A life coach gives a motivational speech at a conference

What is a Life Coach?

Life coaches are many things. They are motivators. They are encouragers. They are catalysts for personal change. They are pushers. Life coaches are professionals who have made a career out of helping other people with problems and goals. Life coaches can help people lose weight, help people with relationships, help people in their careers; really, they can help people in any facet of their personal lives.

Life coaching draws on tools in social scientific fields and counseling studies. While life coaching isn’t necessarily a licensed, straight-forward profession, many life coaches do get bachelor’s degrees in fields like psychology, marketing, public relations, or social services. There are life coaching organizations that provide certifications for those wishing to be a life coach, but other than that, there is no standard licensing format to distinguish life coaches as professionals. In other words, anyone can call themselves a life coach. Certifications just help with the credibility and clientele-building.

Life coaching really emerged as a professional field as the self-help movement of the 1980s emerged into popular culture. Public figures like Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey helped spur excitement surrounding personal motivators and personal goal achievement. Thus, people were suddenly able to make a career off of coaching others in their goals. Today, we see specialized life coaches on reality TV shows like The Biggest Loser, and characters in movies like Will Smith’s character in Hitch.

When a client pays to see a life coach, they typically pay for a few sessions that are similar to counseling sessions, except they’re focused on the goals and needs of the individual. The life coach may then send inspirational and motivational e-mails to the client to help them reach their goals. Other more premium-package life coaching might include week-to-week or even day-to-day interactions where the life coach guides the client through the process every step of the way, constantly motivating and pushing the client to achieve their goals.

Life coaches typically work for themselves and create a business surrounding their clientele. However, specialty life coaches, like weight loss coaches or business planning life coaches, may work for organizations like gyms or consulting companies. If you’re thinking about becoming a life coach, keep in mind that it’s not the kind of field that has a straight track to success. Life coaching demands charisma, the ability to motivate and inspire clients, and the ability to successfully build clientele in order to make a profit.