How coaching can optimize your life both off and on the job

A client and coach work together to improve performance and reach specific client-centered goals

By Jennifer Gastelum and Marc Hildebrand

We all heard the saying in the academy that “you are going to change” and “you will become a different person” once you become a police officer. What is not discussed is how the unique challenges faced by law enforcement can create negative side effects both on and off duty.

In the past few years, law enforcement has changed dramatically and those in the profession face increased stress on a daily basis. Stress from the media, the defunding movement, increased violence toward officers and an overwhelmed system. These stressors build up and take their toll. After many years of service, a totally different person can emerge. There are real reasons for these changes, but these reasons are rarely discussed. However, if those reasons are understood, they can be managed to allow you to create a balanced and fulfilled life.

Coaching, also known as life coaching, is one way to gain control back and optimize your life. 

What is coaching?

Coaching focuses on the here and now and your present life. A client and coach work together to improve performance and reach specific client-centered goals. A coach can help you increase performance at work or home or work through transitional phases in life. They can assist clients in improving all areas of life including relationships, careers, finances, fitness and everyday living. 

Coaching vs therapy

Coaching is not therapy! Coaches work with individuals who are functional but want to optimize their performance. Coaching is not used to address deep or unresolved past issues. A life coach is similar to a football coach, while a therapist is comparable to a team doctor.

Types of coaching

There are different types of coaching available: individual, group and online. 

  • Individual coaching: A coach and a client working toward goals that are specific to the individual.
  • Group coaching: A coach working with one individual on a specific issue with multiple people listening. Areas coached are often universal issues and listening to another individual being coached can be greatly beneficial.
  • Online training: Educational programs that are viewed online that cover every topic imaginable such as weight loss, finances and stress reduction.

If you are looking to improve in any area of your life, you can find a coach and/or online training to help you improve your performance.

Is coaching right for me?

Do your friends and family think you are cynical? Do you feel alive at work and blah at home?  Have you given up hobbies and spend your off-duty time couch surfing with the remote and a beer?  Bottom line, are you frustrated and feel like you are spinning your wheels and not going anywhere? Working with a coach will help you move from where you are now, to where you would like to be. They will help you move from “coping” with your life to creating the life you want to live both on and off duty.   

Benefits of being coached by someone in our field

It is a common belief that once individuals have completed the academy, they have achieved what is necessary to be successful in their careers. Nothing could be further from the truth as many discover after they start working with a coach that there is no end to the number of things they can grow and improve upon.

Selecting a coach with a background in law enforcement can often help break through barriers that might otherwise be impenetrable. A coach who has worked in your field understands and gets where you are coming from. They relate to the unique stresses of the job, and they know how to help navigate an individual through those areas to help achieve their goals.

Once you start to develop yourself beyond your current potential you may identify many different areas of your life that you can work on to maximize your performance both off and on the job. Growing yourself is contagious not just to others, but also to the other areas of your life that are important to you.

Roadblocks to coaching

There are some common misconceptions about coaching that can impact its effectiveness:

  1. I can do this on my own. Believing you can figure it out on your own is probably the biggest challenge when deciding to hire a coach. If you find yourself thinking this, ask yourself, "Why have you not done it by now?"
  2. Coaches are for weak-minded people. Some people think of coaching as "New Age" and weird, and fear others may think less of them if they have a coach. Realize all high-level athletes and many CEOs have coaches. Everyone can benefit from a coach to give them the push to perform better. 
  3. I cannot afford a coach. Coaches come in all sizes and shapes, but the real benefit you will receive by working with a coach is the growth you will experience. Often coaching pays for itself in just a matter of months. Plus, there is always the option of participating in group or online coaching, which is far more affordable.

Humans always manage to find roadblocks whenever something is uncomfortable. Much like going through the police academy or becoming a parent, it is worth it in the end, and you will wonder why you waited so long once you are done.

Selecting the right coach

Like many things in life, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to coaching. You will need to research to find a coach/program that is the best fit. 

The first step in hiring a coach is to determine the areas you would like to improve. Every coach has a different approach to working with their clients. Some focus on nutrition and exercise, or goal achievement, while others focus on your entire life. You will also need to decide if you would like to work with a coach individually or be a part of a group program. It is important to interview a prospective coach to make sure your personalities match. A coach can have an awesome program but if you do not feel comfortable with them, you will not get the best results. 

NEXT: Take care of yourself: Why law enforcement officers need self-care

About the authors

Jennifer Gastelum is a senior probation officer in the Southwest and a certified performance coach with Thin Blue Line Performance Coaching. Her passion is working solely with law enforcement, helping officers take back control of their lives by helping them achieve their goals. If you would like to function at peak performance in both your professional and personal life, visit Jennifer at for more information.

Marc Hildebrand is a current LEO from Southern California.  He is also a Life/PUSH coach who helps LEOs create a plan to break through mental, physical and emotional barriers so you can generate the energy to own your health, connect with your family on a deep and impactful level, and change the trajectory of your career. Visit Marc at for more information.

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