What’s the Deal With Life Coaching?

As a life coach for more than 20 years, I have developed a few funny, anecdotal ways of describing what I do when people ask.

One client calls me a Spiritual Accountant — taking inventory of her inner workings and accounting for things she might have overlooked. I have another that fondly refers to me as his Spiritual Dentist. There are things that need to come out and dealing with them sometimes hurts! I have been called a Life Chiropractor, realigning someone’s life into balance, and a Spiritual Lawyer — drafting deals and negotiating someone out of certain internal prisons. As well as a teacher, detective, occasional drill sergeant … to name a few!

As a coach, I wear many different hats — but my fundamental job is to supply the framework, questions, exercises, perspective, and accountability for people to make the positive changes they want out of life.

How Does It Work?

I can't speak to the broad and varied field of coaching as a whole, but I can speak to the merits of the method I practice and teach, the Handel Method®, which was developed at MIT and is taught in other top universities and companies nationally and abroad. It combines all of the aforementioned elements into a philosophical, action-oriented practice of discovering and achieving your dreams, both big and small.

Often people will come to coaching with a specific goal in mind, like getting in shape, switching careers, or finding a great love; goals are different from dreams, in that they are more about “having” than about “being.” In designing and living a fulfilled life, the Handel Method favors a more balanced approach that gets to the heart of the matter. Habits, thoughts, and patterns that keep you stuck aren’t isolated incidents, and people who are oblivious to their impact are doomed to keep rowing in frustrated circles.

We have a way of getting around that! Our coursework addresses 12 different areas of focus, so that clients must consciously attend to each and produce results across the spectrum. In this way, someone who comes to coaching for weight loss might also work on their family relationships. Someone who seeks a better career might be tasked with prioritizing their health, too. It’s about achieving a sense of balance, and developing the ability to recalibrate as needed.

Who Benefits Most From Coaching?

Nowadays, coaching is no longer the domain of monarchs, executives, and pro athletes. People come to me for many reasons: Life transitions, weight loss, time management, relationships, and career shifts are all strong motivators. However, the people who see the greatest return on their investment are those who are already engaged in their lives and wish to improve upon a few areas where they feel stuck. They’re the people who have tried everything else (yoga, acupuncture, hypnosis) but haven’t been satisfied with the results. They’re ambitious enough to claim responsibility for making those improvements, but need assistance designing a strategy that puts them in action.

Who Should Hold Off?

In my practice, we regularly turn away clients who we feel won’t benefit from this type of hard, hands-on introspection. Some people aren’t ready for the emotional demands that often follow suit. They have difficulty being honest with themselves, letting go of the past, changing their minds, and pushing their own boundaries. Or they might simply be processing pain, and not ready to plan their next moves. Simply put, a life coach can’t make a person do something they don’t already want to do, or motivate someone who is unwilling to motivate themselves. Without fuel, there is no fire.

It should go without saying that a person struggling with trauma, unresolved feelings from the past, anxiety, depression, addiction, or other critical indicators of well-being will likely do better in therapy. I value telling the truth over any other moral maxim; the right coach will be up front in setting realistic expectations and boundaries.

Is It Right for You?

Life coaching is, above all, an investment in yourself. As with any investment, you need to allot a certain amount of time, focus, and emotional bandwidth in order to see a return on your investment. Do you have a vision of the life you want, and are you willing to put your whole heart in it? Are you willing to explore new perspectives, take a thorough and honest inventory of your life, and claim authorship of it?

If you’re not sure, give it a shot! Handel Group offers a free 30-minute coaching session to address one area of your choice and give you a feel for how the Handel Method® works. If you’re new to the concept of personal development, I’m hosting a free talk on Living Your Mission this October that will illuminate this process, and inspire you to think about the bigger picture for your life.

Cheers to that!

Lauren Zander is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.