What is Life Coaching ?

‘What am I doing in life?’, ‘Where is my life headed?’What is my life purpose? ‘Why do I feel stuck in life/career?’, ‘Where do I find the motivation to change my life?’, ‘Why can’t I find love?’ - Have you found yourself asking these questions to yourself lately? 

Questions like these can often arise at different points in your life. You may be at a crossroads in life, at the cusp of a major career or life decision, at the beginning or end of a relationship, or maybe nothing in life has changed for a while and you’ve found yourself caught in monotony. 

Have you found yourself wanting to take action, make a change, but just don’t know where or how to start? Or, you may have rough ideas of how to improve your life but don’t know how to maneuver through the complicated process of personal development. 

Well, life coaching can be the bridge you need between the life you have now and the life you dream of. But what is life coaching? Is life coaching the same as therapy? How do you know if life coaching actually works? How do you find a life coach that will help you reach your goals? Will life coaching help improve your life? 

Here’s everything you need to know about life coaching. 

Who is a Life coach?

A life coach is a type of wellness professional who helps people make progress in their lives in order to attain greater fulfillment. Life coaches aid their clients in improving their relationships, careers, and day-to-day lives. Life coaches can help you identify the obstacles holding you back, clarify your goals, and then come up with strategies for overcoming each obstacle. 

Coaches offer techniques to target your unique skills and gifts to help you make the most of your strengths. They help you grow by analyzing your current situation, identifying limiting beliefs and other potential obstacles you face and devising a custom plan of action to help you achieve the outcomes you want. They are your facilitating partners who provide you with the support you need to achieve long-lasting change. 

Who should consider working with a life coach? 

Signs that you should consider a life coach

Life coaching can be useful in a number of life situations - big or small. Simply put, coaching can help you understand and simplify what’s going on in your brain. Anytime in life when you feel unable to get the results you seek, or when you find yourself getting frustrated, life coaching can help you recognize where and why you are stuck and show exactly what modifications you need to make, when you feel unable to do so yourself. Alternatively, you may already know the changes you need to make but lack the motivation and direction to effect change, a life coach can be the accountability partner who keeps you on track for self-development. 

Here are a few signs that indicate that you should seek out the help of a life coach:

  • Frequent irritability
  • High levels of stress and/or anxiety
  • Inability to break bad habits
  • Lack of fulfillment in your social life
  • Persistent feelings of dissatisfaction at work
  • Sense of blocked creativity

A few specific situations that might call for the services of a life coach include:

  • You feel you lack the support system you need to move forward in your life or career.
  • You are struggling to maintain a balance between life and work and that’s affecting your health, relationships, sense of fulfillment, and general well-being. 
  • You’ve been having trouble focusing your thoughts and find yourself unmotivated and generally distracted.
  • You’ve been experiencing unnecessary stress accomplishing your day-to-day activities.
  • You’ve been wanting an impartial sounding board who can help you make major life decisions, such as a move or a career change. 
  • You don’t feel productive, you feel like you don’t accomplish anything worthwhile during the day.  
  • You lack the confidence to speak up, talk to strangers, make a romantic connection or just ask for a raise at work. 
  • Your life feels chaotic right now and you want to simplify it and bring some structure to your days. 
  • You are always running against time, and face trouble prioritizing or meeting timelines. 

How Does Life Coaching Work?

muhammad ali quote - if me mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it then i can achieve it

There are two key components to life coaching - conversations and questions. The questions are designed to get to the bottom of the situation and uncover your goals, motivations, and obstacles. These conversations help your coach form a connection with you and move forward toward reaching your goals. 

Life coaches lend an unbiased eye to your concerns and feelings and oftentimes offer a fresh perspective on the different problems you face. Life coaches play the role of both a cheerleader and an accountability partner through the journey of your self-development by inspiring and encouraging you to reach your set goals while also keeping a track of your progress and holding you accountable. The relationship between a life coach and you is of an ongoing and supporting nature through which these professionals are able to help you through any challenges that may arise and advise alteration to the plans to account for the unexpected challenges that you might arise through the journey of your self-development. 

Life coaching essentially helps you with four aspects of your self-development journey:

  • Getting clarity of thought and bringing consciousness to your current reality. 
  • Modifying your mindset to view your challenges differently and create a constructive frame of mind for progress. 
  • Understanding your personal values and belief systems and how these show up in all areas of your lives.
  • Equipping yourself with the tools needed to ensure lasting change.    

There are a set of techniques employed during your life coaching sessions to help you through your journey. Your life coach devises a tailored approach to your sessions based on what you seek to gain from these sessions and what you’re most likely to respond to. 

