Holistic Life Coaching with Bernadette McCarthy
I don’t believe there is a universal definition of holistic life coaching so I’ll share my version here. Holistic life coaching acknowledges and respects that you must take care of mind, body and spirit in order to fully step into who you are and grow towards your full potential. It considers that all of these parts of a person are powerfully interconnected and don’t operate in isolation from each other. We live in a modern society that reveres the mind and tends to see the heart, intuition, emotions and body as somewhat wishy-washy. As an holistic life coach I treat all of these things as valuable and teach clients how to leverage them at different times for different purposes.
Some of the most happy, successful and long-lived human beings on this planet have a number of things in common that I try to bear in mind when I am working with a client. These include:
- Having a clear life purpose and contributing to their community, planet or humanity in some way
- Being tuned in to their values and being willing to take action in pursuit of them
- Cultivating respectful, loving relationships
- Taking full responsibility for their own lives
- Being able to ask for and receive support from others in order to grow
- Nourishing their body with healthy food and moving it every day.
- Having a gratitude practice
- Feeling a sense of connectedness or belonging to something bigger than themselves
- Being life-long learners
- Being willing to invest in themselves because they have a strong sense of self-worth and recognise that there is value in personal growth and evolution
- Accepting that personal growth is never ‘finished’ – that there are always new layers to explore and new thoughts, beliefs and behaviours to modify
- Remaining open to new ideas and ways of thinking
Who might this approach suit?
My style of life coaching is particularly well suited to those who consider themselves creatives, healers, teachers, or influencers. I attract those who are generally open to alternative ways of thinking about health, spirituality, work, life purpose and how to define success. I also work really well with those who feel that they have exhausted the mainstream offerings for improving their wellness and achieving their dreams. Because the breadth of this approach is so wide this style of life coaching requires a fair capacity for imagination and accepting the interconnected nature of mind, body and spirit. I do tend to attract more women than men but I have had success with both. I find that the men I do my best work with are usually much more connected and comfortable with their feminine attributes and are looking to bring them into complementary alignment with their masculine strengths.
Who this may not suit
Holistic life coaching with me may not be for those who don’t feel drawn to my description on the about page, who think the above is too ‘wishy-washy’ or who like to be told what to do by an ‘expert’. If your toes curl at the thought of being asked to try meditation or you don’t feel ready to commit to sessions for at least three months then again, this probably won’t be for you. It also won’t be beneficial if the cost is likely to cause you financial stress or if you have such a busy lifestyle that you are unlikely to find the time for yourself.
This type of coaching is also not for you right now if you are experiencing substantial mental health issues that need to be addressed first. If your mood is so low that you can’t get out of bed or think straight or your anxiety is so high that you spend your day ruminating and thinking of ways to avoid your fears. You don’t need to be fully healed to work with me due to my psychotherapy background but you do need to be in a place where you can think reasonably clearly and take some action related to your goals.
So how do I ‘do’ Holistic Life Coaching?
This is the framework that I tend to follow with most clients although I tend to navigate it in a ‘dance-like’ fashion – moving, (gracefully, I hope) between various modules according to where you are at in each session. I find that having a rigid agenda can get in the way of spontaneous breakthroughs, and being flexible allows me to capitalize on your motivation at any given time.
Identifying the problem/s
You may have a clear starting point when we begin working together, for example, you might want a more satisfying career, better relationships or to improve your health or weight. You may be looking to clear the barriers that are holding you back from living a life of purpose and abundance. In these initial sessions I like to learn about all the parts of your life, checking for areas of strength and weakness. These areas usually include:
- Your relationships (lovers, family, friends, work colleagues etc).
- Your physical health (energy levels, any illnesses, nutrition, fitness etc).
- Your emotional and mental health (mood, stress, self-esteem or worry issues)
- Your work (career, parenting, caring roles etc).
- Your spiritualilty (this could be anything from a prescribed religion to exploring your creativity, reading self-development books or cultivating mindfulness).
- The sources of joy, playfulness and fun in your life.
- Where you derive your sense of belonging and connection.
Learning about yourself
Early in the process we begin a journey of self-exploration and discovery – who am I, how do I operate, what are my strengths, what do I like, how connected am I to my internal compass, what thinking styles do I tend to use? How happy am I, what do I need, who and what can help me, how do I feel about myself? WHAT DO I REALLY WANT?
