We’ve given you advice on who’s best to fix your ropey plumbing – and your ropey back. Now we’re thinking big. How about someone to help you fix… your whole goddamn (ropey) life?
Life coaches. They’re the underground, unsung heroes of getting sorted. They fill a brilliant gap for people who need help, support and hands-on solutions but who don’t want (or may not need – ha) to spend a chunk of their life unravelling the past with a therapist. From helping you with your procrastination to dealing with confidence issues. Or something as vague as I’m 45 is this it? They can help.
Life coaches are positive. They’re bursting with energy. They are both practical and strategic. They give you stuff to do. And make sure you do it. Sort your shit out? Make a life plan? Make the plan actually happen. Lots of these coaches started out as therapists so they’re good at unravelling the why you’re like this as well as what to do about it.
Trouble is, it’s an unregulated area. WE could do a weekend course and set up as a life coach (we promise we won’t). So it’s important to know who you’re dealing with. Which is why we’re giving you a few pointers. In the shape of 19 wise souls, all of whom have been around the block both in terms of coaching and of life. So if you’re stuck and want someone to help you pick yourself up, get it together and crack on, look them up. Most of them do phone and Skype and have clients across the world, so if they’re far away but you like the sound of them, it won’t matter.
NB: Prices will tend to be quoted on an individual basis depending on all sorts of variables – it’s wise to have a clear conversation upfront.
1. WELLBEING WONDERWOMAN: DR SAM AKBAR
True, you may feel a bit awks moaning to Sam about your crappy old life #firstworldproblems when you hear that her other job is treating refugees who’ve been tortured. But don’t. She’s passionate about helping everyone live better lives. “The well-being sector is full of bad science, you know, stand in front of the mirror and say ‘I’m awesome’ 10 times. Really? That works for about 20 minutes. Women deserve better.” But she understands we have about zero seconds to devote to this stuff, which is why her punchy newsletter The Mind Minute is full of ways to improve your wellbeing in 60 seconds or less (this woman speaks our language). She works from rooms on High Street Kensington and over the phone. She’s straight talking (“I may be the coach but you still need to get up and play the game”) and realistic (website blurb: ‘In my spare time I like to partake in marathons. Box-set marathons. On the sofa’). So she gets it when you’re procrastinating. But she’s also good at helping you set realistic goals and putting a system into place to get there. “We have the most powerful computer between our ears and nobody tells us how to use it,” she says. If anyone can, Sam can.
2. RELATIONSHIP GURU: CHRISTINA LEONG
Relationships are Christina’s forte – helping start them, fixing them, moving you on when they fail. She specialised in matchmaking early in her career, connecting high flyers, and while she still plays Cupid, these days she’ll tackle anything. “I help my clients to improve their life strategy,” she says. “We all have a blind spot. Highly intellectual people tend to over-analyse their life instead of just going with it. I get them to stop, reflect and then strategise about what they want.” Her clients tend to be successful, high-earning but not exclusively. This woman is a go-getter, full of energy, ideas and pizazz. She grew up in Malaysia and blends Eastern philosophy with Western psychology. A genius side-line is post-date feedback for people who ricochet blindly from one dating disaster to another. She tackles it like a science, what went right, what didn’t, what to change the next time… her success rate is impressive. It usually takes 3-6 months for a transformation to take place, she says. She’s polished but from escaping an abusive relationship, to moving to the UK with nothing, ending up homeless, taking refuge in a safe house, rebuilding her life from scratch, Christina gets that life has its bad stuff – but she knows how to turn things around too.
3. KIDS COACH: NAOMI RICHARDS
Feel like you can’t help your child anymore? Naomi is the knight in shining armour, the fairy godmother and the mum you wanted to be but didn’t quite nail it. The common cry for help she hears from parents is: ‘He was fine but he’s lost his way, we’ve tried everything…’ They don’t want somebody asking their child searching questions they might not be able to answer so they hold off seeing a therapist. But they do want someone to give their child some positive input and help them come up with a strategy. “We have to be careful when coaching kids, you can’t tell children what to do as you don’t know how their life is,” Naomi explains. Her typical client is female, between 10-14, who has issues around self-esteem, confidence, friendship. She’ll see them for about 3 sessions and they’ll work on a specific issue. “My main job is to give the children problem-solving skills to help them see they’re amazing and have a lot to contribute,” she says. A problem she sees right now is kids who don’t have a social life. She’s sensible, warm and open-minded. Talk to her for 5 minutes and you’ll see why young people open up to her so well. She’s based in north London and if that’s too far from you she’s written two books, The Parent’s Toolkit and Being Me (and Loving It).
4. MULTI-SKILLED MENTOR: KATHY YVANOVICH
You might want to start packing, because lots of people move to live by the sea or abroad (Australia’s a common one) after they’ve been seeing Kathy. Fear not, it’s not her agenda, just that she gets you to look at what your hopes are or what you used to hope for but have given up on. *nods mournfully* Her methods are many and varied. As well as neuro linguistic programming (NPL), she’s qualified in meditation and reiki, is a personal fitness instructor – and uses them all. She’s high energy and positive, like the friend who makes you get off your butt and go to the party when you don’t want to. And don’t try and pull the wool over her eyes. If you say you’ll do that yoga class she’ll whip out her iPad and book you in. She’s funny too. Hear doubting voices in your head? Kathy says give them funny voices. ‘I’m such a loser’ doesn’t sound so bad when it’s Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un saying it. She’s based in south London, runs retreats at her place in France but is flexible about sessions – one Midult loves going for walks with her.
5. ACTION-PLAN MAN: NICK HATTER
Lots of people go to Nick as a ‘you’re my last hope’ cry for help. They’ve tried meditation, yoga, reiki, counselling, self-help, therapy and nothing has worked. He’s all about transforming insight into action. So he wants to know what makes you tick but he doesn’t want to spend hours and hours in the ‘trauma trenches’ as he calls it, talking endlessly about how your parents fucked you up. “Feelings are an important part of life but it’s important not to dwell on the sadness,” he says. His big thing is helping you to move forward. He works with you to come up with one action to go away and focus on. The problem with therapy, he says, is that there’s no follow up. A lot of what he does is point out the obvious. Trouble is, he says, you shouldn’t try to solve your own problems. Most of us work with blinkers, it’s hard to know your own unknowns. You need someone to say ‘this is holding you back, it’s not good’. He may look sharp and suited (he’s big on self-care and tries to go to the gym every day), but his style is curious, easy-going and supportive, not heckling. He’s been in a few trauma trenches himself, overcoming multiple addictions, mental breakdown, financial crises among others so whatever you throw at him, he gets it.
6. STRAIGHT-TALKING SCOT: VERONICA LEIGH
“Nearly dead from drink at 22, addictions to food, money, sex, survived breast cancer…” Veronica merrily reels off a long list. “I’ve been there, worn the t-shirt and now I’ve made a business out of all the mistakes I’ve made.” That’s her appeal. If you feel your life is in the doldrums she’s a great one for helping you turn it around. She’s now sober, sorted and has a unique skill for getting through to people where everything else has failed. She’s worked in prisons, gone into schools to talk about mental health, solved workplace issues in minutes that companies couldn’t sort in years. She skilled herself up, doing every bit of training she could get her hands on, and now coaches everyone from you and me to high-level sports stars and corporate high-flyers. The most down to earth, open-book person you could meet which makes it easy to lay yourself bare. She recently moved from Glasgow to Canary Wharf but works both north and south. She’s big on self-management and the first thing she does is getting clients to get well, ditching whatever medication they’re on. “I’m the only women over 40 I know who isn’t on some medication,” she marvels. Prepare to flush the beta blockers down the loo.
7. THE LEADERSHIP GUY: JOHN AMAECHI
Solid as a rock. John’s like the wise friend who always has your back. Who knows the right thing to say but won’t let you talk yourself out of stuff. He’s focussed though. If you’re feeling a bit drifty and want to chat, he’s not for you. “I could be spending my time more productively elsewhere,” Amaechi says. That said, he’s empathetic and fascinated by what makes us tick. He grew up in Stockport but was scouted to play basketball in the USA (it was a height thing, he’d never even seen a match) and made a big success of it. He studied psychology and then family therapy, and now is big on leadership and careers. His talks are stirring stuff, look them up on YouTube. He’s good at helping you remove barriers – both real and the ones your mind has made up. “Some stuff is out of our control but we can focus on the things which are illusionary – that’s when you’ll start being more productive. His clients tend to be high level (lots of 250 FTSE companies) though he’ll take on anyone who fits. The key, he says warningly, is not to look at coaching as something you do once a month. That’s missing the point. Agree on what you’re going to do. And there will be consequences if you don’t do it. Gulp.
