I’m a life coach, but what does that mean? What is a life coach? What can a life coach do for you? In this post, I will help you understand this relatively new but incredibly interesting profession, and by the end you might just realise how a coach can help you.

The History

Life coaching really hasn’t been around that long. In fact, it’s generally accepted that the first example of a life coaching practice started in America in the 1980’s. Life coaching is a relative of sports coaching, though it’s very different in its application. At its core we see the same principle: that a coach can help you reach your goals more effectively and more efficiently than you could alone. When you apply this to life, instead of coaching someone to win the Olympics, you may be coaching them to start a business, gain a promotion, move house, have a difficult conversation, embark on a new adventure, to gain confidence, to build a relationship, to gain clarity, or any number of other things. Essentially, a coach helps you achieve your goals in life and helps you to live on your own terms in a way that fulfils you.

If life coaching is a relative of sports coaching, its cousins are mentoring, consulting, counselling, psychotherapy, and psychology (what a family Christmas that would be!). Life coaching is distinctly different from each of these fields, and yet draws from each of them in various ways. Coaching is different from mentoring and consulting in one key way: a coach believes that their client is the expert on their life and is capable of finding solutions that are perfect for them.

Coaching vs. Mentoring and Consulting

A mentor is someone who has done a particular thing before who can guide you on the way, e.g. someone who’s created a successful start-up may mentor a person just beginning to create their start-up. A consultant is an expert in a certain area and is hired specifically to advise on that area. Both mentors and consultants are paid to give advice, whereas giving advice is the number one thing that coaches do not do.

Coaching vs. Counselling and Psychotherapy

Counselling (short term) and psychotherapy (long term) are different from coaching in that their clients or patients attend sessions to identify, explore, understand, and solve problems that often relate to mental illness, or that are heavily impacting healthy day-to-day functionality. Practice is deeply rooted in understanding how the past has impacted the present and working through problems and trauma to regain a sense of mental wellness. The counsellor or psychotherapist in this dynamic is very definitely the expert and it is often their job to diagnose problems and administer methods of relief (talk therapy or medication for example).

Life coaches tend to work with clients who’s daily functioning is not limited in any way by their mental health, however who are driven to achieve goals, make changes, and live life differently to how they are in the present. Life coaches also focus predominantly on the present and future.

The Overlap

That isn’t to say that these fields are mutually exclusive. A number of them overlap in methodology where it is helpful to the client, and coaching is no exception. In fact, you could argue that coaching as it is today is a smush of all these methodologies together. This all depends on the coach and what kind of material they’re working with. A lot of the goal setting material you see in life coaching has been developed or borrowed from sports coaching. Transactional analysis and NLP comes to coaching from psycho-linguistic studies. Jungian psychology has influenced coaching immensely, as has positive psychology more recently. The tools and methods taught to coaches come from everywhere – if it might be helpful, why not absorb it into your repertoire after all.

The Industry

Coaching is also different in that anyone can be a life coach. In many ways, this is one of the downsides of the field as it is not regulated by any one body and you do not need to be affiliated or signed up to any kind of ethics to call yourself a life coach. This makes finding a credible coach difficult. There is training available and a number of large coaching bodies in existence to be affiliated to so it’s not all cowboy antics. I hold a transformational coaching diploma through Animas that is accredited by two of the major coaching bodies (the ICF and the ACC). I want to make sure I can give my clients the best and am fully dedicated to learning in whichever ways I need to make that happen and actively seek out CPD opportunities every month.

So, What Is Coaching?

Life coaching is more than having a conversation with your friends or family, it’s a safe and non-judgemental space in which you can discuss and explore all of your dreams and anxieties and truly have the time and concentration to think through them properly. The coach/client relationship is one of accountability, support, and belief.

A coach really, truly, believes you can do whatever you set your mind to, and they are dedicated to helping you achieve it. Importantly, they are removed from the usual life politics you encounter talking to people who care about you. A life coach has no interest in telling you what’s best for you, they’re not going to be offended if you’re thinking about leaving home, they’re not going to question why you could possible want to leave your ‘amazing’ job… they’re just going to ask you a whole lot of questions that make you investigate all your thoughts, reasoning, and motivations, and then they’ll help you plan out what the next step is.

When To Go To A Coach

There is no point going to a life coach if you like being comfortable. There’s no point if you want to keep your pipe dream as a far-fetched thing to think about after a few beers. Don’t go to a life coach if you just want to moan about how unfair something is. Go to a life coach for change, to push yourself, to grow and become better. Go to a life coach because you KNOW that there’s more to life than what you feel now and because you’re motivated to explore what more looks like to you. There is no limit to what you can achieve when you approach a goal like you mean it, and a life coach is both the person you go to find out what you can achieve and to help you get that goal like no one’s business.

I hope I’ve given you some clarity on the life coaching subject. If you’ve read this and thought, “mmmmm maybe there’s something to this!”, check out my contact page to apply to do some coaching with me (or send the link on to a friend). As always, feel free to drop any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Most importantly, have a wonderful day!

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