”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Poet Mary Oliver might not be a coach but life coaches often explore such questions with clients. In fact, with today’s uncertainty and level of change, people increasingly need support from life coaching organizations.
With most people stumbling blindly through life, often to wake up to a mid-life crisis decades later, a major shift is occurring such that people are more willing to seek help. Moreover, coaching doesn’t come with the stigma often attached to therapy or counseling.
Keep reading to discover the origins of this major shift, including how life coaching is unique, as well as the role life coaching organizations play. We’ll also detail how digital platforms like Quenza offer a solid foundation to life coaching for clients, coaches and everyone who wants to live a fulfilled life.
Finally, whether you’re a coach or a coachee, you’ll be armed with the information you need to either find guidance for your life or to provide the best coaching services possible.
Understanding Life Coaching
What is life coaching if not a way to explore how we live our lives? That might sound simple, but life coaching goes much deeper.
In his book, Becoming a Professional Coach, pioneer coach and previous therapist Patrick Williams defines life coaching as “a powerful human relationship in which trained coaches assist people to design their future rather than get over their past”.
Coaching in general is founded on decades of Western psychology and philosophy. Many credit the ICF (International Coaching Federation) as being the first to launch in 1992, before a host of life coaching organizations followed. Nevertheless, coaching actually goes as far back as Socrates. In many ways, Jesus Christ and Buddha were also coaches.
As this article on using socratic questioning in coaching describes, powerful, open-ended questions encourage self-reflection along with a problem-solving mindset. Life coaches further combine this with deep listening. This trait is based on the fundamental belief that everyone has the answers to their own problems. Life coaches simply guide them to uncover those answers.
In contrast, therapy and counseling assume the professional knows best. So, those fields refer to interventions, but life coaches help people sort things out themselves in their own minds. In essence, it isn’t about fixing clients but about enabling them to discover new pathways and meanings for themselves.
Another important point is that top coaches use evidence-based techniques to ensure optimal results. In the context of coaching, evidence-based refers to applying relevant and up-to-date research and theories.
As coaching is still a relatively new field, coaches have to borrow from areas such as neuroscience and psychology. Consequently, they can apply “theoretical frameworks and methodological rigor resulting in a flexible, comprehensive and strong model of coaching”.
What Life Coaches Do
As coaches leverage concepts and exercises from the history of Western psychology, including humanist, cognitive, behavioral and positive psychology, a core misconception is that coaching is therapy.
Coaches are not therapists and vice versa, but some practitioners are trained in and provide both services. Therefore, you’ll find some overlap in the exercises between the various fields. You’ll see in the following pictures and their descriptions how exercises are adapted for coaching. These activities all come from Quenza’s pre-made Expansion library that are ready to be used or customized accordingly.
Creating Flow Experiences
One of the main differences between coaching and therapy is that therapy tends to focus on processing the past. On the flip side, life coaching organizations set frameworks and training. That’s how they ensure their coaches work with clients to focus on the future, as well as the present, as in the flow exercise above. Then, coaches work with clients to define what changes are needed to support that future and even create more flow experiences.
Interestingly, many people also assume that coaching is just Positive Psychology repackaged. In fact, depending on their training, coaches can borrow life coaching techniques from any field of psychology. Moreover, it’s important to remember the dangers of toxic positivity. So, a great coach will find the right balance between negative and positive emotions.
The Emotion Meter
Identifying Unhelpful Beliefs About Emotions
When it comes to what life coaches do and their responsibility to clients, a good reference page is the ICF Code of Ethics. In summary, coaches are responsible for creating an agreement, setting boundaries, maintaining confidentiality and ensuring a clear understanding of the value of coaching. Once these foundations are in place, both coach and coachee are in a safe space to explore emotions, as in the above exercises, and more.
Again, depending on the person and their training, there are different types of life coaches. So, some prefer focusing on relationships while others might specialize in empowerment coaching. Alternatively, some life coaches keep a holistic view of anything that touches clients’ lives. Either way, relationships are very likely to come up at some point during the coaching journey as in Quenza’s exercise below.
