Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.– Henry David Thoreau
Every person, at some time, comes to a dead end – perhaps signaling a time to make a change in career, relationship or creative ambition. Perhaps there is a fork in the road with no clear direction of which path to take. Perhaps there is a vague feeling of unease, or a health crisis. Or perhaps what lies ahead is a fog of confusion with no light to guide the way to safety. Enter life coaching.
A new and growing profession distinctly different from counseling, therapy, mentoring and consulting, life coaching is a collaborative process that creates clarity and "helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organization," according to the International Coaching Federation [www.coachfederation.org]. "Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal
and professional potential."
Birthed in the late 80s, life coaching is for everyone what executive coaching was for CEOs, sports coaching was for athletes and financial coaching was for business professionals. Most sessions are conducted by phone. Some clients even check in with their life coaches by cell phone while waiting in the grocery store check-out line.
Life coaches do not focus on your feelings or on your past to diagnose a problem. You are deemed worthy of creating something new and wonderful, and with the assistance of a life coach, you will discover answers and directions from within yourself.
Four life coaches in the Twin Cities, who met with Edge Life to tell their stories, received certificates from the Adler Graduate School in Hopkins, Minn. Credentialed life coaches undergo 120 hours of graduate training and another 45 hours of supervised field coaching at accredited institutions like Adler.
Joining us were Twin Cities residents Kathy Amundson of Plymouth, Soma Angelus of Bloomington, Katie Cox of Eden Prairie, and Nicole Lynskey of Richfield.
What served the function of life coaching before there were life coaches?
Soma Angelus: I think a lot of people used self-help books. People would read them, but not necessarily act on the exercises, and they didn’t always have support to follow through to where their goal or dream was. Life coaching adds that dynamic.
Kathy Amundson: I have a whole bookshelf of self-help books that I now realize
are really coaching books. Life coaching takes it a step farther by helping to set an action plan and then holding you accountable to fulfill that action. That dramatically increases your success rate.
Nicole Lynskey: In the past, you’d go to other people for advice. I’m sure some of those people did a wonderful job, and maybe some of them were parents who may have had other agendas for their children. What the life coach can do is hold a neutral territory for the client and allow them to explore what it is they want without any agenda.
Katie Cox: It’s about self-empowerment. Life coaching helps to focus on the future and design actions and accountabilities that really bring more authentic action based on values and goals. It’s very different than therapy and other modalities.
Nicole: Therapy’s very much about healing the past and exploring and going into depth about those old wounds, whereas in life coaching we may quickly stop by an old wound and then say, "Oh, what do you want with that, and where do you want to go?" Everything is immediately pushed into the future.
Kathy: Another place people might have gone for advice is to a friend. The
difference in talking to a friend and talking to a life coach is that the friend is going to want to talk, too. For a life coach, it’s all about you, the client. A life coach has been trained to ask you questions in a certain way that your friend won’t know how to do. We’ve been trained to listen and been trained in how to ask the right questions. A coach doesn’t participate in the drama. A coach is an objective person cheering you on to take authentic action based on who you really are, rather than going into the drama of life.
Nicole: And we have different tools that can really amp up somebody’s creativity
and to access information in different ways. Someone can be really stuck, and it might feel like the brain has closed down around something. Part of our job is to get that brain moving again, to think of options that might not have been seen otherwise.
Kathy: When we were trained at Adler, the emphasis was on seeing all of our
clients as creative, resourceful, and whole already.
Soma: There are two approaches to life coaching. One is an advice-giving model
where the coach may come with an agenda or come with tidbits. There’s also a non-advice-giving
model, which believes that the answers are within the client and together we’re collaborating to bring those answers forward. Life coaching training through Adler Graduate School is a non-advice-giving model, and there are other schools that do that, as well. One aspect of Adlerian thought is the idea that social belonging is a powerful piece, and that coaching is part of social belonging. You’re in collaboration with someone as you’re pursuing your goals or dreams or moving toward clarity or whatever your objective is for coaching.
Nicole: I find the non-advice-giving model exciting, because it really can allow clients to look inside to find resources that they didn’t know were there before. In a sense, the life coach is training a client to go out into the world with these new resources and not to become dependent on the coach in any way. It’s very self-empowering, and it’s really exciting.
How is life coaching viewed in the mainstream right now?
Soma: It’s a new field, and so there is a bit of misunderstanding about what it is and isn’t. I’ve seen people on sitcoms making jokes about life coaching. I don’t think it is any different than when acupuncture first came to this country, or when meditation was introduced.
