🗓️ January 27, 2012
My self-confidence dropped with a squish, like a pair of wet swim trunks hitting the bathroom floor. I stared at the New York Times on my phone in disbelief, all of my pride leaking away and transforming into a puddle of chagrin at my feet. Was it just a few moments ago that I felt joy? It seemed like an eternity from this moment, standing barefoot in my kitchen with tears forming in my eyes. How could I have been so stupid?...
🗓️ January 24, 2012 (3 days earlier)
With a skip in my step, I walked through our small downtown from my fitness studio to my coaching office. As I waved and smiled at people I knew, I felt alive, healthy, and purpose-driven. It was going to be a good day. As I headed up the steps to my office, I received a phone call. It was an unknown number, and half expecting a spam call, I answered. A crisp and silky voice on the other end of the line identified himself as Spencer Morgan with the New York Times. Oh jeez, I thought, this must be a spam call, but then he went on to say,
"Through our research, you've been identified as a successful coach under 35, and we'd like to ask you a few questions about your coaching practice."
Thrilled that my work had reached the ears of the NYT, I chatted with Mr. Morgan for about 10 minutes, and he said that he would email me a link to the article when it was published. I never thought to ask what the title of the article was, or the story he was pursuing. I just assumed it was going to be something amazing.
🗓️ January 27, 2012
...And then my husband walked into the kitchen, to find me stunned, barefoot, coffee in one hand, phone in the other, with tears in my eyes.
"Babe, what's wrong?" he asked
To which I have to explain that the New York Times wasn't praising me and the thriving coaching practice I'd built - they were slamming me. The title of the article was, "Should A Life Coach Have A Life First?" and it proposed that at 33, I hadn't lived enough life yet to be an impactful Life Coach. I rebelled against the idea, all of the evidence pointed to the truth that I was, in fact, extremely effective as a Life Coach. My clients had a track record of achieving their goals, conquering their insecurities, and making courageous changes in their lives.
"But what if..." a small voice said inside of me, "...what if there are things that you don't know you don't know?"
I sat with the question for a few days and decided that because there was no way for me to answer it, I must put it to rest and continue on my path.
🗓️ October 3rd, 2022
Fast forward 10 years, 8 months, and 2 days... to now. I am 43 and besides more frequently cranky knees and an earlier bedtime most nights, my life looks much the same as it did on that January 27th day in 2012. However, with a decade of perspective, I can once again sit with this question, and this time, I do have the experience to answer it. At 33, did my life experience limit my abilities as a Life Coach? Is there an age that is too young for this profession? At 43, am I a better Coach than I was a decade ago? How does age impact effectiveness in any professional position?
Upon examination of these questions, I discovered that there are 3 ways to "know" something. The process of deepening our levels of 'knowing'' is solely a function of experience, but age itself does not dictate the wealth of experience any one person has.
The 3 Levels of Knowing
Level 1 - Intellectual Knowing
The first level of knowing is to intellectually understand a concept or idea. This means that it makes reasonable sense to your mind. For example, you can objectively 'know' and mentally understand that getting defensive hinders a conversation and fails to move it forward. However, knowing it as a concept doesn't really have an impact on your life. In the moment, when your emotions are high and your amygdala is about to get hijacked, you still find get defensive (and let's be honest, you totally feel like you're in the right doing so).
Level 2 - Gut/Emotional Knowing
The second level of knowing something is to understand it at an emotional level. This is the "ah-ha" phase of knowing, when you've had enough experience with something that you finally go, "Oh, now I get it". This is when knowledge is pulled down from your mind and into your heart (or emotional body). For example, when you 'know' at the gut level that getting defensive hinders a conversation, you still get defensive some of the time, but it's less frequent, and when you recognize that you are doing it, you cop to it, apologize, and course correct.
Level 3 - Modus Operandi (MO) Knowing
The third level of knowing something is 'know' it with your entire body. This is when the knowledge is fully integrated with your mind, emotions, and body. For example, when you 'know' at the MO level of knowing that getting defensive hinders a conversation, you just don't do it anymore. It doesn't even come up for you, it doesn't make sense to you, and it's no longer an option in communication.
When a certain behavior becomes the way in which you operate every single day, 365 days a year, then you can say that you truly "know" something. This is level 3 knowing.
So let's jump back to the original question, "Should a life coach have to have a life first?" To which I would answer: If a Life Coach is ICF certified and follows the tools and methods of their training, they can be effective at any age.
In the coach/client relationship, a Life Coach should never be giving an opinion, giving advice, or sharing their personal life. A good Life Coach should be asking key questions designed to unlock the client's wisdom, providing new ways to look at things, suggesting powerful reframes, and providing acknowledgment, validation, accountability, and encouragement. Providing a Life Coach has a (minimum level one) 'knowing' of coaching techniques and emotional intelligence skills, they can be extremely effective as a coach.
So, what benefits do the deeper levels of knowing offer a client or customer? There are many, but these are the top three. As an individual deepens into more level 3 knowledge of the world around them, they can offer:
Based on my life experience, it is clear to me that there are strengths in every particular stage of life. Even naivety has its gifts. I love Ken Montgomery's suggestion that any professional over 40 needs a mentor in their 20's. We all can benefit from the wisdom that comes from each of our unique life experiences. While I might have deepened my levels of knowledge about many things in my 43 years on the planet, I have no idea what it's like to be 25. A 25-year-old has grown up with the internet, social media, helicopter parenting, increasing income disparities in our culture, and the doom of impending climate change in their lifetime (just to name a few). I have no idea what that experience is like, and that experience certainly has things to teach me.
In short, we all have something to bring to the table. Don't hold back what you (and only you) have to offer. Play full-out and leave it all on the table. That is how we get the best results for our lives, relationships, business endeavors, goals, and ultimately, the world.
And if you're looking for a Life Coach, my advice is to trust your hunch, and work with any coach (regardless of age) that some part of you says quietly, "Yeah, this one."
Mindy Amita Aisling
Life Coaching for Big-Hearted Overthinkers & Entreprenerds
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Mindy Amita Aisling, is a professionally trained and board-certified leadership, authenticity, and entrepreneur coach.
Mindy exceeds all requirements set forth by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) for Master Coach certification.
Mindy is also a licensed mediator, communications coach, and conflict resolution practicer. As a mediator, she has worked both in private practice and as a court appointment mediator at her local county courthouse.
Through her innovative approach, she assists clients in examining their limiting beliefs, questioning their assumptions about how the world works, and releasing the notion that they are anything less than perfect. As a result, individuals who work with Mindy cultivate the ability to stand firm in their beliefs, live authentically and decisively, and discover an experience of life that is easy and graceful.
In 2021, Mindy founded How to Be Human and Entreprenerd. These programs have enabled her to share her wisdom and knowledge with a broader audience in service of her vision of helping others live authentic lives This, in turn, has empowered more individuals to lead their most TRUE and COURAGEOUS lives.
When she is not working, Mindy can be found playing outdoors in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, creating art, spending time with friends & family, or with her nose deep in a book.
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