What is the definition of a life coach?

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.

Other definitions

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:oxford

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

Wikipedia definition

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.


12 thoughts on “What is the definition of a life coach?

  1. Hi,Ido!
    You made a straight and clear conclusion about what a life coach is. Life coach is more than an advisor going through the same process than a client does with his or hers decisions, goals and problems in life. Great post, great content.

    • ido

      Glad to hear you liked!

  2. Hey Ido, I like your article, very interesting reading. It seems to me that this is like the mentor/protégé relationship. Of course google will not be that detailed.

    • ido

      I understand what your saying regarding Google. I guess there shouldnt be any point to t expect Google to put in a lengthy definition of a coach. I still think it does not do justice to the profession though.

  3. Hi Ido,

    Thank you for taking time to make the job of a coach as clear as this.
    You are perfectly right when you say that there is no perfect definition. Each client is unique and each coach has his methods.

    I am planning to become a coach myself and am thrilled to what I will be able to make my clients achieve.


    • ido

      It’s great to hear that you are planning to become a coach!
      I’m always glad to hear about people who want to help other achieve their dreams.
      If you need any help, you can always come back to the site for more information.

  4. Ido, I applaud anyone who takes an interest in people and helping them be better. Do life coaches require any training or education? Do you replace licensed counselors and therapists? Or do you focus more on things like career and personal issues?

    • ido

      As the coaching profession evolves, it becomes more necessary to have education and license. This is mainly because there are a lot of people out there who decide they are licensed coaches, and mislead people.

      Coaches do not replace therapists!
      Coaches help and investigate a client’s strengths together with the client in order to have him living healthier more meaningful life. This usually circles around personal issues and career issues, but it’s not limited to those areas.

  5. Great explanation of a ‘life coach’. I have coached sports and swimming most of my life. If you want to improve I always believe you need a coach to help you. Great post and explanation, thanks for posting this!

    • ido

      Glad you liked it!

      I agree completely. Coaching is something that people naturally accept in sports, then why not in life?

  6. Peter Mantu

    Hi Ido, you have hit the nail in the head with this post my friend. You really put some interesting points about a life coach than I have ever heard from anyone. Keep up the good work mate.

    • ido

      Happy you found this useful.
      There are a lot of definitions out there, and the most important thing, if you interesting in this subject, is seeing to which one you relate the most, and then see if the coach you are working with also thinks the same as you.

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