This post is actually no attack on financial planners, PT's or yoga instructors. I love them all - and like many professionals, they are essential.

However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they should all come after you've seen a life coach.

As a coach, I obviously have a barrow to push here. But so does your selfless yoga instructor charging $30 per class for you to 'find yourself' through body-bending, so hear me out!

My 4 reasons why a good life coach is a worthwhile investment:

1) Because context is everything

As I said, nothing against other professions, but all of the advice you get from them sits inside a wider context. Consider the following examples:

  • Your financial planner designs you an investment plan based on your current earnings and savings;
  • Your personal trainer designs a plan with you to look like the front cover of Men's Health magazine in 16 weeks;
  • Your nutritionist works with you to design a 6-month clean eating plan.

Many of these are based on often unspoken (and sometimes harmful) assumptions relating to your context. My experience suggests that most plans fall over if they don't consider the wider context of someone's life. An isolated plan is one doomed to fail.  An answer to any of these questions will likely unpin one of the good professional plans you can get:

  • Do you have plans to change how much you earn?
  • How much time per week do you want to be working?
  • What responsibilities do you have outside of personal training?
  • What are you willing sacrifice to look like the front cover? What are you not willing to sacrifice?
  • Who else do you have responsibility to cook for?
  • Are there lifestyle restrictions which may hamper change?
  • Who else is involved in this goal? What do they think?
  • How well have you changed behaviour in the past?

Why is context hard for a professional to see? It may be embarrassing for a father (aka "the provider") to admit that he wants to work less to spend time with his kids. Similarly, a mother cooking for a family may find that they don't like the food on the 'clean living' diet plan, and she doesn't have time to prepare two meals per night. She will feel judged for not being 'perfect' - plan fail...

2) Life coaching aligns ALL of your goals

Align all of your goals, don't just focus on one area.

Align all of your goals, don't just focus on one area.

Setting a goal in one area of your life is likely to push it forward. Businesses set KPI's and minimum work hours per week for a reason - people will largely stick to them. Having a life coach allows you to look at all of your goals in context, and decide some important things:

  1. Which goals are the most important?
  2. Which support each other?
  3. Which get in the way of each other?
  4. How you can transition between goals?
  5. Where you need more information/support/professional expertise?

Most of these decisions live in our heads, unspoken and un-analysed. Only once you've looked at them together can you know how much time you want to spend at the gym when you're planning with your financial planner...

3) Life coaching brings systems thinking

Tied to the above, any good life coach should bring systems thinking to their clients. Waters Foundation says that "systems thinking is a vantage point from which you see a whole, a web of relationships, rather than focusing only on the detail of any particular piece."

The embedded person is derived from systems thinking

The embedded person is derived from systems thinking

There are many ways that I see systems thinking working in coaching. Every individual is a complex system, with their own unique interplay of hopes, dreams, values, beliefs and circumstances, all of which influence their goals and habits. Similarly, this complex system is embedded in a huge range of other complex systems - families, relationships, workplaces, economic systems etc. Setting goals and deciding the best course of action often requires coaches to bring many of these into your view.

Systems thinking is also useful because it brings an action-reflection lens - try something in a system and see what affects it has. The results can't always be known, but you will likely see something valuable, often in a place you don't expect it. 

4) Because the person is the person, and habits are everything

You can set out all of the plans you want, or intend to do something, but a coach helps you with follow-through. How many times do you hear - "I want to go to yoga more"? Taking into account context and your habits, a coach will work with you on a plan to change your hindering habits and enable you to stick to your plans, not just pay for them and leave them on the fridge.

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