What is life coaching?

By Joanne Mansell

"A life coach is like a personal trainer for all areas of your life". Life coaching is more than a trendy buzzword out of America. Do you need a life coach?

Read on to find out what Life Coaching is, and how to choose the right coach for you.


Kaizen coaching is about "Mind, Body and Life Fitness." As a life coach I use a lot of parallels to fitness as most people understand it Ė especially going to the gym and having a routine of exercises to get you to a goal. Some people progress faster by having a coach to keep them on track and motivated, help them set goals and work out what action to take to create the result.

A gym personal trainer would agree that most people need a push start in the right direction and then some guidance. You may choose to keep up the good habits for life but you wont always have the trainer by your side. Life coaches provide additional support or new strategies if the client gets "stuck" or their progress slows down.

What makes a good life coach?

Definitely one who "walks their talk". How is their business and reputation? Are they healthy, happy and enjoyable to be around? A coach needs a genuine desire to help people and experience in actually helping people Ė we tend to be the person "everyone always came to with problems".

In my own coach I value empathy, intuition and the ability to listen, so I do these things when I coach others. Beyond "meaning well" is the need for technology and ability - a coach needs the backing of tools like NLP, practical life experience and a network of professionals and resources to draw from or refer clients to, including accountants, solicitors and therapists.

What is NLP?

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a technology for change based on how we think and communicate, particularly with ourselves. It is the overlap between language, thought and action.

What makes a good client?

Willingness to change and take action, partnered with a belief they can change. A coach is a catalyst to bring to the outside what is on the inside. This is either something to work towards in the case of dreams, goals and hopes or away from frustrations and inadequacies about a particular situation like a job, relationship or lack of skill or ability. It helps if the client has an open mind to embrace the ideas of life coaching and NLP.

The client must do the work. Using the personal training metaphor, the trainer will go with you to the gym, and help with technique and in developing a program, but they donít lift the weights for you Ė if you want the benefit you need to do the work.

How do I know if I need a life coach?

If you have a goal or ambition you havenít achieved - "that thing I always wanted to do" coaching can help you make it happen by clarifying the goal, working on resources and strategies and removing or reducing blocks, even if you donít consciously know what was stopping you from having it. You can use a coach to design goals which are aligned with your values, rather than external expectations, and to find out "What do you REALLY want?"

Life coaches are an asset during transitions in relationships, jobs/career, and a turning point or cross roads in life. People also come to me with a non-descript feeling that "life just isnt how I wanted/imagined it to be". The main "symptoms" which bring people to me are WANTS for things like more money, more time and more "success" which can be sporting, business/professional, home life and wellbeing.

The irony about coaching is that most people would benefit from coaching but donít know it. A coach can help create habits which support you and would make life easier or more enjoyable. Habits like getting up earlier, having more energy, feeling more in control of your life or streamlining strategies which cause you stress or waste time, for example the inability to make decisions.

How long would I need a coach?

Generally for the length of the goal or transition or to solve/make progress on a problem. I usually "contract" with my clients for 10 sessions. I work to the idea of "planned obsolescence" Ė I love it when my clients donít need me. I hate the idea of dependency and people needing a therapist or any professional for years without resolving things. If there is an ongoing coaching relationship it is a healthy "mentor" relationship where you as a team deal with new challenges and opportunities.

How do I choose a life coach?

The same way as you choose any other professional from a hairdresser to an accountant:

  • You feel comfortable with them. Someone you "click" with, or they feel right.
  • They provide the service you are looking for (some coaches specialise in areas like small business or multi-level marketing)
  • They have experience, credentials and training.
  • They were recommended by a friend or associates.
  • Try them out! Make use of "free" introduction sessions.

Ö and see the section above about "What makes a good coach?"

If you are feeling "not quite right" you may go and see your GP (doctor), who will refer you to a specialist if he/she canít help you as effectively. Similarly, you can start with a life coach - I help people with the "basics" of Mind, Body and Life fitness. Where appropriate I refer clients to a specialist coach. I may help set up a business, but once the client wants to "fine tune" that business I may refer them to an E-myth consultant, accountant or financial planner.

What is YOUR experience?

Iíve been coaching (formally) for 3 or 4 years now. My coaching is based on NLP and life experience. I have been through transitions and obtained the results I wanted and can do so for my clients. Results like completing a degree, coping with stress, getting healthy, loving and valuing yourself, building a business, and creating a relationship with love and passion.

