Life-coaching is a lucrative profession, and one that’s growing in popularity. Training to be a life-coach can cost thousands of dollars, and employing a coach long-term certainly won’t be cheap – which is not to say that you shouldn’t do it! Life-coaching can be extremely valuable, and I have one good friend who swears by it. She currently has not one but two life-coaches, one for work stuff and one for her personal life. I and another good friend of mine are both completely addicted to Brooke Castillo’s ‘The Life Coach School’ weekly podcast (it’s brilliant and completely free) – and I’ve definitely benefitted and picked up some amazing tips from listening to Brooke’s words of wisdom.

There’s one crucial thing, though, that the entire life-coaching industry has failed to consider: that the best life coach of all might be a fictional Belgian detective with a large, flamboyant moustache. Hercule Poirot has been life-coaching other characters in Agatha Christie stories since 1920. Without him, would there even be a life-coaching industry now? (Okay, there probably would, but I like to get carried away sometimes.) Read on to discover what Poirot has said over the years, in his capacity as life-coach-before-the-term-was-invented.

1.  Danger/Risk

‘If you place your head in a lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain one day if he happens to bite it off.’

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)


Here Poirot is saying that it’s completely up to you if you wish to place yourself in danger, but you shouldn’t do it without considering and accepting that the worst outcome might happen. Take risks only after a clear-eyed assessment of best and worst possible outcomes. If the worst outcome is one that’s intolerable to you, consider whether the risk is perhaps not worth taking.


‘But when investing money, keep, I beg of you, Hastings, strictly to the conservative.’

The Lost Mine (1923)
In the above quote, Poirot is urging caution upon Hastings. This is slightly different from in the quote above it, from The Mysterious Affair at Styles. If Poirot were to be consistent, he might say to Hastings, ‘Be aware that you might lose any money you invest – so only invest what you can afford to lose.’ Instead, his affection for Hastings leads him to forget that it’s up to Hastings to make his own choices about how much he wants to risk. But perhaps Poirot is only begging in this way because he knows Hastings so well and knows that he will not give the matter proper, sceptical consideration and is likely to leap in without fully assessing the situation first.


‘I can admire the perfect murder – I can also admire a tiger – that splendid tawny-striped beast. But I will admire him from outside his cage. I will not go inside. That is to say, not unless it is my duty to do so.’

Cards on the Table (1936)


Here Poirot recognises that sometimes there can be other considerations more important than the avoidance of risk. Duty is, for Poirot, always crucially important, as we will see many times as we go on. Sometimes one is obliged to place oneself in danger, even though one would rather not.


‘Put your trust in God, and keep your powder dry.’

Dead Man’s Folly (1957)


In the same novel, Poirot urges an angry, revolutionary young man who wants to tear down society and wreak havoc to consider, instead, that moderation and inaction are generally far more beneficial for everybody. Poirot is a strong advocate of caution, waiting and seeing, temperate behaviour, and all things moderate. He believes that people who imagine they must violently destroy in order to create a better world are always wrong and dangerous. He is aware that dangerous people are always certain they are right and good, and that this is the most dangerous thing of all, because it can lead them to believe they’re justified in committing murder. Later in Dead Man’s Folly, Poirot urges this same young man to stop being a political revolutionary and devote his energies to love instead. The young man follows his advice and ends up much happier after this wise coaching from Poirot.

2.  New Starts/Second Chances

‘Go to her as a boy no longer, but a man – a man bowed by the fate of the Past, and the fate of Today, but looking forward to a new and wonderful life. Ask her to share it with you. You may not realize it, but your love or each other has been tested in the fire and not found wanting.’

The Murder on the Links (1923)


‘Courage, Mademoiselle. There is always something to live for.’

Peril at End House (1932)


‘To all of us, Mademoiselle, there comes a time when death is preferable to life. But it passes – sorrow passes and grief. You cannot believe that now, I know. It is useless for an old man like me to talk. Idle words – that is what you think – idle words.’

Peril at End House (1932)


‘There is, sometimes, a deep chasm between the past and the future. When one has walked in the valley of the shadow of death, and come out of it into the sunshine – then, mon cher, it is a new life that begins. … The past will not serve.’

