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So, what is life coaching?

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

I often get asked ‘So, what is life coaching?’ and over time I’ve found there’s no quick answer to that question. When I was training, I expected to learn a concise answer to that whereby I’d be able to summarise in 20 or so words exactly what personal (life) coaching is. I quickly came to realise that that wasn’t going to be the case. So for me, I’ve had to summarise it in my own way.

Coaching creates a safe, private environment for the client, where they sit 100% at the heart of the relationship to use the time exactly as they choose. The relationship is built on trust where no judgement exists and where the client has the precious time and space to talk freely, to think openly, to explore their thoughts and to challenge their beliefs.

The relationship between coach and client is a unique. And, for those who haven’t experienced coaching, there can sometimes be hesitation as to the purpose or its value. The perception being that ‘ can’t be that simple!’. But we’ve all heard the term ‘KISS’ (keep it simple stupid). Simplicity is often the best solution to many a problem and when you go back to basics, it is often then that we kick ourselves for trying to over complicate the solution.

The art of being, of dedicated attention and someone really listening is simple but it is rare (and becoming more so) in each of our daily lives. How often do you get to speak openly and freely with someone who is actively listening to what you’re saying - listening for subtle cues and words that may be more telling the nature of the content you are discussing? How often do you get to focus on yourself without distraction or feeling as though you should be doing something else? How often do you get to say anything you wish without one ounce of judgement?

"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." Ernest Hemingway

I’ve not met a single person who has experienced coaching, whether that be personal/life or in a professional context, who has not gained significant insights that they cite they would not have achieved without coaching. Or it would have taken them much longer by themselves.

There can be some confusion that coaching and counselling are the same thing. But there are distinct differences and, as a coach, my role is not to make decisions, to give advice or to dictate what will be discussed. Instead, a successful coach will hold the thinking space with care, propose questions (occasionally, challenging), and to open the clients mind to possibilities they may not have considered.

It can be here that I get questioned that if a coach doesn’t provide advice, guidance or answers, what does the client get out of it. What they get will be dependant on the reason they arrived at coaching in the first place (based on their problem, issue or goal). However, I do often hear that clients go to a coach for one reason and then unexpectedly uncover a wide range of other insights about themselves. I believe that we all have the resources and the power to come to our own conclusions, solutions and actions and that a coach simply provides the foundations for doing so. Therein lies the magic!

I admit that is not a short answer to the question ‘So, what is coaching?’, but hopefully provides a bit of clarity and inspiration for you. If you do want to know more, or seek further clarity on personal or life coaching, please do get in touch by emailing me


Gemma Brown is a certified coach who works with successful women, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page.

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