What exactly is coaching and how can it help you?

How to choose the righ coach for you
I'm Emma!

Creative success coach, Photographer, rescue dog mom, book worm, INFJ, Enneagram 3, doing my best to be mindful, kind & help people be their most authentic, purposeful selves.


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You’ll be familiar with the concept of sports coaching; most athletes have at least one coach in their performance enhancing arsenal. And, you’ll likely be au fait with how a business coach might be a great asset for an entrepreneur, but what’s the deal with life coaching? 

In the spirit of integrity and transparency, I have mixed feelings about the term ‘life coach’. In a rapidly expanding industry (the life coaching industry is worth an estimated $2 billion globally), it seems like everyone with a credit card and a Udemy account can call themselves a life coach, making choosing the right coach to work with somewhat challenging and using the term to define oneself even more tricky.

With this in mind, in this article, I’ll elaborate on what coaching is, what it isn’t, how you could potentially benefit from being coached and some pointers on selecting the right coach for you.

What is coaching?

Unlike mentoring which involves providing advice or solutions, or therapy which centers around talking about past problems (often ad infinitum in my opinion), coaching is a client-led, collaborative and goal oriented process focussed on getting a person from where they are in life (or business) to where they want to be. 

So, in essence, coaching is a journey of personal growth. In order to achieve a goal, whether that’s understanding why a particular pattern keeps repeating in your life or deciding to make and then embarking on a career change, you’ve got to do some internal work which isn’t so easy on your own (if it was, you’d have done it already). A coach’s job is to support you by creating a safe and non-judgemental space where you can explore your thoughts, emotions and beliefs in order to gain the self awareness and insights you need to move forwards in life.

Through a combination of active listening, powerful questioning, situation specific coaching tools and thoughtful feedback, coaches help individuals tap into their inner resources, personal strengths and confidently navigate challenges by identifying obstacles and developing strategies to overcome them. 

From my experience of both coaching clients and being coached myself, obstacles to success (whatever that term means to you) often take the form of negative thought patterns and beliefs which a skilled coach will help you explore and move through.

The benefits of being coached:

Clarity on what you want

Knowing which direction to take in life, especially if there are a multitude of options or you’re reeling from a big life change, can be very challenging. A skilled coach will help you objectively take stock of where you are, help you weigh your options and support you as you clear your mental clutter so you can decide exactly what you want or where it is you want to go.

Goal setting

Making any sort of change begins with knowing what you want, which often a client who’s seeking the help of a coach doesn’t. Goal setting is an important part of the coaching process as is creating a strategy to make your goals a reality. I can attest to the massive motivation I have to take action, even when I don’t feel like it, when I know I have a coach who is both supporting me in the achievement of my goals as well as holding me accountable.

Self awareness

Personal growth begins with self awareness. When you understand the beliefs that drive your behaviors (good and, well, not so good), your core values, unique strengths and areas you’d like to improve upon, you can effect change. By reflecting back what you’re saying and more often than not, not saying, a coach will help you understand yourself far better. The better you understand why you do (or don’t do things), the easier it is to make conscious choices in life, play to your strengths and work through any limiting beliefs that might be keeping you stuck.

Action taking & accountability

Consistent action is the key to making progress. A coach will help you define exactly what action to take and hold you accountable to taking said action. Often you’ll know exactly what you need to do to get results, but you don’t do it because it’s hard, or you’ve got some procrastination going on. When you add in the fact that you’re paying for this level of accountability, believe me, you’ll get stuff done.

Skill development

Coaching can shed light on areas of your life that could do with some redesigning. This might include improving your interpersonal communication skills, managing your time more effectively and boosting your confidence when it comes to decision making as well as learning how to manage anxiety and stress levels (two skill sets I’m passionate about helping my clients with).

Comfort zone expansion

Having the support of a skilled coach along with their objective feedback and encouragement means you’ll feel far more confident when it comes to taking action or making changes that push you out of your comfort zone. Being able to reframe challenges as opportunities for growth rather than being defeated when you hit a setback is far easier when you have the support of a coach.

Work life balance

Boundaries between work life and home priorities can often get blurred, especially if you’re a people pleaser. Coaching can help you get clear on your priorities, learn how to set healthy boundaries and create new strategies to manage challenging personal situations. My first experience of working with a coach was during an episode of burnout and she helped me totally redesign my life and business for the better. 

How to choose the right coach for you

With so many coaches out there, choosing someone to work with can be overwhelming, especially as coaching can require a sizeable financial investment. Here are a few things to look out for:

Does the coach have any qualifications? 

I half joked about anyone with a Udemy account being able to coach, but sadly there are many people in the coaching space quite literally freestyling. Watching through a couple of hours of online training videos and calling yourself a life coach is not the same as being properly trained in person, having your coaching skills evaluated and having to apply for a certification. In addition to my Heart Math certification, I’m coming to the end of a Martha Beck Life Coaching course which involved several hundred hours of training, coaching and assessment. 

Does the coach have expertise in the area you’re needing support?

If, for example, you’re looking to scale your business, a business coach with relevant experience will be essential. Likewise if you’re looking for help with C-PTSD, the said same business coach will not be the right fit. Take the time to explore the website and online presences of potential coaches. I’m very active on Instagram and I have a couple of free masterclasses that allow potential clients to get to know me before they invest in 1:1 coaching. Most coaches will also offer exploratory calls often called discovery calls to potential clients before any money is exchanged. You can book one with me here.

Does the coach have client testimonials (that are real) or references that you can access?

A skilled coach will have happy clients whose results you can see on their website and/or previous clients you can contact for references. “Money well spent” or “I’d highly recommend Emma” is not enough. You should be able to see the kind of results a coach has helped their clients achieve. Past client results will give you a good idea of how a coach has helped someone transform and what’s possible for you.

Here’s a testimonial from one of my clients, Sarah:

“Emma guided me to use my time more effectively. To work smart, not hard. She gave practical input as to how I can better manage my workload. She gave valuable input into how my counseling practice can grow and generate more income without putting more time in. My executive functioning has improved immensely and along with it, my planning and organizing skills. As a result of these improvements my anxiety is less. Thanks to Emma’s guidance I now make self-care a priority and I feel more energized and motivated.”

Do you get along with your coach?

Your coach doesn’t have to be someone you’d choose as a new best friend or someone you’d see socially, however it’s important that you have a rapport with them. Do your values and worldview align? Is there mutual respect and are there clearly defined boundaries within the coaching relationship? You’ll likely have a relationship with your coach that lasts a few months if not longer, so it’s vital that you feel comfortable in their company.

If you have more questions about the process of being coached, please check out my Coaching FAQs article here.

Unlocking your potential: coaching is the key to powerful change

If life is a quest, you can think of a coach as a wise guide who accompanies you on the journey and helps you get there faster with fewer detours. Within six months of working with my first business coach in 2016, I’d tripled my income, halved my client base and condensed my working week from an 80 hour rip roarer to a manageable 50 hour endeavour. Could I have done this on my own? Sure, eventually……. 

Whether you’re looking to start or grow a business, improve your relationships, change careers, understand yourself better, make more money or simply enjoy life more, the right coach will support and accompany you on the journey. Find out more about working with me here.

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I'm a coach, creative, mentor & photographer with over 18 years of experience as a successful entrepreneur.

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