The comprehensive guide on how to choose your perfect mentor or coach
In this article you’ll find a list of points that are worth looking into when you are contemplating to hire a professional coach.
Welcome to your comprehensive guide on how to choose the perfect mentor!
If you’re looking for someone to work with in order to live a fuller and more peaceful life and don’t know where to start, let me assure you, I know just how you feel. I recently read an article that in the United States alone there are more than 15,000 coaches offering their services.
I’ve been trying to get an overview of the coaching market in the past and frankly, I was surprised to see how many people offer this kind of help in Europe and Germany as well.
Since there are so many people out there who are claiming to be able to guide you to your goals of happiness and a fulfilling life, it’s worth asking what you are looking for. Let’s not forget that, among other things, coaching is a trust-based service that makes it difficult to review objectively. The sheer multitude of coaches can be overwhelming. If it was me who had to decide if I wanted to hire a coach, I’d be tempted to abandon my plans and procrastinate some more.
But this is the comprehensive guide to finding the perfect coach, so there’s hope for you yet!
After you finish reading this guide you’ll have a solid idea of what to look for and what services might not work for you. Even if reading this makes you angry and annoyed at the same time for some reason, this guide can still be helpful. Oftentimes in life we have to experience what we don’t like in order to gain an understanding of what we do like and want to create more of.
So, there’s been enough talk already. Let’s dive straight into the Top 11 Things to consider when looking for a coach.
1) Be open minded
One of the most important things to consider when looking for your coach is to stay open minded. When we are looking at our comfort zone in relation to what life has to offer it is a small, small bubble that we live in. It can be fairly alarming when we are in touch with this outside world that has a completely different approach to almost anything we can think of. So if you are looking to find flaws or negative affirmation in a professional or even the random people you meet on the street, chances are you will find exactly what you’re looking for.
On a slightly off-topic note, I sometimes refer to a movie in an article. This is because I have spent half of my life in front of a screen (a slight exaggeration perhaps). But since I love movies and have seen them again and again, I can often draw upon their message in order to make things easier to understand. Many of you also love movies, I’m sure, as we can all relate to their stories and find catharsis in them.
So back to the topic at hand if you have not seen “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey I strongly suggest you watch it to become familiar with the idea of being open to new things. In the end, it is our judgments that form our perception of reality and the person in front of us never had a chance to show how brilliant they are if we dismissed that possibility right from the get go.
Like every service, it’s important that you feel comfortable with the person that is sitting next to you. But the chemistry between a coach and a client goes far beyond that. Chances are you’ll most likely be disclosing your deepest and most hidden aspects of your personality to that person. And in most cases, these aspects are hidden to us as well. I can almost guarantee that if you notice these aspects at all, you may chose to overlook or skip them if you feel you cannot trust the person in front of you.
Even after working with my mentor for six years I still have to consciously step beyond that threshold in one-on-one sessions and assure myself that she has always given me fair treatment and has never taken advantage of the knowledge I shared with her. It’s quite the reverse actually. I have always benefited the most after opening up and speaking freely. But this relationship depends on mutual trust and respect.
Look for a person you feel drawn to and spend some time in a free consultation, which most professional coaches and mental health trainers offer.
Some years ago I tried out behavioral therapy and in the first session I talked about the things I wanted to change. But as I opened up I felt demeaned and judged by my therapist. I made the decision, however, to stay and work with her, because waiting lists to get an open slot in any therapist’s office had been up to six months at that time. I didn’t do either of us a favor because I was holding back and only disclosed the bare minimum instead of speaking freely.
Two things are important to remember when it comes to chemistry:
A) Don’t work with someone you feel uncomfortable with, no matter what the reasons might be.
B) If you find someone that you do like to work with, but you have to wait in order to get an open slot, it might be worth the wait because it will make you feel better when you do actually start to open up freely.
3) “Be skeptical…”
I borrowed one half of this sentence from Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Fifth Agreement”. If you haven’t yet read his books I can only recommend that you do so, especially “The Four Agreements” and “The Fifth Agreement”.
Be skeptical because, as we have observed already, there are countless offers from people who make their living coaching people. I’m one them by the way.
While I promised myself to keep the tone of this manual positive, I will ask that you use your intuition and skepticism to protect yourself from exploitation. What I’m talking about specifically is in regard to the Internet and the people that use it. You can find the most charming and experienced adviser who is offering their services for way below what they are worth online, but you can also find the kind of person who read “Life Coaching for Dummies” and is offering their help for a steep price but they don’t know much about their trade.
