You’ve decided to invest your time and money into improving yourself and your life situation. Do you need a life coach or a therapist?
Well, as with most things, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors. We all need a little help sometimes. And it’s important to choose the right kind of help for your specific issues and what you’re hoping to get out of it.
So here’s what you need to know before reaching out.
What is Life Coaching?
I get this question a lot from people who are curious about life coaching or working with me, and they’ve never worked with a life coach. They usually know about therapy from personal experience, from friends or family going to therapy, or from seeing it in movies or TV shows (remember Frazier or even the Sopranos).
Life Coaching can be therapeutic, but the two professions are very different. I like to describe life coaching as a partnership with the life coach asking insightful questions that clients wouldn’t ask themselves, so that aligned and helpful answers can come to light. I believe you know yourself best, you just need a little help in the form of coaching questions and other support to experience that clarity or a-ha moment where things begin to make sense and can begin to change.
Life coaches also help you evaluate your current situation so you can get crystal clear on your true desires and goals. They encourage your progress, and provide you with accountability, support, structure and tools so you can produce your desired results more quickly and efficiently.
How is Life Coaching Different from Therapy?
The Core Difference
Most therapy involves a diagnosis of some mental or psychological disorder – a problem that needs to be treated because it’s disrupting one or more areas of your life. Life coaching typically takes someone who is already functioning well, but may still be suffering, and helps them to develop and grow to the next level.
When my Mom died expectedly I found a therapist to help me with that tremendous loss. I continued to function at work well, but my personal life was disrupted by my grief and sorrow; I didn’t think I would ever get past it. I needed support to work through the depressing thoughts and to function in this new world without my Mom. Therapy was the best choice for me at that time.
Past, Present, Future
Another difference is that therapy typically goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past so that you can function better. And life coaching focuses primarily on the present and future and is more action-oriented and results-driven.
Types and Specialties
There are various types of therapy, like talk therapy, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. There are also specialties within life coaching based on the coach’s skillset, training and experience.
In my life coaching business, I work with hard-working professionals dealing with a lot of stress and pressure (like me when I worked in my corporate HR job). I combine life coaching tools, like what I call thought-healing (or what others call mindset or mindfulness), and I combine it with my specialty, energy work, that is very effective at getting to the oftentimes hidden, or subconscious, root cause of what’s preventing you from achieving your goals. We meet weekly or biweekly for consistency and momentum, and before long goals like reducing stress, feeling better, improving relationships, or having more fun in life are achieved.
Lastly, sessions with a life coach will feel a lot different than ones with a therapist. Life coaching provides structure and accountability while therapy is more open-ended.
In my coaching sessions, I combine inner (energy) work and outer work – but there’s an underlying structure tied to the client’s prioritized goals. This structure helps us celebrate successes and progress, and discuss challenges or unhelpful blocks slowing down progress. And in each session there’s always homework for the client to accomplish between sessions.
So, Which One Is Best For You?
Do you need a life coach or a therapist? Actually, you don’t have to choose, if you need both. I have life coaching clients who are also actively in therapy, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve also had clients who I referred to other professionals, including therapists, for more specialized support.
The most important message here is to get help. I’m a big proponent of getting help rather than suffering alone. Especially in the challenging times we’re living in, life can be hard.
Some of us grew up being taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness and have a hard time with it, but you must push past that limiting belief for your health and wellbeing. It’s that important!
Over the years, I have had a hard time seeking out help, but I’ve come to learn and now know that most people love to help other people. It’s unhealthy to suffer for long periods of time, thinking whatever you’re grappling with will get better on its own; it usually won’t. There are resources out there for you, you just have to find the best one for your specific needs.
If you’re not spending time investing in your mental and emotional health, with a life coach or a therapist, you will not only continue to feel terrible but you’re blocking your ability to be the best version of yourself, in your personal life, your relationships and in your career.
Do you have any questions about life coaching not answered above? Drop them in a comment below.
