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Regardless of your age, it’s possible sometimes to feel directionless and uncertain about your future. It could be any area of your life – your career, health, finances, relationships. A life coach can work wonders to help you to define a direction, create some goals and start working toward something.
But according to a study by Stanford University and The Miles Group two-thirds of CEOs don’t receive any coaching. And 100 percent of participants wish they had coaching in some area .
Why is it that virtually all CEO’s feel the need for a coach but so few actually have one?
The reason is that a life coach is really expensive. The International Coaching Federation says that the median salary for a life coach is $500 per hour. At that rate, it’s pretty difficult for the average person to enlist a coach to help with our own personal issues.
But much of what a life coach would help you with is helping to clarify what it is that you value in life. Only after you figure out what you value in a career or in a relationship, will you have the clarity to move in a direction that’s right for you.
Digging down and figuring out what you value is something you may be able to do yourself. It’s a great exercise for someone just entering adulthood, or for someone of any age who’s beginning to feel a lack of direction and needs an introspective push.
Here’s how you may be able to be your own life coach.
Start with an End in Mind
If you wanted to change or add on to your home you’d start with the end in mind. You’d visualize yourself in the kitchen you’ve always wanted or in your new family room with a fireplace and lots of light. Then you’d fill in the blanks that would get you there. You’d decide whether to hire an architect, what the dimensions will be and how you’ll pay for it.
Then you’d begin to see how you’ll get to the endpoint and the things you’ll need to do in sequence. For instance, you wouldn’t start putting furniture in your new room before you install windows and doors.
So, before you start mapping out new habits for yourself, try to visualize your life as you want it to be. What is it that you’re not satisfied with? What would a more content version of you look like?
Write it down. Create your own avatar and describe your life a year from now. And maybe three years from now.
- How would you spend your day?
- Where would you live?
- How would you spend your leisure time?
- Who would you be with?
- What kind of relationship would you have?
- Would you be more fit?
Be as descriptive as you can when you describe your life a year, or three years from now. Give it some thought. As you provide more details of the life you envision for yourself, your values start to emerge.
Now you have a destination. You have a picture of where you want to go, now let’s figure out how to get there.
Making Decisions Based on Long Term Wants
Probably the biggest reason we’re all where we are right now is because of the decisions we make. Every decision, large or small, brings us closer to the version of who we are today. And too many times, those decisions are based on the immediate payoff.
If you could see on paper, the direction your life takes when you make decisions based on the immediate payoff, you’d see a zigzag up and down, left and right. There’d be no overall direction in your life because every decision you make is based on what you want now.
But if you can start making decisions based on the longer-term payoff, you’ll start to see a change. You’ll see your life heading toward the destination you identified in step one.
To start making decisions based on the long-term payoff, and change that zigzag into a decided direction, take the time to figure out what your core values are.
Maybe you’re making a decent salary, but it’s been a long time since you’ve felt inspired at work. If you made a career decision based mainly on salary, you may be feeling the consequences of choosing a path that doesn’t align with your values.
So, what would a good day feel like? What would you be doing, and what type of atmosphere would you thrive in?
Or maybe despite having a lot of friends and an active social life, you still feel lonely. If you can pick up the phone and find seven people to go to a club with you, but couldn’t count on any of them in a jam, then maybe you could examine how you cultivate relationships. What is it that you value in people? Do you offer those qualities to others in a friendship?
Have you been battling weight issues and have never been able to consider yourself ‘fit’? What kind of decisions do you make regarding the food you eat? You could think short-term and say ‘I’m hungry now, so I’ll have peanut butter and jelly and three cookies for lunch’. Or you could make the long-term decision, based on your value of being fit, and say, ‘I’m going to go out each week and make sure to get healthy foods to have in the house’.
It may initially seem hard making decisions based on your core values and not on the short-term gain. But once you begin to live and make decisions with intention you’ll see yourself headed in a clear direction. And the small everyday decisions will become easier when you get clear about what your values are.
Making the Distinction between “Should” and “Want”
Getting clear about what your values are, and identifying where you want to be a year from now or three years from now will help you to evaluate the activities in your life and consider whether you’re doing them because you want to, or because you think you should be doing them.
How do you spend a typical week? You probably work for one-third and sleep for another third. But what about the rest of the time? There are probably plenty of activities you do out of habit.
Have you ever considered that some of the things you do each day because you think you should, keep you from getting closer to the life you want?
If you’re not really clear about your long-term wants and what you value in your life, then it’s easy to let an endless chain of activities monopolize your time. Activities you may think you want, but have nothing to do with your long-term wants.
