When I started out, way back in 2002, when politics was simple and I had a full head of hair, I set myself up as a "life coach".
I made a simple life coaching website that had all the right promises around "finding your passion" and "helping you towards your goals", and worked for 5 years coaching people on their lives.
There were three things I learned after that 5 years of being a "life coach":
- Life is a big subject. I can't possible be an expert on life, and nor can I expect to masterfully coach people on anything and everything.
- Being in a room filled with life coaches made me a little bit queasy. I used to attend coach meet-ups, which consisted mainly of well-meaning people being lovely to one-another and telling each other how wonderful everything was. There was little real openness, honesty or realism, and I hated the sugar-coating.
- Being a "life coach" didn't work for me. I grew tired of coaching people on anything and everything, and I grew uncomfortable billing myself as a "life coach", which bundled me in with everyone else.
I learned a lot in those early years as a life coach, things that still serve me well. And I came to see some glaring problem with the life coaching industry...
What is a life coach and what's my problem with them?
If you meet a life coach they'll eagerly tell you that their job is to help people find their passion. Or their purpose. Or some similar, big, life-changing thing.
It's a worthy aim, to help bring about meaningful change and have people become their "best selves". But, oh my, there's so much bullshit to wade through...
Problem 1: Presenting their lives as perfect
For some reason, a lot of life coaches feel the need to present their lives as glossy and full of sunshine.
They post pictures of themselves working in gorgeous locations, share stories of weekends away with beautiful friends, and in an effort to appear real, tell you how hard they're working on your behalf.
For some coaches, it's all about perception. They sell themselves as a package of what a perfect life looks like, merging coaching and lifestyle design to entice people to want some of that same special sauce.
Of course, behind the curtain they'll be just as flawed and imperfect as you and me. It's just that they don't feel like that's what they should be portraying as a "life coach", and that showing people behind the curtain will break the illusion that they're perfectly placed to help you "achieve your passions" too.
It's bullshit. It's entirely inauthentic, it's misleading, and it's telling people "you see what I have, you should be aspiring to this too".
Problem 2: Goal-setting and hustling
Chances are, you've seen posts and articles from the chest-thumping, go-getting, goal-setting, sky-punching crowd.
People who tell you that they only get 4 hours sleep a night because they're too busy attacking their project to sleep. People who tell you that if you’re not going all out for your goal then you’re weak-minded. People who tell you that you goal-setting is the key to success. People who tell you how important winning is.
I have no problem with working hard towards what you want, none at all. What I have a sky-high problem with is that you have to go about things in a certain way and with a certain attitude, or it means you don’t want it badly enough or aren't good enough.
Goal-setting is about creating a desire, that may or may not be connected to what really resonates or what you really want. It creates a gap between where you are now and a fictional future-state where you've got what you want, positioning where you are now as unwanted, less-than, not good enough. It's putting all your eggs in a basket that doesn't yet exist, and ignoring the richness of your experience right now.
But worse than that, telling someone they’re no good unless they assimilate dogma or pursue something with the kind of single-mindedness shared only by the Terminator is unacceptable and contemptible.
Show me a serial goal-setter and I'll show you someone who's never at peace, never satiated, never feeling whole.
Problem 3: Offering easy solutions
Bulletproof confidence in 30 days. 3 steps to your dream job or dream relationship. Attract the life you want in 90 days.
This kind of sugar-coated offer is everywhere out there. Get something you've been looking for all your life with minimal effort, for one easy payment.
Don't get me wrong, there are some great products and services out there, but there's a lot of junk too. Something that promises a one-size-fits-all fix, an easy solution or an easy answer is simply not telling the truth and ignores the reality of how this stuff actually works.
Meaningful change takes work, and it often feels awkward and uncomfortable. Life coaches who promise the earth and don't mention the reality of meaningful change are just selling vapour and snake-oil.
The difference between me and (many) life coaches
I'm not a life coach.
That's not what I offer, it's not who I am, and it's not what my clients want.
What I do offer, is this:
My life is far from perfect, trust me. I have a chronic illness. I have a rat problem in my building. I'm still paying off debt from way back in my 30's.
I point blank refuse to sell the idea that my life is perfect or that I'm the finished product. I'm a work in progress just like the next guy, and pretending otherwise is nothing but bullshit.
The goal of my confidence coaching is for people to be confident enough to be who they are, and to engage with the stuff that matters.
That's why I have to show up as I already am. If I'm not honest with myself, and with my clients, I'm nothing.
When I'm on a call with a client, we're working neck-deep in the bubbling soup of behaviour, feelings, beliefs and thoughts.
Insights come from shining a new light into that soup. Change comes from being aware of what's happening there, and making meaningful choices from that place of awareness. And confidence comes from being able to lean into confident thinking.
If I didn't use strategies that are based on how our brains work in the real world, none of this would work. I could use a fluffy concept like the Law of Attraction, or I could urge my clients to "manifest their desires", and I'm sure we'd have a lovely time pretending that the world works in the way we hoped it would. But I'd be doing my clients a massive disservice.
Working with your thoughts, how you think, and how your thoughts create your experience - that's the gold.
You and me, imperfectly...
I have fun and learn heaps by coaching my clients.
Sure, we get into some deep corners, and sometimes the conversations we have are challenging. But we laugh too, because life isn't just one thing and there's never just one answer.
We're imperfect people in an imperfect world.
And to me, that's exactly how it needs to be.