Bringing out your best

Bringing out your best

If she could move past injuries suffered in a car crash, Judy Tedder figured she could shift gears professionally.

Personal coach Tracie Sage helped Tedder accomplish both.

"I've made huge progress," Tedder says.

Packaging her approach to health, wellness and prosperity under the title "abundant life coach," Sage is one of several local entrepreneurs offering services to adults seeking change in their lives but needing a nudge in the right direction. Recognized as a profession for about a decade, life coaching is being popularized by practitioners like Sage who are trained to bring out a client's best.

"The coaching is really about whole health," Sage says. "They're wanting health in every aspect of their lives."

Yoga initially connected Tedder, 52, and Sage, 47, both of Ashland, at a local women's retreat. Hoping to rededicate herself to yoga after falling out of practice, Tedder signed up for individual instruction with Sage, who focused on alleviating lingering effects of her client's 2001 wreck. Realizing Sage also could organize, clarify and provide feedback on her career goals, Tedder expanded their relationship to coaching.

"Tracie is so dynamic in person," Tedder says. "She's very intuitive, as well."

"I look for values; I look at things that are underneath," Sage says.

Sage's personal experiences learning and teaching yoga in Berkeley, Calif., as well as researching healing herbs, laid the foundation for coaching.

"I was sharing with people, and I was getting results," Sage says. "It was a way of supporting my friends and family before I even knew what coaching was."

Sage studied marriage, family and child counseling at California's Sonoma State University before obtaining certification at Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, Calif. Transplanting her business almost immediately from Northern California to Ashland, Sage has been coaching for eight years, integrating instruction in yoga and healthy cooking techniques. Consultations determine which areas are most important to prospective clients.

"Different clients want different things," she says.

For Tedder, burning out on her occupation as a private, in-home caregiver for the elderly sparked the acceleration of her budding massage business. With Sage, Tedder drew up a time line for accomplishing her goals, designed a business card, developed a clientele for massage and eased out of care-giving. Acting as a cheerleader, Sage also taught Tedder to let go of her fears.

"Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back," Tedder says of the process, which evolves depending on clients' needs over the six months they typically work with Sage.

Sage's sessions are 45 minutes each, once a week, three weeks out of each month. Cost is $500 per month or $2,500 for six months.

Acknowledging that personal coaching is "fairly expensive," Ashland life coach Elizabeth Austin conducts a free consultation with prospective clients before she ever discusses cost. Although she thinks of the session as auditioning for the job, Austin says she doesn't offer her services if she doesn't believe she can help. The difference between coaching and counseling or consulting is the level of equality between client and coach, she says, adding that the coach is always on the client's side.

Since starting her practice in 2000, Austin, 66, says she has coached hundreds of people locally and nationally, with a preference for working with "visionaries and social artists" and others who want to make the world a better place. Living on the "cutting edge" exposes such individuals to a lot of criticism for which they need a counterbalance, Austin says.

"These people begin to lose their passion and their energy," she says. "The idea is to keep life meaningful and productive and happy."

Also certified through Coaches Training Institute, Austin says she has helped several clients to write books, a poet to obtain grants for his work and a woman who struggled to find happiness in constructing computer data to achieve success. Clients who retired from the work force found other ways to contribute to society, she says.

Some people pursue coaching, Austin says, because they feel at odds but don't want therapy. Coaches help them overcome obstacles they put in their own way, she adds.

"Coaching is essentially adult development," says Sharon Wieczorek, a 40-year-old "integral coach" working in Ashland since 2002.

Most clients of her Professional Life Design are professionals and high-achieving individuals who aren't getting the satisfaction they crave from life, Wieczorek says. But discussing professional issues inevitably turns to conversations about a client's private life, she says. A coach's expertise, Wieczorek says, is uncovering what isn't always spoken aloud.

"We can't only be in our profession and not look at our life issues," Wieczorek says.

"The goal is to have a sense of ourselves as a whole person."

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