When I tell people I’m a life coach, I most often get the question,
“What exactly is life coaching?”
And it makes sense that people would ask. Coaching has only recently become relatively mainstream, and it is only now being recognized as a legitimate tool for personal and professional development. People also mistake it for therapy, but we’ll get into the differences a little later.
And it doesn’t help that the term “life coaching” sounds weird, as if I’m here to tell you how to live your life because you don’t know how… We’ve got parents/friends/family/media telling us how to live all the time already!
But okay, let’s be real, I think we could all use some improvement in a few areas of our lives. We all have good intentions to change for the better (new years resolutions, anyone?) that inevitably fall flat. Or, we tell ourselves that next time will be THE TIME TO DO IT, but that next time never comes.
We make excuses all the time… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Excuses are just signs that you may not be ready for change. And, change is uncomfortable, so cut yourself some slack! In reality, most people already know what they need to do in order to improve their lives, but they’re either lacking confidence, accountability, and/or they may be feeling overwhelmed. So, what can we do about this?
Enter, the Life Coach.
LIFE COACHING – THE ACTUAL DEFINITION
This definition is from the International Coach Federation (they’re essentially the main accrediting and credentialing association for life coaching).
“Coaching is an on-going partnership that helps clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaching accelerates the clients’ progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. Coaching concentrates on where clients are today and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be tomorrow.”
Phew, that’s a long-winded definition. Let me break it down for you… It’s basically saying is that life coaching helps you get from point A to point B in any area of your life where you feel you need to take that A-B journey. In other words, it’s all about helping people get from where they are in their life to where they want to be. Furthermore, it’s a life coach’s job to help people get what they want in life by breaking down the barriers that people impose on themselves.
“Whoa whoa whoa… people impose barriers on themselves?!” That’s a pretty bold statement. But I say this for good reason…
Have you ever heard of people who have had barriers, and I mean, like, MASSIVE ASS barriers, and still managed to reach their goal or live their dream? Have you heard of people who had all the odds stacked against them, and still became successful? These people knew (consciously or subconsciously) that the only barrier to break was the way they chose to view their situation.
Ok, now you might be saying,
“I mean, sure, that’s them… but they’re different, and my situation is unique… I can’t do that.”
And while part of that statement may be true, forgive me for being frank with you, but I’m going to say that it is YOUR CHOICE to make that very statement a barrier to your success.
Feeling defensive? Then you’re probably not ready for life coaching… Because a major goal of life coaching is to get you out of self-limiting beliefs and into a new way of looking at things. And while we’re on this subject, let me tell you right now that life coaching isn’t for everyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, magic-wand, let-me-pay-you-so-that-you-can-get-my-shit-together-without-me-doing-any-work type solution. You have to be ready and willing to take actions to change your life, even when it is often times extremely difficult.
THE BEST ANALOGY I CAN THINK OF FOR LIFE COACHING
Consider life coaches as personal fitness trainers, but for any area of your life instead of just your health. Ok, Let’s roll with this analogy. What typically happens when you hire a personal fitness trainer? The first thing they’ll probably do is ask you what your goals are:
To lose weight?
Let’s say you want to lose weight. Then, they’ll see where you’re currently at with your goal, and after establishing exactly how much weight you want to lose and over what period of time you want to lose it, your trainer will then devise a plan of action of what you need to do in order to achieve your weight loss goals. Along the way your personal fitness trainer (if they’re any good) will encourage and motivate you, ask you questions about your motivations and any barriers that you face along the way. The end goal of a trainer is to help you achieve your goals a lot quicker and more effectively than if you did it by yourself.
A life coach does EXACTLY what a personal trainer does but with specific areas of your life.
HOW WE ROLL (AS LIFE COACHES)
So how does a life coach actually do all of the above?
Well, first of all, rather than actually TELLING someone the answers, a life coach is the catalyst for getting a client to find the answers themselves. By asking challenging and thought-provoking questions, a life coach can unlock the potential in a client. Coaching is forward looking and focused on the action you are willing to take to get what you want out of life.
Ever heard of the saying, “Sometimes you just can’t see the forest through the trees?” Ooooh how true that is for so many of us. Often, we are so wrapped up in everyday life that indeed life just passes us by… But life coaching can help you see a bird’s eye view of your situation, which helps you to see different alternatives, take a step back, and actually examine your life and all of its parts.
If all goes well, this leads to greater self-awareness, focus, and accountability.
I know what you’re thinking…
“This sounds a lot like therapy… How is a life coach different than a therapist?”
It’s true, a lot of people do confuse life coaching with therapy, and while there are similar themes to both, the best way that I can explain the difference is by pointing out the methodology behind them.
DISCLAIMER: I’ll preface the next few sentences by saying that this is a generalization, and there are a lot of exceptions… But typically, therapy focuses primarily on family dynamics, past experiences, and retrospection to help people. Moreover, therapy is geared for clients who are in deep distress and/or are experiencing a type disorder (again, GROSS GENERALIZATION). Life coaching, on the other hand, focuses more on a person’s present situation instead of the past, and is more action-oriented to obtain a future goal. Not to say that it isn’t important to understand someone’s past, but it plays less of a role in their approach to helping people.
At the end of the day, both life coaches and therapists are in service of helping people feel better, but the main difference is in the approach.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? (A COACH’S TAGLINE)
So, there you have it… A not-so-brief intro on life coaching!
Are you feeling inspired? Confused? Skeptical, perhaps? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on life coaching in the comments below! Now go forth and live life, with or without a coach.