Do you ever feel like parts of your life are out of whack and need some fine tuning? If so, what do you do to get back on track?
Sure, there’s therapy, self-help books, meditation and, on the other end of the spectrum, ice cream.
But a new field is emerging to help people find happiness and success and get back on track: life coaching.
Like many of you, I have some questions about life coaching. For starters, what is it, who needs it and how can it help?
To get answers to these questions and more, I turned to Vicy Wilkinson, director of coaching services and transformational life coach at Life Coaching Institute right here in Greenville.
Of course, everyone isn’t ready to take the plunge into life coaching. So, (lucky us!) Vicy also dishes on what she does to stay happy, along with lots of things we can do in our everyday lives to be happier and more fulfilled—including a practical four-step plan to meet your goals starting right this minute.
GNHC: Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is life coaching? And is it like therapy?
VW: Life coaching means a lot of things, depending on the kind of life coach you want to work with. To me, though, life coaching is all about transformation and change using people’s strengths, values and best selves. And having someone “in your corner” to help you navigate the changes confidently and effectively.
As its centerpiece, coaching philosophy says that we’re all experts in ourselves and that we just need some help and structure to come up with our own best answers. As a transformational life coach, I help people alleviate daily and acute stresses that tend to cause negative behavior patterns to emerge (or re-emerge) and help them get more of what they want out of life—and less of what they don’t want.
It’s like traditional “therapy” only in the sense that it’s a field which developed out of the realm of therapy. Coaching is for people who don’t need medical or pathological intervention but instead need a partner who can help them “see around their own corners” to put the past in the past and begin to design and execute a positive plan for the future—in all areas of life. We cover everything from career and business to nurturing happiness, self-care and good relationships.
GNHC: I’m constantly reading about celebrities having life coaches, but who else is a good candidate for life coaching?
VW: The way I see it, everyone is a candidate for coaching, especially people who are actively transitioning in some way, such as high school to college, college to the work force, the work force to retirement, military life to civilian life, mom to empty-nester, married to single. You get the idea.
Also, it’s great for people who simply feel “stuck” in one or more areas of life because coaching can provide structure both for uncovering the reasons behind feeling “stuck” and internal motivation to move beyond it to a world of joy and flourishing instead of just getting by or just keeping on keeping on, so to speak. It’s also great for people who have, for lack of a better word, graduated from therapy and find themselves needing to take action in their lives.
GNHC: What do you like most about being a life coach?
VW: I love coaching because it’s both internally reflective and also highly action-oriented—a powerful combination! And the best thing about coaching is that it’s intended to be a path of learning so that clients actually learn to coach themselves, making it easier to get past barriers and problems in the future.
“The best thing about coaching is that it’s intended to be a path of learning so that clients actually learn to coach themselves.”
Ideally, clients see a coach for about 12-15 sessions over 3-6 months and are then able to move on without a coach, except for the occasional “tune up” if the road suddenly gets particularly rough or a completely new problem arises in the future. It’s not meant to be a forever crutch; coaching is empowering!
GNHC: For our readers who aren’t quite ready yet to take the life coaching plunge, what can they do in their everyday lives to meet their goals?
VW: I’d say the best thing people can do in their everyday lives to meet their goals is a pretty straight-forward four-step process:
- State your goal clearly and positively. Example: I eat healthy regular meals, I exercise four times a week and my body looks and feels great. It’s important to define goals in a way that your mind can help you achieve—”approach goals” are key. I would also add here that it’s incredibly important to choose goals that you really want, not goals you have been told you “should” have. Authenticity creates drive and motivation in a way that all the “shoulding” in the world will never be able to do.
- Design achievable steps to complete the big picture goal. Example: I join a gym on 1/2/12, I work out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 am to 9 am and I prepare healthy snacks to take with me to work. Action steps break down a big daunting goal into doable steps. It’s important that all actions and goals have a designated time line and a way to measure your progress, even if it’s only an internal scale.
- Make yourself accountable, preferably to someone else. If you tell your trusted friends and family about your goals, they can help support you through the changes. We all need outside support to keep us going, especially when progress seems slow.
- Celebrate all successes, even the small ones… sensibly. Example: After my Friday workout, I treat myself to a vanilla latte and know that I deserve it because I worked out all three days this week! By actively celebrating small successes, over about a 6-month time period, you will be able to look back and see your giant leap forward. Without celebrating, we tend to miss the journey of the changes, and it’s much harder to stay motivated.
GNHC: What do you think is the difference between a person who feels fulfilled and one who doesn’t?
VW: I think the biggest difference between people who feel fulfilled in their daily lives versus people who don’t is that people who feel fulfilled greet each and every day with the internal knowledge that they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be.
There is a peacefulness in having discovered your purpose; there is an even greater peace in using that purpose to fuel your thoughts, actions and intentions each day. When you’re able to wake up grateful for another day to live that purpose, there are really few things (even horrible things) that can really shake you. Fulfilled people have a trust in themselves that unfulfilled people do not have. The greatest reward as a coach is helping people discover and then embody their own purpose in their daily lives.
GNHC: It seems like you’re always smiling and laughing, which is wonderful! What do you personally do to stay so positive and happy?
VW: Thank you for kind observation. I do smile and laugh a lot—and that’s one of the ways I am able to do it! Neuroscience research has proven that the simplicity of a smile actually “switches on” happy neurochemicals, and it literally lights up the whole frontal lobe. So, smiles are good to spread around and thanks to our mirror neurons, which help us learn, they’re also contagious!
“I make time for myself—to do things I love—every single day. And that’s important because the only time we are guaranteed is the time we’re having right this moment.”
I also do what I call a daily happiness program which involves meditation, cardio, writing and at least 10 minutes of yoga in the morning to help me wake up and get going. Each week, I practice yoga with a class, and I also make time for friends and family, no matter how busy my schedule gets. I make time for myself—to do things I love—every single day. And that’s important because the only time we are guaranteed is the time we’re having right this moment.
Besides helping people make positive changes and learn to enjoy life in the process, Vicy enjoys writing, hula hooping, rowing and hiking. Her workplace, Life Coaching Institute, provides life, team and leadership coaching, as well as counseling and training for individuals and organizations.
Tell Us in the Comments Below
What do you do to maintain a positive outlook on life?