Almost everything you do is driven by habits. We all have good, helpful habits and bad, or unhelpful, habits. You can think of your habits as the drivers getting you closer or further away from achieving what’s important to you. Habits are the foundation for major change in your life. That’s why it’s so important to understand if you’re cultivating helpful or unhelpful habits. To achieve your goals, you want to provide the best support and conditions that set you up to be successful. This happens by cultivating helpful habits that are directly aligned to those goals. And by eliminating any unhelpful habits that are slowing or blocking your progress.
How to Cultivate Helpful Habits
Bad habits are the saboteurs that make it harder to achieve what we desire. As mentioned earlier, helpful habits move you toward achieving your goals and desires, whereas unhelpful habits slow or block your progress. To increase your success when changing an unhelpful habit, it’s best to replace it with a new helpful habit. It may be as simple as making a small pivot. Like when you quit drinking soda you replace it with Zevia instead for a week or two, and gradually pivot again to water or herbal tea. Decide what you want to achieve and move toward that goal. It’s more effective than focusing on what you need to stop or get rid of which often creates more pressure and feelings of being deprived. Also, start small with new habits. If it feels too big you’ll either get stuck and never stop or quit after a few days. For example, if you want to begin a daily morning routine that includes journaling and prayer or meditation, start with 5 minutes per day, and gradually increase it by 1 minute each week. To increase your chances of success, create a process and track your results. Something as simple as placing a check mark on a calendar for every day you complete your morning meditation is helpful. Track your results for at least 8 – 12 weeks to evaluate your progress, make any adjustments and to ensure long-lasting results. Get leverage and support when working on your habits. Ask a friend or colleague to point out if you’re demonstrating a habit you’re trying to change, or to complement you when they see you sticking to your new habit. For instance, they can point out when you’re late to a meeting or if you’re on your phone and not listening when others are talking. Cultivating your habits using the above strategies will support positive results. More tips on cultivating habits for success can be found here.
Two Words that Help Change Your Mindset
Here’s a suggestion from one of my own coaches. Change the phrase “I can’t” to “I don’t” when in a situation where you have a hard time sticking to your helpful habit or goal. For instance, let’s say you have a healthy eating goal of limiting high carb processed foods like flour and sugar. You’re out to dinner and the bread basket arrives. Instead of saying or thinking, “I can’t have any bread”, say or think “I don’t eat bread, that’s not for me”. This subtle shift helps change your mindset. “I can’t” is very limiting, and puts you into a victim or less-than mindset which may blow up on you in the long-term. “I don’t” is empowering, you’re in charge, you’re taking responsibility and it’s your decision. You should be able to feel the difference in energy in these two statements. Where can you make this shift? Think of a few examples and commit to making this shift at the next opportunity.
Act with Intention: Cultivate Helpful Habits
This method of cultivating helpful habits works for creating helpful habits and for changing unhelpful habits. The key is to put intention into the helpful habits you want to create, and be as specific as possible by adding in a situation, time, and location. For instance, you’ll meditate each morning for 5 minutes in your bed immediately after waking up, at 6 a.m. Include how long, where, when and how frequently. Or another example is you’ll take a fun 20 minute walk around the block with your dogs after dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For unhelpful habits, you make the trigger of that habit your situation, and then change how you respond. It’s a simple pivot toward what you want to achieve, like in the quitting soda example earlier. That response (having Zevia, water or tea when habitually reaching for a soda) becomes your new habit. Two more tips for cultivating helpful habits are: Make it fun. You’re more likely to stick with something you enjoy doing. For example, add your favorite music to your exercise routine or listen to your favorite books or podcast during your new walking routine. Be compassionate, kind and easy on yourself. You may slip up and that’s ok. Pay attention and stop any negative self-talk or harsh judgments, like “I knew you’d fail” or “you never stick with anything”. Instead, just refocus on the results your striving for, get excited about achieving them, and kindly say or think to yourself, “this slip is ok, you’re making great progress”. In the comments, please share one helpful habit you’ve successfully created this year and what goal it has helped you achieve. Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash
You know what you want in your career and in each of the important areas of your life (finances, health, relationship, spirituality, etc.), yet you’re not seeing the desired results. Are you getting in your own way? If so, get out of your own way and get things done.
Does this sound familiar: “I set a goal on January 1, here we are halfway through the year and I’m no closer to achieving it.”
How do you get in your own way? This could be an extensive list, but to keep it short I’ll focus on two areas: 1. Energy drains and 2. Unmet or unacknowledged needs
One way you get in your own way of getting things done is by not managing your energy drains. Energy drains are the little or big things that tax your attention and energy.
They slow down your progress and prevent you from achieving your goals. Read more about what could be draining your energy and what to do about it here.
Unmet or Unacknowledged Needs
We all have needs and its okay to have them. Needs are a normal part of being human. It’s important to recognize if you’re not meeting those needs in a healthy or satisfying way, or you’re not even acknowledging them. You’re slowing down or stopping important things from getting done.
You’ve most likely learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in psychology class. It’s a five tiered hierarchy that’s typically shown as a pyramid. that suggests people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to more advanced psychological and self-fulfillment needs.
It’s helpful because it illustrates the various types of needs and reminds us that all humans have needs. It also stresses the importance of self-actualization needs at the top of the pyramid.
It includes physiological needs like food, water and sleep followed by safety and security needs like health and wellness, or a safe place to live. Social needs like family, romantic partner, and community come next, followed by esteem needs like appreciation and respect from others. Last are the self-actualization needs which are growing and developing to achieve your highest potential.
What are your needs?
Use these categories in the Maslow’s Hierarchy to think about and identify your needs. How are you meeting these needs? Can you find healthier ways to satisfy them? Are there any needs that you’re not fulfilling? Do you think it’s not okay to have these needs?
An example that comes to mind is the typical caretaker who puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own. My mother would work all day, and then go visit each of her parents (one lived at home, one was in a nursing home in another town) every evening after work and on the weekends.
On her way home she would do grocery shopping or pick up dinner for her husband and kids. She pushed her needs aside while everyone else’s needs were the priority.
Like my mother, many of us learn to pretend like we have it all together and can handle it all without help from anyone. Unfortunately, that’s how we get in our own way and prevent or delay the achievement of our biggest dreams and goals.
Another example is the person who hears they shouldn’t be boastful or act too proud as a child. Her needs for recognition and being valued are not satisfied. goes unmet as her achievements are not acknowledged.
Now as an adult, she’s often frustrated and feels disappointed when her efforts are not recognized at work. She feels incomplete and sometimes communicates all that she has done to anyone that will listen.
Oftentimes, this comes across as attention seeking or boasting by her colleagues and supervisor. She really wanted acknowledgement, but this isn’t the healthiest way to satisfy that need. She could find a healthier way.
Act with Intention: Take these steps now
First off, acknowledge that all humans have needs and its okay for you to have needs.
Then think about your needs and write down your top 3 needs right now. To help you create your list, review these categories of needs: security and certainty (safety and stability), significance (power, achievement and influence), love and connection (relationships, being listened to and connected to something greater than yourself/spiritual), and growth (learning, development and creativity).
Ask yourself for each of these 3 top needs, how are you meeting them?
Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way? What unhealthy ways are you going to let go of right now? What healthy ways of meeting those same needs are you going to create instead, not only in your career but in your life?
For example, let’s say one of your top needs is to feel safe and secure. Last year you earned a promotion at work and have an exciting and fulfilling new organization to lead. You felt secure in your role.
This year, because of outside circumstances everything is uncertain, especially your role. You put in even more hours and you’re working holidays and most weekends to feel secure in your position, putting your health and relationships at risk.
Perhaps a healthier way to fulfill your need for safety and security is to fulfill it outside of work since you don’t have direct control over the current work environment.
You can satisfy that need in your home environment or with your relationships. You can spend more quality time and get a sense of security and safety from those close beneficial connections you have with your family and friends. Experiencing their unconditional support for you and knowing they are there for you when you need them helps you feel safe and secure.
Remember, we all have needs and it’s critical for you to meet these needs in order to have a fulfilling career and life. So get out of your own way and get things done in healthier and more satisfying ways.
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash