What kind of life do you want? How will you create that life?
If you have struggled to answer these questions, you might need a Life Coach.
These are tough questions to grapple with, so please remember that it’s OK to ask for support. By working with a competent Life Coach, the future will become less daunting and more exciting.
What Does a Life Coach Do?
Life Coaches help their clients have insights about themselves and what their ideal life is, as well as how to make that dream a reality.
A Life Coach often asks existential questions such as “If nothing changes what’s likely to happen?” “What excites you most about the future?” “What would you do next if you couldn’t fail?”
When the client attempts to answer, the life coach reflects back their responses. Hearing themselves as they speak, and hearing themselves reflected back through their coach, the client gains valuable insights.
As clients illuminate their strategies to achieve their ideal lives, the Life Coach assists to help the client prioritize their goals, identify obstacles, and develop plans for addressing obstacles that could block the client’s way forward.
A Life Coach also helps keep the client accountable by working with them to set specific, measurable goals with highly specific time-boxes and follows up with non-judgemental questions such as, “Did you do what you said you would do?” “How do you feel about that?” “What insights did you gain?” “How might you apply these insights to other areas of your life?”.
The format, frequency and content of work with a Life Coach depends on the client’s preferences.
Sometimes the schedule and format of Life Coaching is like therapy, where the client and Life Coach talk once a week for about an hour. Or a couple of hours every-other week for a given number of weeks. You might want your Life Coaching experience to be limited to these “sessions.”
Clients who demand more intense accountability, however, often ask their Life Coaches to interact with them many times a week, meet them at home and accompany them while they leave home to pursue various goals. This level of service is usually way more expensive than weekly sessions.
Based on the client’s goals and background, the topics of conversation with a Life Coach will vary. A person who approaches Life Coaching with a spiritual perspective and who focuses on their entire life will have a different experience than someone who hires a Life Coach to assist with a career transition.
How Is a Life Coach Different Than a Therapist?
Both therapists and Life Coaches provide insights that should allow you to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life. The practices offer similar benefits, but their approaches and areas of focus are different.
A Life Coach is action and future-oriented. If you hire one, your work will primarily be about what you can do right now to shape the future you want. And finally taking a step toward doing something you’ve always wanted to do can make you feel great.
Therapy, on the other hand, tends to focus on mental health issues that are rooted in the past. A therapist should aid you in coping with mental illnesses, trauma, stress and difficult relationships. The more you get a handle on these issues, the easier it will be to build your ideal life.
People often compare Life Coaching and therapy because there is a misconception that clients have to pick one over the other.
We actually think the services are complementary.
Life coaches help you develop and execute your plan for an ideal life. Therapists alleviate the stress and mental health issues that might be obstructing your life goals due to mental dysfunction or trauma.
Some therapists provide therapy and life coaching, but we don’t recommend working with the same person for both services. It’s difficult for professionals to switch gears and apply different practices to one client. You will most likely gain more from both therapy and life coaching if you keep the experiences separate.
In terms of qualifications, therapists need certain degrees and certifications to legally practice psychotherapy.
The world of Life Coaching is not as regulated. There are coaching organizations such as ICF, and other certifications, but coaches with these credentials — though formally trained — are not necessarily any better than those without. (Personally, we’ve found great value in ICF certification training because it’s allowed us to be more efficient, productive, focused, and effective in our work with people.)
If you can’t afford seeing a Life Coach and therapist simultaneously, think about what you need most.
If you know what you want and how to get there, but you’re burdened with mental health problems, go with a therapist.
For those who feel healthy but adrift and without purpose, a Life Coach should provide more immediate value.
Do I Need a Life Coach?
Within those big existential questions, there are specific problems that will show whether you need a Life Coach. One key issue is your sense of values. What are they? How are you living by them?
Let’s imagine a man who speaks out against war but works for a military contracting company. Is he being honest with himself when he says peace is one of his values? Or perhaps he really does want to live in accordance with that value, but the military contracting job was his only option at the time, and he doesn’t know how to change his career.
Another issue is balance. Have you sacrificed something important to you? Has that sacrifice taken over your life and made it impossible to pursue your passions? Or have your passions consumed other important parts of your life?
Here are a few more common issues:
- Lack of motivation due to lack of clarity
- Resistance to change, or trouble adapting to change
- Difficulty in cultivating a fulfilling social or romantic life
A Life Coach can also guide you through creative endeavors.
One of our team members recently consulted a Life Coach because he was dealing with a writing project that felt unwieldy in the beginning. The Life Coach helped him simplify his thinking, and this clear mindset allowed more space for the actual writing to happen. Whether it’s the ideal life or a specific ambition, a Life Coach will help you get there.
One of the overarching goals is to become proactive with what you want. This behavior will accomplish much more than being reactive and responding to life as it happens around you.
Do Life Coaches Really Work?
Life Coaches really do work, but only for clients who commit to their goals.
If you miss sessions and slack on the actions needed to achieve your ideal life, even the best Life Coaches in the world won’t be able to help you.
Here are some notable studies and clinical reviews that demonstrate the efficacy of Life Coaching:
- “Can life coaching improve health outcomes? A systematic review of intervention studies,” 2013
- “Health coaching to improve healthy lifestyle behaviors: an integrative review,” 2010
Dedicated clients should keep in mind, however, that Life Coaches are not silver bullets. Even with a combination of effort and excellent coaching, your ambitions need to be realistic. Make sure you and your Life Coach agree on which pursuits are possible.
Another factor in determining success is whether the Life Coach is a fit for you.
Conduct thorough research, and schedule a few exploratory phone calls before choosing your practitioner. If you rush the selection process, you might end up wasting your time with someone who doesn’t align with your personality.
To avoid unethical coaches, ask for recommendations from friends, consult the ICF Code of Ethics, and browse reviews from third-party sites such as Yelp, Bark, Google and Giftly.
The best coaches practice what they preach, so you’ll be able to tell if they have their lives in order.