I was recently in my local mosque where one of the members of the congregation was studiously reading a book on life coaching. Intrigued by the subject, I decided to ask him a bit about it. In a well-rehearsed speech full of cheesy idioms from the English language, he began telling me about the amazing impact life-coaches can have on individuals and how he aspired to become one himself by going on a course to become ‘fully certified’. He even stressed the potential that life coaches can have in furthering da’wah efforts.
The life coaching industry is currently undergoing an exponential growth. It is estimated that the industry is worth about £50 million per annum, and has been popularised by a number of high profile celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Jennifer Aniston and Madonna. Muslim too have decided to take their share of the pie from this industry, and a number of individuals have started their own organisations to ‘accredit’ a new wave of Muslim life coaches. Not only does life coaching provide a means of ‘reaping the ajar’, it also can provide a means of having a lucrative career; life coaches can earn anything from a few hundred pounds a week to a few thousand, depending on how well they market themselves.
In recent times, I have found a rising number of Muslims labelling themselves as ‘fully accredited’ life coaches through social media and advertising their services. This is accompanied by a wealth of clichés posted on social media sites and YouTube videos which, frankly speaking, make me want to expel my gastric contents. The first question I ask myself is what does it mean to be a ‘fully accredited’ life coach, given that there is no regulatory body of life coaches? With a plethora of courses to choose from, each of which claim to make individuals ‘fully accredited’, doesn’t this essentially make the process of accreditation meaningless given the lack of standardisation? If a unified body of life coaches existed that regulated professional standards which all life coaches were compelled to adhere to, this would give more credibility to the process of accreditation. Alas, such an organisation doesn’t exist, making the term ‘fully accredited’ a hollow claim.
A further point to consider is who these life coaches are. How can one possibly go from being a ‘nobody’ to a position of advising others on how to lead a successful life after attending a course lasting a few days? Life coaches would perhaps have more appeal if they themselves demonstrated success in their life. If, for example, life coaches were CEOs of leading multinational corporations, or perhaps academics who have reached the pinnacle of academic achievement, then one might understand the desire for people to be ‘coached’ by such individuals in order to learn the secrets of their success. Unfortunately, the vast majority of coaches are not able to boast such credentials.
What is particularly troubling is how people are being conned into attending meaningless accreditation courses at an extortionate price-tag, and in many instances, attendees struggle to muster the funds needed to attend a course which, in reality, has little worth. To me, it seems the term ‘fully accredited’ is merely used as the bait on the end of a fishing line to capture some poor soul into the realm of life coaching.
So why do people think they need life coaches? Reading around the issue, reasons include helping those who have reached a cross-road in their career and are unsure as to which direction to take in order to maintain progression. In addition, nearly all potential clients will have some anxieties which will be preventing them from fulfilling their true potential. Furthermore, most will also want to gain further insight into their own personality, so that they may use this ‘newfound knowledge’ to further their success. So, in a nutshell, it seems that everyone is in need of a life coach.
Of course, getting some advice on how to climb the corporate ladder is one thing; advising someone on how to tackle their anxieties and personal problems in a ‘professional’ capacity is quite another. Individuals who approach life coaches are likely to be vulnerable and impressionable, hence it is of the utmost importance that those who ‘coach’ such individuals are rigorously trained in the complexities of working with vulnerable adults. Indeed, this is exactly the role of psychotherapists. Unlike life coaches, psychotherapists undergo years of training at university to join a professional guild, and thus are well placed to identify the needs of vulnerable adults and provide them with therapy to overcome their personal problems. Perhaps the individual seeking help may have the precursory traits of mental illness? Psychotherapists are able to recognise this and treat it. Life coaches may completely miss these subtleties, which may have serious consequences. Considering this particular point, one may conclude that the modern fad of life coaching is an insult to the well established discipline of psychotherapy.
Finally, I ask myself whether the Muslim community should continue to encourage life coaching? I believe the cheesy ‘emaan boosting’ strap lines serve little purpose other than dumbing down the Muslim community and commercialising the religion of God. What is perhaps even more troubling is how some individuals who participate in a life coaching course come out on the other side believing that they have the prerequisites to become a spokesperson for the religion of Islam, or that they have the necessary credentials to lead a Muslim organisation. Such beliefs of grandiosity have the potential to do more harm than good for the overall cause of Muslims on Britain.
In sum, the true value is of most life coaches are summed up very aptly in the Facebook status of a friend disgruntled with the life coaching industry. He had been given the following pearl of wisdom from a life coach: ‘Open your eyes if you wish to see’. Thanks for stating the obvious!