Coach Carlene

When we are stressed and anxious we usually fall into one or more behavior traps that keep us stuck. We repeat these things over and over. Most of the time we don’t even know we are doing these things. They have become our habit and our way of protecting ourselves.

These are the most common go-to behaviors when our anxiety is triggered and what you can do instead.

1. PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination is a way of avoiding the thing that is stressful for you. This keeps you from doing the things you want and need to do and you likely beat yourself up for procrastinating. 

What to do instead:

When your procrastination has been triggered, ask yourself, “What am I avoiding? Can I avoid it forever or will I have to do it eventually?”

Most likely, you’re going to have to do it at some point.  You get to choose if you step into this zone of being uncomfortable now or later. Choose now so you can get it over with and you can stop thinking and stressing about it.  

If you are second-guessing yourself and you’re not sure what your first or next step is, talk it out with a friend or co-worker. The fear of “I don’t know what to do” can be solved quickly.

Now go do the darn thing! You got this!

2. WORRYING 

When you feel anxious, you think about everything that can go wrong. You stay stuck in the worry and cannot take action. 99.9% of the things you are worrying about will never happen. It feels so huge in your head though. Worrying creates stress in your body and leads to full blown anxiety. Do you wake in the middle of the night worrying about things? It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? 

The fact is, that never, ever, ever has a problem been solved by worrying.  

Here’s how to break the worry cycle:

Ask yourself, “What do I have control over?” Then decide what action you can take in that space of control. Worrying is NOT an action. 

Once you see there is something you can do, go do it! There is nothing more powerful over our minds than taking action and proving all our worry thoughts wrong. 

3. PERFECTIONISM 

Did you know that perfectionism is the greatest form of procrastination? It helps us avoid the things that make us anxious. Perfect does NOT exist, which means you will never finish that thing you’re working on. You may never even get started.

Perfectionism is a trap, fooling us into thinking that we have such high standards for ourselves and that’s a good thing. Wrong! It holds us back from learning and growing. If you’ve ever heard of the growth mindset, you know what I’m talking about. When you adopt a growth mindset you don’t think about getting it all right. You think about what is this “try” going to teach me, so the next time I “try” I’ll be smarter. 

Here’s what you can do:

When you find yourself trying to get it perfect, ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that will happen if this is B+ work instead of A+ work? Will anyone but me really notice?” Probably not. Approach each thing you are avoiding as an opportunity to learn something new. If this mindset is foreign to you, check out Carol Dweck’s book Mindset – The New Psychology of Success.

4. STRESS EATING 

When you’re feeling anxious food comforts you. Well, it comforts you in the moment. But later you most likely regret that emotional eating. We all have our comfort foods. The biggest problem with this behavior is it is such an auto-pilot response we don’t even notice it. 

Here’s what you can do:

Before you grab something and put it in your mouth ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If not, exit the kitchen and go get busy for 10 minutes. Your desire to comfort yourself with food will most likely go away.  Try some deep breathing.

And this next one is the most powerful…get up and move! Anxiety isn’t just an emotion. It sits in our body as muscle aches, a racing heart, a heavy heart, sweaty palms etc. When you move, you help the anxiety move through and out of your body. Give it a try.

If you’re not sure which of the above behaviors is your default, go take this quick 5 question quiz to find out.

We might not always have a firm grasp of confidence, but we know it when we see it. We know it because we feel it, and we know what it feels like to be around it. Which is one reason the definition of confidence can be so hard to pin down. Confidence is really an experience—both of ourselves and of other people.

We also know when we don’t feel it. In the presence of an insecure person—or, even more telling, a person pretending to be confident—we not only notice their lack of confidence, but also their shaky attempts to compensate for it.

The concept of fake-it-til-you-make-it gets you only so far. When we fake-it, our confidence can appear quite strong, only to crumble in the face of struggle, criticism or failure. In those moments, it seems like confidence is nothing more than a fleeting feeling, a passing belief in our own power, a temporary reprieve between periods of self-doubt.

It is in these moments of self-doubt that we become vulnerable. Our lack of confidence broadcasts to the world how susceptible we really are.

In an increasingly complex world, confidence is one of the greatest weapons we can develop. 

Confidence manifests in a number of highly visible ways: our body language, tone of voice, verbal cues and micro-decisions. No matter how hard we try, we can’t really hide how we feel about ourselves. We broadcast our weaknesses wherever we go.

