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  • Tom Goldstein

What is coaching?

What is life coaching and why would it be for you?

I like the metaphor of two people climbing two different mountains, each can see something very different about the mountain that the other is climbing. A life coach has been trained to carefully observe the mountain their client is on, through questions and exercises, to help the client take the most effective route at that point in their life. Unfortunately, I think that ‘life coaching’ is a terrible name for what almost always is an amazing process. The first problem seems to be that the term ‘life coaching’ isn’t really understood by most people, and secondly, a lot of people wonder whether they really want to be coached on their life, by someone they don't know yet.

Regarding the first point, life coaching is a detailed process led by a qualified coach. There are a number of skills that a professional and experienced coach will use, including specific questions, the ability to zoom in and out of the topic being discussed, maintaining a focus on the clients topic, helping the client handle difficult emotions that may come up, listening carefully for limiting beliefs, fears and motivations. There may be exercises to elicit values and direction as well as providing the client with an increased ability to see their own situation, behaviours and goals from new perspectives. An experienced coach is able to challenge and support the client in clarifying their goals and achieving their ambitions, in a way that the client themselves, even with support from their family and friends, often cannot. One of the most powerful things to come out of coaching is clarity and focus for the client, as well as a stronger sense of who they are and what is important to them.

To tackle the second point, life coaching is all about helping the client to achieve what it is they want to achieve at that point in their life. There are a number of reasons why someone might want coaching. My ultimate objective is to help my clients lead a fulfilling life with meaning and direction, and without the suffering that can come from a lack of mental wellbeing. However, for many people, there are goals and ambitions that they really would like to achieve, given the motivation and half a chance.

For some, coaching is about getting unstuck, dealing with difficult behaviours, relationship difficulties, challenging emotions, getting themselves out of a rut or finding a sense of direction and fulfilment that is lacking, or has disappeared from their life. Others examples of why someone would choose coaching include getting a promotion at work, change careers, a desire to take a break from work, or change their world. Although many people are quite content with their lives and their direction, almost everyone can benefit from taking a step back, and having a professional coach help them to take stock of their situation and their opportunities or their challenges and worries.

One thing that confuses some people is that coaching is not about the coach giving advice. Of course, sometimes a coach will have their points of view and may share that without any need for it to be accepted. While a good coach has many ways to help their clients, coaching is about helping the client to access their own wisdom. It is about a coaching partnership where the client can tackle the challenges and move forward with the expert support of a coach. Coaching also helps clients to build their own internal and external resources so that they can be more self supporting now and in the future.

In terms of coaching vs counselling, at the far end of the spectrum are those of us who are deeply stuck in a problem situation, or completely stuck in a dysfunctional perspective about their life. In this situation, especially when the situation is deeply negative and having a serious impact on that person’s ability to live a meaningful and fulfilling life, counselling may be a better option that coaching. However, it’s always worth a free consultation with an experienced coach, to determine if coaching will be successful or if a counsellor would be a better option.


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