It sounds mildly ridiculous, the idea of a life coach. No-one gets a guidebook to life: we just get on with it. So why are more and more people who aren't athletes agreeing to be "coached", paying large amounts of money to someone they don't know to coax and chivvy them along? Is this just another whacky 21st-century, late-capitalism trend? And what about the claims coaches make; can one believe them?
Penny Andrews, a former bank administrator turned entrepreneur, says emphatically that seeing a life coach did help her. "I felt stuck in my life, in my job especially. I was tired of the daily office grind but had no idea how to get out of it.
Belinda Davies (left) - Code of ethics
"The coach helped me set small goals at first. I was surprised at what I came up with: I joined a dance class and tried out new hobbies; I made pledges to improve my relationships. This moved me into a new, more optimistic space, and then I began to tackle the bigger things.
"I knew I wanted to go into business, and set about drawing up a business plan.
"Sessions were twice monthly and there were e-mail discussions in between. It's the accountability that works the magic: once I undertook to do something, I had to e-mail a report when I had finished. At R500 a session I was not going to waste the opportunity. After only three months I was able to leave my day job and start my business. My coach is still on hand should I need her input."
If you are considering consulting a life coach, Comensa, the body that oversees this fast-growing profession, has a list on its website: comensa.org.za. Belinda Davies, the president of the umbrella body, says practitioners come from diverse fields and all do some level of life coaching. With 700 members, Comensa is aiming at the professionalisation of coaching and mentoring, ensuring that members have formal qualifications and that they adhere to an enforceable code of ethics. It also does public education to prevent people from falling prey to fly-by-nights.
At anything from R300 to R700 a session, life coaching does not come cheap. So what do life coaches hope to achieve for their clients? The FM asked four:
Anel Bester (www.coach-sa.co.za)
"A life coach is a facilitator of potential into action, providing a safe space to explore strengths and weaknesses as well as the structure a person needs to achieve goals," says Bester. "There are no expectations from the coach; the results are completely dependent on the client's desired goals.
"The process begins by exploring a person's desire for positive change in any area of his or her life. The client establishes inspiring, visionary goals, and then we move into planning the steps to achieve the goals. Tools I use include the Enneagram - a personality typology for deeper understanding of one's personality type, path of personal growth and understanding of self and others; and emotional freedom techniques - used for deep-seated fears, blocks or habits."
Ernest Frost (www.ernestfrostnlp.co.za)
"A life coach helps a client reach his goals and develop his inner resources by asking the right' questions to take him on a journey of discovery," says Frost.
"It is not the giving of advice or judging. I believe it is more an unconscious calling than a conscious choice; a life coach is usually someone who has experienced the darker shadows and plains of life and has survived and learnt through it; and, with some structural and cognitive training, can help others on this journey.
"My aim is to help people become the best they can be and want to be at the time, and to carry that forward. I work with neurolinguistic programming (NLP), wellness coaching and ego-state therapy."
Motlalepule Mokhine (www.temogo.co.za)
"I experienced being coached while in full-time employment," says Mokhine. "I was in awe of the process, especially at reaching my own aha' moments. It exposed me to the possibility of coaching as a career. Coaching helped me deal with my fears; I doubt I would have ventured out on my own. It brings about an awakening, leading to a transformation.
"A coach acts as a sounding board, and has a bag of tools' to share with the client even after the coaching process is over. Coaching can help when you feel your life or career is in a rut and you need ideas to get out; when you want growth; when you are in a new role and you want to do justice to it; or if you struggle with self-confidence, overall balance and a tendency to procrastinate.
"The goals we set drive what we do. We also aim for greater awareness, performance enhancement and improvement in relationships, as well as for understanding what motivates us and how to use it to bring about change.
"I am a metacoach and we facilitate higher-level performance by focusing on the process rather than the content of the client's issues, and on how we use our experiences to create meaning in our lives. The use of NLP as a communication model helps the client examine his language - the words and symbols he uses - and whether they are empowering or not."
Peter Redelinghuys (www.evolvedcoaching.com)
"I've always walked two roads in my life journey - one focused on improving myself and creating the life I want, the other wanting to help others do the same. Only when I came across the tools that enabled me to take control of my life did I really consider becoming a life coach. I almost did not become one because my initial research led me to a host of life coaches who were in a mess themselves.
"This is why we devised our own methodology - Evolved Coaching, a holistic and scientific approach embracing the latest studies in neural and behavioural science, NLP, hypnosis, quantum physics and life-coaching models.
"A life coach's ultimate objective is to help a client achieve his goals; what differentiates coaches is how they go about it. I get clients when they are not achieving the results they want and perceive themselves to be unable to achieve those goals with the resources they have available. I work with whatever a client presents me with. The goals are not mine to decide on. "