What is a Life Coach? 10 Ways You Can Benefit From a CoachReading Time: 8 minutes
“What is a life coach?”
As I began telling people about my new career as a life coach, I got this question or a variation of this question quite often. Some may not have asked it directly, but you could tell they were thinking it based on the puzzled look on their face.
To some, a “life coach” sounds silly. It sounds lofty. Why would I need a life coach? If you’re a life coach, does that mean you think you’ve got your life figured out?
I get it. Because I had the exact same skepticism and questions when I first heard that life coaches were a thing. It wasn’t until I learned more about the profession that I truly understood the powerful impact a life coach can have on a person’s life.
Another challenge is people often equate coaching to therapy or counseling. Life coaches offer a distinct service that is different than that of a therapist or counselor. Whereas therapists and counselors, focus on a person’s past, healing and making a person whole again, life coaches are focused on their client’s future, their goals and helping them expand their life from good to great, and great to extraordinary. (For more on the differences between coaching and therapy, check out this “Coaching vs. Therapy” PDF.)
With all that in mind, as I started out trying to explain life coaching to others I stumbled over my words. My “elevator pitch” was weak. I knew I had to get clear myself before I could communicate the role of a coach to anyone else.
We get the ‘coach’ part. What about the ‘life’ part?
If we look at the words “life coach,” it’s not the coach part that we struggle with. We all understand that part. We’ve all had coaches in our lives – through sports, music, debate team, chess club, whatever – that have helped us achieve goals and overcome challenges in our lives.
It’s the “life” part that throws us off. And that’s because it’s incredibly vague. When you go to Google, you don’t search for “how can I improve my life.” You search for exactly what you need help with: “How can I better communicate with my child,” “How to start my own business,” “What to do after I’ve been laid off from work,” “Why am I feeling scared about my relationship,” etc.
Take doctors, for example. When searching for a doctor, you are going to be specific. You aren’t going to go to an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor to perform your heart surgery. Instead, you find a doctor that specializes in exactly what you need.
Life coaching works the same way. When it comes to hiring a coach, it’s important to first understand the area of your life where you want help. Then you can narrow down your options for a life coach based on your needs.
Most life coaches have a specific niche, so they can become an expert in helping a certain group of people. My niche, for example, is “working with unfulfilled professionals to design meaningful careers that align with their personal values.” When looking to hire a life coach, it’s important to check out the different coaching specialty areas available to you.
There is one important thing to note: Life coaches use honed communications skills with their clients and those skills are universal. So, if you happen to find a coach that you really connect with and think could help you, go ahead and work with them even if their niche isn’t exactly aligned with the area where you need help.
So, what is a life coach?
Ultimately, I decided on this for my life coach “elevator pitch”: A life coach uses honed communication skills to support clients as a thinking partner to help them shift their mindset, overcome challenges, achieve their goals and gain the freedom to live the life they really want.
But as you now know, that’s only half the story. The other half is the specific niche in which each coach specializes. Again, mine is working with unfulfilled professionals to design meaningful careers that align with their personal values. To understand why that niche is personally important to me, check out my story.
10 Ways You Can Benefit From a Life Coach
Now that you have a better understanding of what life coaching is, here are 10 specific ways you can benefit from a life coach:
1. A life coach is the first completely committed listener in your life (including yourself!)
That’s right. Your coach is a more committed listener to you than your significant other (maybe not a surprise), your children (maybe not a surprise), your friends, your boss (maybe not a surprise), your colleagues and even yourself (maybe not a surprise). Everyone in your life has their own agenda that impacts the way they communicate with you. And even you are clouded in your ability to truly listen to yourself because of all the outside noise around you.
Coaches are trained to be a blank slate for clients. They are not advice givers. They are disciplined listeners who are detached from any specific outcome. Coaches put aside judgment and preconceived notions. And they work with you to guide your thoughts toward the best possible outcomes and solutions for you.
The true power of coaching is in not being like everyone else in your life. People are wired to want to fix things and offer advice when someone is dealing with something. But good coaching requires the coach to put all of those natural advising tendencies aside to truly listen to their client.
That coaching skill is invaluable because all of the answers you need are already within you. And an effective coach helps you bring them to the surface.
2. A life coach helps you understand all of the answers you need are within you
No one, absolutely no one, knows you better than you. No one knows what you are going through, how you feel, what motivates you or what you really want in life more than you. Others have similar stories and experiences, but we all have differing circumstances in our lives to some degree.
The problem is we are not always clear on how we are feeling and what we want. Your life coach serves to remind you that even when you feel uncertain, confused or completely lost, all the answers you seek are within you. You just need to uncover them.
