What it Takes to Become an Exceptional Life Coach: Part 2

Ara Parasheghian

Make your clients see what they can be rather than what they are.


Gaining a Deeper Understanding of Your Client

Within the first article on How to Become an Exceptional Life Coach we discussed attending strategies, how to listen and give feedback, and how to ask better coaching questions.

Within this second article we will continue our discussion by exploring what client’s want, the barriers to client change, the purpose of clarifying questions, and the life coaching assumptions that all coaches need to make.

Each of these topics are extremely important for coaching and can help the life coach gain an even deeper understanding of their client’s needs, motivations, intentions, as-well-as the problems they are trying to work through.


What do Life Coaching Client’s Really Want?

People typically hire life coaches for various reasons. Possibly they are struggling to achieve a goal, maybe they are lacking in purpose or direction, or simply unable to overcome a fear or roadblock that is keeping them stuck. They may also need a coach for relationship guidance, for developing a new skill, and a plethora of other reasons that can help them move forward in a better way.

There are certainly a great many possibilities here. You just never really know what your coaching client really wants or needs until you take the time to peel back the layers and get to the heart of the real issues they are trying to work through.

Having said that, people do however tend to want the same core fundamental things. These things are just part of the human experience, and naturally make living life more rewarding and fulfilling.

Getting a grasp of these core wants will help you to better understanding your life coaching clients. As a result, you will gather the necessary insights you need to direct your coaching sessions in more optimal ways.

These core wants or desires can be divided into two categories that include tangible and intangible things. First, let’s take a look at the tangible wants that most of us pursue in life:

Whether your client realizes it or not, they are often ruled by these desires. Every decision they make is made with a purpose to draw them closer to one or more of these desired experiences. Understanding this can help you to direct your client’s behavior in more optimal ways.

There are of course another set of wants or desires that have an intangible nature. These things include:

  • A desire for inner peace and love.
  • A desire for joy, happiness and pleasure.
  • A desire for personal understanding and self-awareness.
  • A desire for spiritual growth and development.
  • A desire for comfort, balance and self-confidence.
  • A desire for a sense of freedom and the space to be themselves.
  • A desire for making progress.
  • A desire for living an inspired life.

These intangible factors are essentially at the core of what people really want. All those tangible things mentioned above are great, however they are only a means-to-an-end. For instance, a desire for a fulfilling lifestyle translates into the experience of joy, happiness, love, inner peace and pleasure. In other words, people want certain things not because they actually want those things, but rather because of how those things make them feel.

A person who is after success doesn’t seek out to be a high achieve just for the sake of attaining their goals and objectives. They seek out success because of the way it makes them feel. If it didn’t make them feel a certain way, then they wouldn’t pursue it in the first place.

The key takeaway from all this is to guide your client toward their intangible desires. Help them to understand that what they truly desire doesn’t need to come from all the things that society has conditioned them to want, but rather can come from little things that help them to fulfil their intangible desires.

What Life Coaching Client's Want


The Roadblocks to the Fulfilment of One’s Desires

It’s important to note, that a great many people don’t quite live a life where they fulfil many of their own desires. This is essentially the reason why the life coaching industry exists today. If everyone was fully happy and fulfilled, then there would be no need for a life coach.

The reality is that a great many people aren’t happy, aren’t fulfilled, and just aren’t satisfied with their life. For some, that isn’t a problem. They’ll find a way to work their way through it. However, for others it can be quite a challenge and can lead to a life riddled with struggle and disappointment.

Many people struggle to make changes because of four major reasons.

First, they seek external happiness. They believe that happiness is found by pursuing their tangible desires, when in fact it is first and foremost found within. Their intangible desires can of course bring about the experience of happiness, but that sort of happiness is fragile. The moment that thing they have acquired is taken away, their happiness is also stolen from them.

The second roadblock comes in the form of the six human needs. Or more specifically, a lack of fulfilment of these needs. I have already written a comprehensive article about these six human needs. Have a read of this article to get a sense of what role they play in our our lives.

The third roadblock comes into the picture when we operate on old and outdated assumptions. We assume certain things about ourselves, about others, and about our lives that generates errors in thinking that prevent us from seeing things in optimal ways. These assumptions lead to unhelpful thinking habits that often keep people from their intangible desires.

