The game changer

TAKE CHARGE: Life coach Sarah Laurie says you need structure to create a happy life.
TAKE CHARGE: Life coach Sarah Laurie says you need structure to create a happy life.

Are life coaches flaky? Does the talk work? Journalist Deidre Mussen went to a session five years ago and says it transformed her life.

It's scrawled at the bottom of a form titled "Dream".

"Go back to Thailand and see my host family."

Did I mention I've just returned from Thailand after reconnecting with the Thai host family I lived with 28 years ago?

Five years ago, my then-chief reporter asked me to attend and write about Auckland life coach Sarah Laurie's 12-step Beautiful Living programme.

For a gal with an embarrassing number of self-help books gathered since puberty decades earlier, the one-day course seemed a dream assignment.

Even so I doubted I'd learn anything new.

Fast-forward five years and check out my blackboard.

All 12 of Laurie's steps are carefully written in chalk with goals beside each that come and go as they are accomplished.

Not just any old goals, SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.

And more importantly, they are goals that are designed to be all encompassing.

"If we don't see our goals as part of real life, we're less inspired," Laurie says.

Little did I realise that a sunny Wellington day in late 2008 would have such an influence on me.

At the time, Laurie told our intimate group that we could take charge and live in the land of ownership, accountability and responsibility or wallow in blame, excuses and denial.

The 12 words sound flaky: be, order, dream, values, gratitude, mind, move, balance, give, others, prosper, bliss.

However, they couldn't be more robust.

She showed us how to turn them into practical tools to create a beautiful life, including in careers, finances, relationships, health and fitness, personal wellbeing, and home and family.

At the end, we wrote a goal sheet.

Mine seemed full of fancy.

But I've ticked most of them off and added more as time has marched on.

It started with the small things.

Those nasty paper piles were sorted into folders or addressed. Bills were paid on time.

A bookcase was bought for my messy array of novels, and, yes, those self-help books.

I had heaps of unframed paintings and prints, so took the lot to a framer and about $1000 later they added bliss to my walls.

I eliminated "tolerations", broken lightbulbs didn't stand a chance.

Since my frenzied start, I've not wavered in my work towards a beautiful life.

One of her sayings has become a favourite mantra: "Failing to plan is like planning to fail".

Since her course, I have run a half-marathon. I own a house and keep it tidy. I have a huge vegetable garden. I know my bank manager and how to internet bank. I love my job. I contact friends and family regularly. I write a journal and my dream conservation book. I grow flowers that infuse my life from vases.

While I've been busy whipping my life into shape, Laurie hasn't rested on her laurels.

When we met, she was five years into life as a life coach and raising four children.

Previously, she worked at TVNZ and during that time, her husband returned to university to become a chiropractor.

When the crunch came, she decided against returning to work and began training as a life coach.

Her business has blossomed.

The 41-year-old is a magazine columnist, has developed seven seminar series, written two books, and has had three nationwide tours on top of one-on-one coaching, running seminars for workplaces and developing a lifestyle stationery range.

A few months ago, I bought her 148-page e-workbook 12 Principles of Beautiful Living on line and have raved about it since to anyone who will listen.

I am far from perfect. I still consume too much chocolate and wine, my personal life needs a rejig, some paper piles plague my house and I am yet to donate to The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ to save poor people's eyesight.

At least, the collection envelope is on my fridge waiting for action.

But my life has a structure it lacked five years ago and a hell of a lot more to-do lists.

Laurie told me the other day someone joked with her recently that she was "New Zealand's best kept secret".

She shouldn't be.

She believes she can improve everyone's life and says all of her theories are supported by scientific research about our physiology.

"Our happiness is embedded in our biology," she says.

I think she's right.

This time, no-one asked me to write this story but I can't resist because her wisdom adds life to life.

And I've discovered when you live a beautiful life, unexpectedly beautiful things happen.

Did I tell you I'll be in Antarctica by the time this story is published?


Sarah Laurie will present a 90-minute seminar in Christchurch on December 3. See for more information.

The Press