After my divorce, I went to therapy. I read self-help books. I journaled. I found a life coach. And all of this helped me to better understand myself, my choices, and how to move into my next chapter. Fast forward to today: I firmly believe that there is no greater place to begin putting your life together than when it’s been broken apart.
As a life coach, my role is to help you focus on the future. It’s not therapy (which I strongly encourage, in tandem with life coaching), it’s more like looking at a map and pinpointing where you are now, identifying where you want to be in the future, and plotting out a path to get there. I’m there to help you move forward.
If you’re thinking about working with a life coach, here are a few pieces of advice on how to get the most out of your sessions:
Finding the right life coach is an investment. Take the time and do your homework.
Give yourself the gift of talking to two or three coaches before you settle on one. Personality fit is so important. If you don’t like or trust your life coach, you’re not going to put in the work, and it will be much harder to move forward. Most coaches offer a free initial consultation for this very reason, so take advantage of that time.
In terms of finding that coach, I’m a big Yelper, so I’d recommend searching there for life coaches in your area, but most coaches offer virtual meetings so distance is not really an issue. Personal referrals are super helpful, too. But there are a lot of life coaches out there, so I also recommend researching to make sure the life coach(es) you choose to interview focus on the help you need. I like to work specifically with relationship transitions, but there are motherhood coaches, wellness coaches, personal development coaches – all kinds of coaches – so just make sure you’re picking a person with the right specialty for what you need.
When you get the prospective coach on the phone, make sure you feel like they’re not only listening to you, but truly hearing you. As an example, when I went through this process after my divorce, I knew I wanted someone who was attentive to what I was saying, with no hidden agenda. Someone who could relate to my experiences, but not project their experiences onto my own. I knew I needed a well of space, support, encouragement and an unbiased opinion – not someone who would tell me, “this is what I did, so this is what you should do.” Think about what you need, and find a coach that offers that.
At the first meeting, you don’t need to show up with answers. You do need to show up ready to take responsibility, and ready to work.
If you’re at the point where you understand that every action you take is your choice, not the result of circumstances “beyond your control” or created by “others,” and if you have a deep willingness for change in your life: you’re ready to work with a life coach. When you show up to your first meeting, that’s all you need: personal responsibility and a desire to take control of your life to make the changes you want to see. It can help to think about your answers to two key questions:
- How did I get here?
- Why am I still here?
Now, the real work starts. Your coach will likely ask you to commit to a certain level of time – three months, six, or a year. Coaching is about rapid change, but at your pace. My coaching program is typically six sessions, weekly or longer, and always with homework between sessions. At the end of this period, my client decides if and how to move forward, on a monthly basis or more regularly.
Start with small, achievable goals.
When you start working with your coach to identify goals, start small. Why overwhelm yourself early? Achievement and goal setting are muscles that need to be worked out. If your goals are to big at the beginning and you fall short, you might be hesitant to try again. You can dream big, but think about that very first action you need to be able to take to get there, and focus on that. What coaching really comes down to is actions being taken. That’s the hard stuff. That’s where you put your foot on the path and begin to take steps that move you forward.
Use this time to get back in touch with your instincts.
One exercise I love to have my clients do is to have them differentiate what is fear, and what is instinct. These feel very similar in the body – heaviness in the chest, twitching in the gut, tightness in the throat – that initial reaction to something. Sometimes you should listen to fear because it’s there as a way to prevent us from harm (instincts). Sometimes those fears are psychological. So, start by writing down a fear, then write down a truth. For example:
Fear: If I begin something, I will fail at it.
Is that true? Of course not.
Truth: I’m afraid of people thinking I’m a failure if I try something new, and don’t succeed.
Once your fears and truths are on paper, they become less scary, more tangible and smaller. Write those down, and you’ll start to truly process why your gut reaction is to react in certain ways – Am I choosing this because I feel bad? Obligated? Responsible? Guilty? When our decisions are based off of a fear response rather than a truth response, we are merely just surviving. The goal of coaching is to take you from just surviving to thriving! Dismantle the thoughts that are beating you down, day in and day out. Understanding your truth will help you understand your true worth and navigate your best life.
Remember, that time with your coach is not an indulgence. It’s a form of self-care.
Going through divorce is painful to say the least. It’s during this painful time that we need to really focus on healing so that the next chapter of our lives is our best yet. This is why self-care is a non-negotiable. Self-care often gets confused with self-indulgence. Because of that, some may find they are resistant to focusing on themselves and their futures in this way. For some, feelings of indulgence are accompanied by guilt. But self-care goes beyond indulgence. It’s not about buying that donut or that new car, it’s about actually giving yourself what you need.
Look, if you had a friend who was really struggling emotionally and she came to you to admit this, would you tell her to buy a donut? No. You’d encourage her to talk, you’d offer support and you might encourage her to laugh, journal, cry or just scream. You’d offer support, not judgment or temporary surface-level fixes.
So allow yourself to be cared for when you know you need it. This is vital for you to thrive. Recognize what it is that you’d like to heal and process. Then spend time getting the support and compassion you need to do so. This is self-care, and this is where the healing – and growth – truly begins.