Life Coaching: A New Approach to Personal Development and Mental Health

Introduction

I was anxious, confused, and disorientated when the WHO announced that the world was in the midst of a pandemic. I had worked hard to get to where I was; I was fulfilling my dreams, but now everything was jeopardized and my dreams were turning into a nightmare. I was alone, far from home, vulnerable, and at a loss on how to proceed further.

Since I had come to Europe to follow my passion of studying law, I thought that perhaps I could focus all my attention on my studies. However, even this was at risk since my University announced that all law classes were suspended until further notice. My once overflowing agenda was empty and needed rebooting. In my quest for a life, I stumbled across a Facebook post on AEGEEans in Quarantine offering free life coaching sessions; I was intrigued, and after a quick Google search about life coaching, I sent a message asking for more information. At the time I was convinced that I did not need life coaching or any sort of counseling for that matter, but I needed inspiration and direction. Initially skeptical about life-coaching, after a few sessions I was proven wrong. It works and I currently feel much more confident than ever before.

The Life Coach

27-year-old Philip Læborg is a full-time client insight manager, a life coach and founder and president of AEGEE-København. Philip spontaneously joined AEGEE five years ago after joining a Summer University event. He met interesting people and enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to establish a chapter of AEGEE in Copenhagen.

When asked why he became a life coach, Philip explained that, like many young people, he was interested in finding himself and understanding the things and people around him. He started watching YouTube videos about psychology and human behavior – “anything from the psychology behind speech, why do people perceive you in a different way or how do you become an interesting person, the psychology behind flirting, why people despise other people” – and he further developed knowledge and interests in this area.

It was not until the Copenhagen native moved to London that he found a free weekend-long life coaching course, and decided to use the skills he learned to help other people. In March 2020, he posted about life coaching in a Facebook group after observing the impact that a lock-down could have on people.

Lock-down really impacts people in a lot of ways because your whole life situation has been changed.” Philip explains, “This relates to the idea that people want to do something of value. People have all these things that they love to do but suddenly they can’t do it anymore and they are left with a blank sheet. For a lot of people, it’s hard to see a lot of opportunities on this blank sheet of paper and instead, they see limitations. There are limitations, but why not see that as an opportunity to do something different? What can you do with that now? That is what we should focus on. Use this as an opportunity to develop good habits”.

Life Coaching and You

So, what exactly is life coaching? Life coaching is all about clarifying and achieving personal goals to feel more fulfilled in life. Plenty of CEOs think that self-reflection and personal development are the true secrets to success. Philip explains that life coaching aims to help make personal development easier. He also explains that life coaching is different from counseling, as life coaching is more future-orientated.

The first thing I tell people when I do life coaching is that I am not a psychologist. I think life coaching is more forward-oriented, you look into the future, you want to plan something ahead. While psychologists are perhaps a bit more oriented towards the past. Maybe they try to solve a relationship with someone, but they also give a diagnosis. Not in any way do I claim I can help people with these kinds of things. I know my limitation, that is the first thing you need to do as a life coach. You cannot solve everything. You can try and help people, but you are not an expert on diagnosis’ or how the brain works.

Philip goes on to explain that life coaching is for everyone and that you do not need to be in a place of distress to get a life coach. “I can guarantee that the top people in this world have life coaches. Life coaching is more about addressing where you are and what you want to be.”

Philip’s approach has a lot to do with stoicism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy. He explains, “The basic idea [of stoicism] is to accept things as they are and work with things you can control.” Philip refers to Marcus Aurelius to illustrate his point, “Aurelius took this to the extreme. He woke up every morning and meditated about all the bad things that could go wrong in his life. He lived in Rome so he would think about how he could be murdered. He already understood that the basis for happiness is our own expectations. If we expect something to happen and it happens below our expectations, we will be disappointed, but if you have small expectations you would be surprised about your life.”

But can we learn from this, especially in lock-down? Philip advises us to do three things:

  1. Firstly, stop focusing on things you could be doing – this will only make you feel more miserable.
  2. Secondly, concentrate on the things you can realistically do, and
  3. Lastly, create a plan with rewards on how to achieve the things you can do. Make sure to keep tailoring this plan to keep it realistic.

Phillip recommends reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius although it can be considered a bit heavy. – “Well, it’s not heavy, but it is written in a language that is a bit outdated. I mean he wrote it 2000 years ago, so who blames him?” Furthermore he can also recommend 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. “Peterson writes about some of the challenges that, especially young people, find themselves in today. They might have a job, but does it have any meaning to them? What should I do? What kind of things make your life worth living? And I think that is something some young people are struggling with today and he’s addressing some of that.

If you are like Phillip and are more into audio-visual content, he advises you to watch YouTube channels such as ‘Charisma on Command’ and ‘Better than Yesterday’ sincethey have rules on how you behave in a social context, but also on how you structure and strategize your life to become better than yesterday”.

Lastly, Phillip would like to offer advice on how to stay grounded. – “It is all about being able to learn from the past and not let it torment you in the future. Furthermore, if people are truly your friends, they will accept you. I realized that people often find you more interesting or like you better when you are yourself, instead of trying to fit in, and that also makes you feel so much better. You get a more genuine connection with people because you know more about who you are, and they know what you’re thinking.”

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