Life Coaching – Everything you want to know about it

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Life Coaching is a relatively new profession. Life Coaching is a service which the clients can use to realize their goals, dreams and objectives. It has close resemblance to mentoring/counseling. However there is a difference in approach and the target clients.

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A person with experience in a field guides you (the mentee) to be successful in your endeavors. In case of mentoring the assumption is that the person is self driven and needs expert advise e.g. in setting up a new business you can approach someone known to you who has already successfully set up a similar business in past and request him to mentor you. The mentor will guide you through his personal experience. Mentors don’t usually charge the mentees. The mentoring sessions are called on need basis and are not structured.


In counseling there is a counsellor who has specialization in at least one field – say managing relationships or marriages. The emphasis is on addressing some damage/distress or psychological issues (e.g. bereavement/divorce/relationship troubles). The counsellor listens to your (the client’s) problems and provides solutions. In case of counseling the assumption is that the client needs to get some advice in getting out of a stuck state. The counsellor advices the client based on his understanding of the situation. The client follows the counsellor’s advice and achieves results. The emphasis here is to get the client out of stuck state and bring him up to the normal functioning state. Another variation of counseling involves the counsellor asking questions and motivating the client to come up with the answers to their problems. This has got similarity to life coaching w.r.t. the approach. The difference is that the counseling deals with psychological/emotional disorders or challenges. Life coaching does forbid to work with the clients with psychological or emotional disorders.

In both Mentoring/Counseling the mentor or the counselor assumes or given higher authority.

Life Coaching

Life coaching is different from mentoring and counseling. Coaching word comes from sports coaching. In Life Coaching the Coach does work with normal or high achiever people (Coachees) who want to achieve more in their lives. The coach and coachee relationship is based on equality. The coach cannot assume a higher authority. The coachees come to the coach when they have a goal in their minds and need a support system to keep them on track. Coaching sessions are regularly planned and structured.

A normal life coaching relationships is 3, 6 or sometimes 9 months. Some people keep working with same coach for several years also. Similarly it is also not uncommon to see people hiring coaches for single session to get clarity on some goal or for one or two months to achieve smaller goals. The coach and coachee meet weekly/bi-weekly and set SMART goals and actions till the next meeting. In the next meeting the coach and coachee discuss the actions taken by the coachee based on the previous meeting. They also discuss about the achievements and insights gained during the previous week (if the coach and coachee are doing their jobs then normally there are insights in every other meeting). The coach acts as a cheerleader in case the coachee had a breakthrough. And in case the coachee got stuck somewhere they discuss the issue in detail and uncover the underlying beliefs which caused the coachee to get stuck. The coach and coachee the decide on the actions to be taken to address those hindering beliefs to enable the coachee to move forward (e.g. one coach and coachee agreed to have a gym trainer ring the door bell of the coachee every morning and the trainer won’t have any shirt on. This hack was to motivate the client to get out of procrastination and hit the gym).

In the second phase the goals are planned for the next week. The coachee either has some goals already planned which he discusses with the coach or the coach asks questions to enable the coachee come up with SMART goals for the next week. The obstacles to achieving those goals are discussed and action steps planned to address the obstacles. This enables the client to move from blaming frame to outcome frame of mind and achieve results. e.g. if you are training for a marathon, the way to achieve it is not to motivate yourself to run x kms daily, but to somehow make  yourself to get up 1.5 hours earlier than your time and wear your gear and get out of the house. Once you are out of the house you will automatically start your training for the day.

The main catch of the second phase is that the goals have to come from the coachee and not the coach. The basic assumption of the life coaching is that the client comes to the coach as a whole and complete and has all the answers inside him. The job of the coach is to listen to the client and help him find his answers. This is like socratic approach. Socrates never used to preach philosophy, but he used to help the opponent find the answers through clever questions. The coach also uses same approach of asking right questions to help the coachee come up with the goals, obstacles (and beliefs underneath), and action steps. This might seem simple in theory, but this is where most of the coaches fail.

In the third phase the coach uses his discretion to give client some assignments based on his discussions with the client so far. e.g. in one week the coach might give the coachee an assignment based on the concept of attitude and on the other day ask him to watch a specific video on the internet or an inspiring movie etc. He may recommend some book to read as well.

Does the life coach have to be expert in my field?

No. The job of the coach is not to give you expert guidance but to help you uncover your hidden beliefs and psychological/emotional obstacles which are hindering you from achieving your goals. The same coach who is coaching a housewife to transition to a career can coach a businessman to run his business as well as a president to run his office. He only needs the capability to ask right set of questions and intuition.

Do I need a coach/ life coaching?

The answer is yes, unless you don’t have any goal in your life. In today’s competitive world all of us need a coach to realize our goals faster in our lives. Life coaching helps us  evolve at faster pace than we can achieve on our own. The coach helps you see many patterns which are blind spot to you (this is also done through asking right questions). The coach creates a safe and private environment for you to discuss your goals and actions. The coach is non-judgmental in his approach. This gives you the freedom to discuss the goals which you might not be comfortable in discussing with friends and families due to the judgmental backlash or fear of being the subject of jokes.

Who is hiring coaches nowadays?

Everyone from housewives to presidents of the countries. Without a coach one needs a lot of will power or extraordinary circumstances to achieve his/her goals in life. e.g. as you are reading this post this about : “what are your three big goals in life”, “since how long you have those goals”, and “did you have some other set of goals few years back which you wanted to achieve but could not progress”, “what stopped you from achieving them”?  This is subject of another post , but the short answer is habits and/or beliefs. 

Should I hire a coach?

Do you want to achieve your current goals before they also meet the same fate as your earlier goals? Do you want to address your habits and beliefs? Are you prepared to be uncomfortable and let go of those hindering habits and beliefs rather than hoping for a miracle or the time to take care of the things?  Is your goal worth making a monitory investment? If the answer to these question is yes then yes you should hire a coach.

Can I self coach?

Yes, but it is easier said than done.  Research has shown that only a small percent of us are able to do so. Even those who have achieved this, have someone in life who provides them with non-judgmental feedback on regular basis.  My ideal approach would be to work with a coach for 3-6 months and achieve few goals. In the process you will pick up the right set of questions to self coach.

How can I find the right coach?

All coaches give 30-60 minutes free coaching sessions. Approach a coach for the same and observe his methodology and find out if you can work with him for 3-6 months.

Who is an ideal coach?

It is subjective question but the main attributes to watch for is his directness. If a coach is hesitating in putting his view and beating around the bush, then he is not the right person. An ideal coach is damn honest and direct in talking to you. Other trait is the coach should not be doing planning for you to save his time. He should be willing to let you find your answers even if it means giving extra time. Third, look for a coach with international accreditation like ICF. ICF accreditation means that the coach has gone through extensive training, has completed minimum hours life coaching and has complied with the ethics of life coaching.