Life Coach: What you need to know about Life Coach
We all need a little help sometimes, especially when it comes to journeys of self-discovery. Whether your goal is to be more confident or to find fulfillment in a passion project, it can be pretty tough to figure out how to get from point A (identifying a goal) to point B (actually going after and achieving that goal). That's where a life coach comes in. Like a therapist, a life coach is someone who can help you identify strengths and weaknesses and overcome obstacles holding you back. But who you should see depends on your issues and what you're hoping to achieve. So, here’s what you need to know before you reach out.
WHAT DOES A LIFE COACH DO?
“Life coaching focuses on what's happening right now, what a person wants next, and how that gap can be bridged,” explains certified coach Jane Scudder and founder of leadership development firm The New Exec.
Coaching is about helping people to identify the obstacles that keep getting in their way, assisting them with finding motivation, and pinpointing any resistance to change. A life coach is a broad term. A life coach is typically most helpful when you’re thinking about your overall future.
“My work is really centered on four things,” says Scudder. “Helping someone expand an idea; helping someone understand what their present experience is with mindfulness, exploring mindsets to help someone ‘see’ options differently, and helping someone understand personal value and belief systems, and how these show up in all areas of our lives.”
A common misconception is that life coaches provide advice, says Kate Bathras, a Certified Professional Coach and member of the ICF. “It’s not a coach’s role to impart wisdom, but rather to facilitate the client's own process of connecting to their inner wisdom, and making choices about their actions and next steps from that place of connection,” she explains. In that sense, a coach is an unbiased brainstorming partner—you’re still the one doing the heavy lifting.
AND HOW IS A LIFE COACH DIFFERENT FROM A THERAPIST?
Coaching can be therapeutic, but there are some major differences between life coaching and therapy. “A coach looks at your present to help you create the future you desire, while a therapist looks at your past to help you manage your present,” explains Tess Brigham, a licensed psychotherapist and board-certified coach (BCC). “So, while coaching is action-oriented, therapy is insight-oriented.”
A session with a life coach will feel a lot different than one with a therapist—one provides structure and accountability while the other is more open-ended. “My coaching sessions are very directive—client’s complete questionnaires to identify goals and always have homework to accomplish between sessions so I'm learning what they have or haven’t done since our last session,” says Brigham. “In therapy sessions, I let my clients decide which direction they would like to go in, and our conversation is usually determined by how they’re feeling in that moment, any insights they gained since we last met, and what people or events may have triggered their feelings.”
LIFE COACHING MISCONCEPTIONS
Now that you know the life coach definition and what one can do for you, it’s time to examine the many misconceptions and myths out there about life coaching. Here are some of the most common.
“Anyone can be a life coach and coaches do not require training.” This isn’t the case. Great life coaches must possess the right blend of expertise and skilled delivery. This ensures that they can properly encourage clients while determining and resolving the core issues that merit attention in each case.
“Coaching is like unlicensed therapy.” Those looking for a life coach definition often wonder about the difference between this and therapy. Life coaching is focused on your present and your future. Coaching accepts your current reality and looks to improve your outcome moving forward. Life coaches are not health professionals, and they do not diagnose you. In contrast, therapy focuses on your past and looks to delve into past actions and patterns. It is analytical, but not action-oriented.
“Coaching is only for people who have problems or who can’t succeed on their own.” Going back to the athlete analogy, life coaching is for anyone who wants to improve their performance – whether you’re trying to advance at work or make more meaningful personal connections. Even the most skilled, successful people can benefit from coaching and there are a variety of different types of life coaches who can help in all different arenas of life.
“Coaches let you vent, then they offer advice.” Coaches do need to have great listening skills, but delivering high-quality coaching is far more than giving advice. It demands that the coach be able to draw on a deep base of knowledge, experience and training to craft unique solutions for each scenario and work with the client to implement them. Coaches are objective and will offer unbiased opinions about how to move toward accomplishing your goals as well as work with you to identify and resolve inner blocks so that you can eventually coach yourself.
WHY WOULD YOU WORK WITH A LIFE COACH?
People choose to hire life coaches because they want to do more tomorrow than they can do today. They want to improve their output and see more growth, and they want to do those things quickly and to the best of their ability. All kinds of people use life coaches, including actors, business leaders, creatives, entrepreneurs, executives, homemakers, managers, professionals, small business owners and start-up pioneers. These people all identify a gap between where they are and where they want to be, and turn to coaching when they want help reaching their goals.
