MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS  >  Do You Need a Life Coach?

Do You Need a Life Coach?

Do You Need a Life Coach?
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By Beth Portolese

I’m having trouble figuring out just exactly why so many people I know now have life coaches!  I got an email the other day from a lovely friend who was forwarding on something from a person she referred to as her ‘life coach’.  This person has a good head on her shoulders, always seems well balanced and also seems to know what she wants.  If the impression I have is true, why does she have a life coach?  Another good friend has referred many times to what her coach has recommended she do about certain issues she encounters with the people who work for and with her.  She too seems to be well grounded and not in need of any ‘coaching’ to make decisions.  There seems to be an epidemic out there of people who just won’t make a decision on their own without someone either telling them what to do or telling them what they plan to do is correct!

How did it come to this?  Why don’t people trust their own instincts anymore when it comes to making ordinary decisions about their life and career?  In answering these questions we probably have to look back a few decades when the ‘discovering your inner self’ seminars came into vogue.  People flocked to seminars such as Landmark to discover how to get ‘in touch’ with themselves.  We couldn’t just make a decision we had to discover our inner feelings to discern why we made the decision, what in our childhood led to it and the hidden meaning behind it.  We couldn’t just accept that men were different than women (was that a new concept?) we had to know the reasons behind it to better communicate with them.  Frankly I read the Mars/Venus book back then and my communication with the opposite sex never got noticeable better, but I digress.  These seminars and books created an atmosphere of self doubt which gave the life coaches their opening.  If people were unsure of whether they were communicating correctly or making the right decisions for the right reasons, it would make sense that they would find comfort in some reinforcement from an ‘expert.‘

Women seem to be particularly susceptible to the life coach concept.  I think this is true for several reasons but the main one is that women are more normally collaborative with everything.   I have to consult with at least 3 girlfriends before determining the meaning behind a conversation I had with a guy I like.  At work, women are much more apt to brainstorm (is that word still in vogue or should I use synergy?) with different people to get input for a decision.  Women are also much more inclusive in their management style.  When is the last time you saw a man asking his ‘boyz’ what a communication meant from a certain woman?  I have 5 brothers and have not observed this ever.  At work, men have no problem not asking a single person for their opinion before making a decision.  As our former president George W. Bush would say ‘They are the deciders’.  This can work well or not so well (as in Dubya’s case) but you don’t see men running out and hiring coaches to reinforce any of their decisions.  They may have coaches as a result of an edict (or HR mandate) from above to help them on their career path, but it is seldom their idea.  Women, on the other hand, welcome the suggestion and leap on the life coach bandwagon before they even have a major problem.

I have to wonder just exactly what it takes to become a ‘life coach’. Is there extensive training involved? Do the people who become life coaches have to be that much smarter than the average person?  I decided to do a little research on the requirements to become a life coach and found….there really aren’t any!  One website offering a life coach training course proclaimed at the top….No Experience Necessary! In fact, you can become a life coach in 90 days to 6 months depending on what course you take. Becoming a Christian life coach takes a little longer but things always get more complicated when you throw the Lord into the mix.   Imagine, learning everything there is to know about life in only 6 months.  One course actually lets you establish your practice while you are getting the training.  Shouldn’t the people involved with that coach get a little bit of a discount?

My friends who have coaches often tell me what these life gurus recommend and it really doesn’t sound any different than the common sense advice my mother gave me as a child.  ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ translates into the life coach recommendation of being nice and inclusive with everyone at work so that you can influence them to your way of thinking.  ‘You don’t want to dig your grave with your teeth’ translates into the life coach recommendation that perhaps eating a little less would be better for your health. My mother really had no idea how incredibly brilliant she was when she said these things.  Too bad life coaches weren’t in vogue in the 60s.  She could have worked from home.

All of what the life coaches seem to do is apply some common sense to any situation that comes up.  Maybe that is where the problem lies.  No one has common sense anymore and if they do, they don’t have the common sense to use it.  When not consulting with their life coach, many of my friends come to me for advice with issues they are having.  After I offer some thoughts on their situation, many of them tell me that my advice is better, the same or just as good as their coach.  Hmm, this might be a new career for me!  Given the ‘extensive’ requirements to be a coach and my lack of experience in much of anything, I have more than a shot at a lucrative new career.

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