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Extracts of a Life Coach: The glorification of age?

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This week our fledgling life coach, Emma Ranson Bellamy asks for our help: Is age and a life long-lived a necessary precursor to coaching? Can we only teach when we have learned the lessons of life from experience at first hand? Add your comments by posting in the box at the end of this latest diary entry.


I’d like your help this week. I’ve had a piece of work sent back to me for reconsideration.

It is the opening of my reflective essay, a dissertation if you like where all my learning and original thought come together.

My assessor has suggested that I may have a limiting belief that young people are not able to effectively work as life coaches. It has really made me stop and think about my approach to those with less furrows on their brow!

What is a young person, is it anyone younger than myself, can the elderly have lived a life and still learned nothing? Is my opinion holding me back in my relations with others? If you have a moment I would be really grateful if you would read the opening chapter and let me hear your thoughts on the topic. Is age important in being a coach?

To be an effective life coach do you have to have had many life experiences? I wonder if ‘life coaches’ will be churned out at the end of a university degree aged 20+? Maybe. To have experienced life, and to recognise where changes have to be made and make them, not with a view to pass on the experience as lessons; but to experience the change, call it what you will, the defining moments, the light bulb moments. It’s the change that’s the lesson.

As a coach I have to walk the walk and talk the talk. I have to believe in the process and that we each have access to the information we require to make positive changes in our lives.

Maybe there are some ‘youngsters’, just out of University who would make good life coaches, the sort of teenagers who have old heads on young shoulders, they might just be the exception. I would like to share an experience which I hope clarifies my point, I attended a Flamenco festival a few years ago and saw a child prodigy, a fantastic young boy who was technically excellent in every movement.

I loved his performance and applauded until my hands ached. The next act comprised a middle aged woman in a dull costume. I got up to get an ice cream when she arrived on stage. I felt sorry for her, she had a hard act to follow after the amazing performance of the young boy.

How wrong I was. If his performance was technically perfect hers was the embodiment of the story. Her every turn and glance was bursting with tumultuous passion. I did not need to be able to understand the language to be able to feel with every flick of her skirt, every wave of her hands and every breath from her lips why she was dancing.

This was not just about technical awareness but of a life lived, enjoyed and cried over. She was not ‘top of the bill’ the young boy was, we had come to see him, who at the tender age of nine, had learned the art. But maybe the spirit of flamenco cannot be learned until your life is rich enough to understand its power.

In the same way I can’t make my life my own until I have made mistakes and have seen for myself a way to change it to the way I want to live. This journey has been as much about learning about my own life, the person I am, the person I want to be, in all my roles, as it has been about learning the skills to be a ‘life coach’.

Even if I never speak to a client I am so happy I have done this. There is a saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I did not realise when I began the course that I would become my own teacher.

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.” (Marcel Proust Volume 2 ‘In search of lost time’ p23’.)

Emma can be contacted at [email protected]

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2 Responses

  1. Experience more than age?
    A great deal of coaching can draw on the wisdom of experience. In this respect, it is possible for a younger person, perhaps someone in their 20’s who has had a difficult childhood, to act as a coach for another with similar experiences. However that same young coach might not carry the same gravitas with an older person (using the term “older” very loosely) with different issues.

    So much depends on rapport, and the coach’s instinctual feel for what is right for the client as well as technical, by-the-book skill.

  2. Chronological age versus self-knowledge.
    A life-coach benefits from self-knowledge and -understanding. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to prevent ‘you’ leaking into the coaching relationshop accidently and unwittingly. However, chronological age does not always predict self-knowledge. Some may acquire self-knowledge as they age; some may seemingly never do so.

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