“Life coaching” – what’s it all about?

S1160035I don’t love calling myself a “life coach”.  Somehow it seems to imply that my life is perfect and sorted out and so I go around telling other people how to live.   Arrogant much?

Well I’m not perfect and nor is my life.  I am generally interested in how to live well, but my training and skills are in coaching, not living.   And anyway, my idea of a perfect life might be very different from yours.

I often get asked what “life coaching” involves and how coaches work.  This is how I see it.

Why work with a coach?

If you are feeling stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed or generally unhappy with all or part of your life, coaching can be a great way to help you move forwards.

Maybe you are lucky and have good friends who you can talk to and maybe that’s all you need.  But good friends may not be skilled at asking the right questions, or have enough time and mental space to really hear what’s going on.  They can’t always be there when you need them.  We may not want to keep coming back to them with progress reports, going over the same ground each time.  Who wants to be that kind of friend?

In other words, even good friends can only do so much.  With a skilled coach, you can do more and more quickly.

Coaching can be valuable at any time and on any topic, but people are often drawn to it most when they feel it’s time for a change – maybe because they feel stuck or overwhelmed, or when their circumstances have changed and they want to make a fresh start.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a “conversation with a purpose”.  Coaches help their clients get really clear about what they want and why they want it and explore how best to make it happen.  A coach can also cheerlead for their client and support them while they are working towards their goals, if needed.

Coaches use a range of tools and techniques to do this, such as:

  • listening (for what is said and unsaid);
  • asking searching questions;
  • reflecting back, making observations on, or structuring what they are hearing so their client can learn from it;
  • various ways of dealing with blocks to progress, depending on their particular expertise.

Every coaching session should look different, because it is tailored to the needs, styles and preferences of the client.

Coaching is not therapy, although there are areas of overlap.  It is mainly concerned with the future and strays into present and past issues only where they impact the future their client is working towards.   Some coaches will use cognitive behavioural therapy, or techniques which are similar to how that therapy works.   A client can be in therapy and work with a coach at the same time.

How do I choose a coach?

A coach’s training, qualifications and experience are all very important.  Unfortunately, anyone can practise as a coach, even when not qualified or experienced.  Be careful who you trust with your most personal issues and who you let inside your head.

Great coaching is actually difficult.  It is not just a chat or one-to-one teaching.  Coaches are not there to tell you what to do or how to think (unless you ask them to).  A good coach needs to be an expert at coaching, nothing else.  You are the expert on you and your life.

The relationship between client and coach is also key.  Trust is essential: often a coaching session will go into personal territory and you should feel comfortable and increasingly able to open up to your coach to get the most from working together.

So I recommend that you book a free coaching session (if offered) or interview a coach before you start work.  Some coaches also offer lower cost training or group coaching sessions, which could give you the opportunity to see them in action.  Try and get a feel for the person: how they work, the methods they use to get results and, of course, whether you like and trust them.

And, once you have started work together, remember that you should be able to stop or pause coaching at any time without financial penalty if the relationship is not working for you or the timing is not right.  Coaches who need your money too much are unlikely to give you their best work.

How can I judge the success of a coaching session?

You should leave every coaching session with new tools, insights and perspectives and feeling supported, energised and hopeful.  You should also feel respected and heard by your coach.  But ultimately, you are the person responsible for making the changes you want.

Anything I missed or didn’t explain?  Please email me to ask more questions.

2 thoughts on ““Life coaching” – what’s it all about?

  1. Louise Clark

    Very lovely post.. This is very interesting and helpful post.The origins of life coaching and its branches can be accredited to the increasingly volatile and evolving nature of today’s society. Developing from a stable environment, the environment today has become impersonal, fast paced and competitive, indicating that everybody is required to stay ahead of the curve. While some can manage this feat by themselves, most need help.

    1. Paula Post author

      Hi Louise, thanks so much for your comment and I’m so glad that you found it helpful. Welcome to the site!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *