Can you be my life coach? 

The answer is NO. Particularly when you’re so desperate for solutions. Almost 70% of my potential clients would absolutely ask this question. And here’s the bummer, I don’t market myself as a life coach nor do I have any desire to become a life coach. I’m an executive coach, which can turn into life coaching in some instances (well, most of them… as they as say “all executive coaching is life coaching, but not all life coaching is executive coaching”).

If you’re looking for a life coach, you need to be very careful as the coaching industry is the youngest of all the support professions. It’s not as heavily regulated as it should be. Which means a 19-year-old high school dropout can easily set his shop up offering “life coaching services.” And that’s a problem.

That said, a 53-year-old experienced executive wouldn’t make a better life coach either. Why? Because of their experience, which most likely wouldn’t be in the area where you need the most support right now. What gives? A great deal of awareness coupled with a willingness to test out a few “life coaches” without wasting too much of their (and your) time.

Here’s what you should consider before hiring a life coach:

  • Ensure that you’re into in a depression. Life coaching (or any coaching for that matter) isn’t a replacement for therapy. Coaches are not therapists. The former focus on the now and future while the latter focus on the past. You should seriously consult a licensed psychotherapist and go from there. They will let you know when you’re ready for a coach. And there’s no shame in consulting a therapist. I believe everyone can benefit from a couple of sessions of therapy. It helps you untie knots from the past. It sure did help me when I was struggling. Debbie Millman of DesignMatters still consults a therapist! She’s one of the most influential designers working today!
  • Find out the exact issue/challenge/dilemma you need help with. Although the best coaches would never judge you, taking a broad approach (“I don’t know what to do with my life”) isn’t productive. “What’s really bothering you right now?” Take it from there. And it’s okay to not have clarity, the coach will ensure that you get clarity of your situation and what to do about it.
  • What makes the coach so special? What are their credentials? Who have they coached in the past? Do they have testimonials? Read up on some the articles or updates they may have posted on their website or blog or any of their social media posts. All of that is helpful to understand the person behind the coach. Just don’t stalk them, okay? The objective is to find a coach that gets you and whose thoughts and actions resonate with (or can respect) your values and beliefs.
  • Coaches don’t have to be locally based. The desire to have “face time” is overrated. It’s good-to-have, of course, but shouldn’t ever be the only factor to be considered. In fact, I would highly encourage anyone to look outside your geography (city, state, country, continent… I don’t think they have a coach in Antartica, but you can check) if you’re willing to solution-oriented and are willing to invest. A different cultural perspective would allow coaches to support you in the most neutral way possible. You’ll feel the difference yourself. (If you’re thinking that’s a lot of money, let me tell you one thing — coaching is a lifelong relationship. Not just with one coach but many. The most influential leaders out there have coaches. This isn’t for the short-sighted.)
  • Are you open to change? Be honest with yourself. If not, it’s better not to engage a coach at this point. Instead, consider therapy. Your belief just might be related to something from your past, specifically your upbringing or environment. An alternative to therapy would be deep reflection or journaling to find out what makes you so resistant to change. But then, most people who aren’t open to change don’t know they’re not open to change. And that’s the irony of it all. Perhaps you can check with your closest friend or spouse for an honest feedback and go from here. If you can accept their inputs and feel that you’re committed to change the reality, go ahead and find a coach! If not, you’ve got homework to do.
  • Do you have the budget? Hiring a coach is expensive. Yes, like all things there are “economical” coaches out there but I believe they’re selling you the “cost” than a “service.” You need to make up your mind when it comes to this investment. Really, save up the amount (unlike buying a car or a house, saving up to get coached shouldn’t take you more than 2-3 months) before you commit to such an engagement. The worst you can do at this point is buy a cheap service and completely lose faith in the transformational power of coaching.

Keep these points in mind next time you’re on a lookout for a coach. Even better — share with a friend who’s looking for one. My hope is that this list would benefit them finding the best coach they could afford.

(Weird thing — I randomly Googled “life coaching” and noticed that the top-ranked articles were all written by people who’re not even coaches (yeah, we sort of suck at SEO)!)