Books: a life coach prods and cheers
How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do that Thing You’ve Always Wanted to Do
By Allison Task
Available at amazon.com
Allison Task office:
51 Upper Montclair Plaza #13
By GWEN OREL
It’s not such a big leap from making food to changing lives.
Allison Task was a real-life coach before she earned a certificate in life coaching: when she taught women to prepare food, she found the conversation often steered to discussion of life goals, while chopping the shallots. Today Task, who writes the advice column “Ask Task” for Montclair Local, coaches her clients to get a new job, find a mate, start a new chapter of their lives.
Before she was a chef, she worked for the dot coms during the internet boom of the ’90s.
Then she decided she’d like to help professional women cook — even though her own experience included nothing more than a little waitressing.
She quit her job, and went to culinary school. She wanted to work for Martha Stewart, and she did. Eventually she co-hosted “Home Made Simple” on Lifetime and “Blue Ribbon Hunter” on Yahoo. She even opened up her own cooking school.
A life coach, Task explains in her new book “Personal (R)evolution,” is not very different from a soccer or a baseball coach: they help teach a skill, see potential. The book is organized in nine chapters, designed for a “DIY” approach on achieving a goal. She writes about SMART goal setting: goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Each chapter includes a section titled “Insights & Actions,” where people can write in their response to the advice and the steps they will take. Task also draws on her Jewish heritage, including phrases such as “shep nachas,” (the pleasure you derive from someone else’s accomplishments,) and of course, “Mazel Tov!” (congratulations).
Task has a certificate in personal and life coaching from New York University, and has been a life coach for 12 years. We caught up with her early on Monday, before she started her day at her office on Valley Road.
How long did it take you to write “Personal (R)evolution”?
It’s been in my brain for awhile. It’s built on coaching programs I’ve been doing with clients, seeing what works and what doesn’t. I’ve probably articulated the Disney model [Walt Disney had three modes so distinctive his staff could recognize them: Creative, Planner, Critic] 50 times, and my clients go “ooooh.” Montclair resident Elisa Ung was a sort of ghostwriter.
Do you still cook?
Not professionally. I cook for my family. Up until last year I was still developing recipes for my family, but that’s not what I do anymore. I love grilling. It’s so simple. And right now there’s a ridiculous amount of produce.
What’s your life like as a life coach?
A typical day is not unlike a therapist’s. I work five days a week, and see clients for an hour. I see between four to six clients a day. Clients can sign up for two, three or a six-month program. They will be working on a very specific, achievable goal, not a mindset: “I want to change my job in six months.” I help people through big, significant transitions like getting married, having a baby at 45 or rebuilding life after divorce. It’s a big topic that is pretty emotional, or they wouldn’t be here in the first place. When people are thinking emotionally, they are not using the part of the brain that can address the questions they have. I studied with David Rock, one of the top coaching trainers in world. I’m not sure I could afford his program right now! His work is based in neuroscience. Life coaching runs from fluffy and woowoo to very scientific. If neuroscience is one, and 10 is “you can manifest whatever you want just by thinking,” I’m a 3-5 person.
Did you ever have a disappointment coaching?
I know what I do and what I don’t do. I am not a therapist or psychicatrist. If I have a client who needs more than I can do as a coach, I’ll make a referral. It’s challenging when a person is working against themselves. I had a client wanting to get a new job, and did, but he was having tremendous strife at home. Half the session was focused on home strife. He was smoking a lot of pot, getting five hours of sleep. His baseline health wasn’t there. I told him, “You don’t have the mental capacity to do the thinking to get a job at the level you want.” Chapter 2 is about the Whole Life Model: how is your whole life? Chapter 3 asks, are you mentally prepared to do this thing? It’s akin to going on a 10-day hike in Yellowstone without any commitment to training. That’s not going to work. But, I haven’t had a client not achieve an objective. I have a clipboard with their goals, and we check them off. Sometimes people do go from one goal to another. Sometimes they find a job [or achieve a different goal] early. I’m like cool, peace out, have fun, the coaching program is concluded.
What is the hardest thing?
When I was in coach training I was told, you, the coach, will lead a session feeling really energized and so will the client. I thought, “that’s BS, this is work.” They said, “You don’t get it. We hope you do.” What are you doing is 100 percent focused on another person, helping them shift. People are coming in heavy, and they leave light and buoyant. It’s a privilege of the job, to come home energized and bouncing from the intimate positive work I do with people.
The biggest challenge is the complete changeover over the client roster. I don’t have people that I see for 10 years. It’s not the way the business is. It forces me to hustle and get out there.
Who are your clients?
The youngest was 19, and had left college, wanting to get their head together before they went back. I’d rather see people then, than at 30 with college loans. People who stop and get off the treadmill are visionaries. I also see people in their 60s, preparing for retirement. One thing I’ve noticed is that 60 to 70 percent are nonwhite, recent immigrants, doctors from Iran getting their footing. Saily Avelenda looked me in the face and said, “I am a Cuban woman and destined to make a contribution in a big way.” She left her corporate job and is now the head of NJ 11th for Change. My clients are people actively living their lives who want a deeper participation in the world. Across the board, every single person comes because they want to make a meaningful impact.
EXCERT FROM "(R)EVOLUTION"
Three months is a significant period of time for change; it’s one season in the year, one fiscal quarter, one school term. It’s enough time to accomplish quite a bit, and not enough time to get complacent.
When it comes to considering your Goal’s timeframe, keep in mind that certain Goals will take longer than others.
For example, if you have a fifteen- or twenty-year career, and your Goal is to find a new career, that’s a six-month Goal. If it’s your first job, you’re currently unemployed and can put all your energy into finding a new job, that’s a three month Goal.
So if you have a six-month Goal of finding a new career, for instance, break that down into a smaller Goal of identifying and pursuing possible career paths. Identify what you want and don’t want: where the ideal job is located, what kind of company might you work for, what kind of positions you want to target. Determine the who, what, where, when, and how of your Goal. Perhaps your first few months are spent doing research and gathering data.
If your Goal is to have a baby or get married, the timeframe will be dependent on where you are in your life. If you have a partner who is also ready and willing to have a child, then we’re down to question of fertility logistics. If you want to get married, and you’re single, that’s different from someone who wants to get married and has been seriously dating their partner for two years.
Each Goal is achievable.