Coach for life

Maria Nemeth

Photo By Larry Dalton

Nobody told you life would be easy. Well, that is, until you met Maria Nemeth. Nemeth, executive director for the Academy for Coaching Excellence, started her career as a life coach 20 years ago while running her own practice as a clinical psychologist. What started as a seminar on money management blossomed into two books (with a third on the way); appearances on Oprah and National Public Radio; and, of course, the academy, which trains life coaches as well as individuals who want to further their personal growth and development. While known nationally for her efforts, Nemeth, a 30-year Sacramento resident, says recognition has yet to come from her own backyard. “What do they say?” she says. “A person is never a prophet in their own land.” For more information visit or call (916) 569-0779.

What kinds of people need life coaches?

There are people who are very talented, very motivated and driven, but they’re exhausted. One of the reasons is that people need to learn a skill set for success in which they learn how to harness the talents that they already have. When people are exhausted or people are successful, but they are not enjoying their success, it’s just because they haven’t learned these skill sets.

What does a life coach do?

What a coach does is help you focus on what it is that’s really important to you, what it is that would bring you the greatest joy to be able to accomplish. And this is really a great antidote to our day-to-day life in which we are bombarded with so many messages and so much information that we can become distracted. And in that distraction, we could lose our focus. And in losing our focus, we end up not doing what would bring us the most enjoyment or the most fulfillment. So, a coach is someone, literally, who is in your corner and helps you focus rather than get distracted.

What’s the difference between a coach and a therapist?

A coach is not a therapist. In therapy, you look at things that are issues or conflicts or worries or doubts, but a coach looks with you at your goals and dreams, at your opportunities, at the possibilities. … In coaching, you’re not dealing with a lot of conflict and issues. That, hopefully, is taken care of when you’re in therapy.

Could a person see both a therapist and a life coach at the some time?

Absolutely. And many therapists team up with life coaches to provide their clients with both sides of the coin.

What did people do before they had life coaches?

Before people had life coaches, they put off their dreams. They would lead very good lives, but they would always be asking, “When am I going to have the opportunity to do that thing I’ve always wanted to do—open the business, create the garden I’ve always wanted to create?” A coach helps you accelerate that process so you end up getting your goals and dreams and in many cases with far less time and far less money than you thought it would cost you. ‘Cause usually what costs us money is waiting around.

What is the interaction between the coach and the coachee like?

Typically what happens is: 60 percent of coaching takes place over the phone, which is wonderful because it’s very convenient for both the client and the coach. We have people who have been trained by our academy who are seeing clients on the other side of the world.

So, typically, it could be anywhere from a half-hour to an hour session once a week, where you check in with your coach and you talk about what it is that you have done or any support you need. One of the things about coaching is it’s very action-oriented. You make promises that you’re going to do something toward your goal or dream, and a coach helps hold you to your promise.

What is the No. 1 challenge people need to overcome?

The biggest challenge that people need to overcome is what we call in our academy “monkey mind.” It’s a Buddhist term. It stands for that aspect of our mind that’s always chattering at us as it swings from doubt to worry and back to doubt. It’s like our self-limiting internal conversation. We’re always talking ourselves out of our goals and dreams. And the No. 1 challenge is that people talk themselves out of their goals.

Do you have a life coach?

Yes, yes! As a matter of fact, I currently have a coach. I wouldn’t do without a coach. It makes my life so easy. I’m finishing my third book right now. That’s going into publication in January. It’s called Luminosity. And I would not do it without a coach. I wrote that book in 10 months while holding down the directorship at the academy and leading courses around the country. And I tell you, it’s a testimony to having a personal coach who keeps you on track.