Life Coaching & Practices for Living Well
So, you’re saying you want more satisfaction and fulfillment in your life? You’re saying that you want to live well?
Then, let’s talk about purpose and meaning. Let’s talk about values, hopes, and dreams. Let’s talk about goals. Let’s talk about who you want to be, and about what relationships and circumstances you want in your life.
Let’s talk about life coaching – and practices for living well.
What is Life Coaching?
Life coaching can help you discover and be your best self in work, relationships, and life. Life coaching is a process of clarifying your direction and goals, identifying obstacles holding you back, and developing skills for realizing your intentions and for working effectively with seeming barriers. Life coaching helps expand your comfort zone and your world.
Fear is normal (as are all the other feelings). Fear needn’t stop you.
A life coach can help you improve your life, feel better, and achieve your goals. The ultimate purpose of coaching is to help you have a more satisfying and fulfilling life. This does also happen to be the orientation I take to counseling and psychotherapy.
But, is coaching different from therapy, and if so, how? Read on.
Why Seek Out a Life Coach?
People will often seek out a life coach for many of the same reasons they seek out a therapist or counselor. People often seek out life coaches for support and guidance in navigating a significant life change, taking on a new career, improving relationships, building a business, building self-confidence, and so forth.
Signs that you need a coach (or a therapist) include: frequent irritability, high levels of stress or anxiety, difficulty breaking bad habits, lack of a fulfilling social life, ongoing sense of dissatisfaction with work, feelings that you are blocked in being and expressing who you truly are.
Coaching can help you gain clarity of purpose, set goals, identify and address limiting beliefs, and take action – working in a relationship with someone who can provide both support and challenge for trying out new mental frames, new skills, and new behaviors that are more likely to lead to a happier, more satisfying, and meaningful life.
Coaching is fundamentally oriented to helping you develop the perspectives, behaviors, and skills to improve your life. Life coaching is about acquiring tools and following practices for living well.
Are Coaching and Therapy Different?
You’ll often hear that a distinction between coaching and therapy is that therapists focus on the past and understanding its role in the present behavior, while coaches focus on the future, and work from the present to help clients overcome barriers to having that future. Or, that therapists focus on “why” behavioral patterns happen, and coaches work on “how” to move toward a goal.
These are false distinctions.
Certainly some therapists and schools may have primarily (historically) focused on understanding the past and on gaining insightful understanding of current issues. But pure psychoanalysis or client-centered therapy is just not done that way. Not anymore – if it ever was.
The reality is that most therapists are also very much oriented to helping clients address current problems. Sometimes those problems are overwhelming anxiety or depression. Sometimes those problems are not being happy with who they are, their career, or their relationship. Therapists of every school commonly engage in coaching, which includes clarifying direction, and practicing the “how” of changing behavior, and the “how” of moving toward a changed future. Therapists doing coaching are commonly working with current problems and orienting to help the client have a better future.
Some therapists are very open-ended, but many, if not most, also provide some structure and accountability in working together toward that better life.
Any decent therapist is going to help you (1) discover what you want, (2) help you learn skills of self-awareness, (3) support you in developing skills of emotional and mental self-management, and (4) offer you tools for making behavioral changes to help you improve your life.
This is life coaching.
Most therapists are doing coaching. It also happens that most therapists have some training and experience in attending to common unconscious patterns and dynamics, and in working with the relationship between therapist and client – and these become particularly when a straightforward focus on goals and behavior change don’t seem to be making a difference. Not all therapists are great at this part of therapy, and so when coaching seems to stall, therapy stalls.
That being said, sometimes, some therapists may orient more toward diagnosis and symptom management and be less oriented to the ongoing focus on making life more fulfilling, or less focused on the combination of support and challenge that a good coach will engage in to help you manifest excellence in your life.
If your difficulties in living are really disrupting your personal life, relationships, or work life, then it makes sense to consider working with a therapist. Therapists and counselors do have training and experience in working with experiences that are “very” disruptive, including suicidal thoughts, trauma, and so forth. And coaches are commonly taught to focus on the future, goal achievement, and behavior change.
Good therapy and good coaching both deal with barriers to living well – and help people orient themselves to who they want to be, and to living the life they want to live.
If you want to live well, then you want a coach who can help you discover, reach and surpass your dreams and goals. A coach who can help you make mental shifts needed, and learn the skills of self-awareness and self-management that are required to realize a life that is more satisfying and fulfilling.
If you want your life to be better, you may want life coaching. Why not get coaching from someone who has also had training in therapy?
How Do Waking Up and Living Well Relate to Coaching?
In the context of the way I – specifically – work, life coaching is a process of working together to help you clarify and manifest the life you want. To help you know and realize your dream. This is what I mean by “living well.”
Further, because my work is oriented to helping people wake up from the unconscious dream of their life, I view coaching as a process where we help you challenge assumptions you have about who you are and how life is for you, and use this larger space and freedom to create the way you want to create in your life – while knowing this is a dream you’ve chosen.
The process of waking up creates more “space” in our life and in perception, making it possible to work more effectively with experience that shows up. For example, if I am “fused” with some belief about the world (i.e., being who I am leads to bad things), we cannot work effectively with fear we feel. However, if I can bring mindful awareness to my experience, see and unhook from this belief, things become more workable.
Mindful awareness is a very useful tool in coaching work – it gives you the space and liberty to create a more satisfying life. Deeper applications of mindful awareness (along with other practices) can lead to even more fundamental shifts in our experience of ourselves and the world. This more radical approach – then – is not simply a practice that increases liberty, but a practice on the path that can lead to liberation.
See here for a brief introduction to the role of mindful awareness in therapy/coaching as well in practices aimed at more radical awakening.
In short, coaching can focus on (1) living well, i.e., helping you build/manifest the life you want, and/or can focus on (2) waking up from the dream of life in a way that challenges fundamental assumptions about the nature of yourself and the world. For the purposes of living well, waking up – in a more circumscribed sense – is still necessary to attain the freedom to live well, i.e., to get out of our box so that we can operate in new ways to create the life we want.
Waking up in the radical sense involves a fundamental shift in our sense of self, in our relationship to dreaming (we are always dreaming!), and in our relationship to the dream we have acquired from the world. Visit this page to find more on the topics of inquiry, awareness, and practices for waking up.
Waking up in this fundamental way means that we live the dream more awake, and living well means we are making a dream that is our dream.
If you want to learn more about life coaching, are interested in making moves toward a more satisfying and fulfilling life, and/or you’d like an environment that is supportive of the agenda of self-inquiry and radical awakening– then schedule an appointment with Dr. Charles Martin.