We wear our lack of confidence like a badge, and that badge unconsciously tells the world how to treat us.

Unfortunately, there will always be people ready to capitalize on those weaknesses. In some cases, that vulnerability will invite trouble in relatively varying ways from a shifty cab driver offering us a ride off the meter to a manipulative family member controlling our happiness and resources, or a power-hungry manager exploiting us in the workplace. 

Even worse is that predators look for people who are meek, mild, weak, unfocused, and distracted. “Criminals are looking for easy pickings. They’re looking for someone who they can take by surprise and will likely not resist,” says Jean O’Neil, director of research and evaluation for the National Crime Prevention Council.

She suggests presenting yourself in a confident assertive manner. When walking down the street, make eye contact with people who look at you. O’Neil says that signals the would-be offender that you are confident, in charge and aware that they are there. 

If you take a moment to think back, you can probably remember a time you were taken advantage of in a moment of low confidence. That wasn’t an accident. It was your degree of confidence at the time that exposed you to that situation, and it was your relationship to your confidence that determined how well you handled it.

The outcome of that experience might have taught you a lesson and increased your confidence in the future. Or it might have confirmed what you subconsciously believe about yourself and left you vulnerable to a similar scenario down the road.

So in addition to enhancing our work and character, confidence also helps protect us, physically and emotionally. That’s why working on it matters so much. We aren’t just talking about style and appearances. We’re talking fundamentally about who we are, how we present ourselves in the world, and how the world will treat us in return.

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
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As a remote worker, you often have flexibility with your work schedule, but it’s easy to get sucked into just one more hour when you’re already at home and aren’t facing a commute. 

If you’re serious about leaving work behind at the end of the day to maximize your free time, set office hours—and stick to them.

Meetings usually get us going at a pretty decent hour in the morning. The problem is the end of the day. If we don’t set a quitting time, we’ll just keep on working. Worse is when our colleagues figure that out and start calling us after “normal work hours.”  

Committing to and communicating your quitting time can be a game changer. Here’s the thing. You have to honor it Every. Single. Day. 

3 Benefits of Setting a Work End Time 

#1 When you set your quitting time you activate Parkinson’s Law – the adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, any project that you have expands to the amount of time you have to give it.

If you’re in school and you got a paper due in 2 weeks, how long is it going to take you to write it? 2 weeks.

But if you only have 20 minutes to write this paper, how long is it going to take you to write it.? 20 minutes. 

It expands or shrinks to the amount of time you have.

When you set your quitting time, it shrinks the amount of time you have to screw around and you become more productive.

#2 If you need to work extra hours on a certain project, having a set quitting time forces you to consider starting your day early in order to finish on time. It’s often preferable to get “extra” work out of the way in the morning when the day is just getting going than at night when your overtime will cut into family activities or after-work leisure. 

#3 You’re more likely to Find Your Third Space

If you’re new to remote work, chances are that you love not having a commute. But one of the benefits of a commute is that it’s a transition between your work and personal life, during which you can let go of the stresses of the workday and get ready to transition to your non-work activities.

This third space acts as an essential bridge between work and home relaxation. It helps prepare you for the mental shift you need to go from employee to parent, spouse, partner, or friend, and enables you to show up in your personal life calm, present, and ready to roll.

When working from home, though, it’s easy to skip this transition entirely. After all, the walk from your home office to your living room likely isn’t going to cut it when it comes to clearing your mental palette. You can easily build in a third space transition to your day by:

  • Creating a commute. Take a daily after work mind-cleansing drive or walk to a park or your local coffee shop.
  • Working out. Going to the gym or for a run outside gives you an outlet for any pent-up stress and time to decompress.
  • Taking your dog for a walk. When you’ve been inside all day, your canine friend probably has been, too, and would appreciate the fresh air.
  • Practicing mindfulness. If physically leaving your house (and workspace) isn’t possible, simply taking a few minutes to meditate, do yoga, or otherwise quiet your mind can be a calming transition.

Whatever you choose, avoid throwing yourself immediately into household chores after your workday (unless they relax you). A peaceful, grounding activity at the end of your day will help you refocus your brain.

What’s your quitting time? Who needs to know? What can you do to enforce it?

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
Crush it and Build Real Confidence

If what you’re doing in your life or work is not leading you to the results you desire, this article is for you. You’re about to learn specific ways to take massive action, get more done, and get those big results you desire. 

“Taking action…” seems easy enough, right?  “Just do something!” As you and I both know, it’s not as easy as it sounds!

Managing Your Mind

So much of taking action is about managing your mind.  Here’s the thing, you can understand how to do everything, you can study all the material, but until you understand that what you think about is going to create the emotion that either drives the action or the inaction, you’re never going to take the action.

Did you get that? This is important: What you think about creates the emotion that drives the action or inaction.  If stress, fear, and panic are fueling the action, you’re not going to be able to produce results at the level you want to produce. 

Three Roadblocks that are keeping you from taking massive action.   

#1: YOU’RE STUCK IN THE BURNING HUSTLE

I can remember times, back when I was first starting my business, when I was hustling my butt off. I was all over the place, connecting with different people, working with all kinds of clients, somewhat successful—but the problem was, I wasn’t taking action on the things that could actually take me to a place where I could grow and scale my business. I was hustling. I was tired. But, to some degree, I was really just chasing my tail. 

This is what I call “The Burning Hustle”—a tiring hustle that’s produced by negative emotion: stress, fear, panic…[Insert your own word here!].  

You want to avoid getting into a state of burning hustle, where you may be working hard yet aren’t producing anything. Instead, your goal should be to get to a place of a productive hustle, where results are consistently produced. 

 If you want to produce something, don’t just sit down to “work on something.” Sit down to produce something! 

It’s important to change our language around this. Let’s stop saying, “I’m working on so and so,” and instead say, “I’m producing XYZ,” or “I’m writing a blog post.” See the difference?!  

#2: YOU’RE GIVING YOURSELF TOO MUCH TIME TO GET SOMETHING DONE

Too much time is the enemy. It invites us to procrastinate. We give ourselves too much time to produce a result. 

Let’s look at the projects we need to get done and assign a time frame in which we will get it done. For example: instead of my saying, “I’ll get the blog post written  and uploaded to my website by Wednesday”, I would say, “I will have the blog post written and uploaded to my website in one hour. I’ll sit down and get it done in that hour.” 

When you decide how long something will take and you stick to that, that’s when your production gets huge momentum.

Now, for my fellow perfectionists out there, this can be tough because you’re going to have to embrace the fact that you might produce some B-minus work. I know that’s hard to stomach!

B-minus work can change people’s lives. Work that you don’t produce at all, does nothing in the world. 

When I started my business, everything felt like B-minus work. But you know what? Nobody else cared about that. 

When I got an email from a client who told me she had made significant positive changes in her life as a result of our coaching together,  she made me realize that had I not launched my business until it was A-plus, that her life would never have been affected.

That was when I decided that I’m ok with B-minus work—because I know my business will still have a positive impact and help others produce good results. You’ll have to decide for yourself as to what level of work you are ok with. 

#3: YOU’RE AVOIDING FAILURE AND DISCOMFORT

Of course, no one loves failure and discomfort; but the truth is, if we’re going to learn and grow, there are going to be moments of failure and times where we will need to step outside of our comfort zone.

Our brains are literally wired to avoid any kind of failure. And usually the only way to be successful at whatever it is that’s important to you, is to fail repeatedly. 

So what do we do?! 

First, we have to reframe failure. Maya Angelou sums up the reframe best:

“Each time I miss my mark, I learn something, I take that as my reward.” — Maya Angelou

Lastly, we have to show our brains that we are not going to die because of discomfort and failure. We need to learn the process to move into discomfort, and then get comfortable with that discomfort.

If you’re in a holding pattern about anything, move. Take the first step to stop the stall. Write an email, initiate a difficult conversation. Disempower your fear by leaning into it. Action is the proof our brains need to get comfortable with discomfort. 

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
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It’s easy to assume that most of us are facing difficult times this Thanksgiving. You may be without a job, have an illness, or be feeling lonely and anxious among many other things. When going through difficult times, it’s harder to see the good that exists amidst our troubles. But practicing gratitude during a difficult time can genuinely help.

By being more grateful for what we do have, we can increase our happiness by 25% according to University of California Psychology Professor Dr. Robert Emmons, author of the book, Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. He says that gratitude is one of the few things that can change people’s lives in a measurable way.

He sums up his research on gratitude’s effects: 

“We have discovered that a person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress, may show increased resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress, and may recover more quickly from illness and benefit from greater physical health.” 

We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to feel grateful, less depressed, or happy.”

But, there’s a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. While we might not feel grateful during a difficult time, we can be grateful. We can choose gratitude. We can choose a grateful perspective.

