Life Coaching – Past, Present, and Future

If you have been searching the internet for something, you will usually end up with a life coach site popping up in your results at some point. Life Coaching has evolved over the years and continues to change and grow – but what is life coaching, how do you choose a life coach, and what should you be aware of?

Life Coaching Past:
Life Coaching really emerged, noticeably, about 10 years ago. Most life coaching was advertised as Executive Coaching or Leadership Coaching and they were usually hired by corporations for staff or individual training. With the onset of in-house corporate training teams, the need for Executive Coaches diminished and many sought other areas to continue coaching in. Since then, there are now life coaches that coach in every area of life you can think of and then some. Many life coaches specialize in one or two main life areas but many still coach in multiple life areas. Originally, life coaches were people who had some kind of previous work experience before going into coaching. Most Executive Coaches came out of the corporate business world and as an Executive Coach or Leadership Coach, were able to make great incomes. Many of these past Executive Coaches also have become Client Attraction or Marketing Coaches in today's climate and their services are provided to corporations still but mostly to small or solo businesses or individuals.

Life Coaching Now:
Now life coaching is common, easy to find and is for businesses and individuals and can be called just about anything. Today, there are many life coach training schools but there are huge disparities between the qualities of education students receive from school to school. In fact, there are no required educational standards that a life coach school must follow/provide and there is no regulation of the life coach industry. Anyone can call themselves a Life Coach and open a practice – buyer beware becomes a very serious phrase to remember. There are now a couple of professional organizations, such as the International Coaching Federation, which as a professional membership organization, is working diligently to establish coaching standards, life coach school standards and looking at types of regulations that could benefit the industry and consumers.

There are now between 10,000 and 20,000 life coaches that are providing services to customers. There are an increasing number of people pursuing becoming a life coach. Many people want to help others but many think they can earn a tremendous amount of money while being able to work at home in their pjs, part-time. If only it was that easy. Today's world of having a web based business and all it entails has become very complicated and it isn't as cheap in start-up costs either. Most life coaches are earning much less than $20,000 a year because they don't have enough clients. Many coaches fail because you have to be a person who can structure their own time while working from home. When you work in a business, it provides structure that you work within. At home, there is no structure except what a person creates and it is all too easy to not be structured. Marketing has become a huge part of daily life for life coaches, much more than ever before and many have taken marketing to an incredible level of hard selling. Those 'coaches' providing marketing or small business start-up coaching have created a huge income based industry but it has also gained tremendous competition over the last few years.

Niche Is In:
Niche in life coaching is the current theme – this means that a life coach 'specializes' in one or a few areas only. There are many life coaches though who still would be considered general life coaches and offer a much broader range of coaching services. The market is pushing life coaches to have specific niche's quite hard and explain that the public prefers 'specialists' and are willing to pay more for them. It is rather like the medical profession, you have generalists, generalists with a smaller focus, specialists with a broad focus and specialists with very specific focus topics. So, everyone entering coaching is told to have a niche; it could be life coaching, client attraction, marketing, public relations, Christian, organization, health, financial and many, many more areas that 'coaching' is being offered in.

Buyer Beware:
Throughout my research, I was totally amazed at how few life coaches will post their prices but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they do not post their educational or work experience! I don't know about you, but I'm not really interested in sharing my dreams and goals with someone unless they are qualified and that means having work, life and educational experience in their 'niche' or coaching areas. I've asked many other coaches, and some of them are very well known and successful, and been told that education and experience are not important! So, I guess from that, if someone worked at the local animal shelter and didn't graduate from high school, they are just as well qualified to provide life coaching services as everyone else. NOT in my book. We check out loads of information before we buy a car, before we choose a doctor, and even before we purchase a mattress. Why wouldn't it mean something about what education and work/life experiences a life coach has? So, buyer beware!

Marketing and using psychology to sell whether on the web or in 'real' life, is something every business uses. Unfortunately, the web is unregulated and you cannot check things out and be secure that the information you get is honest and truthful. There is no Consumer Reports or Better Business Bureau for the Internet. The science of selling is intense and is geared at: getting visitors to give e-mail address for a 'free' gift so they have you in the mailing data base; use words and colors to attract you and make you 'trust' them, offer free material to read and low priced items and then you'll receive e-mails about tele-seminars, videos, guest speakers, and high cost products/memberships/mentorships and mastermind groups. Many coaches are genuine but how do you tell the difference without making many painful, expensive and time consuming mistakes. Also read the fine print, many web businesses do not have guarantees or refunds available. Look for coaches who belong to national organizations, who post their credentials (experience and education), and did they graduate from a life coaching or coaching program or school? You can't trust testimonials often, due to a business may have provided services to hundreds but you will only see the few who wrote glowing testimonials, a site that has ratings on it is great but can be doctored, asking to speak to a former client is the best method of checking out a particular coach business, even many former clients is better. I hope there will be some type of review system devised someday, as in your community word gets around quickly about a company, but on the internet you don't have that check and balance system available. So, buyer beware!

