A Research Paper Created by Craig Hedge
(Work Life Balance Coaching, AUSTRALIA)
This paper will discuss coaching as a way of life in the context of, and in conjunction with, spiritual and religious structures. It will discuss both the opportunities and the limitations that coaching can create within these structures.
The definition of Coaching according to the ICF (International Coaches Federation) is the following:
‘ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honour the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.’
Let us also define what a way of life is to ensure this is clear. Macmillan Dictionary defines it as; ‘A typical way in which a person or group lives.’ Cambridge Dictionary states that it is; ‘The manner in which a person lives.’ And the Oxford Dictionary defines it as; ‘the typical pattern of behaviour of a person or group.’
As for spiritual and religious definitions, it is assumed that the reader has their own understandings of what religion and spirituality means for them.
In simple terms, a way of life is a way of living and behaving
Coaching on the other hand is not a way of life. It is an action or service with a clear start and finish date – at least in the majority of cases. It can help a client reach a certain level of awareness to help them choose and live their way of life, however it is not considered to be a way of life in and of itself.
So generally speaking, unlike many spiritual paths and religious disciplines, coaching is often seen as a service with a use by date. It can help others to become clearer (for example) about their religious or spiritual beliefs or callings, but it is not considered to be a way of life or path in its own right.
As a coach, and knowing the benefits of a coaching ethos and ethic, the question is perhaps, why isn’t coaching seen as a life path or way of life in the same light as other religions and spiritual practices? Is coaching that different?
Whether we look at it from a religious or spiritual perspective, coaching does have a lot of things in common with both of these approaches.
Coaching seeks to help the client align to their best self and to what is really important to them. It helps them move towards their life purpose.
Spirituality, or at least the spiritual path, seeks a similar journey and process. This is particularly evident if the client makes the connection that personal alignment and awareness of self are a necessary part of the spiritual path and lifestyle.
In the religious context, we often see a theme of service and of helping others. All religions have examples of service, and they advocate or promote a right way of living.
It is not the primary intention of this paper to critique the shortcomings or assumptions of certain spiritual practices or religious frameworks – although that is one of the outcomes. It is the intention however, to find commonalities and parallels within them to that of coaching – and to identify the limitations within this approach. So are many of the processes and outcomes of all three similar?
There is a theme of, and a search for meaning in all three. There are rules, laws, and guidelines in all three. They all provide hope for a better life on some level. In all three there is a sense of guidance.
The coach is a guide. A spiritual seeker may be looking for their guide or guru or god perhaps. A religious person sees their god as their guide.
As a coach, and when appropriate, I focus on breaking things down to an energy level. It is my belief and or knowing, that energy permeates and is present in all things. This energy could be defined as spirit, as god, as consciousness, as light, or a host of other possibilities perhaps. Is this energy merely another representation or manifestation of the life force or universal spirit that is within all things?
The above assumes the possible connections of course. The point here is that if we are dealing with energy (the force within the form or physical manifestation) then are we dealing with different things here, or are we merely choosing to put a label on something that is truly a universal force? Is this force divided and defined by those who choose to fit this energy into their religious and spiritual paradigms and structures?
If it is, then how manipulated, diluted and how limited is this force or energy within these structures? And how does it serve those people or followers in a way that truly enables them to reach their full potential?
These questions pose more questions. And to be clear, this is not about what is truth or untruth, or what religious or spiritual structure or belief system is better than another.
In the coaching context here, and as a coach myself, I am more interested in the potential and capability of people – and how that can be expressed and developed in ways that truly support all people.
So let us get back to the main theme of the paper here. This is of course that coaching is a way, or at least could be seen and practiced as a way of life. Not the way, or the only way, but a valid way of life nevertheless.