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Life Coaching Comes of Age

Finding purpose after 50

By Morgan Baker

After the end of her 30-year marriage, Catherine Mills, 58, of Portsmouth NH, says she sought life coaching support to navigate this new, somewhat scary path

After the end of her 30-year marriage, Catherine Mills, 58, of Portsmouth NH, says she sought life coaching support to navigate this new, somewhat scary path. “I wanted to learn more about who I had become and what was most important to me. Exploring new ways of re-connecting with myself, my most important relationship, was at the core of my desire for coaching,” she writes in an email.

Every so often we all need a little support. But sometimes friends aren’t available or they don’t have the skill set necessary to help us find the direction we should move in. In that case, life coaches are there to help you find your way to living a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Life coaches work with clients of all ages, but they agree, those in the older bracket are more likely to be looking to make their lives have more purpose while those in the younger bracket are trying to find the right career or figure out how to balance work and family.

Barti Bourgault, life coach at Beyond the Edge in Portland ME, says, the younger generation is focused on having a baby, getting a job, more concrete things. The older generation is looking for broader, deeper meanings to their lives. They may be questioning their marriage, or need help with transitioning from the working world to retirement.           

“Whether a client is 20 or 80, a student or a CEO,” Nicole Wood, CEO & Co-Founder of Ama La Vida in Chicago, says. “The conversations look very similar. Sure, the context varies greatly, but human emotions are surprisingly consistent. People are conquering fears, overcoming doubts, continuing on a path of never-ending self-discovery.”

This is an opportunity to get in touch with what you’re passionate about and figure out this is how I want to live.

“This is the last new chapter of their life,” says Catharine Ecton, of Catharine Ecton Life Coaching, whose clients mostly range over 55. “People feel healthy, active and for the first time they have time to do this. They want to find fulfilment and purpose.”

According to Bourgault, when you’re in the 50-60 age group, you get into a place, consciously or unconsciously, where you’ve already accomplished a lot in your career and family. “Is my life going to be about golf?” she asks. There’s a deeper meaning there which becomes more important but it’s hard to find if you’ve never gone looking for it. This is an opportunity to get in touch with what you’re passionate about and figure out this is how I want to live.

“Baby Boomers are raging against the machine,” says Elizabeth Sukys-Rice of ES Life Coach. Boomers don’t want to be in a rocking chair on the porch. They want to be well all the way to the end, she says. Instead of sitting on the porch with their grandchildren, they are out climbing mountains.

People are living longer than they did 30 years ago and are more active. The dying process has changed. They are dying from a chronic demise, a multi- system function, such as COPD, Parkinson, Diabetes or a memory impairment instead of a heart attack.

They’ve researched how diet and exercise affect not just their physical beings, but their cognition as well.

“Now more than ever we are seeing people retire at an age when they are still able and eager to contribute in some professional sense. Many older clients come to us looking for help redefining their purpose as they enter a new phase in their life,” says Wood.

“They are more reflective,” Ecton, who is based in Washington DC, says.

Mills says, she discovered new gifts and strengths through her coaching, including resiliency, courage, compassion, love of learning, and curiosity. “I am utilizing these gifts through my work as a holistic health coach, by meeting new people, and continuing to remain open to new experiences and learning opportunities. I have more compassion for myself and others I meet. I have a keener sense of my values and the importance of honoring them in my work and personal life,” she says.    

A coach, says Sukys-Rice, can help develop a plan, help you find a motivator. She explains that motivation is often more beneficial than a challenge.

Sukys-Rice says, “I tell them they are the wisest person they know. Listen to their voices. They know exactly what they need.”

Coaching relies on the client’s knowledge of themselves, says Bourgault.

Ecton gets to the heart of her clients’ issues by asking several questions: 1) What do you want, 2) What is getting in your way, 3) What would be different if you realized your goals and had what you wanted, and 4) look what have you done in the past that was fulfilling and value – what do you need to reach similar goals.

Ecton says often our inner saboteur takes over – telling us we can’t do what we want to – this is often in the form of other voices we have listened to in the past.     

“Hear what you’re saying,” Ecton says of potential clients who often figure out for themselves with the help of a coach’s guidance, what and how they should proceed.

According to Bourgault, “Skills include listening really deeply and asking really powerful questions that help clients see a new perspective, holding to the agenda and keeping it on track.” Coaches should be aware of when the clients are caught up in a familiar story or when they’re looking at something new.

Ecton says often our inner saboteur takes over – telling us we can’t do what we want to – this is often in the form of other voices we have listened to in the past. She suggests living an authentic life – have fun and build on your strengths.

Bourgault started using a coach two years ago herself. “If you’re going to coach, you should be coached,” she says.

She went to a life coach because she had a life-time of low-esteem. At 60, she didn’t want this to dominate the rest of her life. “I don’t want to live the rest of my life playing the victim role,” she says.

With her coach’s help, they identified Bourgault’s triggers, most of which were remnants from her childhood.

While some coaching is done in person, most coaches work through technology – facetime, video conferencing, zoom, skype, and email. It doesn’t matter where the coach is located, they can assist wherever you are.

Coaching is also not to be confused with consulting or therapy. Therapy, says Bourgault, is geared toward helping a patient get from a not-so-great place to a normal level. Therapy pathologies people, she says.

Coaching, she says, takes functioning people who have all their resources in gear, but need help tapping into them.

And consulting, says Bourgault, is saying I’m an expert and I’m going to advise you.

Bourgault has been able to apply some mindfulness to her self-esteem issues as well – working hard to stay in the moment.

“Coaching helps support deep level awareness,” she says.

Using a model called Internal Family Stems, Mills’ coach helped her develop a deeper sense of self-compassion. “She helped me become more aware of and release limiting beliefs and patterns that were holding me back,” says Mills. “Coaching has served me by re-connecting me with authentic self, re-discovering strengths and talents, and by helping me get in touch with what really makes my heart sing. My life has a deeper sense of purpose. I now navigate my path with feelings of freedom, courage, and optimism!”

“The window is closing,” Ecton says. “Get cracking.”

“I feel more confident,” says Bourgault. “I’m much more quick to identify when I’m being triggered. Christmas is still a challenge, but not like it used to be.”

“Everyone should have a coach,” she says. “Parents do the best they can, but then there is no manual for what comes next.” She warns against measuring yourself up against others and society. ”Listen to your internal wisdom and coaching can help you do that.”

“I love my job. It’s challenging at times,” says Bourgault. “But I really love my job,” It feels like a gift, she says. It’s magical when you’re holding space with someone and they get their insights. There are shifts in energy and perspective. When you’re in the flow, she says, there is healing on both ends. It’s mutually beneficial.

“The window is closing,” Ecton says. “Get cracking.”


About the Writer

Morgan Baker is the Managing Editor for the Bucket and teaches at Emerson College. What’s next? A move to Hawaii. Her work can be found in Cognoscenti, Motherwell, The Boston Globe and The Martha’s Vineyard Times, among other publications. She can be reached at mbaker@thebucket.com


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