Over the last decades, life coaching has gained massive popularity among high achievers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, aspiring businesspersons, and pretty much anyone who’s interested in self-exploration and self-growth.
Although this movement initially caught roots in the U.S., it quickly spread all over the world, thanks to its undeniable results and the digital revolution that made it easy for people to access and share information.
Whether you’re looking to gain a greater understanding of yourself, acquire valuable life skills, or discover ways to achieve your personal and professional goals, life coaching can be a viable approach.
Life Coaching: What is it?
Life coaching represents the most effective way to maximize our talents, abilities, and inner potential, as well as to optimize all areas of our personal and professional life.
It is a transformative process that facilitates self-exploration, self-discovery, and personal development by placing a strong emphasis on efficiency, authenticity, motivation, and personal responsibility. As a result, clients learn how to overcome mental blocks, sharpen their skills, and adapt to an ever-changing world.
Using techniques borrowed from counseling, psychology, sociology, leadership, and other related fields, a life coach can help you discover the strengths, weaknesses, and obstacles that influence your overall sense of well-being and develop an action plan for positive change.
Life Coaching vs. Therapy
Although many people tend to confuse life coaching with therapy – believing that both approaches serve the same purpose – there are clear and significant differences between the two.
First, while psychotherapy sessions focus mainly on relieving a specific mental disorder, life coaching sessions facilitate the shift from a functional to an optimal state. In other words, therapists work with diagnosable conditions while life coaches promote personal and professional development.
Second, while psychotherapists are required to complete a bachelor’s and master’s program, life coaches need only to take an accredited course on coaching. Since life coaching is about personal growth and optimization, having a degree in mental health could be somewhat redundant.
Third, while psychotherapy follows the medical model, life coaching relies on the expert model. When you see a life coach, you are considered a whole person who possesses all the necessary resources to achieve growth and success. 
Finally, the one significant similarity between the two approaches is that they both rely on the client’s motivation and willingness to make substantial changes and be actively involved in cultivating a better life.
How Can Life Coaching Help Cause Change?
In coaching, the process of change begins with the client’s intention to embark on a journey of self-exploration and self-growth. In this journey, the coach takes on the role of mentor and guide.
The client-coach relationship relies on collaboration, professionalism, understanding, and feedback. Both parties are free to express ideas, suggest different tactics and approaches, and propose alternative solutions to obstacles that may interfere with the process of coaching.
By assisting clients in challenging limiting beliefs, overcoming setbacks, and implementing strategies for positive change, a life coach can create a fertile ground for personal and professional goals.
Another crucial aspect that sets the stage for positive change is designing a detailed and personalized action plan that gives purpose and direction to the entire process.
Lastly, the motivation and inspiration that coaches bring to the table represent valuable resources that allow clients to stay on track and achieve their goals.
What Happens in a Life Coaching Session?
The first sessions are almost entirely dedicated to exploring the client’s goals and creating a personalized plan for personal and professional growth. A session can last anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the topics addressed during the session.
Another important aspect of life coaching is helping the client identify his abilities, talents, skills, and valuable experiences. These elements represent the foundation for various coaching techniques and strategies.
Once the client becomes aware of his inner potential, the coach will encourage and assist him in tackling specific goals from the action plan. This represents the practical aspect of the coaching process.
Since progress relies on our ability to spot potential obstacles and keep up with the changes and challenges of everyday life, self-monitoring and feedback are two invaluable components of effective coaching.
Techniques Used in Life Coaching
Unlike therapy or counseling, life coaching doesn’t have a specific set of techniques and strategies. In fact, most coaches take on a holistic and integrative approach to personal and professional growth. Any personal, emotional, social, professional, or spiritual that may play a role in the client’s journey towards self-improvement represents a valuable resource.
Regarding specific techniques used in life coaching, practitioners usually borrow elements from various fields such as psychology, philosophy, religion, sociology, business, and leadership.
Nevertheless, there are a few techniques that represent hallmarks of life coaching:
- SMART goals – this technique helps the client set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals. For example, I want to be a writer is a general goal, whereas I want to write a 200-page book by the end of this year is a SMART goal. Notice the difference?
- Empathic listening – allows the coach to establish a meaningful connection with the client, thus forming the foundation for a successful client-coach relationship. Without empathy, a coaching session would be nothing more than a dull exchange of ideas and opinions.
- Open-ended questions – encourage the client to ‘open up’ and share meaningful life experiences. Open-ended questions can be the starting point for fruitful conversations that transform the entire coaching process into something extraordinary.
Does Life Coaching Work?
Although some psychologists, sociologists, and mental health professionals tend to label life coaching as organized nonsense or the biggest scam of our century, it’s impossible to overlook the countless individuals who’ve achieved success and well-being, thanks to this relatively new approach to personal growth.
In fact, there are plenty of studies which indicate that life coaching can have a tremendously positive impact on personal and professional development.
For example, a study published in Social Behavior and Personality revealed that life coaching proves to be a useful platform for goal attainment and personal development. 
