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What is a Life Coach?

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Life transitions are exciting opportunities for individuals to alter their perspectives and create new possibilities. But real change is challenging, requiring commitment, perseverance, personal clarity, and an objective point of view. It's a daunting task – one that benefits from outside help.

Life Coach - An Overview

Life coaches help people change their lives. Although coaches are not therapists, they are trained to work with diverse individuals in complex situations. By listening, observing, assessing skills, and making plans, life coaches help clients rethink their options, envisioning more satisfying futures.

Life coaches create solutions, helping clients resolve issues that are blocking their success and happiness. Even in cases of resistance or fear, coaches help clients understand how to reframe and diminish their problems.

Teaching new skills, coaches guide clients toward greater independence. Individuals learn the value of listening to their hearts, gain a greater appreciation for their own abilities, and increase their self-confidence. They begin to see how behavioral changes result in new opportunities.

The Life Coaching Process

Coaches must first make a general assessment of their clients. After many discussions, the clients' backgrounds, values, skills, and goals become clear. Often coaches use standardized personality or aptitude tests to provide additional information, especially in cases where clients seem unsure or “stuck.”

Coaches and clients partner to devise an action plan - a sequence of activities that culminate with the achievement of a final goal. This goal might be a new job, a concert as the lead performer, the opening of a new business, or the ability to run a marathon. The activities are carefully devised solutions, and each solution provides a strategic step forward.

Often the activity list is long and varied. For instance, a coach sometimes asks clients to read books on successful entrepreneurs, rough out a new business plan, or take the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, a type of personality test. At other times, clients are expected to attend lectures or meetings for special interest groups.

Coaches anticipate that as clients begin working on their activities, they will experience changes. They know that most individuals begin to relax as they become accustomed to new environments. Meeting new people and finding common ground often soothes their anxieties.

The action plan needs occasional revision. Unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointments. Clients sometimes stop to rethink their goals when they find their dream jobs aren’t very interesting - or when a creative career seems too competitive. In most cases, these concerns should have been revealed in earlier discussions, but occasionally, they can't be anticipated.

Important Skills for a Life Coach

Good communication skills lay the groundwork for becoming a life coach. As clients struggle to express desires that they probably never voiced before, coaches must help them clarify their thoughts. Often coaches resort to different ways of communicating, asking clients to keep journals. In cases where clients are more visual or artistic, coaches find that creating dream boards – collages that clients make with pictures cut from magazines – are better storytellers.

Empathy is another skill coaches must possess because they occasionally help clients cope with difficult situations. For example, grief and frustration are common emotions for clients who have lost their jobs or who feel unable to change their lives. Coaches must stay detached, but also they need to empathize and redirect clients' emotions into solutions, solutions that empower their clients.

Coaches must be committed to their clients, understanding that clients' successes are also their successes. At the same time, they must be entirely nonjudgmental and open to their clients' various perspectives. It's imperative that coaches restrain from imposing their own issues, opinions, and personal agendas on their clients, and that they have a high degree of integrity. These skills contribute to a coach's ability to remain objective, increasing the likelihood of their clients reaching their desired goals.

Coaches must keep the confidence of their clients. In fact, the personal nature of the coaching process requires confidentiality. The whole point of working with a coach is to have a safe space where clients can express thoughts, fears, and ideas without a concern for competition or betrayal.

Many Kinds of Life Coaches

There are many different types of life coaches. Some specialize in creativity, others in grief-counseling. There are coaches focused on parenting, weight loss, retirement, spirituality, health and wellness, and business, among others. There are even coaches for attorneys. Most coaches work in several different areas that are related to their education and life experiences.

Life coaches usually get certificates offered by a number of institutions. Various courses and programs are offered teaching the skills coaches need to start a practice. However it's recommended that as they begin their careers, they hire their own mentoring life coaches as advisers.

Starting a life coaching practice can be slow at first since clients are typically referred through word of mouth or gathered through websites. Often new coaches sign on with practitioners who have larger firms where they can find the mentorship they need and quickly gain experience.

Career change is one of the most popular coaching disciplines. Often these coaches come from the human resource industry and are experienced at helping clients evaluate themselves, repurpose their experiences, and repackage themselves to greater advantage. Clients include people who want to move into new career paths, or those who have lost their jobs and need to re-energize their perspectives. Coaches also help working people with professional development, such as leadership skills, effective communications, executive decision-making skills, time-management issues, and transitions to new positions.

Some business coaches focus on business growth and marketing development, consulting with entrepreneurs and small businesses who need help considering the many aspects of their industries. They provide professional consulting on internet marketing, venture capital opportunities, and global competition issues, as well as high-level executive training.

Personal growth currently is a “hot” specialty of life coaching. Personal growth coaches help individuals create life-affirming changes. Clients often describe themselves as being stuck, or unable to move forward. Coaches direct them in finding their passions – areas of greatest motivation and satisfaction – resulting in increased energy and enthusiasm for life.

Often personal growth projects center on the physical health of clients. Coaches help individuals regain balance and confidence after a health crisis. Individuals with weight loss issues need partners to help them stay motivated and to resolve problems with self-image. Other clients are looking for help with stress, needing alternative practices such as meditation support or spiritual coaching.

Life Coaches are Partners in Success

Life coaches are invaluable assets, assisting individuals as they encounter various challenges of life. As partners, their insight and expert advice gives clients the perspective and skills they need to successfully direct their own futures.

If you desire to help individuals with planning life changes, business and career decisions, relationship issues, and personal growth concerns, consider life coaching.

Life coaches practice in most states with certificates although there are no state licensing requirements. Contact schools for more information on life coaching certificates before entering the field of life coaching.

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