Life Coaches: Are They Bogus or Real?
“You’re nearly fixed… now try my course!”
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave.” Few sentiments are more befitting of modern life. Everything has an app, a coach, or a remedy just waiting to prey on our vulnerability. Life coaches are among those who do the very same. Do we really need them?
Everyone’s got a masterclass, but you are the sole inhabitant of your life experience. Most people lose track of where they’re at sometimes. That’s natural. But we’re also experienced, mature, and intelligent enough to check in with ourselves and work out what we have and don’t have.
The “con” in contentment
You shouldn’t pay someone to tell you what you already know. It’s like being on vacation in Dubai and buying sand from a nice salesperson, then sending them a bouquet out of gratitude.
We need to arm ourselves with knowledge and self-respect – and we need to be careful. Life coaches want you to feel vulnerable. If everyone felt empowered, life coaches would be fresh out of income. But you know what? It’s okay to feel vulnerable sometimes. It’s what we have in common with everyone else on the planet.
Life coaches become largely redundant when you realize one simple fact: no one can tell you more about your life than you already know. Composure and common sense can help you understand what you need more than a two-bit hack in a good suit.
The best skill you can learn is self-analysis.
Being aware of your areas of opportunity can help you target where to invest next for growth, and that will be immensely helpful however you want to develop.
A life coach will simply analyze people who don’t feel comfortable self-analyzing, then recommend a course, and – well, well, well, would you just look who’s running it? Getting an outside perspective on your life is fine. But a life coach is going to “conveniently” find the vulnerabilities that suit a subscription to their additional products.
Feeling like you need to develop is an important step for growth. It means that an alarm has gone off in your head, and you know you need to work on a few aspects of your life.
You’ve already done a portion of the self-analysis you were just about to pay for. For those who need a little more clarity, the Department of Labor offers a great self-assessment tool – completely free of charge.
Team Vippi explains why a life coach might be the last thing you need.
What is a life coach?
Here’s a great discussion about why life coaching is riddled with fraudsters.
Life coaches aim to analyze your shortcomings and suggest improvements. Almost all of them offer skills courses, too. Are they real medical professionals? Hell no. Can they help you? Well, that entirely depends on who you are. But, realistically, no more than you can help yourself.
If you think you need a life coach, chances are that there are simply gaps in your skill set you need to fill. If you sit with yourself awhile and work out what skills you need to learn, you’d be better off skipping the life coach analysis and heading straight for a course in the skill that actually needs work.
- Are you missing your monthly commission targets and at risk of losing your job? Get some sales training.
- Are your coding skills outdated and making you unemployable? Get a refresher course.
- Is your relationship on the rocks? Communicate properly with your partner, or go see a relationship mediator.
There are very few ways to verify whether a life coach actually knows what they’re talking about. Before hiring a life coach, ask yourself whether there’s anyone else who can hold you accountable for change and give you advice. Then, ask if you can highlight what actually needs working on all by yourself. We bet you can.
Which proves one thing:
A life coach is just going to highlight flaws you already knew were there, and then sell you a f*cking course.
Is there someone at work who can mentor you on professional matters? Do you not have friends or family you can talk to about moving forward in life? A mentor is the best life coach you can have. They see elements of themselves in you, and therefore have a vested interest in your progress.
If you invest in the wrong life coach, you’ll feel even worse about your situation, and your bank account will hate you for it. Taking a targeted, self-aware approach to development is a much better way forward.
What illusions might they feed you?
- That only they can help you turn your life around.
- That life coaching on its own will provide solutions.
- That taking their extra skills courses is the only way to truly flourish.
- That they’ve worked with certain celebrities and CEOs, and that somehow this will make your life better.
- That the way they conquered demons in their life is the best way for you to tackle yours.
- That highlighting your flaws is the same as developing your skills.
How to filter out fake life coaches
Take note of the following and watch out for the fakes:
- There is no prescribed time period for life coaching. Let’s say a life coach tells you “book eight sessions, otherwise you won’t see results!” – on whose authority are they telling you that? There’s no treatment guidelines, no governing body, and no standard therapeutic practices. They’re just trying to sell you their product in bulk. If they put up resistance to your choice of taking it one session at a time, ask them why.
- Are they just analyzing you, or are they teaching you skills? If you’re gaining concrete skills, as you would with a sales or martial arts coach, you might continue to benefit from them. Self-assess after every session – did you learn something? Or did you simply get sold a dose of “perspective”?
- Are they trying to upsell you on their masterclasses and courses? Well done, you’ve just handed your vulnerabilities to a master salesman on a silver platter.
