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What is a Life Coach, and how can they help someone?

Updated on April 22, 2014

What is Life Coaching?

Life Coaching is about getting results and understanding that normally people have more resources than they are currently using. Everyone can use some help once in awhile. Life Coaches can be a valuable resource to anyone who wants to save years of training or struggling with a problem. Each Certified Life Coach has been trained to help a person get the results they want or should have the responsibility to refer the person to someone who can help them. There are Life Coaches for learning how to speak better in public, for understanding how to communicate better, for dealing with the loss of a job or loved one. For every situation in life, there is someone ready and willing to help. 

Life Coaching is not counseling. Counseling helps people understand their past and work through it to help them in the present. However, the coach and client should create a contract to help both understand that they are equally responsible for getting results throughout the agreed time. Life Coaching helps people take stock of the present, to use all the resources available to them, and move forward into the future. This is not to reduce the value of Counseling, which is very important.  There are times when someone needs to go through counseling before they are ready for what Life Coaching can do for them. It is up to the individual to understand where they are in life, and to be willing to push themselves to do more and be more.

GROW with each session

A Life Coach will also help someone stay accountable for their actions. This will help get results in a shorter time frame. Most Life Coaching sessions are not meant to be long term; the contract will generally be about ten weeks long and working towards results from the beginning of the sessions. Each session will follow what is called the GROW method. This means each session is focused on what the stated Goal is. Then the client and coach will discuss what the current Reality is, how it is affecting the goal and obtaining the results the client desires. If there are any Obstacles in the path, they are evaluated and both the client and coach will brainstorm different approaches to either reduce the affect of the obstacle or find a way to avoid the obstacle completely. Finally the session will include a Way forward, always looking to the future with the goal in place firmly so both coach and client understand when they have obtained the desired results.

Everyone needs help sometimes

There comes a time in everyone's life when you need someone to help you through the most difficult challenges life throws at you. Sometimes you just need to be carried.
There comes a time in everyone's life when you need someone to help you through the most difficult challenges life throws at you. Sometimes you just need to be carried.

Set SMART goals

A Life Coach will also help the client set SMART goals, this way the client will not get discouraged with trying to do too much or becoming too distracted throughout the time between sessions. Each Goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and have a realistic Time table. Without accountability the goal may never be obtained. As long as the coach and client are on the same page, and check in with each other on a scheduled and consistent basis, than results should begin to appear in the client’s life.



If the goal is too vague, then the coach cannot help, but a specific goal will help both the coach and client stay accountable. Specific goals could be reading 15 minutes a day to help learn a new language or gain a new skill, or exercising 30 minutes three times a week to get in better shape. The more specific the goal is, the easier it is to be help accountable.



When a goal has a specific amount or number to be measured it helps both the coach and the client understand success. If someone wants to exercise 90 minutes a week (3 30 minute times) then it is easy to see if they were successful by how many minutes the person actually exercised. This works in different goals, and the coach can help people understand where they are in the journey of finishing the goal.



If the goal is not attainable then it serves no purpose. Obtaining a million dollars in a day is a great idea, but for most people that is not attainable or realistic. The goal also needs to help the client feel successful. This is where I use the dolphin technique.

Dolphins are taught how to jump by having immediate success. They are given a reward every time they go over a pole. The pole starts at the very bottom of the pool, and then the dolphins are rewarded every time they swim over it. The pole is slowly and consistently raised, until people see the amazing heights that the dolphins can jump in shows. This is why goals need to be attainable, so that people can see the power of early success and build on the momentum.



The goal also needs to be relevant to the goal of the client. If the client wants to lose weight, and the goal set at the session is to learn a new language, then the results will not be a loss of pounds. While it may be helpful for another aspect of the client’s life to learn a new language, the coach will help them understand the need to stay focused on just one goal at a time, or to understand the need to have goals that support success and not allow the client to be distracted.


Time Table

The time table needs to be set up so that it is clear and easy to understand. It should also be short term so the client can stay focused on the goal. If the time table lasts too long it is easy to be discouraged or become distracted, but if the time table allows the client to continue to work on their goal, then it will help both the coach and the client.


Have you ever used SMART goals to achieve something?

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Everyone needs a Life Coach

Having a Life Coach is similar to having a mentor, someone who has been through the challenge facing the client many times and will save them time and hopefully challenge and heartache. While learning from one’s own mistakes is a great learning process, being able to learn from other’s mistakes is more valuable. Knowing the path ahead before you even take your first step can save significant stress in transitioning from one situation to another. There are Life Coaches for everyone, and everyone can use a Life Coach in their life.


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    • Rev. Akins profile imageAUTHOR

      Rev. Akins 

      9 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      Good question. There are several roads to obtaining a Life Coach certificate. My certification will come from the AACC American Association of Christian Counselors and I have to prove knowledge in the basic classes before I can be certified. I also have a Masters of Divinity. Life Coaching derives from the coach's life experiences, so it is essential the person is trained, educated and ethical. You should be able to find out where they received their training, what other work they have done for life experiences, and always check on their references. You are right to be cautious, and it would be smart to interview the person before you enter into a contract.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      9 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Great information. What sort of education/training does a Life Coach have? Are there specific degrees or certificates? My concern is that some people may hang out a shingle claiming to be a Life Coach, but how do I verify their credentials?


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