What is life coaching? An insider’s guide

In its simplest form, life coaching is a relationship between two people, the coach and the client. But as a coach, you may also work with a group of people, as in the case of corporate coaching.

What is Life Coaching?

Ask any coach and they will tell you this:

Coaching is a conversation like no other.

In its simplest form, coaching is a relationship between two people, the coach and the client. There may be instances when you, as a coach, may work with a group of people in a corporate setting. For the purposes of simplicity here, we’re going to consider coaching as an exchange of information and a relationship between two people.

A life coach's job—whether they're executive coaches, relationship coaches, business coaches, you name it—is to help their clients overcome fear and self-doubt.

They help clients set meaningful goals so they can create a life on their terms. As a coach, you have a singular most important goal – to assist the client close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.

The key difference here is that a life coach can help the client get from where they are to where they want to be much more rapidly.

You can do this in several ways:

  • Through removing the client from the stories they tell themselves
  • By helping them disassociate with the reasons they 'can’t'
  • By helping them set and look forward to achieving new goals
  • By helping them to create empowering beliefs and attitudes

A coach is open to change and is ready to listen to the client—not just that, but is also genuinely curious and cares about the client's well-being. A coach usually wants to constantly improve and use all the resources available to help the client. A coach is always ready to take risks and stretch outside the comfort zone.

A little life coaching history

Until the late 1980s, there were some people who'd go to see either a psychotherapist or an analyst to help them overcome a specific problem such as giving up smoking or beating depression.

It was soon discovered that a lot of these 'patients' didn’t have a 'condition'—they just felt that their lives were a little off balance. Some therapists started to deal solely with these clients and this branched off into a new industry known as life coaching.

Last year it was estimated there are 100,000 life coaches around the world, with reports in 2018 that the US personal coaching industry alone was worth US$1 billion. The demand for coaches is ever-rising, and taking the industry online since COVID-19 means coaches can now have clients anywhere in the world.

As a coach, your clients seek your help in areas such as goal-setting, getting better results, understanding what they really want, aiming for a more fulfilled, richer life among other things.

But let's address the elephant in the room.

Does coaching really work?

Let me put it this way, if it didn't, there would be no coaches, and the industry would be shrinking instead of growing. Simple logic, yes?

What is Life Coaching?

Is coaching the same as therapy, counselling and mentoring?

Most coaches get asked this a lot: “Isn’t coaching is really like therapy or counselling, or even mentoring?”

The short answer? Nope.

Let me explain why. Patients seeking therapy and/or counselling usually have a problem arising from a specific incident, condition or trauma.

A coaching client usually has no experience of these. Many clients are successful, fulfilled people already and they are now looking to raise the bar, experience even more success and become more effective at what they already do well.

therapist or counsellor usually starts with the client’s past to find the solution to an existing condition. A coach, on the other hand, draws a line in the sand and starts with the present and the future.

Mentoring has similarities to coaching but there is a fundamental difference. A mentor is experienced in a particular area and knows the answers. Think of a mentor as a teacher, a coach as a guide.

What is Life Coaching?

A typical coaching session

There are no 'typical' coaching sessions, because it is up to you and your client to create a positive and conducive atmosphere to growth. That means you help the client to achieve what they need to so that they can move forward, and the two of you can constantly learn and grow.

You can have your coaching session in a number of places, whether it be your client’s house, in an office, cafe or online. Remember your client is letting out information about themselves so make sure they feel that they are in a safe environment.

Within a session, a life coach may take a number of roles in order to better suit their client’s needs. Some of these roles include being the Facilitator who helps the client with their goals in a straightforward way allowing them to make their own decisions, or perhaps the Inspirer who helps the client stay on course.

What is Life Coaching?
What is Life Coaching?


She is the Founder of The Coaching Institute and through our world-class coaching training programs, best-selling books, the #Perspectives podcast, and the Ultimate You Quest movement, she helps people like you live your dream, become your most authentic self, and make a difference through meaningful action.

REMI PEARSONThe Coaching Institute