Moving forward with a ‘life coach’ |

Moving forward with a ‘life coach’

Steve Lynn
"Life coaching is about helping people pay attention to what's wanting to happen," says one local coach.

Nate Goldberg was between jobs and he wanted an intellectual challenge ” something besides physical challenges from his usual sports, mountain biking, telemarking, road biking and snowshoeing.

Goldberg, who has a master’s degree in physiology, missed the challenges higher education gave him. Like many other people in the Vail Valley, recreation had become a priority for him, he said.

So Goldberg did some research and found an eight-month-long leadership-building course at the Vail Valley Institute.

Along with a group of other people, Goldberg ended up working with life coaches and listening to business leaders speak, such as then-Aspen Skiing Co. Chief Executive Officer Pat O’Donnell, he said.

“It’s incredible just the networking and the experiences that people brought to that class,” said Goldberg, product manager for Beaver Creek Nordic Sports Center and director of Beaver Creek Hiking Center.

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Life coach Buck Elliott, of Edwards, coaches people in transitional phases of their lives, from those in their 20s lacking motivation to those in their 50s wanting to leave a legacy.

“Life coaching is about helping people pay attention to what’s wanting to happen,” Elliott said.

Elliott is one of an estimated 30,000 life coaches in the world, according to International Coach Federation, a membership organization that promotes the profession and gives coaches their credentials. (About 10 percent have credentials through the organization, which calls itself “the leading organization for global coaches.”)

Coaches come from a variety of backgrounds, including therapy, marriage counseling and consulting, Elliott said.

Elliott is quick to point out that coaches are not therapists, who delve into people’s pasts.

“A coach very much helps a person move from where they are to where they want to be,” he said.

Life coach John Horan-Kates, who, along with Elliott, helped found the Vail Valley Institute, runs several different leadership programs. Horan-Kates helps people identify their values, goals, strengths and passions during one of those programs, a three-day workshop called “Foundations of Leadership.”

In the workshop, clients discuss their families or whatever’s important to them, and what they are good at ” such as writing, drawing, thinking.

“If you say it’s important, what do you do about it?” Horan-Kates said he asks his clients.

Too often, people fail to make conscious decisions about what they really want to do, he said. Life coaches can help steer people toward their passions, he said.

“You need to know who you are and what you stand for in order to be an effective leader,” Horan-Kates said.

Michael Wasmer, a life coach who lives in Minturn, said he asks questions, listens and observes to help people looking for “more” in life find it.

Wasmer got the idea to be a life coach after he hired one 15 years ago. He has been coaching for eight years, is certified from life coaching programs at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara and the Strozzi Institute in Petaluma, Calif., and continues to go back for training.

Someone can be certified as a professional life coach at The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara by working eight to 12 hours a week for a year, according to its Web site.

“Coaches can help by asking clients the questions that they may not be asking themselves, or that even good friends, colleagues or life partners may not be asking,” Wasmer said.

Clients could be looking to make more money, be promoted in their jobs or start their own companies, said Wasmer, who charges $75 to $250 an hour, depending upon a client’s situation.

“It’s usually higher for working with CEOs,” he said.

Vail psychologist Darlene Hoffman often only makes half of her published rate of $125 per session due to poor reimbursement from her clients’ insurance companies and health maintenance organizations, she said. Life coaches don’t have to deal with that ” they don’t practice medicine, she said.

“I wish I had done (life coaching),” said Hoffman, adding that she loves Tony Robbins, best-selling author and life coach.

But the profession is largely unregulated, she said. Anyone can print a business card that says “life coach.”

“Someone with training could offer more than some of the life coaches that are practicing now,” said Hoffman, who earned a master’s degree and had 5,000 hours of clinical experience before she became a licensed psychologist.

Hoffman calls coaches “good motivators” for people who have relatively good mental health. But people in a great deal of mental anguish should see a therapist, she said.

Unlike life coaches, therapists get people to recognize and change patterns in their lives that create problems, she said.

“I think people don’t know enough about the difference to make a really informed choice” about whether to see a life coach or a psychologist, she said.

Sometimes Wasmer assigns homework to his clients or teaches them breathing exercises to relieve stress. (Taking eight breaths a minute can reduce stress, he said.)

Wasmer also helps people understand how they communicate with and read others, he said. He teaches his clients that most communication takes place through body language and tone of voice. Wasmer contends only 7 percent of communication takes place through words.

“If we are not aware of how we communicate or how we read others through our entire person, then we are blind to possibly 80 to 90 percent of communication,” he said.

Much of Elliott’s coaching, which the owner of Paragon Guides does part time, is done on the phone.

Elliott knows that he has helped people move forward. He once helped a successful doctor get more out of his profession. He also has helped avid skiers who have had season-ending injuries find value in something besides the sport.

Elliott refuses to call the people he coaches “clients.” Instead, they are “people on a journey” or “coachees.”

“We’re not just human beings, we’re human becomings,” he said.

Goldberg still uses today what he learned from life coaches years ago, he said.

“It sticks with me like it was yesterday,” he said.

Now Goldberg better understands his employees, who are more productive at work, and he networks better with other leaders, he said.

“If I had the opportunity to do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said.

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