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11 Secrets of Life Coaches

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There are an estimated 47,500 life coaches across the globe, and nearly 16,000 of those can be found in North America [PDF]. These “experts” help clients set goals in every realm of life—from health to romance to career—and create a strategy to meet those goals, all the while maintaining a cheery, motivational disposition. While there’s some debate about how legit a practice life coaching is (one recent lawsuit accuses a life coaching business in Colorado of running a lucrative Ponzi scheme), there’s no doubt business is booming. One study found that total annual industry revenue was $2 billion and climbing. We talked to a few professional coaches about their jobs and what they’ve learned about human nature during their tenure.

1. THERE’S NO CERTIFICATION.

Interested in becoming a life coach? You’re in luck: There is no regulated certification process to complete before you can put “life coach” on your business cards. 

“It’s not regulated by any governing body,” says coach Jay Cataldo. “There’s plenty of people with credentials that have no business coaching anyone and there are people with no credentials that are great coaches. I’m certified by the fact that I am an IACT certified Master Hypnosis Trainer. I tell my clients I have 10 certificates on the wall but they mean nothing. All that matters is can I help you?”

But there are hundreds of training programs that promise to teach the essentials, and at least one accrediting body, the International Coaching Federation, maintains a list of what it considers more legitimate training programs. To be accredited, a program must offer at least 125 hours of contact between students and teacher, six hours of observed coaching sessions, and 10 hours of mentor coaching and performance evaluation, among other requirements. 

Some coaches get certified to add a layer of credibility to their resume, but many consider the school of hard knocks to be the best education. 

“I just feel like I’ve had a lot of life, you know?” says life coach Stefanie Ziev, who studied spiritual psychology before discovering the accredited coaching program she completed. “In an effort to decipher the meaning of my life, I’ve done a lot of work.”

2. “POWERFUL QUESTIONS” ARE KEY.

According to Ziev, one solid coaching method is “listening and asking powerful questions.” By that she means open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” “For instance, ‘What would be a stretch goal for you? What would bring you out of your comfort zone that might push you to the next level as it relates to what you want to achieve in your life?’”

3. DON’T CALL THEM THERAPISTS.

Ziev is quick to establish that coaching and therapy are very different services. “Coaching looks forward and therapy looks back,” she says. “Coaching is not as worried about your mommy or daddy issues as it is about what’s happening now and what do you want next?” 

If a client is depressed or wallowing in the past, Ziev says she’ll refer them to a therapist. “I’m like look, I can’t help you.” 

The way Cataldo puts it, coaching requires a lot more hands-on work on behalf of the client than therapy. “You have to want this more than I want it for you,” he says. “You gotta push yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. I’m not gonna waste my time with someone who isn’t gonna put the work in.” 

4. THEY CAN AFFORD TO TURN PEOPLE DOWN.

Life coaches can be picky about who they choose to take on as a client. Usually the process begins with a questionnaire or an introductory session in which the coach asks a series of questions that tell them something about a prospective client’s personality and chances for success. 

“Listen, a victim, someone who lives comfortably in their victim consciousness, is not a coaching client,” says Ziev. “I don’t deal with people who wallow in their problems.”

Annie Lin, a life coach in New York, estimates that she turns down roughly 15 percent of people who approach her, usually because they have a pessimistic attitude. “I prefer to work with clients who really believe in themselves and outside help would add support, accountability, and guidance to that,” she says. “That’s a much better match.”

5. COACHES HAVE THEIR OWN COACHES.

“Any good coach should have a coach,” says Ziev. “I’m a client for sure.”

Cataldo says he’s had four or five different hypnosis mentors and a health coach. “You can’t really be a good coach unless you’ve gone through the coaching process yourself,” he says.

6. YOU’RE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.

Most coaches don’t let clients just drop in for a session here and there. Instead, their services come in big packages, so clients have to make a time commitment. “I won’t work with anyone for less than three months,” says Cataldo. “Once a week for at least three months. Some people, I can literally change their life in three or four months. Other people need more time. I’ve had clients for almost six years.”

Ziev is unusual in that she offers a one-month course for $1495.

7. THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU. 

In fact, e-coaching is huge, and it means coaches aren’t limited by geography. At any given time, Ziev is managing roughly 20 clients, and all the coaching takes place over the phone or Skype.

“A lot of coaches have built a practice around Skype sessions,” says Cataldo. “The technology is so fantastic these days it’s like you’re literally in the room with the person.”

8. GOING TO A BAR CAN BE HOMEWORK.

Cataldo and other coaches often give their clients assignments to do between sessions. This “homework” is meant to help clients reach their goals. “Usually homework is all predicated on what’s the smallest thing you can do to move towards your goal while also learning what you’re not supposed to do,” says Cataldo. “The best way to do that is to make lots of mistakes. So let’s say I’m working with a guy with social anxiety issues. Homework might just be go to a bar after work and just stand there. Do that for five days in a row. The week after that might be just randomly approaching three people and say[ing], ‘Cheers, how’s your night going?’ Then walk away.”