In fact, some therapeutic approaches (e.g., Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) have integrated coaching into their framework, thus providing both treatment and optimization for clients who wish to improve their overall health and well-being. As one study pointed out, life coaching programmes that utilize evidence-based techniques may provide a framework for further research on psychological processes that occur in non-clinical populations who wish to make purposeful change and enhance their positive psychological functioning. 
All and all, life coaching proves to be a valid and practical approach, as long as it’s used solely to promote personal and professional growth.
What Kinds of Concerns is Life Coaching Best For?
As you’ve probably realized by now, life coaching is an approach that’s mainly used for goal achievement, skill mastery, professional growth, and personal well-being.
Most of the people who choose to hire a life coach are already aware of what they want to achieve and the obstacles that stand in their way; they just need that extra push to turn dreams into reality.
So, which are the main categories of people life coaches typically work with?
- Young adults and students who are at the beginning of their career and need guidance.
- Entrepreneurs, managers, businesspersons, and leaders who wish to improve their skills and become experts in their field.
- Companies who are looking to provide training programs and skill mastery for their employees.
- People who wish to know themselves better and make a positive change in their life.
Although life coaching is not geared towards mental health issues, it could serve as a viable complementary approach for those of us who find it difficult to stay motivated and implement a healthy and productive routine.
How Are Life Coaching Specialists Trained?
In general, the process of becoming a licensed coach is relatively simple. All you need to do is complete a training program. But there’s much more to being a good life coach than getting your certification.
For example, finding a coaching approach that fits your particular set of skills can be a bit tricky. According to the National Coach Academy , there are many different venues for aspiring coaches:
- General life coaching
- Health coaching
- Life coaching
- Relationship coaching
- Business coaching
- Executive coaching
- Personal finance coaching
If you’re thinking about becoming a coach, perhaps the best way to start is by being a client first. That way, you get a chance to experience the ins and outs of life coaching, while working on some personal issues as well.
Concerns/Limitations of Life Coaching
While life coaching can have a tremendously positive impact on our personal and professional growth, there are some concerns and limitations regarding this popular approach to well-being.
Critics of life coaching often bring up the issue of ethics and practice guidelines. Since the accreditation process only requires the completion of a training program, there’s no objective way of telling if the coach you’re planning to work with is the ‘real deal.’
Another concern is the validity of the strategies and techniques used by life coaches. Although most practitioners employ methods and approaches that have already been validated by other fields of study, there’s always the chance that some might use untested, unvalidated practices.
But despite its obvious limitations, life coaching continues to be a widespread practice that facilitates goal achievement, personal growth, professional success, and life satisfaction.
Important Practitioners in Life Coaching
Brian Tracy is a motivational speaker, well-renowned author, and one of the most emblematic figures of life coaching. His books and inspiring speeches have changed the lives of countless individuals from around the world.
Lucinda Basset is an American motivational speaker and self-help expert. Her personal struggle with suicide was the spark that ignited her passion for cultivating positive change and inspiring people to pursue greatness.
Tony Robbins is currently one of the most well-known life coaches in the world. But aside from being a world-class coach and speaker, he’s also an entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist.
How to Find a Life Coach
Considering the massive popularity life coaching has gained over the last decades, finding a life coach is relatively easy. All you need to do is go online and search for a coach in your area. In fact, you can even opt for video or phone sessions.
What Should I be Looking for in a Coach?
When looking for a coach you need to be mindful of your goals. In other words, make sure the coach you’re planning to work with is specialized in the area that interests you. For example, if you want to become a better husband/wife, consult a relationship coach; if you’re looking to get more done, hire a motivation coach.
But regardless of your personal and professional goals, a good coach will always be empathetic, inspiring, and ready to provide expert insights.
Questions to Ask a Potential Coach
Here are some questions that will help you determine if a coach is the ‘real deal’:
- Where did you complete your professional training?
- For how long have you been working as a life coach?
- What’s your approach to personal and/or professional development?
- How exactly can you help me achieve my goals?
Find a Coach Now
A great place where you can start looking for a life coach is ThriveTalk. This platform puts you in contact with professional counselors, therapists, and life coaches that are ready to assist you anytime, anywhere.
Whether you’re struggling with emotional issues or simply wish to invest in your personal or professional growth, ThriveTalk provides you with all the support you need to achieve greatness.
Final Thoughts on Life Coaching
In life, we sometimes face difficult challenges and unexpected problems that could bring our progress to a halt.
When it comes to personal and professional growth, life coaching can help you find the motivation and resources to overcome anything that might stand in the way of your success.
- “What is life coaching?,” Life Coach Hub, n.a.. [Online]. Available: https://www.lifecoachhub.com/beginners-guide-to-life-coaching/what-is-life-coaching.
- A. M. Grant, “THE IMPACT OF LIFE COACHING ON GOAL ATTAINMENT, METACOGNITION AND MENTAL HEALTH,” Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 253-263, 2003.
- L. Green, L. Oades and A. Grant, “Cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused life coaching: Enhancing goal striving, well-being, and hope,” The Journal of Positive Psychology, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 142-149, 2006.
- Jill, “What Does a Life Coach Do?,” National Coach Academy, n.a.. [Online]. Available: http://www.nationalcoachacademy.com/what-does-a-life-coach-do.