Unemployed for a year and a half following a lucrative 25-year career as a paralegal in the real estate industry, Sharon Pizzo understands, first-hand, the value of investing in herself—even in the face of economic struggle and uncertainty.
Three years ago, Pizzo, now a supportive case manager serving people with disabilities and disorders, underwent nine months of intensive training to become a certified life coach. Today, she not only has her own thriving practice, but the foundational skills and principles of life coaching that she has incorporated into the work she does as a case manager, have significantly augmented and bolstered her effectiveness with the population she serves in that field.
Learning to transfer a skill set from one job or career to another is just one of the many benefits that life coaching affords. “It is a great way to help people gain some insight into what they know and what they can do with it somewhere else”, Pizzo commented during a recent interview. She explained that people become so familiar with who they are, what they know, and what they do, that they cannot foresee newness or change; but a life coach can help them to put what they’ve done and what they know to work someplace else, doing something else. “I know what it’s like to have to start all over again. It can be overwhelming and downright scary but it can happen”, Pizzo commented.
Life coaches are everywhere—among others, there are personal, marital, executive, time-management, mid-life, bereavement, and spiritual life coaches. Oprah Winfrey often featured life coaches on her show and currently employs life coach, Martha Beck, as a columnist for “O, The Oprah Magazine”. The Millionaire Matchmaker regularly employs the services of a life coach to help with all of her difficult cases.
According to an article by Robert Biswas-Diener entitled, “Personal Coaching as a Positive Intervention” in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (2009), coaching began several decades ago when the early pioneers synthesized “the intellectual traditions of sports psychology, organizational scholarship, business management, motivation theories, decision science, and other fields to help motivate and support their clients”. In North America a professional governing body, the International Coach Federation (ICF), was formed in 2006 to establish professional ethics, annual conferences, and training guidelines for the profession, the article continued.
Life coaching is a solution-based, co-creative process, Pizzo explained. Life coaches do not give advice, nor do they supply answers; they do not tell their clients how to think, or feel, or which way they should go. The client is in the driver’s seat; and the life coach is along for the journey. Life coaches are facilitators who, through supportive conversations and probing open-ended questions, raise a client’s awareness and draw out from their inner core what it is that they want to do or where they want to go. “It is the clients themselves who have the answers”, Pizzo commented.
Unlike psychologists and therapists whose focus is on those who experience specific mental health problems and often reach into the past to help their clients, life coaches focus on those who are seeking to change, balance, or improve their lives and are willing and ready to take action. Life coaches, for example, can offer assistance to people who:
- Are unfulfilled and dissatisfied with life as it is
- Are evaluating career options
- Are struggling with difficult choices
- Want to make changes but are not sure where or how to begin
- Have dreams or visions but are fearful of moving toward fulfilling them
- Are seeking clarity or resolution
- Want to gain greater self-awareness and self-acceptance
- Want to give back and get involved but aren’t sure what they want to do next
Following “threads” of conversation, a good life coach will bring a client to what Pizzo calls an “ah ha moment”—a point of self-realization. “That’s the power of life coaching”, she said. “You are asking them questions and from their answers you are extrapolating and then asking them more questions to build on—so the building is very definite. You are moving through to get to a certain place”, Pizzo added.
“Sometimes people have to dig deep to be able to establish what it is they want to do”, Pizzo said. They become complacent and comfortable in their circumstances, she added; sometimes they need to wake up and examine the everyday things in their lives to take stock of them. They may need to seriously consider what they have to remove from their lives or separate themselves from in order to make progress, or they may have to examine the truth about the ways they subconsciously avoid committing to a goal. “It’s hard and uncomfortable”, Pizzo added, “but that’s what changes us. If we are not happy, we have to change, and change is difficult. But that’s the only way people will move forward.”
Life coaches also assign concrete “action steps” as part of the coaching process, including creating “homework” assignments designed to have their clients fulfill mutually-agreed-upon objectives between sessions. “Action steps frame the ‘ah ha moment’ and move clients out of their comfort zones—getting them to feel and to do”, Pizzo explained. “It’s like building a house; along with each building block, you are also building motivation; you’re building confidence.”
So, for example, Pizzo explained, if a client wants to move forward with their career; and we find out that they are not happy working on Long Island but want to work in the city, I may ask them what they would be willing to do to investigate a job opportunity in the city. Based upon the conclusions we arrive at, I may ask them to bring evidence of the research they conduct with them to our next session.
For those seeking the services of a life coach, a simple Google search will uncover a plethora of names, making the process seem daunting. Pizzo explained, however, that life coaches will generally select a niche that they personally connect with; and with a little investigation, you can uncover who does what and where their experience lies. Many of them, Pizzo added, offer free consultations.
Here are a few things to look for when selecting a life coach:
- Certification: Be certain that the life coach you select is certified by an accredited professional school. Certification is imperative because life coaching requires very specific set of skills and ethics secured through rigorous training, supervision, and a minimum number of practical coaching hours; experience alone is simply not enough.
- References: An effective coach will gladly furnish you with references and testimonials from those they have helped to elicit real changes in their lives.
- A Good Fit: You must be able to develop the deep trust with your coach that will enable you to fully engage conversationally and move in partnership and harmony with him or her.
Life coaching is becoming increasingly popular—and with good reason—there exists a growing body of research confirming that with the right coach, it can be highly effective. Life coaching is a viable, empowering, life-giving resource, worthy of critical investigation.
“Our highest commodity is ourselves . . . we have this one life . . . we cannot put a price tag on investing in ourselves”, Pizzo reflected. “If there is something we want to accomplish that we are not attaining; or if we wake up feeling unfulfilled or sense a void in our lives and don’t know how or where to begin to make changes, life coaching is a really good place to start.”
If you would like to reach Sharon Pizzo to learn more about life coaching, or for a free consultation, visit: www.freedomwithinlifecoaching.com
This Article was Written by Vickie Moller-Pepe.
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