9. THEY SEE THE SAME ISSUES OVER AND OVER. 

While each client is unique, coaches say there are a handful of weaknesses we all have in common. “Most of us do not know how to experience the negative feelings,” says Lin. “We either avoid them, resist them, or over-react to them. It’s only when we have learned to experience and process the negative flows, [that] we’ll be ready to think differently and take different kind[s] of action to generate different results.”

According to Cataldo, we’re also incredibly insecure. “People truly believe deep down they don’t measure up and are not as good as everyone else,” he says. “They don’t believe they’re worthy of love. Also, people believe their negative thoughts are true and not just a bunch of random gibberish. Every single person I’ve come across suffers from this.”

10. BUT SOMETIMES MEN AND WOMEN HAVE DIFFERENT COACHING NEEDS.

“I would say that in general, men have a higher need of feeling significant/independent while women need to feel love and connection,” says Lin, though she stresses this is an oversimplification. “When it comes to relationships, many of my male clients need help to better tap into their masculinity (feeling more confident and comfortable with their desires) while my high-achieving female clients need to allow their femininity to come forth (thus becoming more laid-back and trusting, instead of controlling). But differences are mostly of individual nature and not necessarily gender-driven.” 

11. FACEBOOK HAS BEEN GOOD FOR BUSINESS.

Social media’s suffocating effects on our mental health and self-esteem have been well-documented, and may drive some people into the arms of a life coach. 

“Facebook and Instagram aren’t real,” says Cataldo. “Everyone seems so much cooler and funnier and wittier, but it’s all an illusion.” He and other coaches sometimes recommend clients leave social media entirely. “I do occasionally advise clients to take the Facebook app off their phone,” says Lin. “It’s a constant barrage of information you don’t need and it appears to be useful but really it makes us feel more alienated.”

All images provided by iStock. 

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

A display of tools.
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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

A stack of bed linens.
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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

Rows of holiday gnomes.
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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

Rows of rings.
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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

Searching for flights online.
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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

Gift basket against a blue background.
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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

Group of hands holding smartphones.
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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.
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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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Food
The Origins of 5 International Food Staples

Food is more than fuel. Cuisine and culture are so thoroughly intertwined that many people automatically equate tomatoes with Italy and potatoes with Ireland. Yet a thousand years ago those dietary staples were unheard of in Europe. How did they get to be so ubiquitous there—and beyond?

1. TOMATOES

For years, the wonderful fruit that’s now synonymous with Italy was mostly ignored there. Native to South America and likely cultivated in Central America, tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers during the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, widespread misconceptions about the newcomers took root. In part due to their watery complexion, it was inaccurately thought that eating tomatoes could cause severe digestive problems. Before the 18th century, the plants were mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes. Tomato-based sauce recipes wouldn’t start appearing in present-day Italy until 1692 (although even those recipes were more like a salsa or relish than a sauce). Over the next 150 years, tomato products slowly spread throughout the peninsula, thanks in no small part to the agreeable Mediterranean climate. By 1773, some cooks had taken to stuffing tomatoes with rice or veal. In Naples, the fruits were sometimes chopped up and placed onto flatbread—the beginnings of modern pizza. But what turned the humble tomato into a national icon was the canning industry. Within Italy’s borders, this business took off in a big way during the mid-to-late 19th century. Because tomatoes do well stored inside metal containers, canning companies dramatically drove up the demand. The popularity of canned tomatoes was later solidified by immigrants who came to the United States from Italy during the early 20th century: Longing for Mediterranean ingredients, transplanted families created a huge market for Italian-grown tomatoes in the US.

2. CURRY

Bowl of chicken curry with a spoon in it

An international favorite, curry is beloved in both India and the British Isles, not to mention the United States. And it turns out humans may have been enjoying the stuff for a very, very long time. The word “curry” was coined by European colonists and is something of an umbrella term. In Tamil, a language primarily found in India and Sri Lanka, “kari” means “sauce.” When Europeans started traveling to India, the term was eventually modified into “curry,” which came to designate any number of spicy foods with South or Southeast Asian origins. Nonetheless, a great number of curry dishes share two popular components: turmeric and ginger. In 2012, traces of both were discovered inside residue caked onto pots and human teeth at a 4500-year-old archaeological site in northern India. And where there’s curry, there’s usually garlic: A carbonized clove of this plant was also spotted nearby. “We don’t know they were putting all of them together in a dish, but we know that they were eating them at least individually,” Steve Weber, one of the archaeologists who helped make this astonishing find, told The Columbian. He and his colleagues have tentatively described their discovery as "proto-curry."

