People are constantly asking me “What’s a life coach?” So I thought I’d take a blog post to chat about what exactly is a life coach and why I chose to be one.
What is a life coach? And how is it different from therapy?
Most simply, a life coach is a professional who can help you see what your brain is creating so that you can move forward anywhere you are stuck. Truly, anywhere in your life that you’re feeling stuck.
I’ve worked personally with three coaches in the last year and a half. Two did one-on-one sessions and they coached me on my relationships, namely with myself and my children. The one-on-one was amazing and I had so many insights about the automatic thoughts I was having that I was trying so hard to shove into my unconscious and not see or deal with. I discovered that you cannot change what you won’t look at. Now that I can accept what comes automatically, my work is to make the intentional thoughts that I want to have become automatic. That takes some time and practice 🙂
The third coach I worked with had a group coaching practice so I was able to hear her coach literally hundreds of people. She also had another coach working for her to be able to accommodate the number of clients wanting to be coached so it was like a bonus for me, getting to observe a 4th coach’s style. In this program I saw coaching on: relationships with everyone (husbands, children, parents, in-laws, coworkers, friends, etc.), weight loss and overeating, business building, self-confidence, jealousy, anxiety, getting things done, crises of faith (one’s own or a loved one’s), overspending, overwhelm in every area of life, overcoming past abuses, creating the life you want, and so much more. After two months of this coaching, I was convinced that the Model (the primary tool taught at The Life Coach School) could solve any problem.
But how is life coaching different from therapy? Therapy tends to focus on things that have gone wrong. It is very past focused and tries to figure out where the problem started. They focus on your childhood and upbringing and everything that isn’t perfect in life. Most life coaching clients have lives that would be considered fine with no major problems, but they are feeling stuck in their progress in some areas of their lives. We do not go backward and try to hash out what happened that shouldn’t have or what should have happened that didn’t. We start where you are and help clients move forward to achieve their goals, feel better, and create the life of their dreams.
In addressing why I wanted to be a life coach, I’m just going to start at the beginning and share my whole, long story!
When I was 11 I developed anxiety (side note-I was not diagnosed. I struggled alone, trying not to talk to anyone including my sweet parents about what was going on. I didn’t realize what I had been dealing with until I was an adult). My family moved to a different state and going to school was intensely hard every single day. I would cry every day and throw up most days. I probably don’t have to remind you that crying and barfing at school aren’t socially acceptable behaviors in the 6th grade. I wouldn’t talk to any students (especially the kids that teachers assigned to be my friends) and if I was directly asked a question by a teacher I gave the shortest, quietest answer possible.
I spent an absurd amount of time in the nurse’s office (or just plain staying home). To this day, I’m not sure how I actually passed 6th grade because I spent so much time outside the classroom. One meeting with the school guidance counselor was my first experience with counseling. He did not make a good first impression and when he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him (arms crossed and slumped in my chair, never making eye contact), “A professional football player.” HA! I never went back and, surprise! I made zero headway in tackling my anxiety. The next year I changed schools, found just a few amazing friends and started running with my awesome dad daily before school, which made the rest of middle school manageable, if not stellar.
In 9th grade, we moved again. In addition to the small amount of confidence I had gained the previous two years, I was able to attend seminary each morning before school. In the LDS church, seminary is a scripture study class for high school students held each weekday morning before school. While my confidence was a fragile thing and I teetered on the edge of anxiety and had some symptoms of depression, starting my day with scripture study kept me from falling off the edge of the proverbial cliff. I made it through high school with the support of God, a few good friends (who never knew the whole story or how life-saving they were!) and wonderful supportive parents. I even managed to steer clear of the counselor’s office for anything more than schedule changes and college applications. Avoiding the counselor’s office had become a major life goal!
I continued to float along at the lower edge of ‘fine’ until I became a mom. With my second and all subsequent children (I have 6), I experienced varying degrees of anxiety mixed with postpartum depression. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that was what I was experiencing until after the fourth baby. I started researching anxiety and depression and trying all the things. I exercised, spent time with friends, took herbs and vitamins, doubled up on my spiritual devotion…you name it, I tried it. Except for getting professional help. I didn’t need that. I could figure it out on my own. And sometimes (when I was able to be consistent), it worked for a little while.
My life was like a roller coaster-a slow crank upward with a fast crash down followed by loop where I wasn’t sure whether I was even going forward or back, up or down. I felt like it was mostly up-ish, and most of the time I was “fine” but I spent a lot of time taking three steps forward and two back and not creating the life I wanted or becoming the person that I feel like I truly am in my core.
After my 5th child was born, I looked around and realized that I had the life of my dreams. I had everything I’d ever wanted and nothing was going ‘wrong’ yet I was more anxious and depressed than I had ever been. So I sucked it up and went to a psychologist. I chose her because she specialized in women who were dealing with stress and postpartum. Perfect match, I thought! I met with her for 6 months and made zero progress. In fact, I had more anxiety leading up to my appointments and more depression after the appointments. We explored my past and talked about problems so much that I felt like I was wading through a swamp we would never get out of. Like I might be stuck in my past and present challenges forever.
At the same time, I was hurtled onto the road of ADHD and mood disorders with three of my children. I felt incapable of dealing with that challenge. I hadn’t even figured it out for myself, how was I supposed to help them!? Medication had helped all of us a little, but it certainly hadn’t solved everything. Just the added appointments for psychiatrists and therapists every month (times three kids) was stressful. Not to mention the roller coaster of finding the best medication and the wreckage in the aftermath of meds that weren’t ‘the one’. The stress I was under was cranking up my anxiety and I was depressed about my life and I felt like a rubber band about to snap.
Then I discovered life coaching and it was like a sunrise breaking through the muck of the swamp. I started listening to Jody Moore’s podcast (called Better Than Happy, check it out!) and I began to feel a little trickle of hope that grew and brightened rapidly and steadily. From Jody, I learned about Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School podcast and signed up to be coached by some of her coaches (the one-on-ones I mentioned at the beginning).
With a degree in Sociology, I had thought I might go back to school for counseling once my last kiddo was in Kindergarten (to be the one who did it ‘right’, ha!). Once I found life coaching though, I knew it was my path!
I love teaching other moms who are struggling to raise children with mood disorders the tools that I’ve learned! I absolutely believe that if I’d had these tools back when I was eleven it would have changed my experience so much for the better. I’m satisfied that my journey has been exactly what it was supposed to be (without the ups and downs I never would have discovered life coaching in the first place!), but I’m so excited to help YOU find the path to your happiest life and help you teach all of this to your kids so that they get the benefit of knowing all of this early on!