But first you must become clear of mind so you can think logically and rationally. Mental clarity is key to our success and wellbeing.
3. A life coach is a conduit for mental clarity
Our minds are cluttered with traumas and issues from our past, dating back to our early childhood. We are also consumed with constant fear and worries of the future, things that may or may not even happen. The more we live in the present moment and are clear-headed, the better off we are.
A good life coach helps you cut out all of the extraneous stuff in your life so you can focus on what really matters. Once you’ve done that, you have cleared the way for your biggest “Aha!” moments.
4. A life coach is an architect for your “Aha!” moments
We’ve all had those “Aha!” moments, when the light bulb flashes on, where something finally clicks in our mind. It may be something we’ve been struggling with for hours, days, weeks, months or even years, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, a solution comes to us and changes everything.
A good life coach is an architect of those “Aha!” moments. They possess specific communication skills and are trained to ask powerful questions that lead you to those transformative and insightful thoughts and ideas.
As a coach, I get an adrenaline rush every time someone I am coaching has an “Aha!” moment and their energy changes. It’s a clear win for the client as they gain a valuable insight into their life. And it’s a clear win for me as a coach, and as my client’s biggest fan, because my client’s success is my success.
5. A life coach is your own personal fan club and support group
As a coach, my client’s success is my success. My client’s agenda is my agenda. The biggest endorsement for coaches is when their clients succeed and achieve their goals as a result of coaching. A coach is much more likely to receive referrals and have a successful coaching practice if their clients are consistently improving their lives and experiencing positive results.
To that end, clients receive authentic support and encouragement from their coach when they share and pursue their dreams.
6. A life coach is a nonjudgmental personal sounding board for your ideas and dreams
A coaching session is where you can let go of the boundaries and self-imposed limits that restrain you in your every day life. You have the freedom to think and dream big. And when you do that, you may come to realize your wildest dreams aren’t so wild, your crazy ideas aren’t so crazy.
When you are free to explore your life, you may realize your ideal life is actually pretty attainable. Or you might even discover you’re not that far off from the life you really want.
A coach allows you to be bold and creative in your aspirations to figure out where you want to go and then helps you set goals to get there.
7. A life coach helps you set and reach your goals (even the lofty ones)
Accomplishing a goal is a matter of accepting that goal as your new reality and then working like hell to get there. But you’ll be willing to put in that work when you have an end game that you are completely committed to and driven toward. When you have a purpose to achieve something, the only thing that can stop you is you.
To give you an example from my life, the moment I committed to calling myself a coach was a game changer for me. I started behaving and talking like a coach. And, more importantly, I started acting like a coach, as my goal became my reality.
A good coach will help you set lofty goals and then establish a plan to get there. And a good action plan always prepares you for the inevitable challenges you’ll experience on the way to your goal.
8. A life coach helps you develop a plan to overcome all challenges (even the seemingly insurmountable ones)
We all face challenges, big and small, almost every day. And we always find a way to overcome them. Humans are incredibly resilient, even though we often forget that.
When you’re faced with challenges, a valuable coach will remind you of all the things you have already overcome in your life. Whatever the latest obstacle is, you’ll get through that too. Through coaching, you can explore what worked and what didn’t when you overcame challenges in the past. Then you can leverage that knowledge to help with current and future obstacles.
A coach will also remind you that you are never alone. There are people in your life, including your coach, who serve as your personal support system and will help keep you accountable to yourself.
9. A life coach is an accountability partner
To achieve your goals, to overcome your challenges, you must be accountable to yourself. No matter what you want to accomplish, you must commit to it, take action toward it and activate and leverage your support system around it.
Without commitment, action and support, your dreams will fall short. In addition to helping you commit to your goals and take action, a good coach serves as an accountability partner for you. They will be there for you to pick you up when things inevitably get tough. They’ll remind you of how much progress you’ve already made and why it’s so important for you to keep going. A good coach can put everything in perspective for you and keep you on track, even when you feel like giving up.
Committing to your dreams, taking action toward them and leveraging your support system has the power to truly transform you life.
10. A life coach helps you change your life
At its best, life coaching can help you change your life. It’s as simple as that. As Rich Litvin, a high-performing coach who works with some of the world’s greatest minds, says, “we create our world from the inside out.”
How we perceive everything, how we receive and process information, how quickly we adapt to our ever-changing circumstances, determines how successfully we navigate life. Our minds shape our entire reality. And one simple mindset shift can change our whole world.
A great coach helps you unlock the power you have to transform your world.
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of life coaching and the power it has to transform your life. The best way to understand coaching is to experience a powerful coaching session of your own.