avatarVanessa Hardy


Thinking about hiring a life coach in 2024 ? Read this first.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

I love coaching. I mean I love coaching people but I also love being coached. I first experienced one-on-one coaching in around 2017. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Or more accurately, I didn’t really expect anything because I didn’t know what the hell I had let myself in for. It was one session as part of a larger program. What it ended up being was a magical series of questions, a conversation, tears, laughter — leading to some huge conceptual shifts in my own brain… I was hooked. Maybe you have been coached before and are looking for the next person to help you, or maybe you are thinking of taking the first steps to getting a coach. Either way I hope the following will give you something to think about and help you make a better decision.

What makes coaching ‘worth it’?

Since that first time, I have spent lots of money on lots of coaching programs and services. I love it so much I have also become certified as a coach myself. But (you knew there was a but coming right?), in some cases I don’t feel like I got my ‘money’s worth’. Now some coaches will tell you I could just change my thoughts and believe harder that the outlay was ‘worth it’ — but I’m not here for that gaslight-y shit… Yes it’s true that ultimately the only way to judge if something was worth it - is if you think it was, but I stayed curious about why I didn’t always feel that way. In the process I’ve noticed a divide in life coaching that I think could make a difference between you getting successful results and you throwing money after chasing the next shiny thing without any meaningful change

It was brought home to me the last time I signed up for a new coaching program. I had worked in a group with this coach and I really love her. She was beta testing a new one-on-one program and I signed up. She talked about the ‘method’ she was offering and I thought — great! sounds like just what I need. I was looking forward to a whole new way to organise my life and my goals. When we were about three sessions in I started to question what I’d got myself into… there didn’t seem to be any worksheets, program, particular method… we just had… amazing coaching… Then I questioned my questioning (yep, I’m nothing if not over-analytical). Why was I expecting some kind of ‘system’? and would that even work for me? In fact as I thought about it more I realised that not having a rigid system was what was making the program so valuable. And I remembered I had instinctively turned down an opportunity to work with another coach (who I also love) partly because she had told me she thought her system would work really well for me. She may have been right, but some instinct told me I didn’t need a ‘system’ to work right at that moment, I needed to find my own way to some things.

In light of this, I started to look at the other things I had paid for in the past that I didn’t love or no longer felt benefit from. Turns out all of them were ‘instruction’ type coaching. No don’t get me wrong, I took really valuable lessons from some of them before I abandoned them. But that is the point. I am pretty good at getting something out of things and leaving the rest behind but/and sometimes this feels like you didn’t get what you really needed.

The coaches’ formula

There’s a well-worn formula for coaches — one they’ve likely been coached to follow — it reads like a ‘road map’ to get you from A-B. These coaches have a defined methodology and want you to progress through it. They spruik along the lines of “I know how you feel now — it’s shitty and blah and when you follow my [often ‘simple’] steps — you’ll feel exactly how you want to feel [insert how they think you want to feel… ].

Clearly this type of coaching sometimes has great results. These coaches often have lots of testimonials saying how many lives they have changed and I believe that’s most likely true. You may have gone to a coach who helped you: get the job you wanted, find your dream partner, lose the weight and keep it off, etc. — FANTASTIC. I’m not saying this can’t happen — I’m sure it happens every day — I have great friends who are coaches and help their clients in this way — I think it’s wonderful. The ‘problem’ for me is that they don’t show the people whose lives they didn’t change… If you’ve been one of these it is worth thinking about why dramatic change didn’t happen.

Methodology as a tool not a rule

If I compare it to archaeology (my other field of expertise you can read more about in my other articles) — sure we have methodologies that support a successful excavation and we don’t ‘re-invent the wheel’ every time we go out to dig or record a site. Things like standard forms help to remind us which details may be important to record and I can give you a manual of standard excavation procedures. But I can’t say, ‘right on the first day at xyz site take your shovel and dig seven times at xyz co-ordinate — then repeat… etc.’, because each site is different.

Also, sometimes a particular site or a set of circumstances requires that we re-think our normal methods. One site I worked on was a rock shelter that had partially collapsed due to a falling tree and could not be carefully pegged out in squares as we might otherwise have done. We had to devise a whole unique system in order to recover meaningful information from that one.

I think that a coach’s job should be to have all the tools and standard techniques ready but to respond to YOU as a new site — waiting to see what the first bucket of removed soil reveals and then taking it step by step after that. Sometimes the predictable tools will work and sometimes you’ll need to invent something more specific.

Coaching as a self-realised process

In thinking about all of this, I was happy to realise that this is also the way I already approach coaching my own clients. I have a ton of tools, knowledge and principles I have learnt but I’m not going to give you a set process to get from A to B. I’m going to start with understanding where you are, finding out where you want to be and work together to bridge the gap between the two in the most fun and interesting way possible. We will come up with a process together. One that suits you personally, not one that I think ‘should work’. I like to think of myself as a coach for cynics, sceptics, and autodidacts and there is never a one size fits all. As it turned out, the program with the coach I mentioned earlier resulted in some really fascinating methodological and systemic changes in my own approach to my life… and all without a pre-designed system.

Do you even need a coach?

This is something you should give some serious thought to. In my opinion, there is nothing a coach can do that you couldn’t do on your own. But/and sometimes it is a hell of a lot quicker, easier and more fun when you have one. If you are thinking of signing up with a coach because you are expecting a magic wand… I would suggest, don’t bother. But if you are really serious about making some changes and heading to somewhere different from where you are now [literally or figuratively] but find yourself stuck in the same patterns and never quite getting there… sounds like a coach could be just what you need.

My suggestion is if you are looking for a coach, it’s worth taking the time to find one who really suits you. This should mean seeking out someone who actively helps you find your own way/system/path NOT finding someone else’s system that seems the best fit with you. The pay off will be in more significant and sustained change. No matter what you end up deciding, I hope you have a great 2024 and make significant progress on whatever you choose to do.

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Life Coaching
Self Improvement
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