Kathy: As the editor of the newsletter for the Minnesota Coach’s Association,
I include examples of where people hear about life coaching in the media. One coach noted a Sears commercial saying that you should buy a Sears Gift Card and give it to your life coach. My dad cut out the Star Tribune horoscope that read, under his sign: "You should get a life coach." Executives and business people knew what life coaching was, but ordinary people, like those I want to meet with, are just learning about it. I think they have to get used to the idea of spending money on it and learn the value of it, just as over the years they have gotten used to getting a massage or doing other personal care for themselves. People are so busy now doing things for everybody else, and they’re not doing things for themselves. Life coaching is something they can do for themselves.
Katie: It’s not like paying to have a friend, which I had heard someone say.
The whole idea of accountability to a coach is what makes it more than paying to have a friend.
Kathy: Some insurance providers are acknowledging the value of life coaching
and reimbursing policy holders for the service.
What can someone experience during a session with a life coach?
Soma: You can almost call it a coaching norm of a two-hour discovery session and then half-hour ongoing sessions during the course of three months. People do negotiate depending on what their need is. Somebody might want to do a month of coaching. I’m also offering single sessions. Discovery is when we talk about what the client wants to bring to that session, and then we move into the coaching session. It might include discussing values, or whatever is appropriate, in collaboration with that client. Then the session moves to some kind of an action. That action may be something that forwards the momentum of what they want in their life, but it also might not be about doing. It might be about being – how they might want to integrate a new perspective into life. The last piece, which we mentioned earlier, is about accountability. The client can affirm to the coach what action they’re taking on their own behalf. I see that as a tool for them to use. It might be just a simple check-in. It might be an e-mail or it might be a phone call.
Katie: At the end of each session, I help the client to design homework that they e-mail to me. I prefer if they e-mail their homework before the next session so we’re not spending the whole next session on what they did during the week. At the end, we always ask, "How will you be accountable for this?"
Nicole: Part of a session may just be discovery, having them explore some
issue or topic or decision that they’re grappling with.
Katie: I find a lot of people right now are in job transition. People don’t want another job; they want a career. They’re not in a job that reflects their dreams and what they love to do, and their jobs don’t reflect their skills and gifts. They’re stuck. Through life coaching, we learn about their values, their gifts and what they want to bring forward to the world. It’s very exciting to see people shift. Many of them do find the job of their dreams, sometimes within the first two weeks. Sometimes that clarification is all they needed.
Soma: Some people might come to look at spiritual things in their life. They
might be integrating a new health condition into their life. They might come with a dream they haven’t manifested yet. All of these domains are where someone may be starting into the process.
Kathy: I’m finding that clients who are really overwhelmed with their lives are looking for balance. I also have clients who are really stuck, so we look at ways to get them un-stuck. We explore activities that can be done and perspectives that can be changed.
Katie: Coaching helps people focus on what they really want.
Nicole: Not all clients are stuck. Some of my clients have so much going on that they come for some focus. One client is just amazing. She has it going on, she really does. What I’m about for her is just amping that up. I’ve given her focus and it’s really been amazing to watch her goals grow from "I want more creativity in my life" to "I want to write a book" to "I want to move my career into more freelancing" to "I need to get my finances straightenedout, so here’s a chunk of money that I have now saved so that I can start to do that." She really is doing all these amazing things. Some people are stuck, and some people just want to explore more possibilities in life. What she gets out of it is focus. Like, "I am this amazing creative person, and I could do 700 different things in life, but these are the three things that I’m going to choose, because if I choose all 700 I’m not going to get anywhere."
Katie: And we have tons of tools to use. We have a new form of mind mapping that’s very simple to teach. People can take that with them and use it for the rest of their lives. I found mind mapping, the way we were taught at Adler, just absolutely stunning for myself and my clients.
Why were you drawn to life coaching?
Kathy: I’d been in the corporate world prior to this, working in a cubicle with an in-basket, out-basket, phone and computer. I was part of a layoff. I was taking some assessment tests with an out-placement company, and they kept telling me that I would be strong as a teacher, counselor, clergyperson, something like that. It was so surprising to me. I never would have thought of that. I have a degree in English and I’m a writer and editor, but right below that were these other possibilities that involved giving advice and talking to people and listening. So I started asking friends, "What do you think of this?" And they all said to me, "Oh, yeah, you’d be good at that."
Combined with the layoff, the right age for a midlife crisis, the right age to feel like I’ve got some wisdom in my life I can start giving back, and then I receive new information that maybe I could do this. I started researching different ways to get the training and I came to the Adler Graduate School. It was great, and it was a real good match. I liked the idea of helping people one at a time instead of working for a corporation and helping faceless stockholders.
Nicole: So, I was working as a programmer and I was actually pretty good at
it, but I was completely miserable at certain points in my career. I did try to find places that were better matches. I had physical health things going on that would be worsened by me just living a life that was wrong for me, so I decided I was going to live a different life and I quit that job. It took some exploration for me to decide finally upon life coaching. One of the books I read was Zen and the Art of Making a Living. That was really like a real inspiration for me. Part of the reason I find myself so passionate about it is because I can help people out of that place where they’re just living the wrong life.
