One popular definition of life coaching is that it is a method or practice of helping people to achieve goals. At the time of writing this is the kind of definition which appears in the internet encyclopedia Wilkipedia.

There are aspects of this definition which is helpful – for example, it draws attention to the following features of life coaching:

* Coaching is a forward thinking pragmatic approach as opposed to some forms of counselling which are more concerned with looking back into your past

* Coaching is usually very focused – with most coaches, including myself, you will be encouraged to set targets and a series of actions to help you reach those targets. The actions will be a step by step approach to leading you towards the targets. For example, if you are stressed from overworking you may set a target of reducing the amount of hours you spend on work-related tasks by 20% within 3 months. Your coach will then seek to assist you in helping to learn strategies which will enable you to reach that target in a series of steps.

The focus on goals or targets can however leave something out. We are all human beings with NEEDS – emotional, psychological, spiritual, artistic and other. Indeed, the psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that there may be 7 types of need:

* Physiological needs – such as basic needs for oxygen, water, food, sleep
* Safety and security needs – such as for stability
* Love and belonging needs – such as for relationships
* Esteem needs – e.g. for respect, self confidence, independence, freedom
* The need to know and understand – to learn and gain knowledge
* Aesthetic needs – the need for harmony, balance, beauty
* Self-actualization needs – for achieving one’s potential and finding fulfilment
* Transcendence – the need to connect to something larger than oneself or to help others reach their potential

Useful as focusing on goals is, it is important to recognise that WE AIM FOR GOALS IN ORDER TO SATISFY NEEDS. For instance, in the example given above you might be aiming to reduce your time spent working in order to give you more time to satisfy your love and belonging needs by improving relationships, or in order to help you satisfy your self-actualization needs and achieve fulfilment in an area of personal importance.

Another way of exploring this is to ask:


In other words what is the end result for you that you are hoping achieving your particular goals will bring? That outcome will usually be something related to a personal need expressed in terms of fulfilment or satisfaction. Outcomes you may be hoping for could include one or more of the following:

* Greater job satisfaction
* A more harmonious relationship with less conflict in it
* Feeling better about your self and more confident
* A more healthy and balanced lifestyle

For example, if you are thinking of setting a goal for yourself of running your own business within 2 years, the outcomes you might be hoping this will bring could include:

* Greater independence
* More satisfaction with your job and
* A sense of personal fulfilment.

It will also be important to clarify whether there will be potential negative outcomes from achieving your goal which you will need to weigh up against the positive outcomes. In this instance, you might reflect that achieving the goal of running your own business could produce some negative outcomes, such as:

- Less security and stability
- Pressure on your relationships.

Understanding the outcomes that ultimately you want therefore supports the process of setting goals in a number of ways:

1. By clarifying what benefits you are hoping achieving your goals will bring for you

2. By clarifying potential downsides from achieving the goals

3. By helping you to explore whether the goals you initially set are in fact the best way of creating the outcome that you want.

Where you are having difficulty in motivating yourself to achieve your goals, support from a coach can be invaluable in helping you to refine them, so as to help bring the outcomes you desire and plan how to deal with potential negative outcomes.

Author's Bio: 

David Bonham-Carter, MA, DipSW, CPE is an international life coach and stress consultant with over 15 years experience in the field of personal change management who has been featured on BBC radio giving expert life coaching advice.

Life Coach London, Bristol, UK and Worldwide.

For a Newsletter for people interested in becoming a life coach visit:
Becomng a Life Coach.

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