What is life coaching?

30th November 2019

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘life coach’. We recognise there’s also a possibility that you aren’t quite sure exactly what it means. At its most basic, life coaching is a collaborative, non-directive conversation between coach and client that can bring about profound change through questions, reflection, choices and new behaviours. Through this process, clients are empowered to make courageous decisions about their life, relationships and work.

But how did this profession come to be, how has it changed, and what is life coaching as we know it today?

Life Coaching – Early Days

Life coaching is a powerful process that has roots in performance coaching, specifically helping elite athletes and business leaders to sharpen and increase their levels of functioning. At its outset, performance coaching aimed to differentiate itself from therapy and counselling by focusing on the client’s present experience and his or her future aspirations. It largely focused on goal setting and action planning, mostly utilising a model called GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will (or Way Forward) as its primary coaching framework.

Life coaching eventually moved beyond corporate and athletic settings to help people create a more fulfilled life by envisioning and achieving their personal and professional goals. Today’s life coaches may focus on specific topics such as confidence, health, parenting, or dating, or may work broadly across numerous subject areas, depending upon the needs of the client and the skills of the coach.

Life Coaching – Breaking Free From Rigidity

Perhaps most importantly, life coaching has moved far and away from being a one-model-fits-all method. When coaching first set up shop, simple-to-use models such as the aforementioned GROW and SMART goal setting, defined coaching and conversations took on a process-like quality.

Here’s the thing though, people aren’t processes!

We are human beings and as human beings we are all trying to make sense of our life in some way. We bring with us a complex and unpredictable mix of thoughts, feelings, habits, beliefs, values, assumptions and instincts.

This approach, the humanistic, person-centred kind that focuses on the individual and their world view, has become much more commonplace in recent years, and the coaching profession has evolved with it. The practice now offers a rich and varied approach for supporting individuals and groups to find their way to the outcomes and change they want. Its pragmatic use of theoretical frameworks, models and change approaches gives it the greatest flexibility for helping the client achieve their desired outcomes.

And it continues to evolve.

Transformational Coaching – The Animas Approach

Take transformational coaching as but one example. Transformational coaching is a relatively new, more expansive approach to life coaching, and aims to go beyond simple goal attainment to a ‘deeper realm’ by shifting the way clients view themselves, as well as other people and the environment around them. With transformational coaching, the coach helps the client to explore the underlying assumptions, beliefs, values, expectations, and attitudes that shape their experience of themselves, their world and the people that inhabit it. Although this transformation begins, as with life coaching, with the client bringing specific challenges, issues or aspirations to the table, rather than focusing purely on resolving or achieving those, transformational coaching seeks to also explore what is at the heart of them; the meaning behind them.

Transformational coaching, as pioneered by Animas Centre for Coaching,, is multi-disciplinary, having roots in traditional coaching models and techniques, but also utilising learnings and techniques drawn from neuroscience, psychotherapy, philosophy and psychology, to enable and sustain transformation.

Ultimately, transformational coaching encourages its coaches to rely on themselves as human beings in a relationship of curiosity with another, which allows them to coach at this deeper level. The change that transformational coaching brings about can be longer-lasting and further-reaching than with more performance-driven coaching, and indeed with traditional life coaching.

Of course, life coaching takes many different forms and coaches vary greatly in how they work, who they work with, and the sorts of approaches, issues and areas they might specialise in. Regardless of the particular styles and methods a coach uses, the possible applications of life coaching are countless, and the core principles and qualities of life coaching make it uniquely powerful as a tool for inquiry and change.

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful! If it has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more about transformational coaching, we’d love to meet you at one of our free introductory days!

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