Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.
Proverbs 3:5-7, The Message
It all started when I least expected it…my coaching career that is…with my post on Facebook: “Kicking off my Psychology program today at Cornerstone University, wish me luck!”
The live chat window popped up with a note from Jennifer. “Good luck with that, Diane! And, why’d you choose Psychology?”
“Spent two years calling out to God about what to do after my kids are gone, and believe He’s directing me into life coaching and counseling.”
A minute later my chat window came back with this: “Wish I knew what I was supposed to be doing; any idea on how to figure it out?”
Jennifer’s question both surprised and pleased me. I’m a total rookie and was not looking to build a practice. I’m in the process of completing my life coaching certification, am halfway through night courses for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and plan on getting a master’s in counseling for my Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). While in school, I’m a busy mom with teens as well as a wife with a husband who travels routinely for business. Most of my days are filled with doing my homework, laundry, cooking, and driving teenagers everywhere they want to go. It takes all I’ve got to keep up with life, so working with clients or building a practice wasn’t on my radar.
Before I responded to Jennifer, I remembered a conversation with my mentor. “You know, Diane, you can start seeing clients as a life coach while you’re going to school.”
“Really? I can do that?” I had replied.
“Sure. You start by charging a small fee, and as your experience and credentials increase, so will your fees. Once people start to see how much you can help them, they’ll tell other people, and your client list will grow. By the time you graduate you’ll have a practice.”
Jennifer’s question made me face the challenge (and fear) of stating what I had to offer her and of asking to be paid for it. My fingers tapped away: “Funny you should ask, because I’m starting to work as a life coach and only charge a pittance. I’d be happy to set up a time to meet and talk about some ways I could help you.” Before I clicked the enter key, I muttered to myself, “Okay, Lord, here goes. I’m going to put myself out there and trust You.” Click.
I felt amazed with Jennifer’s response. “Sounds great! I can only afford a pittance so that’s perfect. When can we meet?”
I was blown away. I thought for sure she’d say, “No, thank you.” Instead, she became my first official paying client. We arranged to meet later that day. On the drive over, I prayed, asking God to show me how to handle the situation. It was an amazing, exhilarating, Spirit-led experience.
As I worked with Jennifer, God—like manna from heaven—continued to put people and situations in my way to confirm my career path in coaching. One such instance I call “my grocery store run in.”
Breezing through the soda isle one afternoon, I passed a young lady who was chatting up a storm on her iPhone. She hung up, looked me square in the eye, and said, “I just got off the phone with a friend who told me she’s looking for a marketing assistant and I’m really interested in it. I wonder what I should tell her?”
Without skipping a beat, this perfect stranger went on. “She’s kind of a friend, and wouldn’t it be weird if I told her I’m interested? And, what if she turns me down? Wouldn’t that make our friendship awkward? Should I just send her a text and see what she says?”
My gut reaction was to burst out laughing and ask about the hidden cameras, but I had enough sense to say, “How about I answer your questions with a question? Why are you asking me all this?”
“I don’t know what to do, and you look like someone who would give me really good feedback.”
I was stunned. I also saw the vulnerability it took for her to approach me, so I gave her the best response I could. “When opportunity knocks definitely pursue it, especially in this economy. The worst that can happen is she says no. But you’ll never know unless you try. Don’t text her. Just give her a call and offer to buy her coffee, so you can discuss it face-to-face.”
“Well, what if she says no? Won’t it be weird if we have this awkward thing between us?”
“No, I don’t think it’d be weird,” I said. “Just respect her answer as the boundary she needs between work and friends and go on being friends.”
“Oh… okay… I think I will. I feel so much better. Thank you!”
We hugged and exchanged business cards. Perhaps someday my unexpected “grocery store run in” will give me a call or pass my card along to someone else who needs coaching. Either way I was delighted I could help her. When I think back about this experience, I view it as confirmation from God and a test of my willingness to make myself available when asked.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
As a rookie coach I’ve experienced doubt and fear such as when I wondered if I would be able to help others while still in training. I am probably not alone in this, and other coaches may have had similar feelings. As I’ve begun my coaching career, I’ve had to depend on God to show me if and when I’m ready and I have relied on trusted mentors to advise me. To succeed, I believe coaches need both firm faith in God and accountability from experienced coaches.
A bad economy has also fueled other fears as I’ve wondered whether I should get into the coaching business. To counteract my fears, I’ve developed a purpose/mission statement for my schooling and am working on one for my business. My purpose statements are lodged in my brain as reminders of why I coach when I have qualms about my career. This has helped me a great deal, and I firmly believe coaches should have a purpose statement to keep them on track during times of uncertainty.
I also think it is critical for coaches to be in constant communication with God about who He wants them to help and why. I fondly recall the instances when God intervened, like with my first client Jennifer and my grocery store run in, as examples of my reliance on Him.
I also recommend coaches use inspiring quotes to stay focused, like this one from Helen Keller:” “It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our goal.”
Diane Schroeder is a life coach who is building her practice while pursuing her education. She is a student in the Psychology program at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and entering Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in the fall of 2013 to obtain her Master’s degree in Counseling. Diane has been married to her best friend, Dan, for over 20 years; and is the proud Mom of teenagers, Kelly and Samuel, and her misfit canine, Dusty Dog.
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators. To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.