Some of the processes and techniques a life coach might employ include:

  • Goal Setting - Life coaches collaborate with clients to design appropriate goals that are explicit and actionable. Coaches work together with clients to brainstorm pathways and alternatives. Coaches set up rewards and feedback to sustain momentum. They assist clients in breaking down goals into subgoals and charting a pathway to success.  
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) — Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one of the most common types of psychotherapeutic treatments that help people learn how to identify and change the destructive and disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior and emotions. CBT, one of the most well-known forms of therapy, focuses on the circular relationship among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Many life coaches use this framework to help clients reshape unhelpful thinking patterns.
  • Visualization - Cambridge Dictionary described visualization as “the act of visualizing something or someone” or “forming a picture of it in your mind”. Visualization has been a prominent technique used in sports training to train athletes to deal with difficult situations and prepare them for their game ahead. Muhammad Ali once famously said, “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.” And that applies vividly to life as well. Life coaches guide clients to harness the power of creative visualization. They help clients understand the power of imagination and help them create multi-sensory experiences in their minds. This helps clients create neurological pathways which create the basis for change.
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) - Simply put Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the dynamics between your mind (neuro) and your language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects your body and behavior (programming). Coaches use NLP techniques to help clients create self-awareness, manage their stress levels, improve their communication skills, and break negative patterns in thought and behavior. 
  • Guided Meditation - Guided meditation is, simply, meditation with a guide. It’s one of the easiest ways to enter a state of deep relaxation and inner stillness and it is one of the most powerful ways to eliminate stress and bring about positive personal changes. Life coaches use it to get clients in a grounded state during the sessions. Coaches also introduce clients to different kinds of meditation techniques so that clients can choose ones that resonate with them personally. 
  • Powerful questioning -Asking powerful questions is a crucial part of active listening to identify not just facts but possibilities. A Life coach always asks open-ended questions so that their clients can enter new areas of thought and are not bound by specific solutions.
  • Mindfulness exercises- Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly reactive and overwhelmed by what’s happening around us. Mindfulness practice is a way to gently retrain the mind to settle into the present moment. The benefits of Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR) is a well-documented field of study. Benefits of this practice include, but are not limited to, improving cognitive ability, lowering brain aging, and reducing stress & anxiety. Coaches involve clients in mindfulness practices to help them focus their attention and deal with everyday challenges. 
  • Journaling - Journaling is an active learning technique that is meant to enhance reflective practices. Life coaches teach clients journaling techniques to empower them to create deeper self-awareness and get clarity around their thoughts and feelings. A great Life Coach knows where to call attention using journal prompts that will benefit the clients and provide perspective to their situation.  There are different kinds of Journaling techniques such as reflective journaling, gratitude journaling, Bullet journaling, visual journaling, etc. A life coach will guide clients through these during sessions. 
  • Affirmations- Affirmations are short, encouraging statements we choose to recite out loud, on paper, or in our minds that shore up inner strength within us. Affirmations are not just about telling yourself to ‘think positive’, they are a step-by-step reprogramming of the automatic negative thoughts in our brain and create neural pathways towards lasting emotional resilience. Practicing positive affirmations helps clients integrate more positivity into their lives and change their outlook on the challenges that they face.
  • Breathwork - It is a form of psychotherapy based on the premise that our thoughts and emotions are closely linked to our physical state. The practice involves taking slow, deep breaths while focusing on the sensations of breathing. When we breathe deeply and regularly, it helps us to relax and become calmer. This allows us to focus better and make decisions more clearly. 
  • Nonverbal techniques - Expert life coaches are keenly aware of how to use body language, eye contact, and the tone of their voice to make their clients feel as supported and psychologically safe as possible. This encourages sharing, and openness and can boost a client’s motivation.  

Impact of Life Coaching

One of the main benefits of working with a life coach is the ability to gain a fresh, informed perspective on the problems that you face. In addition to offering new insight into challenges, a life coach can help you zero in on negative patterns that could be standing in the way of your success. There have been several studies that have shown that life coaching can be beneficial in a number of areas: 

  • One study found that both individual and group coaching was helpful in reducing procrastination and improving goal attainment.1 
  • One review of studies found that health and wellness coaching showed promise for improving self-efficacy and self-empowerment.2
  • A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that coaching-based leadership interventions could be effective for enhancing well-being and improving functioning within organizations.3
  • Research suggests that life coaching can have a range of positive effects, including improvements in personal insight and improved self-reflection. It may also help improve overall mental health and quality of life.4

Many people view working with a life coach as a means of bridging the gap between your current circumstances and the life you’d like to lead. The following are some of the benefits that may result from having a life coach:

  • Better work/life balance
  • Elimination of long-held fears and anxieties
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Effective goal setting 
  • Greater financial security
  • Improved confidence and communication skills
  • More satisfying work-life
  • Develop and sustain positive habits
  • Greater Self-Awareness
  • Stronger relationships with friends and family

Additionally, people frequently pair up with life coaches in order to work through barriers that may interfere with finding a partner/mate. Many people also look to life coaches for help in identifying their passion and carving out their ideal career path.

Since sessions typically take place on a regular basis over a prolonged period of time, life coaches can ensure that their clients are implementing what is necessary to experience significant change.

Accountability is one of the prime advantages of working with a life coach. As a result of working with a life coach, clients often achieve their goals more quickly and efficiently than they would if working on their own.

What to look for when finding a life coach?

There’s no one answer to what makes a good coach — only what’s a good coach for you. That being said, here are the six most important ways to determine if your coach is a good fit for you.

