Midlife can be a confusing time – a life coach can help us turn uncertainty into opportunity, and create a life we love
Midlife can be a confusing time for women; it certainly was for me. And I had no idea that coaching for women at midlife was an option I might consider.
In my late 40’s I went from feeling content to feeling confused and lost in my own life. It never occurred to me that other women my age might be struggling with similar emotions and that there might be options for support beyond traditional therapy. So I muddled my way through. That period of upheaval served a purpose: it led me to start Midlife Globetrotter, and ultimately, to a much happier place. (You can read that story here: My Midlife Upheaval). But working with a life coach probably would have expedited that process, and likely made it a lot more fun.
I was curious about coaching for women, so I spoke to Deborah Voll, a Certified Professional Life Coach, based in Seattle. We talked about her passion for coaching midlife women, something she discovered as she went through her own transformation in her 50’s. She shared some of the things she sees women often struggle with (she exclusively coaches women aged 40-plus) and we talked about why this confusing time can be an incredible opportunity.
If you’re curious about coaching for women, I hope our conversation will answer some of your questions.
Can you describe the role of a life coach for women?
People often ask me “what’s the difference between a life coach and a therapist?” Therapy will take you from dysfunctional to functional and a life coach will take you from functional to exceptional. It’s an opportunity for the client to come to a session that’s safe and non-judgmental, where they can articulate their fears, their frustrations, their goals and dreams. So we can begin to get curious and explore what it is they would be passionate about exploring or doing.
Why did you specifically choose women aged 40-plus for coaching?
Because I am a woman in midlife and I went through this process myself. I woke up and noticed that the kids were grown up. I didn’t have to do the carpools, I wasn’t needing to fix dinner on a consistent schedule. I thought, I have so much more time, what would I really like to be doing with that time? So I hired my own life coach, and I took the time to explore what I wanted to do. What I was passionate about and then most importantly what did I want my lifestyle to look like in these future years and into retirement? What is it that’s really going to light my fire? As a result, I began to explore life coaching and received my certification. I thought: there are so many women out there at midlife who are confused and feeling stuck, and not knowing where to start. Since I’ve already walked the journey and figured that part out for myself, who better to guide them along their path?
Why is it common for women to feel a desire for change, at midlife?
Any number of things can trigger this need to want to go deeper and explore how they can feel more fulfilled in their life. It can be an empty nest. It could just be getting to a certain age – it can be 40, 50, or hitting your 60’s. They think wow, instead of continuing my daily grind, I want to explore something I am more passionate about, something that gives me a sense of purpose. Moving to a new city or country, and being exposed to new opportunities can also trigger someone to want to get more in touch with who they are and how they want to spend their future. It can also be the death of a loved one.
So we desire change, yet sometimes stand in our own way. Why do we sabotage ourselves?
What causes that sabotage is fear. Fear of really looking at who we are. Fear of setting boundaries with others and ourselves. What is helpful is getting very clear on your why. Why is this so important for you to achieve? I sometimes notice my clients aren’t getting to the real reason ‘why’, so I keep probing and asking the questions, we keep going deeper until we find the reason why. And when we do, they step back and say, wow. When we start to work together it’s: knowing where we are at today, defining the goals and then really getting clear on why it’s so important to us. With all of that, we are less likely to sabotage ourselves.
What do you commonly hear from women, when you first meet with them?
The one question I ask my clients when I first do an exploratory call is: how do you feel going into this journey? So often they say, ‘I feel confused and I feel fearful’. What I‘d like for them to be feeling is excitement. This should be a really exciting time for them. And often what drives a lot of the fear and confusion is that they haven’t spent a lot of time working on themselves so don’t know what is making (or will make) them feel fulfilled in life. They’ve spent so much time giving to others: their family, their career, their neighbors. So it’s taking the time to step back and really take a look at you and see where you’re at today, and where you want to be in the future. I take them from that feeling of frustration and confusion to having the clarity and excitement to move forward.
What should we look for in a life coach?
When picking a coach what’s most important is just that vibe and synergy. Is your coach creating a safe place? Do you feel comfortable that you could build a relationship with this individual and be able to share whatever it is that you want to share? And is the coach going to be able to get you the results? They need to be clearly saying: this is what you want to achieve, this is how we would get you there and this is where you would be at the end of your journey.
How has the pandemic affected the midlife women you work with?
A lot of the women I’m working with now are wanting to make career changes. The pandemic has had a lot to do with that. A lot of us are evaluating our work, and have had more time to think about what we’ve been doing. Some women are realizing: ‘I can’t go back and do this job I’ve been doing. I want to explore what else there is, where I can be more in alignment with who I am and how I want to show up for others.’
How long do women typically work with you?
Typically, eight weeks. My “Next Chapter” program is eight weeks. We spend time on the action steps for three specific goals as well as complete specific worksheets in my Passion and Purpose Workbook. It’s a blended learning process (the client works independently and we work together) so you obtain your results faster and learn some important tools along the way, to use in the future.
What if a woman isn’t sure if a life coach is right for her, or can’t invest in coaching right now?
The first thing to do if you are not sure is reach out to a life coach and do an exploratory call. Most coaches will offer you a free 30-minute call to talk about where you are at, and determine if coaching is a good fit.
If you can not financially make the investment, I have all of my workbooks available on my website in downloadable PDF’s. So women can start working on their own: getting clarity on where they are at now, and finding out their ‘why’. Also, they can look at their priorities, at self-care and what they want for their future self. They can start doing that work on their own.
If you are interested, Deborah’s workbooks can be purchased here: Passion & Purpose workbooks ($60). Get $10 off with code Midlife.
I think a growth mindset is so important at midlife; believing we can learn new things enables us to pursue big dreams. How have you used a growth mindset at this stage?
Before the pandemic started last year, I started a podcast. I wanted to be able to inspire more women in midlife. I didn’t know anything about podcasting, I didn’t know how to do any of that, but you can learn. And once you start learning and meeting people and they start helping you, it just snowballs from there. My podcast is called Calm the Chaos and I interview midlife women; I interviewed you. (Our interview is here: Calm the Chaos)
What is your favourite thing about coaching women?
I love to see the transformation that these women have. From starting with a feeling of confusion, to getting clarity and then launching. And they do it all on their own. I just ask the questions; they do all the work. It’s so much fun to see them succeed.
And what’s your favourite part of this stage of life?
My favourite part about midlife is knowing that I’ve earned the time. We all have. Once we get to midlife, we’ve paid our dues. We’ve put up with a lot and we’ve done a lot and we also have a lot of really great experience. So we should be looking at this opportunity like: ‘hey, if I put my mind to it I can do anything I want’.
Can you share a final piece of advice for midlife women who want to create change in their life?
I always say if you want to do something: declare it, write it down and take the first step. Once you take that first step, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of possibilities.
Deborah Voll has three different coaching programs and offers a free 30-minute exploratory call. Find out more at deborahvoll.com. Her Calm The Chaos podcast releases new episodes every Monday. You can listen to my conversation with Deborah here: Calm the Chaos – Susan Heinrich.
She has also recently published a book about her adventures as an Airbnb host: The Tell-All Guide to Airbnb Hosting – Proven Tips and Tricks for Successful Hosting.
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Thank you to Deborah for sharing her experiences as a life coach for women. I am newly inspired to get more clear on my own “whys”, as they relate to my midlife goals and dreams.
What is one thing you would like to do or change at midlife? Is there a first step you can take to begin down a new path? Please share in the comments below. We would love to cheer you on!