Feature article – by Beth Cooper
As the second largest growing industry in the world next to IT, Life Coaching is becoming a sought-after solution to just about any problem or challenge. Complete Yoga looks at the discipline’s various models and the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of its transformative effects.
The concept of life coaching is not new. While the modern discipline has gained in popularity over the past decade or so, the methodology behind it was sown more than two thousand years ago.
“The famous Greek philosopher Socrates can be called the first coach,” says Marc Steinberg of Cape Town-based Consciousness Coaching Academy.
“He was known for answering his students’ questions with questions. Socrates realized the importance of each student coming to his or her own conclusion in order to develop confidence and self-efficiency.”
The word ‘coach’, explains Marc, originates from 15th century Hungary and refers to the village of Kocs, where fine transportation coaches were first constructed. Their purpose? To transport an individual from where they were to where they wanted to be.
Nowadays, the ‘coach’ concept is a complex and robust industry, addressing the needs and issues of thousands of people, from all walks of life, across the planet.
Addressing a modern dilemma
“Life coaching became popular as a result of people’s great need for transformation in their lives,” explains Quantum Leap Coaching and Training Institute director Jennifer Des-Fountain.
“We all want to be happy and fulfilled in our lives. In the last eight to 10 years…the new millennium has brought massive economic and meaning shifts for many people, creating a need for redefining their lives.
“We have a growing understanding that our happiness and fulfilment doesn’t come from ‘what do I have?’ but rather from ‘how, in each moment, do I want to BE?’”
In essence, a life coach highlights all the possibilities that help to mould and shape this process of self-awareness and self-improvement.
Coaching is not managing, training or mentoring people and neither is it a form of therapy, she says.
Managing involves making sure people do what they know how to do; training is teaching people to do what they don’t know how to do; mentoring is showing people how the people who are really good at doing something, do it, and therapy is the one-on-one intervention that assists us to heal our past.
“The coach’s job is to help people articulate their dreams, desires and aspirations, help them clarify their mission, purpose and goals, and help them achieve that outcome.
“Coaching is a future-focused and forward-moving, sustainable process of exploration and goal manifestation through questioning.”
How does it work?
Typically, a coach works in partnership with the client (also known as the ‘coachee’) to improve and enhance all areas of his or her life, business and career, says Marc.
“A coach works with the client to define where he or she wants to go and helps develop strategies for how to get there, whether it’s about health, finance, relationships, career, work/life balance or business performance.
“Coaching is based on the fundamental belief that people have within them all the potential resources they need to achieve the things they desire. Awakening these potentials and developing them into skills and powers is one of the higher ambitions of great coaching.”
This is why many people are turning to personal or executive coaching, where the fundamental principles and techniques of sports coaching have been adapted to cater for executives, entrepreneurs, professionals and people in the midst of growth and change, he says.
Different strokes for different folks
It’s important to differentiate between the various disciplines within coaching, since some people assume that they are one and the same – or professionals label themselves one thing, but teach or do another.
Marc outlines the different types of coaching and what they aim to achieve:
Targets all areas of one’s life, not focusing on business but also not excluding it. Often life coaching is sought in order to review and/or find one’s true north, one’s true calling, one’s legacy.
Coaching on business related matters. Typically on performance improvement, change management, conflict resolution.
Focuses on leadership development and empowerment, coaching on entrepreneurial core competencies and life-work balance for the executive.
Focuses on the client’s inner worlds, inner discoveries, meditative practices and other spiritually related areas.
Coaching on health/wellness matters, i.e. weight loss, blood pressure reduction, stress management, fitness, balance, etc.
Sport coaching (not the physical term, obviously!)
The ‘personal trainer’ supports the athlete in techniques and strategy around the sport; the sport coach cares for the athlete’s inner condition: the thinking and feeling/emotional state. If the trainer and the coach respect their areas of expertise then the athlete has a most powerful support team in the two.
Here it’s all about either coaching on improving entrepreneurial core competencies or helping the client to find clarity, strategy and power to generate a career change.