8. DR DE-STRESS: MARIETTE JANSEN
Luckily Mariette won’t do house calls because if she saw our stash of self-help lit she’d swoon. Not in a good way. “I call it shelf development,” she says, “buying all the self-help books and leaving them to fester on the shelf. What’s the point? It’s all generic, it’s not focussed on you.” She describes her key clients as intelligent, sharp and very busy. “The one thing they all have in common is that they’re stuck. They don’t know how to move forwards.” Her calm, Dutch voice seems to do half the job itself, then she throws in some meditation and she’s an ex therapist so that plays a part too. Quietly positive she’s all about baby steps and helping you to develop self-awareness. “I teach people that you may not be in the place you want to be but instead of beating yourself up about it you should think positively – after all you decided to do something about it. Tell yourself it’s OK because I’m on my journey and this thing I’m dealing with is just part of my journey.” She’s open about having grown up in a very dysfunctional family and had lots of therapy and counselling before training as a coach. But she’s pretty sorted now, gives talks and has an award-winning blog under her belt. She suggests you do a free session first-off to see if you’re right for each other.
9. STRATEGY SORTER: CAROLE RICE
Carole is sharp as a pin so it’s no surprise that she was a journalist for 30 years. She thought it was the only thing she could do until she was made redundant and went to see a life coach who thought she was so good she took her on as an associate. “I love the future-based goal setting,” she says. “Helping clients to find strategies. The thing is, I’m the only one you can talk to who doesn’t have an agenda. Your family, friends, colleagues, even a rabbi or a priest they all have an agenda when it comes to your life. I don’t.” Her clients are all over, from her consulting room in London to America, Australia even Antigua, via Skype. She’s done this for 18 years, coaching hundreds of people, so is a whizz at detecting your problem when you’ve no idea. “Lack of confidence, procrastination, people pleasing, limiting beliefs, impostor syndrome… building up my clients is key. At least 50% of my clients don’t know what they want. I make them feel energised and help them work it out.” But don’t expect it to be simple, she says. You only get back what you put in. A personal trainer won’t get you a six pack, you need to do the work. She’s driven and focussed so don’t expect an easy ride but it will be worth it.
10. THE BIZZ WHIZZ: GEMMA WENT
If you have vague ideas about setting up a bread shop one day, don’t come to Gemma. She isn’t a miracle worker. However, if you have a business that’s successful but just ticking over and you don’t know how to move it to the next level, she’s the one. “It’s normally mindset that gets us stuck,” she says. “I’ll give women emotional support and help them create a framework. I’m very practical but I’m also big on the personal stuff – how you create a business strategy that’s right specifically for you. If you find yourself scrolling Pinterest rather than doing your work (no idea what you’re talking about Gemma *closes Hideaway Retreats board*) I’ve an exercise based around why you’re doing that and what’s holding you back.” Her MSA approach (mindset, strategy, action) underpins everything and she sets this out over a 90-day plan broken down into weeks, so at the end of each week you can see where you’re going. One Midult who signed up with her one-man-band copywriting and branding business has doubled her business revenue EVERY YEAR for the past THREE YEARS and can’t speak highly enough of her. Still, she’s not your friend so don’t expect sympathy she’ll make you a badass.
11. LIFE BALANCE LADY: FIONA BUCKLAND
Want the secret of success? Fiona’s theory is this: When your inner self is in alignment with what you’re doing in the world, that’s when you hit success. So, she says, my values include love, service and growth. I could be in the military, a plasterer or working in a bank so long as what I do is in alignment with these values. A lot of the problems people have is because they’re out of sync in this way. This is why she’s less about throwing it all up in the air in a ditch-your-job-move-to-France kind of way and more about helping you to get balance in your life, by finding out what energises you, and what’s in your way. The problem, she says, is that we’re usually running on autopilot. We run our lives through habit. Which is necessary to get through life but when you try to make changes to that habit, disaster. So whether you’re a major procrastinator or get everyone’s backs up at work, first you need to notice the habit. Then accept it. Don’t beat yourself up. Then you need to pause and set an action point. She recommends at least 3 months and talking every two weeks to keep the momentum going. She does lots of work with The School of Life, has a good website full of articles, videos and talks on emotional intelligence. As well as the more personal training she also does leadership training with companies and has given some sell-out Guardian masterclasses.
