Get a life?... Coach

2013-04-05 00:00


Today we start a new series of articles looking at individuals and businesses who are thriving despite tough times. Life coaches have been around for the past ten years in South Africa and their industry is growing as more people seek guidance in charting a better course. Sportsmen, business people and even home makers are seeking advice from life coaches on how to achieve goals in their lives and some people are abandoning the psychologists couch in favour of the life coach because they claim they are not “sick”, just looking for direction. Three life coaches tell us why they chose this career.

“A FRIEND had become a life coach and I had heard about it and wanted to know what it was all about. I decided that I would go to her for some sessions. I did not have a particular problem, but perhaps felt I was floating along and needed to set some goals.

“A lot of clients come to life coaching wanting to achieve specific goals, while others come not really knowing what they want to achieve. During the process, they find what it is that they want to do.”

Da Costa said for her it was about changing her career. “I had always wanted to help people and throughout my life I had been involved in helping people. I had done LifeLine counselling, been involved in Hospice and been involved in working in human resourses. I studied sociology and psychology at university.

“When I heard about life coaching, I realised that it was being able to equip people with skills, was very goal-focused and aimed at helping people to grow that appealed to me. The course I do runs over 13 weeks, and in that time a person will have reached some personal goals and some insights about what to do with his or her life.”

She says it is a very personal process and not prescriptive. Some people find it very rewarding and others find it is very supportive. “For me it was a gentle process and I found that when I went through the process, I found the perfect career for myself.

“Psychology scared me because it seemed to me that it was about listening to people’s problems all day, and I didn’t want to be weighed down by negativity.”

Da Costa says she learns as much from her clients as they do from her. “I am so thrilled when they walk away from the process having gained confidence or achieved a mind shift.”

Survival tip:

“Passion may seem an odd word choice when paired with career, but rest assured that one of the most important elements of personal happiness is being passionate about your career and your job. You do not want to be one of those people who lives for the weekends and dreads Sunday evenings. Life is too short not to love the work you do. Find what makes you happy and embrace it.”

“I WAS involved in the corporate world, doing training and skills development, and in many cases I felt that the clients would get all revved up and enthusiastic about the course material, and then they would return to the corporate world where soon they would slip into old habits because their work environment was not supportive of change.

“It was very frustrating for me to see this happen time and again, and I was probably subconsciously looking for another weapon in my armoury to help my clients really get traction in their companies and to help them apply their new knowledge more successfully.”

Davies left the corporate world to have a child and began to develop training material. Then she was introduced to the concept of life coaching.

“I was interested and then I realised that this work was the component I was looking for to help my clients really apply the new skills I was teaching them.”

Davies uses the life-coaching skills in her business, coaching workshops to help clients achieve more balance in their careers and in their lives. She does group coaching and individual coaching, and coaches people on how to become effective leaders.

“Let’s face it, the corporate world is very competitive, frenetic and unforgiving. As you climb up the ladder, you need to grow in a personal capacity. You may have the knowledge on one level, but you may not have grown on a personal level to cope with the new responsibilities. I am the key to giving you the skills to cope.”

Davies says that people who are under enormous pressure at work are not unlike animals who will react in a survival situation where they will behave in one of three ways — freeze, fight or flight. Managers in the same situation may need to be taught how to handle pressure in an appropriate manner.

Her clients may ask her to help them reach career goals like promotions at work, or they may use her to help them process difficult decisions. “Being a top executive is a very lonely place, because you dare not show weakness and you cannot share your concerns. Your spouse or partner cannot relate to the workplace and so you find yourself living in your head. A business coach can be the person you use to decompress or bounce your ideas off.”

Davies says the idea is not to create a dependency, but rather to make the client feel confident of his or her own strengths. “Most successful life coaches or business coaches have life experience and a desire to help people grow.”

Survival tip:

“You need an action plan. The keys to designing these are making sure you are clear on what you want to achieve — what must this business be or become, and for whom? Think of this as the promised land that you wish to reach. Know where you are starting and what resources you have at your disposal. Resources are things like money, time, people and skills.”

FOR Cherri Forsyth, her passion for life coaching has led to her becoming a life-coach trainer. She was introduced to the career when she was selling houses in Hilton.

“A friend asked me if I would come and listen to a presentation. When I heard what it was all about, I was convinced this was what I was born to do. I had been a physical education teacher and while I enjoyed motivating children to persevere and achieve in sports, this was on a whole new level.

“My husband Mike had often commented on the fact that I had a gift for getting people to open up and share with me. Perfect strangers would tell me their personal stories and I would feel touched. I realised that they felt I was trustworthy and it is a great privilege to be allowed to share someone’s deepest emotions.”

Life coaching has attracted many people into her life, from vets to pastors and housewives, who all feel that life coaching can open a door for them and give them skills they can use. “I like the process because it empowers people and takes them out of confusion into a space where they are able to take positive action.”

Forsyth says that unlike psychologists, who go back into the past to see where the roots of the problem began, life coaches are very forward-focused and the work has a definite time frame. “We aim to give the client the tools to go forward and make progress. We give them tasks, so it’s not a passive exercise.”

She has had clients ranging in age from 16 to 76. Forsyth says life coaching has changed her life for the better. “I have found that being a life coach makes me look for balance in my own life. I cannot preach and not be an example of that. When I give my client a goal, sometimes I will also try to set myself a goal.

“I have seen such powerful things happen and it has reinforced my belief in the fact that we are all responsible for making miracles happen in our own lives. We all have the power.”

Survival tip:

“The best way to handle change is to take control of your attitude, and that means choosing how you react to change. We may not have chosen what happened to us, but we can choose how we deal with it. Be passionate about the change you are making — we really can move mountains. Be forward- focused in order for change to be successful, and don’t hanker after what was; then you will become stuck (a victim).”

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