If you were to ask random people what life is, you might draw some strange stares, but you would certainly get diverse views and opinions. However, the discussion would get really interesting if you were to ask this follow-up question: Who is a life coach? In general, the average person will mistake life coaching for counseling, mentoring, or consulting.
Life coaching might seem hard to understand or define, because there are so many different approaches. Some life coaches prefer to stand out from the masses by using titles such as Success Coach, Personal Coach, Life Design Coach, or Achievement Coach. Others prefer to be recognized by their niche, e.g., Business Coach, Parenting Coach, Relationship Coach, or Retirement Coach. In fact, there is no shortage of areas that a life coach can specialize in. Clearly, the life coaching industry is diverse.
What is Life Coaching?
The International Coach Federation, ICF—the largest coaching organization in the world—defines coaching as: “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Specifically, life coaching can be defined as: A highly successful form of talking therapy aimed at helping individuals define and set personal goals and develop the motivation to achieve them. Life coaching can focus on personal or professional criteria with the goal of helping the individual develop skillsets that lead to defined outcomes.
The Life Coaching Approach
As life coaching continues to gain traction, more and more licensed counselors, psychologists, and others with humanity degrees have embraced this world and started offering life coaching services. However, the fact that a degreed individual is offering life coaching services does not make the two fields similar. In fact, they are as different as night and day. When counseling, the specialist works with his or her clients to unearth issues in the past that might be affecting the present. But in life coaching, coaches works with their clients to discover what they can do today to better their tomorrow. Unlike counseling, life coaching will always help the client look to the future without losing sight of the present.
Every competent life coach knows that the most important goal when working with clients is to get them from where they are to where they desire to be. This is more than merely sticking to some written or unwritten code with the hope that it will somehow help clients achieve their goals. The rationale of asking each client various questions and allowing him or her to come to their own conclusions is what makes life coaching unique and powerful. This co-active approach to life coaching ensures that solutions are arrived at quickly and that clients have a path to achieve their solutions.
It is part of the human psyche to believe that our thoughts and ideas are the best in any scenario. That is just how our brain works. For example, if someone says, “You look good today,” you may or may not believe them. However, if you say, “I look good today,” then your psyche believes your word, because it is intimately familiar with your voice.
A competent life coach—especially one that is ICF certified—is trained to suppress any desire to impose his or her own opinions when trying to help a client solve a problem or issue and set a goal. In fact, the success of a life coaching session should never be gauged by how much the client thinks the coach contributed to his or her success. Life coaches know the sessions are only successful when they have empowered their clients to take the initiative in a specific area of their lives.
Life coaching is not “mental surgery” nor is it an exact science. Because no two clients are the same, no two coaching sessions are the same. Life coaches need to be flexible because their clients respond differently to different approaches. For instance, the fact that a coach asked a client one question that “magically” led to the realization of the coaching session objective, doesn’t necessarily mean that exact question will work the same way for all other clients.
Becoming a Certified Life Coach
Perhaps you have considered becoming a life coach. One of the first questions you should ask yourself “Am I focused on helping individuals improve their quality of life?”
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If your answer is, Yes!” then your next step is to decide where to get your training, including how to specialize in a coaching niche. Life coaching is largely an unregulated market, so your choice of coaching specialties is unlimited.
So why would one bother to get training, if it is not a requirement? There are a couple of important reasons. For starters, training will equip you with the core life coaching competencies that are needed to become a competent life coach. Life coaching takes more than just relying on your life experiences and wisdom, and professionals have the skills and tools specific to life coaching that separate them from the “wannabes.” In addition, getting the relevant training will help you in becoming a certified life coach.
Most people would rather work with a professional life coach, and certification—from the right organization—will help define your level of professionalism. This explains why the average certified life coach earns more than the one who doesn’t have any kind of certification. The International Coach Federation is the de facto life coaching certification organization. The ICF is an accrediting organization for both life coaching schools and individuals wanting specific levels of coaching.
But it is worth noting that there are some brilliant non-certified coaches and some incompetent certified ones. So certification is by no means the only criteria separating good coaches from poor ones. However, certified coaches have put forth deliberate effort in order to ensure their life coaching services are beneficial to their clients. Even though self-training is possible, it is not the best route to take.
Formal training includes the opportunity to interact with peers and course instructors. Formal training will help you to better grasp the concepts that are being taught, and you will make good connections that will come in handy when you start your life coaching business.
Life coach training takes a time and monetary investment, but it is worthwhile because your certification will help you stand out from a crowded market. Whether you are looking to start a private company, or wanting to be hired by businesses, it is important to do all you can to make yourself the go-to person.
Japanese philosophy of Kaizen
Keep in mind that the biggest room is always the room for improvement. Some life coaches make the mistake of resting on their laurels as soon as they attain their certification. Life coaching is a dynamic field, and the only way to stay on the cutting edge of the industry is to remain committed to continuous improvement. The Japanese philosophy of “Kaizen” is an awesome principle to live by.
Kaizen means “continuous improvement.” Those who excel in any field are the ones who do things that their peers do not. If you want to rise on top as a life coach, you must continually invest in yourself by attending seminars and training, taking new courses, and reading widely.
Anyone can start a business and say they are a life coach. These people may have a lot of great life and work experience and may have a penchant for helping others. They likely have natural skills to bring to their businesses. However, when coaching clients and dealing with a plethora of issues, a life coach needs more than just his or her talent; a life coach requires a high level of skill and must be proficient in the skill of life coaching.
A certified coach knows how to ask pertinent questions, knows how to actively listen, and knows how to come across to clients in a way that conveys expertise and confidence. Clients can always sense when they’re with a true professional, so being a certified professional coach will lead to more clients and longer coaching relationships.
Find out more about becoming a certified life coach . . .