Arminta Wallace talks to one woman who says it changed her life for the better
'Like yourself. Love yourself. Raise your expectations. Do . . . you . . . get . . . you? Treat yourself. Fake it." After half an hour of listening to a bestselling tape on the subject, you might think you have this life-coaching thing sussed. You might even feel ready to rush out and do a bit of life coaching yourself. Stand tall. Use short sentences. Wear clean underwear. Smile. How hard can it be? Hand on a second, though.
"One of the biggest requirements for anybody who wants to do coaching," says Mary Curran, a Dublin-based life coach who trains wannabe life coaches, "is that they have integrity. And," she adds, scrutinising this reporter somewhat dubiously, "that they walk their talk." Curran says she interviews everyone who applies to join her diploma course - and it's not difficult, she insists, to spot those who won't make the grade.
"Let's face it, you can walk into a hairdresser's and spot instantly the stylists who are really interested in what they're doing. You can see people who are working from the heart a mile away."
So if you're trying to change the world, or even make a quick buck, forget it. "There are people who come with egos, people who feel they're totally right. As a coach you can't judge your client, and you must work to their agenda, not yours. Can anybody be a coach? No, I don't think they can."
Curran's approach to life-coach training revolves, she says, around learning how to listen. She has studied personal development and leadership, among many other things. Has she listened to the tape? "Not that one, no. I did read another book by that particular writer." It was, she says as politely as she can, pretty babyish stuff. "But then somebody who knew nothing about life coaching might find it fascinating."
Her diploma takes coaches through three levels of listening; being in the moment; and remembering that you can't always fix it for the client. "To me coaching is all about embracing change, getting rid of self-limiting words and beliefs. Coaches are people who ask very powerful questions to help the client find their own resources and their own answers. We do a lot of mirror-and-match work; we study how people are sitting, mirror their body language. And, of course, if they're stressed when they come in we can calm them down."
Curran is a director of the Life and Business Coaching Association of Ireland, one of a small number of coaching schools. Her latest diploma course began on Saturday at her Coach Centre premises, on Westland Row in Dublin. But for people who want to get an idea of what coaching is all about and whether it's for them, as a client or as a coach, she is hosting an open day at the centre this Saturday. All are welcome, although it's probably a good idea to get in touch beforehand, so they have an idea of how many people are going to turn up.
"The day will start at 12 o'clock, when I'll give a short introductory talk," says Curran. "Then we have 12 qualified coaches who are offering people a free half-hour session."
In her own coaching work Curran specialises in career change, an area in which she indisputably walks her walk: having established a successful catering company, Pavlova Pantry, in Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in Dublin, she walked away from it four years ago, into the uncharted territory of life coaching.
"People told me I was mad, that I was too old, that I shouldn't leave a successful business," she says.
"But what is success? I was miserable. I hated the work. If people are successful in their lives but aren't living in congruency with their values, then that's the biggest failure of all."
Happily, she is now in high demand as both a personal and a business coach - ultimately, she says, they are the same thing; "even in the business world coaching will always come down to life issues" - and charging a healthy €600 for her minimum consultation of four sessions.
"I won't take somebody for less than four to begin with. It may not be counselling, but we're still working with people's lives. They need support through change. People often go away buzzing from their first session with me, full of excitement and plans and all the rest. Then, after a few days, the full force of what they've taken on will dawn on them."
That's when they really need the coach, she says. "To reassure them that it's mostly little steps - with the occasional quantum leap."
The Life and Business Coaching Association of Ireland is at www. lbcai.ie. You can contact Mary Curran at the Coach Centre on 01-6612215; see www.coachcentre.ie