At 39, I'm starting to arrive a bit late to the zeitgeist party. OK, a lot late. When a friend of mine recently sent me this link to Charlie Sheen bringing the crazy, I had to do some background research as to the context within which he said/did it all. (It's not so much that I'm a hermit still living in 2011 as much as I have a toddler who insists that the if the TV is on, it's tuned to Nick Jr.)
What entertains me the most about "winning" is that I recognized it! I've heard it! And it was aimed at me!
The snarky chuckle I had at Charlie Sheen's expense is what most people have with me when I tell them I'm a newly-certified life coach. When I first told my friends -- Lord, love them -- they did the classic "deer-in-headlights-I-can't-reveal-what-I'm-truly-thinking-so-I'll-just-keep-a-blank-expression-and-nod" look. In fact, the woman responsible for my transition into coaching once said: "I want neither credit nor blame for this, but I do want to go on the record to say that I said that you'd make a great grant-making foundation officer."
Even the New York Times jumped into the life coaching fray. After publishing this article in 2012, a reader wrote in:
A friend of mine had this woman crashing at her house, sleeping on her couch; the woman kept her clothes in a black plastic trash bag. No car, etc. I asked my friend who this person was -- "Oh, that's my life coach," my friend said.
Other -- braver -- friends of mine have shared their opinions about the profession and who "needs" coaching. When I told "A" that I was writing this piece, she IM'd me:
I think a lot of people think coaching is sort of weird-y empowerment stuff. Well, the people in D.C. do that I've talked to. They don't need coaching because they don't need to be fixed/bettered.
I mean, really, if anyone in this country needs to be fixed/bettered, it's the folks in D.C. Am I right?
As a profession, life coaching has some branding challenges. According to the International Coach Federation, there are "47,500 professional coaches worldwide, bringing in a total annual income of nearly $2 billion." And yet, to the general population, coaching seems to be a vague, shadowy thing that people with lots of money and lots of time do to feel better about themselves.
So, for those not in the know, what is coaching?
Let's start with what coaching is not:
-- It's not therapy. It's not about resolving past emotional or psychological trauma. Coaches do not coach people through addiction or psychological diagnosis (e.g., depression, schizophrenia, etc.).
-- It's not consulting. Coaches are not experts in a particular industry; otherwise, they'd be working in that particular industry. Coaches do not dispense advice or strategy.
Now, to be perfectly frank, the lines between industries can -- and do -- get blurred. Therapists and consultants can perform like coaches on occasion. However, coaching as a profession is an entirely separate and distinct process.
The ICF defines coaching as "a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential." I define coaching as a way to embrace and be fully responsible for creating your life your way. The process of accepting who you are (and are not), what you've done (and haven't done), and how to harness the power you have inside yourself to choose what's next for you -- that's what really differentiates this process from all others. It's one thing to understand who you are. It's another thing to own it and generate actions from it that will propel you into a future that may seem unattainable.
To get to the macro conversation: I may be talking coaching in this post, but it could really be about anything that exists outside your comfort zone. Who are you being around something that seems "crazy" or "fantastical" or "weird-y"? What's behind the snark? The fear? The judgments? I invite you to consider that who you are being around the "weird" may be the same thing that's stopping you from going after the things that you really want in your life.
Because they're weird. And hard. And unimaginable.
I invite you to consider the possibilities... and if you're a member of Congress? Contact me. I can coach you around the "in action" part of your job. Winning!
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