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What is life coaching?

Life coaching is the process of helping someone find the path between where they are now and where they want to be.

It is about setting and achieving goals in many areas of life including business, health and wellbeing, career, relationships and work-life balance. It can be as broad as wanting to find what will make you happier or as specific as wanting to start a new job. A life coach uses insightful questioning to help their clients identify the goals they want to achieve, recognise their current circumstances, consider all the options open to them and choose which actions they will take within a defined timeframe. Life coaching centres around the belief that everyone can achieve their goals through acknowledging and using their own resources, rather than being told what to do.

Coaching can also help people who aren’t sure what they want from life, they’re only sure about what they don’t want. A skilled coach can help a client consider all areas of their life and narrow down what they want to focus on and what might be holding them back from achieving it. They will also help a client to recognise their strengths and how these can assist them with their goal. This knowledge, combined with working out the values that drive the client, can help set positively framed goals that centre around achieving something rather than avoiding something. And it doesn’t stop there. Life coaching will provide clients with the ongoing tools, techniques and strategies to create change and success that actually lasts.

Although some skills do cross over with life coaching, it is separate to therapy, counselling, mentoring or consulting. Having said that, many therapists, mentors and consultants have chosen to add life coaching to their skill set, siting how useful coaching skills are, supporting support their work.

Like therapists and counsellors, life coaches keep what is discussed during sessions confidential and need to raise their awareness to identify when a client should be referred to one of the above alternatives for support.

  • In the UK it is estimated that there are 80,000 to 100,000 life coaches serving a population of more than 67 million.
  • A global coaching study in 2020, (ICF) estimated that the total annual revenue for coaching is $2.8 billion.
  • Western Europe currently has 32.2% of this global market at $916 million and rising.

Working as a life coach

Life coaches have a broad range of work opportunities open to them. They can be self-employed, either part-time or full-time, and coach people on a private basis or be contracted by a business to coach employees. Life coaches who take this route are also able to set their own hours to fit around their other commitments. Or they can decide to be an employee of a company or corporation and coach other employees, all the way up to the highest executives. Many people also use life coaching to complement their current employment and increase their skills, particularly if they have a management role.

A life coaching session can take place face to face, online or on the telephone. It will normally start with catching up on the client’s progress over the last few weeks. The coach will then use powerful questioning techniques to guide the client through the session, without offering advice or leading them – it is a partnership between two equals rather than a teacher and student relationship. By the end of the session the client should have a practical, step-by-step action plan to move them towards achieving their goal. Some coaches provide additional support via email or telephone outside of the sessions, but this is a decision for each individual coach. Life coaches can charge by the hour or deliver their work through courses, which can be done either on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting.

Life coaching isn’t a regulated profession, and you don’t require any specific qualifications to call yourself a life coach. However, if you are serious about providing effective coaching, want to secure future clients through recommendations, and want to be able to tell your clients that you have an internationally recognised qualification, then you should consider a diploma in Life Coaching that is regulated by one of the internationally recognised bodies such as the ICF or Association for Coaching. These courses will teach you the tools, techniques, models and ethics behind effective life coaching. The Life Coaching diploma that is taught by The Coaching Academy is regulated by the ICF.

What are the characteristics of an effective life coach?

  • People want to confide in you
  • Friends and colleagues ask for your advice
  • You are an effective communicator
  • You have a strong desire to help others succeed
  • You try to see the best in people
  • You want to 'give back' and help others
  • You are a good listener

If you want to learn more about life coaching, then read this about the history of life coaching.