It’s 2021, and most people in the West have at least heard of life coaching. You may follow some coaches on social media, see occasional coaching ads, or have a friend who hires a professional coach. Maybe you considered working with a coach yourself, but wondered: What does a life coach do in the first place?
The coaching industry is a rapidly growing but young one. When I started my coaching business in 1995, almost no one knew what a life coach was. Today, with all the demands of modern personal and professional lives, the life coaching industry can be a saving grace because it can support you to live the life your soul intended™. But a lot of people still don’t know how life coaching works.
A good life coach can help you achieve specific goals or go through a major life transition, such as a divorce or a career change. But how exactly do they achieve it? What do life coaches do, other than just sit and talk with you?
Let me explain.
What Is Life Coaching?
A life coach is someone who takes you on a journey to be your best fearless self. They can help you with a transition in your personal life, a career change, or improving work/life balance. Good life coaching has tools to address just about any situation where you feel stuck in a rut or perhaps fear your resisting your own success.
You can count on your coach to help you come up with an action plan to reach your professional or personal goals. However, a life coach won’t — and shouldn’t — give you quick fixes or ready answers. The idea is that, deep down, life coaching clients already know what’s best for them. The coach’s job is to assist them in realizing that.
How Is Life Coaching Different From Therapy?
How life coaches work is often confused with therapists. That’s a mistake. Although both are mental health professionals who help people improve their lives, they use different tools to achieve that. Here are a few ways life coaching sessions differ from psychotherapy:
- A therapist doesn’t disclose much information about their personal life. A coach, on the other hand, might. For example, I often use my own life story in Fearless Living Training Program because I know it inspires and informs people.
- Although there are exceptions, therapy tends to focus on the past while coaching is more future-oriented. For example, a therapist may dig for the source of your limiting beliefs in your childhood. A life coach is more likely to focus on the action plan to help you move past them.
- Many therapists help their clients understand their own life better and see the source of their mental health problems. Life coaching can help individuals develop self-awareness and then uses it to take concrete action — for example, improve your communication skills, help you achieve personal development, etc.
This isn’t to say that either coaching or therapy is better. The two approaches often complement each other, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t try both.
One problem with finding a good life coach — it’s an unregulated profession. These days, anyone can open a coaching business, even without proper training.
Luckily, there are a few signs that will tell you whether you’re dealing with a professional coach.
5 Ways To Recognize a Life Coach Who Knows What They’re Doing
The coaching industry is a bit of a “wild West” when it comes to helping professions. Even high-level executive coaches technically don’t need certification or a training program to work with coaching clients.
This can make it hard to tell whether a coach you’re thinking of working with knows what they’re doing. I’ve seen too many life coaches who had their theory nailed down to a tee. However, they lacked coaching experience and practical tools to work with a client.
If you can’t tell whether a particular coach is worth your time, here are a few things to look out for:
- An experienced coach will have gone through rigorous coaching training. Most of the top certification programs for coaches last an average of nine months and include mentoring from a master coach. This way, each person who finishes such a program experiences coaching as a coachee, too. This way, they become the best coach they can possibly be.
- A big part of good coaching is creating a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. If a life coach understands this, they put a lot of effort into nurturing their communication skills, such as listening and asking mindful questions. Look for the way your coach shows up in your first conversations.
- Professional coaching focuses on the long-term rather than short-term benefits. Of course, there are situations that require rapid action. But for the most part, life coaching is about creating conditions for deep personal growth. This rarely happens overnight.
- If you want to reach your full potential through coaching, make sure your life coach has a holistic approach to their work. In other words, they understand everything we do is interconnected. Even if they’re helping you through a career change, they must account for other things happening in your life, as well as your overall well-being.
- Last but not least, a life coach who’s confident in their skills will treat you as an equal. Even though they’re similar to a guide or mentor, they won’t talk down to their coaching clients. They know the best way they can help is by supporting people in finding their own answers, not giving unsolicited advice.
All the above are traits of a great coaching mindset. Now it’s time to look at what exactly happens in a coaching session.
What Does a Life Coach Do in Coaching Sessions?
There are many different types of life coaching. Depending on whether you work with an executive coach, career coach, or health coach, the specific goals may also be slightly different.
But no matter their goals, a good coach will empower the client to find their unique answers and solutions. Here are examples of tools we use for that at the Fearless Living Institute:
- The “Wheel of Fear”(i.e. a visual representation of the fear cycle we all fall for), to help you understand your fear responses and master them
- Journaling exercises, to work with limiting beliefs and the inner critic
- Deliberate language, to reframe the client’s experience and look at their difficulties from a new perspective.
- Deep introspection, to find more acceptance and unconditional self-love.
Whatever the insights that come out of these exercises, it’s the client’s responsibility to implement them in their lives. The coach may offer the best support in the world. But if a client lacks motivation, it’s extremely hard to move forward.
It is also worth knowing some technicalities of how a coaching session may look:
- Life coaching can happen both in-person and online. Some coaches even like to meet their clients outdoors and practice nature coaching, as described by the International Coach Federation. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of coaches brought their practice to the digital world in 2020.
- Most coaching sessions last between 30-60 minutes. This usually allows for the client to share their updates, formulate questions, and seek feedback from their coach. However, you can also find premium coaching services when you can book a full day or even a weekend with your coach. That’s often the case with business owners who work with executive coaches to take their business to the next level.
- The frequency of coaching meetings can vary even more than the sessions’ length. Most people meet their coaches between once a week and once a month. Anything less frequent is unlikely to give you the full benefits of regular coaching.
Could Life Coaching Be Your Calling?
Life coaching is a unique helping profession.
Unlike a therapist or counselor, a life coach may share their life story to inspire clients. This is what I found to be a great coaching tool in my own work.
Besides, coaches will simultaneously challenge and support their clients to help them reach their full potential.
Now that you know what a life coach does, you may also be wondering: How do I start \being a life coach myself? Am I cut out for this? Could it be my full-time job to help others become their best selves, start a small business, or simply live a more authentic life?
If you have a nagging suspicion that coaching is your calling, let us help you explore that thought. At Fearless Living Institute, we created a two-minute quiz to help you discover whether you’re meant to be a life coach.
Take the quiz now and find out if coaching is the next step you’ve been looking for.