ST July 26, 2006I could be wrong, but I think that the above does not qualify as an accurate generic description of why people go to life coaches.
When nothing's going right... see a life coach
He will help assess a client's values, set goals and empower the client to achieve them. Judith Tan finds out more about the rising popularity of this profession
Relationships gone awry. Career paths meandering beyond your control. Family falling apart.
These seem like fodder coming from Wisteria Lane which would make a great drama series on TV.
But when real relationships fail and real careers crash, many people call in a life coach.
As I see it, life coachees fall into two broad categories. The ST article only describes one kind. The person has fallen into what most of us would agree is a rather sorry state of life (for example, there may be the failing love relationship; the awfully stressful career; the unhappy family etc). So he goes to a life coach for help.
In contrast, the 2nd kind of person who goes to a life coach does not appear to have any significant personal problem. On the contrary, he may appear to be doing well, perhaps very well, in life. This is the self-actualiser (or over-achiever, depending on your point of view) who goes to a life coach with the aim of doing even better in life and becoming utterly outstanding.
Life coaching is a relatively new approach to improving one's overall condition - be it in career, relationships or life in general.The very natural question that comes to most people's minds, when they first encounter the concept of "life coaching", is whether it's just a lot of hogwash. The next part of the ST article deals with that:
Ms Katherine Warner, managing director of Triple E! (Asia), said life coaching is born out of sports coaching.
'It's very much about peak performance from within yourself. If you believe in what you can do, it will translate to what you can achieve. For example, take two tennis players who are at the same level of performance. The one who is all psyched up to win will be able to beat the other at the game,' Ms Warner, 35, a life coach, explained.
In sports, the goals are clear and the techniques to achieve them are learnt and practised. However, in life, things may not be as straightforward.
And unlike sports coaches, life coaches do not shout instructions from the sidelines on how to lead your life.
Another life coach Wendy Chua K. Wand, 35, said: 'Rather, we are like guides, offering advice on relationships, careers, and more. We provide a sounding board for people to voice their aspirations and clarify what their life goals are and how they can go about reaching them.'
This, according to Ms Chua, is made easier when the person you are telling your life goals to is a stranger who does not know you enough to judge you.
And this may be one reason why more people are seeking help from life coaches to build the confidence to change careers or repair relationships.
Ms Helena Paoli, 32, said a life coach needs to be intuitive enough to let the clients 'find the answer within themselves'.
'We must be able to activate the client's subconscious mind that the idea and motivation comes from the client. We coax it out of him in order to help him be motivated and engaged in wanting to make the changes,' she explained.
ANOTHER FAD?Personal goal-setting and goal-achieving, by the way, has been refined to a fine art, in the universe of life coaching, self-help and self-improvement.
According to the Singapore chapter of the International Coach Federation website, there are 66 registered practising life coaches here, 'but there could be more - about 150', Ms Warner said.
And as its popularity grows, more and more people are asking what life coaching is. Is it another American new age fad, delivering yet another empty promise of helping people live better lives?
Take a look at what happened to the American trend of going to the shrink back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
'I can understand why some people think it is a fad. This is perhaps due to the fact that life coaching is a totally new concept in Asia. What is new is often viewed with a little scepticism,' Ms Warner said.
Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist with Gleneagles Medical Centre, said to dismiss life coaching as a fad would be a bit unfair.
'I think that people these days are more aware of the psychological and emotional issues they encounter at work, at home and in their personal lives - so life coaches are another avenue where people can get the help they need.
'My only concern is that life coaching, or counselling in general, remains an unregulated area. The only thing worse than getting no advice on a problem is getting bad advice,' he said.
But Ms Paoli says a life coach does not give advice. Rather, a qualified life coach helps a client to break down his goals so that he knows 'where and how to start taking those specific steps to ultimately achieve them'.
It comes with an extensive package of methodologies - for example, clarifying your values, having a personal mission statement, defining goals in a quantifiable way, creating a plan of action, establishing deadlines, taking action, monitoring progress, gathering resources, identifying roadblocks etc (but with variations, of course).
Actually in the area of personal financial planning, you come across some very similar concepts (talk to your financial adviser, or click here, and you will see). If you engage a personal trainer from Planet Fitness or Fitness First, the fitness plan he draws up for you will contain similar concepts. Similarly the concepts emerge in many corporate organisations in different ways (for example, in project management, or employee appraisal, or sales targets).
So what we're looking at are some flexible, practical concepts which can be applied (with adaptations) in many areas. That includes personal areas, relating for instance to your love life, your career, your hobbies, your social life, your health, or whatever.
'Coaching in general is a way to be able to gain clarity, gain focus and achieve goals faster. Although you can do it yourself or with encouragement from a friend, a coach helps to align the strengths and motivation and allows a clear action plan,' she said.
According to Ms Chua, a life coach draws from a number of disciplines such as psychology, career counselling and social counselling. The life coach assesses the client's values, sets goals and helps make changes 'by simply asking the right questions'.
Life coaching often takes place over the course of several months, but some people see positive changes in their lives after just two sessions.
However, Ms Warner said people in search of life coaches should check their credentials as some do not have the right qualifications.
STRESSFUL MODERN LIFESTYLES
Why do we need life coaching now when grandma didn't need it then?
Life moves at a faster pace today. Goals constantly need to be set and changes made. There is also more stress and uncertainty.
According to Dr Wang, to be optimally effective, people need to manage their emotions 'and get rid of the psychological clutter dragging us down'.
'In the past, you had to see your pastor or your old uncle to get reasonable advice. But like science, psychology has progressed and we now know and understand better many of the issues that affect us emotionally and mentally. So you can get your answer from the pastor, doctor or psychiatrist, or even the life coach,' he said.
Ms Paoli added that it is easier for a person to reveal deep dark desires and goals to a life coach than to a friend or a loved one.
'We tend to think that friends or loved ones would have 'pre-notions' about us and when we reveal certain information, they would become judgmental,' she said.
Dr Wang said: 'I think people today have a lot more things to worry about than our grandparents. Grandma didn't have a Blackberry in her bag, a breakfast teleconference to attend, and a flight to catch in the evening, all while worrying who's sending the kids to phonics class later. Things were simpler and needs more basic then.'
So has the life coach become the secular answer to the pastor or religious teacher?
'Yes, in a way, because the key skill here is the ability to listen. However, that's where the similarity stops. When someone goes to see his pastor to have a discussion, he is still seeking advice and guidance. In a coaching relationship, the client is empowered to make the decisions. The coach will never advise but let the client find the answers from within and be there to assess progress and motivate them towards achieving success,' Ms Warner said.
To sum it all up, Ms Paoli said: 'Life coaching is as successful as the individual wants it to be.'
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