The topic alone could be dissected and a long article could be written about the judgments and assumptions this entails, but for the arguments sake, let’s just end with this: the point is, you don’t know who you’re dealing with and chances are if that person is better at marketing themselves than actually being a coach, you might be taught a different lesson than the one you anticipated.
So be skeptical. Do you have a feeling that the person in front of you is really interested in helping you access your potential and help get you answers. How do you feel when you finish your session? I usually felt lighter and more grounded whenever I left the counseling session of coaches.
“Life Coaching for Dummies”, by Jeni Mumford, is a very good book and is not meant to be criticized in any way. The title was just chosen to underline a point.
4) “…but learn to listen”
This is important. You are very likely seeking out people to help you transition into a new way of life. Chances are the mentor or coach that you pick is going to address some unpleasant or highly discomforting issues. Russell Brand, among the many others who have published books, says it very fittingly in his book “Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions”; we had our chance to live a happy life and enjoy our creation and it didn’t work. So for a change, why not let go of what we think will be the way and try something different for a change. Let us look at an example. I know something is not working, but I am still convinced that I only have to do it long enough and that will make a difference. I have a key to a door and I am telling myself that I only have to try long enough until that door opens. The reasons why this door in front of me is not opening are endless, but we are still telling ourselves that persistence will create the change we seek, finally allowing us to step inside. After a while, we hire a pro to help us solve the particular problem we are facing.
So there is the pro, who is standing at my side while I’m trying to open that darn door. Imagine I’m paying someone to give advice, but when it comes to actually follow said advice I get angry, dismissive, and protective. The end of the story could be that I say to myself that the person is incapable and highly disrespectful to assume that I didn’t know what I was doing. I have a key to open this door. I’ve been trying it all my life. So how dare that bigheaded, overpriced person talk to me like that. A conversation could look like this:
“Hey, are you sure this is the right house? I have a feeling this key doesn’t fit. Maybe we can look under the doormat or in the flower pots right next to the door for a spare key. Or maybe we are lucky and the backdoor is still open and we don’t need any key at all.”
I think we all get the picture by now. Taking on the advice of a person when it comes to letting go of our own concepts, hopes, and dreams for the future is difficult or even impossible at times. But this brings us to the next item on the list.
5) Give yourself time to process and integrate
There is no question that you will need time. You are the person who is in charge, so choose a mentor that is able to go with your flow. Every person is different when it comes to processing and integrating. Sometimes we need a lot of input and perspective from an external person and sometimes we need time by ourselves.
If this is the beginning of your journey, chances are you will have to find out about these kinds of rhythms while you go along. Talk to your prospective coach about how often meetings will occur. Is it possible to pay by session to session or is there a commitment to a certain amount of time?
I urge you to refrain from seeing things as right and wrong. Try instead to adopt a perspective about what you need in order to address that, which needs addressing at your own pace.
6) Autocratic vs. Dogmatic
How do you want to work? Do you want to follow a particular set of rules and guidelines that are used to steer the process in a certain direction or are you looking for the opposite. An interdisciplinary mix of procedures or techniques that cannot be preordained in the introduction, because they try to incorporate the energy of the present moment. For me, personally, it was never important to know what lessons and lectures would be chosen, because I was confident that my coaches saw what technique would help me best in the current moment more clearly. However, I do recognize that an outline or procedure can be appealing to many people, therefore I listed it as something you should consider when looking to work with someone.
Maybe you even have a technique that you learned about in mind. The possibilities are endless, but so are the professionals who use all of these methods in combination.
7) Level of Introspection
This is something that women will eventually be a little more aware of, due to the nature of their connection to their body. Nonetheless, it is essential for men to take the body into account because it is a vital gateway to our feelings and emotions. Especially for those who decided to cut themselves off from their feelings entirely because circumstances became to painfull to bear.
It is important to highlight that the extent of introspection coaches work with varies like every point on this list. I have had the challenge and gift of being able to work with someone who would always ask how I felt. This was difficult for me because I didn’t feel anything in the beginning. If I was not able to feel what she was picking up on she would propose something, but always ask for verification. She never told me that she would perceive “the truth” and question me in a sense that I would come to the “right” conclusion on my own.
When working with our own potential and shifting into a fulfilling life, mastering introspection is crucial. No one can give us answers when it comes to how certain things make us feel. Our heart and feelings are the sextant, compass, and map that we use for navigating through thirty-foot waves, seemingly endless nebulae and starless nights on the ocean we call life. We need a coach that empowers us in becoming able to read those instruments ourselves. If we feel overwhelmed, we need them to be patient and go through the process over and over until we are able to read these instruments with confidence ourselves. What we don’t need is someone taking over the rudder and taking us to the places we wanted to go, but once they leave the ship we feel lost and don’t know how to set course towards our next journey.
Additionally, the body is like a hard drive for our feelings and emotions. If we have suppressed feelings, the chances are high that we will find them somewhere stored in our body in form of pain or disease. Our bodies are marvelous instruments, which always tell us the truth. We only need to learn the language the body is speaking, and a coach can be that tutor who tells us how.
Introspection is meant to help you get in touch with your emotions and gain an understanding of how you feel in your body and soul. It is taking that metaphorical step back and becoming the observer of your reactions, patterns, and behaviors.
8) Pricing and Money
Maybe this is a topic that you feel doesn’t need to be addressed, but I assure you it is part of the commitment we are here to make.
Money is often described as a universal form of energy that can be exchanged between people. Our energy output can be seen as a big accounting process. We give energy for certain things and we get it from other things. Part of the transformational process we are seeking through coaching is to align or shift the way we spend our energy.
It’s like making an investment in our house. It will cost a specific amount of x, but through this investment one of two things will happen:
I will either enjoy the task that I didn’t like doing before because I now have some nice tools and equipment.
The other option is to hire someone who will do that task for me, who more often than not enjoys that work if I am willing to pay a fair price.
If by the end of the week or month we have a certain amount of energy stored (money saved), that represents a specific value to us. Like the conversion of heat into electricity, energy gets lost and depending on how much labor was spent on saving 1, 10, or 100 dollars, the more valuable that energy becomes to us. This is because we not only paid with the energy that we used to earn that money by working, but because we also paid for it with the time we didn’t spend doing other things we love like hanging out with friends or family for example.
So the money we spend on a personal coach better be worth it because in most cases we had to decide between hiring a personal coach or getting another thing that we would have enjoyed.
To me it was always a nonissue that my coaching sessions and workshops had to be paid. At times these expenses were higher than what I earned, but still I would refuse to drop them.
The bottom line is that if you find a method or way that helps, do yourself the favor and arrange your budget around whatever these expenses might be and invest in your health. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Chances are high that the amount of money you spend needs to challenge you so that you take it seriously. On the other hand, don’t assume that the fee in any way correlates to the progress you are making.
A coach that costs 50 dollars per hour can stimulate the client in a way that they are giving everything they have got, because the 50 units of money are literally everything the client has got. The opposite would be a prosperous person that hired the most competent author and life coach only to find out that nothing changed after paying a horrendous amount of money.
The difference is made through the motivation of the client and not the fee the coach is getting. The coaching fee is merely an internal evaluation of the service provider.
There is no logical reason as to why some people earn more money than others. I myself calculated what my education, time, and experience are worth when I offer them to a client. If people are willing to spend this amount to work with me…great. If they don’t, that’s fine too, because I get to spend my time doing other things that I love. In terms of quality, I would do the same job if I didn’t earn any money or ten times what I’m asking for. The person who pays me attaches the value of money to the quality of my work.
I’ll explain it in one example and then we can move on.
I have countless conversations during a normal day where people talk to me because it makes them feel better. I am not charging for this because I don’t intend to hang a meter around my neck to turn on every time a conversation starts. The value attributed to these conversations differs from the value of a paid coaching session, even though they are very similar.
Truth to be told, many people at some point in their lives, myself included, perceived freebies or complementary gifts as worthless or almost worthless. If I pay fifty thousand dollars for a painting it is immensely valuable. If I found the same painting standing next to a dumpster in an alley, chances are good that I will dismiss it as trash. Even though it’s the same picture!
This was certainly a long section, but it’s a lesson I learned the hard way, and very slowly at that, so I’d really love for you to benefit from my past mistakes.
Think about how much money you would like to spend per month. Make this decision in a quiet and balanced state of mind. Assess whether you can let go of some habits that cost you money so that you could afford hiring a professional.
Once you feel good about an amount of money you can see yourself spending for at least a couple of months, go out and find your coach that is within your predefined price range. You yourself will determine through your involvement and commitment whether or not the money is worth it.