When disaster strikes, as it has over and over again in 2020, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life as a whole and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. 

In short, gratitude can be our raft.

Here are four ideas to practice gratitude when stress and chaos strike.

#1 Count your current blessings.  

Think about what you’re currently struggling with and identifying the area of your life that it’s affecting. Next, think about all the other areas of your life where you’re not struggling. Maybe you’re struggling with a work issue, so you think about your good health and your happy home life. Then reflect on all the things that are going right.

#2 Consider what’s way worse. 

Name what’s currently upsetting you, and then come up with a situation (or two) that’s a whole lot worse. Your worst-case scenario could be completely absurd or funny (or not). Let’s use the example of a difficult boss. 

  • Your whole team now consists of several versions of your boss.
  • Your boss follows you home and now lives with you. All. The. Time.
  • You lose your job, and your boss goes everywhere with you and nitpicks everything you do.

#3 Hunt for the positive. 

This is a great way to engage your imagination and invite some play into your life—during a time you likely need it most. Find at least three positive things, three times a day for an entire week. And all these things have to be different. But they can be small. Even tiny. For instance, you might be grateful that a stranger held the door for you, you got to savor a hot cup of coffee, or your favorite shirt was clean after all.

#4 Express Your Gratitude

Expressing gratitude to our loved ones and to strangers every day can be uplifting for both the giver and receiver. We are often so consumed with our daily routines and obligations that we may take people for granted and if we stopped to say thanks, we can make someone’s day.

Our perspective for the people who might be in need of some thankfulness has shifted this year. How long have we taken our teachers, bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery drivers, grocery store workers, healthcare workers, and so many other front-line workers for granted? We can deliver a huge boost of positive energy to them simply by expressing our gratitude. 

When you’re going through a difficult time, it’s important to honor your feelings. Honor your pain, hurt, confusion, anger, and fear. And adjust your perspective. Because even in the midst of the worst kinds of losses, there can be love and even laughter. And for that we can be grateful.

If you liked this, download your free guide: Mindset Reset Using the Emoji Technique

Overwhelm is paralyzing. We can’t think logically or make decisions or take action. 

 I’m telling you, my friend, you want to fight this overwhelm. If you allow yourself to stay in the state of being overwhelmed by the amount of things that you have to do, that pressure and that uncertainty combined with this feeling that you can’t get anything done, is going to create anxiety in your life. It’s going to impact not only your wellbeing but, it’s also going to severely limit your ability to focus and get things done. 

The two most important things to understand about overwhelm is first, what it is, and second, a simple tool you can use to get rid of it. 

In order to do your best thinking, you need to make sure you’ve got the full capacity of your brain leveraged and pointed at the things that are important to you. 

Here’s the problem. When you go through life, as you go through life, what happens is your brain starts to fill up with information and that’s what creates a state of feeling overwhelmed.

Being overwhelmed is nothing more than having a full brain. 

As you go through your day to day life and… 

start checking email and 

looking at texts and 

looking at Facebook and 

sitting in meetings and

going to class and 

flipping through television channels and 

sending emails and 

writing excel spreadsheets and 

running and picking up the kids and 

getting another text and 

looking at Instagram and 

looking at Twitter and 

checking out the news, 

…your brain gets pretty full doesn’t it? And now you feel overwhelmed because your brain is full of a bunch of garbage.

In order to fight overwhelm, you need to do a brain dump. You have to get rid of all that stuff so that you’ve got an empty brain so you can focus again. 

You are literally going to dump out everything that’s in your head onto a piece of paper; every concern, every worry, every to do, everything that’s bothering you that you’re thinking about, you’re going to write it down.

When you’re done writing down everything that’s in your head and there’s absolutely nothing left, pull out a highlighter. Take a look. You could do everything that’s on that list, you could. But what should you do? 

What are three things, just three, that you need to do in order to advance the things that matter to you most? Highlight these three things.

See all that garbage that is NOT highlighted? That is the garbage causing your overwhelm. It’s other people’s stuff. It’s the email stuff.  It’s the meeting stuff. It’s the stuff that’s not all that important. By dumping all that garbage out, you’ve gotten clear on the three most important things you need to do. You’ve got a clear head so you can get it done. 

It works. So, go do it and get back in action!

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
Crush it and Build Real Confidence

Feeling like you’re not good enough? 

Feeling like you’re not ready? 

Doubting yourself? 

If you’re suffering from impostor syndrome, it’s not an issue of whether or not you have the skill. The problem is that you have a pattern of thinking in a way that stops you the moment you start to doubt yourself. 

The “I’m not good enough,” it’s a habit. That’s it. It’s a lie you keep telling yourself. Every time you start putting up excuses, remind yourself, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is that “I’m not good enough thing and I am not going to allow this in my life anymore.” 

Here’s the work. It’s very simple. Recognize the pattern. We want to expand the gap between the pattern that triggers you to think you’re not good enough, which is not true, and your reaction to it.

The feelings are real. They’re real and they are normal. But that doesn’t mean that they have to dictate what you do. You feel like you’re unworthy? That’s normal. Do it anyway. You feel stupid writing this personal Instagram post? That’s normal. Do it anyway.

You may feel that you’re not worthy for your entire life, unless you take charge of that annoying voice in your head.

Here’s the thing. You can still take action. 

You have to learn how to let the feelings of doubt rise up but take action anyway. You’ve got to learn to embrace the fact that you’re going to feel like an impostor, but you my friend, are the kind of person that moves forward anyway. 

The way that you change it is by saying to yourself, 

“I’m going to go through the day and I’m going to notice every time I think garbage, and I’m going to say NO we’re not doing this today. I’m not good enough, but I’m going to keep on going anyway. Oh yeah, you think I’m not good enough? Watch me.” 

And then you do the thing that makes you prove that you don’t believe the garbage of “I’m not good enough.” Because you, my friend, can Do It Scared! 

Inaction breeds self-doubt. Action builds confidence. 

Grab your free guide:

The Habit of Self-Doubt:
Crush it and Build Real Confidence

We can all agree that waking up feeling anxious sets you up for a horrible day. And how crappy is it that you haven’t even gotten out of bed and you’re stressed already?!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Trust me. If you take one small step it will lead to another small step and then another. You don’t have to sit in your anxiety. Follow these steps and then I invite you to add/change them based on what works for you. Make yourself a promise to take one first step.

1.Get up! Do not lay in bed.

This is your one first step. It is also THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. Let’s do this.

If you can get up, you can get moving. If you can get moving, you can get dressed. If you can get dressed, you can move your body. If you can move your body, you can move your emotions. If you can move your emotions, you can move your mind. If you can move your mind, you can move your mood. One thing leads to another. 

2. Make your bed. 

I still make my side of the bed even if my husband is still in it. I make my bed when I’m in a hotel room. I do it for myself. It’s a little promise I keep to myself. It’s a habit. Habits are amazing at grounding us. It creates a foundation; a foundation that’s there for us no matter where we are. It’s right here, even in a moment of anxiety. 

3. Talk back to your anxiety.

Remind yourself that you’re ok. Step back and notice that you are safe. Nothing bad is happening right now. Yes, the anxiety feels bad and uncomfortable, but you are ok. 

4. Get your exercise clothes on.

Seriously, this is a game changer. It’s a constant reminder that you need to move your body or exercise (whatever you call it). Do this step and you’re more likely to do the next step. In fact, I put my exercise clothes out the night before. I don’t need more decisions to make when I wake up.

5. Move your body. 

Moving your body, moves the anxiety out. This isn’t about crushing a workout. This is about doing whatever releases the stress and anxiety for you. For some it’s yoga, others cardio, others strength training, or simply stretch for 10 minutes. Play with it and see what gives you the best relief. 

6. Move your mind.

Journal. Do a brain dump. Write down every single thing that is on your mind. By clearing your mind and letting go off all that stuff, you manage the anxiety instead of it managing you. 

You don’t have to let anxiety hijack you. You can meet those moments and manage them. Whether those moments are when you wake up or it’s the anxiety that comes at night, or the anxiety that is your companion during the day.

Anxiety is a normal part of life. Having a simple process allows you to respond to it vs. reacting to it. It’s an essential skill that makes a profound difference in your ability to move through your life and face the obstacles that life throws at you. 

I’d love to hear what works for you. Give yourself permission to find your best way to manage your anxiety. 

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
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Raise your hand if you’re a self-proclaimed perfectionist. You too huh?

PER-FEC_TION-ISM

/PER-FEK/SHUH-NIZ-UH M/

Noun

Obsession with “getting it perfect” to avoid criticism and failure.

Did you know perfectionism is one of the biggest confidence killers? 

