What is a Life Coach and Why Would I Want One? - Graham Carter: Performance Coach and Adventure Specialist, From Here To There

Now it may be just me, because I am a life coach, however my social media feeds and pop up adverts on the internet are regularly trying to sell life coaching and how to live a healthy life.  More recently I am seeing a lot of posts from Dr Chatterjee and Jay Shetty, who are two very inspiring and outstanding individuals from England who are sharing their passion for living and leading a healthy life – and both people we should be listening to their podcasts, reading their information and watching their videos.   

In order to know what a life coach is and why you should work with one, I am going to take you on a bit of a journey and start with the word health.  What is health?  What does the word mean?  How do I know I am healthy?  If I am not healthy what do I do?

I was aware of the definition of health from the World Health Organisation (WHO) but also knew that there was some additional thinking related to this definition, as it has been seen as potentially limiting.  Following a number of internet searches, I found the Business Dictionary website and this:

‘As defined by World Health Organization (WHO), it is a "State of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Health is a dynamic condition resulting from a body's constant adjustment and adaptation in response to stresses and changes in the environment for maintaining an inner equilibrium called homeostasis.’ (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/health.html accessed 26/04/2019)

So health is dynamic, it can be good or bad or in balance (homeostasis).  Health is more than just not being ill or ‘infirm’.  Health is about our bodies and our minds.  Health is about the physical, mental and social.

Let’s next consider the question ‘am I healthy?’  For me the best way to quantify this is to give it a score.  But what score?  I can give myself a mark out of 10 for physical, mental and social health with 10 being awesome and 0 being a bit of a concern.  However this score is about quality not quantity – it is how I feel and not measurable against a standard that others can also use.  It is a good method and is one I use with my clients when we first work together.  But how else do we quantify it?  There are lots of different measures we can take.  BMI (if you do not know what it is, look it up), heart rate, blood pressure, weight, waist to height ration are some.  I personally do not use BMI, but the others are really good and apart from blood pressure you can take them with no training or kit.  You can also have your saliva tested to establish levels of stress hormones, but this needs to be conducted via a suitably qualified person.  So let’s say I am over weight, my waist to height ration is poor, and my blood pressure is too high as is my resting heart rate.  Oh and the results from my saliva test tell me I am stressed!!  What next? Well if you have been to see your GP and got these results they will make some suggestions – about diet, exercise, sleep, rest and relaxation.  Most will just advise and sign post.  If you are lucky your GP may be forward thinking like Dr Chatterjee – and as an aside I would advise that you do invest some time and money and read at least one of his books and go onto Spotify and listen to his podcasts.  The biggest problem though at this stage (unless your GP is Dr Chatterjee) is that when we are told (and more often than not we already knew) that we are ‘not healthy’ and even when we are given some suggestions, actually making the changes that count long term is really hard.  Very few individuals can so this themselves. 

So what to do?  See a life coach?  Perhaps!  A life coach is just one option, there are however many others.  But a life coach is a good start.  So back to our original questions, what is a life coach and why should I see one?

The word coach originally referred to a method of transport to get a person FROM where they are (which is HERE) TO where they want to be (THERE – see what I did!).  It was then adopted in a sporting context, so an athletics coach helps a person reach their running potential.  In today's world, there are so many more things that distract, affect and consume us that most people are not reaching their 'life' potential. A life coach helps you do this.  A response from lots of people is 'why on earth would I want to have help in my life?' My answer is, well you may not but there are many people who do.

We used to walk, we then paid for a coach to transport us.  We used to do our own thing in 'sport' but now there are highly skilled coaches who help us achieve amazing performances. Please do not think Usain Bolt or Andy Murray or any other world class athletes just 'does it'.  At work our managers and leaders set more and more challenging key performance indicators (KPI's) and so have to coach their staff to achieve them and exceed them.  And the media, technology and 'modern day' lifestyles place huge pressures on EVERYONE. Many of us spend too much time on devices; consume too much of the wrong food and drink; have too many stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or vapes; do not get sufficient exercise; and live life in an almost ongoing state of fight, flight or freeze. 

So a life coach helps a person to identify their priorities, create a plan, set outcomes and goals and associated actions.  They help person to lead content, happy and healthy lives.  They hold you to account to make sure that the things you commit to doing, you are actually doing.  They help them create good habits in order to break unhelpful habits.  And a good life coach will hold you to account – and I mean, really hold you to account.

Consider this.  How much time, money and energy do you spend on having a good time? These good times pass and we want more of them, in bigger and better ways. And when we have bad day, we often do not cope. If you invested this time, money and energy differently life takes on a whole new level.  If we go back to our measures of health, could you give yourself a high score in physical, mental and social health?  Are you content with your life?  Do you dream of bigger and better or have a nagging that you should be achieving more?

But a life coach is also more than the above.  Today’s society is challenging in other ways.  In the not so distant past in the UK more people went to church, or had a faith. The family unit was different, having less consumerism to tempt them and more time to sit around a table each day to share a meal and conversation.  People tended to live in the town they grew up in.  Many people today move away to study and for work leaving their home town and family behind.  The idea of a person having ‘roots’ is changing.  We grow up in one place, move away to study in another, and then go somewhere else for work.  When we then have our own family, our own ‘roots’ are different to our partners ‘roots’ and so family and friends are dotted all over, globally!  In a nut shell, our support network is very different.  Communities are very different.  People today have hugely different challenges to face and have to do so with a support network that is often virtual, distant or non-existent.  People have never been more surrounded and yet lonelier at the same time; more connected yet isolated.  I mean, we live in a world where we need a #stressawarenessmonth.  This is something that is needed, but in reality it is sad it is needed.

One thing that is crucially important for me, and is the building blocks of all coaching work I do, is self-discovery.  Who am I?  What are my values?  What are my beliefs?  What advice will I leave for the younger generation?  What has been my impact on the world?   How have I made other people’s lives more meaningful?

So whether it is with help getting back on track with your physical health, whether it is finding deeper meaning in your life, or helping you to beat stress and anxiety, a life coach is there.  But at the same time Bolt and Murray have a coach still and they are incredible.  So even if you are doing really well, a life coach could be the catalyst for awesomeness!

For me though, it is not enough just to help you solve your own problems.  Kain Ramsey (Google him if you want to know who he is) talks about the man who sells fish so others can eat for a day.  But even better than this, is the man who teaches the man who bought the fish, how to catch his own fish – he can now feed his family for a life time.  And even better than this is the man who teaches people how to teach others to fish – he solves world hunger.