After my wedding, I hit an emotional slump. I had heard this might happen from recently married friends who "missed" wedding planning. That wasn't the case for me. I was thrilled to break my diet and have my free time back.
But I did feel blah — like I was in a funk. Saying "I do" in front of everyone I love and going on a honeymoon to Southeast Asia was such a natural high. And you know what they say: what goes up must come down. So I found myself feeling a bit lost, and I tend to be a focused person (I'm a Sagittarius — we point and shoot arrows at targets).
To help me refocus on my goals and kick my attitude into a more positive place, I decided to work with a life coach. I met Laurie Gerber of the Handel Group during a workshop for a handful of women. We discussed our intentions, setbacks, fears, and more. We also wrote out dreams — the kind that make you feel warm and gooey inside. And it felt so good to do this! When's the last time you let yourself dream anything you wanted? And believed that it could happen? I left inspired and feeling lighter. This seemed like one way to to move forward and start getting what I want.
So I worked with Laurie during three private sessions, all done through Google Hangouts. Truthfully, I was skeptical about whether it could work. Would chatting with a motivating woman help me feel better and change my habits? (There was also a ton of homework — like hours — but more on that later!)
The answer is: yes. Yes, it did.
I am not going to share my goal or dream (it's private!), but I will tell you I had a specific one and my wish is coming true! I'm shocked, but I feel amazing, so I'm not second-guessing it. It's like I am breathing in and out new positive energy that wasn't there before. The biggest change is that I got out of my own head and took more ownership of my mind, challenges, and successes. I now feel less like things are out of my control. I know better.
Are all of my problems solved? Hell no. I tried to kick my sugar addiction, and we're still working on that one. (As I write this, I am noshing on chocolate-covered pretzels — sorry, Laurie!)
If you're thinking, Well, that sounds cool but WTF is a life coach?, I get you. It's confusing. Life coaches are not therapists. I've seen the latter and also found them to be super helpful. But it's a very different process and relationship. While my therapist didn't tell me much about himself and mostly listened to my problems and asked questions, Laurie told me stories about her past, shared her own struggles, and refused to let me just complain (a term the Handel group refers to as "weather reporting").
Instead, we broke down what I wanted my life to look like in terms of different categories, such as love, career, and self-image. Then she helped me set promises (rules) and consequences to put me on a path toward living out my "dreams." It was all very proactive.
To help break it down more, I interviewed Laurie on what a life coach actually does. (By the way, Laurie has her own life coach, too!)
POPSUGAR: What is life coaching?
Laurie Gerber: Obviously, I can't answer for all life coaches but can speak only for my group. I like to think of life coaching like being a lawyer (one of the great, honest, and straightforward ones) for my clients' dreams. If your dream is your destination, then as a coach, I'm acting as your GPS. I warn you against anything that is in your way (read: you), suggest alternate routes, bark orders, and happily help you get to where you said (once I get you to admit it) you wanted to go.
PS: How many sessions do you recommend someone does in order to experience results?
LG: Truth is, you can experience results in one session. The first assignment we give our clients is to write out your dreams in all areas of your life. It's a doozy (technical term) and a profound and deep one. You can get a total life shift out of that exercise and certainly an "ah ha" moment — or 12. However, in order to go through the whole process and have lasting results, I recommend at least six months of weekly coaching. Just like anything else you want to learn deeply and rock at, it takes practice, work, and commitment. If you wanted to learn guitar and not only learn it, but get great at it, you can't take it on half-assed. I mean, you could, obviously. But if your dream is to, let's say, perform at your brother's wedding, well, then, there are actions you will need to take to live out that dream, right? Having one lesson a month and not practicing just won't cut it. But to give you an idea of how intricate our coaching process is, it takes about two years to go through our entire method to become a Handel Group life coach.
Sure, we care about how you feel, but we care more about how you step up as author of your life and design it.
PS: How is it different from traditional therapy?
LG: Therapy has its place and life coaching has its place. They overlap in many goals, i.e., getting you happy, proud, and self-confident. And just as not all therapists are alike, not all life coaches are alike. I find that we're more action-oriented and can coach on a short-term basis. Though we're loving and straightforward, we are also wildly honest about our own lives and the first to cop to our own stuff. Not just that, but we're a bit in your face and honest. We will call you out on your BS and, in fact, we consider it our job to help you find your sense of humor about your own dark side and what doesn't work about you. We don't believe in tiptoeing. We help you shine a light on every which way you lie, blame, excuse, and aren't living true to your highest ideal. Sure, we care about how you feel, but we care more about how you step up as author of your life and design it.
PS: What does life coaching not do or deal with?
LG: Because we aren't trained to treat illness, we work best with people who are already healthy but are struggling to be successful or happy in one or more areas of their life. Our work is philosophical, spiritual (not religious), and action-oriented. People who want to make significant changes in their lives enjoy the challenge of coaching. However, people in emotional crises or dealing with mental illness or depression often find more comfort in therapy. Obviously, we can't prescribe medication.
PS: What should someone know about starting life coaching?
LG: Let me just be completely honest here. There's a shi(f)t ton of homework. [Editor's note: this is true! Don't start this if you're not ready to put work in.] But, come on, it took you a lot of years to get you where you are today — the good and the bad of it — so it's gonna take some time to unravel you. And unravel you is what we do. I wish I could say we just talk through it, but it's not so. Sure, we do a lot of talking, but you are also going to do a lot of writing. Why? 'Cause we find that we humans can talk around our problems and not see our own fingerprints on the crime scene unless we've written it ALL down. So that's what we have you do. Yes, incriminate yourselves in writing — from writing dreams in all areas of your life to rating yourself and explaining why you rated yourself the way you did to purging on paper (where you write all your thoughts in a stream of consciousness down on paper having to do with a topic where you're currently stuck). And in that purge, you get to meet your mind. Speaking of your mind having a mind of its own, we also have you keep a thought log to deal with your brand of excuses and every which way you lie.
PS: Explain this mantra: you are the author of your own life.
LG: This is one of my favorite mantras, second possibly only to "maybe it's you." What we teach you early in the onset of our coaching a client is that you're either being a "weather reporter" in your life, i.e., talking about it like you have no say over it, OR you're the author of it all. When someone is actually the author of their own life, they are accountable for every single component of it — from how their life got to where it got to whom they let into it. Unfortunately, most of us never think we put ourselves in a bad situation without being the victim of it. But truth is, when we're the authors of our own lives, there is no victim except the victim we allow ourselves to be. Once we fully, deeply understand that we are accountable for every element in our life, we can change any of it.
When we're the authors of our own lives, there is no victim except the victim we allow ourselves to be.
PS: What are some methods/tools someone can use to tune out the negative voices in their head?
LG: Mastery over your mind comes from the learned ability to choose what is best for you to think and feel, to get your own hands back on your life's remote control and press mute when your mind messes with what matters most to you. And boy, does your mind have a mind of its own. Worse, you think that voice in your head is you. How I have a client start to get their mind under new management is by first actually starting to hear what it has to say and then writing down what it's saying.
Yes, I have you keep a thought log daily, capturing at least three thoughts a day. And not paraphrasing it, but taking dicktation (spelled purposely incorrectly). Once you get to see what your head has been doing for living, you can start to reclaim it and actually have a say over what it says. You can even name it something funny (because it is actually not you) and put in the right promise and self-imposed consequence to leash it when it rears its head.
PS: How do dreams play into life coaching?
LG: The first thing we help a client see is that they have no clue how to dream anymore. In fact, it's way sneakier of us than it is sad. You see, if we admit to our dreams, we'd have to do something about them. If our dream is to run a marathon, the steps we'd have to take are pretty straightforward, right? So if we stay dumb and numb to our dreams, we don't have to do anything even remotely scary or irksome. We can stay stuck, sad, and confused all the while busily excusing and blaming others.
So, the very first assignment we give to each and every client is to dream. And not just dream in one our two areas of our lives, where most of us dabble, but 12 areas of your life — from your body to your career to your love life to areas you possibly haven't thought about in years, like fun, adventure, and spirituality. Dreaming wakes you up to yourself. It gets us into the right fight. It acts as our own internal GPS, allowing us to see where we really want to go. And worse (and best), it gets us a very clear view of the gap between what we say we want AND what we are currently doing about it (see: excusing and blaming). As a coach, your dreams give me, your GPS, our final destination.
When you can keep a promise to yourself, you become not only proud of yourself, but you can trust yourself.
PS: Why do promises and consequences help people manage their happiness/goals?
LG: What I've found as a coach is that as great as we are at keeping promises to others, when it comes to ourselves, we're last on our very own list. Right? I mean, when you say to your boss or your kids you'll pick them up at 3 p.m., you don't mean "if I feel like it" or "if nothing better comes up." But when it comes to keeping a promise to ourselves that forwards our dream, i.e., work two hours a day on our screenplay, go to the gym three times per week, eat healthily, jump our mate weekly . . . good luck with that.
The ability to make and keep a promise to ourselves that is a match with our dream is what I call personal integrity. It is the alignment of your heart (your desires), your mind (your plan), and your body (your actions). It's where the rubber meets the road when it comes to your dreams/goals. When you can keep a promise to yourself, you become not only proud of yourself, but you can trust yourself. Happiness, self-esteem, and personal pride come from knowing you can count on you.
Figuring out the right self-imposed consequence is a way for you to get accountable for your own dreams. So, for example, if I personally am not crystal clear with a coworker and cause any confusion, I owe that coworker $5 dollars sent via snail mail. And, yes, all my coworkers know about this promise/consequence. Is that to have me feel bad? Quite the opposite. It's in place for me to be accountable for my dream of who I want to be as a colleague. Keeping my promise of being crystal clear or paying up trumps my need for excuses or feeling bad altogether. Either be clear or pay the piper.
PS: What else should we know about life coaching 101?
LG: Discovering that you are your life's biggest obstacle and solution is actually the best bad news ever. Sure, it's going to take some work (OK, fine, a lot of work), but who else is coming to save you? After all, they're YOUR dreams.
Life-coaching sessions for the author were provided by the Handel Group for the purpose of writing this story.