I use "Sportsmind" (NLP for sport) in my two martial arts for gradings and competitions and to accelerate skills acquisition. I coached myself and my partner in a true integration of Mind, Body and Life for the "Body for Life" Challenge Ė we placed top 10 in Australia, and were among 42 Australians to make top 2000 in the World.

I use modelling to generalise skills from top professionals and then teach the skills to clients. My "public speaking" workshop addresses self image and harnesses the power of your vision and mission, instead of focussing on technical points about making eye contact and endless practice.


How do you prefer to work?

However the client is comfortable! I work by phone or in person at their workplace (for corporate clients and teams), the clients home, my home or somewhere "neutral" like a coffee shop. Sessions have a relaxed, conversational "over coffee" feel where I pose questions or make suggestions so that the client will consider new strategies or opportunities and feel that they thought of it. A good coach doesnít telling the client "the answers" Ė instead the coach helps the client find the answers in themselves. The joke about consultants goes that they borrow your watch to tell you the time. I say a coach would point out you are wearing a watch, may remind you of how to read the time, and check you can get it right again without needing the coach to be there next time.

Potential clients ask me "Why does life coaching cost so much?"

Clients ask me "Why is coaching so inexpensive?"

Clients comment that coaching is so inexpensive Ė I keep hearing MasterCard ("priceless") themes about what it might otherwise cost in time or money to get that promotion, improve your relationship, be able to step away from your business, spend time with your family or love your life every day!

People often count time spent face to face, which is only the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface is preparation time, training (years and around $10,000), research, experience with dozens of clients, and life experience of myself and other people. I read biographies to get ideas, inspiration and strategies so my clients donít have to spend the time and make the mistakes to get the big results. The NLP strategies I use are derived from hundreds of client sessions Ė I donít need to have had that much experience to get the same results. The techniques behind my coaching are the same as the big names (like Tony Robbins) use in "Success Coaching" Ė I just donít charge as much as he does!

What is $110 worth? If you miss a session what would you spend that money on, and how would it impact your life? What feelings would you create in yourself from how else you used that money? What is more sustainable and better value Ė a new outfit or a new self image?

If you buy a gym membership and donít go, the money is wasted. If you then pay for a personal trainer the extra money gets you value for both the gym membership and the training. A coach can be a financial investment which reaps rewards on money or action you have already made.

How are you different from other coaches?

Some coaches are attracted to the "lifestyle" for what it gives them - working from home, flexible hours and meeting people in coffee shops and "you just talk to people all day".

My first intention is to help people. I listen, use my intuition, am flexible and creative. I believe in solutions and possibilities. I focus on the outcome for the client. Good coaches do some of these things, excellent coaches do ALL of these things.

You mentioned "walking the talk" Ė tell us more about thatÖ

(No offense to teachers here) I have often heard the expression "those who can, do. Those who canít, teach". Some coaches or teachers have a theoretical perspective but havenít "been there". I have a practical approach because I coach on the areas I know and live. I donít ask anything of my clients that I havenít done myself or would be capable or willing to do myself.

Without the "Kaizen" principle (small continuous improvements) I could never have made it to where I am today in terms of my business, health and relationships.

I can talk about Mind, Body and Life fitness because I have been unfit in all of these areas and turned it around through the techniques I use in coaching. I was a nervous, negative and shy person. I had no idea where I wanted to go, much less how to get there. I have been physically unfit Ė working in a prestigious corporate job and stacking on body fat and stress! I have been in long term relationships that lacked love and passion.

I too have experienced the feeling like MY life was out of my control!

What has been your best coaching moment?

I never "score" them - to me, every success has its greatness, if it is something the client wanted.

What else would you like the readers to know about "Life Coaching" or you?

Most people would benefit from coaching but donít know it. I encourage people to just try it out! For a free half hour coaching session with the author (Joanne Mansell) quote "Work from home" when you call 0416 181 654 or visit www.kaizencoaching.com.au


Imagine right now having a different life, the life you "always wanted" Ė what would it be like? How are you different? What skills do you have? What habits and behaviours do you have (or no longer have)? You can get closer to that life by working with a coach.

About the author:

Joanne Mansell is the head coach for Kaizen Coaching, based in Sydney. Primarily in life and business coaching she promotes "Mind, Body and Life Fitness" through telephone and face to face coaching.


(c) Kaizen Coaching 2000-2014. Trademarks Kaizen Coaching, Building an Extraordinary Business and Sportsmind are used with permission of their respective owners.