The final roadblock stems from a lack of a stimulating environment. An environment that doesn’t support our growth and development holds us back, and prevents us from realizing our full potential. Working with your client to make changes to this environment, or developing an action plan to move them out of that environment, is often a great place to start.


The Barriers that Prevent Client Change

Even though a great many people hire a life coach on their own volition, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are willing, ready and able to make the necessary changes that would help them improve their life. In fact, a great many people resist change.

Life coaching clients typically resist change due to a number of key reasons. Understanding these reasons can help you breakdown these barriers. As a result, this can help your client to begin making changes that will allow them to move forward in more optimal ways.

Here is a list of reasons why your life coaching client may resist change:

  • They lack the necessary knowledge to make the change.
  • They have an aversion to disclosing critical information that could help them make positive changes.
  • They resist the life coaching approach or simply have a lack of faith in their coach.
  • They are highly susceptible to peer pressure, and fear negative judgment and criticism.
  • They misinterpret the questions that you ask them and succumb to their own assumptions, limiting beliefs, and unhelpful thinking styles.
  • They are reluctant to admit past failures, and subsequently struggle to let go of their past, which of course prevents them from moving forward in the present.
  • They draw into silence because they fear that if they open up that their life coach will judge or think less of them.
  • They deny responsibility for their problems and may even feel threatened when asked questions that challenge their view of the world.

These are all significant barriers to change. So much so, that if you don’t take the time to breakdown these barriers, your life coaching sessions will become fruitless and provide no value for your client.

There are however certain things you can do that will help breakdown these barriers progressively over time. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make your client feel comfortable and supported within an open but secure environment that gives them the freedom to be themselves.
  • Provide a great deal of encouragement and emotional support.
  • Show your client that you are on their side and that you are willing to support them along their journey.
  • Stimulate your client’s curiosity by asking thought provoking questions that make them second guess their own beliefs and assumptions.
  • Provide your client with your insights, fresh perspectives and ideas that challenge them to see their circumstances in more optimal ways.
  • Provide your client with resources, techniques, books and tools that can help them gain the necessary knowledge, skills and clarity they need to move forward in a better way.
  • Develop very specific action plans to help your client progressively start making practical and positive changes.

In the end, change will come about when you’re client is willing, ready and motivated to make the necessary changes. Your objective as a life coach is to guide them through these changes in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.

Barriers to Life Coaching Client Change


How to Use Clarifying Questions

Life coaching clarifying questions are designed to help you get to the real issue of what your client is trying to work through. They are there to help you unlock psychological roadblocks that may prevent your client from making the necessary changes that could help them move forward in a better way.

These questions are however not questions you ask your client. They are rather questions you ask yourself to help you gain the necessary insights and clarity you need to move the life coaching session forward.

You will typically ask yourself these questions while your client is telling their story. These questions will help you figure out what’s going on behind the scenes — behind the words your client is telling you.

Let’s take a look at some examples of clarifying questions:

Problem or Concern: Is this a problem, or just a concern?

Source or Symptom: Is this the source of the problem or the symptom?

Opening or Sharing: Is this an opening for change, or are they just sharing?

Response or Reaction: Are they responding to the situation or reacting to it?

Creating or Eliminating: Are they creating or eliminating in this instance?

Towards or Away: Are they moving towards or away from this thing they want?

Present or Past: Are they tackling this in the present or from the past?

Acceptance or Resistance: Are they accepting change or resisting it?

Important or Urgent: Is this matter urgent or merely important?

Addressing or Avoiding: Are they addressing the issue or avoiding it?

Accurate or Interpretive: Are they being accurate, or are they interpreting this situation?

Open or Resistant: Do they sound open or resistant about this issue?

Want or Need: Is this something they want, or rather something they need?

External or Internal: Is this coming from them, or from an external reference point?

Opportunity or Possibility: Is this a real opportunity or just a possibility?

As you can probably tell, these clarifying questions really challenge you to think deeply at various levels about what your client is telling you. The insights you then gather from these questions will help you to then ask your coaching client more involving questions that provide even deeper insights and understandings into their core motivations and behavior.

