OK, SO YOU WANT to leave nine-to-five behind and launch a whole new gig as an outfitter or a yoga instructor or, well, you're really not sure. If it's clarity you neednot to mention some nudgingit might be time to hire a life coach, the kind of personal trainer who can help you set goals and snag them. Life coaches don't wear whistles like PE teachers do, and they're not psychotherapists, either: Their role, via office visits, phone calls, or e-mail check-ins, is to help people find fulfillment, whether it requires forging a new career, taking a sabbatical, or making the day-to-day tweaks that transform life from blasé into a blast. What can a coach do for you? To answer that question and more, we tapped certified LIFE COACH CLIVE PROUT, a 44-year-old San Juan Islands, Washington, resident who in the past five years has helped 100-plus people, including a Compaq-exec-turned-spiritual-retreat-staffer, an auto-industry-employee-turned-skateboard-store-owner, and a sales rep whose new business will meld gardening, fly-fishing, and ranching.
OUTSIDE: Why is there so much talk these days about "finding your path"?
PROUT: There's a significant subculture of people who are not making things like safety, career, and mortgage a top priority. People are looking for greater fulfillmentliving what's important to themand for greater balance, or the ability to make choices that are healthy for them.
Can't people figure out what to do without hiring a coach?
I wouldn't say everyone has to get one, but coaches help give people support to counteract the pressures we live under, particularly within the workplace.
OK, so I'm under pressure, and I want to take my job and cremate it. How would you help me?
In the first couple of hours we'd come up with goals, and we'd check in with those every month. Mainly, my job as a coach is to ask questions and help clients dig deeper into what's important to them. The critical thing is to help people go from "I know I can't stay here anymore" to "What is it that I actually do want?"
Why are so many people successful in careers they don't even enjoy?
We spend so much time climbing the ladder that it's easy to get to the top and find that the ladder's been leaning against the wrong wall.
What's a clue that it's time to climb off?
It's the amount of time you think about being somewhere elsewhether it's a specific somewhere else, like "God, I wish I was fishing on the river," or if it's "just anywhere but here." People call me because they know deep down they should leave. And they're really asking me to hold their feet to the fire.
Still, quitting a job isn't always possible. Are sabbaticals a good middle ground?
Sometimes a break is all that's needed. Other times people get started [on a sabbatical] and realize they can't go back.
It's obvious that you have to be a risk taker to change your life, whether it's to become a filmmaker or to give up a hefty paycheck and launch a startup. Do you see other common qualities in people who take the leap?
A desire for autonomy. Most of my clients want to leave jobs that don't let them make their own decisions.
Check out Prout's Web site, www.thesabbaticalcoach.com, for more info. To find a coach, contact the International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org), the field's main credentialing body. Talk to several candidates, ask for a free session, and expect to make a three-month minimum commitment, for about $300 to $400 a month.