What does a life coach do?

Life coaching is a huge global industry but there are misconceptions about the question of a coach's exact role. Think of it as reconnecting with lost resources—and no advice giving.

What does a life coach do? The global industry is huge now—and growing all the time—but there are still a stack of misconceptions around what exactly a life coach is.

Think of a life coach as being like a sports coach. They support a team or person to identify a goal—a better tennis ranking, a win over a top side—then develop a plan to make it happen.

Coaching helps people work out which obstacles keep cropping up, find and keep motivation, and hone in on push back against change.

Life coaching is a name that doesn’t totally match what we do because we don’t coach someone on their life. We coach the person, so we’re not telling them, ‘Hey, do this.’

It’s not a life coach’s role to give advice.

They also don’t have to a perfect role model. The best life coaches understand mess because they’ve experienced it, they understand chaos and grief and challenges because they’ve been there, done that.

Life coaches—and that includes business coaches, executive coaches, relationship coaches—aren’t going to tell clients how to replicate anyone else’s success. That’s not life coaching.

Life coaching is about understanding human behaviour. It’s about understanding the patterns that keep people stuck from reconnecting with who they really are at their core.

It’s encouraging people to develop awareness about what is really great about them so they can tap into their strengths.

What does a life coach do? They help someone get back in touch with what they were born with—our innocence and wisdom and creativity and brilliance. As babies, we’re all automatic risk takers, we’re expressive and loud—then we start learning to be something else, to ‘be more like this person.’

We start learning all of these things and we slowly become less of who we are and who we think we need to be to be accepted in the world. We put on all the masks and become the people pleaser, the person who always says yes when we mean no, or we become the caretaker who pretends they have no problems while they solve everyone else’s.

I used to play the joker, the person who had fun all the time and didn’t take things seriously. So when I first asked myself a really important question—who am I at my core?—I didn’t know the answer.

Who am I if I’m not just funny all the time? And that’s the great journey we go on with life coaching.

A coach helps someone to find out who you are without all the protection and all the masks—maybe it’s a person you’ve forgotten.

Coaching is a reconnection with lost resources.  It’s much better than helping someone set goals or telling them, ‘Take the other job, breakup with that person.’

So what are the ways we do that? There’s two simple categories when it comes to what does a life coach do.

The first is to remove any blocks we have to letting love into our life. Again, as kids we naturally accept love then we go through stuff i and we put up walls so we can’t be hurt again.

In coaching we call this a traumatic experience which needs to be healed. Healing is ultimately grieving, and it lets us feel what we need to feel so we can reconnect with our pain.

There’s a price you pay—it hurts—but on the other side of the pain is a rich reward: you get your joy and love and creativity back.

Not everybody needs that part of coaching, but the second part is pretty much what everyone needs.

Coaches focus on what is awesome about someone, put a spotlight on it and help bring it out more. (It's called Strength Based Coaching.)  Maybe you're super organised, super empathetic, great at taking action.

Everyone has things about them which are awesome and in coaching we want to encourage people to shine their light by helping them grow awareness around what their light is. Then they can take even more action towards having meaning and fulfilment in their lives.


One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend

Matt Lavars life coaching
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute