A New Direction

A New DirectionLife coaching is becoming a popular choice for those who want to make strides in self-improvement
By Wendy O. Dixon

If only I could:

… make more money
… be happier
… get more organized
… lose weight

if you’re ready for a change in your life, but don’t know where to start; if your career is good, but it could be great; if you want to make your dreams come true, you may want to look to life coaches for help.

Life coaches work one-on-one with clients who want to get out of a career rut, ease stress, find inspiration or transform their lives. While counselors work with patients on personal issues by often delving into their past, and consultants advise on how to improve productivity or efficiency, life coaches use a partnership approach, encouraging and endorsing their client’s plan of action.

“With life coaching, I don’t know the answers but I know the questions to ask you so you can discover your own answers,” says Desley Parker, a certified success coach based in Shalimar. “As a coach I stay on the journey with you. If we find we’re going in the wrong direction, we’ll course correct.”

Susan Young, 48, a Niceville-based life coach, says getting a life coach can mean the difference between sinking and swimming.

“While people may think coaching is a luxury, it’s much more than that,” Young says. “It’s strategic life planning that helps pull us out of the muck. Without focusing on solutions and desired outcomes, the problems, fears and insecurities multiply.”

Both Parker and Young help their clients discover their passions or career goals and say getting personal is the key to life transformations.

Parker, 60, has been a success coach for 12 years. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and says her personal medical crisis changed her approach in helping her clients.

“As a life coach I help people take a look at their lives and what their priorities are,” she says. “When I was diagnosed (with cancer), it made me take a look at my own to-do list for 2011 and realize it got shifted and refocused. In essence, I’ve been using all my life coaching skills on myself.”

Parker’s cancer diagnosis also resulted in a shift in how she guides her clients. When a client complained that she had not accomplished much because she was on vacation, Parker, who a year ago would have agreed with the client, now says just the opposite.

“Wow you’ve spent time with your family. What do you mean you haven’t gotten anything accomplished?” she now says to that client.

Young earned her master’s degree in human performance technology at the University of West Florida and has spent 25 years consulting with business clients who want to improve work performance, increase sales and enhance employee relationships. She also works with clients who want to heal from past hurts and move forward toward a happier life.

“I’ve been speaking with a lot of women who are going through divorces, women who are going to be single mothers going back into the workplace to support themselves,” Young says. “A lot of what I tell them is from experience, because I am one of these women. I have a lot of empathy and compassion for those who are terrified.”

If you are thinking about what to do next in your life, husband and wife coaching team Steve and Joan Carter may be able to offer guidance.

After selling their consulting company in 2006, they pondered their future and realized their dilemma was one many others would face. The couple decided to use their skills to design a program to help people through the transition into the next phase of their lives.

The Destin-based couple started a new company — Life Options Institute — and developed a website and series of mental exercises to create the baby boomer’s highway to a rewarding and fulfilling second half of life. They wrote “What’s Next in Your Life? How to Find Meaning Beyond the Money,” a guide to planning the non-financial aspects of life after 50.

The Carters suggest when looking for a life coach, getting personal is important.

“Find a life coach that has expertise in your area of need, (an example being second career exploration),” says Stephen Carter, who along with Joan Carter, has been a life coach for more than 35 years. “And spend enough time with a life coach to make sure the chemistry and style works well for you.”

But the crucial ingredient, say the Carters, is having a healthy relationship with your life coach.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “mutual respect and trust are essential ingredients for a successful life coaching relationship.” 


For more information on local life coaches and their rates, visit these websites:

Desley Parker – successwithdesley.com
Steve and Joan Carter – whatsnextinyourlife.com
Susan Young – susanspeaks.com