WHAT A LIFE COACH CAN DO FOR YOU
The definition of a life coach is a professional who can help you excel in all areas of life. Some of the most common steps clients take while working with life coaches include:
- Identifying goals and defining a vision for success
- Creating professional and personal growth plans
- Identifying limiting beliefs
- Working toward financial independence
- Obtaining work/life balance
- Learning to communicate more succinctly and effectively
- Fostering more powerful connections professionally and personally
- Getting promotions
- Achieving weight loss and/or fitness goals
- Starting a new business or growing an existing one
- Managing an important life or business transition
- Articulating core values
HOW DOES LIFE COACHING WORK?
Although different types of life coaches may work in a variety of ways, life coaching typically works in a specific, structured format, although your coach will ultimately work with you to create a custom action plan. First, you will work with your coach to define your vision: What is it that truly drives you? What’s at the basis of your goals? After answering that question, you’ll work alongside your coach to identify barriers and limiting beliefs that have been holding you back. What negative things have you been telling yourself? How have these patterns gotten in your way and how can you move past them? Finally, you and your coach will set challenging, but achievable, goals. Your coach will ensure that you are not settling for limited goals or being too negative as you assess your position by helping you calibrate your long and short-term goals against your core values.
Assessing your current position helps you and your lifestyle coach measure your progress and identify current and potential obstacles. After this important step, you and your coach will review your resources and all courses of action available to you in order to create a plan of action. You’ll then decide which specific steps you will take and when you will take them. You will prepare for potential obstacles and decide how to cope with them. At this time, you will ensure that each step supports your end goals, while your coach will help you stay on track and monitor your progress. If your plan needs modification at any point, your coach will help you with this as well, which will empower you to stay committed.
There’s a reason that life coaching is the second-fastest growing profession in the world – because it works for people. The true-life coach definition is a committed professional who has the right training and tools to help you achieve any goal. Few people can honestly say that they are already performing at the top of their game each and every day. If you are ready to truly maximize your human potential, and take your life to the next level, then it’s time to seek out a life coach.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A GOOD LIFE COACH?
Whilst coaches may come from a range of backgrounds and there is no specific background required or previous employment area which sets some out as having an advantage, there are skills which can be learned or enhanced to improve effectiveness as a life coach.
Some life coaches may focus on specific areas, such as business coaching, weight loss, careers counselling, and so on. Other coaches may prefer to work with a wide range of client concerns. So, the skills required by life coaches may vary considerably depending on their specialties. However, there are some skills that most life coaches will require in order to work successfully with their clients and to run their own successful life coaching practice.
A coach needs to be able to focus on the client they are working with and the issue at hand. This sounds obvious, but if they are not able to focus on what the client is saying and pay attention, then important issues can be missed.
CERTIFICATIONS AND ACCREDITATION
Would you go to a doctor that did not have a medical license or medical degree? Probably not, and most people would not want to go to a life coach that did not have the proper certifications, accreditation and training as well. The importance of a training program for life coaches, is to equip yourself with the skills and tools to be able to practice life coaching — professionally. This will also give your prospective clients confidence in your abilities. Not only that, but this can lead to more financial success as a coach, and sometimes the certifications might be necessary depending on your field.
With so much on the go, you might feel overwhelmed by your clients, especially if you are a life coach for multiple people. The need for organizational skills is very important for reaching the next level of life coaching experience. Having organized ledgers, folders, computer files, and content management are good for keeping everything in the right places. Easy access to client information is important to continuously track progress, needs, and wants. There is also an important part of organizational skills that many overlook — security. Organizing everything is important, but the lack of security over this information causes trust issues. People want their sensitive information protected, and it should be provided by keeping any physical information in a secure location, and even easier with password protection for digital records.
A coach may be the most brilliant coach on the planet, but if no-one knows about them and their services, they will not gain any clients and make any income, so marketing their services is very important. A coach may use paid advertising, such as in newspapers, magazines, or website adverts, but there are also other forms of advertising that can be free, such as the use of social media such as twitter, Facebook, blogging, forums, and so on. The life coach may also choose to have their own website, perhaps with a contact enquiry form where a client can make a brief enquiry to see whether their goal(s) is something the coach is able to help them with. They may also rely on word of mouth where satisfied past clients give them a positive appraisal to potential new clients (though this obviously takes a little time to establish). Those with a website might include client testimonials to promote their services. A coach may take many steps to ensure that clients in their area know where they are, and what they can help them with.