- Look at how they measure progress in their course. If they only work using vague terms like “empowerment” “success” or “progress”, they’re playing you using buzzwords. If there’s no way to measure your progress, they have no investment in advancing your life.
- Look at their credentials. Are they registered with a central agency, like the International Coaching Federation? This increases the chance they know what they’re talking about, as certification to be a life coach costs thousands of dollars – it shows their commitment. But it’s still not a bona fide guarantee.
- Check out their social media. Does their Instagram feed consist of a few “live, laugh, love” quotes that only go back a year or so? They’re probably brand new to the industry and probably not experienced enough to help you get what you think you need from them.
- They casually namedrop celeb clients. If they’re trying to lure you in with celebrity affiliations, that’s a huge red flag. Celeb wellness gurus are notorious leeches. “I helped Britney” is not the same as “here’s the tangible thing I can add to your life.” (Also, you didn’t help Britney, look at the mess she’s in.)
- Do they have experience in your selected area of development? Grill them on their expertise. If you want to advance your business skills, for example, have they operated a business before? Have they lived with depression or low self-esteem? You’ve got neither the time nor funds for bullsh*t artists.
- Do they simply post quotes or actively contribute to the discussion? Legit coaches will write for other publications, host workshops, or give video talks on their new learnings and explorations. They’ll be happy leaving their ideology out in the open, because it has substance. Fraudsters just post quotes and memes.
- Ask the coach for references. They’ll be able to provide glowing references if they’re both legit and good at what they do, or they’ll admit to being new and not having any.
How to find trustworthy reviews
For a start, you’ll want to distrust everything on their website or social media channels. The testimonials are cherry-picked and might’ve been promised free sessions or skills courses in exchange for a glowing review.
Instead, look at Yelp!, TripAdvisor, and their Google page. If they’re happy to plug the positive reviews on their own site but don’t allow a balanced range of reviews to be visible on Google, it’s likely they’ve got something to hide.
How are they different from a regular therapist?
In every conceivable way. They don’t have medical training, for a start. Anyone can set up an office and claim they’re a life coach.
|They’re equipped and qualified to treat mental health conditions.||They cannot treat mental health conditions.|
|They have a degree and a license in their psychotherapeutic field.||They don’t have to be qualified.|
|They have to adhere to strict ethical codes and privacy requirements.||They don’t have to follow ethical guidelines.|
While the notion of life coaches is becoming more mainstream, there’s no central authority tracking their success, assessing their methods, or qualifying them for practice. (Yes, there’s the International Coaching Federation – but a life coach can still practice without certification.)
As long as you’re not seeing them about anything super serious, they can’t really do you much harm. But it’s also money you could otherwise be saving or investing in your skill set.
When to consider seeing a therapist instead of a life coach
You should seek conventional treatment if your negative feelings continue for more than 2 weeks and include the tell-tale signs of a mental health difficulty, such as:
- Extreme mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Concentration issues
- Persistent low mood
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Mental health problems require the input of a mental health professional. Don’t even entertain the thought of a life coach for these.
Do you really need a life coach?
If you experience the following, you might be able to justify dropping the dollars on a life coach:
- You feel irritated all the time, and you don’t know why.
- You regularly feel stress and anxiety, and you don’t know why.
- You struggle to break bad habits, and you don’t know why.
- You don’t feel fulfilled by your personal, social, or dating lives, and you don’t know why.
- You don’t like your job, and you don’t know why.
- You feel creatively stifled, and you don’t know why.
See the common theme here? People who can take an honest look at their own life and work out what needs fixing don’t need a life coach.
Many life coaches trade on “empowerment”. An important question though – if you decide to enlist someone else’s help in solving the problems you have, are you going to feel any more empowered when you find a solution? And are you going to feel like you “can’t be fixed” if a life coach doesn’t help you reach the conclusion you wanted?
What types of life coaches are there?
Life coaching is a broad field. The following types of coaches are out there, among many others:
- An addiction coach
- A business or leadership coach
- A career coach
- A dating coach
- A fitness coach
- A divorce coach
- A family coach
- A money coach
- A wellness coach
- A “life skills” coach
- A spirituality coach
Some of these, like addiction and sobriety coaching, bear consideration, especially if addiction is impacting your daily life.
However, so many gurus and coaches overextend their reach and are happy to take your money without proof they are capable of getting the results you seek. Many of these gurus and coaches reach out to professionals – time drained people with money to spend who may be working too hard to fully invest in sharpening certain skills.
For example, a dating coach might be suitable for someone who works constantly and struggles to find themselves potential partners or even random hook-ups.
