At the risk of it getting the best of me, in this post I will try and explain the definition of a life coach. What is the definition of a life coach?
Google is Wrong
If you type the exact phrase “definition of a life coach” you will get approximately 12 million results on Google, and the exact definition of a life coach.
But the thing is, Google is wrong!
Don’t misunderstand me, Google is not wrong in the sense that a coach is indeed someone who helps other people with careers and/or personal challenges. It’s also true that a coach helps its client setting and achieving goals, but Google is definitely wrong in summing up the entire role of a coach to such a narrow field as careers and personal goals. In fact, setting and achieving goals is merely a tool the coach uses rather than its only purpose. So yes – in this one I have to say Google is wrong.
All though the Google definition does not really sum up all the roles and scope of being a life coach, there are some even less detailed definitions out there. The below examples are two definitions that I think are a bit lacking in some way, and do not really capture the spirit of coaching.
The definitions of a life coach by the oxford dictionary states that a coach is:
A person employed to help people attain their goals in life.
In my opinion, this is a very short and incomplete definition. The coach does not just set and achieves goals. A coach also makes the person accountable for their own goals, and brings new purpose and energy to the client, while achieving those goals. In addition, a coach might also not set any goal, if the client does not request that. A coaching session might circle around other matters that the client requests like answering questions that the client has regarding himself. In this case, it’s not necessarily true that the client and the coach would set goals.
The definition of a coach of the Merriam-webster dictionary states that a coach is:
An advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems
In this case, the definition of a coach is summed up to be an advisor. In my opinion, a coach is not an advisor, he is someone that goes through the same process that the client is undergoing and is a complete partner. An advisor can be someone who has a lot of expertise in a certain field, hears your story, and tells you what best solution in his opinion is. A coach understands that the best person to answer the questions that a client has is the client itself, and his role is to find those answers together with the client.
More complete definitions
There are other, more complete definitions to coaching out there as well. As much as the coaching process and the role of the life coach is ambiguous, I think that the below examples describe the coach’s role better, all though they are longer than expected.
Wikipedia describes coaching as:
….training or development in which a person called a coach supports a learner in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. The learner is sometimes called a coachee. Occasionally, coaching may mean an informal relationship between two people, of whom one has more experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the latter learns; but coaching differs from mentoring in focusing on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to general goals or overall development
I think this definition might explain someone who just heard about the term coaching, what its really all about in a nutshell. The difference between an advisor and a coach is evident here. I think that a mentor does a bit more than just put a focus on general goals (as written above), but this is the only definition I found that even puts any emphasis on that difference – which confuses many people (including me) when they first encounter coaching.
The ICF (International coach federation) defines coaching as:
….partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
I think that this is the definition I can relate to the most. The definition talks about the core role of the coach as a guide that helps people find the utilize their strengths, in order to fulfill themselves, and maximize their potential. All other aspects of coaching such as goal setting and encouragements stem from this.
What is the best definition then?
Coaching is an ambiguous profession, and there are endless definitions to it. The ones above are just a tiny portion of what is out there. There are definitions which are short and to the point but miss many aspects of the profession, and there are lengthy definitions which would make you stop reading them in the middle.
I don’t think that there is one all-encompassing definition. More to it, I think that since coaching is such a personal experience, and since each coach takes coaching to a different place, that each person would have a slightly different definition to it.
The way I view coaching is comprised of some of the above definitions as well as other things I believe and act upon. My definition of coaching is the one below.
Coaching is a partnership between two people. One is the coach, and the other is the client. This partnership is, in fact, a creative process that would inspire and provoke the client in order for him to maximize its potential. During this process, the client would set and reach goals and improve his life in a certain field. As a result of this process, the client would feel greater meaning, would have more fulfilling life and would become more positive.
I hope the article has helped you a bit in understanding the definition of coaching. If you feel that you have a better definition, or feel I have left out something, please let me know in comments below.