Many people spend much more time thinking about what to do next weekend than what to do with the rest of their lives. This type of short-term thinking tends to lead to a lack of achievement and, on a societal level, the type of economic, environmental and political problems our country faces today.
Forty years ago, Earl Nightingale was a well-known speaker, especially for his program The Strangest Secret.1 This secret is that people actually become what they think about most of the time. So I ask you now, “What do you think about most of the time?”
If you watched the Winter Olympics earlier this year, you may have noticed many of the world-class athletes preparing for their events. Quite frequently, the athletes were pictured conferring with their coaches and then having a moment of thought before hurtling down the ski slope or stepping out onto the ice.
It is also true that in executive suites across the globe, people in the top levels of the business world frequently work with coaches to obtain optimal results. Coaching is an accepted method of improvement in a growing number of environments.
Should you consider employing a coach? I have used several business and life coaches throughout my career and have found the experiences well worth the time, effort and monetary investments. Accordingly, let us take a closer look at several facets of the coaching process for an idea what you may be getting into if you decide to employ a coach.
Self-exploration. One of the most important components of a successful coaching program is bringing clarity to what exactly it is that you truly want. A coach can help you uncover that what you really want now is not what you used to want or what your mother told you should want when you were young. Written exercises, workshops and journals will help you crystallize the priorities in your career and in your life. Testing programs can help you isolate weaknesses to work on or strengths to be emphasized in order to reach your goals or become a better person.
Mental food. If you lie down with dogs, you may wake up with fleas. A steady sensory diet of the National Enquirer, TMZ and reruns of Two and a Half Men is unlikely to lead to tremendous professional and personal growth. Your coach can steer you to books and audio programs that will stimulate your thinking and enhance your attitude. I recommend the Nightingale-Conant company (www.NightingaleConant.com ) as a source for such materials.
A coach will also likely give you mental exercises to do on a regular basis. Two exercises that I have periodically found helpful are a Gratitude Log, where I write down three things I am thankful for every evening, and a Success Log, where I write down five things that went well at the end of every day. It might sound hokey to some of you but if this it what it takes for you to improve, would you do it?
Your vision. About 20 years ago, making a company mission statement was all the rage in the business world. The idea was good but the statements tended to be vague and not very effective. Your coach can help you fill in the details of the vision to make it more tangible.
When I opened my new podiatry practice in 2005, my coach had me describe in detail what my ideal practice would look like in 2008. I hung the description in my closet and looked at it every morning while I buttoned up my shirt. It all came true so I made a new one for 2011.
Your goals. If you believe in evidence-based medicine, then you have to believe that people who have written goals accomplish more than people who do not have written goals. Proper goals are specific, measurable, realistic and timed. For example, “I want to lose weight” is not as strong as “I want to weigh less than 170 pounds on September 1, 2010.”
Goals should be written in the present tense and you should review them frequently to embed them into your subconscious mind. Your coach will want to help you work on having a balanced life so goal exercises typically cover business, family, finance, health and personal areas.
Action plans. Goals are more likely to be accomplished if you make detailed plans for achieving them. Your coach can help you flesh out your plans, set incremental mini-goals and brainstorm ideas when the going gets rough. Your coach may also set you up with a “Mastermind Group,” whereby people from a variety of backgrounds and occupations get together to help each other succeed.
Accountability. New Year’s Resolutions would be much more likely to be carried out if everyone had a coach. Very often we know what we need to do but do not do it without a nudge or a push. My “accountability friend” is a financial consultant and golf store owner. Every quarter, we have a breakfast meeting and review our progress toward our individual goals. Sometimes a friendly wager is involved and I always leave the meetings feeling recharged.
Top professionals and executives from many walks of life use the aforementioned coaching techniques successfully. If you really put your mind to it, you could probably do all these things by yourself without using a coach. However, you should ask yourself, “Will I do them in this lifetime?” If you will do these things, will you do them as well and as fast as you would if you had a coach?
If your life is proceeding exactly as you want it and if your career, family life, finances and health are all in fantastic shape, you do not need a coach. However, if you would like to change certain things about your career or your life, hiring a coach may be just what the doctor ordered.
Here is a final caveat. If you decide to pursue obtaining a coach, please take the time to carefully select a coach who is right for you.
Dr. McDonald is in private practice in Kannapolis and Harrisburg, N.C. Readers can reach Dr. McDonald via www.familyfootcare.info.
1. Nightingale E. The Strangest Secret (recording), 1956.
Recommended Reading And Resources
2. Ehrman M. Desiderata (poem), 1927
3. Hill N. Think and Grow Rich. Random House, New York, 1937.
4. www.NightingaleConant.com .
5. www.BrianTracy.com .
6. www.BobProctor.com 
7. www.PeakPotentials.com