Sad Cypress (1940)


‘You are an educated woman. You must look at things sensibly. […] It has been a wet day. The wind blew, the rain came down, and the mist was everywhere so that one could not see through it. Eh bien, what is it like now? The mists have rolled away, the sky is clear and up above the stars shine. That is like life, Madame.’

Evil Under the Sun (1941)


Poirot, despite knowing how painful life can be, is an optimist. If he were a life-coach, he would certainly say, ‘Give yourself and others a second chance wherever possible.’

3.  Do not fight anything or anyone.  Do not be in a situation of conflict with anyone.

To a mother concerned about her son’s marriage plans: ‘I say to you with authority – be patient. Be patient and calm, and disguise your feelings. There is yet a chance that the matter may break itself. Opposition will only increase your son’s obstinacy.’

 Lord Edgware Dies (1933)


Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, wisely said in that book: ‘Whatever we fight, we strengthen, and what we resist, persists’. Poirot, as we see from the above quote, agrees! Rhonda Byrne, author of self-help mega-bestsellers The Secret, also agrees, and so do most self-help gurus. (And so do I, for what it’s worth!) Violent, negative and angry opposition to anything helps nobody and always makes the world a worse place.


4.  Choose Good Dreams/Set Good Priorities

‘The psychology of human nature, it is wonderful. I grew rich. Some day, I said to myself, I will have all the money I need. I will realize all my dreams. […] My friend, beware of the day when your dreams come true.’

Three-Act Tragedy (1935)


To a woman who has said she must follow her own star: ‘Beware, Mademoiselle, that it is not a false star…’

Death on the Nile (1937)


Many life-coaches and gurus believe that if we want something enough, we can keep directing all our efforts and energies towards it until we get it. Poirot, in the above two quotes, stresses the importance, therefore, of first checking that those dreams and aims are valuable and worthy ones.

5.  How to Choose the Right Partner

‘Remember, Hastings, if you are going into exile, a good cook may be of more comfort than a pretty face!’

‘The Adventure of the Clapham Cook’ (1923)


‘[A]ll is not the gold that glitters. [… T]hough this lady is rich and beautiful and beloved, there is all the same something that is not right.’

Death on the Nile (1937)


‘Hero-worship is a real and terrible danger to the young. Some day Egg will fall in love with a friend, and build her happiness on a rock.’

Three-Act Tragedy (1935)


To a woman who was falling in love with a murderer: ‘Hate me a little if you will. But I think you are one of those who would rather look truth in the face than live in a fool’s paradise; and you might not have lived in it so very long. Getting rid of women is a vice that grows.’

Death in the Clouds (1936)


 Les femmes, they like brutes, remember that!’

‘Triangle at Rhodes’ (1936)

To a woman caught up in a love triangle: ‘Go home, Mademoiselle. You are young, you have brains, the world is before you.’

Death on the Nile (1937)


To a man who did silly things for a pretty woman: ‘You must not go through life being too credulous, my friend.’

‘The Stymphalean Birds’ (1939)


To a woman who is worried about a sexier rival, called Arlena: ‘The Arlena Stuarts […] of this world – do not count. […] Their Empire is of the moment and for the moment. To count – really and truly to count – a woman must have goodness or brains.’

Evil Under the Sun (1941)


Poirot believes that choosing the right love object/partner is as important as choosing the right dream. If you fall for a pretty face, or brutish machismo, or someone you hero-worship and therefore can’t see clearly, you might be inviting misery into your life. Poirot would suggest instead choosing someone good, intelligent and capable of cooking nice dinners. Hard to argue with that!

6.  Radical Acceptance

‘Yes, one cannot go back over the past. One must accept things as they are. And sometimes, Madame, that is all one can do – accept the consequences of one’s past deeds.’

Death on the Nile (1937)


‘I think that there might be something very painful to learn and I am asking whether you will be wise enough to say: “The past is the past[”].’

