Are Life Coaches Irresponsible For “Pressuring” Someone into Career or Life Coaching?

by Don Smith

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A few people commented on my recent article “Stop Chasing People” that they appreciated the fact that I didn't “pressure” the young lady who called me about life coaching into it. They said it would have been irresponsible of me to do that because she might not have been able to afford it.

Is It Irresponsible to Pressure Someone into Career or Life Coaching?

I agree that it would have been irresponsible of me to pressure the young lady who called me the other day into purchasing a life or career coaching package. But not for the reason that many of you might be thinking. It was not because she couldn't afford it, even though she was hung up on price…

The “I Can't Afford It” Mindset

A common limiting mindset that I often run into with clients is a mindset that I personally used to have. I call it the “I can't afford it” mindset. People with this mindset are often saying things like “I can't afford it.”, “It's too expensive.”, or “I can get it cheaper somewhere else”.

The “I Can't Afford It Mindset” = Forever Broke

The kicker is that in many instances, if you find yourself saying that, you'd be right! You should not buy things that you can't pay cash for…IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. That is, you should not buy things you can't afford if they will go down in value, aren't going to go up in value enough to cover your investment, or if they are things that you don't really need. That's why I'm a big fan of YNAB, it is a good way to see if you can afford things and to plan out where you are going to spend your money.

Some Things You SHOULD Find a Way to Buy

The Math Says Yes to College

How many of us have told our children or been told to go to college? Is that good advice even when the vast majority of the population “can't afford it”? Some people would argue that going to college is no longer good advice because of how expensive it is, and at one point I would have even been tempted to agree.

That's why I ran the math on that one in the article “The Insane Math Behind Investing in Yourself” as my daughters approach their college years. It was an eye-opener. After doing the research, it is very clear that in most instances, you SHOULD go to college even though you “can't afford it”. The reason behind that is that college graduates make on average $28,548 more EVERY YEAR than high school graduates. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that making that much more every year makes investing in yourself worthwhile, even if you have to borrow to make that happen. There are some careers which going to college does not make sense for, and going for multiple majors often doesn't make sense, but the majority of college graduates still have a huge return on their investment.

Calculating the ROI on College, Coaching, and Certifications

The Math Says Yes to Certifications and Career Coaching

Investments get even better outside of college. Investing in certifications or coaching can have returns of 1,000% or more. I personally invested several thousand dollars in some certifications early on in my career, certifications “I couldn't afford”. Within months of getting a certification that was widely recognized in my industry, I was making $20,000 more EVERY YEAR. Talk about a return on investment!

I've also invested in many professional development programs such as Toastmasters, coaching, leadership training, and life coaching certification, which helped me get to where I'm at today. People are willing to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for my time because they know that the potential return on their investment is huge, and that wouldn't have happened without me investing in myself.

What if I had decided that I wasn't going to invest in myself because I wasn't making enough to do so? I almost didn't take that step because I was still in that “Can't afford it” mindset at the time. It seems a little silly thinking back on it now that I hesitated, but when you don't have a lot of money, it's a tough decision, and there is of course always the risk that the investment won't pan out the way you want it to. If I hadn't decided to invest in myself over and over again though, I would likely be making a tiny fraction of what I make today, and would probably be stuck in that limited mindset truly believing “I can't afford it.”

Why Didn't I Pressure That Young Lady Into Career Coaching?

Considering if I was able to coach this lady and get her even a $1 an hour raise which is wildly conservative, she would have made her money back in less than a year and doubled it by the end of next year, why didn't I pressure her into signing up? Here's why.

Three Strikes and You're Out

Strike 1: The first phrase out of her mouth was “my mom suggested I call and check into life coaching.” That's the first strike. Someone else wants her to improve her life, this wasn't her idea. If you do not want to do this because YOU want to do this, I am not going to be able to help. I can't fix it for you, I can give you suggestions based on what has worked for me and what I've learned over the last 40 years and strategize with you, but I can't do the work for you.

Strike 1.5: “How much does this cost”, was one of the first questions she asked. Now I don't mind this question, it's a very valid one that needs to be asked at some point which is why I say this was only half a strike, but it does tell me something about a person's mindset. When I see someone start a conversation that way before we even have a chance to get into any of their goals, it's always a red flag that they have the “I can't afford this” mindset, and no matter what number I say, they'll still believe that it is too much. This can be overcome if they start thinking about it as an investment even if they don't have cash on hand, but the other strikes made me decide not to even get into that in depth.

Strike 2: Later in our conversation she said: “I already have a mother” in response to one of my comments. So, we're back to mom. Being a dad of five myself, I get it, sometimes our kids need to figure out things the hard way and don't want to listen to anything that sounds like what their mom or dad would say. That's another big strike. If you are not willing to listen to anyone who doesn't share your opinion or stop listening when something sounds remotely like what your mom said, I can't help.

Strike 3: “I had a different idea of what a life coach was.” Yeah…a life coach isn't going to do all the work for you. A life coach can give you ideas, break you out of limiting mindsets, help define priorities, help you set goals, and help hold you accountable for doing what is necessary to reach those goals. A life or career coach isn't going to live your life for you or give you a magic pill that fixes everything. That's on you. If our ideas about what a life coach does are too different then no it isn't going to be a good fit.

That's why when we got to the end of the call I wasn't surprised when she said she was going to “check around” (that's the code word for no in case you needed a translation). I went ahead and sent her a copy of the balance workbook I use with every new coaching prospect and told her to fill it out and return it if she was interested. Who knows, maybe she'll have a change of heart and come back, but it doesn't bother me if she doesn't. I've learned to stop chasing people.

A Coach is Irresponsible If They Pressure Someone They Can't Help

In this particular case, pressuring this lady would indeed be irresponsible, but it has nothing to do with the cost. If people are not willing to put in the work, stop listening when they hear something they don't want to hear, and don't really strongly desire change for themselves, I would be irresponsible for pressuring them into life coaching because I can't help them.

A Coach Would be Irresponsible if They DID NOT Encourage Someone They Can Help

First of all, I don't like the word “pressure”. That word brings to mind forcing someone to do someone something they don't really want to do, which never works out well. I never “pressure” anyone into coaching, but I do “strongly encourage” some people to move forward.

If I know that I can help someone, that they will make more money back than they invested, and the only sticking point is price, I would be irresponsible if I DID NOT strongly encourage them to buy. It would be irresponsible for me to not try and get them to grasp that they are in the limiting “I can't afford it” mindset and to get them thinking of this instead as an investment that pays for itself. That's why I got into coaching, to make a difference in people's lives.

That's the difference, it's not about the cost. It's about desire and commitment. I've learned to stop chasing people who don't have the desire and aren't truly committed because I can't help them.

If someone truly is willing to take responsibility for themselves, put in the effort, wanted to work with me, and I knew that I could help them, then I would be irresponsible for not helping them break out of the “I can't afford it” mindset so that they can improve their lives.


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About the Author 

Don Smith

The Personal Growth Channel founder, Don Smith also runs a technology company, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and enjoys seeing people achieve their goals. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.

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