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Life Coaching Defined by Tony Stoltzfus

Apr 16th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Content, Transformational Coaching, [None]

To clarify what life coaching is we first need to define coaching in general. Coaching is the art of helping people grow without telling them what to do. Coaches are change experts who help us take responsibility and act to maximize our own potential.

Coaches aren’t about telling and directing. Instead, the genius of a coach is simply to believe in people. That’s why coaches ‘ask’ instead of ‘tell’—they believe that we can do what we dream, and their faith inspires us to reach higher than we can on our own. Coaches employ superb listening and asking skills to draw the answers out of us, so our buy-in is maximized and we assume full responsibility for our own lives.

Life Coaching is a special coaching niche that focuses on discovering your values and purpose and aligning your life with them. Life coaching is about destiny discovery and alignment. A life coach works toward two things: creating a better future and a better life today.

Coaches in general are change experts. Life coaches are also self-discovery experts. A life coach’s toolkit contains a plethora of assessments and exercises for figuring out who you are. Life coaches use their understanding of personality types, developmental stages, strengths, values discovery and more to help clients identify gaps in their own self-knowledge and fill them. Knowing yourself more fully allows you to move forward with confidence in what you were born to do.

So to be a life coach, you have to study people—how different personalities think, how skills develop, what drives us or makes us passionate, and what makes for a great life. You must also study the ways of God—how he calls people, uses life experience to develop character, and the different ways he speaks to us. The more you know about people and how God interacts with them, the more valuable a self-discovery expert you will be.

Not long ago I had a coaching session where the client’s goal was to become more assertive in the workplace. One of the action steps this manager chose was to ask God for opportunities to practice standing strong in stressful situations.

I had already figured out that she was an “S” on the DiSC™. For that type, harmonious relationships and going along to get along is the modus operandi. “S” types tend to be conflict avoiders who become passive when things get tense. So we talked about her type, how others experience conflict differently than she does, and how to recalibrate her internal “conflict meter” to account for the fact that conflict is more uncomfortable for her than most others. We explored some situations at work where strong personalities would play brinksmanship games with conflict to try to get her to blink first and give in.

Her answer to prayer that week was getting rear-ended by another driver—a high “D,” strong personality at that! Although the accident was clearly his fault, he tried to bully and bluster his was into getting her to pay for the damage. Although she felt very uncomfortable, her new view of herself in conflict enabled her to stand firm and not give in.

I enjoyed celebrating that victory together! Having a coach that encouraged to her understand her own experience of conflict and that of others made the difference for her.

Types of Coaching

Comparing life coaching with other types of coaching can also be helpful in understanding what life coaching is. Performance coaching is used in the workplace to help people get more done, be more efficient or improve productivity. Where life coaching says, “What is your purpose, and how can we align with it?” performance coaching tends to look at the assignment you already have (whatever it is) and say, “How can we do that better?” Performance coaching seeks to make you more effective at what you do; whereas life coaching examines whether those are the things you are made to be doing in the first place.

Executive coaching often focuses on organizational issues, like where your business is going, or your growth, succession or marketing strategy. Business coaches start with the business (and then often get into the leader’s personal life from there). Life coaches start with the personal life and expand into other areas of life where that purpose needs to be translated into action.

So, to review and restate our definition: life coaching helps to discover values and purpose and assists the person being coached to align those values and purpose into action—with a view to create a better future and a better life today.

Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.

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