Get a Life... Coach!
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
CBNMoney.com She is smart, practical, personable, and poised. That’s author and life coach Valorie Burton, who I caught up with on the patio of the Founders Inn’s Swan Terrace Restaurant for a late lunch after a Living the Life taping.
Whether she coaches people through her books, like her latest release Why Not You?, or through individualized sessions by phone to clients in 40 states and seven foreign countries, one thing is for sure: Burton is passionate about her job.
And she hopes to bring the concepts of coaching not just to the work world, but to the church as well. “I want to see lay coaches, just like there are lay counselors,” she told me. “People need help. We always need counselors, but everybody can use a coach.”
OK, so what is this growing trend called life coaching? How does it work? And why does Burton believe in it so much? Here’s a smattering of what Burton told me on that sunny day.
What got you interested in life coaching?
I started out with an epiphany one day of God telling me my purpose while I was in a bookstore. The core of what I do is the writing, but my purpose is inspiring people, women in particular, to live fulfilling lives. I began writing, and when the first book came out, I started doing a lot of media interviews, and they kept calling me a life coach.
I began looking into coaching and realized it was the one-on-one manifestation of what I was writing and speaking about. So I went through training, and I absolutely love coaching.
I really believe in the process. It is a professional discipline. It is fairly new, but I think that it is something we are going to see for a long time to come, because when it is done well, it really is a great tool to transform lives.
How does coaching differ from traditional counseling? Don’t you work out some issues with a traditional counselor like you would with a life coach?
Well, counseling and psychology tend to focus on the past, helping you overcome past wounds and heal from things. It certainly has a very important role for emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
Coaching is not so much focused on problems and overcoming them; it is focused on opportunities and where you are right now and where you want to go. So it is important to be coached in areas where you are pretty much whole. A good coach is going to be able to tell you if you do need therapy or counseling in a particular area, because coaching is not counseling. It really is this: Here is where you are and here is where you are going. There is no baggage that is keeping you from being able to move forward.
How many sessions do you do with someone?
I always suggest that if you want to see real change, at least three months, maybe even six, to see yourself implement multiple different shifts and changes in your life and to have an understanding of some things, to be able to make changes that are going to be long-term changes and not just changing this week.
Then I have clients who have stuck with me for years, because it is a process for them. Whatever they happen to be dealing with I know what their vision is. I hold them accountable for that vision. I become a part of their success team in a long-term way, and that can go on for years.
We have heard the term ‘accountability partner,’ but a life coach is more than that, right?
A life coach can be a sounding board, a source of accountability, a safe space to dream and to be honest, to have someone tell you the truth but do it in a loving way. You can say whatever to me because I don’t have an agenda. My only job is to support you, to help you get where you want to be, to get clear about what your true desires are, what God wants for you. You don’t have to do anything for me. It is a one-sided kind of relationship.
You basically do most of your coaching over the phone, correct?
Yes, it is all over the phone. I think the phone is great. People say, ‘Can you really coach by phone?’ I think that it is better than in person, because it is distracting in person. People can be very honest by phone because it is almost anonymous, it is more convenient. It takes me 45 minutes. All I have to do is pick up the phone, and when I hang up the phone, I am done with my session. I am on to the next thing. I don’t have to get into the car. I don’t have to drive anywhere. It is very convenient. And for me, it allows me to serve more people.
I hear a lot over the phone. When you only have the phone, you are very focused. You hear the pauses, you hear the voice inflections, you hear the voice tone -- all of those things tell me a lot about a person that if I was looking at them, I might get other cues that would throw me off.
If you could coach anybody and they would pay you anything and you could go anywhere for however long, who would be among that list of people?
This is going to sound funny, but the person has to be coach-able. That means they have to want change and not be resistant to it.
If I had an opportunity to coach some of the young entertainers who have such an impact on so many young people, I would love to help them get clear on why they are here, why they have the platform that they do. Our society is at a real turning point. I wouldn’t say just entertainers, but I do think a lot of people in that realm have a lot of influence because they have the ear of so many in the media, and in this age, media is tremendously influential. So, maybe people like that. Perhaps people who are already in the media.
I like coaching influencers. I like that my coaching may impact one who can then impact millions.
If you could be coached by anybody, are there a couple of people in mind? I know you have worked with John Maxwell.
I have a deep admiration for Oprah and all that she has experienced and come through. There are not a lot of celebrities who have an image as clean as hers. That is very hard to attain over 20 years. I think she uses her influence to do some good, and with my interest in television, I just really admire her. I feel a connection.
I would say by the same token – and I don’t want to sound cliché – but even sitting right here and looking at what Pat Robertson has done, I would love to just have a conversation with him and get his insight and glean from his wisdom. This is phenomenal. I just like Pat. I like his energy and he is easy to talk to when I sit on The 700 Club.
If I am thinking of my career, it’s television. If I am thinking of a speaker, then John Maxwell. I love Liz Curtis Higgs. I think she is one of the greatest speakers.
So, if somebody wanted to become a life coach, where would you point him or her?
Well, I think it is good to experience coaching, so try being coached and see how it can impact your life. Then I think you should start to look into what it means to be a coach.
International Coach Federation is a great place to start in terms of resources. You want to study up on what field you are interested in without just jumping in. Say, what does this mean and what does it mean to be trained and take this seriously? I would start with is this what God is telling me to do and in what capacity?
A sought-after life coach and speaker, Valorie Burton seeks to inspire people to live more fulfilling, less stressful lives. She is the author of Listen to Your Life, What’s Really Holding You Back?, Rich Minds, Rich Rewards, and her latest, Why Not You? 28 Days to Authentic Confidence.
Laura J. Bagby produces the Health and Finance channels. She writes inspirational, humor, singles, and health articles, and interviews various Christian authors..
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