Getting clear on what’s important
Within a few sessions it usually becomes clear that the surface issues are just that – surface. You may be desperate to lose weight but start recognising all the ways you prevent yourself from reaching this goal. You may notice a pattern of failed relationships and start wondering how you might be contributing to that. At this point we start to dive a little deeper into the realm of unhelpful thought patterns, limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviours. Many of us are attempting to live our lives in the way we or others think we ‘should’, rather than in the way that best suits who we are. Repeated attempts at putting the ‘square peg in a round hole’ can cause significant psychological friction that makes life seem effortful, unsatisfying and fraught with self-sabotaging behaviour. Part of the solution to this problem is helping you get clear on what really matters to you, to connect you to your values and then to use your natural strengths and personality to get you there.
Dreaming the big dreams
Once you have a solid sense of who you are, what’s important to you, how your mind operates and what your triggers are you may find that your goals shift. This part can be really fun because we start to explore how to get in tune with your inner wisdom or gut so that it can guide you towards what you truly want – not what you think you should want. Most of us are discouraged from dreaming as we leave childhood – in favour of ‘being realistic’, avoiding disappointment or ‘settling’. We are taught that life is struggle and if it isn’t hard we are doing it wrong! Perhaps even that ‘fun’ and freedom is something you have when you retire…. I want to blow the lid off all of that because dreaming is what this whole process is about! Dreaming is how we think out of the box and generate new solutions to problems, dreaming is how we allow ourselves to expand and feel powerful and dreaming is how we come to experience joy because it feels like everything we desire is waiting for us!
Pimping your ride
So you develop life goals more aligned with your values and who you are – you then need a healthy vehicle to take you there. It’s no good discovering a desire to live off the land if you have a body that struggles to produce sufficient energy and comfortable movement. No good dreaming of a demanding career if you have brain fog and want to sleep for two hours after lunch every day. This part of the coaching process looks at how well your body is functioning and explores ways to tweak your nutrition and exercise so that you can get the most out of your brain and body.
At some point in the coaching program you will start to sense transformations in the way you think, feel and behave in various areas of your life. It starts as a slow rumble that grows into a powerful vibration as you start to connect with your true potential! Our job here is to recognise those wins and leverage them for all they are worth to build momentum. We want to create good energy, positive thoughts and cultivate a ‘attitude of gratitude’ for all that is being achieved. After all, this is what the whole process is about. Each session we will check in and record what has been ‘new and good’ in the intervening period to capture all of this success.
Long term maintenance
This is where the duration of the holistic life coaching program really starts to pay off. In my experience clients often have an initial rapid improvement in their wellbeing followed by a plateauing at a higher level than where they started. A little while later, the fresh new habits may start to slip a bit or an old sabotaging behaviour gets triggered again. Clients will often attend sessions at this time feeling like they have failed or can’t sustain their new way of being in the world. Fortunately, I know that this is normal and, because they are still working with me I can help get them back on track. This is the key to long term success and is the reason I only offer packages that run for at least three months. We are generally quite good at trying something new for a few weeks or even a couple of months but so often we struggle to maintain new habits unless there are additional supports and motivators in place.
A general note on your readiness for change
Sometimes we get very excited about the idea of transformation but aren’t really in the right mindset or circumstances to implement radical change. You may see someone else benefiting from life coaching or they may have recommended their coach to you. There might even be a bit of FOMO going on (this happens to me with online courses all the time!). Seeing someone else have success can be inspiring and energising but you must always do a realistic appraisal of your own personal circumstances, capacity and needs. A key area to consider is whether you would be exploring life coaching to avoid something or to create something. Coaching to get out of an unhappy marriage for example, would be ok but coaching to get out of an unhappy marriage combined with exploring what you do desire in a relationship would be awesome. Also, consider whether you would be doing this for yourself or whether somebody else is pressuring you to change. This is a potential recipe for disaster as none of us like to be told what to do and if we are not intrinsically motivated nothing really sticks for long. The decision to explore life coaching needs to be a ‘selfish’ one – about you and your needs. The fact that others often benefit from your transformation is just a pleasant bonus. It won’t matter how good a coach you consult, they will never be able to spark genuine, long term change if you are not ready.
If what you have read so far feels attractive to you and resonates somewhere in your being then please take some time to read my about me page to see if I might be a good fit for you.
If you feel ready to proceed, book a discovery call with me so we can chat about what I might be able to offer!
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