12. NO-MESS NINJA: LIZ GOODCHILD
A no-nonsense northerner whose tagline is ‘For people who give a shit’. She trained as a therapist (following in her dad’s footsteps) but when it came to the crunch she decided she didn’t want to work with people who didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. She’s too hands-on, too let’s-fix-this. Perfectionism is a big thing for her clients. Working mums worried they’re not as amazing at work as they’d like to be and not as amazing as the on-it mums in the playground. “Basically I have to be the anti-coach a lot of the time. Instead of me trying to get people to do hugely ambitious things I often make them laugh, cut themselves some slack and lower their goals. Often our goals aren’t based on reality. It just won’t work. Our expectations are way too high. I’m very realistic. A client might want to write a book but it might not be the right time for that. It might actually be because you’re a mum and find it quite boring and you want something exciting in your life. Plus we’re constantly being sold this idea of the overnight success. But the book might not be your thing right now. If it isn’t, I’ll tell you and help you work out what you need. She lives between Germany and the UK so all her sessions are via Skype, and her clients are all over the world.
13. MENTAL HEALTH HEALER: CHRIS DUDLEY
There’s something about a Yorkshire accent. It says ‘things will pan out fine’. Yes, it definitely helps, agrees Chris. He specialises in mental health, working with people who experience anxiety, depression, stress. Dealing with OCD and depression himself means he knows these issues inside out. He sees a lot of successful types, entrepreneurs, business owners, doctors, consultants, lawyers. At the start, it was all women in their late 30s, early 40s. “It’s a trigger age, many find their marriage challenging, motherhood challenging, and they aren’t sure where they want to be in their career.” Now a lot more men are coming to see him. He reckons life coaching is less of a stigma for guys than therapy. Oh and his gay man/caveman theory. “It helps that I’m a gay male and men feel comfortable with me. Their caveman instinct means they don’t feel the need to compete with me.” Whatever, he’s a highly likeable chap. He’s based in Leeds and unlike other coaches, he only works face to face – “that’s my selling point” – and he’ll provide 8am-8pm support to his clients too. He won’t take you on if he doesn’t think you’re suited to each other but he’s happy to recommend coaches who he rents rooms to as part of his Coaching Collective.
14. CREATIVE COACH: REBECCA KIRK
Hallelujah! A shout out for all you flakes sorry – creatives – out there. So many life coaches talk about their high-flying corporate clients but if you’re of a more artistic temperament, Rebecca speaks your language. Owner of a creative brain herself, she supports people who have a creative business but also people who want to move into that area, say a banker who has always wanted to be a photographer. Her key aim is trying to ground creative people. “They often need help structuring their thoughts. I make sure they’re not wasting their time or money planning huge life changes. I also help people to find their confidence – impostor syndrome is so common among my clients and also a fear about taking on new challenges. I help them confront their fear and express their true creativity.” Sounds fine but don’t expect an easy ride. “I go quite deep and tease out what your values are and what you’re trying to hide.” She has a base near Sheffield, one in Manchester and one around London too. Her sessions are face-to-face, online and by phone. She may be a creative but this woman has her thoughts clearly structured, is exploding with positive energy and the most peopley people-person you could hope to open your heart to.
15. DAME OF THE DECLUTTER: SARAH MACNAUGHT
Sarah doesn’t care whether you origami-fold your knickers or if you find joy in that vase. Marie Kondo she ain’t. And she hates hoarder-shaming TV. But bloody hell can she turn your life around. The way she sees it, if your stuff is out of control, you can’t move forward with life. Anything. An exploding inbox. Bulging attic. Piles of paperwork. Years of unsorted photos. A laptop of disorganised images. Drawers of unopened bank statements. While she’s sorting, she’s talking, counselling, supporting you because she knows there are usually reasons why we let things get out of control, whether it’s relationship issues (she specialises in helping clients through divorce, from legal forms to dividing possessions) or self-esteem or just bad habit. Sarah is a refreshing, Aussie whirlwind, bursting with energy, laughter and a fair bit of realism too. She has a counselling background and is unjudging but very practical and she’ll sort your whole life out in hours. Just take a look at your fruit bowl. What really gets Sarah’s alarm bells ringing is paperwork in it. Actually anything in the fruit bowl. That isn’t fruit. “When I see that in a house I know the person isn’t coping,” she says pointedly. You’ve been warned.
