The Personal Life Coach As Modern Day Ally

The Personal Life Coach as Modern-Day Ally

A personal life coach is part of a profession whose name is new but whose role is as old as recorded history. Throughout history, successful people have had the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to ally themselves with friends and confidants, advisors and partners, mentors and guides, peers and supporters of their enterprises, consultants, and, in athletic endeavors, even coaches. The synonyms for those who care for us and are committed to our growth and success are as plentiful as mythology’s hero of a thousand faces.


Since we began to call it "coaching" in the mid-1980s, we now have "coaches," who differ from the previous archetypal helpers in various ways. Yet those differences are precisely the source of the power and effectiveness that is causing more and more people to hire their own chief of staff.

Clients hire coaches for support and comradeship in reaching goals in areas as diverse as business, executive, leadership, career, financial, health and relationships. Many coaches offer specialties such as spiritual coaching, parenting coaching, and individual speech coaching. The coached client sets better goals, takes more action, makes better decisions, and more fully uses his or her natural strengths.

Coaches enhance the traditional functions of friends, mentors, or advisors by adding several effective features:

- A structured relationship with clear goals
- Advanced techniques and procedures designed to effect change
- Motivated clients who know they want something, even if they're not yet sure what it is
- A coach skilled in ferreting out a client's true goals and identifying how the client can most effectively use his or her natural talents to reach them

Sometimes coaches will just help you over that cliff. But only after you've told them you're ready, looked back, and given them the thumbs-up sign.


Coaches presume you are the expert on you. Unlike other practices (consulting, some fields of therapy), a coach does not need to be an expert in the field of your goals in order to coach you on the process of achieving those goals – in fact, a generalist can sometimes help you more than any specialist. That’s because coaches are experts in process -- in the methodology of asking powerful questions that help you to clarify your values, goals, and what blocks you. And coaches are experts in defining, leading you to, and declaring the attainment (or lack thereof) of outcomes. They don't need to be experts in subjects like your psychology or even human psychology, though many are. If expertise matters at all in a given situation, the expertise is yours, the client’s.


Beyond commitment, coaches bring critical attitudes and traits: emotional intelligence, ferocious listening skills, proven psychological techniques, people smarts, and, if you hire right, a sense of humor. Coaches perform assessments of skills and aptitudes, of course, but they also draw out what would give you fulfillment. Most importantly for life and career coaching clients, coaches dig into what clients have always (often since childhood) enjoyed, but too often overlooked. This is just one of the ways we whittle away at who you might reflexively think you are in order to expose the real you.

We know how to help you model the attributes of people you consider successful until that modeling manifest as your new reality. We can show you techniques of mental imagery and construction of effective, positive affirmations. We’re alert to linguistic patterns indicating commitment – or the lack of it. We can spot speech patterns that signal avoidance, resignation, defeatism, and unexamined assumptions and obstructions that impede success.

We also work at converting clients’ unconscious negativity and subtle patterns of defeatist thinking into conscious empowerment. We do this using various methods, including some drawn from consulting and psychology. One is Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), a series of techniques and procedures for coding human behavior in order to assist clients in understanding what they do and how they do it when they do it excellently. Another is cognitive-behavioral therapy. We use framing and metaphors to set up worldviews in speaking to you, and we employ reframing when we see that a worldview (or set of assumptions) expressed by you is restrictive and self-limiting.

We try to apply the best of science and people skills to real caring about how you fare.

• Social Contract. Coaching relies on one of the most powerful forces in the world: the power of the social contract and commitment. For the same reason that public marriage vows tend to keep people together longer than they would in its absence, for the same reason we try harder to keep New Year’s resolutions we have shared with others, coaching is effective because you have made a promise to someone other than yourself – a public or social contract.

• A coach has you as his full-time job. Unlike even a friend, a coach is wholly and formally committed and dedicated to your success, uses rigorous and proven training and techniques to assist you in getting there, and will always (not just most of the time) speak the truth to and challenge you when you could most benefit from it.

• Sometimes we want help but don’t need a therapist: a coach drives a future of high functioning. Unlike a therapist in a strictly counseling format, a coach focuses not on the past but on the future, and supports you not in analyzing dysfunction but in functioning at an even higher level than you already are. For more on this important topic, see our article on "The Difference Coaching and Counseling" at

• A coach leads you to answers that are often inside you. Unlike a consultant, who purports to be a subject-matter expert and creates most of any plan of action, a coach is an expert on, if anything, process and motivation, and simply guides you in the creation of most of your own plan of action. We believe and have seen that people are fundamentally creative and resourceful; our job is to show you how to tap into that creativity and those resources.

We bring to the task the following guiding principles:

• A posture of non-judgmental awareness, or unconditional positive regard, or, more simply, acceptance of you
• Authenticity, and honesty coupled with sensitivity
• Compassion-in-action, and empathy


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