Every workday I walk past a storefront that offers yoga and exercise classes and “life coaching.” That option makes me chuckle a bit and sticks with me as I walk, and I think of a guy wearing a plain gray t-shirt, seat pants, a ball cap, and a whistle, yelling at me to follow the “life playbook” and get my affairs in order.
What is a life coach, exactly?
After doing some internet research, the precise role of a “life coach” is still not entirely clear to me. It looks like people with that title can offer advice on everything from financial affairs to marital problems to exercise and diet regimens to general decision-making and goal-setting. Lifecoaching.com says: “Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.”
It also appears that the “life coach” field is a largely unregulated one, without any legal requirements as to training, licensing, or capabilities, although there are certain industry certifications that “life coaches” can obtain if they choose to. If you run a Google search on life coach training, you’re likely to get results that tell you about the variety of training programs, on-line courses, or books you can read to become a “life coach” and then lots of results advertising the “life coaches” in your area.
So, as best I can figure it, a “life coach” is someone who a person can talk to in a structured way about what they’ve been doing and where they want to go, and get advice about how to get there. Although lifecoaching.com apparently disagrees, it sounds a lot like what a trusted and knowledgeable mentor, friend, or family member might do. And that seems to beg another question: why would a person pay an unlicensed “life coach” to listen to their problems and offer advice rather than talking to an older, experienced, successful family member or colleague who knows them, cares about them, and won’t charge them a dime? Is it because they want someone who they consider to be objective, even if they might not know a lot about the person, or because they don’t want to share their problems or personal goals with a friend or family member due to embarrassment?
I suppose there could be lots of rationales for why you would seek “life coaching” at a storefront location in your town, but it also seems like another way in which what used to be a significant, potentially enriching and strengthening part of family relationships and/or personal or workplace friendships is being replaced by paid services provided by strangers. Maybe that’s a good thing — or maybe not.