Coach Outlet

Greg Dawson gauges his potential as a life coach and comes up a little short.

Ho-ho-ho! Guess who already finished his Christmas shopping?

Everyone on my list is getting a gift certificate to…me. A one-hour session with Life Coach Greg, who will do his darnedest to help you refocus, regroup, restore your karma, set goals, be accountable, and maximize your potential—things that Coach Greg continues to work on in his own life, so he gets it.

“But Greg,” you’re probably thinking, “we didn’t know you were a life coach.”

Neither did I until I started getting emails and Facebook posts every day telling me “Now is the time to become a life coach! Use your experience to help others.” The Internet is thick with gushy testimonials from would-be coaches like Elise.

“I’m starting my coaching practice in the new year! I’m going to be a self-love and manifesting coach. If I was seeking coaching, which I have, I would want someone with real experience. I have practiced self-love and manifesting for two years and feel like a total expert.”

According to one of the many websites offering coach training, an ideal candidate is someone who says, “I just know I’ll be a great coach because people are always talking to me. Heck, I can’t take a bus ride without finding out the life story of the person next to me!”

So, why not me? I have 65 years of checkered experience, strangers talk to me on the bus, I have practiced self-love and, on occasion, self-loathing. I’m not perfect. But like Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

“Life coach” was coined by Tony Robbins, who did for the self-help industry what Ray Kroc did for hamburgers and fries. Life coaching is a billion-dollar industry with over a hundred training organizations in North America, but the number of coaches is unknown since the industry is not regulated. You don’t need a license to practice life coaching.

“Technically, anyone can hang up a shingle,” says Jennifer Corbin, president of Coach U, which offers training and accreditation through the International Coach Federation.

I once smirked at the very notion of a “life coach,” putting it in the same category with telepathic spoon benders, fortune tellers and rainmakers. So did Lara Aitken of Winter Garden.

“I first heard of it on some talk show, and thought, ‘What is this nonsense?’” Aitken says. “Then I started to look into it more and more.”

Now Dr. Aitken, 45, is a certified Master Life Coach, one of the five best holistic life coaches in the Orlando area according to one website. She’s also a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, a certified hypnotherapist, and a licensed acupuncture physician.

She gained her life coach accreditation in 2006 after a three-month online program that cost “upwards of a thousand dollars,” Aitken said. Judging by my Internet surfing, prices have risen sharply since then.

I asked Aitken if someone like me who has no coaching background or the money for training could be a life coach.

“Absolutely,” she said. “You can use your relevant experience in journalism toward that. There are coaches for business, parenting, single parenting. You coach toward wherever your professionalism lies.”

To gauge my life-coaching potential, I took an online test that measured everything from my leadership ability to my business acumen. A typical question:

“Client progress is most like a) Untying a boat from a pier (you might not see ‘movement’ until the last rope is untied, but every knot removed represents progress); or b) Removing walls (clients require forceful assistance to eliminate faulty thinking patterns or they’ll never move forward).”

Overall, the results reflected the C+ average I carried through high school and college (before quitting with 45 credit hours). My scores were described as low, a little low, fairly low or moderately low in seven of 14 categories including crisis management, tolerance and respect for individual differences, and motivation—“by far the most critical piece of your path to a successful coaching career.” 

But not to worry. “Lower scores are actually more useful because they point out specific areas for focus and improvement,” according to the online test site. The important thing is “staying in the game until you win. By all means do spend money on your training, education, certification, supervision and infrastructure.”

I decided to stay in the game, but without the training and certification, which is reflected in my affordable rates and slogan: “Greg’s C+ Life Coaching, for people of modest means and lowered expectations.”

You’ll find me down on the pier trying to untie that boat, doggone it. 

Categories: Column