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Gentle guidance

HEART OF THE MATTER
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Gentle guidance

LIFE COACHING
Áine Ryan

THERE is a chance that you may be wasting your time reading this article. So before you go any further, take a quick gander over to a kitchen cupboard, or a bedroom wardrobe. If you happen to be outdoors, sitting on the patio, the garden shed will do. What's your first reaction on opening the door? Does your stomach lurch? Does your pulse quicken, even imperceptibly? Has a small bead of perspiration appeared on your furrowed brow?  Or have you just banged shut that door with the alacrity of a scalded cat?
If, on the other hand, your Campbell's Consomme is alphabetically poised between your Bachelor's Beans and your Don Carlos Olive Oil, if your pink Prada evening bag sits in a colour-coded row that would inspire an interior designer,  or your circular saw glistens and twinkles happily beside your jigsaw and hacksaw, turn to the next page, do the crossword, have a snooze. Open a bottle of champagne: it may well be your life is sorted. 
One Saturday morning, about six months ago, I found myself putting the teapot in the freezer. Two days earlier, after spending at least an hour frantically searching for two €50 notes, I discovered them in my wheelie-bin. Don't even  hazard a guess as to how they got there. I was sure, 'could have sworn' I'd left them under a vase of dried lavender on the dining room table.
Messy officeTwo days later I turned up ten minutes late for my first appointment with Life Coach, Maggie Gibson. I told her I wasn't sure if I needed 'counselling' or 'coaching'. She quickly put me straight on that one.
"If past issues are still blocking you, then you possibly need counselling. But if you want to deal with the future, then you are in the right place," explained the renowned novelist, Fair City scriptwriter and one time hairdresser. Ah! Yes. It seems Maggie No Problem, formerly of Bridge Street, Westport, is using a different approach to getting to the root of the matter these days.
Life coaching is for those people who want to make significant changes to their lives and are having difficulty doing so. Life coaching enables you to examine aspects of your life in a novel way. The strongest and core question the life coach will ask is: "What's stopping you?"
During the first appointment, which lasts about 90 minutes, the life coach basically facilitates a brainstorming session. This helps to assess the client's life from a number of different perspectives and to formulate small measures to improve its quality. The process applies a symbolic Wheel of Life Exercise to aid this assessment.
The Wheel of Life is divided into the following equal sections: Physical Environment, Career, Money, Health, Friends and Family, Significant Other/Romance, Personal Growth, Fun and Recreation.
At the induction session the client is asked to assess, on a scale from one to ten, their satisfaction with the various categories. For example, if there is no significant other in your life, it doesn't necessarily mean that you respond with a zero in that category. If you are happy being single, want a partner like a hole in the head, then you should be responding with a definitive ten.
The reality is though, that it is not always immediately apparent 'how satisfied we really are' with our lives. I'll give you an example. I automatically assessed the Fun and Recreation section of my wheel at 7-8. Later that evening, while telling my adult daughter, Aisling, about my first session of life coaching, I showed her my Wheel of Life. We were eating dinner at the time and she nearly choked on it. Laughing at me.
"You are joking me," she said. "Sure you don't have any fun and recreation at all. All you do is work, sleep and go to the gym." While Aisling's assessment of the quality of my life was a slight exaggeration, she was, in fact, closer to the truth than I was. I had gradually let work smother and control my whole life. No wonder I needed a life coach.
"A common misconception is that by engaging in a series of sessions your life will be changed miraculously," explains Maggie Gibson. "That is not the case. The process empowers the client to gradually improve his sense of self-awareness, direction, motivation, personal effectiveness, resourcefulness."
A skilled coach uses a combination of observations, questions, listening, brainstorming and feedback to enable the client to gain a new focus and appreciation of their lives.
There is a certain etiquette implicit in life coaching that may initially seem awkward and over-the-top. Because of its very strict non-directional, non-judgemental ethos, the coach must always ask the client: may I make a request? May I make a suggestion? Once one gets used to this, its significance becomes apparent. All the choices for change are the client's. It is the client who holds the key to improving his or her quality of life.
"Life coaching unlocks a person's potential to maximise their own performance. It enables them to learn rather than teaches them," says Gibson, who also runs a successful Business Coaching practice. "The whole concept is about balance really. It is a holistic approach to managing one's life. Remember though, it is only the client that can find his or her own perfect solution."

+ Life coaching sessions are usually 45 minutes to one hour in duration. They cost approximately €90 per session. The average series of sessions is six. Clients often avail of top-up sessions after an interim of six months.