Do you spend two hours traveling to the gym four times a week because you want to, or because you think you should? You probably do that because you value fitness, but maybe there’s an alternative. One that will free up enough time to enable you to learn a skill that’s essential to a job you’d like to move into.
Do you spend half your weekend manicuring your yard because you want to, or you think you should? What if you had an extra four or five hours each weekend? Maybe you’d have time to write that eBook you’ve been tossing around, or spend some serious time learning the fine points of photography.
Sizing Up Your Fears
When you thought about your long-term wants, was there one (or more) that came to mind right away that you’ve never pursued? Why?
Sometimes people are already aware of their ideal life but haven’t taken the steps to turn that dream into a goal. It could be a certain fear that’s paralyzing you – for instance, the fear that you’ll endanger a working partnership or personal relationship. Or a lack of confidence in your skills. Or maybe the fear that you’ll disappoint someone.
But sometimes we overthink the process and confuse our own fears with reality. It’s easy to spend five to ten years or more in a situation, afraid to make a change that would lead to one of our long-term goals.
If you value a certain lifestyle, you’ve probably already envisioned how your life would be different and improved. But have you taken the time to define why you’re not taking the steps to make it a reality?
What’s stopping you? A busy schedule, family concerns, fear of losing something else? Try to pinpoint the main roadblocks preventing you from turning that dream into a goal. In fact, write them down. Because once you isolate those fears or roadblocks in your way, then you can start to brainstorm ways you can eliminate them.
Sharing Your Highs and Lows
While my kids were going through the grief of losing their Mom to leukemia, one of the things we tried to do each night was to share the best thing and the worst thing that happened each day. It made for some interesting and frequently funny conversations at the dinner table.
Usually, the worst thing might be having a hard history test, or being caught in the rain at the bus stop. And the best thing might be a nice soccer play or something cool someone got to do that day. But I began to see that sharing our highs and lows with each other brought out some real camaraderie. We felt glad about each other’s good fortune and were able to lend an ear to each other’s not so good things.
We may not have solved everything then and there, but knowing that the people you care about are waiting to hear about your day made the good even better and the not so good, not so bad.
Sharing your highs and lows (and getting feedback) may help you to see a pattern in your life, or more clearly define what’s working and what’s not.
Check in on Yourself
If you’ve taken the time to think about your values and your long-term wants, and you’ve translated them into goals, I’d suggest writing them down. Having them there on your night table or on your computer desktop enables you to check in once a week or so and see how you’re progressing.
It’s easy to feel discouraged after a chaotic day. But if you can see your long-term goals next to a monthly or weekly goal, you’ll see how what you do today is moving you closer to your long-term wants. The things you value in life.
Maybe a month ago you were considering being a Virtual Assistant, now this week you’ve applied to three different ads. Or six weeks ago you wrote down a goal of getting in better physical shape, and now you do four days a week of cardio and resistance training.
Or maybe you don’t.
Having a way to regularly check in on yourself makes you accountable to the person who matters – You. We all have things that get in the way of our goals, but checking in on yourself might help you to spot small issues before they’re able to completely derail your progress.
Regularly checking in on yourself will also help you to see whether the things you’re doing each day are really leading you somewhere, or if you need to make some adjustments. Checking in each week doesn’t need to take an entire afternoon. Spending ten to fifteen minutes each week should give you a chance to see how you’re doing and whether you need to make some changes that will put you back on track.
You Can Be Your Own Life Coach
Martha Beck, whom USA Today has called “the best-known life coach in the country,” has written several New York Times bestsellers on the subject of life coaching:
- Finding Your Own North Star – Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live
- Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Claim the Life You Want
- Steering By Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny
Martha says the main reason people seek coaching is change. “Either they’re in the middle of change and don’t know what to expect, or they need to change and can’t make it happen.”
If you feel anxious, unsupported, or depressed about something in your life, these are signs that coaching might be needed. “There’s no shortage of symptoms because the way your true self-signifies it needs support is to create unhappiness and discontent,” Beck says.
Here’s the part where she says we all have the ability to self-coach:
“Self-coaching is what I teach coaches and clients to do. That’s the goal. We each have the ability to learn wisdom, and as we learn wisdom, we become our own counselor, and we start using the experience as our teacher. And then we’re home free.”
So even one of the most successful life coaches in the country says that with some knowledge, comes wisdom about ourselves – and the ability to coach ourselves.
What about you?
Is there an area that you feel stuck in, where it seems that you should be moving in a certain direction but nothing is happening?
Have you gone through the process of identifying your own values in order to change direction and create your own goals?
What method did you use – self-reflection, one of Martha Beck’s books or another way? Was it helpful?