11 Secrets of Life Coaches

iStock.com/Steve Debenport
iStock.com/Steve Debenport

There are an estimated 53,300 life coaches across the globe, and nearly 17,500 of those can be found in North America [PDF]. These experts help clients set goals in every realm of life—from health to romance to career—and create a strategy to meet those goals, all the while maintaining a cheery, motivational disposition. While there’s some debate about how legit a practice life coaching is (one recent lawsuit accuses a life coaching business in Colorado of running a lucrative Ponzi scheme), there’s no doubt business is booming. One study found that total annual industry revenue was $2 billion and climbing. We talked to a few professional coaches about their jobs and what they’ve learned about human nature during their tenure.

1. There’s no certification.

iStock.com/XiXinXing

Interested in becoming a life coach? You’re in luck: There is no regulated certification process to complete before you can put “life coach” on your business cards.

“It’s not regulated by any governing body,” says coach Jay Cataldo. “There’s plenty of people with credentials that have no business coaching anyone and there are people with no credentials that are great coaches. I’m certified by the fact that I am an IACT certified Master Hypnosis Trainer. I tell my clients I have 10 certificates on the wall but they mean nothing. All that matters is can I help you?”

But there are hundreds of training programs that promise to teach the essentials, and at least one accrediting body, the International Coach Federation, maintains a list of what it considers more legitimate training programs. The federation also offers its own credential paths, with a minimum of 60 hours of training and 100 hours of coaching to become an Associate Certified Coach.

Some coaches get certified to add a layer of credibility to their resume, but many consider the school of hard knocks to be the best education.

“I just feel like I’ve had a lot of life, you know?” says life coach Stefanie Ziev, who studied spiritual psychology before discovering the accredited coaching program she completed. “In an effort to decipher the meaning of my life, I’ve done a lot of work.”

2. “Powerful questions” are key.

According to Ziev, one solid coaching method is “listening and asking powerful questions.” By that she means open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” “For instance, ‘What would be a stretch goal for you? What would bring you out of your comfort zone that might push you to the next level as it relates to what you want to achieve in your life?’”

3. Don’t call them therapists.

Ziev is quick to establish that coaching and therapy are very different services. “Coaching looks forward and therapy looks back,” she says. “Coaching is not as worried about your mommy or daddy issues as it is about what’s happening now and what do you want next?”

If a client is depressed or wallowing in the past, Ziev says she’ll refer them to a therapist. “I’m like look, I can’t help you.”

The way Cataldo puts it, coaching requires a lot more hands-on work on behalf of the client than therapy. “You have to want this more than I want it for you,” he says. “You gotta push yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. I’m not gonna waste my time with someone who isn’t gonna put the work in.”

4. They can afford to turn people down.

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Life coaches can be picky about who they choose to take on as a client. Usually the process begins with a questionnaire or an introductory session in which the coach asks a series of questions that tell them something about a prospective client’s personality and chances for success.

“Listen, a victim, someone who lives comfortably in their victim consciousness, is not a coaching client,” says Ziev. “I don’t deal with people who wallow in their problems.”

Annie Lin, a life coach in New York, estimates that she turns down roughly 15 percent of people who approach her, usually because they have a pessimistic attitude. “I prefer to work with clients who really believe in themselves and outside help would add support, accountability, and guidance to that,” she says. “That’s a much better match.”

5. Coaches have their own coaches.

“Any good coach should have a coach,” says Ziev. “I’m a client for sure.”

Cataldo says he’s had four or five different hypnosis mentors and a health coach. “You can’t really be a good coach unless you’ve gone through the coaching process yourself,” he says.

6. Their clients are in it for the long haul.

Most coaches don’t let clients just drop in for a session here and there. Instead, their services come in big packages, so clients have to make a time commitment. “I won’t work with anyone for less than three months,” says Cataldo. “Once a week for at least three months. Some people, I can literally change their life in three or four months. Other people need more time. I’ve had clients for almost six years.”

