can work with mine! She’s offering an incredible “friends & family” opportunity for folks to join her as she finishes out her certification. That’s the $25/hour rate I mentioned above.
How Life Coaching Fits Into The Blue Sky Mind
I’m feeling especially grateful for the opportunity to work with a life coach this week, and it just so happens that May is the perfect time to be having this discussion. I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with all of my various priorities in life (work, love, friends, health, blog). When I described all of these thoughts to Jade, all she could think of was swirling tornados.
Her advice? “Less think, less do, more be.” Stop overthinking. Stop doing so much. And “what if it didn’t matter what anyone else thought?” Just be and let life happen. Everything will still be there when you’re ready for it. Your friends, the gym, your random internet followers (hi guys!). They’ll all still be there, even if you decide to stop, take a breath, smell the roses, hole up in your house in a robe writing blog posts all day. It will all -- be -- ok.
Please contact me if you’d like a complimentary intro session with my life coach, Jade, as she’s offering that sweet “family & friends” deal right now. I'm also happy to go deeper on any of the above if you want more info -- just reach out!