Gratitude in Romantic Relationships
Furthermore, there are various life coaching organizations across the world. That means that there are many options for both coaches and coachees to find a style that works for them. Either way, the overall aim of life coaching is to enable clients to design the life they want. In the process, they are able to maximize their potential and make their dreams a reality.
The Impact of Life Coaching Organizations
The major life coaching organizations are the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) although there are other smaller, more niche groups dotted around the world.
Today, coaching remains an unregulated industry but many people believe that will change in the future as it keeps growing. Regardless, coaches are keen to belong to a professional group to support their training and uphold their credibility which is where the ICF and EMCC come in. Other examples of similar life coaching organizations that set coaching standards and provide accreditation are detailed in the table below.
Moreover, life coaching organizations usually list their accredited coaches which makes it easier for people who are not sure how to find a life coach. As the digital world keeps opening up, there are now multiple organizations launching and leveraging platforms to help match people with the right coach.
Examples of such platforms where coachees can sign up directly with coaches include Noomii, CoachHub, LingoLive,BetterUp, Satori and many more. Some offer other benefits such as scheduling, goal-tracking and community forums.
Added to the list are platforms that offer backend paperwork support as well as a working area for exercises, check-ins and more.
Quenza is one such platform where coaches can access a plethora of ready-made exercises that can also be easily tailored. As a result, coachees experience a unique journey with continuous support and encouragement throughout.
The aim behind Quenza’s holistic platform is to empower both coaches and clients with the right tools and insights for growth and exploration. One such tool is visualization, which has been proven by neuroscience to engender motivation and self-belief, as in Quenza’s Nine Lives exercise below.
Whilst Quenza is a working platform to enable optimal coaching journeys for both coaches and clients, life coaching organizations are developmental platforms for coaches. They set the standard and offer accreditation along with training, mentoring and supervision.
Other life coaching organizations worth knowing are the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and the Life Purpose Institute. These provide training, resources and a community to support coaches in providing exceptional services.
An overview of the key life coaching organizations that offer accreditation and a benchmark for coaching standards, as well as other benefits, for a membership fee:
|Services||Training Topics||Type of Coach Support|
|ICF||Accreditation as well as access to accredited training, a community and local networking groups||No specific training but a multitude of events on industry topics||Can easily find a mentor and peer coaching group|
|EMCC||Accreditation as well as access to a community and supervisory training program||No specific training but a library of research||Access to journals, books, conferences and online events|
|ICC (International Coaching Community)||Accreditation as well as online courses, webinars, a video library and an academy and community||Executive, business, life and neuroscience coaching||Access to resources, teachers, books, Disc testing and more|
Accreditation and training
|Executive, health & wellness, sports & performance and life coaching||Access to workshops, case studies, books and coaches|
|LPI||An ICF accredited group with certifications and trainings||Spiritual and life coaching||Access to alumni, trainers and a community|
As such, there are a multitude of examples of coaching success stories. These range from reconnecting with spouses to finding the confidence to get promoted or being inspired to let go of the ego, as detailed in these success stories from Forbes’ coaches.
Types of Life Coaches
In terms of what life coaches do, they operate across all themes of life. These include career, health, relationships, spirituality, family and many more. Essentially, any area of your life can be explored with a life coach.
As an aside, executive, business and leadership coaching tend to sit in a separate sub-group. This is mainly because these are usually organized by corporations. An executive coach might still end up exploring life issues if they come up. Generally though, business goals are the starting point.
Although, of course, there are overlaps between coaching in businesses and life coaching. Indeed, before the ICF launched in 1992, any form of coaching was generally found within teams in organizations.
As the 70s and 80s saw the advent of new ways of managing thanks to influential leadership thinkers such as Peter Drucker, leaders became the coach and mentor. America also saw the great recession in the 70s. This meant that there were fewer managers to coach and guide employees so companies started looking externally. This was the start of the major shift we see today.