7. They don’t have to be in the same room as you.

iStock.com/Eva-Katalin

In fact, e-coaching is huge, and it means coaches aren’t limited by geography. At any given time, Ziev is managing roughly 20 clients, and all the coaching takes place over the phone or Skype.

“A lot of coaches have built a practice around Skype sessions,” says Cataldo. “The technology is so fantastic these days it’s like you’re literally in the room with the person.”

8. Going to a bar can be homework.

Cataldo and other coaches often give their clients assignments to do between sessions. This “homework” is meant to help clients reach their goals. “Usually homework is all predicated on what’s the smallest thing you can do to move towards your goal while also learning what you’re not supposed to do,” says Cataldo. “The best way to do that is to make lots of mistakes. So let’s say I’m working with a guy with social anxiety issues. Homework might just be go to a bar after work and just stand there. Do that for five days in a row. The week after that might be just randomly approaching three people and say[ing], ‘Cheers, how’s your night going?’ Then walk away.”

9. They see the same issues over and over.

While each client is unique, coaches say there are a handful of weaknesses we all have in common. “Most of us do not know how to experience the negative feelings,” says Lin. “We either avoid them, resist them, or over-react to them. It’s only when we have learned to experience and process the negative flows, [that] we’ll be ready to think differently and take different kind[s] of action to generate different results.”

According to Cataldo, we’re also incredibly insecure. “People truly believe deep down they don’t measure up and are not as good as everyone else,” he says. “They don’t believe they’re worthy of love. Also, people believe their negative thoughts are true and not just a bunch of random gibberish. Every single person I’ve come across suffers from this.”

10. But sometimes men and women have different coaching needs.

“I would say that in general, men have a higher need of feeling significant/independent while women need to feel love and connection,” says Lin, though she stresses this is an oversimplification. “When it comes to relationships, many of my male clients need help to better tap into their masculinity (feeling more confident and comfortable with their desires) while my high-achieving female clients need to allow their femininity to come forth (thus becoming more laid-back and trusting, instead of controlling). But differences are mostly of individual nature and not necessarily gender-driven.”

11. Facebook has been good for business.

iStock.com/amesy

Social media’s suffocating effects on our mental health and self-esteem have been well-documented, and may drive some people into the arms of a life coach.

“Facebook and Instagram aren’t real,” says Cataldo. “Everyone seems so much cooler and funnier and wittier, but it’s all an illusion.” He and other coaches sometimes recommend clients leave social media entirely. “I do occasionally advise clients to take the Facebook app off their phone,” says Lin. “It’s a constant barrage of information you don’t need and it appears to be useful but really it makes us feel more alienated.”

A version of this story ran in 2016.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

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- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

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Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

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11 Secrets of Astronauts

Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

In the 60 or so years that the job has existed, astronauts have captured the public's imagination. And while many people might think they have some idea of what being an astronaut is like, thanks to the glut of portrayals in movies, real astronauts will tell you that working for NASA is much different from what you see on the screen. In between exciting tasks like spacewalks, they have to worry about less glamorous aspects of the job—like finding lost items that floated away and using the toilet in microgravity.

Mental Floss spoke with two former NASA astronauts about the realities of preparing for and experiencing life in space. Read on to learn about the most annoying parts of the job, the ways they have fun, and their honest opinions about astronaut food.

1. Astronauts come from a range of different fields.

There’s no one direct path to becoming an astronaut. If someone knows they want to be an astronaut from a young age, they need to build credentials in a specific field before they can get the attention of NASA. "They're looking for people who are qualified, meaning that they're high-achieving military people or people from civilian life, generally with an advanced degree," Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut and professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, tells Mental Floss.

To be considered for NASA’s astronaut program, candidates must have U.S. citizenship, hold a master's degree in a STEM field, and have at least two years of related post-grad professional experience or at least 1000 hours of pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft. Two years toward a doctoral program in STEM, a completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree, or completion of a nationally recognized test pilot school program are also accepted in place of a master's degree. Because space flight crews require diverse skill sets, the criteria doesn’t get more specific than that.

