What is life coaching?
Life coaching is a means of helping an individual make the best of their life and the opportunities that arise. A life coach will help and guide a client make decisions that the client feels would lead to a more fulfilling and purposeful life. This is achieved via strategies and constant motivation.
The actual coaching focuses on the client’s present and future life to determine which areas of their life to develop and how to go about it. In a nutshell, life coaching can be described as a cognitive behavioural therapy which is designed to increase a client’s personal happiness.
The idea is that by helping the individual to personal fulfilment, he or she will not only be happier, but also feel less stressed and able to cope better with day-to-day life and relationships – both personal and work-based.
Life coaches say the therapy can benefit anyone from all ages of life and socio-economic background. It can be directed towards eg getting a new job, more fulfilling personal relationships, passing exams, achieving work success, even writing a book. They insist that sessions with a life coach is not the same as talking with family or friends as the latter may have a vested interest in the client remaining in his or her current situation.
A session with a life coach is not the same as seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist (although both have a policy of never passing judgement on their client). The mental health professional will both look at emotional and psychological issues which are causing a client’s present life difficulty such as depression, addiction etc and try to solve them via an examination of the client’s past life. Life coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the present and future and is geared towards helping the client choose particular goals then assisting him or her in their pursuit of them.
A study in by the The International Coach Federation in 1998 reported that of the individuals surveyed, 67 per cent said they achieved an increased self-awareness, 57 per cent reported lower stress levels, 62 per cent said they were now better at goal-setting, 60 per cent reported having a more balanced life and 52 per cent said their self-confidence had definitely improved.
What to expect
Life coaching sessions can be done face-to-face in a consulting room or the therapists home. They can also be carried out, as is increasingly popular, by telephone. Those who conduct coaching sessions by telephone say it means no lengthy travel for their clients and the client feels more relaxed speaking in the privacy of their own home.
Telephone sessions typically last from 30 minutes up to one hour and are usually weekly, although gaps between appointments can vary from therapist to therapist. Clients sometimes have just the one session or they can end up working with their coach for several months to a year. The client and the life coach usually decide on a pre-arranged time to call.
Sessions, which are always confidential, are usually relaxed and positive experiences.
The life coach will ask particular questions about you and your lifestyle, motivations, aims etc. Over the course of the first sessions and follow-up appointments they will point you towards understanding your actions and motivations then, with your help, assist you in reaching your goals. Many coaches achieve this by means of a version of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Over the course of several sessions trust should build up between yourself and the life coach and it should feel like a ‘partnership.’ This will allow the life coach to offer you new perspectives, encouragement and help you identify the self-imposed obstacles in your life which you have erected. Once the obstacles have been identified, the therapist will then help you work towards your goals step by step.
It is a good idea, prior to meeting your life coach, to try and work out for yourself what goals you would like to achieve through the sessions and whether you feel you are at the point in life where you could benefit from a life coach in terms of allowing yourself to benefit from the experience.
Your coach will give you ‘homework’ ie tasks which are custom-made to your life and which will help you learn the psychological tools you need to reach your goals. He or she will also provide a strategy to help you master these exercises.
Effects and benefits
One of the major benefits of life coaching is in helping the client deal with the issue of procrastination and get on with the decisions they consciously or unconsciously need to make to better reach their goals. In working towards purposeful goals, the client gets a confidence boost and their self-esteem should improve. This, in turn, makes them feel happier and more relaxed as individuals. Life coaches claim the benefits of the therapy, provided the techniques and strategies are practiced properly, can be long-lasting and extremely effective.
Other benefits of life coaching include:
- Better time management and organisational skills
- Improved relationships at work and home
- Allowing you to identify priorities in life
- Gaining strategies to conquer all fears
- A shortened time-frame between desiring and achieving your goals
- Achieving a better balance between your work and extra-curricular life
- Improved health and fitness (or at least the motivation to attain it)
- Conquering public speaking
- Helping you tackle and beat that ‘to do’ list
- Becoming more career focused and successful
- Living the type of life you’ve always wanted
- Learning to take action and keep the momentum going (ie make your New Year resolutions last!)
- Gives you a purpose in life
Life Coaching and fascinating facts
- A recent study by American website Forbes.com found 20 per cent of Life Coaches they polled earned more than $100,000 a year
- Life coaches don’t need to hold an educational qualification in order to practice
- There are many different branches to Life Coaching eg career coaching, goal-setting strategies, dating counselling
- In terms of psychological help, life coaching can’t replace traditional therapy such as psychology or psychiatry
- Most credible life coaches hire their own life coach to push them
- Life coaching is one of the fastest growing and most popular industries in the world today
- Benjamin Karter, a college football coach turned motivational speaker in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is believed to be the father of Life Coaching
- Both the basketball player Michael Jordan and golfer Tiger Woods hired coaches to help them with different aspects of their sport
- More than two-thirds of those who attend a life coach are women and many are in their early forties
- Telephone coaching is much more popular than face-to-face coaching (one study estimated around 90 per cent of consultations were via the telephone)
- In 2007 the industry was estimated to be worth around £50 million a year in the UK alone
- January is the busiest time of the year for life coaches as people sign up to help them continue New Year resolutions
- Cabinet ministers, the Home Office, Foreign Office and Treasury have all used life coaches (which they renamed ‘critical friends’)
- In 2007 it was estimated that top life coaches could command up to £10,000 a day (much of this the result of corporate work)
- In the 1950’s Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist and one of the founders of humanistic psychology, was the first individual to look at, and record papers on, the fulfilment of human potential through self-awareness
- The first life coaching conference took place in 1998.
Association for Coaching
The Association for Coaching was formed in 2002 and sets out to inspire and champion top coaching. The Association abides by seven core values – high standards, integrity, openness, responsiveness, client focused, educational and progressive. It sets out to advance education and best practice in life coaching and enhance the image of accountability and credibility to the profession. The Association aim to build a global coaching community and network of alliances.
UK International Coach Federation (ICF)
Formed in 1995, the ICF today has 17,000 members worldwide. Its aims are to advance and promote the coaching profession through high standards, certification and providing a register of credited coaches. The ICF is a non-profit organisation which originated in North America. Members of the UK ICF board are elected and all are professional coaches.
European Mentoring and Teaching Council UK
EMCC UK is aligned to the Europe-wide European Mentoring & Coaching Council and is an independent, impartial and non-profit making organisation. The Council exists to promote good practice in mentoring and coaching across Europe. The UK branch has around 1000 individual and corporate members, worldwide there are around 20 countries and 4,000 members involved in the group. The EMCC has a code of ethics and certification body which all members must adhere to.