Have you ever wished you had somebody on the sidelines to help you through a rough day at work, or motivate you to do more with your free time?
If you've already gone through all your friends and family, then hiring a professional might be the answer -- a personal life coach.
This is someone who brings the insights of athletic coaching to real life, where the challenges are bigger and the stakes are higher than in any game.
"Life coaches help people discover a greater sense of purpose and self mastery," says Virginia Kellogg, director of her coaching firm
Leadership That Works.
Kellogg has been a life and professional coach for 11 years and works with clients from all over the world. She also teaches classes for aspiring life coaches.
People seek coaches for a variety of reasons, Kellogg says. They may want help changing careers, tackling a big project at work or figuring out how to balance the needs of career and family. "Some of my favorite clients are what I like to call 'big idea' clients," she explains, "people who have an ambitious goal, like a plan for a new business or a book they want to write, but need somebody to help them make it a reality."
No problem or profession is too specialized for a life coach.
Kellogg says her clients have come from every walk of life: activists, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, performers, business executives and IT professionals, to name a few.
Just hearing the stories of how life coaching has changed people is inspiring.
Bob Eubanks owns coaching company
Bridge to Solutions and is the author of forthcoming book
Mind Over Muddle: Changing From Now to New
Eubanks tells the story of a client who had built a successful career in commercial construction and came to him because she felt her job was intruding too much into her personal life.
She didn't know how to delegate responsibility or set limits with her boss, and this translated into too much time at the office. After a few months of coaching, not only had she acquired those skills, but she had also negotiated better compensation, stock options, more vacation time and less-demanding hours, Eubanks says proudly.
He points out that his client always had the power to do those things -- she just needed help tapping her potential.
Kellogg recounts the story of a successful entrepreneur who came to her in search of better time-management skills.
After six months of coaching, this entrepreneur realized that her problem stemmed not from a lack of skills but from her choice of career. She then made plans to sell her business and start a new life as an international philanthropist.
Kellogg says she has witnessed many such transformations. "People come to coaching wanting to achieve a specific goal but come away with something different, often something deeper," she adds.
Putting a number on such priceless insights is a tough job, but life coaches rise to the challenge.
Coaching sessions vary in price: An hour with a personal life coach can cost as little as $100 or up to $300.
Some coaches specialize in business and professional clients, working with a company's entire staff or one-on-one with its executives. Hourly rates for this kind of coaching start around $300 but can exceed $500 an hour.
The amount of time people spend with coaches varies as much as the price, but most people spend from one to three hours a month with their coaches.
Depending on the goals of their clients, coaches can see them for two months or two years. Like a good doctor or therapist, a coach should be committed to working with a client until the client's goals are reached.
It's important to remember that life coaching is not a replacement for therapy, notes Eubanks, who holds a degree in psychology and worked as a therapist before he became a life coach.
Therapy and coaching try to solve very different problems, he explains; a therapist tries to heal wounds from a person's past, whereas a life coach works on positive change for a person's future. Furthermore, he says, coaching isn't designed to address problems deeply rooted in a person's psychology.
Kellogg agrees: "A therapist aims to keep a person healthy, while a coach assumes a baseline of health. Coaching aims to take someone from good to optimal."
Kellogg makes it clear that she and other coaches don't devalue therapy -- she has sometimes turned away potential clients, realizing that their problems are best addressed by a therapist, not a life coach.
Start Your Search
When asked how to go about finding a good life coach, both Kellogg and Eubanks stress the importance of hiring somebody with training who is certified by the
International Coach Federation.
Since coaching is an unregulated profession, not everybody who legally runs a coaching business is required to have ICF certification. To help, the ICF maintains an online
directory of certified coaches across the U.S. Most coaches will offer one or two free sessions to prospective clients so that both the potential client and the coach can be sure they're a good match.
Behind every winner is a good coach, and because of people such as Kellogg and Eubanks, athletes aren't the only ones who get to benefit from that knowledge.
Whether you have a big idea, are working on a looming project or just want more from your life, a personal life coach can help keep you at the top of your game.
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Evan Leatherwood is a freelance writer living in New York City.