Three years ago, I made a call that not only turned my business around, but more importantly, had a huge impact on the way I live my life.
That call was to a Life Coach.
I know some of you may be cynical at the very mention of Life Coaching. To be honest, I was too. If I’d have read the Wikipedia definition first, I’d never have made the call.
“Life coaching draws upon a variety of tools and techniques from other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, Neuroscience, positive adult development and career counseling with an aim towards helping people identify and achieve personal goals. Specialty life coaches may have degrees in psychological counseling, hypnosis, dream analysis, marketing and other areas relevant to providing guidance.”
Whilst this definition might be technically correct, it doesn’t capture the essence of the relationship I have with my life coach, Kerri Richardson. Kerri and I talk. She asks good questions and digs. She doesn’t judge my foibles or shortcomings and she reads between the lines of what I say and what I mean.
Coaching makes a difference to my life. If it didn’t I’d let it go.
I’ve spoken to friends about life coaching; some have had bad experiences with coaches who sound barely able to look after themselves let alone help someone else. As with any profession, you’ll find good people and not so good people – the key is finding the right coach for you.
So, what are some of the benefits I’ve experienced in the three years since working with a life coach?
When discussed in isolation they’re quite subtle. Yet when when I reflect on what’s changed in my life, it’s huge.
On our very first call, I mentioned a book I’d just read. One of the questions in the book was: “If you lived without fear, what would you do?”
I shared that question with Kerri, who said, “Well, what would you do?”
I replied, “I’d take the last week of every month off.”
She said, “Let’s start with that, then.”
I’d like to say that I immediately crossed out the last week of the following month in my diary and stuck to it, but as is often the way, I couldn’t quite commit to (what seemed like) a huge step. Instead, I booked two days off (a Thursday and Friday) and Deb and I headed off for a long weekend to a spa resort in the Cotswolds.
No big deal, right?
Wrong. On the train there I spilled my coffee three times in about two minutes. Deb looked at me and said, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
The truth was I was making a massive change in my life and I was out of my comfort zone. I was nervous. I felt like I was ‘playing hooky’ and, quite frankly, it knocked me for six. Up until that point work and career was my major life focus. I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker and being ambitious. However, when I began to work with Kerri, I realised that this attitude was probably more than a little unhealthy.
That four-day break did me the world of good and was the starting point for a much deeper exploration of what success really means to me. This has led to a dramatic improvement in my life / life balance.
One of my dreams was to spend an extended period in the mountains, skiing my head off! That had been a dream for a very long time. Last December I went skiing for six weeks (that’s me in the photo), and I’ve booked something very similar for early next year.
Working with a coach has helped me focus on the life I want to live and take the steps needed to make those dreams a reality.
I’ve expanded my team to include a personal assistant and a copywriter who also helps with social media support. I work closely (and much more effectively) with my wife as a co-director in FP Advance and my colleagues at Mode FP, Tim Hale and Tracey Underwood. As such, I no longer feel that I need to be available every second of every day to work on the business. I’ve put good structures in place, which allow me not to feel anxious about taking time off.
Is life coaching personal or is it business?
Everyone’s situation is different, but with my coach it’s a bit of both.
I suspect for many small business owners it’s difficult to separate the business from the person, so Kerri and I don’t. We work on life, of which my business is a supportive part.
During the time I’ve worked with Kerri, I’ve nearly cancelled her services at every call. That’s no exaggeration. As the call approaches I often think to myself “It’s a fair amount of money each month and life is pretty good. Do I really need to keep going with this?” I always finish the calls seeing the worth; they keep me focussed on what really matters to me.
Why do we need someone else to help us keep focussed?
I’ve got no idea, but in my experience we do.
Here’s what Kerri has to say:
These days, fewer people give me a confused stare when I tell them what I do for a living. I think the reason is that the life coaching profession has grown quite a bit in the 13 years since I began working as a life coach. More significantly, it seems people are feeling more uncertain, unfulfilled and overwhelmed than ever before, and they’re hungry for change. As a coach, I’m a supportive partner who helps them get out of their own way and move toward ‘living out loud’.
When I started working with Brett, his work/life scales tipped heavily toward work and he felt mired down by the rollercoaster pace. He would have stretches of long, back-to-back days, followed by a period of downtime that he would end up using as recovery time before he was back at it again.
One of the powerful aspects of a successful coach/client partnership is a client’s willingness to ‘look under the hood’ to see what’s really driving the behaviour. Sure, Brett and I discussed systems and strategies for using his time differently so he wasn’t working to the point of exhaustion, but we also explored his beliefs and the perspectives behind his approach to his work life.
By being very intentional about digging to the source of what’s not working rather than focusing only on the symptoms, we created a solid foundation from which Brett could operate, allowing him to feel much more confident in his ability to work less and produce more. Ultimately, this allowed him to fulfill his life dreams, which in turn, contributed to an increase in professional success. It’s all connected.
In my time as a life coach, it’s this that has the most profound impact for my clients. Safe introspection coupled with a whole lot of action is a winning combination no matter what your goals or dreams are. And it is this that helps the uncertain, unfulfilled, and overwhelmed folks feel like they’re back in the driver’s seat of their lives.
Why does any of this matter?
I believe it matters a great deal, for two reasons:
It has allowed me to expand what my version of what ‘a-life-well-lived’ looks like.
It has allowed me to help my consulting clients work on the same issues in their businesses and in their lives. I’m not a life coach, but my expanded experience becomes great fodder in my consulting work. You can’t really teach something to someone else that you don’t know yourself. As you know, the same concept applies to you in your dealings with your clients.
If you’re considering getting a life coach, I hope this article has shed some light on why I think it’s a good idea. Obviously, you need to find the right coach for you, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I’m off to New York, Boston and Newburyport for two weeks now to do my first ever American Thanksgiving with my wife (who has been in New York for three months singing, thanks to Kerri’s coaching).
It’s all part of my goal to achieving some life/life balance!