Why people should try Life Coaching:
Life Coaching is an awesome way for people to stay motivated, keep their focus, gain self-insights and strive to achieve their goals. Life Coaching deals with the here and now and goes forward from there, it is an action based co-active coaching style that is not like therapy which deals with past life events and more psychological issues. A life coach should have the educational/work/life experiences and tools necessary to meet the needs of their customers and if not, then say so and refer the customer to a life coach that does. I recently tried to get a referral network started at the life coach school I attended, so that I and others would know where to refer a customer if I felt their needs could be better met by another. Only two other coaches felt secure enough to put their strengths out there – no one else!

In today's busy, fast-paced world, it is often filled with stress, little personal support and difficult to achieve your goals or solve problems. Life Coaching is a great means to help a person with achieving their goals, solving problems, getting the support they need so that life is less difficult and overall, improved.

What to look for in a Coach:
Tips for you, as a customer in choosing a life coach include: know ahead of time what you want to achieve with a life coach and be able to answer how a coach can best work with you and you with them. It is also helpful to have an idea on how long you are willing to be in coaching before you expect to achieve your results and how much you can afford; research different life coach websites and read their articles, newsletters and check out their education/work/life experience and training; interview 3 different coaches – include in the interview all your questions on experience, prices, examples of accomplishments related to your goal, how long do they think it would take to achieve your goal, explain how you prefer to work with a coach and ask what their style of coaching is; ask for two references that had goals similar to yours; and most importantly, make sure the life coach you choose is one that you 'connect' with or that 'feels right' to you. Other possible questions can be asking what the life coach feels are their strengths and weaknesses. Also be cautious if you get the impression that the life coach may end up 'telling you what to do' or pressuring you into goals or avenues that you do not want and they seem more the agenda of the coach than yours.

Life Coaching is supposed to be about the customer and what they want to achieve and their style of learning/growing/achieving through the process of reaching their goals. It is not about the life coach. In fact, every life coach's goal should be to put themselves out of business. If coaching were done well, then eventually, fewer people would need it. As the saying goes, 'teach them to fish rather than feeding them fish and they will never go hungry'. Costs for life coaching services can typically run $300-$600 a month and some will go to $300 or more an hour. Some coaches actually earn $18,000 hour. If the life coaches you check-out don't publish their costs, ask.

What is the future of Life Coaching?
Where is Life Coaching going in the future? While the economy and the increasing stress of everyday life is severely hurting the quality of people's lives, life coaching will continue to grow in the number of people it serves as well as the number of life coaches entering the field. The number of people utilizing the web and becoming web based businesses will continue to increase the number of coaches who provide marketing, client attraction and who start business types of services.

One of the newer life coaching waves coming is 'Wellness Coaching' which is similar to health coaching. Of concern to me is that many, who are entering this 'niche', receive only 20 hrs of training. Many life coaches practicing health or wellness coaching have not checked their state's laws on what they can and cannot coach on in this 'niche'. A life coach cannot treat, diagnose, cure, prescribe or provide counseling. As a Holistic Practitioner, Certified Life Coach and Licensed Social Worker, I fear for people receiving life coaching services on health related subjects from life coaches with so little background in health and thus the potential for harm of the customer may occur. This is my concern and opinion which is shared by some and not by others. The pressure for more specific specialization, 'niching', will likely increase as well.

Will social media change the face of coaching? That's unknown at this time. There are many blogs and forums now that people can access for support for their specific needs, meet and get to know other people interested in the same things. The world has gotten smaller and it is much easier to find people to talk to on the web, yet we are more isolated in our 'real' lives than ever before.

I envision the complexities of marketing, which include free give aways, membership groups, increased administrative time (which means less time for coaching), hard selling and heavy marketing will continue to increase, as well. I envision there will be expanded Coaching Schools that provide coaching education that gives core basics for all types of coaching and then gives additional education in specific areas of specialty types of coaching. These will greatly lead to better qualified service providers. I found it amazing, how many coaches actually came out of the computer field from computer programming, IT support, web design and such. I do hope that something can be done to make sure the competency, skill, education, and experience of life coaches becomes more uniform and is not as much a 'shooting in a barrel' experience for customers to find truly skilled and dedicated coaches.

In conclusion, life coaching has gone from corporate America to mainstream. The benefits of life coaching are becoming better known and there are many gifted life coaches available – but you will have to do some weeding first. Life Coaching can improve the quality of your life and even your physical and mental health and thus, it is hoped, it may be covered by health insurance as pro-active services someday. In the mean time, life coaching is affordable and easy to find. If you are in search of life coaching for a very specific area of your life or goal, there is likely a life coach that covers it. But the bottom line is that it is up to the consumer to pick the 'right' life coach for them and if it doesn't work for you, then stop and switch to a life coach that will 'fit' you better. Life coaching has evolved considerably and will continue to do so and in 6 years, we'll write another article updating you on how things have, yet again, changed.

If you have Questions in your life, Tonia Boterf at http://www.thepracticalexpert.com has answers. A multi-tool approach of services and products for you to start getting Answers to your Questions is just a click away. Check out our series of books on caring for aging parents and decrease your stress too. Tonia Boterf is your Practical Expert to finding the tools and answers to get what you need and want out of life.

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