Because many individuals come to coaching in search of significance (the sense that my life is worthwhile and what I am doing is meaningful), and an abundant life, understanding how significance fits into a biblical worldview is also important. Jesus had keen insight into what is significant in life. His idea of the meaning of life is so profound it can be expressed in a single word: Agape. The center of life is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what makes life work. The most abundant life is a life with the freedom and power to offer the gifts of love, justice, compassion, service, peace, and kindness to everyone you meet, without needing to get something back. Imagine yourself living out of that kind of overflow: full instead of needy, free from any craving for security, significance or acceptance, un-entangled by anger and inner wrestlings, with the internal resources to always offer the best to those around you. That would be an abundant life!
In general, the leading figures in the life coaching movement agree with Jesus on this picture of life lived out of an overflow as the good life–a life of significance. They urge you to create a superabundance that lets you live free from worry and stress, under-promise and over-deliver, give to others, and pursue the opportunities that life gives. We all agree that having more than enough and not being needy are key ingredients for a great life of significance!
Life coaching in the secular arena has taught extreme self-care as the road to the life of overflow. It starts with you. Take responsibility for your life. Find your energy drains and plug them. Learn to say, “No.” Align with your values. Get rid of unhealthy relationships that drag you down. Don’t tolerate things—change them. Give yourself what you’d want the person you love most to have. Significance is finding what matters most to you, and pursue it. Don’t let other’s expectations define you. Take superb care of yourself.
Taken individually, these can all be appropriate steps. What needs to be challenged is the underlying philosophy. In essence, mainstream life coaching says, if you treat yourself well, you’ll have a great life, and others around you will feel well-treated, too. Take care of yourself first to have a great life. And this is where the paths diverge. Jesus says exactly the opposite: die to yourself first to have a great life.
According to Jesus, the way to a life of overflow is giving up everything to love and serve him, not to focus on getting more. “Give and it will be given to you; pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38, RSV). Abundance is not a matter of accumulation, but of being in relationship with a best friend who has more than enough of everything, and loves to share it. A surplus in God’s Kingdom is not something you must acquire—it simply flows through the hands of stewards that God gives to precisely because they don’t keep it all for themselves. Agape love is Jesus’ path to an overflow that fills others out of our fullness in Him—and in the process produces fulfillment within us as well.
Tony Stoltzfus is an author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on this topic can be found in Tony’s book, Leadership Coaching.