Elephants Can Remember (1972)


‘[Life] does not permit you to arrange and order it as you will. It will not permit you to escape emotion, to live by the intellect and by reason! You cannot say, “I will feel so much and no more.” Life, […] whatever else it is, is not reasonable!’

Sad Cypress (1940)


Life-coaches and gurus call this ‘practising radical acceptance’. Eckhart Tolle advises: ‘Do not make an enemy of what is and cannot be changed’, explaining that this will only cause you needless misery. Brooke Castillo says that instead of finding fault with the past, you have the option of telling yourself that everything about the past was perfect because it made you the person you are today. Poirot realised the truth of this before both of them! When you learn a painful lesson from the past, you have learned a lesson – so you could choose to be glad about that, once the pain has passed. You can choose to accept the unreasonableness of life and even welcome it, and the emotions it brings with it.

7.  The Seductive Power of Evil

To a woman who is contemplating murder: ‘Do not open your heart to evil. […] Because – if you do – evil will come. … Yes, evil will come. … It will enter in and make its home within you, and after a little while it will no longer be possible to drive it out.’

Death on the Nile (1937)


Evil, here is not an innate quality of a person who commits murder, but rather a virus that can infect an otherwise good person. Eckhart Tolle warns people against what he calls ‘unconscious, ego-driven behaviour’, in the same way that Poirot warns against allowing evil into the heart. Brooke Castillo advises us to wait before acting, and make sure that whatever action we choose will improve the situation and not make it worse, for us as well as for others. Shouting, accusing and (obviously) murdering are clearly not going to help make the world a better place, or any individual person happier. Poirot, in the above quote, is putting forward the highly enlightened view that you cannot attack another without harming yourself too.

8.  Every Life Matters

To a murderer convinced he’s acting for the greater good: ‘I am not concerned with nations, Monsieur. I am concerned with the lives of private individuals who have the right not to have their lives taken from them.’

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940)


Poirot here cautions against deluding yourself that killing someone might have a positive political value. By killing anybody, you are making the world a worse place. Everyone matters. The individual’s divine right to life should be respected, always.

9.  Setting Priorities/Core Values

‘The world is yours. The New Heaven and the New Earth. In your new world, my children, let there be freedom and let there be pity … That is all I ask.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940)


‘It is the brain, the little grey cells […] on which one must rely. The senses mislead. One must seek the truth within – not without.’

‘The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim’ (1923)


Convincing a murderer to turn herself in: ‘It is the children you must think of, madame, not yourself. You love your children.’

Dumb Witness (1937)


To a woman who is unable to move past sexual jealousy (and killed over it as a teenager, and got away with it): ‘I do not think you have ever in your life cared about about what any other person would feel. If you had, you might be happier […] my child, you have so much to learn. […] All the grown-up emotions – pity, sympathy, understanding. The only things you know – have ever known – are love and hate.’

Five Little Pigs (1943)


‘Humility is valuable.’

Dead Man’s Folly (1957)


‘[W]ith the passage of time, the mind retains a hold on essentials and rejects superficial matters.’

Five Little Pigs (1943)


‘Do you not know, my friend, that each one of us is a dark mystery, a maze of conflicting passions and desires and aptitudes? Mais oui, c’est vrai. One makes one’s little judgements – but nine times out of ten one is wrong.’

Lord Edgware Dies (1933)


‘You see too many sensational films, I think […] or perhaps it is the television that affects you? But the important thing is that you have a good heart and a certain amount of ingenuity.’

‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’ (1960)


To Hastings’ daughter who is more interested in work than men: ‘Is it that you think of nothing but the test tubes and the microscopes? Your middle finger it is stained with methylene blue. It is not a good thing for your husband if you take no interest in his stomach.’ Then, in response to ‘I shan’t have a husband’: ‘Certainly you will have a husband. What did the bon Dieu create you for? […] Le marriage first of all.’ Then, to Hastings: ‘Some day she will know how wise old men are.’

Curtain (1975)


Poirot is constantly encouraging people to embody  and promote the highest and best values: humility, family, duty, compassion, understanding, kindness, liberty. He also places a high value on intelligence.

