Words from a Life Coach

A look inside the inner workings of a professional coach who specializes in helping of others and the improvement of life.


Cora Vides

Who will be there to ask the tough questions? Who will be there to challenge your thought process in a way that a friend could not? Do you believe that it’s possible to make a change in your life this very second? Deborah Needham, whose career centers around helping others as a life coach, helps.

Life coaching, or simply “coaching” as Needham refers to it, guides individuals through the complexities of life by offering meetings that are designed to tackle personal questions that the client may have and discuss logical solutions that the client can take.

“A coach’s job is to be a thought-partner to the person that they are coaching” The goal of coaching is to guide the client to the ultimate state of becoming their own coach. This includes asking themselves their own tough questions, relying on no one but themselves.

Having practiced the virtue of self-awareness to assume this position is challenging for its own reasons, but after multiple sessions, the types of questions become not necessarily easier to answer but easier to ask oneself. Having known little about the in- ner workings of coaching or the process for coaching sessions, I was curious to find answers.

It was surprising that the preliminary meeting was free of charge and aimed to assess if the coach and client liked each other enough to continue. “We find out if the issues that the client wants to work on are things that I’m good at working with people on,” Needham said. Typically, the types of clients she takes in are people who are in leadership positions at work.

Needham described a handful of people she had met during her career. The first person was a CEO of a non-profit organization that struggled with managing his anger. His board of directors suggested that he seek out a professional to point him in the right direction.

At first, Needham was unsure about the case but soon discovered a connection between the two of them when she found out they both used to be paramedics. As they worked together, she uncovered the root of the man’s problem: the direction of the board of directors was not aligned with the man’s personal goals as an individual. And so, with her help, he left his job. This resulted in liberation and a new clarity for his life because he learned to identify the underlying problems that were holding him back.

Although focused on coaching adults, Needham offered a few points of universal advice that can be applied to anyone who could use a word from a professional like herself.

She explained a rich metaphor, comparing life to the crossing of a creek full of stepping stones at night. “Imagine that you are crossing a creek at night and there’s very little light and you can just barely make out the rocks in this creek…

“If you try and wait until you can see the entire path across you’re never going to take the first step.” This imagery puts into perspective the daunting uncertainty that is life. It is something that we must accept in order to be courageous enough to jump onto the first stone. Even when we are afraid, knowing that we must take the first step is half the battle.