What is life coaching, anyway?
NOTE: Life coaching is a relatively new field and is thus somewhat undefined. To further add to the confusion, various life coaches can differ quite a lot in approach. What I describe here is my vision of life coaching and what I offer as a life coach.
Life coaching is the process of working with a life coach who is a trained, experienced professional who works with people who want something different in their lives than they are now experiencing. A life coach helps the client to examine, define and articulate their needs and desires for change as well as what is going well for them. The client is encouraged to develop and clarify a vision for their life.
Life Coaching is strength based. By discovering, acknowledging and encouraging the client’s strengths, talents, gifts, insights, the liffe coach helps the client to employ their inner resources in taking steps toward their goal. The life coach values, celebrates and builds upon client strengths and successes as the vitally iimportant, raw materials and tools of creation from which achievement, success, confidence and fulfillment arise.
The life coach helps the client to set goals. Another important aspect of life coaching is helping the client to set goals which will get them to their desired outcome and to encourage them to take action. Sometimes we set goals that are so big that we become discouraged almost as soon as we begin. The coach can help the client to set up a series of small steps that will create valuable momentum as they are successfully met.
The life coach can often anticipate problems that may lie ahead and make suggestions. For example, a client might set a lofty goal but express that they have little time to give to it. Seeing this as a potential problem, the life coach might suggest breaking the goal down into smaller steps, knowing that a small success is a step and that one step taken builds momentum and confidence.
A life coach helps the client around obstacles that occur. On the way to their goals, the client may encounter problems or get discouraged. It is then the role of the life coach to help the client to identify beliefs, habits and assumptions which hold them back and employ strategies that help the client continue on.Llife coaching is very focused on the inner dimensions of growth and willpower and strength so that when the client encounters a stumbling block in meeting some goal, the coach can employ strategies that facilitate forward progression. By understanding their inner world – their habitual thinking and beliefs – as well as their ways of behaving in and thinking about relationship, they begin to lead more genuine, authentic lives where they take powerful action and create what they want in their lives.
A life coach is focused on action and outcome. While it may seem obvious that action leads to outcome, the life coach also gives attention to how the inner world is reacting to and impacting the outer world of the client’s efforts to create the life they want.
The coach helps the client identify and develop sources for support and encouragement in their world.
The coach helps the client to connect with their spiritual self. Some clients have a desire to reconnect with a paritcular spiritual tradition or their understanding of a higher power. Others simply find that part of themselves by developing the skill of hearing their inner voice, their intuition speaking to them. There is no judgment regarding the client’s view of their spiritual life, rather they are encouraged to practice their beliefs and use them to support and facilitate their own growth.
The life coach realizes that giving an empowering meaning to pain and by creating a new sense of purpose is vital in overcoming pain and troublesome past expereinces. Although the focus of life coaching is not pain nor past events, they are not to be avoided. They can be a great source of motivation, growth, perspective and renewed sense of purpose. The life coach uses listening skills and compassion to encourage the client to the understanding that it is the meaning we create around painful events that is the source of healing and evolution.
The life coach helps the client understand what needs they are meeting by feeling, thinking and behaving in the way that they do. In this way, the client becomes conscious about how their inner and outer worlds inform and create one another. By learning to be more true to themselves, more purpose driven, resourceful, self-respectful, accountable, clients discover their power to achieve.
A life coach does not diagnose, but considers the client to be the expert on themselves and their needs. Although we can feel at some times like a complete mystery to ourselves, upon examination we usually hold the keys to our needs, wants, desires. The life coach draws out these insights and employs their training and strategies and experience to guide and to assist.
The life coach and the client are partners. The coach is not the expert but the guide. The life coach values client desires and goals and uses their training and experience to help the client get very clear about them. We do not wait for a big insight to gain momentum and motivation, but take small actions which build incrementally toward the very achievement desired by the client. In this way energy, motivation and momentum are gathered and magnified in an upward spiral of success.
The life coach, while maintaining healthy boundaries that should inform all relationships, is able to have a relatively casual relationship with the client. The coaches personal life experience is considered an asset to life coaching and is shared when appropriate.
The life coach is not a scorekeeper or enforcer or expert. Every client has their own pace, their own ability to affect change in their lives. The life coach respects the client’s process and seeks to work with it, providing the level of support, guidance and encouragement that suits a particular client. The client is the leader who does the work and sets the pace. The coach is a guide who understands and supports the client’s vision and who has skills and strategies to share and teach that can help the client’s process along. The life coach helps build momenturm and confidence by celebrating the client’s gifts, talents, successes, new insights and growth.
A Side Note: Coaching vs Therapy
Whenever we encounter something new, we look for a known framework as a neans of understanding it. Often what arises in this case is a comparison of coaching with therapy. It seems important to be clear that coaching is not therapy. Psychotherapy is a medical model using an expert on the patient’s condition who creates a diagnosis and works to relieve emotional pain and restore functioning in the patient. There is often a focus on the history of the patient and on why the dysfunction occurred. This perspective is used to help the patient move away from their pain.
One of the biggest differences between life coaching and therapy is that life coaching is not intended to be used on its own for people who are severely emotionally impaired. People in this situation often need to have the help of someone who is an expert in the area of their needs. For example, if a client were suicidal, I would need to refer them to a licensed mental health professional. That said, it is often useful for a person under the care of a therapist to continue to work with their life coach as well. An analogy would be a patient who, while under the care of a general practitioner, develops a life-threatening heart condition. While a GP might feel the need for his patient to be working with a heart specialist, the doctor would hardly stop seeing the patient in order to monitor and improve their overall health and well-being.