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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What is a Life Coach?

As a home-based business owner and avid network marketer, I am always finding myself at various meet-and-greets throughout Chicagoland. Like a good little schoolgirl, my 30-second elevator speech is well-prepared to roll off my tongue at every introduction. My new acquaintances have a knack for exchanging quizzical looks at the end of my spiel before asking, "yeah, um, so what is a life coach?" Exasperated that my prepared speech is never enough, I began researching the definition of life coach in order to develop a more refined explanation to have at the ready. The following is what I have come up with.

A life coach is a person who partners with you to ensure your success. They act as your personal cheerleader in helping you to set goals and create a plan to achieve them. A life coach aids you in identifying your strengths and opportunities for greater personal and professional development. A life coach also works with you in developing a system of accountability to realize your intended objectives. Unlike a therapist or counselor, a life coach is very forward-thinking. Life coaches bridge the gap between where you are right now and where you want to be in the future. Life coaches have a mission to help ordinary people fulfill extraordinary dreams.

Life coaches come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have backgrounds in psychology or social work. Some are former business professionals. Many life coaches have no formal education or professional experience at all. People become life coaches because they have a very real desire to motivate others to be successful and have a natural gift for doing so. Good coaches use a combination of education and life experience to meet the needs of their clients. Coaches can choose to specialize in business, careers, parenting, dating, relationships, disabilities or general life. Most life coaches have been coaching unofficially for the greater part of their lives and just didn't know it.

The life coaching industry is still relatively new, having only been officially recognized for approximately the past thirty years. Because of this, coaching is still very much an unregulated practice. There are two major certifying boards attempting to change this: the International Association of Coaches (IAC) and the International Coach Federation (ICF). Both organizations have been around for about 15 years and each have rigorous qualification standards and testing that must be achieved prior to certification. There are many coach training schools available that offer training programs geared toward meeting the requirements of these certifying bodies. It is still a widely debated issue as to whether or not professional life coaches should be certified or not. As it currently stands, certification can definitely help to legitimize an aspiring coach but formal education and life experience can still be just as valuable depending on the target customer.

As for the coaching process itself, most coaching is conducted primarily by telephone or even email. Sessions typically last from 30 minutes to an hour. Life coaches practice effective listening skills to mirror client concerns and act as a sounding board for ideas. Life coaches use intuitive questioning skills to lead their clients onto a journey of self-discovery and growth. Most coaching relationships average about 6 months. Fees for coaching can vary greatly from coach to coach and are based heavily on the type of client being served. Most coaches, including myself, do offer a complimentary session to all first time clients.

Life coaching can be a very fulfilling career for the right personalities. If you are already a person who loves to reach out to others, is a great listener and you often find yourself in the center of everyone's problems, then you probably have what it takes to be a coach. And if you are a big dreamer but don't know quite how to turn them into reality, then a life coach is most likely the perfect answer for you.

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