Can you coach your way into a better life? Maybe.
I’ve been supremely skeptical of the whole “life-coaching” business since its recent, blossoming popularity. This is partly thanks to having had a friend who announced, out of the blue, that she was getting her coaching certificate and opening a practice. She is very good at the massage therapy business through which she has paid the bills for years — but spectacularly unqualified in just about every other way: a disastrous relationship produced a son forever in and out of juvenile hall, and assorted business ventures promoted by online hucksters regularly capture her attention and drain her shallow bank account. Someone would go here for a life coach?
But then I heard about another friend recently having entered the coaching business. This one has had a successful, decades-long career in the corporate world. She has also long been influential in all the right causes, by supporting promising political candidates in innovative ways or serving on nonprofit boards to their considerable advantage. She has a broad network of friends who regularly call on her for advice or counsel. I’m proud to be one of them. So I called on her to find out about life coaching. I mean, imagine something like that being useful.
It was a long journey to becoming a coach, she said, and I think this might be the first qualification (or lack of) to note if you’re looking for a coach. “I’d experienced the power of coaching. I had a coach for a few years, and knew it could be transformational. I then chose the training program I entered because it has to do with both being and doing. Being informs how we choose the doing, and doing affects being.”
I translated this into lay (my) language as “Oh, OK, how you are, overall, affects how well you’re doing overall, and the same is true in the reverse.” Makes sense. And perhaps a very good coach (training and credentials can offer clues) might help one be better — clearer-headed, generally stronger — which would help one do better — accomplish goals, that sort of thing.
So, I asked: Suppose you were coaching me? What sorts of things might you be homing in on? Whereupon she started asking gentle little questions about how I’m dealing with Covid quarantine, how I’m spending my days, what I’m worried about . . . Within three minutes I was articulating thoughts lurking in the back of my head. About things like the short story collection I’ve been talking about putting together for, oh, 15 or 20 years. Unfinished writing projects. Unanswered correspondence. Unorganized filing cabinets. Unaddressed goals. (Maybe you have such a list, or would be able to create one if nudged in that direction.) And you guessed it, somewhat later and after a few more discussions I signed up. Never having imagined myself embarking on such an adventure.
This essay is not a promotion for coaching or coaches or any related businesses. It is, rather, an acknowledgment of surprise on the part of a lifelong skeptic that such tools of today actually work. Motivational speakers? TED talkers? Coaches? Who knew? I should disclose, at this point, that I am old enough to remember when a coach was someone who trained athletes.
I now have seven previously published short stories re-formatted into an emerging collection. Imagine.