Hello everybody, welcome to Episode 10 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take your questions on life's stuggles and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
Speaking of life coaching, that's what today's question is on. It's a bit of a different vibe today, but we’re all about that here at Optimal Living Advice so let’s get right into the question…
QUESTION: “What is the purpose of a life coach? I have an opportunity to work with one but I’m a little scared because what if they make me set all kinds of life goals and push me harder than I want to be pushed in life?”
What Does a Life Coach Do?
Like I said, this is a really great and refreshing question. A lot of the questions we’ve been receiving pertain to specific life struggles and scenarios, but being that life coaching is a rising source of professional help that’s still very misunderstood, I think this is a good opportunity to shine some light on it. After hearing this episode, perhaps some of you guys might feel as though a life coach would be a good fit for you.
For those who don’t read or listen to the intro, I am a certified life coach. Life coaches are usually compared to therapists, and while they’re in the same arena, there are some very distinct differences.
You’re likely more familiar with the responsibilities of therapists, and though there are different types of therapists, they’re generally there to help people heal from past trauma, overcome a difficult emotional hurdle, understand certain feelings or even navigate through diagnosable mental illnesses.
A life coach’s job typically does not take such a deep psychological dive. There are plenty of types of coaches and different coaches offer different methodology, but a life coach will usually help people to get a very clear vision of what their goals are and then create habits and steps they can take to help them reach those goals. Though I can’t speak from a therapist’s standpoint, every life coaching client is very different depending on what those goals are.
Therapy vs. Life Coaching
For example, I have one client who has been seeing both a therapist and psychiatrist for twenty years. With their approval, he started working with me as well. His goals revolve a lot around overcoming emotional hurdles, and while his therapist helps him to understand these hurdles, I help him create steps he can take in daily life to formulate new emotions.
Of course there might be some crossover, but his therapist helps him understand why he feels the way that he does, and my approach is more directed to help him change it. In this scenario, it’s crucial for him to have a therapist as well, because I’m not as qualified to help him understand the sources of his pain as a therapist is.
For a client like this, let's say the goal is to overcome anxiety. A therapist might help them get to the bottom of where the anxiety started, why it started and how it can be better understood. Understanding an emotional problem like this is an essential first step to take prior to trying to solve it.
As a life coach, if someone with anxiety comes to me, I might help them identify situations where they do not feel anxious and proceed to help them find ways to integrate those situations more into their daily lives. I might help them identify calming tools they can use in situations when they do feel anxious. I might help them find daily practices they can indulge in that will help them combat anxious feelings over time. All of these strategies will be more beneficial if a therapist helps them identify the source of their anxiety beforehand.
How Coaching Can Benefit Clients
This scenario is unique, but it illustrates how coaching can benefit people with all types of goals. Most of my clients are not experiencing the same type of trauma, and thus my work with them is different. Some clients want to build their own business. Some want to find their life purpose. Some want to find love. More often than not, such desires aren’t rooted in emotional trauma and simple, yet determined lifestyle changes can help them to reach these goals.
If someone’s goal is to find love, of course they can’t control that, but as a life coach, I can help them do everything in their power to make it so. I can help them identify the best traits they’ve had from partners in the past so they know what to look for or what to avoid. I can help them reveal their relationship habits to make sure they’re giving the same type of love they expect to get. I can hold them accountable to staying active on dating apps or other social situations where they could be around like-minded people.
Life coaches help people identify what changes would be best and how those changes can be deployed, sustained and enjoyed so that clients can reach their goals faster and live their lives the way they want to.
What Makes a Good Life Coach?
And “the way they want to” is the key point to pay attention to, asker of this question, because a good life coach will not intentionally sway you from your needs and desires. A good life coach will work with you and your goals, not encourage you to make new ones.
Though this podcast is an advice column, life coaching is not about giving advice, but rather helping clients cultivate answers within themselves. So a life coach that enforces their own ideals about what they feel you should want or how to get it is not doing their job properly.
The sad truth is that these people are everywhere. Life coaching and other facets of the self-help industry are very loosely defined, and therefore very easy to be done incorrectly, leading clients to be taken advantage of or poorly guided.
If you are seeking a life coach or have an opportunity to work with one right now, definitely ask them about their credentials and use your logic rather than your emotions to feel them out and determine whether or not working with them is in your best interest. A life coach is in your corner and supporting you, and though a healthy degree of challenge and maybe even a “growth-based discomfort,” we’ll call it, comes with that, that discomfort and challenge should never be out of alignment with what you want for yourself.
You're in the Driver's Seat
Also, don’t forget that a life coach is not a life sentence. If you’re curious about following up with this opportunity you have right now, there’s nothing requiring you to stay with it forever. If, after a few sessions, you feel as though this life coach is not helping you in the way you need, simply discontinue with them. You’ll only get a better idea of what you want going forward, and you don’t owe any life coach or anybody else more time than you’re interested in having.
This is your life, and you’re in charge of who you supplement it with.
No need to be scared, you’re in the driver's seat. Anyone else would be lucky to join you on your journey, so decide who’s worthy of such a privilege. Whoever doesn’t respect that decision — well, you have this life coach’s permission to give them a nice hefty slap across the face.
And that does it, friends. I really hope you have not only a clearer view on the function of a life coach, but also whether or not one would be useful for you at this point in time.
You can of course send your own questions in by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org
As you might know by now, the questions are diverse so don’t feel as though yours won’t fit. Unless it’s blatantly inappropriate, in which case we wouldn’t air an episode about it, but we’d probably laugh when reading it. Do with that what you will. Hope to see you in the next one. Take care!