So What Exactly does a Life Coach do in a Life Coaching Session?

July 13, 2013 by John Andrew Williams

I lead a life coach training program. Over the past 3 years, I’ve trained over 120 life coaches. I love my work and when I get good questions about life coaching, it usually finds its way to the blog. Here are a few good ones…

“What exactly does a life coach aim to do in a life coaching session?”

First, it is helpful to explain what coaches do NOT do. There are a lot of misconceptions about the work of life coaches.

The most important thing to remember is that life coaching is not about telling clients what to do. If you are looking for an advice giving profession, life coaching is not the right fit.

Of course, there are many situations when it is useful to seek the advice of an expert, but that’s not what life coaches focus on. The problem with advice – and especially if you’re a life coach for teens – is that people often don’t buy into solutions that they didn’t help design or create. We are naturally more invested in a solution (and more likely to follow through) if we help craft it. Advice often gets in the way.

“So what does a life coach do if they are not giving advice?”

Much of coaching is about listening. As life coaches, we’re trained to listen in a deep, empathetic way that gives our clients space to explore ideas, learn more about themselves, and understand the challenges in their lives. Coaches do this by asking simple, curious, open-ended questions.

“I understand that a coach asks simple, curious, open-ended questions. But what is the point of those questions?”

When I’m coaching, I aim to ask questions that help clients learn more about themselves and their situation, as well as what it will take to move into meaningful action.

I listen for a clients perspective, limiting or empowering beliefs, level of passion or excitement when they’re talking about something, values that they treasure and hold dear, and different kinds of systems that are either working for them or holding them back.

In essence, I’m listening for openings to use the many of tools of life coaching to help clients gain a greater awareness of themselves, the situation, and what they really want.

I find that when clients have more self-awareness, they are able to make decisions and choices that serve them better in the long run.

At that point, my job as a coach is to help the client design effective actions. To do that without slipping into “advice mode” I remind myself that the client has the answer they need already, but I can help clear the way for them to find it.

I find that it is helpful to tie the action the client needs to accomplish together with how physically taking that action can allow the client to learn about him or herself.

What I’m trying to achieve is a deeper level of understanding from which a solution to the problem or the resolution to keep moving becomes so crystal clear that the next action to take is obvious. Believe me, that’s not as hard as it may sound! When there is a balance between learning and doing, each action takes on more meaning. Actions become a way to experiment and learn more about yourself within a situation.

It’s remarkable to me how little time we spend actually taking a step back from our lives and asking ourselves important questions to make sure that we’re on track. Actively improving self-awareness makes decision making easier, and more successful, over time.

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