What Is Life Coaching?


If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard the term “life coach”, but perhaps you’re not sure exactly what it means and would like to find out more.

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?

The Early Days Of Life Coaching

Coaching’s evolution can be split into three ages, with the first being characterised by a lack of regulations and clear understanding. Back in the nineties, life coaching’s definition was incredibly vague, with many counsellors, therapists, mentors and psychiatrists all making claims to be coaches. They aimed to offer clients something different from the support that was already available, but at this point, the term “coach” lacked any real meaning, and there was no official body in place to regulate the profession.

This era transitioned into that of performance coaching, which today’s life coaching has developed from. Performance coaching is designed to help elite athletes and business leaders 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 future aspirations. It largely focused on goal setting and action planning, mostly utilising a model called GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will/Way Forward) as its primary coaching framework.

Life coaching eventually moved beyond corporate and athletic settings, helping people from all walks of life create a more fulfilled life by envisioning and achieving their personal and professional goals.

When questioning “What is a life coach?” today, the answer is that they are a multitude of things. Depending on a coach’s skills and their clients’ needs, modern life coaches may focus on specific topics such as confidence, health, parenting or dating, or may work broadly across numerous subject areas to ensure the most positive experience for their clients.

Life Coaching And Breaking Free From Rigidity

As life coaching has evolved, it’s moved further away from being a one-model-fits-all method. Life coaches are now a source of guidance in all areas of life, with various tools and methods at their disposal to make a lasting impact on the lives of their clients.

When coaching first began, simple-to-use models such as SMART goal setting and the aforementioned GROW were what defined coaching, with conversations taking 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 lives 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 thought process that focuses on the individual and their worldview — has become much more commonplace in recent years, and the coaching profession has evolved with it. Life coaching as a practice now offers a rich and varied approach, supporting individuals and groups to find their way to the outcomes and change they seek. Its pragmatic use of theoretical frameworks, models and change approaches gives it greater flexibility to help clients achieve their desired outcomes — and the profession continues to evolve.

Transformational Coaching – The Animas Approach

Transformational coaching is one example of how life coaching continues to develop and change. This is a relatively new, more expansive approach to life coaching, aiming to go beyond simple goal attainment to a “deeper realm” by shifting the way clients view themselves, other people and the environment around them. Within transformational coaching, a coach helps clients explore the underlying assumptions, beliefs, values, expectations, and attitudes that shape their experience of themselves, their world and the people who inhabit it.

As with life coaching, this transformation begins with the client bringing specific challenges, issues or aspirations to the table. Rather than focusing purely on resolving or achieving these, transformational coaching explores the meaning behind them and what is at their heart.

Transformational coaching, as pioneered by Animas Centre for Coaching, is multi-disciplinary. This approach has roots in traditional coaching models and techniques, but also utilises 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 traditional life coaching.

Of course, life coaching takes many different forms, and coaches vary significantly 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. The core principles and qualities of life coaching make it uniquely powerful as a tool for inquiry and change.

If this guide to life coaching has piqued your interest in coaching as a career, why not book your spot at one of our free, virtual introductory sessions to transformational coaching? Our experienced coaches will answer all your questions and give you a taste of our accredited Transformational Coach Training Course so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

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