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What is a Life Coach?

I am going to take a wild guess here and assume you have heard about the coaching industry. As a 4x certified Life Coach, I am often asked questions like; “What does a life coach do exactly?”, “How can a life coach help me?”, “What do I get when I hire a life coach?”. I am here to answer these questions because hiring a life coach can get you the results you are trying for quicker and easier than doing it on your own.



Starting in the late 1980s, Thomas Leonard and Laura Whitworth pioneered Life Coaching. The term “coach”, however, had been around since the mid-1800s; first used as a title for a tutor and a few years later used in sports.

With that being said, coaching has been around a long time and we can thank Thomas and Laura for their efforts and hard work in bringing the coaching principle to aspects of life.

Things Thomas and Laura had in common were few in comparison to their differences. They were both influenced by Werner Erhard and his est training. They both worked for Werner Erhard Associates but left with the ambition of creating something of their own, individually, which they did. Thomas was the first to create and develop a profession out of life coaching. He was a financial planner who was business-minded and was truly talented at creating programs and material. He was much more media-driven and used the internet to his advantage, unlike Laura. Laura was more of a humanitarian who stood firm in her values and beliefs. She was more known for collaborating with others, holding meetings in person, and connecting deeply with people. One of her coaches, Timothy Gallwey, “set forth a new methodology for coaching and for the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields”. Another influence for Laura was Carl Rogers who is known for his client-centered approach in psychology. Although Thomas had a more aggressive, dive right in approach and Laura began with softer sessions and diving deeper as time went on, they both had a passion for personal development and leadership.

When we combine Laura’s humanitarian approach with Thomas's business strategy, we end up with the coaching industry we have today. There are multiple different certifications and coach trainings available today, even coaches who specialize in specific areas of life. You could hire a life coach, relationship coach, health coach, business coach, fitness coach, family or divorce coach, or even a sports coach.

(Thank you Vikki Brock for her amazing article “Coaching Pioneers: Laura Whitworth and Thomas Leonard”)


I personally love the sports coach reference. If you want to be better at baseball you are going to hire a coach to teach you all the ins and outs for your outcome. Your desired outcome might not even be to win or to be the best, maybe it is to build community with your team and get exercise, your baseball coach will make sure you get that. It’s the same with a Life Coach. It’s not about winning or being the best, it’s about identifying what you want and hiring a coach to make it happen because let’s be honest, if you could do it on your own you would be there by now.


When you hire a Life Coach you are hiring someone who has personal experience in their field and/or hundreds of training hours for a specific system they are certified in (this might not be every coach - see below). There can be many different bridges for connecting where you are now and where you want to be, it is your job to do the research and find the coach that best suits you. If you don’t connect with your coach then you may have a really hard time getting your result. Coaches often use small manageable steps to get you closer to where you want to be or your goal (I don’t really love using “goals” because it creates some kind of ending and I believe personal growth to be a journey. Milestone feels more appropriate). The last cool thing I will mention about working with a coach who has a system that works for you is this; a lot of the time you think you know what is stopping you or getting in your way but when you open up to someone who isn’t your best friend, mom, partner, neighbor or co-worker and get vulnerable with a professional whose job is to hold you to your highest potential, you will absolutely be surprised to find out what is actually holding you back.


When I mention being surprised at what’s actually holding you back, buckle up because that won't be the only surprise in your coaching journey. Breakthroughs can be transformative and crucial for getting your desired outcome. You will gain fresh perspectives on things that you have viewed in a similar light for years, and trust me, a fresh perspective can go a long way. You will probably say “I had no idea” or have “aha” moments in a session that truly blows your socks off. Will this happen every session? Probably not, because growth and development take integration. It’s not all rainbows and breakthroughs every session, it’s accountability, routine, and new practices that get you from where you are at to where you want to be.


As you are crossing your bridge and closing the gap between where you are at now and where you want to be, you are having breakthroughs and integrating them but your coach is most likely going to stretch you and give you a love tap out of your comfort zone. Yupp, I said it, you will leave your comfort zone where all your old stories and limiting beliefs (about why it’s too scary and hard to get what you want) are stored. When you begin to stretch and grow you will probably rethink a little and say “Nah, it’s not too bad here. I'll stay!”, but your coach won't allow that. Your coach will listen and hold space for that part of you, absolutely, but you didn’t hire them to give in on your bad days. You hired a coach to push you out of your comfort zone, whether you like it or not, and to always believe in your capabilities. A coach is going to see your strengths and remind you how capable you are on the days you don't want to show up. It’s part of growth.


I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a thousand more times, if you could do it on your own, you would have it by now. That’s all.


We all need help and like our hands held through hard times (no, just me? Doubt it). It’s not that you aren’t capable or that your failed attempts are the end-all to your dreams, it’s that having the right support, the right system, and the right accountability are crucial. I have relied on friends or family to be my support and as amazing as some of those calls home are on a bad day, they aren’t always consistent or reliable. In fact, I have learned over the years that they are often biased to whom I'm speaking or they have blinders on. That's all groovy on a bad day but when you are trying to create a life of your dreams and rewrite limiting beliefs that have held you back for years... you need a professional. It is a coach's job to be open-minded, be unbiased, and to not have blinders but maybe those cool mirrorer glasses for climbing where you can see different perspectives without moving around too much.

A support system isn’t one person, one journal, or one outlet, but a whole system designed to support you. If you need to call your best friend after a coaching session and let it all out, do that, then go for a run and take a bath while dinner is cooking, or whatever works for you but know your coach will help identify what your personal support system is. All areas of life can coexist and you can create the life you desire. You just have to take the first step.


Once you have taken the first step in hiring a coach you will be committed to a custom program your new coach has created. Some programs are one-on-one coaching while others are in a group. Some meet once a week and some meet once a month. A program can last 2 weeks, 30 days, 3 months, or a full year, and most clients will do programs back to back because they get hooked on the awesomeness and understanding of their life and want to continue. As you can see there are many options when it comes to a coaching program, you just have to find what works best for you. Most coaches will do a free or low-cost coaching call where you can learn more about them and their services. I highly recommend taking advantage of this.


Not all coaches are created equal. Some coaches have experience and that qualifies them to walk someone through a similar journey. Others are certified once, twice, or multiple times to learn what techniques they like best. Some certifications are recognized nationally or globally and some are not. And some coaches have learned from other coaches and created their practice that way. I don’t think there is a right way to become a coach but I do think there is a right way to hire one; find what works for you and feels right to you. At the end of the day, you are the one making the changes in your life. Your coach guides, empowers, stretches, brings perspective, and holds you accountable in an unbiased, non-judgmental space.


I hope this has answered a lot of your questions about the many benefits and options when hiring a Life Coach but if you have more, you can email me and I will get back to you ASAP. If you liked this blog post and would like to be notified when I post again you can join my email list below.


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