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Kick that cat out of bed

Life coaching? Isn't that for miserable gits who hate their jobs, or ambitious go-getters who need a hand go-getting?

Last summer, I answered an ad offering a free introductory session with a life coach. I was trying to decide whether to go for the chartered teacher programme and wanted someone to tell me what to do. The coach, Lynda Benham, didn't do that, but did help me to decide for myself. I gave up the idea, and didn't feel guilty or a failure for doing so.

However, I did find myself fascinated by what she had said. "Coaching is about helping you access your courage, and overcome fears that potential change can trigger. It's about having dreams, thinking big, and stepping outside your comfort zone." I decided that life coaching cost way less than a chartered teacher module and would probably do me a lot more good.

It began with an intensely delving intake pack. The "wheel of life" asked me to score various aspects of my life out of 10 - money (8), health (8), spiritual growth (7), significant other (cat - 1!). I then had to see how closely that matched what I really wanted. The cat tried to look cute.

It also involved a personality assessment questionnaire which was so accurate that I felt stripped bare. I had to identify goals, and then my values. We mostly interacted by phone, or used e-mail when I needed to think something through and bounce the ideas off her. She usually invited me to look at the bigger picture if I had got bogged down by detail.

Over the few months, I began to notice changes at work, and at home. I was frightened that I might get so carried away that I handed in my notice in order to follow a dream or two - but it stayed real. If anything, it left me more committed, and far more able to recognise what I could influence, and what I just had to accept.

At the end of the coaching, I redid the wheel of life. The good things had stayed pretty good, but my social life had improved vastly. My motivation to pursue other interests had grown to the point where the furry friend decamped to my son's bed.

Life coaching would be helpful if you were unhappy at work, or facing any life crisis. In my case, I realised I actually liked my life, and just needed minor adjustments to make a big difference.

I also think that Lynda worked with me in a very individualised way - recognising and meeting my needs and reflecting my preferred approach. I doubt if any two clients are ever the same.

We only have one life and, for some of us, it isn't all we would want it to be. Lynda helped establish what I wanted and valued. (She's happy for you to contact her: 0845 458 9934, or e-mail lynda.benham@btinternet.com.)

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