Yes, I am a Life Coach.
No, I will not begin to think I know what is best for you.
I was drawn to Life Coaching after a lifetime of being sought out for advice, and ultimately feeling icky every time I doled it out. Worse yet, I'd get irritated when friends and colleagues didn't take my advice. Alternatively, I became increasingly intolerant of people giving me unsolicited advice. How could anyone know what’s best for me? And how could I know what's best for anyone else? I began to ask myself what were people coming to me for, how could I actually help them, give them what they were looking for? What the hell were they really looking for?
I got comfortable with saying I didn't know, with empathizing and listening, but ultimately not offering much besides a listening ear (which is not to be underestimated). Yet I still felt helpless to help them, to actually support them in changing anything. Their same old stories, same old patterns, and no change. Of course I noticed it in myself too. There I was telling the same old stories, same thought loops, same predicaments over and over as the years passed, and I got tired of hearing myself.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” - Albert Einstein
Life Coach training helped answer those questions for me. Most people need someone to hear them, actually listen to them, not judge them nor give advice. Yes, some did ask me what I would do if I were in their situation, but I began to have the tools to turn it back around to them. People need someone to ask them questions that prompt them to think about their situation in a different way, eliciting relevant information directly from the source - themselves. The greatest gift was learning tools to invoke responses directly from the horse's mouth.
What prompted me to get onto this topic has come from several conversations with people who have worked with Life Coaches (regardless of being certified or uncertified...see next paragraph) who have complained to me about the crappy advice their Coach gave them. I'm quite surprised to frequently hear of Life Coaches giving their clients advice. (Giving the client the benefit of the doubt that there was actual advice given, rather than an invitation or prompt or exploratory homework or advice the client came to on their own.)
As an unregulated career field, life coaching can sometimes seem like a free-for-all for those self-titling as Life Coaches. While there are several certifying bodies out there such as the International Coach Federation, there is currently no requirement for obtaining credentialing. For those who do prefer formal training, the programs are vast, anything from online courses and weekend workshops to extensive in-depth training. This is not to say there aren't amazing, talented self-titled Life Coaches out there with no formal training. There are! If they're out there guiding clients into transformation and getting results, then more power to them!
Effective coaching involves deep listening and powerful questions, ones that elicit the client to develop their own advice, own course of action, based on their lives, their circumstances, their triggers, their barriers, their values, their beliefs, and their dreams. You catch my drift.
As a Life Coach I might resonate very deeply with the circumstance my client is experiencing, and while I might tell them I empathize or I've overcome a similar circumstance...my own human experience, my own journey, will look different than anyone else's, and I'm careful about treading lightly on overlaying my story onto theirs.
So what’s my advice as a Life Coach?
Never take advice from a Life Coach.