Coaching Throughout the Lifespan
Personal and life coaching have often been confined to mid-life issues – helping our clients address the now-famous “mid-life crisis” or the 40s and 50s in our life. We would suggest (to reverse an old adage) that “coaching is wasted on the middle-aged client.” Great coaching opportunities are to found in working with clients who are much younger (especially those in their adolescent years) and much older.
The coaching of young people has begun—often with regard to assisting students with their education and learning. We are likely to find this approach of increasing value in this time when parents push even harder for their children to be successful and (sadly) as many school systems face a diminishing source of funds to support “extra-curricular” activities (including tutoring). For adolescences the challenge might be even greater, given that they not only lack the life experiences of their parents, but are also saturated with the hormones and other neuro-chemicals that make thoughtful and careful reasoning that much more difficult. This age group needs more than just assistance with education. The young men and women of our postmodern world are faced with those same challenges of complexity, unpredictability and turbulence that we described above. They have to make difficult decisions, just as their parents do.
We can move to an even older age: early adulthood. Faced with the same daunting challenges as other adults in our society, and the added challenge of making a living wage in an adverse job market, it is understandable why young adults would want to cocoon, living at home well into their 20s— and regularly escaping into a substance misuse and a world of faux computer-generated graphics and narratives. They could use a coach! We might find that this request for a coach will be made not to mature adult-coaches (who they might consider to be no better than surrogate parents) but instead to peers who have been trained as personal and life coaches. Their peers are more likely to have some credibility when it comes to empathy (and also provide a bit of role modeling).
At the other end of the life spectrum, we find men and women in their 60s, 70s and beyond. As George Vaillant (2012) has noted in his extraordinary study of Harvard men at each stage in their adult lives (the study beginning in the late 1930s), there are many new challenges and changes facing mature adults during the final decades of life (if they are fortunate enough to be still healthy after their 50s). We now not only live longer (in Western Societies) but also have many decisions to make about how we wish to live the last third (or even half) of our life.
Most mature adults find themselves at mid-life standing between two worlds: the world of active, income-earning work and the world of retirement and avocations. As mid-centurions living in the United States or most other prosperous Western countries, we are allowed to explore alternative identities at the point we retire, provided we are not living in poverty or are not in ill health. During the 20th Century, retired husbands were often quite fortunate if they came from the middle or upper-middle class. The man could move in many new directions: take up hobbies, spend time at home reading or playing games, or engaging in recreational activities such as golf, tennis or bowling. Traditionally, women living in Western civilizations did not have it so good. They were expected to remain occupied as homemakers even after their husbands retire. Their work might even increase, given that they must now “look after” their husband who is suddenly “underfoot.”
The world of retirement has grown a bit more complicated in recent years, and the transition between work and retirement has become more confusing for many men and women. First, mid-centurions do not necessarily retire at 65. Some work by choice, many work by necessity. Second, some mid-centurions want to make the transition in life and career earlier than at age 65. In either case, the question is: how do we handle this transition—which brings us back to that trend of transitions that we identified earlier in this essay. A personal and life coach can be of great value at this point in a client’s life.
If we are in our late sixties or early seventies, we often don’t have enough money saved for retirement. Do we have time for activities that lead to fulfillment and generativity during our sixties or seventies? Or do we still have to be “working stiffs” who have no time for gratifying work outside our immediate family? A generative option is available to those who have been financially successful in life or are particularly courageous. These fortunate or brave men and women alter their life style so that they are doing what they really want to do. The traditional distinction drawn between work and retirement begins to break down for the men and women who choose this option. Their work often becomes their avocation and their hobby becomes that for which they are paid. A personal and life coach can be of great assistance in finding their older clients the path to this often gratifying late-life path.Download Article 1K Club