The pursuit of perfection can be crippling. This perfectionist thinking mostly plagues women.

If perfection is your standard, of course you will never be fully confident, because the bar is always impossibly high, and you will inevitably and routinely feel inadequate.

I used to think perfectionism was about having a high standard for myself. But it was actually an excuse I used to procrastinate on something I didn’t have much confidence around. It was my way of insulating myself from criticism.

In a previous FB video, I shared how action is the antidote to self-doubt. Well, here’s the rub, perfectionism keeps us from action. Perfectionism is the greatest form of procrastination.

We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer. We don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it to death.  We don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required. 

We manage to extend the perfectionist disease to our entire lives. We obsess about our performance at home, at school, at work, on holiday, and even at yoga class. We obsess as mothers, as wives, as cooks, as sisters, as friends, employees, bosses, and athletes.

Here’s the secret I discovered: perfection is NOT possible. Looking for it will only hold you back. Why are you driving yourself crazy over something that isn’t even attainable?

Let’s say you get anxious in social situations and you want every conversation to be perfect. That’s never going to happen. You can have a good, even great conversation but not a perfect one. So instead, you avoid connecting with people. You’re missing out on the joys of being part of things.

You’re standing on the side-lines instead of getting in the game, all because you fear being judged or rejected because you aren’t perfect. 

Perfectionism comes at a cost. It keeps us stuck in the cycle of self-doubt. As harsh as it sounds, it is an EXCUSE to avoid something we don’t like or we don’t have much confidence around. 

It keeps us from putting our great ideas and our great selves out into the world. 

I invite you to join me and be imperfect. Be ruthless, hardworking, driven, insightful, kind, open to constructive criticism, and most importantly be yourself.

An imperfect you is always better than an incomplete life.

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The Habit of Self-Doubt:
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Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from potential clients about the rise of business & life coaches they are seeing on social media since COVID19. Most are confused and suspicious by the “Trust me, I’m a #lifecoach” message. And, rightfully so.

This isn’t really new. The coaching market has always been muddied by the untrained, self-anointed “coach”. It seems some people have re-evaluated their lives and what they do. They say, “My passion is to help people find their passion.” “My purpose is to help people find their purpose.”

This is a noble and beautiful goal; to dedicate your life to empowering others to reach their full potential. According to a Gallup poll, 70% of Americans are disengaged with their jobs, and millions of people are depressed and unfulfilled. 

We need more coaches. More business coaches, relationship coaches, career coaches, leadership coaches, communications coaches, and even more life coaches. But we need coaches who are honest about the services they are able to provide to their clients. And more importantly, to be just as authentic about the services they are not qualified to offer.

In 2012, the International Coach Federation (ICF) reported that life coaching is a $2 billion a year industry. Since there is wide disagreement on the value of professional coaching certification programs and many coaches don’t pursue formal training, this number is probably higher.

Here’s the rub. It feels like every third or fourth post on my Instagram feed is a quote from some “guru” or a perfectly manicured story of how a coach has experienced self-growth and personal a-ha’s and somehow their personal revelations alone, now makes them qualified to help you. Low barriers to entry are allowing more people to anoint themselves as coaches – and that presents some issues.

Just to confirm, I am a huge fan of coaching. I am a Coach. I’ve had numerous coaches (business, life and otherwise) in the years I’ve been an entrepreneur and they’ve had a positive and significant impact on my life. Some of the most successful people in sports, business and in life all have coaches. A legitimate coach can take your life or career to a whole new level.

Yet most of these new coaches are not legitimate. Reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, watching a Dr. Brene Brown TED Talk and learning about chakras doesn’t give anyone the expertise or the talent to shepherd others through the major healings, breakthroughs or life changes they need to make – personally or professionally.

There are dangers present with this new dynamic. If you fall prey to, no fault of your own, a fake-it-till-you-make-it coach, they are not just being an imposter, they are misleading people at best, and potentially harming their lives at worst.

So what should you do if you want to get a coach?

Here are 3 questions to ask when looking for a legitimate coach who can serve your needs.

1. HOW RELATABLE IS THIS COACH?

Do they get you? Can they relate to what you’re going through? Many cannot. 

If you seek personal help, ask if this has coach been through and overcome the things you’re experiencing. This could include being stuck, low self-esteem, work/life out of balance, non-existent self-care, limiting beliefs, self-sabotage, trust issues, ADHD, parenting challenges, divorce, loneliness etc.

