Management & Leadership

What is a Life Coach? The Myth Versus the Reality

Nov 21, 2016
Life coach

There’s no denying that the life coaching phenomenon has taken the world by storm. People from all walks of life are now hiring coaches to help them meet both personal and professional goals. Some believe a major reason for the surge in life coaching is that traditional support systems – family, church, community – no longer play as significant a part in our mobile society.

The life coach, then, fills the role of sounding board once held by a relative or close friend. But good coaches are really a lot more than that – in effect, they are partners who help their clients design a better future for themselves.

What is a life coach? First, here’s what it’s not.

Be that as it may, there are some common misperceptions about what life coaching is (and what it is not). Here, we debunk six of the most common myths:

MYTH 1: Life coaching is just a fad

True, life coaching does stem from the 70s American vogue for motivational talks and self-help books, many of which were notoriously sickly-sweet and upbeat in their mission to motivate the masses. But, unlike those claims to help you get rich, fit, smart or happy in five minutes, life coaching does not pose as a miracle cure for unhappiness, or a quick-fix solution for obesity or debt.

Instead, it offers a structured, methodological and realistic approach to effecting real transformation using techniques that are based on psychological evidence and basic intuition, not opinion, judgments, or wishy-washy life advice.

MYTH 2: Life coaching is “touchy-feely”, like therapy

While coaching and counselling do share some similarities, psychotherapy traditionally focuses on the impact the past has on the present, on healing psychological dysfunction and on relieving emotional pain. The therapist is considered to be the expert, the one with answers about what is right for the client. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on the present and future, identifying clients’ strengths, life purposes and goals and working with them to create possibilities to enrich their lives.

Based on the belief that all individuals are whole, capable individuals, coaching assumes the client is expert, able to determine what is best for their lives. The coach, then, works alongside them to maximise their personal and professional potential.

MYTH 3: Life coaching is for people who have problems, not for successful people

Life coaching helps the good get even better. In fact, the coaching process works best for motivated performers who want to achieve even more or who may feel “stuck” in certain areas of performance or behaviour. Generally, coaching is less successful as a last ditch effort to “save” someone. Poor performers tend not to take the process seriously and may even resist being coached. As a result, they rarely deliver a good return on the coaching investment.

MYTH 4: Life coaches only work on personal goals

Professionally trained life coaches work on all aspects of their clients’ lives, personal and professional. This is handy because, very often, if something is bothering you at work, it is affecting your personal life, or vice versa. Just as Olympic athletes wouldn’t think of training without the added insight, objective perspective and enthusiastic support of a sports coach, many of today’s most successful business leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and CEOs use the services of a life coach to take their lives, careers, or businesses to the next level.

MYTH 5: Life coaching is the same as mentoring

While it’s true that effective life coaches and mentors, particularly those working in a professional environment, often find some crossover between these roles, there remain significant differences between them. All coaching, even life coaching, is about a specific aspect of performance.

Mentoring, on the other hand, is more holistic and places the emphasis on helping someone to work out what they want to do rather than on how they are going to do it. Coaching tends to emphasise helping individuals find the internal resources to achieve their objectives, while mentoring places equal emphasis on acquiring and maintaining the information and networks that will enable the client to draw on external resources.

MYTH 6: Life coaching will fix all my problems

Coaching is not about making life problem-free, but about giving depth and value to one’s experiences by way of more mindful living and thinking. Life coaching, in that sense, provides a client with self-awareness, focus and accountability in such a way that it effectively helps them in empower themselves and find their own answers. Its objective can best be summed up in the old proverb: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

Do you aspire to help others unlock their personal and professional potential? Do you want to understand more about motivating those around you and helping them create positive change in their lives? If so, why not consider studying coaching? SACAP’s Graduate School of Coaching & Leadership offers a range of coaching qualifications that are aligned with the International Coach Federation (ICF). For more information on how to apply, click here.

Previous post

Next post