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Affordable Life Coaching for Those Who Do Good in the World and Earn Modest Paychecks

Nov 2, 2007
Idealists frequently entertain ideas about how our lives and the world around us might be different. We have a high need for authenticity, and we spend significant time considering the "big picture" complexities of how everything fits together in the world. Often driven by important causes, we may assume roles such as a nonprofit executive director, political leader, advocate, educator, activist, counselor, physician, or entrepreneur of a socially and ecologically responsible business.

Because we are often "pushing the social envelope" in areas that don't have great economic demand, high financial compensation may not be a highlight of our job. Thus, the prospect of paying for a life coach out of one's pocket or organizational budget may at first seem to be prohibitive. However, it is just these types of world-changing careers that require the strongest "personal foundation," and thus have the most to gain from the customized one-one-one attention of life coaching relationships. Overcoming both real and perceived cost barriers is of utter importance.

A first item to assess is the value you place upon the potential benefits of life coaching, which is the same as the cost to you of NOT hiring a life coach. To estimate a portion of this, jot down on a piece of paper descriptions of 8 to 10 things you'd very much like to create in your life, or things you'd like to have more of. This can include a few really big things (e.g., an environmentally sustainable home in a culturally diverse neighborhood), a few smaller-but-significant things (e.g., four hours to engage in your favorite hobby each week), and a few in between (e.g., two new staff in your organization).

What is it worth to you to have all those things, or even some of them? In addition, what would it be worth to you to be more authentic and fulfilled for the rest of your life? Once you've calculated the value you place on the above items, compare it to the actual cost of several months of coaching. Chances are, the actual cost of coaching is much, much less than it's actually worth to you.

Consider what you've probably spent on a few school courses, car repairs, rent, or an occasional vacation. In contrast, how much have you invested in yourself? Should you find yourself placing a very low value on the things that you want in your life, you might reevaluate whether you're truly identifying the things that you really want. If this happens, you're not alone--it often takes significant work and courage to do this! Also note that many individuals eventually make much more money once they're doing what they really love.

Next, be aware that most coaches have a preferred client niche, or type of client they most enjoy working with. For example, some enjoy working specifically with women starting their own businesses, some work with couples, and some work with individuals with physical disabilities. I enjoy working with individuals who wish to create positive change in their lives AND in the world.

Explore coaches whose interests seem to resonate with who you are. They might offer you a lower rate than other clients if you seem particularly interesting to work with; and more importantly, regardless of your financial investment, you'll get more value from the relationship because they'll also be putting more energy into it.

Do understand that even if a coach is devoted to clients whose income is relatively low, their own educational and business maintenance costs are not necessarily lower. They may already be offering you a very good deal in comparison to corporate rates. On rare occasions coaches will offer one or more pro bono slots, but this is uncommon because clients generally invest more time and energy (and thus benefit more) when they're financially investing in the process.

If you're in a college or graduate program, ask your career counseling department to consider offering life coaching as a service to students--they could even offer one or two semesters of life coaching for credit, e.g., as independent study. If enough students ask, they're likely to listen. You are, after all, a tuition-paying customer. This type of service would also place your program on the cutting edge.

You might also check with your university's general student counseling services department, to see if they have any permanent staff or as-needed contractors who are also trained in coaching-based approaches. Note, however, that any professional working with both counseling and coaching clients should keep the two very separate--if you desire coaching, it should be very clear that you are a coaching client.

If you're an employee in the nonprofit or public sector, or in a small socially conscious private-sector company, consider that many large private-sector employers spend significant dollars on employee development. This includes highly valued services such as coaching. However, awareness of coaching benefits is still quite limited in many other settings. If you feel that life coaching could benefit your work along with other areas of your life, get some of your colleagues interested in it, and educate your boss. You might start by giving them a copy of this article! A life coach may be willing to offer a group discount if several individuals in your organization participate.

If you're in a leadership position, consider how much you currently spend on various aspects of your organization. Think about how much of your day is spent simply "putting out fires" or simply "doing what needs to be done" rather than working toward an intentional vision. Perhaps this carries over into your personal life as well. How much is this reactive approach costing you, both in efficiency and in quality of life?

Consider educating your board about life coaching, and ask them to approve its inclusion in the capacity-building portion of the budget. If you frequently interact with foundation officers, ask them to consider requiring coaching as a capacity-building component in grant applications.

If you're a political candidate, consider how much money you spend on consultants and strategists, and then consider how much money you've spent on the most important asset of all--yourself! Once you're confidently creating what you want in your own life, you'll also come across much more powerfully and authentically to your constituents. It's hard to put a price tag on that.

Although life coaching may initially seem out of reach for those in lower-paying idealist professions, there are many possibilities for making it more affordable. When we're looking to change the world, we need the most effective self-development tools we can get.
About the Author
Dave Wheitner, M.S., M.A., specializes in life coaching socially & ecologically conscious people to create more of what they want in their lives & in the world. He offers discounts to professionals & students in idealist professions, & is available for workshops. Please visit Idealist Coach for more information.
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