on life coaching

We are born into perilous states, and we end by dying – so, have a nice day! – James Hollis

I am a life coach. That wasn’t easy to say. I can’t help but look at the life coaching industry with skepticism: so much flakiness and shim-shammery dished out in slick sales pitches. And yet there is also a thick streak of gold in there amongst the nonsense. There are many sincere and skilled people offering help to those who are stuck. And I’m one of them.

Can you relate to that word: stuck? Does it need defining? I doubt it. Stuckness is part of the human condition: “to be or not to be, that is the question.” And we can’t do it all alone, we need others in our life to connect with and to share the load. Life coaches are trained to listen, ask questions and generally to walk alongside you, as you explore the ways to come unstuck.

I have used a life coach myself, and it was really beneficial. It gave me some time and space to reflect on what was going on for me, and what I wanted next in my life. It was a space of contemplation as well as creative thinking. For all my skepticism about the way the industry presents itself, I can vouch for its usefulness.

So I’ve been working out my coaching niche, and it’s pretty grim: I work with people who are experiencing overwhelm, crisis and troubled times. My clients have been in tough circumstances, and use the coaching space as a place to replenish, to take stock and to recognise their own strengths and resources. I work with people who are stuck, even struggling, and together we explore the depth of their own creativity and resilience.

In my personal experience, and in my experience as a coach, there is no easy answer. It’s not a simple fix, or a magic bullet, or a comprehensive solution. It takes time, and the magic that happens is more like an undercurrent. It’s not always visible until you look back and can see that things have changed and that you have grown. Having said that, there are definitely ah-ha moments, which are points at which one’s perspective shifts. A question asked, a meaningful quote shared, an observation made – it can be a subtle prompt, but the impact is significant.

In my coaching, I work with the concept of soulmaking. The poet John Keats coined the phrase in a letter to his brother. He wrote:

Call the world if you please “The vale of Soul-making.” Then you will find out the use of the world…. Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul? A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways.

For me, soulmaking is a practice of living with depth and meaning, in a world which promises difficulty and suffering. Soulmaking embraces the challenges of the human condition, and finds purpose within life’s rich pageant.

I know, I know. I’m not selling you a pretty picture, full of happiness and ultimate fulfillment. Sometimes I wonder what life coaches are on, to subscribe so energetically to the positivity movement. Have they taken a look at the state of the world? It’s terrifying!

So yeah, I don’t offer a promise to find Your Best Life Ever. Nobody’s life is that simple or fantastic. Life has ups and downs, it has challenges and disappointments, and the wise soul works with these as gifts, as treasures.

I am a life coach, and my offer is to walk alongside you as you plumb these depths and create a life of worth and value. I help to create a space in which you can learn about soulmaking and about living with grit and imagination. I stand by you as you dig deep and take root.

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