Life Coaching – Why Bother?

First, some truth from me to you: there was a time when I cringed at the term “life coaching.” Despite my passion for the profession, I tap-danced all around that particular phrase when describing what I feel privileged to do. It was funny, really. Life coaching just felt cliché somehow.

But then one intense day, a very special lady in my life, my elderly mother, unexpectedly ended all that. She got down to the essence of things the way moms do, saying, “Why beat around the bush? You’re a life coach.”

Great big wave of her little hand. Great big emphasis on life while—more truth here—at the end of her own. So, instead of feeling annoyed by her opinion, it was instant goose-bump city for me. Then I surprised myself with a wave of energy that I used to re-frame the work that I love.

So what is life coaching, really?

A few weeks ago I happened onto an insightful article about coaching. The author provided short definitions for different types. But her take on life coaching felt narrow—and flat—to me. She described it as being about personal change, with niches within it like youth, addiction, and divorce.

Of course that’s all good. Just not quite integrative enough in my book. Instead, I see life coaching as a powerful context in which to support the growth and goals of committed clients. It’s a much broader context than just the “personal”, whatever that actually means.

For me, life coaching is an opportunity to develop the whole person who we each are, toward maximum effectiveness and fulfillment. Here’s more of what I mean:

Imagine our lives as a path we’re each walking, one that’s uniquely ours to walk. Imagine how focusing on your individual path—where you’re heading, and why, and howcan generate clarity, courage, and energy. The point is a healthy, overarching sense of mission and meaning. The point may also be to create balance between the personal, the professional, the creative, and the spiritual, with body, mind and spirit “weighing in.”

So I see life coaching as holistic support through which all the different aspects of our lives can come together beautifully. Because then, when our dreams, goals, and lifestyles align with the largest, deepest, wisest parts of us, we’re truly good to go. Then look out, world!

Life coaching as 21st century savvy in action

After all, the 21st century is an extraordinary time to be alive. Our opportunities to create lives that truly express and delight us are only limited by what we can first imagine, then get busy realizing. And that’s great news, right?

On the flip side, so many choices and so much expectation can be paralyzing, or at least intimidating. To achieve our dreams, we must at some point begin to narrow, define, and refine them. And in present time, not based on who we were in some version of the past. Instead, what feels right now? What energizes and inspires us? What do we truly want most in our heart of hearts?

The season comes to get clear on that, to commit, and to jam on nuts-and-bolts action planning. And then to follow through. It’s nitty-gritty time. Though I’ll add for good measure that every bit of all that can be enjoyable and satisfying.

That’s why, in the midst of so much choice, and to get set for all that busy-ness, savvy 21st century folks call on coaches. It’s a lot like athletes honing their game. Imagine a team—or a star player—without a coach. You just know it’s wrong. Right?

But life coaches don’t direct the action

Yep, there’s a big difference between coaching for sports and coaching for life. Because sports coaches usually write the plays, decide who starts when and where, and direct all manner of things.

But effective life coaches aren’t drill sergeants who whip you into shape. They aren’t mentors who advise you based on a path they’ve walked. They aren’t allies like my sweet mother who share opinions that may or may not be relevant.

Instead, I say great life coaches are more like midwives. A great life coach is with you in the work at hand, stimulating, challenging, inspiring, encouraging, and championing you, while you labor over and in due time give birth to whatever wants to be born in and through you.

Because you, my dear,  are ultimately the one with the answers. And great life coaches know this. They believe in the inherent wisdom of their clients. They believe in the uniqueness and beauty of their purposes and paths. Great life coaches stand for all that in you, for the unknown in you. They stand in that place of promise with you while you develop and then tell that story, the story only you can write. The story of you living your chosen life.

What’s more, I say great life coaches support, protect, and celebrate your overall development. So that ultimately you get to contribute to life in the ways that suit you best, and most sustainably, supported by life in return. And I say there isn’t much that’s more beautiful than that.

Long story short, why bother with life coaching? Because. It. Works. Holistically. And why do you deserve it? Because you’re beautiful, and precious, and unique. Unrepeatable. Worthy of everything you’d love to be and contribute.

So, if you know in your heart and mind that all signs point to get going, take the plunge. Snag yourself a coach. Because you, my dear—and I do mean you—deserve the life you’ll be thrilled to live.


Teresa Young
Teresa Young
TERESA YOUNG is a certified professional coach with a central passion: the human journey. She says the ways we connect with life keep evolving as we do. The point is balanced personal, creative, and professional satisfaction that morphs with us throughout our lives. So flexibility matters. Our willingness to allow ourselves to change matters, especially if we want healthy longevity over the long haul. We deserve nothing less. But it's up to us to accept nothing less, working through seasons of confusion, dissatisfaction, exhaustion, or ill health as needed. Best of all, the payoff always begins right away, because the journey really is the destination. Think about it. "If you're on the path, you're at the goal." — Carl Jung

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  1. Great expansion on the description of what a life coach is – I think what you are describing goes beyond the word balance, which is something that only lasts for one moment at a time and whereas the word harmonizing is so much more powerful is describing how we can stretch out that moment of balance into something truly beautiful and longer lasting.
    Love the concept of being a midwife too!

  2. Nicely stated, Teresa. I will only add one point here and it’s that coaching changes us coaches as much as it does our clients. Or at least it has for me. In my coaching practice, I have learned to s l o w down, to listen carefully, and when I’m in the presence of a client, to watch closely for what they might be struggling to say. Coming from the corporate world as I did, the pressure was always to get things done and move on. In coaching, we can actually do our clients a disservice by moving too quickly. As I learned early on, it’s easy to engage a client’s inner critic when one tries too hard to help them achieve answers too quickly. Then they bound off life deer into the safety of the forest. As one of my coach mentors told me years ago, “What’s your hurry?”

  3. Great life coaches are like midwives! Yes! I really appreciate that you come from the perspective that a life coach is not the expert on someone else’s life but actually a guide noticing when the client lights up when they begin talking about what they love, what they are curious about, what they’re learning, noticing, enjoying. What a rich description of what life coaches offer others, Teresa! We share much in common in our commitment to holistic transformations in people’s lives and our own. Thank you for this essay!

  4. Great life coaches are like midwives – fantastic Teresa. Your mother definitely said something that helped sashay you down your path to clarity around life coaching and illuminated and gave me pause as well. You wrote a really honest piece that resonates with me in many ways. Wishing you much success in your practice – you deserve that thrilling experience too!