But look at this from another perspective – if you’re working so many hours that you can’t even meet an attractive stranger for a half-hour coffee, is it more likely that your work/life balance needs attention? And if you don’t have time now, what’s the guarantee you’ll make time for a long-term partner further down the line?
The problem may not be your dating skills – you’ve probably still got it. So a dating coach isn’t going to help you restore your work/life balance enough to really benefit. You can go through as much coaching as you like, but the outcome will be similar after the course is finished.
What to expect
Your session will take place either over Zoom or in-person. They’ll likely have an introductory chat with you to work out your opportunities for development and goals before setting out a session plan to help you get there.
Sometimes, it will be as simple as talking you through steps you can take to improve your everyday life, setting your targets, and holding you accountable for reaching them.
But who’s to say what you can really expect? It depends on the type of coach you’re seeing and their coaching style. Therapists have the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to use for spotting and treating mental health disorders. Life coaches have… inspirational quotes, Yelp! reviews, and their hunches. That’s it.
You might benefit from a personal trainer standing over you and guiding your workout, for example. But those very same workouts are scattered all over YouTube for you to learn at home without paying anything.
Are there *any* benefits to life coaching?
Some research has backed up several benefits of life coaching. For example, one study found that life coaching helped its participants reduce procrastination and achieve goals. Another review found that it improved how people ranked themselves for “self-empowerment”.
The findings of a 2020 study suggested that professional leadership interventions in the style of life coaching made employees feel better and improved how they operated at work.
Earlier research also came to the conclusion that life coaching may improve how people self-reflect and improve their insight.
But let’s be real for a second – even though “research” can suggest these things, it’s hardly like you can pour “self-reflection” or “self-empowerment” into a chemistry beaker and measure it. These studies are limited and based almost entirely on self-reported measures.
So the real question is: might life-coaching have benefits for you in your particular circumstances? Maybe, but only you know that. There’s usually another way to find motivation and tips on progress without dropping your hard-earned cash on someone who might not have the solutions for you.
How to get motivated without a life coach
If you’re feeling like you need a life coach to feel motivated about your growth journey, you’re wrong. There are so many steps you can take to boost your motivation without spending your hard-earned cash. These might include:
- Set and smash small, achievable goals every day. A to-do list is a great way of breaking larger goals into small, manageable chunks.
- Have a friend, family member, or member hold you accountable. It’s easier to develop further when someone else is watching.
- Reward yourself – you’ve earned it. It doesn’t even need to involve buying sh*t you don’t need. Work hard, and then treat yourself to a long bath or time to yourself.
- Measure your progress. Making your development trackable is a great way to keep it up.
- Break regularly. Overloading yourself with tasks and obligations won’t be the way to keep your motivation on point.
- Keep a clean space. If you’ve got the money but no time, pay a cleaner. If you have to clean up yourself, then do that, too. Decluttering your living and working space also declutters your mind to focus on the tasks that lay ahead.
- Manage your priorities. What are the three most important things you need to achieve this week? Get those done first. Then work through smaller tasks as you move through the week.
- Have an emotional reason for growth. Will working toward your next promotion help you care for your family better? Will it allow you to give up a second job and spend more time with your children? Work out the emotional benefits of staying on track for your progress goals.
- Surround yourself with driven, proactive people. Being around a deadbeat is contagious. Keeping motivated friends around you will force you to maintain a steady pace.
- Watch TED Talks and listen to podcasts that stimulate you. There’s a wealth of inspirational media out there that may help you stay focused and gleam motivation from the experiences of others. Engage with it.
Team Vippi isn’t too fond of life coaches. It’s always better to work with mentors you trust. Alternatively, you should self-analyze to find your weaknesses before honing in on specific areas to upskill.
The important takeaway from this piece is that everyone feels vulnerable. There’s no miracle cure or fix. You can be at the peak of your powers and still find areas that need work.
Being comfortable with vulnerability and developing a self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses are the best possible ways to build the life you want – no matter what your local snake-oil grifter wants to try and sell you!
Ammentorp, J., et al. (2013). Can life coaching improve health outcomes? A systematic review of intervention studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK169370/
Losch, S., et al. (2016). Comparing the effectiveness of individual coaching, self-coaching, and group training: How leadership makes the difference. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00629/full
Peláez Zuberbuhler, M. J., et al. (2020). Coaching-based leadership intervention program: A controlled trial study. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03066/full
Thomas, A. (2019). 7 ways to know if a business or life coach is legit or an imposter. https://www.inc.com/andrew-thomas/7-ways-to-know-if-a-business-or-life-coach-is-legit-or-an-imposter.html
Wong, C. (2020). What is a life coach? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-life-coach-4129726