What is life coaching?

Life coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change all while fostering a spirit of play and cultivating creativity. A coach is there to ask you BIG questions, challenge you, and dig deep into those corners of your brain that are dark and covered in cobwebs. Coaching can be transformational and empowering, but understanding what coaching does, and how coaching works is the first step to harnessing its power.

How does life coaching differ from therapy, consulting and mentoring?

Coaching, therapy, consulting and mentoring are all highly effective processes that provide a wealth of value for a range of needs.

A typical therapeutic approach focuses mainly on resolving past events that hinder an individual’s ability to function (at varying levels). In contrast, coaching is focused on the present and, as out lined by our International Coaching Federation, “supports personal and professional growth based on the self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes”.

Coaching and consulting can often be confused. Consultants are hired for their expertise and their ability to diagnose and solve problems based on their past experience. With coaching, the coach employees a supportive approach and a creative framework that highlights the client’s ability to generate solutions to self-identified challenges.  

Similar to a consultant, a mentor is also identified as an expert. A mentor provides their client with wisdom and guidance based on the mentor’s own experience. Mentoring can include coaching however, as stated above the coaching process does not include advising or counselling but instead focuses on guiding individuals toward understanding and reaching their own objectives.

How does life coaching work? 

Life coaching is a highly individualized process. Most coaches begin with an Exploratory Session, where you get to know the Coach and their style and the coach gets to know you. It is important to emphasize that coaching is a joint process – the coach and client must work well together in order for coaching to be effective. Big questions are explored during this first session and the decision to move forward is addressed.

Once a coaching relationship has been started, coaching usually takes place every week or two for a set period of time (typically several months). During each meeting the client updates the coach on what is happening in their life, the successes and challenges they have faced and anything that might be percolating to the surface at a given point. Together, the coach and client evaluate the results and design a plan for how the client will approach their dreams, hopes and goals given their current environment. Different exercises and activities can take place during these sessions, including assessments, visualization, role play, brainstorming, and Q & A – with some homework between sessions. Coaching sessions should be transformative, with the client leaving each session feeling inspired, empowered, and excited about approaching the challenges in their life.

Between coaching sessions, “all-in” coaches are available for ongoing support. Clients are welcome and encouraged to reach out to their coach to celebrate success as it happens, and plan for challenges as they come up. Your coach is invested in YOU and they want you to reach your full potential, however that is defined.

What is the role of the coach and the role of the client?

Coaches are expected to follow the guidelines established by the International Coaching Federation. This organization outlines the roles of the Coach and the Client as below:

The Coach:

  • Provides objective assessment and observations that foster the individual’s or team’s self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Listens closely to fully understand the circumstances of the individual or team.
  • Acts as a sounding board in exploring possibilities and implementing thoughtful planning and decision making
  • Champions opportunities and potential, encouraging stretch and challenge commensurate with personal strengths and aspirations
  • Fosters shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives
  • Challenges blind spots to illuminate new possibilities and support the creation of alternative scenarios
  • Maintains professional boundaries in the coaching relationship, including confidentiality, and adheres to the coaching profession’s code of ethics

The Client:

  • Creates the coaching agenda based on personally meaningful coaching goals
  • Uses assessment and observations to enhance self-awareness and awareness of others
  • Envisions personal and/or organizational success
  • Assumes full responsibility for personal decisions and actions
  • Utilizes the coaching process to promote possibility thinking and fresh perspectives
  • Takes courageous action in alignment with personal goals and aspirations
  • Engages big-picture thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Takes the tools, concepts, models and principles provided by the coach and engages in effective forward actions

Are there any off-limit topics in coaching?

While no topic is strictly off limits, your coach is not qualified to give you financial, medical or legal advice.  It can be extremely helpful to discuss (or discover) your belief systems around these topics and how those beliefs colour your life. Final decisions made in these areas should be made in consultation with professionals in the respective fields.  

Who benefits from coaching?

Coaching is a great resource for people in all stages of life. You can always refine your results, revisit your dreams and reassess how you are approaching your goals. Coaches help you spark meaningful change that you can apply in multiple areas of your life to achieve your goals and live a fulfilled life. If you aren’t sure where you are headed, a coach can help you in the process of self discovery. If you know exactly where you want to go – a coach can help you map out how to get there. If you feel like you have arrived, a coach can assist you in taking things to the next level.