Coaching offers a hand to help create positive change
By Abby Hart
Ashley Koehn was two years into her fast-paced job as a marketing manager in Chicago when she realized she needed a change, immediately. She lived in a constant cloud of stress, working all hours of the day and night. She relied heavily on food to relieve her anxiety and found that her sense of self and selfworth was bound to her success in her job.
By coincidence, shortly after this revelation, Koehn was introduced to Stacy Levy, a Chicago holistic health coach, at a work event. She completed an initial consultation with Levy, and found that her philosophy of holistic wellness and her approach to goal-setting appealed to the athlete in her. Koehn describes her first six months working with Levy on wellness, self-acceptance and vulnerability, as “like marathon training, except I wasn’t training for an event, I was training for my life.”
These days more and more people are lacing up their shoes and trying coaching. According to a 2012 study by the International Coach Federation, there are 47,500 professional coaches globally, with revenue in excess of $2 billion. A December 2014 Forbes.com article also lists coaching as a hot trend in personal branding and professional development for 2015.
The industry covers a variety of areas such as life/personal, health, career, executive/leadership and financial. Coaches usually collaborate with clients on setting goals and benchmarks for measuring their progress during and after the agreed-upon coaching period.
In addition to weekly or bi-weekly sessions, some coaches integrate worksheets, readings and journaling, and potentially exercise or meditation, depending on their coaching practice and the clients’ needs.
Rebecca Niziol, a certified life coach in Chicago, refutes the perception that coaching is someone telling you how to proceed with your life. “Coaching isn’t someone telling you what to do, it’s someone guiding you to the answers that you already have inside,” she explains.
The coach/client relationship can provide a feeling of support, which helps motivate people to create action and change in their lives, Niziol says. “What I’m most trying to give people is confidence, clarity and peace of mind,” she says. “I love to help answer the question, ‘Who am I?’”
Because the language of coaching includes self-introspection and discovery, some believe coaching is an alternative to therapy. Stephen Patton, personal coach and owner of Patton Coaching, clarifies that therapy is more about dealing with one’s past. “Coaching is about working on how we’re showing up today, and how we’ll show up in the future, and also creating awareness and practices to improve how we’ll show up from this day forward,” he says.
People who work with a coach are intentionally deciding to create change in their lives. Coaches help them along that path. Virginia Aherin, a certified coach in Southern California specializing in corporate wellness, says her intention is to be of the highest and best possible service to that client and serve their agenda and goals. “I want them to feel they are heard,” she says.
Jeff Radtke, Chicago-area leadership coach and co-owner of Beacon Street Coaching, often sets the tone for his sessions by asking, “What is the intention or outcome of this meeting? A year or two years from now, what do you want to look back at say, ‘I created this’? Where you place your intention is where your attention goes. Without intention, we’re really just chatting.”
Though Radtke’s specialty is working with leaders of companies and higher-level management, he stresses that you don’t have to be a CEO to reap benefits from professional coaching. Radtke observes, “Anybody who sees the value in coaching will benefit from it. If you’re smart enough to know that there is always something to learn and to think, ‘maybe what got me here isn’t enough to get me there,’ you’ll recognize that maybe you need to try something different.”
Like their clients, coaches have a thirst for learning and are continually modifying their toolkit of methods. Jacki Carr is a consciousness coach, founder of her personal coaching business Goals on the Rocks and co-founder of Rock Your Bliss, a Venice, Calif. movement focused on helping people achieve their goals through a combination of yoga teaching and coaching. Carr has attended trauma trainings and chakra workshops in an effort to find greater connection with her clients. She has integrated impromptu “pop-up goals”
sessions into her repertoire, taking to social media to announce group outdoor hikes or meet-ups at coffee shops where the conversation centers on topics such as dealing with your inner critic or getting unstuck. Carr also seeks advice from two coaches herself. “The relationship with coaching is sometimes taking the blinders off and getting out of my own way,” she says.
Certified health coach Katarina Arneric supportscpeople and helps them develop healthy movementcand mindset for their lifestyle and providesctools such as outsourcing healthy food options, demonstrating meal preparation and devising workable exercise schedules. She compares it to cooking: “You say ‘I have carrots, apples and lettuce, what can I make?’ So [clients] say, ‘I want this, I have this and I have this, and I say OK, here’s what we’ll do.” Arneric’s approach weaves the client’s lifestyle and health concerns together into a tailored regimen.
Since her time working with a life coach, Koehn is no longer the stressed manager she used to be. She is sleeping better and has learned how to meditate. “I’m not cured of anything because I got life coaching, it’s not about ‘curing’,” she says. “It’s a conscious way to improve your life. It’s continual self-improvement.”
If you are considering coaching
Coaches often offer a complimentary session so potential clients can get a feel for their approach. Jacki Carr recommends getting referrals from friends, or doing some sleuthing on coaches’ websites, blogs and Facebook pages.
Know what you’re looking for
Are you looking for a nurturing type of coach or a hard-charging personality to challenge you? Someone with a particular type of training or specialty? Knowing yourself and what you want out of coaching will help you narrow down and zero in on a possible connection.
Do the work and commit
After you’ve selected a coach, do the work. If it helps, Niziol recommends recording your sessions to listen to them later or taking notes. Participate fully in the conversation, listen carefully and complete the exercises or journaling. Paying attention to any shifts in your thoughts or perspectives is critical to getting the most you can out of coaching.
Be aware of your inner critic
Stephen Patton advises, “Your inner critic can obscure your blind spots. Coaching is a process of illuminating our blind spots, and it is in those moments that we are best served to proceed with humor and curiosity.”
Don’t coach others
Virginia Aherin cautions against being too passionate about what you’re learning in your coaching sessions. “Be aware that you are the one who decided to receive coaching, not your significant other or spouse or your family.”
Koehn says of her experience with a life coach, “Be openminded. Things will come up that you won’t expect and sometimes you won’t be ready for them, but that is the beauty. Embrace the process – don’t fight it.”
Abby Hart is a freelance writer, editor and marketing consultant. She enjoys living the city life in Chicago with her husband and dog.