What does your life look like right now and what do you want your life to look like?
Perhaps you’ve been doing some research and now you’ve decided you want some help to start making positive changes. You’re ready to start your journey with a life coach.
However, after hours of searching for recommendations, you might be feeling even more overwhelmed than before. At this stage, you might be asking yourself:
- “How do I choose the best life coach for me?”
- “How do I know what to look for in a life coach?”
- “What can a life coach help me with?”
- “How many life coaching sessions will I need?”
You’ve likely come across life coaches before on social media. Perhaps you’ve seen some glowing testimonials and case studies on Linkedin or seen some value-packed reels on Instagram. These coaches look great, but how do you know if they can really help you in the same way as they’ve helped others?
Let’s explore what to look for in a life coach so you can get the right support in making your ideal life a reality.
“What type of life coach do I need?”
Life coaching is a broad area and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone (if only it were that easy!). In a broad way, a coach is someone you’re going to get help from – but it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll notice there are so many people doing so many different things. Struggling with relationship issues? There’s a coach for that. Not sure where to go next with your business? There’s a coach for that, too. Or perhaps you’ve been trying to lose weight for years without success? You’ve guessed it – there’s a coach for that, too.
I think a better question you can ask yourself is: “What would I like help with and where’s the best place to go for that?”
Pay attention to the specifics of that coach’s experience. How similar is it to your own experience? Have they worked in similar types of businesses, for example, if you’re looking for a business coach? It all depends on your perspective, your needs and your personal goals.
“What problems can a life coach help me overcome?”
Imagine that you’ve been asked to do a well-paid speaking gig. It’s a brilliant opportunity and on a topic you know well, but just minutes after stepping onto the stage, your palms become slippery. Seconds later, you notice your breath becoming shallow and your heart fluttering like a trapped bird hammering against your ribs. You realise that you’re now having a full-blown panic attack in front of the audience.
Several years ago, that person having a panic attack on the stage was me. At the time, I had no excuse but to excuse myself and walk offstage to try and ground myself. I did eventually manage to come back on to do the talk, but for me, that was the point where I realised I needed to find someone to help me overcome this problem.
After working with a public speaking coach, my confidence grew and I found that I could step up all the more until speaking gigs were no longer a source of anxiety. Getting the right coach was the right choice – my other alternative would have been to cut myself off from speaking altogether.
Imagine all the opportunities we miss by avoiding the things we fear, rather than reaching out for help. In this respect, the best life coaches will play the part of your “guide on the side”, rather than simply tell you what to do. Instead, they’ll give you the confidence and capabilities you already have to become the best version of yourself.
Whatever is blocking you today, there’s somebody out there who can provide you with the expertise and support to help you overcome those challenges.
When I went to see Tony Robbins aged 17, one piece of advice that stayed with me was that if you want to learn how to do something, find somebody that is doing it best and learn from them. And if you can only afford 10 minutes with them, that 10 minutes will be worth so much more than a year with someone else who hasn’t got the same high level of skill.
“What qualities should I look for in a life coach?”
Look around and see who’s living the life that you want to live. When I interviewed the brilliant life coach Kyle Mercer for my podcast, he gave the following advice: “The way that I would pick a coach is that I would be looking around and seeing who’s living the life you want to live. Who has the vibration, awareness and experience of life that you want to have? By aligning with them, you get to take on that vibration and expression of it. The better the coach and the more open you are, the more you can take that into yourself.”
This is solid advice. When you next book a call with a coach to find out more about them, notice their energy. Are they open and positive? Do they model the qualities that you want to develop in yourself?
The best coaches will focus on you, not themselves
One thing that sets apart a good coach is that they have all of their attention on their client, not on themselves. Notice their language – are they mainly talking about themselves? Or are they trying to get to the heart of what you need help with and really listening to you? Pay attention to this the next time you are on a discovery call.
As Kyle rightly noted: “To have really life-changing conversations, a coach has to be able to let go of the attention on themselves and put their attention on the other.”
