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Even when you're focused on one life area, it's important to remember the full spectrum.

Choosing a Coach: Why a “Whole Life” Approach May Be Best

While niches like executive coaching are highly valuable, coaching that incorporates a whole-life approach may be the best starting point for many people–even if job-related issues are in the mix.

As a personal transformation tool, coaching goes several steps further than most training seminars, workshops and retreats. It engages you in a continual interactive process of practice, learning and feedback. This deepens the learning and truly embeds it in your thinking and habits. Thus, coaching in general has the potential to provide an even greater return on investment. Emphasizing a whole-life approach can take it to the next level.

Perhaps you frequently ponder how your life and the world around you might be different. Your thinking often extends beyond current reality, as you consider the “big picture” of how everything fits together in the world.

Perhaps living authentically is very important to you. You place a high priority upon living AND working from your deeper values. A job or a career doesn’t feel right if it’s only about the money. To at least some extent, it has to be where your heart is, and aligned with your highest priorities.

Perhaps you’re happiest when you have a sense of integration across your personal and professional lives, and when you don’t need to engage in “character changes” through the day–e.g., shifting from a “work me” to a “non-work me.” Your professional and personal lives may overlap in many ways.

The people with whom you work and socialize may overlap, as they share many of your core values and beliefs. When you really believe in what you do, you may often find yourself talking about your work in social settings. Your volunteer activities may be closely related to your work.

If the above describe you, life coaching that takes a true whole-life approach may be a great next step to explore. This is true whether you initially seek coaching to improve your professional performance, to enhance your personal life, or to improve your overall well-being.

Traditional executive coaching, in contrast, can vary significantly in the extent to which it spans beyond the workplace. As a general rule, it tends to focus more specifically upon workplace performance and productivity.

In some cases, executive coaching focuses primarily upon developing a specific set of “competencies” or skills that are specific to the needs of the organization. Such coaching very clearly has its place and value, and many companies have experienced great benefits from it. However, this approach sometimes neglects the non-work side of life. It can leave much to be desired if applied to individuals and organizations that are deeply value-driven.

Thus, keep several things in mind when seeking a coach. First, regardless of the type of coach you speak with, ask whether they take a whole-life approach with their clients–the breadth may vary greatly by practitioner.

Second, even if you are in a leadership position, it may make sense to begin with a coach who takes a holistic approach, and later transition to a more focused specialist in workplace executive coaching if necessary.

Third, keep in mind that as you optimize your ability to define and create what you want in your personal life, this growth will likely impact your professional life as well. Skills, habits, and mindsets are often transferable from one setting to another. A broad foundation will support any workplace-specific coaching you pursue down the road.

Photo by Flickr user Kain Kalju, size adjusted. License.

Dave welcomes phone-based life, career, and transition coaching clients from around the world.

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