St. Albert Gazette, Saturday, February 7, 2004
Time is Running Out
In a hectic world of all work and no play, life coaches are helping some clients live their dreams
By Peter Boer
Life begins when the alarm clock says so. It's another day of monotony, another day of chores, another day of work, work, work and don't stop until everyone else has had their way with you.
The idea of bliss is something you only dream about. Kids, relationships, bosses and co-workers demand you attention for the bulk of the day but, from time to time, you slip into a fantasy where life is gentle, where love means tenderness, work means fulfillment and family means warmth. In your fantasy there is a purpose to everything, there is a balance between all different points in your life. There is extra time in the day, there is meaning in work, there is happiness in life.
A phone call snaps you back to the real world. There is no time for the fantastic, there is no money for change. Any resolution to the contrary yields to the reality of time and circumstance.
You want change, but where do you start? If you've been asking that question, maybe you need to get yourself a coach. A life coach.
"When people are looking for change in their lives, they'll often start off with great motivation and great intentions, but after a while it gets hard and they lose their focus," said Bev Baker-Hoffman, a life coach with "Coach Potatoes," a St.Albert-based coaching business. "A coach's job centres around holding that focus when you're having problems doing that."
The rise of the "life coach" as a profession is a sharp one, reminiscent of the invention of the ubiquitous "counsellor" of the 1980s or self-help guru of the 1990s. While the focus of life coaching centres around the idea of helping people, the differences in practice and philosophy are slowly lending credence to the viability of life coaching as a distinct therapeutic alternative.
Where counsellors or psychologists are more focused on the notion of healing deep-rooted emotional and mental trauma, life coaches are devoted to helping people deal with and get the most of of life's current circumstances.
"Coaching doesn't necessarily deal with healing. It deals with life as it happens," explained Laurel Vespi, also a life coach with Coach Potatoes. "Coaching is very much where we are right now and where we are moving towards."
The services offered by most life coaches are directed at an all-too common clientele, indicative of the fractured work-and-play mentality of the 21st century. Mostly female, mostly in their 40s and 50s, the most common client is one who is spiritually and emotionally "stuck" in a place they no longer wish to be. They may find themselves in loveless relationships or in jobs that have long since lost their appeal. They are people looking for balance in life, a harmony between self-fulfilment and social demands.
"People's lives slip away from them very slowly and gradually," said Steven Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta who studies social trends. "At some point, they realize they're doing things for everybody else but themselves. It helps to have someone on the outside to give authority to something someone already knows."
Hoffman described the coaching process as a client-oriented process. Coach and client work together to establish a goal for the client - whether in work, love or play - and assign smaller goals meant to assist the client in reaching the ultimate objective. The coach's role is to keep the client on track.
"We always pull it back to where your big picture is," she said. "It's about keeping focused on what your agenda is."
But while the goal of all life coaches may be similar, there are different ways to get there. As psychology can differ in its approaches to therapy so to do life coaches differ in their tactics. Barbara May is a St. Albert-based personal coach and public speaker who believes current belief systems are often influenced by a past trauma. May works to clear whatever may be blocking a client from her success with a focus on healing of the physical, emotional and spiritual selves.
"I'm a big believer in a holistic approach and you may need a number of practitioners to help you towards your goals," said May. "If you want to make your life better, you can. And you may need a coach to help you.
May uses a combination of techniques to help clients identify whatever may be blocking them from future success. Voice dialogue is a method that allows the client to interact with whatever belief or behaviour is blocking their performance. May also relies on GeoTran, a language of energy fields and muscle testing that allows May to identify areas of weakness.
"Your body is a dense field. Trauma can be stored at a cellular level." May explained. "We would clear whatever trauma there is or belief system around that person, then test them again."
May refers to herself as a tough coach. She believes in working with clients on a deep emotional level, so much so she will turn away clients who she doesn't feel are prepared to do the work.
"If someone needs 55 minutes of hearing how wonderful they are, that's not the right person," said May. "I'll spend 55 minutes hitting the issues and five minutes telling them they're wonderful."
Those who are ready usually commit to a six to nine-month course of three to four sessions a month. The results can vary between that of a minor life tweak and a major overhaul, such as beginning a new career or ending a long-term relationship.
"Sometimes it is a 'rock your world' kind of thing, the realization that this life I'm living is no longer the life I choose," said Vespi. "When that happens, it's about being there to provide support and structure for your clients to make the changes they need."
The ultimate watershed of progress is not the changes you make to your life, but how you come to feel as a result of those changes.
"When you start to feel joy in yourself, joy in the world, you know that you have made the change for the better," said May. "We were put on this planet to feel good about ourselves and that's how you know your changes are for the better."