man running on bridge over a maze man running on bridge over a maze Life coaching aims to help people feel less "stuck," so they can clarify and achieve their goals. (Photo: ledokol.ua / Shutterstock)

Ready for the new you? Consider life coaching

This relatively recent profession now has training schools all over the world.

Every athlete dreams of a great coach. In business and in life, an inspiring coach is very much in demand.

A concept dated to 1986, "life coach" only entered the dictionary in 2012, when 15,800 were already working in the field in North America and 47,500 around the world, according to a report in USA Today. The field now offers accreditation, and even Harvard Business Review recently surveyed 140 leading coaches and assessed how they're helping business owners succeed.

“Professional life and business coaching is one of the leading techniques used today,” says Mia Levitt Frank, director of the Adler School of Coaching in Israel. Life coaching is thriving in Israel, which has an estimated 1,600 certified life coaches in active practice, according to 2011 figures

She says that thousands of people now turn to their coaches "to generate change that impacts the meaningfulness, satisfaction and quality of life." 

So what is life coaching? Let’s start by looking at what life coaching is not. Financial planner Robert Pagliarini wrote about how he incorporates some of the lessons into his own practice, as well as some of the life coaching myths to dispel some misconceptions. 

Possibly the biggest one is that the coach will tell you what you ought to be doing. A good coach won’t give you instructions or steer you in one particular direction without discussing it with you first. “Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client's vision for their future,” Pagliarini writes.

When paid for by a company, life coaching becomes executive coaching, which is a business tool or company perk designed to motivate lackluster performers or to groom excellent employees for future leadership positions. But while executive coaching is exclusively focused on an individual’s professional performance, life coaching takes a broader context. 

Whatever goals you have for your life, be they career or personal, a life coach can help you define and put a plan in place for achieving them.

"Coaching provides effective and challenging support, through which the client creates changes important to him or her." – Mia Levitt Frank, life coach

“Coaching provides effective and challenging support, through which the client creates changes important to him or her,” says Frank, from the Adler School, on her website. Adler has coach learning programs all around the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe and India, and its coaching philosophy is based on the work of a Viennese psychiatrist. But life coaching is also not the same as therapy, the school insists. 

While a life coach may ask you questions about your past or your family history to get a better understanding of what is important to you, they are more focused on the present and future – helping you gain greater fulfillment in your current life, rather than analyzing how you got here to begin with.

“I think of myself as the behavioral equivalent of a personal trainer,” writes life coach Martha Beck in her book “Steering By Starlight.” “A therapist, like a physician, works with unwell people to restore them to health. I work with healthy people to help them achieve maximum ‘fitness’ – that is, well-being and quality of life.”

What’s it like to be a life coach? Many who enter the field are recent college graduates, professionals in the corporate world, or anyone looking for a new career that involves helping people. Life coaches also usually have flexible hours and may work from home, talking to clients by phone or Skype, so it’s an ideal second career for the newly retired, according to Forbes.

If you’re considering enrolling in a coach training program, be sure to select a program that is accredited by the International Coaching Federation, urges Pagliarini. Programs may be online or in person, usually lasting six to 18 months, and offer various levels of certification. You can also choose to specialize in a particular type of coaching, such as health, career or relationships. Who knows? You just might discover that your true calling in life is helping others find theirs.

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