I think life coaching is worth paying for because coaching has changed my life in so many ways. I believe that life coaching and self-coaching are useful tools that every human brain can benefit from. That is why I am a coach. However, I don’t think everyone should pay for life coaching. I wanted to write a bit about what life coaching is and isn’t and what you get when you pay for coaching.
What is life coaching
Life coaching is a process for building our relationship with ourselves through exploring our thinking. Unlike psychotherapy and counselling, which tend to focus on the past, life coaching is present and/or future focused. Life coaching can help people make changes in their lives that they want to make, accomplish goals, think and be differently in their lives or navigate periods of transition. In the Hebrew Bible, God’s first command to Abraham was “lech l’cha”, which means “walk forth into your self”. To me, “walk forth into your self” is a perfect description of coaching.
You don’t have to feel like something is wrong in your life to benefit from coaching. Making changes in your life from a place of loving what you already have is a wonderful position to be in. When we believe that things are going wrong in our lives, it’s like our brain is full of cobwebs and we have to spend time clearing those away to get to our true desires. When we already like where we are, we can approach our minds with more spaciousness and curiosity and begin to ask deeper questions.
Life coaching is not mental health support
Life coaching is not a mental health service. Life coaching can complement treatments for mental illness like medication or psychotherapy, but it is not a treatment for mental illness. That said, people with mental health diagnoses are people and all people can benefit from coaching.
In my personal experience, coaching helped me heal from and understand trauma in combination with therapy and medication. I had a lot of thoughts about my trauma and about therapy, and coaching helped me sort through those and get to a place where I got a lot from therapy. I needed all of those things to do that work – you might feel differently.
When you pay for life coaching you pay for a process
Life coaching supports you in becoming the person you need to be to get the results you want in your life. It does not tell you the exact steps to follow to get specific results. Life coaching is therefore different to, say, sports coaching, which might focus more on the details of how to do specific tasks.
Often coaching does focus on specific goals, like building a business or writing a book. But businesses and books don’t come from coaching. They come from the actions people feel empowered to take as a result of examining their thoughts. Coaching gives people the clarity that allows the action that creates tangible results.
I got 99 problems and my thoughts are 97 of them
Our thinking has a massive effect on the results we create in our lives. Let’s imagine for a moment that you feel stuck. Close your eyes and think “I am stuck”. How does that feel? What do you do when you feel stuck? If you’re anything like me, probably not very much. Or maybe you do things, but they feel hard. The result of feeling stuck and not taking action is…staying where we are.
Often we think things are problems when they really aren’t. Let’s stick with the example of “I am stuck”. “I am stuck” is a thought, but we report it as if we are reporting the weather. But “I am stuck” is qualitatively not the same as “it’s raining outside”. The first sentence is a thought and the second is–assuming it is raining–a fact.
Stuck often feels like a fact. Honestly, though, “stuck” is always just a thought. If you’re familiar with tarot, stuck is the Eight of Swords. Our thoughts are not actually swords that are stabbing us, but we think they are, so we stay still, for fear of getting hurt. Coaching helps you see the swords for what they are and begin to create movement in your life.
Coaching can also help us think differently and change the world. All of us are embedded in cultures. We pick up beliefs about the world from the cultures we live in. That is part of what it means to be human. But many things we believe are facts about the world are, in reality, human thoughts. We could solve poverty by collectively choosing a different economic system, for example. Coaching can help uncover our beliefs and craft new ones that serve us in creating social change.
As a coach I don’t solve your problems
Many people think that they have “problems” in their life and that coaching will “solve” those problems. It’s more subtle than that. Life coaching supports you in developing the skills to solve any problem in your life. When you understand that your thoughts and feelings are not reality, and that discomfort and anxiety are important parts of making any kind of change, you really will be unstoppable.
We never get to a place where there are no problems. I mean, maybe we get to a place of unicorns and rainbows and kittens and daisies, but then the kittens will scratch the rainbows to tatters and the unicorns will eat the daisies. The one thing I can guarantee is that there will always be more problems. But coaching can support us in finding different ways to think about problems, including systemic injustice.
Coaching absolutely is about dismantling and interrupting the idea that you are a problem. Or broken or flawed or not good enough or anything of those not-so-charming things humans often think about themselves. Interrupting the belief that you are a problem doesn’t mean problematic shit doesn’t happen, but it does make it easier to weather those storms.
As a coach, I don’t provide answers
My job as a coach is to guide you through a process that reveals your mind to yourself. I don’t know what’s right for you, and I don’t have an agenda for your life. I can’t tell you the “right” thing to do. I could tell you what I think is the right thing for you to do, but why would you want me to? My job is to support you in developing the skills to do that for yourself, so you don’t have pay for coaching forever.
Coaching is like building a bridge from where you are right now to where you want to be. Making changes in our lives can often feel overwhelming and coaching is one way of doing that together, one manageable step at a time. Human brains like safety. Where we are right now might suck, but because it’s familiar our brains think it is safer than change. Human brains are basically lazy, neurotic meat computers that interpret the world in marvellously imperfect ways.
This is why we often avoid making the very changes we say we want – because we are afraid of what we might feel along the way. Not acting feels safer, especially when we’re trying to do it alone. Coaching helps us see that the discomfort that comes with growth and change is part of the process. It helps break down big goals and shifts into steps that our brains and nervous systems can handle. Discomfort is necessary, dysregulation is not.
You don’t need a life coach
Nobody needs life coaching (or maybe we all do!). Life coaching is something people choose to do because they want to grow in specific ways, or because they have that thing in their life that they have been trying to do for years and never managed. Life coaching can help you understand why you’re not writing a book or building a business. It can help you figure out why you feel icky about paying your employees a living wage. It can help you understand why you feel like you’re not getting enough done.
There are loads of great books and articles and podcasts that will give you access to life coaching tools for free. What working with a coach offers is perspective and accountability with applying these tools – you pay to get access to an extra brain. Because a coach is outside your brain, they can see things you can’t see. This applies to everyone with a human brain, by the way. Coaches pay for coaching for this exact reason.
When you pay for life coaching you are committing to yourself
Paying for life coaching also represents a commitment to yourself. This might sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. When we pay for coaching, we are signalling to our future self that we believe in them. Paying for coaching and having that feel like a stretch, signals to your brain that you are worth stretching for.
I firmly believe that our worth as humans is totally independent of money. But/and, in capitalist societies, our thoughts about our worth often get bound up with our thoughts about money through social conditioning. If we don’t value ourselves, we won’t spend money on things that will help us expand our feelings of self-worth and self-trust, like life coaching or therapy. Paying for coaching is therefore part of the process of developing our sense of worth.
Pay for life coaching because you want to
Ultimately, the only reason to get life coaching is because you want to. If you think you need a coach, and that need feels graspy or desperate or urgent, then I would recommend holding off. As a coach, supporting people in making decisions that feel aligned for them is my primary goal. That could mean deciding that coaching is not what you are after. That could be a great decision for you. And if you change your mind, then coaching will always be there!