Friday, January 09, 2009

Get A Life...Coach!

Go From Whiner To Winner With The Right Game Plan!

Feel like you're stuck on a stumbling block between good and great? Is your true passion just passing you by? Are you ready to blow the whistle on your whining and start transforming yourself into a real winner? Then it's time to leap off the sidelines, make the call to a life coach and start working on a winning game plan.

No one would ever expect an athlete to be at the top of her game without the guidance of a good coach. The same is true in the corporate arena, where many executives credit their success to mentoring relationships they've established while climbing the corporate ladder. Life coaching offers a similar support system for you on a personal level. Coaching can help uncover weakness that may be holding you back from achieving your goals and help build up your confidence to get you to where you want to go. Many coaching clients are already quite accomplished in some areas of their lives, but they may be frustrated with their work-life balance or suddenly overwhelmed and upended by an unexpected event.

It is important to note that Life Coaching is not the place to turn for help in dealing with clinical depression or other serious psychological issues; these require the services of a medically trained healthcare professional. However, Triangle area Life Coach and author, Stefanie Zizzo, ( believes that absolutely everyone can benefit from coaching, but the key to real success is communication and commitment.

Zizzo, like many life coaches, has spent years training and honing her skills as a keenly focused listener. She believes that as a life coach, her job is to help mirror back what you express to her and to give you tools to better communicate with others, and perhaps more importantly, with yourself. Her mission is to help you uncover your weaknesses, shore up your strengths and draw up a map with a clear course of action to help you reach your goals. As an experienced and intuitive life coach, she has learned the “tricks of the trade” to help her clients let go of the struggle of “going from good to great”, find balance and co-actively seek out ways to move forward in their own life's journey.

A life coach, Zizzo says, isn't there to simply hand out advice and tell you what to do, but rather to use guided conversation and focused questioning to unearth recurring themes and patterns that may “help you see things that you didn't realize were right under the surface”, so that you can find answers for yourself. While history and habits are important, unlike traditional therapy which often emphasizes an exploration of your past, life coach Karen Lee, (, finds her practice yields the most successful results when she and her clients start dealing with the present and work toward improving the future. Lee says that while she might “glance back”, she points out that coaching encourages a shift in focus away from trying to figure out how you got to where you are, but rather to keep looking forward for ways to get you where you want to be.

Most life coaches conduct their sessions by phone. Stephen Jurovics, Ph. D., of Co-Creative Coaching, (, says that although he was initially resistant to this method of working, he's found that it allows him to listen “extraordinarily carefully” and it has worked quite well in his own practice. By engaging in deep, thoughtful and open-ended conversations with clients over the phone, the coach is free to concentrate on the energy of the communication, and not be bogged down or distracted by body language. For Lee, removing the non-verbal helps her avoid falling into the trap of “feeling sorry” for her clients or letting a physical presence get in the way. Zizzo has also found that without having direct face-to-face contact, many of her clients are able to open up much more quickly and are able to present themselves on a more intimate level. During her phone sessions, she often sits listening with her eyes closed, sifting out the specific words and tonality, and concentrating on the energy and intention of the conversation. However, most coaches are open to working in what ever way they can best help a client to help reach her goals. For example, Lee, a Division 1 athlete and avid golfer, has also been known to meet her clients out on the greens.

Since life coaching is all about personal growth by exploring issues through mindful communication, it is imperative that you find a coach that you feel a connection with. Referrals from friends and family members are certainly an excellent way to start, but it is important to “interview” a few potential coaching candidates to find just the right match for you. Most will offer a complimentary consultation, as a chance for both of you to get to know each other and see if it is a good fit. Many coaches all have specific areas of expertise that they tend to focus on such as career growth, relationships, sports, creativity, and spirituality - even rock bands. You can also surf the net or visit the referral link on the website for the International Coaching Federation ( Professional organizations, such as the ICF, offer a variety of accredited certification training programs, although a license it isn't required for someone to hang out a shingle as a life coach. It is important for you to do your research and find a quality coach based on experience, reputation and your personal comfort level.

Once you decide that coaching is for you, you'll be encouraged to make what Jurovics calls “a moral commitment” of at least 3 months to see any real progress. Most coaches like to “meet” at least three or four times a month for to start. Expect to pay around $100 to $125 or more for a forty-five to sixty minute session, with occasional follow up emails between calls. Depending on the nature of the issue a client would like to explore, some have a short term relationship with their coach and are ready to walk away after reaching a resolution. Others maintain a longer attachment, but Lee, like most other coaches, are careful not to become a crutch. She considers her work a success when her clients are able to leave her feeling confident that they are better off than when they started. Life coaching is rarely covered by insurance, but you may want to consult with your accountant to see if it can be deducted as a professional development expense.

Life coaching sessions are intense and action oriented - which is where commitment comes in. Although you may work with your coach to develop an outline for a plan, you are ultimately accountable for your own success. Unlike seeking the advice of friend or spouse, you are free to focus only on yourself and explore any and/all issues without guilt, fear of embarrassment, hurt feelings or having to worry about some else's personal agenda. After each meeting, you can expect to leave with a “tactile plan” to get things done. You can also rest assured that all life coaches take their professional code of ethics and responsibility of confidentiality extremely seriously.

But the bottom line is, no matter how brilliant your life coach or how much money you spend, you can only achieve your personal goals if you are willing to dedicate the time and effort to work on them yourself. You can read all the self-help books you want, but unless you have a plan to take action - all you're going to do is clutter up your nightstand.

Now, if I could just find a Life Cheerleader!