Be steadfast and immune to the glamour of heavily marketed search engine optimized coaching services that are outside of your price range. There is no need to fall into great debt, because I think I need to hire a coach that earns in an hour what others aren’t earning within a month.
Get clear on the amount of money and circumstances first, then go find the professional next.
9) Online vs. Local
This point is kind of self explanatory, but it is also important to be included in our list.
Chances are you won’t know what you prefer until you try something out. Also, changing circumstances can dictate your decision because you simply have no choice between one or the other. If you are unsure whether or not a video session satisfies your needs for this kind of work, try out a free appointment. Most coaches, online or offline, offer free consultations and it is important to make use of this. Make a reservation and talk to the person. See whether or not you like the fact that you can be almost anywhere doing anything right up until the appointment starts or if you prefer being in the same room with your coach. This is also surely a question of infrastructure and locality.
All I’m saying is that both ways have their advantages and disadvantages and you should listen to your inner voice. It usually knows what’s best for you.
10) Self Empowerment
The tenth item on our list emphasizes the importance of self empowerment. No one can teach you anything you don’t already know in the deepest depths of your heart. If you get the feeling that someone is claiming to be the cause of your progress, be skeptical and observe. A life coach, success coach, or mental trainer is only the facilitator that helps you tap into your reservoir of power and potential. No one needs a life coach per se, and if you have the feeling that you can do this on your own, go for it.
I chose to enroll in a guided program to experience a rite of passage that is called a “Vision Quest.” I paid for coaches and metaphorical midwives to help me be reborn into a new life, but I could have also chosen to pack my bags and hike into the wilderness for three days. Coaching in general could be compared to training wheels on a bike. In the beginning most people need them in order to stay on the bike and not fall, but in the end the need for such an aid decreases over time. Some children had someone help them with or without training wheels and others taught themselves how to ride a bike on their own.
The inaccuracy in the metaphor is that life is a little more complex than riding a bike. We constantly learn new things and get to new places of discomfort and growth. So while training wheels might be obsolete at some point, mentors, coaches, friends, bosses, in other words people who inspire us will help us grow as long as we live.
If you decide that you are looking for help, keep in mind that every coach-client relationship should be based upon empowerment and the achievement of your goals.
11) Coaching vs. Consulting
This is the last point in the list and took me quite some time to really understand.
To make the distinction short and clear:
A consultant tells me what to do based on the experience and expertise they have.
A coach aids me to find, or better said unvail, my own truth and solutions that are already present but inaccessible at the time by asking questions.
You will get a better understanding of the way the coach/consultant is operating when you sit down for the first time.
I doubt that all coaches stay within their realms of asking questions and all consultants tell their clients what to do. I personally tell my clients what I think they could do in certain circumstances.
However, I do so knowing that I am doing it, disclaiming the process for the client. Where I stand right now I can not tell if there is a better way. I am sure there is a need for both in different phases of life and situations so I go back to the default sentence I often use. Go with the flow of how it feels to you and what you are currently in need of.
So now we know pretty much what to look for when hiring a coach, but what’s the next step?
The Internet is still as huge as it had been ten minutes ago and I still don’t know where to look apart from the first three result pages from Google when I enter “life coach + (insert attribute that is important to you here).”
Be curious and open minded and see what happens. Maybe you will be sitting next to someone on a plane or train who has a recommendation. Maybe you will see a local advertisement in your favorite store or pilates class. Be patient and hold the intention that when the student is ready the master will appear.
When I came back from my vision quest in Death Valley during 2014 I was convinced that I would find a new mentor who would teach me his or her ways, but since I moved from Norway to Ireland to Germany within a year and a half I did not get the chance to establish a long-lasting physical relationship with someone. Since I was traveling so much I was listening to many of the audio books by Dr. Wayne Dyer. In a sense I had found a new mentor, because his teachings varied greatly from what I had learned so far in my former coaching relationship.
Maybe your coach has written a book and it winds up in your hands to get you started. Maybe you’ll find an online video class that will help you in a time when you need it most.
Stay open to the process and trust in your inner guidance to lead you to the right circumstances that you need right now.
Sometimes it’s a lot to ask for in the current situation, but if you trust the universe and the process of becoming you will receive the answer you’re looking for.
I hope this article was helpful to you in any way. I have been blessed with the coaches and teachers I stumbled into during my life and I am positive that the same can and will happen to you if you allow it to.
I hope these eleven steps will help you along your way, and if you have any question or are looking for assistance feel free to reach out.