‘The area where we experience our greatest discomfort is also the area where we can potentially grow the most.’ Editor Daleen Totten explores Arjan Bogaers’ insightful words in an interview with him where he explains how time spent with a life coach can bring personal enrichment.
DALEEN: Arjan, over the past few months, I have had many queries about the function of a life coach, the difference between a life coach and other therapists, and the length of a session, amongst others. Please can you answer our readers’ questions:
1. WHAT IS LIFE COACHING?
ARJAN: The most general answer is probably that Personal Life Coaching is a pro-active way of self-discovery and self-development. It is a working method that is solution-focused and can help a person to bring about lasting change in any chosen area of life. Life Coaching is not a therapy, but the work can definitely have very therapeutic benefits. Once you are ready to bring renewal into your life, it is likely that due to the caring, motivation and support that coaching provides, you will be able to achieve more and come to lead a more fulfilling life than you would without that help and support.
2. WHEN WOULD I CHOOSE A COACH AND HOW DO I DECIDE?
ARJAN: When you are experiencing the necessity for renewal in one or more areas in your life, and you wish for professional assistance in making that renewal a reality, you will find great benefit from working with a coach. Coaching differs in some fundamental ways from therapy, counselling and consulting. Since coaching is as yet unregulated however, there are no conditions preventing someone calling him/herself a coach. This can be misleading and makes it difficult for the interested person to make a choice. The best guarantee you can obtain is to enquire about the person’s training: where (school, institute), for how long, what evaluations, practicals and exams s/he had to pass, certification, follow-up training, etc. A genuine coach will gladly provide you with that information. A coach does not consult or ‘fix’ things, but s/he will help you empower yourself to the point where you can be fully responsible for and a master of your life.
Another aspect to consider is the issue of confidentiality. For this work to be of real benefit to you, you want to feel completely free to present and share whatever it is you wish to address. My training and subsequent certification with New Insights requires me to uphold the strictest principles of confidentiality, outlined in a signed Code of Ethics, a copy of which I can send you if you like.
Finally, you the client and I your coach, will both sign a Coaching Contract which stipulates each of our obligations.
The Two most important aspects to remember about personal life coaching are:
- It is marked by intense, close and committed individual attention by the coach for the client. As your coach I am fully committed to your process, your choices and your needs. This close attention requires us to conduct frequent and detailed communication throughout the programme of your choice. If the need arises, I will remind you of your original intentions, I will hold you accountable, and I will help you through the difficult moments.
- The outcome is mostly determined by your input, your efforts and the actions you take. This Personal Coaching offers insightful questions, caring individual attention, practical tools, supportive articles and consistent follow-up, but the degree of success depends on the degree to which you apply what is offered.
3. IS IT AN OPEN-ENDED, NEVER-ENDING THING AS YOU FIND WITH MOST PSYCHOTHERAPISTS?
ARJAN: Another profound difference between coaching and counselling or therapy is that you will follow a programme. This programme has a beginning and an end, for the reason that the very process of coaching aims to empower you to the point where renewal has taken place and you can move on by using the tools and information that you have been given. So when a person keeps on going back to a coach, something is not happening.
4. CAN YOU COACH VIA E-MAIL OR SKYPE, OR MUST IT BE IN PERSON?
ARJAN: The manner in which the coaching happens is called ‘coaching format’. There are basically two possible formats, again each with variations:
- Face to face coaching: in this format we meet in person, either at the coach’s rooms or at the client’s house or office, and we work through parts of the chapters together. Tasks, follow-up and other issues will happen by e- mail.
- Distance coaching: this is by far the most convenient and practical used format for reasons of time and finances: travelling is expensive and together with a full session can easily take two to three hours or more out of your day. On-line coaching gives you the opportunity to work in the time and place that are convenient for you, fitting in with your personal and professional life. The programmes offered by HEART AND SOUL are entirely available as e-coaching programmes, whereby only e-mail communication can be used, or a combination of Skype/telephonic coaching and e-mail communication can be negotiated.
5. HOW LONG IS A SESSION?
ARJAN: A face-to-face coaching session lasts between one to one and a half hours. How- ever, for you to complete a Programme Session (or chapter if you want), which includes tasks, exercises, articles to read and the integration of new information, you need to set aside one to two weeks. Thus the entire course of 13 Sessions would require a minimum of 13 weeks and a maximum of six to seven months. Having said that, this is a recommendation since your needs and circumstances will largely determine the rhythm and overall period that you can manage. If you happen to encounter a particularly challenging theme for example, you will have the freedom to spend more time on that. A programme provides the basic structure, but personal coaching is first and foremost focused on your needs.
6. WHAT ARE THE GOALS YOU AS A LIFE COACH HAVE IN MIND FOR YOUR CLIENTS?
ARJAN: I have no goals in mind, since you yourself will decide on, design and formulate your own goals. This is a session in itself, and I will help you design and formulate the goal(s) that would serve and benefit you most.
7. WHAT SORT OF QUESTIONS DO YOU ASK?
ARJAN: The quality of our life is reflected in the questions we ask ourselves, and therefore questioning is a major tool in Life Coaching. To begin with, I would ask you:
- What are you looking through this process for in a coach?
- For this coaching to have a huge impact on your life, what will it look like?
- How do you want me to coach you?
- What do you need most right now?
- When this course comes to an end, what would you like to be able to say about your coach?
From then on, the questions will be of a personal nature, they will refer to the issues you bring and possibly be challenging. As was mentioned earlier, coaching includes self-discovery, and my questions will help you do that, which is not always comfortable because the area where we experience our greatest discomfort is also the area where we can potentially grow the most.
Generally, we are mostly driven to act when the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change, and therefore when the help of a coach is asked for, there is a measure of pain in one’s life. In my questioning I use, among other things, the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology: to find strength, value and meaning in events and periods of problems and hardship, and what you need to move forward. Ultimately it is my aim to help you change your focus from your external environment and its perceived shortcomings to looking inward and discover your own magnificence. You have your inner resources to be at peace and fulfilled. The problems you encounter in your life hide your greatest potential, like a dragon guarding a treasure.