It’s all about supporting and empowering the teenager to answer the question: “What if you could determine how your life’s going to turn out?” This coaching also focuses on helping the teenager to detach from the dependency on parents and develop an empowering attitude for authorities (rebellion is not of great service in the long run).
Obviously this coaching focuses on creating new possibilities of meaning and action for the time after one’s standard working life.
Team or group coaching is limited to a maximum of 4-5 participants. If the group is bigger, than usually it becomes more of a training process. Great experience in people dynamics and relationship handling is needed from a group coach. The focus of the coaching process is on the team’s mutually agreed upon goal.
Coaching that focuses on resolving relationship problems, from being a single not finding the right partner to a married couple who have manoeuvred themselves into a seemingly dead end.
The benefit of any coaching experience is that regular coaching sessions keep one on track and are a powerful means for implementing change much faster than going it alone, explains Marc.
Tools for transformation
There are countless self-help books, gurus and methodologies available today. What sets life coaching apart – and why has it the potential to be so immensely beneficial?
“The power of life coaching is that it always looks forward,” says Verna van Schaik of the Exploration Academy.
“Rather than looking for the reasons ‘why not’, or into the past for the cause of learnt behaviours, we look forward, stay focused on what it is you want to achieve and then what you would need to let go of, acknowledge or decide in order to make that happen.
“This can frustrate clients, as they are used to their stories of ‘why not’ (and most times, they’re good stories) and are (not used to) listening to other people telling them what to do and when.”
As individuals, we are used to spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to ferret out the roots of our behaviour in the belief that once we know this, we can change it, says Verna.
While this approach does work, so does a simple commitment to doing whatever is necessary to achieve your goal – even if that means practising new behaviours that feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
Executive business coach Nicola Slingsby argues that leadership starts from within. Executive coaching, for example, focuses on working with leaders to become more self-aware, so that they’re able to connect with themselves and others more effectively.
“My observation is that leaders who are able to think, feel and act from a grounded and integrated centre are more effective and fulfilled.
“Based on this, they are able to build sustainable relationships, make a meaningful contribution to the business and make decisions from a place of clarity and wholeness, which has a direct, positive impact on bottom line results.”
In a nutshell, says Verna, coaching is about creating new habits of behaving (or being) that support you in where you want to go. Habits have created both the life you have and the consequences you experience when you engage with the world.
To create lasting change, you need to start changing how you interact with the world. It’s a lot easier than it sounds – a new habit can start with something as small as taking one minute before responding in an argument; stretching that to two minutes and finally, the entire argument!
Certified Martha Beck life coach Betsy Pendry points out that life coaching is like yoga for the spirit and is a powerful de-stressor.
“It’s also like Salsa for the soul, as it’s energising, freeing and can bring back a sense of play, fun and abandon which we often lose once we become adults.”
One of the most insidious aspects of stress, she posits, is that we often think we can’t do anything about it.
It becomes ‘the way things are’ and we often believe that we have to adapt to what’s causing us stress.
Life coaching, then, can assist us in re-awakening that sense of joy and play – a worthy goal on the
journey of life.
Marc Steinberg, Director of Training, Consciousness Coaching Academy.
Phone (021) 462 1673 or fax (0)86 650 5927 or cell (082) 408 8115
or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.consciousnesscoaching.co.za
Jennifer Des-Fountain, director of Quantum Leap Coaching and Training Institute and chairperson of Coach Educators and Trainers Association (CETASA).
Please phone 082 308 7181 or email email@example.com or visit www.quantum-leap.co.za
Verna van Schaik, Leading Lady of The Exploration Academy.
Please phone 082 888 0429,
email firstname.lastname@example.org , visit www.te-a.co.za or http://te-ablog.blogspot.com/
Nicola Slingsby, executive business coach.
Please phone (011) 646 0240 or 082 902 9000 or email email@example.com
Betsi Pendry, certified Martha Beck life coach.
Please phone 082-666-5505 or email Bitpendry@mweb.co.za