"I was a Ph.D. research engineer professor when I was picked," Massimino says. "I've flown in space with engineers, with test pilots, helicopter pilots for the military. I've also flown in space with a geologist, I've flown in space with an oceanographer, and I've flown in space with a veterinarian. So it's really varied. There's not just one route."

2. Astronaut training involves everything from class work to military survival exercises.

NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman on a spacewalk in May 2010.NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Candidates accepted into the astronaut program must complete years of training before they're ready for spaceflight. A lot of that training takes place in the classroom and involves learning about different space vehicles and systems. Astronauts also undergo physical training in the real world. According to Garrett Reisman, former NASA astronaut and the director of space operations at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, one of the most intense courses has nothing to do with preparing for life in space.

"We do the same SERE [survive, evade, resist, escape] training that military aviators go through," he tells Mental Floss. "The idea is that if you fell out of an aircraft over enemy terrain, you got to know how to survive without help. You have to learn to live off the land, what plants you can eat, how to make a shelter and all those things."

The T-38 jets astronauts fly as part of their training have ejectable seats, so landing somewhere unfamiliar is a possibility. But astronauts only fly over the continental U.S., so they likely won't ever need to use the full extent of their SERE training. "What are the odds that you parachute down and there’s not a Starbucks right there?" Reisman jokes. "All you need to do is give me a Starbucks gift card and I’ll be fine."

3. Exercise is a vital part of the job.

Exercising is more than a way to pass time in space: It’s essential to an astronaut’s health. The human body isn’t used to moving around without the force of gravity, and for this reason, all astronauts must make resistance exercises part of their daily routine.

"You do have to spend two hours every day exercising," Reisman says. "If you're up there for a long period of time, you can lose a lot of your bone and your muscle mass if you do nothing, so the way we get around that is by doing intense resistance exercise."

Astronauts can lose up to 20 percent of their muscle mass on an 11-day space flight due to the lack of gravity [PDF]. But zero gravity also makes free weights useless, so instead, astronauts maintain their strength by using a device outfitted with two small canisters that create a vacuum they can pull against with a long bar. A bike and treadmill (with a harness) are also available on the International Space Station. Strength is required to perform certain emergency procedures when the ship re-enters Earth's gravitational field, so staying fit in space is vital.

4. Astronauts do most of their work on Earth.

Astronaut Mike Massimino practices repairing a portion of the Hubble Space Telescope while training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.NASA Hubble Space Telescope, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In order to become one of the few people to travel to space, astronauts must be willing to do a lot of work at home. "A NASA astronaut’s job is mainly spending your time on Earth," Massimino says. "You're going to spend the vast majority of your time on the ground, either training or working on technical issues or helping other people fly." Throughout his nearly two decades with NASA, Massimino spent less than a month total in space. Reisman was with NASA for 12 years and spent a cumulative 107 days of his career in space.

5. Astronauts don't make as much money as you think.

One of the biggest misconceptions astronauts hear about their work relates to their salary. While they are paid decently, astronauts don’t collect the massive paychecks some people might assume comes with such a high-profile job. "We don't make a heck of a lot of money," Massimino says. "We make a standard government salary."

Astronauts are paid according to the federal government's General Schedule pay scale. Most federal jobs are assigned a General Schedule (GS) grade that determines their starting salary, and the pay increases as they gain experience. Astronauts either qualify for grades GS 13 or 14 (the highest grade is GS 15) and make between $104,898 and $161,141 per year. For comparison, Fish and Wildlife administrators are paid similarly at the right experience level.

6. Astronauts lose things (but not for long).

Even in a place as tight as a space station, astronauts still manage to misplace their belongings. Thanks to the lack of gravity, anything they let go of immediately drifts away, which can cause problems when they’re not paying attention. Massimino recalls one incident that happened to his crewmate Mike Good: "He had his grandfather’s watch with him, and he comes up to me and goes, 'Mass, I can’t find the watch.' We’re looking all over the place and I stop after a minute and go, 'Mike, it’s inside here somewhere.'"