Katie: As a spiritual mentor, I noticed that a lot of my clients had been coming back year after year, some five and 10 years, and they seemed to be stuck. It didn’t seem like I was helping them as well as I could. One day I was in the office of someone who is a mentor of mine, and he said, "You know what? It sounds like you’re frustrated with your clients, or at least the quality of clients you have, and here’s a magazine. This Adler School offers coaching." When I called, they invited me to a live coaching session. I went and saw that and I said, "That’s it!" It was a way to be of service to my clients in addition to the hypnosis and the spiritual mentoring that I do.
Soma: My journey toward life coaching started in the early 1980s. I was sitting
in a small group and, just joking, I said, "What I need is a life coach." This was before there was such a thing as life coaching. We all laughed at this wonderful idea of having a life coach. And then I encountered Cheryl Richardson, who was doing a series with Oprah about life coaching. They were exploring what our little inklings are, those little inklings inside of us that we don’t really even look at. One of the inklings on my list was life coaching. I was studying in holistic health at St. Kate’s, and I knew I wanted to marry those two fields together, life coaching and integrative health care. So it just kind of came together that way.
To what degree has your training in life coaching helped you have more of a meaningful
Katie: I learn a lot from my clients. It’s just amazing. One day, after a phone session, I asked myself every question that I asked my client – and answered a little bit differently than she did. I’m learning how to coach myself and make myself accountable for my dreams. It’s a very different life than before I had coaching as a tool for myself. The quality is higher.
Soma: Our dreams are not so far away. I think we find that out as coaches that our dreams don’t have to stay in that abstract place of "someday I’d like to, someday I hope to." We can actually start moving there now.
What’s the most exciting thing for you about life coaching?
Kathy: I think it’s the actual session. At the start of the session I wonder, "Gee, what’s going to happen in this?" and 30 minutes later I will come out of it just amazed at the incredible person I just talked to. Something will come from it that will just amaze me. When I talk to people on this level, they’re incredible. I want to shout it to the world, "Can you believe what this person is doing or saying?" Discoveries come up and it’s just the best thing in the world. I
come out of the sessions just charged, like WOW!
Nicole: There’s a tendency for all of us to like people who are exactly like we are. As a life coach, you get to see the world from someone else’s perspective. You get to see that everyone is amazing and really unique. And then there’s the flow of the session itself. You just stand in this very present and creative place and you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re just kind of going with the flow and it’s really amazing. It’s really gratifying work to really help people to get their life to move forward.
Soma: Being in the moment with the client is wonderful. Even though we have training with skills and techniques, what happens in the dynamic is something beyond that. To be in the present moment with someone else who is in the present moment is really rich, and the movement that comes from that and the unexpected that can come from that is really energizing.
Nicole: And it’s very authentic. If you go to a party, you might spend a half an hour talking about the weather. You don’t talk about the weather in coaching. We’re talking about really important things, so I really like that kind of connection with people.
Kathy: We should mention that confidentiality is a huge part of what we do. So all these wonderful important things that we’d love to shout out to the universe we have to keep confidential. That’s frustrating, because I want to tell the world.
FEATURED LIFE COACHES AT A GLANCE
KATHY AMUNDSON -Plymouth, Minn.
Coaching emphasis: Focus on ordinary people from all walks of life, with an emphasis on those in the world of Science Fiction fandom
Career before life coaching: Food industry
Tel: (612) 247-9347
"Thirty minutes after the start of a coaching session, I will come out of it just amazed at the incredible person I just talked to…. I want to shout it to the world, ‘Can you believe what this person is doing or saying?’"
SOMA ANGELUS – Bloomington, Minn.
Coaching emphasis: Holistic perspective of coaching body, mind, spirit, as well as life coaching on the healing journey
Career before life coaching: Internet technology consultant
Tel: (612) 875-3900
"To be in the present moment with someone else is really rich…. It’s really energizing to be in that dynamic."
KATIE COX – Eden Prairie, Minn.
Coaching emphasis: Spiritual life coach who assists in the integration of body, mind and spirit
Career before life coaching: Social work, spiritual mentoring and hypnosis
Tel: (952) 946-0100
"I enjoy seeing when one thing in someone’s life shifts, all of a sudden everything shifts…. It’s so rewarding to see the changes."
NICOLE LYNSKEY – Richfield, Minn.
Coaching emphasis: Finding purpose and meaning in life, especially creative people who don’t fit in the box of corporate life
Career before life coaching: Computer programming, project manager
Tel: (612) 866-0762
"Life coaching gives you the chance to see the world from someone else’s perspective and see what makes them passionate – and then you realize that everyone is amazing, and really unique."
For more information on coaching, visit the Minnesota Coach’s Association at www.minnesotacoaches.org and the International Coaching Federation at www.coachfederation.org