Do you feel unfulfilled or ever have the sense that you could achieve more? Doubt and uncertainty seem to be hard wired into many of us, and our time-poor lifestyles seem only to exacerbate it. People are turning to life coaches to prioritise and clarify their objectives – personal or professional. ntpages spoke to Suzanne McGillivray, who became a life coach after a varied and successful career, for an insight into the field.
How did you come to be a life coach?
“It was really an accumulation of life experience that led me naturally to life coaching. My careers have been diverse and varied from psychotherapy to the book industry, industrial relations, corporate coaching and training and as an artist. The underlying theme that never leaves me is an unending quest for learning and a fundamental belief in our potentialities – we are always far more than we allow ourselves to be.”
Did all this accumulated experience help you in your new career?
“Coaching and mentoring allowed me to bring these many strings to my bow together and to foster other people’s aspirations for growth.”
What is the role of a life coach?
“Life coaching is a one-on-one interaction where a coach works with you in order to help you clarify your thinking, create a clear vision, discover new possibilities and potentialities, to set goals then create and implement your strategies for achieving them. A coach will also help you deal with the obstacles to achieving your goals and helps you through fears or discomforts that often come when making changes. A coach offers support and encouragement so that you actually achieve what you are after. A coach can also work with you on a single, specific issue or goal, such as a creative project, writing a book, finding a new career or moving through a life transition or facing a crisis. A life coach basically works with you to create the life you want to live.”
Is a life coach similar to a counsellor?
“Coaching focuses more on the present and future, rather than the past. It is about accessing potentialities and possibilities, then moving through blocks or obstacles, rather than healing deep seated emotional issues. Emotions may come up during the period of your coaching – and you will learn more and develop yourself in the process, but coaching primarily focuses on helping you achieve specific goals through taking actions and developing positive behaviours, rather than on healing psychological issues.”
What makes an effective life coach?
“Listening well is crucial, the ability to communicate, to build rapport, to motivate and inspire are all vitally important, as is the ability to challenge the status quo with strength and compassion. As all people are different, an individual approach and a holistic view of life is needed. So is the ability to be flexible in order to react to people's particular needs. Curiosity and sincere interest to understand fundamental issues in people's lives are other attributes you need.”
What is creativity?
“Now that's a really big question. Creativity is something we are, not something we do. We are creative, we don't 'do' creative. It is something that is intrinsic within all of us whether we believe we are creative or not. It is a natural way of functioning that we all have and use. We are always creating and yet we don't often do it consciously.”
What are the primary impediments to creativity?
- “Not having enough time – we often think we are far too busy for creative endeavours, or that it's time wasting or it's day dreaming.
- Wrong value of our creative faculty – placing greater value on our logical thinking mode and not really giving creativity a place.
- Discomfort of ‘being spatial’ rather than ‘thinking logically’ - our logical left brain likes to be in control. Here again we have to look at choosing both rather than one way.
- Risk aversion – some people like to avoid ambiguity, and creativity is often termed as vague or day-dreamy. Some also consider that being wrong is bad, so it is not a ‘good’ space for them to be in. However in the creative space, there is no good or bad.
- Self belief – self defeating thoughts such as ‘I’m not creative’ or the creativity killer of comparing yourself to others – 'I’m not good at art.'”
What are the most common obstacles you help people overcome?
“This is as varied as the people themselves, but underneath most obstacles is fear of some kind, or a lack of self belief. While they may want ‘it’, underneath they don't believe they can really have ‘it’. Next comes confusion or a lack of clarity and know-how - knowing how to go about achieving what it is they want to achieve. Moving through limiting mindsets and holding onto the past all play their part in creating our future.”
Describe your relationship with your clients.
“Firstly, we must both be comfortable with working with each other, that there is a ‘fit’ on both sides. Having established that, we then design a program of working together. My clients find that change can happen quite quickly when they gain clarity in their thinking, coupled with an understanding of the process to how to make things happen. Some people achieve what they want quickly and others opt for an ongoing relationship, choosing to explore deeper self transformation.”
Do clients in the corporate world have different needs?
“The focus in the corporate world is particular, but human needs are human needs. We all have a life and coaching helps us with that. In the corporate world, the organisation and job issues must be incorporated in the coaching mix. Work often gives us a sense of purpose, identity and value as well as a sense of security, so it is an important part of life and must be considered. It is a part of it but not all of it, though at times it may feel like it.”
Did your exposure to the corporate world help your approach to life coaching?
“Absolutely. Having worked as a CEO and then later coaching and training executives, I understand the needs of those working with the corporate world and that it can be all consuming at times, as there are certain demands placed upon them, as well as the challenges they face in trying to balance the whole of their lives. This is one of the big challenges.”