Consequently, we have all types of life coaches for people to reach out to today. While they will use techniques differently, according to the various life coaching organizations, they all honor the foundation of remaining people-centric. This approach, originally defined by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s, believes that people know what they need.
While originally developed for therapy, all types of coaches use a people-centric focus today. So, they ensure they accept their clients’ feelings and thoughts unconditionally. Without this, they couldn’t set the right conditions for their clients to take charge of their own development and destiny with self-efficacy and empowerment.
Effectively Dealing with Triggers
As part of the people-centric coaching process, exploring triggers and limiting beliefs often comes up. There are of course various ways to work with triggers, but Quenza’s exercise detailed below is a good starting point for raising awareness.
Life Coaching Techniques
How to become a life coach starts with a coaching certification. Through the rigorous training offered, coaches learn and practice the core techniques of asking powerful questions and listening deeply. On top of that, all life coaching organizations teach a range of life coaching techniques from which a coach can develop their own style and approach.
To give you an idea, and as already mentioned, defining goals while using a client-centered approach is the foundation. In addition, coaches will then choose techniques from a range of fields. These include humanistic psychology, neuroscience coaching, mindfulness, including visualization, behavioral, somatic and other psychology types. The overall aim is to connect the body, mind and heart to generate “a-ha” moments that instill long-lasting change. Sometimes, mindfulness is the baseline approach, as in Quenza’s exercise below.
Building open-mindedness in relationships
Another approach you might find is the more integrative or systemic coaching style that incorporates the phase of life clients are in, as well as how they fit into the system, and vice versa. As you can imagine, this approach also depends on the stage of life the coach is in.
As this overview of vertical leadership development further explains, a coach who can see a more elevated view of the world can enable clients to embrace new maps of the world. Through these maps, clients can better explore different perspectives. In the process, they then put new meanings on their experiences and gain fresh awareness, both of which engender change and transformation.
Digital technology has impacted us all in many ways. In terms of coaching, many benefit from finally being able to access support and guidance from the comfort of their homes. In short, life coaching online is flexible and highly accessible. Moreover, many people actually feel safer behind a screen because they are in their own space and clothes. As a result, they don’t have the added pressure of having to put on a mask to meet a coach in their office space.
If you think about it, what is life coaching if not a mechanism for leveraging relationships to enact change? You might then wonder about the success of building rapport online. Naturally, it isn’t for everyone and some people don’t appreciate being in front of a screen for extended periods of time.
Consequently, the industry is adapting. Whereas traditionally, coaching sessions might be as long as 90 minutes, today, they are as short as 30 or even 20 minutes. Moreover, clients have access to short messages and exercises between sessions to make them feel supported throughout the week. This approach further enforces the concept of experiential learning because clients can complete their exercises in situ with immediate feedback.
In light of this, life coaching organizations are also adapting in terms of the digital services they offer. So, certifications, training sessions and communities are all now also accessible online. Many coaches are also combining therapy with coaching approaches, where appropriate, depending on who they are working with and their training and expertise. Overall, the industry is shifting to becoming just as inclusive as the digital world allows us to be.
How to become a life coach starts with exploring the many life coaching organizations to decide which one to join and follow. Then, it’s a matter of reviewing their accredited courses to find the right one.
In terms of finding the right organization or even the right course, like everything, it takes time and patience. Online research is a must. Nevertheless, where possible, future coaches can also reach out to current coaches within life coaching organizations. That’s how they can get inside knowledge on various courses. Moreover, existing tutors will be a good source of knowledge.
All those courses will teach the fundamentals along with tools and frameworks. The real work starts during supervision though. In this phase, future coaches practice and get feedback both from their coachees and their supervisors. That’s how they perfect their approach.
