How To Be A Life Coach - The Real Answer, Part One

When people ask me "How do I become a life coach?" I have to consider how to answer. I know what most are looking for. They want to know about training and certification, worthy credentials and teachers, and then, of course, the money. They usually ask where I studied and how long it took to make a “real” living. 

Sometimes I reply that I'm not a life coach, that I mentor the soul, and wait to see how that lands. Sometimes I say: "I don't know how, I never studied to become one" and see if that phases them. For those who are still intrigued, I speak of what it actually takes to become a life coach, or a soul mentor, or a holistic advisor... or whatever description most powerfully reflects the work they plan to offer. 

My best advice goes something like this:

To be a life coach, it’s best to start your training young, when life is precarious, fragile and scary. You will learn to watch everything and everyone. If it moves, you notice it, because to not notice it would be to miss something critical to your own safety, and maybe even your survival. In doing this, you learn how to read people really, really well. Of course, an insane amount of curiosity in a happy childhood also works.

To become a solid life coach, it is best if you prepare through a good many of the middle years between childhood and death. In those years (the more, the better), you let yourself fall in love so deep, you feel like you are daring the Universe to break your heart. This might be falling in love with a person, a project, or a path – that’s actually a relatively unimportant detail. Whatever it is that you fall in love with, you lean into it, hard. When you do, you’ll notice it leans back. Then you ride the wild bucking bronco that it is until you simply cannot hold on any longer. Either you are thrown or you are dragged and it doesn't much matter which. You let love bury you deep under the sheets, first in passion and then hopefully, in grief. You really know about life when you know about falling in love, losing love, and loving again.

To become an exquisite life coach, you learn to sit with your mouth closed and your heart open as someone spills their guts, either tediously slowly or in a waterfall of puke-like garble. You learn to sit on your vast and incredible knowledge so that they know you want to love them more than you want to fix them. You learn to hold back on too much “advice” because this is the way to honor that it is their life, their story, and ultimately their problem - not yours, no matter how much you wish you could take it on. You learn to listen until you hear that moment of an opening, and then you fill it with meaningful questions, not brilliant answers. 

To become a wisdom-bearing life coach, you spend years preparing the elder within you by going through hell and back. It’s the back, really back (no faking it till you make it) that gives you something to give. In this, you can genuinely say "Been there, done that, and here's the insight that worked for me - maybe it will work for you, too." You also make sure to share that wisdom at Just. The. Right. Moment. and not a moment sooner or later. (Side note: This precision will take years to craft, and there’s no certification for it.) 

To be a deeply effective life coach, you need to hold the hand of someone dying, or better yet, someone dead. That changes you like nothing else will. When you come within a hair's breath of touching the other side, so close it alters you, then you know the real value in life and living. Then you can say: “Death is my great advisor" and not be spouting causal spiritual speak. You can also enter into the grief-space of another because, without a word and with only your presence, they get it that you get it. 

To be an intuitive life coach, you put down your clipboard and your pen and your list of 64 essential life quadrants and you listen to the wind to see what questions (always the right ones) come to you. You watch the slight signals that arise from the outer world - the phone rings to punctuate a thought, the bird outside starts squawking just when your client goes off on a repetitive story - and you bring that awareness into the conversation. You feel for the right direction and the wrong direction and you stay unattached to which direction that is. 

To be a powerful life coach, you keep living your life, growing more and more congruent. This cannot be overstated. You must actively risk the very things you advise those that come to you to risk so that when you nudge, push or even shove them off that cliff, you don't find that you are subtly holding them back at the last moment because you are afraid of your own advice. By living your own life right up to the edges, it is clear you're not a sideliner looking for a meal ticket and cushy office hours – and yes, people will sniff that out in ten seconds flat. They must feel sure that you are someone who loves the game you are coaching (life, business, health, spirituality, basketball – whatever it may be) so much that you want to help them win at it, too.  

As you can imagine, not everyone wants to hear how much it takes to prepare to be a life coach. But I celebrate when I find them, because planet earth will be getting another wisdom-keeper, and heaven knows, we need them.

To Hear "How To Be A Life Coach" Read By The Author on YouTube, click HERE