An area I have been very interested in, in the past few years is life coaching.
Life coaches arrived in Australia in the 1990s and demand for life coaches has grown exponentially ever since. The International Coach Federation, a US based-group and the world’s leading organisation for life coaches, had only 150 Australasian members in 2000. Today it has more than 1,300. Worldwide it has about 50,000 coaches.
What is a life coach?
A life coach is essentially a person you hire to help you reach your goals in life. Unfortunately in Australia there is no regulation of the industry, no licenses or standards. That is a shame. Some people find hiring a life coach to be an incredibly empowering experience and it changes their life. Other people have found the process to be disastrous, because they haven’t found a properly trained life coach.
The gift you need to have
But if you have a gift for helping others, your own life is happy and you are in a position to give, then I encourage you to think about a career in life coaching. Perhaps you have a background in counselling or social welfare or you have studied psychology at university. Such a background is relevant to life coaching. A good life coach also needs emotional intelligence, is a good communicator (talker and listener) and genuinely cares for people. A life coach is not judgemental but truly empathetic. You must be able to see your clients’ point of view, and understand their feelings.
What a life coach does
A life coach helps you take action to make positive changes in your life. The coach motivates you, helps you identify how to make change and also holds you to account by monitoring your progress. A life coach does not have all the answers. Like a good psychologist, the life coach will ask you the right questions and your answers will ultimately determine your direction. As a life coach, your role is not to give advice or tell people how to live their life, but rather to support them implement their choices. Remember, your clients will not hang around for ever. They are not signing up for life, they are signing up for real and positive change.
What a life coach is not
A life coach is not a psychologist or therapist. Psychologists and therapists tend to focus on the past. They help their patients identify where they went wrong so they don’t repeat the same patterns. That might mean the patient spends a lot of time analysing their childhood and past relationships. But a life coach focuses on today. What can I do right now to improve my life? What can I do today to reach my life goals?
Psychologists and therapists are also more problem focused. People often see them when dealing with a crisis – a death or divorce or major life setback. But life coaches are for moving forward. They are there to help you achieve your dreams. Remember I’m big on dreams. I even wrote a book called Dreamers Never Sleep. I want people to dream about what they want out of life, and then to go out and fulfil those dreams. If you have been reading my books and columns over the years, you already have two of the key ingredients required to be a life coach. You know how important aspiration and motivation is!
Remember a life coach is not a fitness trainer or a business consultant or a best friend. They won’t help you exercise or improve your business. A good life coach sometimes behaves like a best friend, in that they are encouraging, supportive and they believe in you. But this is still a professional relationship. If you do become a life coach, always behave like a professional. It is not good to see your clients on a social basis. Avoid mixing business and pleasure, however much you may grow to like some of your clients.
How to qualify as a life coach
The very first step towards becoming a life coach is to make sure that your own life is in order – your relationships with family and friends, your finances, your home and your health. To be a good life coach, you need to be a good role model. The next step is to thoroughly research what training you should undertake. As I said the industry is not regulated in Australia, but there are a number of organisations offering training to become a life coach. You may already think you have all the skills to do the job, but I would still recommend that you complete some formal training. A good course will cover all facets of life coaching, such as where to meet clients and how to market your services. When it comes to finding a training course, look at their websites and read online reviews for their services carefully. Ideally find a course that is globally recognised and independently audited. You might also want to employ your own life coach to see how they operate. But again do some investigation and make sure you are getting a reputable and effective life coach.
The advantages of becoming a life coach is that you are your own boss and can set your own hours. You are also helping people achieve success and I have found that to be an incredibly rewarding career!