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Should You Get a Life Coach?

Professionals say coaching is not just for business people or executives — everyday people, including those considering retirement, can benefit from it

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Coaches help athletes excel at their sport. A life coach, in a similar sense, helps people “win” at life, where the prizes are more contentment, happiness, purpose and security. These can all seem out of reach during a big life transition, such as when the children all leave home, the career is winding down and certain signs of aging begin cropping up.

For those uncertain as to what to do next, a life coach can help, according to Jennifer B. Bernstein, president and founder of Get Yourself Into College, Inc. in Syracuse. Now 48, Bernstein was a tenured college professor when she decided to quit teaching, but not leave academia. Her company guides students through the application process. She started Getting Yourself in 2010.

Early in her career, Bernstein thought she would want to teach for the rest of her life; however, that changed. She’s now glad that she planned and launched her business earlier instead of waiting until retirement. Working with a coach “was really important,” Bernstein said. “Talking with a coach versus networking and talking with friends and family is very different. I think that when you’re making this big transition, it really helps to have that plan of support.”

While a counselor or therapist may help clients heal as they work through past hurts, a life coach is oriented on the client’s future. What’s next? And, especially in Bernstein’s case, “how do I get there?”

Life coaching, unlike business coaching, isn’t about directives, but helping clients develop their own answers as to what they should do next by breaking down self-imposed barriers to their success. They can also help ease the segue from the working world to whatever’s next. For Bernstein, that meant fleshing out her business idea.

“When I started working with the coach, I had stopped teaching but I had a web copy writing client who was giving me a very stable monthly income,” Bernstein said. “I was at the point with my business where I couldn’t grow my company any more if I was still using those hours. I had to let go of that.”

In a normal session, they talk about what’s going well in the client’s life, recent small successes and what they can do to keep moving forward toward their goals. They discuss areas in which the client can practice improvement the next week.

“For me, a big challenge was I felt maxed out with my time and energy,” Bernstein said. “Part of that was really making that strong, inner commitment that what I wanted to do was go all-in on my business.”

Life coaches aren’t just about people moving from working life to entrepreneurship.

Jill Murphy, certified personal trainer, certified life coach and co-owner of Mission Fitness in East Syracuse, provides life and fitness coaching.

“A life coach is someone who gives their clients tools to make positive changes in their life,” Murphy said. “They encourage their clients to achieve their full potential. They come alongside their client to achieve a specific goal they’re looking to achieve.”

Since many lifestyle habits affect weight and fitness, life coaching provides more means of helping her clients than addressing diet and exercise separately.

“A lot of what we do is conversations with clients,” she said of herself and her husband and business partner, Nick Murphy, who is also a certified life coach and trainer.

It may seem helpful to simply “try harder” to make life changes or exercise greater willpower; however, “very often, people don’t stop to take the time to see why they’re doing things,” Murphy said. “Coaches ask hard and deep questions.”

By asking questions, they drill down to the reasons why clients overeat, make poor food choices and don’t exercise. Then they help their clients find ways to make healthful choices that will stick with them. The Murphys also address the self-esteem and self-worth issues that often lead to poor choices.

“I give work for them to do [between sessions],” Murphy said.

That helps clients own their issues and take real steps toward change instead of just talking about what changes should happen.

Life coaches can cost a few hundred to thousands of dollars; however, the cost of living a fulfilling life is priceless.