Your Relationship Circles
As you can imagine, empathy and patience are key traits for coaches. Nevertheless, as renowned psychiatrist Irvin Yalom once phrased it in his book, Existential Psychotherapy, “the critical ingredients are hard to describe” (both for therapists and coaches).
Yes, we can define them as “compassion, presence, caring, extending oneself, touching the client at a profound level, or – the most elusive of all – wisdom”. Nevertheless, just like chefs throw in handfuls of ingredients that make all the difference, so, coaches and therapists also throw in various ingredients that allow clients to blossom.
As mentioned, an easy way when considering how to find a life coach is to review the list of accredited coaches on the websites of the major life coaching organizations. Another less official method is to rely on word of mouth. At the end of the day, it’s the relationship that matters the most. So, if you trust the person recommending the coach, there’s a good chance it will work for you.
Another approach is to simply search for life coaching online and to review the websites that come up. As long as coaches have listed their accreditations, you’re usually going to be in good hands. Moreover, the majority of coaches offer a free initial consultation call. This allows people to get a feel for the relationship and approach.
When choosing a life coach, people should review the accreditations and techniques typically used to see if this could fit with their life stage and own style. Some people might then know immediately whether the coach is for them. Others might need to speak to two or three. Whatever happens, it’s worth noting that the relationship and rapport are the most important, regardless of the life coaching organizations they’re associated with.
Life coaching covers all aspects that any of us might face in our lifetimes. These include health and well-being or relationships and finding a life purpose, among others. Within that, coaches operate through a range of styles borrowed from psychology and philosophy fields. Although, the main takeaway is that the journey is completely client led.
The aim of life coaching is to raise awareness to enable people to shift from living a functioning but potentially automated life, to one where they feel fulfilled and actualized. In order to get there, coaches use powerful questions, exercises and experiential moments. Through these, they enable people to choose the change they wish to put in place.
Life coaching organizations play an important role, not just in setting a standard for training and excellence, but also in upholding ethics. Furthermore, they provide coaches with a community and continued learning, so they too can become the best version of themselves.
In this day and age, digital platforms and tools are at the forefront of everything and life coaching is now accessible to all. While a range of platforms and applications exist, Quenza offers an all-encompassing experience. In short, both clients and coaches can collaborate and create a truly unique journey. As a result, clients are both engaged and motivated throughout. At the same time, coaches have a community to lean on for their own inspiration and motivation.
Moreover, as you’ve seen throughout this article, Quenza has a host of expansion options for you to create and deliver the perfect exercises. You’ll be getting those “a-ha” moments with your coachees in no time at all.
Why not see for yourself how Quenza can help your coaching practice or business today by signing up for a free full-access one-month trial for only $1?
- ^ Menendez, D. S & Williams, P. (2015) Becoming a Professional Life Coach - Lessons from the Institute for Life Coach Training. Second Edition. N W Norton & Company. New York and London.
- ^ Neenan, M. (2009). Using Socratic questioning in coaching. Journal of rational-emotive & cognitive-behavior therapy, 27, 249-264.
- ^ Stober, D. R., & Grant, A. M. (Eds.). (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients. Wiley.
- ^ Long, Dr. J. (2022, August 4). Toxic positivity: The dark side of positive vibes. The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale. https://thepsychologygroup.com/toxic-positivity/.
- ^ ICF code of ethics. International Coaching Federation. (2023, March 22). https://coachingfederation.org/ethics/code-of-ethics.
- ^ Panel®, E. (2022, August 24). Council post: 14 coaches share their most notable client success stories. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2022/08/23/14-coaches-share-their-most-notable-client-success-stories/?sh=793c09f61fd6.
- ^ Williams, P., & Davis, D. C. (2007). Therapist as life coach: Transforming your practice. WW Norton & Company.
- ^ Petrie, N. (2015). The how-to of vertical leadership development–Part 2. 30 experts, 3 conditions and 15 approaches. Center for Creative Leadership, 26.
- ^ Yalom, I. D. (1931) Existential Psychotherapy. Yalom Family Trust. USA.