My short answer to the question “what is a life coach” is this: a life coach is a trained professional who guides you to move forward by asking powerful questions.
In truth, it’s hard to define exactly what a life coach is because the profession is relatively young and rapidly changing.
What is a Life Coach?
The International Coaching Federation, of which I am a member, defines coaching as
partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching helps people tap into their potential, unlocking sources of creativity and productivity.
I’ll bet that mouthful of positive words does not help you understand what a life coach is. But the words give you clues: partnering, thought-provoking, inspiring, and unlocking potential.
What A Life Coach Is Not
My life has had many twists and turns, and I’ve learned a lot about myself by defining what I like and don’t like. I’d think about professions and “just know” that it wasn’t right for me.
For example, I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor. If I ask you what a doctor is, you might answer that a doctor is someone you go to when sick. The doctor examines you, runs tests, gathers blood, and prescribes medicine that will make you feel better. To be super-simple, a doctor diagnoses and fixes people.
Of course that’s an incredibly naive way to describe a doctor because every practicing physician has years of education, training, and experience. Most doctors these days are specialists in the minutia of the functioning of the human body. Furthermore, a doctor can spot in a minute might take you and me a year to begin to diagnosis.
And no, a life coach isn’t a doctor. While I have ICF-accredited training program, I certainly don’t have the years of education of a typical doctor.
However, I do have a more than a half century of life experience. Much as a doctor brings education, training, and experience into each interaction with a new patient, a life coach brings their life experience to each and every session.
Life Coaching Is Also Not Therapy
People sometimes think that working with a life coach is just like seeing a therapist. But partnering with a life coach is not like working with a therapist. Generally, therapy looks backwards to what happened in the past at people and events that effect your current situation.
Therapy sometimes delves into deep dark secrets and trauma. And as those secrets are revealed to the light of your consciousness, therapy helps you learn how to move forward in life.
For me, therapy helped reclaim parts of myself that had been neglected or discarded. I learned that I was fine just the way I am.
Therapy plus meditation and ongoing introspection changed me unequivocally from the inside out. But life coaching isn’t therapy, and if you have unresolved issues from the past, life coaching probably isn’t a good fit for you at this time.
A Life Coach Isn’t A Minister, Either
For foundation-level training in life coaching, I received certification as a spiritual life coach. I love the spirit-filled world of mindfulness and meditation, and know that it plays a role in all my interactions.
But working with a spiritual coach is definitely not the same as being counseled by a pastor or minister. I can’t quote Bible verses or tell you to pray the rosary daily; I have neither the experience nor the desire to do so.
Instead, if you are open to it, we might explore what spirituality means to you, or brainstorm ways you can bring spirituality into your every day life.
If You Are Open To It
The phrase “if you are open to it” is very important in coaching. The coach should not leading where the session goes: that’s always up to the client. So if exploring spirituality isn’t your thing, that’s perfectly OK.
Likewise, the coach doesn’t tell you what you should do. It’s not my decision to make – it’s yours. As a coach I ask questions to help you make those decisions – and sometimes they’re big decisions.
Regardless, you decide where we go on this journey called life coaching. And if you’re thinking about leaving a job, starting a business, or taking a “wild” leap into the unknown, a life coach is the perfect companion.
What Is A Life Coach?
So what is a life coach? She’s your partner on this journey. She walks beside you. She’s your cheerleader. She holds you accountable and reminds you of those big dreams.
She’s the one to whom you confess your deepest and smallest fears. And she’s the one who leads you gently forward until that thing you never thought you could have is truly yours.
Got big dreams? Let’s talk!