The Great Coach Solution
Gail Davies* was about to hit 50. The London–based executive at an international design company had a job she liked, a boss she abhorred, a marriage she was questioning, a body she was too busy to give any thought to, family and friends she was neglecting — and every so often she had the urge to ditch everything, move to Africa and write detective novels.
Davies wanted to make some changes. She just wasn’t clear about what changes she wanted to make, or where to find the time to sit back and take stock. The looming of the big Five-Zero nudged her into action. “I knew I needed to make a commitment and I wanted to be accountable. I didn’t want to wake up one day and have regrets,” she says.
She decided to give herself, as a birthday gift, six months of personal coaching. “I knew six months was a short window but it felt manageable — and it truly was worthwhile,” she says.
Davies hired a coach (the author of this article) who was living on a different continent. “I had met her and felt I could work with her. As the coaching was by phone, with e-mail contact between sessions, where she lived didn’t matter.
“We started with two two-hour sessions where we talked about my responses, or lack of them, to a thought-provoking questionnaire she sent me. We did some visualizations and I set some intentions. All this put a spotlight on my life — where it was working and where it was in atrophy. And then, the shifts began.”
Coaching by phone was super-convenient, says Davies. “We’d spend 45 minutes to an hour on the phone together three times a month. I’d call her with something from my week that was on my mind and she got me digging, seeing what old habits were keeping me stuck — that sort of thing.
“It was sometimes hard work, and a lot of what came up surprised me. For example, I had no idea I had this deep-rooted belief that a woman should be at home taking care of her husband. It explained a lot of my ambiguity about the relationship, and my guilt, and it sort of released me.”
By the end of the six months, she was engaged in an active job search. “I’d realized my values and those of my boss were at polar extremes and I simply did not want to work with him.
“I’d also decided that I wasn’t going to divorce my husband, so we may as well work on improving our relationship.
“I’d started having regular massages, wearing perfume, buying fun clothes — it sounds superficial, but I realized I’d lost touch with my sexual side and that wasn’t OK.”
Among other things she’d also adjusted her schedule to have every second Friday off, “and realized that seeing I could not commit to writing 10 minutes of morning pages, I’d better start looking beyond writing for a creative escape. And while I still want to go to Africa, I’m looking at the south of France as a retirement option.”
When Dierdre Baines* hired a coach, it was at the suggestion of the psychiatrist she’d been seeing for depression. “She said done as much as she could and what I needed was a life coach to help me make changes in the places I was stuck.”
Baines looked on the East Bay Coaches Web site for a coach she thought she might resonate with, e-mailed some personal information by way of introduction, and as they lived in the same city, they met for coffee to see if there was a connection.
At the time, she says, “I was a bored housewife. I was a good mom, but I didn’t find being a mom fulfilling. I wanted to do something meaningful in the world but lacked confidence and didn’t know where to start.”
Because they lived in driving distance, the initial “discovery session,” which lasted about four hours, was done at Baines’ home. “I was exhausted by the end,” she says. “But it felt good, like I’d bought the equipment I needed to scale a mountain and had hired the guide who’d get me to the top.”
“I have an amazing job,” says Leigh Luskin*, who is the director of a nonprofit low-cost housing organization. “The thing is, I’m the youngest person here and had started feeling intimidated. I’d arrived confident and knew I was competent. That’s why I got the job. But I was losing my confidence, second-guessing myself all the time, and had begun to dread going to work.
“Those were the main reasons I started working with a coach. Of course, the different parts of my life, being interconnected, all came into the coaching.”
After about six months, Luskin says, she had worked through her confidence issues and had established a good relationship with her board. “I was expressing myself clearly, felt on top of things and funding money was flowing in. The coaching also woke me up to the fact that it was time to think about having children so my husband and I made some plans around that.”
Coaches usually work within niche areas, chosen with experience and interest in mind. Thus a coach with a strong business background is a good bet if you want to start a business. You get coaches who specialize in transitions, in personal empowerment, in coaching people with ADD, in coaching creatives and so forth. A priority in choosing is that you feel an affinity and a sense of trust.
Ten things a coach can do for you:
- Help you liberate yourself from where you’re stuck in old agendas and other people’s expectations.
- Help you explore career options that resonate with your strengths and interests — and get you there.
- Help you see, and move beyond, limiting beliefs that are keeping you trapped.
- Help you plan and launch your own business.
- Help you transition and redirect your life in response to passages such as empty nest, marriage, divorce or retirement.
- Help you “walk your talk,” that is, move from what you don’t like and don’t want (easy to spot, easy to keep complaining) to what you really do want (something many of us find more difficult to identify).
- Help you establish new patterns. For example, you choose relationships that don’t work. Or you say you want a relationship, but it never happens. What’s that about?
- Help you live well each day. You hear people say “When I have a new job, life will be good” or “When I find the right man, life will be good.” What about making it good right now?
- Help you identify and work with the voices of the naysayers, gremlins, prophets of doom, and your limiting beliefs — different names for the same thing.
- Help you live a life that’s as good as it gets!
To find a coach or learn more about coaching, see
the East Bay Coaches Web site.
*For privacy, these three names have been changed.
© — Wanda Hennig, 2009