I have been operating in the field of mental wellness for quite some time; and since the beginning it has been quite a challenge to decide what title to put on my visiting card. I have experimented with different ones — Counselor, Therapist, Life Coach. Of these, the last one, made me cringe every time I had to say it aloud, but I gave it a try for a few years anyway since ‘Counselor’ seemed quite lacking in its ability to convey what I do —helping people deal with life challenges in a graceful and creative manner.
Since then, I have decided to stick to the humble, simple tag of ‘Personal Counselor’. But in case any of you out there are looking for a ‘Life Coach’ do your homework carefully before making a choice, especially since it is an unorganized industry without any legal supervision. Another issue is that the term ‘Life-Coach’ is being used rather loosely by professionals from varied fields.
Here is a list of six criteria to check thoroughly before selecting a coach:
- Area of Expertise: It is important to correctly identify the scope and area of expertise of the coach to ensure there is a proper fit between what you need and the kind of inputs different professionals can reliably provide. Astrologers, numerologists, alternate healers, past-life hypnotherapists, tarot card readers, psychics, yoga asana instructors, counselors, psychologists, authors of self-help books all have a different lens through which they view life and a very specific skill-set that may or may not be suited for the particular situation you are seeking help with. Be very clear about the kind of advice you are seeking and carefully identify the field of operation best suited for your requirement.
- Professional Training & Qualifications: A Life-Coach should be properly trained in working with the conscious, sub-conscious and subtler aspects of the mind. Without a thorough understanding of the mind and its complicated machinery, a coach may be handicapped to practically help you. In my experience, releasing unresolved emotions and identifying the limiting beliefs, psychological patterns that are blocking growth is essential for ensuring progress in self-development. This is why, I suggest checking the background of the professional – what is the kind of training he or she has had in working with the mind? Is it largely theoretical or is the person equipped with practical tools that help ease the mind and emotions. Check the qualifications and use common sense to figure out if the person seems suitably trained for your purpose.
- Personal Life Experience: Each of us has a unique life-story that has shaped us in becoming the person we are today. This is particularly true for someone who is functioning as a Life-Coach. He or she should ideally have had a substantial amount of life experience under the belt giving them a rich perspective on life. Mind you, the age of the coach is not enough to determine the variety and intensity of the life experience – not everyone with grey hair is wise! True wisdom comes from having lived life mindfully through all its ups and downs, contemplating the choices made and learning from them day to day.So, be curious and dig deep – has the person gone through the kind of challenge you are facing? This might be an added advantage as the coach would have an inside perspective on what you are personally going through and will be sensitive to the dynamics of the problem. For instance, someone who has not been a parent to a teenager may not fully understand how frustrating and hurtful it can feel when your thirteen year-old suddenly starts withdrawing from you or answering back. Check out the blog of the coach to understand how they dealt with their personal issues and what they learnt along the way. Have they been a successful Life Coach for themselves or their family members?
- Genuineness: Besides the first three criteria that are quite specific and easier to check, there are certain intangible, personality related factors that go a long way in determining the effectiveness of a coach. The foremost among these would be the level of genuineness of the individual. The person should genuinely – be interested in helping you, be caring and warm, be patient and want to empower you to take charge of your life independently.You can get some idea about this from the website and blog but it is advisable to talk to the person over the phone or meet personally to get a better sense. Go by your instincts and try not to give too much importance to client testimonials showcased on their website Sure, testimonials are good to go through but they shouldn’t be your main criteria. Remember you are a unique individual and what worked for others may not work for you.
- Open-mindedness: All of us have a belief-system we grow up with imparted to us by our parents, the education system and popular social norms. If you are trying to swim against the tide, you need someone non-judgmental and open-minded. Someone who doesn’t simply go by their rule-book to tell you what is right or wrong but tries to get inside your shoes to see things from your perspective. You should be able to trust your coach implicitly to support you – it should be safe for you to share your innermost, darkest secrets or most shameful feelings with him or her without fearing judgment. Read their blog and ask probing questions to get an idea of their views, especially on the specific kind of life area you are struggling with. Do they have a black and white approach to issues such as pre-marital sex, infidelity for instance?
- Humility: This may appear as a strange selection factor, but it is a vital quality needed in a Life Coach. They should be well aware of their personal limitations and be committed to their own self-development. For it’s when we claim that we have arrived or have got all the answers that we stop growing. We get stuck in a self-important, rigid, bubble through which it becomes difficult to authentically connect with anyone else. Look for the signs of humility – what is their opinion of themselves? Do they treat you like an equal or talk down to you?
Above all, don’t be in a hurry to select a Life-Coach. Take your time, do your research and examine your options rationally. Shortlist a few who seem to meet your criteria. Then talk to them over the phone or if possible face-to-face to get a first-hand feel. Finally, go by your gut (and not the Google Ranking) to select the person you feel most comfortable working with.