Life Coaches and a Lost Generation
I heard from a school teacher friend recently that my former school district is now offering the services of a “Life Coach” as part of their healthcare package. As is my wont when challenged by a euphemism, I did a little research. As far as I can tell, although it appears to be a branch of mental health counseling, “Life Coach” means whatever one wants it to mean. There is no definitive meaning, only pretty phrases such as, “helping others achieve happiness,” or “aiding people on their path to success.” It struck me as a little odd that a school district whose primary employees are educators, would have need of Life Coaches at all. Isn’t the profession of teaching one where reasoning is taught and knowledge imparted? If professional educators lack the know-how to make their own path to success, what the hell are they doing teaching our kids?
If the title “Life Coach” is to be taken literally, busy bodies, know-it-alls, and nags have succeeded in creating an entirely new professional field in which clients will pay to be bossed around by them. I anticipate that the “Life Coach” phenomenon is a fad that will eventually over-saturate the culture and lose its appeal. Having a personal Life Coach may just be another passing banality, but my fear is that the emergence of a profession built upon “coaching” individuals how to live, signals the falling away of essential principles and individual survival skills.
Psychoanalysis, mental health counseling, marital counseling, addiction counseling, etc. are relatively new professions–mere decades old–and Life Coaches are just the latest in a a parade of professional contrivances designed to ease the discomfort people feel due to their careless use of moral agency. Mental health counselors often serve to replace the camaraderie lost as families dissolve, religious observance falters, and relationships are strained as every form of perversion is accepted and encouraged by the popular culture.
It is likely that Life Coaches are a type of “rent-a-mentor,” filling the needs of people unable to identify with individuals or values that require earnest commitment. But there is also a danger that one will abdicates thought and accountability to a Life Coach, since his professional role is to take charge of and plan daily activities, as well as things as private as food choices, and physical movement. Should the client fail to improve his life, the well-trained, highly-educated professional Life Coach must bear a measure of that failure, thus disposing the individual of the full charge of his life. Along with rights and rugged individualism, 21st Century Americans are discarding their personal responsibility and the ability to make the most mundane decisions.
The Founding Fathers were deeply committed to the reasoning that we are beings of Divine seed, having the godly attributes of agency and accountability. The highest endowments of life and liberty require a high level of individual mindfulness and striving. The notion that an outside person can prompt or “coach” a sovereign being in their life choices would have been laughable in earlier times. Have we gone so far afield with our moral agency that we must be coached about what to eat, how to maintain our health, and when to sleep? Life Coaches are not simply replacements for relationships that get lost in the secularized rat race; our friends, extended family, neighbors and clergy. The “rent-a-friend” Life Coach may be the placebo giving the illusion that there is health and happiness where, in fact, there is simply the absence of accountability for failing to make your own health and happiness.
I don’t believe people who become Life Coaches have sinister motives. Like social workers and counselors, life coaches just like to help people. But it’s important to explore the voids filled by their services, and why those voids exist. As government grows it tends to eclipse the relationships upon which we once depended in order to survive. The welfare state of the 20th century displaced extended families as caretakers of the elderly. Fathers became expendable, and mothers raising their own children were regarded as arcane. Marriage turned from the bedrock foundation of civilization into a plastic, amorphous idea to be floated on the prevailing psycho-sexual winds. In other words, nothing is sure, truth is inconvenient, and people in the developed world have become accustomed to seeking the counsel and support of disinterested third parties to meet their most intimate needs. Whether one depends on big government and its bureaucrats or a Life Coach to be a guiding star, the undeniable truth is that star could blink out at any moment because there is no security in dependence on a dispassionate other.
The generations alive today have witnessed an increasing estrangement from the best of human nature. Within a mere half-century Americans have lost the moorings of nuclear family, moral principles, Americanism, patriotism, individual responsibility, and God-centered religion. We are losing our identities, and without a firm understanding of who we are, what we believe, and what is best for us and our children, it will become increasingly acceptable for third party, ‘skilled professional,’ Life Coaches–and their institutional equivalent, big government–to determine how we should live our lives. The mental health counseling industry has grown with need, but since its inception the general condition of relationships and mental health have deteriorated dramatically. The Federal Government has burgeoned, but as it grows everything important like liberty, the strength of families, and the importance of the individual, shrinks. We need less of government, and fewer Life Coaches, social workers, counselors, and self-help books. What we do need is more family, church, God, and the confidence to achieve our own happiness, and the courage to risk failure on our own paths to success.
by Marjorie Haun 4/19/13