Preparing for Your First Client
By the end of this article, students should be able to:
- understand that coaching requires life experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly);
- see that your most important investment is your own wellness;
- realize that change is not always easy.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Your Life: Make Use of All of It
If you live anywhere near an institution of higher learning that caters to the "older than average student," you probably have encountered the following messages:
"Get credit for previous work experience!"
"You've spent time raising your kids and helping them achieve their dreams; now it's your time!"
"Earn credit for your life experiences!"
These are certainly encouraging for anyone wishing to start or return to a program in a school setting or via distance learning. However, what if you want to embark on a new career, explore a new path, or see new options without having to endure the financial demands, time, and personal stresses of returning to school? Is it true that you can only change careers if you have the education to back it up? Wellness coaching does not require additional education. Your life experiences are your education.
Does that mean that only older adults can be wellness coaches? Not. Everyone has life experiences that can contribute to an effective coaching relationship. Some 18-year-olds have experienced as many ups and downs, trials and tribulations as someone 20, 30, or 40 years older. Age does not have much to do with wellness coaching. Perspective, insight, compassion, a nonjudgmental attitude, curiosity, and willingness to learn are the important traits for wellness coaches.
Think back on the good times of your life, times when you felt success, joy, or optimism, or experienced the rewards of your hard work. Each of those times, you learned something. You learned of your strengths, your abilities, your response to happy events and achievements.
Now think back on the harder times of your life. These are times when you felt stress, heartache, failure, sadness, anger, or as though you did not meet your or others' expectations. Each of those times, you also learned something. You learned limits, you learned how to move on from mistakes, and you learned how time can shape these events in your memory, sometimes because they are dulled by time or other times because they become sharpened and can be used to motivate you through later stressful events. You learned how to handle negative feelings and expressions, and you learned you were not perfect, the world is not forgiving, life is not fair, and so on.
All of these life experiences really will help you in wellness coaching. If you are willing to explore how your own life contributed to shaping the person you are today, you will be able to help others do the same. If you want to be a coach, or the client, this is the place to start.
You do not have to spend time delving into the past in order to make progress in the future. It is not necessary to undergo hours of therapy to heal past hurts, understand why something did not work out, or why something makes you angry. The secret to using your life experiences to help you and help others is simple: This is the human experience.
It really is that simple. You have had good times and bad. You are no different from anyone else. If you can think of anytime in your life when you have realized "I'm not the only one!" you will understand this principle. Whether it was realizing you were not the only kid with freckles, you are not the only one who does not like your boss, or that you are not the only one who actually likes anchovies on pizza, realizing that you are not alone is a powerful event. It is the way to show people that they are normal. In fact, it is best to think of normalcy as a continuum. The far ends of the continuum can be labeled "a little" and "very," but the fact is that we are all on that continuum. We just may be at different points on that continuum. Put another way, our differences are not in kind but in degree.
You Are Your Best Investment
Regardless of the reason you are attracted to wellness coaching, you will soon see that you are your best investment. Neither your finances, your family, your friends, nor your business would be the same without you in the picture. It seems noble to put everyone and everything in your life ahead of your needs. However, where will all those people, all those things be if you break down mentally or physically? Can you help your family if you are in a hospital or unable to work? Can you manage your employees effectively if you are in a spiritual or financial crisis?
You need to take care of your wellness if you want to be able to have a positive effect on anyone around you. Sure, there will be seeming exceptions to the rule: the workaholic who works, saves, plans, and enjoys a nice retirement; the alcoholic who raises children without chemical dependency issues; or the student who feels something is missing but accomplishes a great deal, regardless. Were these things accomplished without sacrifice, without harm, without negative impact?
We each have one shot at life. So many clichés, such as "Life is not a dress rehearsal" are memorable because they reflect some truth that we each recognize.
The point is, in order to be your best self, get the most out of life, be the best support for your friends and family, have the best chances of success in whatever areas are important to you; you need to invest in yourself. Wellness coaching will help you figure out how to achieve your best self.
Change Is Not Always Easy
Some changes in life are seemingly easy to make. Do you not like the customer service at one store? Go to another where you feel you are treated better and are more valued. Do you not like your hair color? There are any number of products to help you change your hair color, highlight it, cover the gray, or even add streaks of pink or blue.
When it comes to wellness changes, there is often a separation of thought and action.
I don't know how.
I'm not sure where to start.
I'm not sure I can.
I don't have time.
I'm afraid of what others will think. I don't know.
No matter what your response is, or a client's, all responses all fine. That is why you have a coach. You do not have to have the answers as to why you have not before; you have taken the step now to get going and that is enough.
Many clients of wellness coaching are excited and motivated to start their wellness plans and make changes until they realize that change means just that: Things have to change. Clients have to change. Their behaviors, feelings, interactions with others, spending habits, and so on will have to change. Even when they know logically that it is in their best interests, it is difficult.
It is time for the "new shoe" analogy. If you are not familiar with it, it goes like this: You see a new pair of shoes. They are just the color, the style, the price you want. They will perform for you the way you need and want them to. You buy them and take them home, eager to start using them. You tried them on in the store, but now they are yours forever. You put them on, wear them around a little bit, and it is exciting. After some time passes, maybe just a few seconds if you are in heels, you think, "I kinda miss my old shoes." The new shoes are stylish and clean and hold the promise of performance, but your feet ache for what they already know.
the "shoes" need to be worn for only a few hours each day until they are broken in, or perhaps the perfect size needs to be adjusted just a bit to be smaller or larger, but eventually the new shoes will be comfortable favorites.
Your answers to "The 5 Ws and 1 H: Me, Myself, and I" can help you now. The following are some examples taken from this site, which also has additional tips and guidelines on writing a personal mission statement:
"I WILL… continue to exercise my body a few times a week in order to become lean and fit. This way I will have the muscle and endurance to achieve my goals and live a long, healthy life."
"I WILL… treasure time spent with my family and friends above everything else by putting aside time for them no matter how busy my schedule may become."
"I dedicate myself to an attitude of gratitude in order to improve my health and my wealth. With this attitude, I will generously share my time and my talents with my family, my church, and my community."