16. MIRACLE MAN: ALI CAMPBELL
A dentist, a hungry cat, Middle Eastern royals… they all feature in Ali’s story which transformed him from bored telecoms exec to starry life coach. A moan while in the dentist’s chair led to him trying out a hypnotherapy course. He was so good he gave up the day job. Soon he was filming in the US. His website is all celebs glitz and glamour, but he still sees the likes of you and me, split between Glasgow and London (when he’s not abroad, did we mention four members of Middle Eastern Royal Families are clients). Most of his work is now via Skype. One Midult Scot is evangelical: “Inspiring, down to earth, genius,” she says. “The problem,” says Ali, “is that we know what we should do but we get stuck. One of the things humans are most scared of is disappointment. So we think ‘maybe I’ll just retreat back to what I know’. I unlock all of that.” He can’t make you what you’re not but he can help make you the best version of yourself.
17. MINDSET MOTIVATOR: JACQUELINE HURST
Jacqueline is fascinated by mindset and how you can turn your life around. Because she’s done it. Big time. “I went from addiction to anorexia to alcoholism. I lived in a squat. I did it all. Then when I was 25 I turned my life around. So I KNOW how dramatically your life can change and what you can achieve if you have the right mindset. Within reason. If you want to be a supermodel and you’re 4ft 3…” she trails off. She’s good on food and body image issues and sees a lot of anxiety and perfectionism. “We have amazingly high expectations of ourselves,” she says. “We’ve been taught we can have a wonderful career, be an amazing mum, a great lover. I help people work through all of that.” These people range from billionaires to the girl around the corner who works in accounts. Jacqueline is approachable and firm but fun. “We all want instant gratification. Yesterday. But if people want it instantly without putting the work in then that’s not the client I want to work with.” Most of the time she’s based in her office in Mayfair but she has clients around the world in LA, Miami, Dubai, Monaco and talks to them via Skype. “My aim,” she says, “is to take you into emotional adulthood.” We’re in.
18. THE CORPORATE SAGE: CAROLE SPEIRS
She’s been doing this for over 30 years and she really is a bit of a guru on everything from bereavement to boardroom banter to Brexit worries. She’s known as ‘the problem solver’ and ‘the firefighter’ and she really has seen it all. HR departments of big companies will often ship Carole in when they need help but she also gets a lot of people coming to her independently. She has a solid background in counselling, is an experienced coach and a more than capable businesswoman. This last one is her trump card when it comes to coaching corporates, who often feel the softly-spoken therapist they saw just didn’t ‘get’ their world and the specific pressures involved. Carole runs a string of businesses and so gets it. “I get that it’s lonely at the top. I understand their stress. I know how a fear of public speaking can be a massive problem. So I’m good at helping people to deal with those things.” One Midult Man (not known to embrace any form of self-development) remembered Carole’s impressive repertoire from when they crossed paths in Dubai many moons ago. If ever you have a real corporate nightmare she’s the one to go to, she’ll sort you out.
19. COACHING AT A CLICK: TED TALKS
Off-piste? Maybe. Mawkish and melodramatic? Sometimes. But next time you’re busy procrastinating, waste some time on the Ted site and you’ll find some gems. You won’t get a stitch of work done all day once you start. You can search under themes, from confidence tricks to career advice, or roam freely. Try Amy Cuddy on How your body language shapes who you are (and how you can turn it around) or Kathryn Schulz On being wrong which looks at how our fear of failure holds us back. Then there’s All it takes is 10 mindful minutes, where Andy Puddicombe tackles our cult of busy busy busy. Or the funny, charming and life-affirming talk by the lovely Susan Cain (dead-ringer for Phoebe from Friends it’s freaky) on The power of introverts.
By Alexandra Borthwick