Do you wonder whether a year of coaching is worth investing in as you explore your second half purpose in life? Tom Cooper does. So much so that he was willing to share his story and the impact his coach has had on his Halftime journey. He hopes to encourage others to take advantage of this powerful element of the Halftime Experience.
Mr. Cooper is a successful executive who has made the transition from “success to significance,” serving God most recently by spearheading an affiliate of New Horizons Southwest Florida, launching the North Texas affiliate of the non-profit that ministers to at-risk children and their families. The role his coach played in this transition was pivotal. Halftime coaching focuses on both the “Head” and the “Heart” journey. That is, the spiritual and practical dimensions of building a life defined by greater joy, impact and balance. The following interview gives just some examples of Tom’s heart journey.
When you first enrolled at Halftime, what were your thoughts about having a coach? Did you think it would be helpful? Why or why not?
I was always the leader of the organizations I’d been involved in for the last 15 years of my life. I was moving so fast that, if anything, I was the one mentoring and leading others. The thought of having to talk to somebody regularly about what I would be doing was very foreign to me. I didn’t know what to expect at all.
Why do you think having a coach has been so valuable?
In my typical fashion, I planned to go straight from the work world into a job working at Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the organization I had been on the board for 10 years. My Coach was assigned to me prior to the Halftime Institute Launch Event. He called me a couple of weeks before and gently questioned whether I was going straight back in to what I had always done rather than taking some time to really get close to God and build up my relationship with my wife. After I processed his input, I turned down the job.
After the starting the program, it would have been impossible for me to figure out my life purpose if I hadn’t been able to talk on the phone to my coach. He understood my strengths and mission statement and helped me refine what those first sessions had shown me. It was almost too long in between the calls because they were so helpful to keep me going on this second half journey. So in addition to the calls, we would email back and forth.
We explored my strengths together and it reminded me that God had been with me all my life, and could have made me into whatever he wanted. God molded me with my strengths and I needed to take advantage of them. It took several months for me to be comfortable with that since my strengths were not on the front line but as a builder. He was able to walk through that journey with me, and give me Scripture that would help me to clarify these points.
What specifically about your coach have you enjoyed the most?
He had gone through this journey himself and could relate to the things I was feeling, the anxiety of coming out of the work world without knowing your clear role to serve the Kingdom. I had always been the kind of person who wouldn’t leave a job without having another lined up, so this lack of direction was difficult. He understood that and could give me personal examples of how he had dealt with it and encourage me to be patient.
My Coach’s knowledge of Scripture helped me to truly make this a heartfelt journey that would help take time out of each day to build a closer relationship with God. My former business and personal lifestyle made that difficult.
He was also good at remembering the things that had come clear to me during our first assessments in the program and kept bringing me back to that. So he was kind of an anchor, reminding me over and over again of my strengths and mission statement.
Finally, he was a great encourager.
Why do you think it is important for Halftimers to have a coach come along side them during this journey?
Every day that you’re away from what you used to do, the devil is constantly trying to pull you back into what you know, back into your comfort zone. It’s like an addiction, an old habit that we have to kick. If I hadn’t had a coach, I would have slowly gone back to work. He even called me out a couple of times on decisions I was making, challenging me to stay on the course when I was getting job offers and reminding me of what God was doing. He kept bringing me back, providing Scripture and encouragement.
When it comes to figuring out your life purpose, it’s about relying on God’s strength and His timing, not mine. Not being in control is very difficult. But that’s how God works. The coach helps you stay focused at the spiritual level at the same time he’s guiding you with extremely practical steps.
What would it have been like if you HAD NOT had a coach during this journey?
I don’t think I would have ever made it without my coach. The basic things he brought me back to; reading Scripture, seeking to get closer to God, and spending time with my wife, would not have happened without his encouragement and guidance. He helped me know that God wanted me to be happy and gave me specific skills for a purpose. And it was while I was doing these things that I met the person that opened the door to what God had for me. Bob Nichols and I met on a boat and spent eight days together; he and his wife started a nonprofit for at-risk children in South Florida. We spent time together, read Scripture together, and that led to my wife and I volunteering at his organization in Florida. This ultimately led to my launch of New Horizons of North Texas, the affiliate here in Dallas.
However, even in the midst of the plan, there were other opportunities. My Coach gave me solid advice on how to navigate through them by giving me some principles that gave me freedom to do certain things by placing conditions on what I would and would not do. I actually do some consulting but I always limit my involvement now.
All during my journey, we were talking every month. He was able to give me Scripture and counsel me, helping me stay close to God and stay on track to create New Horizons. It launched last June, and we are about to expand to 60 children whose lives are being impacted by this ministry.
What characteristics does a good coach need to have?
- Good listener- At the beginning especially, my thoughts were all over the place. He was very good at assimilating it all, bringing me back to the one or two things every call. I would leave with an action plan; something to read, or write down.
- Structure-The monthly phone calls kept me focused
- Knowledge of Scripture-He was always able to give me Scripture to think through.
- Similar experiences-He had been in my shoes before so he understood
- Encourage- He repeatedly brought me back to the things that mattered and focused on my strengths and dreams, helping me to stay on track while I waited for God to show me what was next.
Any last words of encouragement for a person who may be reluctant to try coaching as a proven way to discern their calling?
If I were talking to someone who had something they needed to overcome in their life, whether a habit or addiction or whatever, I would tell them they need consistent reinforcement in order to make such a big change. A coach will help you stay close to God to understand his will for your life. You spend money on life coaches or psychological counseling. Why would you not spend the time to talk with a Certified Halftime Coach who, through God, can help you get to where God’s purpose is for your life?