Linked to marketing skills is networking. Life coaches need to be approachable, personable, friendly and helpful. They should be enthusiastic, empathic and have a sense of humor and patience. Possessing these qualities are important in helping coaches to gain new customers, but also new business contacts. Networking amongst business associates is now a common approach. This may be done in the virtual world via online social networking, forums, and so on, but it can also be done through 'traditional' face-to-face meetings. Business people in a specific town may meet up at regular events, such as luncheons or breakfasts, social events and so on. Professionals belonging to certain associations are also likely to attend regular meetings. A life coach might attend seminars, workshops, or conferences held by related professions where they can make new acquaintances with other professionals who might refer clients unsuited to their line of work to the coach. There are many different ways that a life coach can make themselves known.
An important skill for any life coach is problem solving. A client goes to see a life coach so that they can achieve their goals. They may not see how to change their behavior or resolve a problem, but a life coach needs to be able to listen to what they say and make suggestions on how they can change their life. Without this ability, the life coach will not really go far. As mentioned previously, to truly help a client, a coach has to ensure that they are really listening to what the client has to say.
So, a very important skill for any life coach is 'listening'.
A coach really does need to listen to a client to be able to accurately determine what that client needs. Although many clients will share common problems and needs, it is a mistake to take a blanket approach to life coaching, or to assume that all clients need the same things.
A coach's first task is to determine exactly what each client needs. This requires careful and active listening.
Language is used to convey and share information. A client may meet with a life coach and tell the coach a great deal, but they might also be hiding information from the coach. This could be due to embarrassment, fear of appearing silly or stupid in front of the life coach, feelings of shame or guilt, and so on. This information may not be relevant to the coaching process, but sometimes it may be, and so the coach needs to be able to encourage a client to feel comfortable and secure with them in order that they will reveal pertinent information.
Imagine a young father goes to visit a life coach. His wife is the main breadwinner and he has therefore decided to stay at home and care for the children. The children are close to starting school and he has set up his own business working from home. This has proved quite successful and is getting better and better. He comes to you because he wants to find ways to improve his business, to look at networking possibilities, and so forth.
However, underneath all this, the main problem is not growing the business, but actually his own time management and guilt. He is finding it hard to fit the work in. His wife is used to him doing the main caring for the children and is not very supportive or willing to change. He does not know how to find the time to fit his business into his life.
Clearly, there are issues relating to his relationship with his wife and his time management. Then there is the guilt. He feels guilty answering work calls or emails, when he should be with his children. He is ashamed to admit that he may need additional child care support when the children start school to grow this business. All of these issues may be beneath the surface, but all of these issues may affect how his business grows.
He may not say any of this to the life coach, but his posture, non-verbal cues and some verbal cues may actually send a message to the coach that there are other issues involved.
Therefore, a coach must be prepared to 'actively' listen to each client in order to better understand what the client really thinks and feels.
REALISTIC GOALS AND PLANNING
Inspiring people to do, be, or feel better is the overall goal of any life coach, but getting there in a realistic manner is what sets the good apart from the average ones. Realistic goals and planning those goals are an important aspect in providing the right support for a client. Going in thinking that you can inspire someone to completely change their life in a short amount of time is irresponsible. The point is to help people find the tools to help themselves, and push them to be their best, not figure out their life in a few weeks. It takes time to get to a point where you feel comfortable with your changes, and this needs to be reflected in the attitudes towards goals and planning. Creating a realistic game plan that includes dates, progress reporting, and increasing milestones that are achievable will allow a good life coach to support, help, and encourage the client to maximize his or her potential.
As you can see, being a good life coach means possessing a lot of qualities. These qualities improve the relationship and the ability to provide the support that a client needs to help reach their goals. At the end of the day, the most important thing for any life coach is that ability to improve someone’s life and form a relationship that will lead to success.
As a coach you will be privy to confidences that clients will not have shared with anyone else. A client therefore needs to be able to trust that you will keep all conversations confidential. The only time you can be expected to break confidences is if the someone’s life is in danger or if the law is being broken. It is important that at the start of your contract with your client you make this clear.
To fully help a client open up and explore their own path forward you need to be non-judgmental. This means fully immersing yourself in the needs of the client and not imposing your own opinions, thoughts and judgments. Of course, in life you will have your opinions but in the process of coaching these need to be put to one side.