What Is Coaching?

What is life coaching?

All world-class athletes—no matter the sport—have one thing in common: they have a coach. If you want to excel, if you want to be world-class, if you want to achieve more than you think you are capable of—you need a coach. And, if you are not getting what you want in life, if your life is gray and dusty, full of frustrations and upsets, stresses and failures—you need a coach.

It’s fairly clear what, say, a baseball coach coaches, but what does a life coach coach?

Let’s give “life coach” some context. Ever since humans became humans, we have had life coaches. We just called them by different names—like mom and dad, elder, shaman or religious leader, philosopher, or anyone wise in the ways of living life. These were the good folks who schooled you in life as you grew into adulthood to become, in turn, coaches to the next generation.

What is life coaching?

A life coach coaches in the ways of living life—how to live it well and to your design.

You might think this is odd, what do you need to know about living your life?

You’d be surprised. To live the brief span of years we’ve been given well, is probably the most difficult task we have before us. Far more difficult than flying jets or writing great plays. It’s made more difficult because our training in living life is pretty haphazard: if you were lucky enough to be born to good parents in a culture that nurtures and embraces you, you might have all you need. If you were not so lucky, navigating life could be difficult.

But in either case—whether well or ineptly schooled in life—if you’d like to live your one life well, if you’d like to achieve more, love more, revel in life more, a coach can help.

How? Let me break coaching down into three areas: Skills, behaviors, and ways of thinking.

Life Coaches Coach:


Do you ever mess up and, when you apologized (I’m sorry you feel that way), you just stepped into it deeper? Or tried to tell someone you didn’t like what they were doing (Oh, it’s alright) and they kept doing it? Or got angry because someone isn’t meeting your expectations (Why does he insist on pissing me off)? What would it be like if you could be straight, clear, and effective in all your dealings with others? There are powerful ways to apologize, to communicate difficult things, and ways to manage expectations. Ways that bring people along with you—instead of pushing them away.

These are just a few examples of life skills—there are many more. Mastering them will make life easier and more stress-free.


Each of us has a suite of behaviors that we use to get us through life. Some behaviors might work well for us—being gracious, for example; some might not—being easily angered; some work well in some situations but get us in trouble in others.

Behaviors are the tools with which we engage life; they are what we use to make life work for us. The more we have and the more effectively we use them the more likely we are to have a richer and more engaged life.

Because we are all limited in some ways, there are behaviors that we don’t have that, if we added them to our repertoire, could come in handy in situations we don’t do well in now. Being assertive, for example, or staying calm when others are losing it, being attentive to details, empathetic, curious, or knowing when to stay quiet and listen.

This second area of coaching is about expanding your range, about developing new behaviors, and developing the ability to choose the appropriate behavior for a given situation.

Ways of thinking

At a very early age, we form a way of looking at ourselves and the world around us. We generally mistake the way we understand the world for reality—for how the world really is—when, in fact, your understanding of the world is an interpretation of reality.  It is easy to see this today when our political and cultural environment is so polarized. People on the left and people on the right are equally convinced of the truth of their points of view.

Mistaking our interpretation of reality for reality happens just as commonly in our day-to-day lives.

How we see the world (the technical term is “structural interpretation”) determines how we act and engage it. It also largely determines the results that we get in life. If we see others as untrustworthy and out to get us, we will behave differently than if we see others as trusting and helpful. Similarly, if we see ourselves as, say, not “loveable”; or “better than others”—we will behave differently than if we see ourselves as “loveable” or “one of the boys/gals.”

Many of my clients are very high-performing professionals whose work ethic is stunning. They work hard and produce extraordinary results. However, they are often not having much fun; they are stressed, they ignore other important parts of their lives, and they are burned out. It doesn’t take much digging to discover that they—at the very core of their beings—don’t believe they are good enough. The only way they know how to fight that feeling is to work all the time. The irony, or the tragedy, is that no amount of work will satiate that story. If they never learn to change their interpretation of themselves, no matter what they accomplish in life, they will never see themselves as good enough.

The third area of coaching then, is to sniff out those structural interpretations that don’t work for you and shift them to interpretations that do.

All together

In truth, we can’t tease these three aspects of coaching out separately; they are each connected to the other.  You can have a doctorate in the techniques (skill) of apologizing, for example, but if you’re unable to be vulnerable (behavior) or you’re walking around with a belief (way of thinking) that you are better than others, you won’t be uttering many effective apologies.

What’s impossible

What is impossible for you? What is something that you could never do? Give a talk to hundreds?  Make cold calls? Double your business? Write a novel? Never get angry again? Truly love another person? The list of possible impossibilities is endless.

Doing the impossible becomes possible when you master the skills, develop the appropriate behaviors, and replace self-sabotaging ways of thinking with more effective and powerful ways.

Case study: A young woman came to me stressed and desperately bored at her job. But, as she saw it, she had no way out—she couldn’t leave her job (she was the sole breadwinner for her family) and there was no other position available to her where she worked. She was stuck. A year later she’d created a new job for herself that was unique in the company, built a team, and asked for and received a 20% raise. Such an outcome had not only been impossible for her to produce when she started coaching, it was utterly inconceivable.

This is the gift of a good coach—clearing out your limiting ways of thinking, developing new and powerful behaviors, and providing the necessary skills to do what you don’t—today—believe yourself capable of.

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What difference would it make to you if you could make that impossible dream happen? Let’s find out—get in touch with me today.