Do you really need a coach for your life?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

My best friend once had a summer job feeding a tiger.

She told me about it rather matter-of-factly over the phone: &8220;Did I tell you I’m feeding Rugsby?&8221; she asked, as if it were an afternoon baby-sitting job.

My reaction &045; incredulous &045; should tell you everything you need to know about the dynamic of our friendship. I’m the timid one who wants to stick to the rules; she’s the adventurous one whose first instinct is to color outside the lines.

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I often think of her when I hesitate to try something different.

Her example of living is just one of the many I consider when I’m in a tight spot or at a turning point. The sister who runs marathons, the mom who took up triathlons, the friend who put on a brave, funny face for a debilitating disease &045; just knowing their stories offers encouragement.

I feel certain most of us have those people in our lives who, whether they know it or not, offer advice without even saying anything.

So I have to wonder why, when you turn on the TV these days, every channel seems to have a different &8220;coach&8221; for every aspect of your life.

You can get an extreme makeover, a queer eye, a date patrol. You can spend 20 minutes with a talk show host who will supposedly turn your life around.

And it’s not just on TV.

I spent a good 30 minutes recently researching the term &8220;life coach&8221; on the Internet &045; which tells you how scientific that research was.

Nevertheless, Google gave me Web site after Web site of people from coast to coast willing to coach us through our job searches, our love lives, our family relationships.

There’s Kathy, who promises to &8220;get your life back on track!&8221; Dr. Ken promises &8220;life balance and harmony.&8221; And Barry says &8220;success CAN be yours.&8221;

It’s not that I necessarily object to seeking advice. Everyone needs education, training, literal coaching for our various endeavors &045; job-wise and hobby-wise.

Most of us, at any given time, need assistance, whether we need work on our jump shot from the traditional version of &8220;coach&8221; or we need serious professional help for an addiction. Somewhere in between fall the self-help books whose strategies can be adapted to achieve career success.

It’s the term I don’t like: &8220;life coach.&8221; As if we need help breathing or eating or putting our pants on one leg at a time. (Can you imagine your grandparents’ generation needing a life coach? Much less admitting to it?)

My friend, the same one whose enthusiastic approach to life inspires me to take risks, recently spent a few hundred dollars and a few valuable weekends at a seminar that guaranteed some vague form of &8220;results&8221; from life coaches.

She says she’s enriched by the experience, but I can’t imagine she learned anything she didn’t already know.

I don’t think anyone really needs a &8220;life&8221; coach; life is the coach.

And, if you’re lucky, so is your best friend.

Kerry Whipple

is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@