-Article and Interview By Halley Marie Shaw
-Photo Credit: Julia Turk
THE “F” IN OUR LIVES
It should be easy, right? Get up, go to work on time, return messages, keep finding ways to advance, be our best selves.
We turn on our phones and laptops to find slews of social media threads. We get locked into group texts. We market ourselves on LINKEDIN. We have apps to prompt our deep breathing or start chats with mental health professionals. We have everything we need to make sure that we are informed, productive, and healthy.
Then why do we still find that we’re feeling unfulfilled or lose confidence in our choices? Why do we get lost? We have all the tools to cut corners, but that still doesn’t stop our heavy ego hammers from pounding at our beings.
Perhaps it’s because life is a labor of love.
Even the best doses of love can leave us feeling fucked.
Some of us find ourselves overwhelmed by non-stop notifications to the point that we forget how to unplug. Some may lose track of appointments or deadlines as they begin to overlap in e-notes and calendars. Others develop a “white rabbit complex,” as this non-journalist calls it. This means that a person’s heightened anxiety over timeliness and readiness drives them to constantly run. This timepiece-toting rat-race runners leave themselves with no time to stop, causing them severe emotional and mental fatigue.
If we find ourselves waking up in an unmade bed to the sound of our beloved stability sneaking out the front door, we immediately need guidance on how to heal after being played like a pinball machine. During this dreaded aftermath of upheaval, we might be clouded, but we know that we can’t solely focus on our emotions. We’re well aware that the battle doesn’t simply end once we’ve talked out how/where/why our lives are lacking. We need to be challenged to use what we learned from the hardship and healing work so we can recover from the fall. The aim is to improve our outlook while asserting our independence. This is why many of us have turned to certified life coaches.
WHY A LIFE COACH CAN HELP
What is a certified life coach? A certified life coach is someone who is trained to work with clients to create new patterns in order to strengthen their careers, creative outlets, interpersonal relationships, and/or self-esteem. Life coaches may also add secondary focuses such as the organization of a client’s home/office or working toward improving a client’s work-life balance. Working one-on-one with a life coach helps a client develop a whole new set of strategies for coping with stressors and prioritizing their goals. Coaches and clients collaborate with the clear understanding that plans need to be put into place. Accountability and self-starting are key during the early stages. Throughout a series of sessions, a client draws from what they know about themselves in order to obtain the lives that they want.
While a client works on a new blueprint for their better self, a life coach pushes them to look at their foundation. Like any structure big or small, the groundwork has to be solid. In this case, the life coach may ask a client who seems defeated, pessimistic, or confused to look at the basis of their future. A life coach may even strongly advise that a client strives for the betterment of their emotional states before they commit to any major project.
The life coach will implore a client who is in a dark place to work toward letting light in so that the client can find a place where it is safer to breathe. One cannot build a happy, healthy home on top of toxic waste. This sometimes means that the coach and client make it their mission to find a whole new place to put roots down. The client will be asked not only if their ideas, behaviors, and thoughts come from their true selves, but they will also ask if those ideas, behaviors, and thoughts evoke feelings of anxiety, depression, or self-doubt.
If the answer is yes, then the life coach will steer their client toward clarity rather than where their wounded self clearly feels safe. This methodology is quite similar to certain DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) practices such as “the turning of the mind” or “flipping the script.” The life coach will ask questions to break down a client’s thought process and help them realize that a toxic thought or behavior may stem from an emotional blockage or from a trauma response.
In short, if a client is fixated on the glass being half-empty, a life coach would either ask the client if they could see the negative space as purposeful or tell them to get excited that there’s room for more in that glass.
Life coaches are highly trained generalists that can coach on any facet of your life, for example:
- Intimacy, Relationship
- Nutrition, Food, Emotional Eating, Optimal Health
- Self Esteem, Self-Worth & Confidence
- Pain Management
- Anger, Frustration & Stress
- Spiritual Life
- Living Your Purpose
- Networking & Career Change
MEET QUEEN ELIZABETH
Now, how do I know so much about the coach-client dynamic?
Let’s just say that I recently met with an effing expert to gain some insight.
I reached out to Freedom, New York native, Elizabeth Whitacre. Whitacre (age forty) earned her certification through the Institute For Life Coach Training. She then elaborated on her process of becoming certified. “I found the school/course that worked for me, and I just got started with the work. The biggest part of it is telling people you need practice and just doing it (and logging it for certification). Many hours spent of the phone/email/in-person asking people about what they want their life to look like and what is keeping them from that,” said Whitacre who has been working intimately with a small set of clients for over a year now. She holds sessions in her home if she doesn’t go to theirs. No matter where coaching sends her, Whitacre arrives on the scene with her optimism, objectivity, and tarot cards in tow.
HMS: What would you say the definition of a life coach is?
EW: Someone that works with and encourages clients on matters having to do with careers or personal challenges.
HMS: What would you say that a life coach does versus what the *purpose* of a life coach is?
EW: I think a life coach generally does what their purpose is. We ask the clients questions about their lives and challenges and allow them to form their own path. The life coach is there to provide motivation and encouragement.
HMS: How can one go about finding life coaching services near them?
EW: The best way is to ask your friend/colleague circle if anyone has hired a life coach. If that doesn’t work, I would do a Google search.
HMS: What is the difference between a life coach and a mental health counselor?
EW: Mental health counseling looks at a specific diagnosis and finds treatment methods. Life coaching picks up where that leaves off, looking at how the whole and healed individual can move forward to the life they envision.
HMS: What drew you personally to life coaching?
EW: I saw a business card at a local metaphysical book shop and was drawn to “life mentor.” I had to find out what that meant. I did research and found a school and enrolled in classes within two weeks. I like the idea of supporting people and assisting them in creating their best life.
HMS: You also have had active roles in the queer/poly and kink communities as well as in the healing community. Would you say that life coaching can be the trifecta of those three worlds coming together or do you prefer to keep life coaching separate from those endeavors? You did also mention that at one point you were considering becoming a relationship counselor.
EW: I would love to be available to those communities! I bring coaching techniques when people come to me to discuss issues. I do not offer advice necessarily, but I ask probing questions to get to the root of the matter. I did have an interest in relationship coaching, but I do not want to have a narrow focus like that right now.
HMS: What are your focuses when you work with your clients? Does Inner critic work? Day-to-day behaviors? Shadow work? Mindfulness?
EW: I work with day-to-day behaviors/rituals that look to close the gap from the life they are at at this moment to the life they envision. I encourage mindfulness and really evaluating why they want what they want.
HMS: You read tarot professionally and host tarot workshops. Do you ever incorporate tarot into your life coaching sessions? Do you find that it’s effective?
EW: I incorporate my intuition into coaching sessions. I have not yet brought cards out, but I do ask similar questions. I ask questions that allow the client to self-reflect. I have so far found that very effective. I ask questions people don’t often hear.
HMS: If you had to choose one tarot card (whether it’s a major or minor arcana card) to be the ideal life coach, who/what would you pick and why?
EW: Good question! I think the Queen of Swords embodies coaching. She understands that success comes from a mix of emotion/intuition and right communication and facing hard truths. She will never tell a person they are wrong, but she will ask them how they can be better.
For more information about Elizabeth Whitacre, visit her