On a professional level, ask if this coach has started a business, created wealth or been at the levels that you want to reach? Ask them about their career and what they’ve actually done. Having a career of their own, does not make them qualified to be a career coach. 

In fact, while you want someone who can empathize and truly understand what you’re going through, their personal experience alone is not enough. Beware of the coach who over-shares their story. If it feels egomaniacal to you, it’s probably best to move on. 

Have they been coached?

A good coach usually has a coach. They understand what it feels like to sit on the other side of the coaching conversation. They know first-hand that coaching can be uncomfortable in a good, life changing way. They know what it means to be vulnerable and how difficult it is to do the difficult work of change. If you look at sports, a majority of sports coaches have played the game. They’ve been coached. 

2. HOW CREDIBLE IS THIS COACH?

Do they have training?

While many coaches undergo some type of training, in theory, there’s nothing stopping anyone from sliding “coach” into their Instagram bio or LinkedIn. Coaching is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced. A coaching conversation is much different than giving advice. Training isn’t a one -time thing. Most dedicated coaches are life-long learners, engaging in new methods and practices to stay current and relevant. 

First do no harm. 

Because there is no single regulating body that imposes oversight in the life coach industry, and when “experts” are self-anointed, there’s much potential to do damage. During my 2 years of coach training we explored the many differences between coaching and therapy. We were trained to not cross the line into therapy. Most well-trained coaches know just enough about psychotherapy to be dangerous. 

And while not every potential client may be rushing to unpack their most serious trauma, stakes run high when issues that are typically handled by a highly trained psychotherapy professional fall into the hands of an undertrained “expert.” 

Do they have certifications?

Many of the top coaching certifications cost several thousands of dollars and help provide tools and frameworks for coaches. While certifications aren’t everything, it’s certainly important to consider as a method for measuring substance and commitment. There’s no standard signifier indicating training, education and certification, such as MD for doctors or LCSW for social workers. 

Do they have references?

One quick way to validate a coach is to ask for references. If they are experienced, and effective, then they will definitely have great references. 

If the coach is too new to have references, that’s ok. Yet, they should be upfront about it. Then you can make a judgement call based on how you feel about them and their pricing.

BEWARE of the fake testimonial. 

Even if there is a name and picture, some self-anointed coaches have had a friend pose as a client. Watch the language used too. If there is marketing lingo like “I’ve been transformed.” “Something inside me has been ignited.” “My life was forever altered after only one session.” – It’s probably a total fake at worst or embellished by the so-called coach at best. If you wouldn’t use those words yourself, that’s a good sign neither did an actual client. 

How long have they been doing this?

When researching a coach, you should inquire as to their experience level in terms of number of clients, years of practicing, & hours of coaching. The latter is the best sign they are credentialed. Every credentialed coach has to track coaching hours. If they’ve just started, then it’s reasonable to assume that they don’t have the expertise, or they may not even be as committed to the work. If you see some history, that’s a great sign that they are committed, experienced and have value to bring.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to start from somewhere, yet an inexperienced coach can simply charge as much as an experienced coach. It’s important to understand the value proposition. 

A legitimate new coach commonly offers pro-bono and reduced cost sessions. It’s their best way to practice honing the skills of coaching. They are upfront with you that they are practicing. Do not get stuck paying top dollar for an inexperienced coach who is only using you to reach their own personal income goals. 

3. HOW LIKABLE IS THIS COACH?

First impressions are everything. In this digital age our first impression is usually on-line. Peruse their website. Research them on social media. Listen to your gut as you’re scrolling through Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Do they have a good photo so you can see who they are? Yes, that is important for first impressions. 

Or is every other post a picture of them followed by a caption saying, “Listen Babe, blah blah blah advice.” Coaching is not about giving advice. It’s quite the opposite and that’s for another article. 

If something turns you off, move on.  

FINAL WORD

While there are exceptions to every rule, determining if a coach is Relatable, Credible
and Likable
are effective in sniffing out any red flags. You want to feel comfortable on both pragmatic and intuitive levels. At the end of the day, you want to look for honesty, authenticity and expertise.

Use your mind to evaluate their legitimacy and use your intuition to feel out what is best for you. Then dive into the work. Good luck.

Looking back I cringe, “Why did I waste precious time struggling alone? Why didn’t I see that other women go through the same thing?

Mostly, because I either wasn’t listening, or women are not talking enough or at all about this.

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