3. THE BAGUETTE

Several baguettes

A quintessential Gallic food, baguettes are adored throughout France, where residents gobble up an estimated 10 billion every year. The name of the iconic bread ultimately comes from the Latin word for stick, baculum, and references its long, slender form. How the baguette got that signature shape is a mystery. One popular yarn credits Napoleon Bonaparte: Supposedly, the military leader asked French bakers to devise a new type of skinny bread loaf that could be comfortably tucked into his soldiers’ pockets. Another origin story involves the Paris metro, built in the 19th century by a team of around 3500 workers who were apparently sometimes prone to violence during meal times. It’s been theorized that the metro foremen tried to de-escalate the situation by introducing bread that could be broken into pieces by hand—thereby eliminating the need for laborers to carry knives. Alas, neither story is supported by much in the way of historical evidence. Still, it’s clear that lengthy bread is nothing new in France: Six-foot loaves were a common sight in the mid-1800s. The baguette as we know it today, however, didn’t spring into existence until the early 20th century. The modern loaf is noted for its crispy golden crust and white, puffy center—both traits made possible by the advent of steam-based ovens, which first arrived on France’s culinary scene in the 1920s.

4. POTATOES

Bowl of red, white, and black potatoes on wooden table

Historical records show that potatoes reached Ireland by the year 1600. Nobody knows who first introduced them; the list of potential candidates includes everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Spanish Armada. Regardless, Ireland turned out to be a perfect habitat for the tubers, which hail from the misty slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Half a world away, Ireland’s rich soils and rainy climate provided similar conditions—and potatoes thrived there. They also became indispensable. For millennia, the Irish diet had mainly consisted of dairy products, pig meats, and grains, none of which were easy for poor farmers to raise. Potatoes, on the other hand, were inexpensive, easy to grow, required fairly little space, and yielded an abundance of filling carbs. Soon enough, the average Irish peasant was subsisting almost entirely on potatoes, and the magical plant is credited with almost single-handedly triggering an Irish population boom. In 1590, only around 1 million people lived on the island; by 1840, that number had skyrocketed to 8.2 million. Unfortunately, this near-total reliance on potatoes would have dire consequences for the Irish people. In 1845, a disease caused by fungus-like organisms killed off somewhere between one-third and one-half of the country’s potatoes. Roughly a million people died as a result, and almost twice as many left Ireland in a desperate mass exodus. Yet potatoes remained a cornerstone of the Irish diet after the famine ended; in 1899, one magazine reported that citizens were eating an average of four pounds’ worth of them every day. Expatriates also brought their love of potatoes with them to other countries, including the U.S. But by then, the Yanks had already developed a taste for the crop: The oldest record of a permanent potato patch on American soil dates back to 1719. That year, a group of farmers—most likely Scots-Irish immigrants—planted one in the vicinity of modern-day Derry, New Hampshire. From these humble origins, the potato steadily rose in popularity, and by 1796, American cookbooks were praising its “universal use, profit, and easy acquirement.”

5. CORN

Corn growing in a field

In the 1930s, geneticist George W. Beadle exposed a vital clue about how corn—also known as maize—came into existence. A future Nobel Prize winner, Beadle demonstrated that the chromosomes found in everyday corn bear a striking resemblance to those of a Mexican grass called teosinte. At first glance, teosinte may not look very corn-like. Although it does have kernels, these are few in number and encased in tough shells that can easily chip a human tooth. Nonetheless, years of work allowed Beadle to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that corn was descended from teosinte. Today, genetic and archaeological data suggests that humans began the slow process of converting this grass into corn around 8700 years ago in southwestern Mexico. If you're wondering why early farmers showed any interest in cultivating teosinte to begin with, while the plant is fairly unappetizing in its natural state, it does have a few key attributes. One of these is the ability to produce popcorn: If held over an open fire, the kernels will “pop” just as our favorite movie theater treat does today. It might have been this very quality that inspired ancient horticulturalists to tinker around with teosinte—and eventually turn it into corn

BONUS: TEA

Person sitting cross-legged holding a cup of green tea

The United Kingdom’s ongoing love affair with this hot drink began somewhat recently. Tea—which is probably of Chinese origin—didn’t appear in Britain until the 1600s. Initially, the beverage was seen as an exotic curiosity with possible health benefits. Shipping costs and tariffs put a hefty price tag on tea, rendering it quite inaccessible to the lower classes. Even within England’s most affluent circles, tea didn’t really catch on until King Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza. By the time they tied the knot in 1662, tea-drinking was an established pastime among the elite in her native Portugal. Once Catherine was crowned Queen, tea became all the rage in her husband’s royal court. From there, its popularity slowly grew over several centuries and eventually transcended socioeconomic class. At present, the average Brit drinks an estimated three and a half cups of tea every day.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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