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[Report]

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

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Not too long ago, there was a consensus about life coaches: the people who sought them out were suckers, and the coaches themselves were no better than con men. In 2006, The Daily Show described a life coach as “a really expensive friend with limited credentials.” That same year, the New York Times began an article with this advice:

To figure out what you want to do with your life, you could: A) Study hard in school, get internships in the field that interests you, work diligently and learn as much as possible at your first real job. Or: B) Hire a life coach.

The term became a punch line, shorthand for all the excesses and narcissism of the self-help industry. In a 2007 episode of The Simpsons, Homer hires a life coach named Colby, voiced by Stephen Colbert, who guides him through a crash landing in a private jet by telling him that he has “what made America great: no understanding of the limits of your power and a complete lack of concern for what anyone thinks of you.”

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Genevieve Smith is a senior editor at New York. Her article “In Recovery” appeared in the June 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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