What Does A Life Coach Do Exactly?

A life coach is a person who works with you one-on-one to help you accomplish your goals.

While the methodology used by each life coach differs, the success of life coaching is in the coach’s training and in using a coaching process.

Life Coaching works in the accomplishment of business, and personal goals as the focus is on optimizing potential and helping one achieve their desired results.

The International Coach Federation defines Life Coaching and other coaching specialties as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaches

  • help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.
  • are trained to listen, to observe, and customize their approach to individual client needs.
  • seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful.
  • provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

At The Shift Life Coach, we use a four-step process when working with a client to accomplish their goals.

It is a useful practice that produces results and keeps life coaching sessions focused. Each step of the process brings the client closer to achieving their goals.

In this article, we will trace the journey of a client named John through the four-step process and demonstrate how he went from frustration to goal accomplishment.

A life coach works with you as a partner to help you clarify goals

When we went to Elementary school, we may have experienced team sports for the first time. In nearly all cases, the team had a coach.

We may have loved them or hated them, but their role was clear; they were an essential part of the team and brought some value to them.

If the coach on the sports team was doing his or her job, they would help each person fulfill their potential, and they would pull each individual together to work as a team to maximize their chances of accomplishing the goal of winning.

With the essential role a coach plays in helping a team member reach their potential, it makes sense that coaching would eventually be adopted, assisting individuals to achieve their personal or professional goals outside of the sports arena.

How did Personal Coaching Get Started?

Thomas J. Leonard (1955 – 2003) was a significant contributor to personal coaching development and bringing the power of coaching into the mainstream.

Leonard established a community of coaches around the world and wanted to bring coaching to the mainstream so that everyone could develop a coaching approach to their own lives.

As your Partner, your Life Coach helps you clarify your goals. Sometimes this can be more challenging than people realize as goals can be conflicting.

As an example, we walk through the coaching process with a client named John.

John is trying to climb the corporate ladder and has a goal to become a Partner at his law firm.

At his firm, he notices that those employees who have promoted to Partner work an average of sixty hours per week.

John believes he will need to work at least sixty hours per week to have a chance to become a Partner.

John also has a goal to be a great husband and father.

He believes that to be a great husband and father; he needs to be home each evening to spend time with his wife and son.

For the last few years, John has been frustrated, and his actions have been inconsistent as he has not known how to accomplish both goals.

He has not been clear on how many hours he should work and how many hours he should spend with his family.

In his first coaching session, John stated that he believes he will not make Partner and that he is not a good husband and father. Can a Life Coach help John?

A personal coach is not a consultant, counselor, mentor. or therapist

There is often confusion on how a personal coach differs from a Therapist or Counselor.

For a detailed discussion of the difference between a professional counselor and a coach, we consulted an article from The American Counseling Association, who interviewed several coaches and professional Counselors on what they felt the differences were between the two specialties.

The following is a summary of some of the responses from the article:

  • Both Coaches and Counsellors are helping professionals.
  • Coaches should refer clients to therapists if significant psychological issues are detected.
  • Coaches almost always focus on goals
    Counselors need to find a diagnosis for insurance purposes
  • Counselors look more at the past, while coaches look more at future goals.
  • Coaching is more of a partnership rather than a doctor-patient relationship.
  • Counseling is about uncovering and recovering, while coaching is about discovering.
  • Counseling focuses on moving people from a state of dysfunction to one of being functional. Coaching provides a solution for functional, yet maybe not highly functional or achieving their full potential.
  • Coaches work with healthy clients who are striving to improve their circumstances; Counselors work with persons needing help and hoping to identify dysfunction or trauma to heal and resolve old pain.
  • Progress is often slow and painful in counseling, but it is typically “rapid and usually enjoyable” in coaching,
  • If you are ill, see a counselor. If you are focused on prevention and maximizing your emotional health, see a coach.”

Should John work with a Life Coach or some other professional?

John is not depressed, not in need of medication, and not in need of someone to tell him what to do.

It would appear John is a good candidate for a Life Coach. John will work with his Life Coach to help clarify his conflicting goals.

A life coach helps you determine your motivation to accomplish your goals.

John believes he has two conflicting goals as he only has so many hours in a day and needs to spend more time in each area.

In this step of the coaching process, the Life Coach works with John to help him understand his true motivation level to accomplish each goal.

Coaching conversations include how John views quality vs. quantity of time, establishing priorities, his beliefs, vision for the future, time management, and communication skills.

A personal coach helps a client stay focused on what matters to them

Working with John, his coach establishes that both of his goals are high value to John and worthy of pursuing. J

ohn understands that the solution may involve hard choices, but he is ready to establish a new path to accomplishing both goals.

A Life Coach helps you Establish an Action Plan to Accomplish your goals

Goals are rarely accomplished without a clear and consistent action plan. These are best written.

In the coaching process, the client, through conversation with their coach, will create action steps that they would like to take towards accomplishing their goals.

A Personal Coach helps you keep your goals S.M.A.R.T

Life Coaches work with their clients to establish goals. When creating a goal, many follow guidelines that have been established using the word SMART.

It is generally accepted that the SMART acronym was first written down in November 1981 in Spokane, Washington.

George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, published a paper titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”.

Doran’s original definition tied in five criteria:
• Specific: target a specific area for improvement.
• Measurable: quantify, or at least suggest, an indicator of progress.
• Assignable: specify who will do it.
• Realistic: state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources.
• Time-related: specify when the result can be achieved.

A life coach helps you evaluate your results in Achieving your goals

One of the benefits of having more frequent Life Coaching sessions is that it can help a client establish a pattern of accountability.

One of the action steps that John wanted to do was to have a conversation with the Senior Partner of the firm to get his feedback on work-life balance.

Part of the success in coaching is based on accountability. When John did not take the action step of having a conversation with the senior partner, it was essential to find out what was behind the procrastination.

It was essential to get beneath the surface of not having time to accomplish the task of finding what was really behind the procrastination.

John concluded that he was afraid to speak to the senior Partner as he might be seen as not dedicated to the firm.

A personal coach helps you modify and adjust your actions to help accomplish your goals

John came up with a new action plan based on communication with himself, his wife, and some new decisions.

With his wife behind him and deciding to spend the necessary hours at work until he made Partner, they made some new decisions about what quality time would mean for them.

John was happy to temporarily sacrifice some personal leisure activities for his higher goals related to his work and family.


The field of Personal Coaching is one of the fastest-growing industries, projected to be at 1.3 billion by 2022. A life coach:

  • helps you clarify goals
  • helps you with your motivation to accomplish your goals
  • enables you to establish an action plan to accomplish your goals
  • enables you to evaluate your results and modify your approach to achieving your goals

People sometimes ask what does a life coach do exactly, and why do I need one when there is so much free information available on the Internet?

The Internet is truly a fantastic creation with an almost unlimited amount of information available on every subject.

The effectiveness of coaching comes from the one on one relationship built between the coach and the client.

While we all face many of the same challenges, we each have our unique thoughts, feelings, and emotions that sometimes work against us in our day-to-day lives.

The power of Life Coaching was demonstrated as we took a journey with John through his coaching process.

It proved an effective approach because a person’s goals will often intersect their business and personal goals, as there is a finite amount of time and energy that people have, and decisions need to be made to focus it.

Alan Aronoff is a Certified Professional Coach. For more information, visit The Shift Life Coach.