The best coaches can make a clear connection with a person that doesn’t happen solely within oneself. While it’s true that meditation can help, Kyle notes that it can happen 50x faster if you can find someone that holds amazing space for you and can fully support you.
If a coach holds a certain vibrational energy of peace and total acceptance, your nervous systems will naturally want to resonate with each other.
The peace, love and acceptance that they have for themselves can be transferred to you, too.
The best coaches prioritise learning and self-development
Another quality of a great coach is that they value learning and demonstrate a great interest in self-development and personal growth. There are two key things to look out for here:
- They show commitment to their own learning by engaging with life coaches and continually investing in their own development. During a discovery call, you can ask your potential coach about their own attitude and commitment to learning.
- They understand how to support you in a zone of proximal development – that is, what you can achieve independently versus what you can achieve through guidance from a ‘more knowledgeable other’ (Vygotsky, 1978).
Talking to other people about their experiences and their journeys in my podcast is part of my commitment to learning and self-development, something which I’ve been focused on since the age of 16. It’s where I share the conversations and the lessons I’ve been learning from my journey into wellness and transformational growth in a way that benefits me, my interviewees and my listeners, too.
A good coach will challenge you to grow, but not push so hard that you become overwhelmed. The goal here is to get you into this zone of proximal learning so that you are at an optimum point for development. In a conversation with Nicole Szoko, she highlighted that there is a point at which we learn best and are more efficient in our learning.
If we go over and beyond that? We hit burnout.
And if we go too far below it? Well, our level of learning reduces.
We need to find a happy medium and a great coach will know how to get you to that point. You need to feel challenged, but safe.
Kyle Mercer likened being in a zone of proximal development to a tightrope walker, where your coach acts as your safety net. If you are going through emotions or challenges that are difficult to deal with, having a life coach who provides absolute safety and support for you allows you to go deeper into something than if you’re lacking that support. They have the knowledge, skills and ability that can help you realise your potential in a way that you feel safe and supported throughout.
In learning, Jerome Bruner (1961) referred to this support from others as ‘scaffolding’. The coach should guide you when necessary while still giving you the freedom to create understanding for yourself.
“How many life coaching sessions will I need?”
When somebody says to me “I’ve been going to the same therapist for the last 10 years”, I can’t help but wonder why they are still going. There’s a danger of getting addicted to the process and I believe there are two sides to this – either coaching can make you more independent or it can lead to you becoming too dependent. It’s a slippery slope on either side. Either you become too independent to accept help when you need it, or you become so dependent on a coach that you’re unable to work through challenges for yourself.
You need to work with a coach for the right amount of time to achieve a happy medium. This is why, in my own practice, I only work with people in cycles of three months. If somebody comes to me with some work and we achieve it within those three months, then that’s brilliant. And if we can’t?
Then it’s probably time to see somebody else.
The length of time you work with a coach depends on the goals you’re trying to achieve, the time you have available and how long it will take you to achieve your desired results. Just be careful not to get addicted to the process.
You should use coaching as a tool to help you get there, not as a crutch to lean on forever.
A final word on choosing a life coach
I hope this post has made you feel a little more confident going into your next discovery call with a coach. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the best coaches want to know if you’ll be a right fit for working together and won’t take on any work where they feel like they can’t best support you.
If you’ve come to my website wondering whether I’m the right fit for you, please take a look at this page where I talk about how we will work together and what our coaching sessions will look like. And if you’d like to ask me more?
Then I’d be more than happy to have a chat with you – I don’t do sales calls. I genuinely want to find out where you are, what your goals are and whether working together would be right for you.
Ultimately, keep your goals in mind and trust your intuition. If you instinctively feel that a coach is right for you, has the expertise you need in an area you need help with and is truly listening to you, then this is a great sign.
Remember, the relationship you and the right coach can create will bring the benefits back to you tenfold. Take your time, ask the right questions and you can find someone who helps you achieve things in more areas of your life than you might expect.