Is Life Coaching A Scam?

Man leaning on fence smokingI regularly get e-mails from people telling me they’d like to become a Life Coach and seeking my advice. As an after thought they’ll quite often point out they want to be a Life Coach, but only of course when they get their own life perfectly in order.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Let’s face it, who wants a stressed out, chain-smoking, beer drinking, 300lb life coach with low self-esteem that talks to himself and kicks his cat? Certainly not me that’s for sure.

I want a Life Coach that possesses the wisdom of Solomon, patience of Job, the kindness of Buddha and the teeth of Tony Robbins, because if my coach isn’t perfect, then how the hell can he or she tell me what to do with my life?

Unfortunately there is a dark and dirty secret about the whole Life Coach and self development industry and quite frankly I think it’s time I spilled the beans.

It’s a scam!

It’s full of people with flaws, people that make mistakes, have imperfect lives and worst of all, have multiple-personalities. In short, it’s populated by a bunch of nut jobs, and yes, I’m one of them.

I know that must come as a bit of a shock, but it’s important to be honest about this stuff, after all, this is The Discomfort Zone, not The Cute and Fluffy Zone.

If you spend a few minutes scanning peoples bios on Twitter you’ll be amazed at how many people love life and can’t wait to tell you about it. It almost seems like there’s a competition to see who loves life the most with the winner getting an additional 25 years on Planet Earth courtesy of the Universe.

I think it’s fair to say that most people love life and this is ably demonstrated when it comes under serious threat. Not many people when diagnosed with a terminal illness shrug their shoulders and say “That’s cool Doc, because I’m not really bothered about this whole life thing anyway. When can we get it over and done with?”

I love life too. Except that is, on the days when it’s a bit crap that is, and there are days like that.

When US Airways lost our luggage flying from Charlotte to Vegas, strange though it may seem I wasn’t dancing round the airport, hugging the ground crew and telling complete strangers how wonderful everything was.

No, quite frankly I was pissed off. Especially as we’d got up at Stupid O’clock that morning to take an early flight so we could take advantage of the 3 hour time difference and have all afternoon by the pool.

So I was whining on Twitter about it to anybody prepared to read what I was posting. That was my way of venting and getting it out of my system and quite honestly, if somebody thinks I’m a naughty coach for complaining, then so be it, they can find another one.

In all honesty, I did reframe it and I was way less bothered than many people in a similar situation may have been, but I wasn’t pretending I was having the time of my life in Las Vegas airport.

Whenever I post something that could be construed as being less than upbeat, I know there are a number of people that won’t want to promote it on social media. They simply don’t want to be associated with anything that could be construed as being negative.

I understand that, especially if they have a brand or online persona to promote. However, at an individual level I’m not sure it’s especially healthy nor useful to be constantly trying to maintain an ‘all is brilliant in the world’ image . Wouldn’t it be better to say:

“Hey this is me. This is who I am, how I am, and I hope you like me, as I am. If not, that’s cool because I know there are people that will and we can both move on”

Rather than:

“Hey this is the part of me I’d like you to see, because it’s the cool part and I fear that if you see the rest of me, you won’t like me”

Does that make any sense whatsoever?

Of course not, it’s completely counterintuitive, the people we really love most in life are usually the ones we know the best, warts and all.

The reality of the situation is you have multiple sides to your identity, as we all do. You’ll achieve little by ignoring, burying or subjugating the parts of your persona you don’t like. It‘s much better to allow them to see the light of day by celebrating, acknowledging and even thanking them.

I know that sounds a bit nuts. For example, not many people want to thank the Scardey Cat inside their head that stops them requesting a raise, making a presentation or asking for a date.

But what if you did?

What if you realized he actually was a real life Scaredy Cat. Imagine him sat in the back of your head trembling with fear and terrified to come into the light of day. Maybe he needs a hug? Maybe he needs reassuring that you know he has your best interests at heart and that he’s as admired by you as the Fearless Frog that wants to go and kick your bosses ass?

What if you went a step further and thanked him and for being such a brilliant Scardey Cat. And then asked him what his concerns were, and if you could help ease his worries without threatening to drug him with Xanax and red wine?

As well as a Scardey Cat, you may also have a Moody Mouse, Sullen Snake and even an Aggressive Aardvark  scurrying around inside your head, feeling lost and misunderstood and vying for your attention.

They know they’re looking out for you. They know they’re doing the best they can with the information they have to hand, and they know they’re just as much a part of you as the Witty Walrus and the Charming Chicken, (ok, I may have taken the alliteration and animal metaphors a tad too far now, sorry) yet where’s the love for these guys?

There are a lot of cliches in coaching, and what you resist persists is right up there with the oldest and most hammered to death. The reason being, because it’s true. Denying the existence of all the parts of your being is a form of resistance and it wont make you feel any better in the log run and it certainly won’t make them go away.

They are part of you and part of life too. Better to consult with them, listen to them and once again, thank them, because they are you and you can’t win a fight or an argument with yourself.

You’re good enough as you are.  That doesn’t man you can’t improve or shouldn’t want to become an even more brilliant person, just that you should never wait for that to happen before you love yourself and treat yourself with the respect you so rightly deserve.

Is Life Coaching a scam? Well I guess so, if the question means, is it full of less than perfect people that talk to themselves and just occasionally forget that they are supposed to be sucking the marrow out of life 24/7 and telling the world how great it tastes.