It of course takes practice to get into the habit of asking these questions on a regular basis. But with time you will improve, and before you know it, asking these questions will become as natural as talking. 🙂

Life Coaching Clarifying Questions


Life Coaching Assumptions and Frameworks

Within this final section I want to briefly discuss life coaching assumptions and the various frameworks you can use to get yourself into the right frame-of-mind for coaching your clients.

As a life coach you want to encourage your client not to make any assumptions that could lead them astray. This is of course sagely advice, however this advice doesn’t apply to you in all instances.

As a life coach it’s actually helpful for you to make certain assumptions about your client in order to get the very best out of them in every situation. These life coaching assumptions can help you expand possibilities, develop awareness and a deeper understanding of how to better work with your client. Moreover, they can help you identify hidden solutions while also expanding opportunities for change and progress.

Life coaching assumptions can indeed be quite a powerful tool that helps you stay in the right frame-of-mind throughout a coaching session. Here are some examples:

When my client is fully understood, they move forward quickly.

People resist what they cannot afford to be true.

Everyone has a vision, they just don’t know it yet.

Environments can be crafted to evolve people.

An embarrassing weakness is often a strength.

Most people don’t know what they truly want.

Language expands and accelerates awareness.

Problems disappear with strong foundations.

My client is always advising me where to go next.

There is always a simpler way that is easier.

Personal standards set the tone for a client’s life.

The perfect goal is naturally self-motivating.

Fear is best understood, not overcome.

Expressing one’s values brings more life fulfilment.

Experimentation often leads to serendipity.

Every problem has a simple cause.

As you can see, these assumptions are fairly straightforward, however extremely powerful. They are designed to help you get the very best from your client throughout a coaching session. Moreover, they will assist with asking more effective coaching questions that will help guide your client down a more optimal path.

Taking the time to fully assimilate all these assumptions into your thinking patterns will no doubt help you to become a far more effective and exceptional life coach.

Life Coaching Assumptions


Life Coaching Frameworks

Life coaching frameworks are designed to help you promote forward movement. In other words, they are there as a magnet to drive your client forward toward making positive change.

Life coaching frameworks are similar to assumptions, but have more of a focus on solving problems and helping your client move forward. Here are some examples:

  • All the emotions that my client experiences are teachers that can help them to move forward in a better way.
  • Everything my client wants to achieve is dependent upon who they become and the support systems they build along the way.
  • Every problem that my client experiences is solvable. There is indeed an answer hidden that will be found.
  • Every challenge my client faces presents a set of opportunities that can help them move forward in a better way.
  • The risks that my client needs to take to achieve a goal can be nullified with the right process of steps.
  • Every time my client delays taking action they are moving backwards instead of forwards.

As you can see, life coaching frameworks can be quite valuable to help you get into the habit of consistently guiding your client forward along their journey. There are essentially no roadblocks that can’t be overcome, and no problem that can’t be solved. As long as your client understands that forward movement is of paramount importance, then that will help them to generate the momentum they need to achieve their desired goals and objectives.

Keeping these life coaching frameworks in mind throughout your coaching session will help you to make the most of your time with your client. Moreover, they will speed up the coaching process and help your client experience accelerated results. That’s of course a win-win for you and for your coaching client. 🙂


Final Thoughts on How to Become an Exceptional Life Coach

I hope that this two part series of articles has provided you with a better understanding of what it takes to become an exceptional life coach.

Life coaching is somewhat of an art-form. Your client is a blank canvas entering their first life coaching session.

The canvas is blank because you don’t quite know or understand them at a deep enough level. However, the more questions you ask, the more insights you gain, and the canvas quickly evolves and changes.

You might not necessarily be the artist, but you certainly have an influence on the artwork that gets added to this canvas. You influence it through how you come across and through how you interact with your client.

Over several coaching sessions, this canvas changes shape and form as the artist (your client) gathers new perspectives and insights that help them see their life and themselves in a more optimal ways.

In the end, when you say goodbye to your client for the very last time, be proud of what you helped to influence and create. Their life is now better because you were there in their time of need to help guide them along their journey. Their canvas is now vastly different because you took the time to truly care. 🙂


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

How to be an Exceptional Life Coach

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.