They eventually found it trapped inside the airlock. The air filter is another common place where lost items end up: Without gravity interfering, the air flow will carry any floating objects there. "One thing we would say is, 'If you can’t find something, just wait,'" Massimino says. "You'd wake up in the morning and look at the filter and see like aspirin and a piece of Velcro or something, because everything eventually would get there."

7. Astronaut opinions on the food in space are mixed.

Despite its reputation, space food has some fans in the astronaut community. "Astronaut food is great," Massimino says. "We had ravioli, lasagna, shrimp cocktail, fajitas. It was fantastic."

Reisman holds a much different opinion of the meals he ate in space. "It’s terrible. You don’t go to the space station for the food," he says. While he didn’t love the American and Russian provisions that made up most of his diet in space, he did have nice things to say about food from other agencies. "The Japanese and the Europeans, when their astronauts would fly, they had special food that was provided by their space agencies. The Japanese sent up yakitori and miso soup and that was delicious. And the Europeans had pâté. That was much better."

8. Astronauts find time to have fun.

NASA astronaut Mike Massimino smiles during some extravehicular activity (EVA).NASA Hubble Space Telescope, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Between work, meals, and exercise, astronauts don’t have a ton of free time in space. Duties like maintenance, installing equipment, and conducting experiments take up the majority of their day. Sneaking in recreation usually means staying up past their scheduled bedtime, which Reisman confirms most astronauts do. One of his favorite activities to do aboard the International Space Station was taking pictures of Earth. "You could take photographs of places on Earth that are special to you. I got a picture of my hometown, which is pretty cool. As far as I know, no human ever photographed that particular town from space before."

9. Astronauts think movies set unrealistic standards.

The science isn’t the only thing that’s unrealistic about Hollywood’s portrayal of space travel. "I think the biggest misconception is that we're all tall and good-looking," Reisman says. When working as a technical advisor for 2019's Ad Astra, he jokingly brought up this gripe with the movie’s star Brad Pitt. "I said, 'I’m kind of pissed off at you. Think about who they cast to be astronauts in all these movies and TV shows. Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, Brad Pitt. People meet me and they’re disappointed.'"

Reisman doesn't hold this against the actors, however. Pitt reminded him that the stars portraying astronauts on screen have plenty to be envious of themselves. "Brad said: 'Well, Garrett, I can't actually fly a spaceship. The only talent I have is being able to stand in a certain spot and read something that someone else wrote. I got nothing else.'"

10. Going to the bathroom in space is an ordeal.

If you’ve ever wondered how astronauts poop in space, the answer is: with great difficulty. "Taking a dump was not easy," Reisman confirms. Without the help of gravity, using a toilet in space becomes a complicated operation. Astronauts must strap their feet down to keep from floating away and create a perfect seal between the toilet seat and their butt cheeks. The toilet itself uses a vacuum hose to suction up the waste. The process is so complex that using a space toilet is part of an astronaut’s training. It's not unusual for a bathroom break that normally takes a few minutes on Earth to last half an hour in space.

11. In such a competitive field, astronauts need to be persistent.

NASA's astronaut training program is extremely competitive. The agency selected just 12 people out of a pool of 18,353 candidates in 2017, which comes out to an acceptance rate of 0.065 percent. Massimino had to apply four times before he made it into the program.

"I was rejected outright twice while I was in grad school. The third time I got an interview and failed the eye exam, so was medically disqualified." NASA considers candidates with less than 20/20 vision today as long as it's correctable, but that wasn't the case when Massimino was applying. "I went through some vision training with an optometrist, and I was able to teach my eyes to see a little better. I was able to apply a fourth time, and I was picked on my fourth try."

According to Massimino, that level of commitment to his goal ended up being relevant to the job itself. "The job is a lot of late-night simulations, you have to pass exams, you have to work with your teammates. And unless you have a real interest in it, it's going to be tough."