  1. Rapport - If you don’t get along with your coach, you won’t get the most out of your coaching sessions. You should be able to talk to your coach freely, with no hesitations and inhibitions. If it doesn’t feel like the right fit, feel free to keep looking.
  2. Personality and Trust - You need to find someone you are comfortable opening up to and someone who gives you the confidence that she/he will be able to help you achieve your goals. Therefore, your coach’s personality is something to consider. The coach you choose should “feel right” so follow your instincts after the first meeting.
  3. Expertise - Coaches are trained to ask questions and create impactful change in just about any area of life. However, many also specialize in certain fields. Seek out what you need from your life coach. 
  4. Availability - Soft skills and expertise aside, there are some practical considerations when working with a coach. You’ll want to find someone who’s available to meet when you’re available.

What are the different types of life coaches? 

types of life coaches

Life coaching encompasses various different aspects of your life. As such, life coaches could go under many other synonyms - life mentor, life training coach, purpose coach, personal development coach, personal life coach, confidence coach, mindset coach, or life skills coach. But essentially, they all help you get a better hold of your life and assist you to accomplish your life goals. Having said that, some life coaches do specialize in certain aspects of life and they can be categorized based on their expertise: 

  1. Health and wellness coaches focus on helping clients who want to improve their health, vitality, and well-being.
  2. Relationship coaches work with individuals and couples to find more connection and fulfillment.
  3. Executive/leadership coaches work with executives and managers on their leadership skills.
  4. Internal and organizational coaches foster positive, systemic transformation and optimal performance within organizations and teams. 
  5. Life-balance coaches help clients clarify goals and set action steps to achieve them.
  6. Spirituality/mindfulness coaches guide clients to be present in the moment, make conscious choices, and live intentionally with compassion.
  7. Life transition coaches help clients deal with major transitions in life, such as parenthood, divorce, death, and family issues.
  8. Academic life coaches help new students adjust as they move away from home, live on campus, and work to maintain good grades.

It’s crucial to know what you seek to gain from life coaching and choose a life coach that works with your problem and stands in the best possible space to help you fully. 


Life Coaching Vs Therapy 

Both therapy and coaching can help you find fulfillment and happiness. However, knowing which of the two will be beneficial to you and your specific requirement is both tricky and crucial. An incorrect choice can delay the progress you seek. 

It's important to understand that both therapy and life coaching are foundationally different professions and services. Each of these plays a distinct role and serves unique purposes. 

Therapists are licensed mental health professionals who help treat mental health conditions and help people work through trauma and other issues from the past. Therapy essentially helps people identify what particular life experiences they’ve had that limit the way they show up and how they see themselves in this world. If you are experiencing symptoms of mental health problems (such as feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disruption, and mood disturbance), it’s crucial to consult a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Life coaching comes into the picture after, or in some cases alongside, the work you do in therapy (if you are indeed facing symptoms of mental health problems) and are ready to be intentional about how you want to live your life moving forward. Life coaching then helps you understand what strengths you would like to find in yourself, what inspires you, or what you are passionate about. 

In essence, life coaching focuses on your present by identifying unproductive behavioural patterns that limit you from living your best life and aims to bring a mindset shift that affects your future. Therapy focuses on your past by helping you uncover and heal through past experiences and traumas that affect your present.   

Although the roles are distinct from one another, both provide a forum for clients to discuss their fears, relationships, problems, and aspirations. While working with a life coach may help you to deal with certain unresolved issues, life coaches cannot treat mood disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, or any other mental health condition. Remember, life coaching is not a substitute for therapy. It’s what comes after or supplements the work you do at therapy.  


History of Life Coaching

While relatively young as a formal field, life coaching can trace its roots back to many older disciplines. It draws on areas that include the human potential movement of the 1960s, leadership training, adult education, personal development, and numerous area of psychology [read: https://www.routledge.com/The-Global-Business-of-Coaching-A-Meta-Analytical-Perspective/Lines-Evans/p/book/9780367500337

Life coaching formally emerged during the 1980s and took shape into the discipline we know today throughout the 1990s and 2000s. While some of the earliest life coaches focused on life planning, the field has since grown into addressing various different aspects of an individual's life including relationships, finances, purpose, careers, health, and overall well-being.

Coaching as a distinct profession really took off in the mid-90s with the workspace changing drastically, companies downsizing, and outsourcing work to external contractors. This changed the way people related with their work. The rise of flatter organizations led to the elimination of a lot of the mid-management, which in turn resulted in a leadership vacuum. The turbulent job market and changing office environments made way for life coaching as a way to fill the role of providing an ongoing dialogic relationship with employees instead of just training or consulting. In fact, IBM was the first large company that made use of coaching, which "took coaching from being a personal development vehicle for individuals to a way of developing people in business." 

In conclusion - Coaching may be the answer you're looking for to bridge the gap between the life you are currently living and the life you dream of. But remember, nothing works out if you don't work. So take the first step towards unlocking a world of possibilities to discover the new and improved you that was always within you. 


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