What Exactly Is Life Coaching?

“Exactly” is what can’t be specified when attempting to define life coaching, because it covers a tremendously wide number of methods to solve a virtually infinite number of problems. Very generally speaking, life coaching is the process of providing advice, guidance, and ultimately solutions to problematic client issues (or, typically, combinations of issues), examples of which are listed below, ranging from broad to quite specific.

Examples Of Issues Addressed In Life Coaching

  • How do I find more satisfaction in life?
  • How can I better deal with stress?
  • How can I be more organized?
  • How can I increase my motivation?
  • How can I get better at following through on plans/commitments?
  • How do I stop procrastinating?
  • How come I keep getting romantically involved with the wrong people?
  • What can I do to improve my relationship(s)?
  • What career would be best suited to me?
  • Am I working in the right career?
  • How can I land a better job?
  • How can I advance within my organization?
  • Should I pursue advanced schooling?

Life coaching emerged as a viable field perhaps 25 years ago, as the generally formal nature of psychotherapy proved inadequate in many cases to deal with the increasingly complex lives of the many people who needed help. That coincided with the increasing numbers of people who desired to enter the work force in a helping capacity but didn’t want to invest the  time and money necessary to earn degrees and licensure in psychology. Becoming certified as a Life Coach required months, rather than the years necessary to earn licensure as a psychology professional.

Unfortunately, life coaching has not earned a sterling reputation, due in great part to the fact that  too many life coaches have a coaching certification but not the life experience, and breadth of client experience, to be optimally effective.

The most effective life coaches possess a number of essential skills. Here are a few:

  • An ability to connect with people so that they feel comfortable, safe, and understood.
  • An ability to take an objective stance, separating themselves from client prejudices, fears, and limitations and believing in the client’s power to advance and improve.
  • A knowledge of techniques that can be effective in dealing with common roadblocks to personal progress, for example how to build motivation and self-confidence, how to reduce anxiety, how to improve organizational ability
  • Finally, a personal history that demonstrates success.

It is this last element that all too many coaches lack. Demonstrated ability to succeed in the real world (whether professional, relational, or interpersonal) is a powerful signal that the coach hasn’t just learned a set of “one-size-fits-all” techniques (which is what most coaching programs teach), but can understand how to apply them successfully to the real world.

Most coaches focus on engaging and bringing to the fore hidden internal resources. For many clients this is an effective approach. But unfortunately in myriads of cases the internal resources are either insufficiently developed, blocked, or otherwise inaccessible. 

I call myself a Life Consultant because I see the services that I offer as closer to what a consultant would provide as opposed to what a coach would. Broadly speaking, a consultant in the corporate world is brought in to help an organization tackle a problem that it has been unable to solve using its own resources. These organizations generally seek a different perspective and a set of specific knowledges and skills that can be applied to the problems being faced.

A coach, while similar to a consultant, focuses more on assessing the strengths of the organization and its members and then works to enhance them. So, if you know you have the strengths, skills, and qualities necessary to succeed but just don’t know how to harness them, a life coach is a great place to turn. If, though, you may need more in terms of objectivity and new approaches to solving the issues you are wishing to solve, I strongly urge you to look more in the direction of a consultant (like me!).