10.  The Power of Love

Encouraging Hastings to go after a woman who feels guilty: ‘Take the nightmare away from her’
Curtain (1975)


‘The happiness of one man and woman is the greatest thing in all the world.’

 The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

‘Love can turn to hate very easily. It is easier to hate where you have loved than it is to be indifferent where you have loved.’

Elephants Can Remember (1972)


Poirot sees both the positive and negative power of love. It can remove guilt, shame and misery, but it can also turn to a powerful hate if it goes wrong. As with all powerful forces, Poirot believes that we should all take great care over what we choose to do with our love-power. We should always, he thinks, use it for good, not ill. Fundamentally, Poirot is a deeply romantic person: he is in favour of love, and this is an essential part of his goodness.

11.  Everything Matters

‘Beware! Peril to the detective who says: “It is so small – it does not matter. It will not agree. I will forget it.” That way lies confusion! Everything matters.’

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)


Detail is important, right down to the smallest things. Self-help gurus agree! Deepak Chopra is always writing and saying that  decluttering and tidying your personal spaces is essential to living your best and most enlightened life.

12.  The Power of Truth

‘The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to the seeker after it.’

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)


‘To arrive at the truth, yes, that always interests me. But the truth is a two-edged weapon.’

Sad Cypress (1940)


When Hastings’ daughter finds a man, who isn’t Hastings’ choice: ‘They will be happy together, those two. They will be poor and innumerable tropical insects will bite them and strange fevers will attach them – but we all have our own ideas of the perfect life, have we not?’

Curtain (1975)


Poirot recognises that truth is crucially important and powerful, and therefore can be a good even when the particular truth in question is a disturbing one. He also recognises that there is not always one truth that applies to everyone. We all have our own truths and must pursue and promote them, and be, most importantly, true to ourselves.

13.  Trust Your Instincts

‘The jealousy of wives is proverbial. But I will tell you something. In my experience jealousy, however far-fetched and extravagant it may seem, is nearly always based on reality. There is a saying, is there not, that the customer is always right? Well, the same is true of the jealous husband or wife. However little concrete evidence there may be, fundamentally they are always right.’

‘The Lernean Hydra’ (1939)


Poirot understands that hunches and instincts are not things we’ve imagined or made up. Rather, they are information our brain has given us with without us necessarily being aware of it. Our hunches are based, often, on tiny details we’ve observed. They are valid pieces of evidence that should not be ignored.

14.  We Cannot Change Others

‘[I]f a person is determined to commit murder it is not easy to prevent them’

Evil Under the Sun (1941)

Poirot is aware that all he can do is advise and caution; he is not in control of how other people choose to behave. We should all, therefore, focus on amending, controlling and improving our own behaviour first and foremost, and enforce our morality and ethics most strictly on ourselves.

15.  The Importance of Listening Properly

‘It is a profound belief of mine that if you can induce a person to talk to you for long enough, on any subject whatsoever, sooner or later they will give themselves away.’

After the Funeral (1954)


Here Poirot talks about listening from the point of view of murderers giving themselves away, but again he is ahead of his time in stressing the importance of proper listening. Self-help gurus regularly point out that if you’re listening impatiently while waiting to jump  in and talk as soon as possible, or if you’re listening in a disapproving or judgemental way, then you’re not truly listening. This will damage all your relationships, just as not listening properly to suspects in a murder case will make it harder to solve that case.

16.  Children

‘Children nowadays know all the facts of life – but their eyes often retain innocence.’

Cat Among the Pigeons (1959)

Children are people too, not to be underestimated or undervalued. (They might also commit the odd murder, or have important evidence to impart!)

17.  Psychology

‘One always thinks the days of one’s own youth are best.’

‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’ (1960)


Poirot understands that our beliefs are based on our thoughts, as Brooke Castillo is always saying. Change your thoughts, and you will find that your beliefs and feelings change too. If we choose to think that the best is yet to come, then we don’t need to feel sad that the past is gone and will never return.

18.  Practical Tip

And finally, on a lighter and more general note, Poirot has a tip for us all, whatever task we’re trying to do:

‘Do a thing well, then leave it alone. That was his maxim’

Third Girl (1966)