What is Life Coaching?
How Does Life Coaching Work?
Why Do I Need a Life Coach?


“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”

–Bob Nardelli, CEO, The Home Depot

Well known life coach Laura Whitworth defines coaching as: “An alliance between two equals for the purpose of meeting the client’s needs.” I like her definition and have used it as the base for my own thoughts on coaching.

LIfe Coaching is two people examining what works in a client’s life and charting a course to enhance what already works and eliminate or shift what doesn’t. A Life Coach makes requests for action, encourages you to take extreme care of your Self; she supports you in meeting your unmet Needs, living from your Values, raising your Standards, and discovering and living All the Possibilities of your life to become the person you dream of being.

Life Coaching is not about small, slow changes. You can expect shifts and leaps in your life when you work with a Life Coach. Therapists, friends, physicians, family, and self-help/support groups are all important in their own way, and there are times when you need something else. You need a person who will help you focus on action and give you tasks that increase your clarity; someone who will work with you in the quiet and not-so-quiet chaos of change and supports you unconditionally.

You and your Life Coach work together to develop a schedule and process that supports you in having all of what you want in your life. Your Life Coach brings his/her training, wisdom and intuition to the process; you bring a willingness to grow, change and discover and live All Your Possibilities. Working together, you bring those Possibilities into reality and create an extraordinary life for yourself.

We all have times in our lives when we can benefit from a Life Coach. Because our lives change…our passions change. Sometimes we know we need someone else’s perspective… someone who can give us direction…someone who will listen and then challenge us to make that one little adjustment we need…someone who will encourage us to take necessary action. There are times when we aren’t listening to our hearts or can’t hear what they’re saying through the clamor of the “shoulds” and “musts” of our lives; when someone else can listen for us and tell us what they hear. And then there are times when we simply need the direction and encouragement of someone we trust to stretch our minds or bodies…to strengthen muscles and attitudes we haven’t used for a while…to develop new ones we didn’t even know we had… to find new ways of approaching and eliminating old behaviors.

Athletes, public officials, students, actors and artists of all types; senior executives of some of the largest companies in the world; housewives, professionals, and plumbers; teenagers, recovering alcoholics, and professors; even Life Coaches — everyday people like you and me — use Life Coaches to help them create new lives and excel in what they do. Their Life Coach provides them with perspective, direction, feedback and inspiration. And, their lives change; new possibilities appear; dreams become real; and life becomes extraordinary.

Margo – you have taught me to LIVE my life! In one of our very first coaching sessions, you asked me “when was the last time I had been on a roller coaster?” And, when I couldn’t remember, you gave me my first assignment – go get on a roller coaster. Now that seemed like a strange suggestion from a coach who was supposed to be helping me with my career issues, but it was life changing!

I also remember one January, I booked two fabulous vacations (one to Maui for my husband and I alone to celebrate our 25th anniversary and the other to take our children on the Disney Cruise), both in the same year and I worried that I couldn’t afford both and didn’t deserve such indulgences and you encouraged me to do it anyway, that it would be good for my business and you were right – that was a banner year!!! So, I learned that I really do deserve to take care of myself and that taking care of myself helps me to take care of business too.

Well, the business just keeps growing and so do I. I am grateful that you are there as my friend, coach and mentor when the inevitable bumps in the road show up! Sherrie Boutwell

Margo helped me make a huge transition in my life, choosing to leave my comfort zone of a stable income to becoming and independent contractor. I love my newfound freedom. Thank you Margo for coaching me and encouraging me to take the leap. The net has caught me and my life is richer than I ever believed possible. Amanda Boxtel

When I met Margo, my life was a bit like a hamster on an exercise wheel. Running as fast as I could and staying in the same place. Although I really wasn’t happy in any aspect of my life, it didn’t appear all that bad. I had a good job (that was no longer a career) made time for my family (but not for friends) and made sure I participated in what was important to them (but had lost sight of what was important to me). I should probably mention that good work week then was in the 60-70 hour range and I don’t even want to remember what a “bad” one was.

Through various tools, most notably her wonderful mirroring skills, Margo helped me see that I didn’t need to change jobs but rather my attitude and approach to life across the board.

Two companies later I work no more than 40 hours a week unless there is a very unusual circumstance, and have been recognized and blessed with several promotions. More importantly I love what I do and can see it as a career of service again rather than just a job to pay the bill. Although my family retains its prior level of importance in my life, even as caregiver to a home bound mother, I have time for friends and the activities I cherish.

I’ve taken risks and had adventures that I never would have believed possible – imagined wistfully perhaps – but never have dared to take action to make real.

Margo is a mirror, a challenger, a teacher, and most importantly a friend. Suzon Lommel

In the Olympics of Life,
We Could All Use A Coach
by Mary Schmich
Chicago Tribune
February 18, 1998

I want a coach.

Not a coach as in Cinderella’s renovated pumpkin. Not a Coach as in a pricey shoulder bag. I want a coach like an Olympic coach. I want a coach to tune me up and calm me down, a coach to sigh for me and cry for me, a coach who’ll rev me up to be all that I can be and take half the blame when I wind up bumbling through the triple lutz of life.

I want a coach like Picabo Street’s coach, a coach who, when Street had an injured knee and wanted to scope out the Olympic course, skied her down the mountain on his back. I want a coach who picks me up when I hurt, the way Bela Karolyi carried gymnast Kerri Strug and her injured ankle to collect her summer gold. I want a coach like all those rapt, devoted coaches I see perched on the Olympic sidelines in Nagano this winter, their faces turned toward their little darlings like sunbathers basking in the sun.

I want a coach who when I win envelopes me in hugs. I want a coach who when I lose envelope me in hugs. I want a coach who when I’ve given all I’ve got wipes my brow and brings me cans of Coke. I want a coach to help me give it all I’ve got.

I want a coach, a life coach. I want someone whose life work is to better me, me, me, whose grand dreams are for me, me, me, who lives vicariously through moi!

A mere personal trainer will not to do. Neither will a teacher. And a therapist? Gold cannot be won through talk. My life coach will be a personal trainer, a teacher and a therapist all rolled into one, someone who’s prime goal on this planet is to teach me tricks of mind and muscle, someone who’ll show me how to leap and stretch and play through pain, someone who’ll water the fields of my possibilities with expectation, consolation, congratulation, faith.

My life coach will see promise were others see a drearily blank slate.

My life coach will invest in me as if I’m hot new stock. My life coach will drill into my unrealized potential and extract a pot of gold.

My life coach will be a parent, only better. My coach will understand I own the power. My coach will not be distracted by household chores. My coach will be the parent who never makes me waste my talent scrubbing toilets.

I’d be a contender if I had a coach. Wouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t be a thousand times better, in everything from toothbrushing to planning out a life, if they had a coach to show them how it should be done, how much better it could be done, how much there is to win when it’s done right?

Who would all those Olympic athletes be without a coach? They’d be the rest of us. Okay, maybe not that bad, but then again not as good. Watch the Olympic coaches in Nagano, watch the way they watch their protégés. Don’t you want a dose of that attention? Don’t you want a life coach?

Most of us are slipping and sliding on the bumpy ice of life. Our execution’s sloppy; we are poorly trained. We need some undistracted steering and grooming, prodding and propping up. We need someone to persuade us when we fall to get back on the ice, the slope, the course. All of us could benefit from someone who always is there to beam good wishes from the sidelines.

Instead, most of us slog through on our own, schlepping our untapped potential like unpacked suitcases waiting for a key. We get help from friends, lovers, spouses, mentors, parents, teachers, therapists, personal trainers, priests, rabbis and TV talk-show hosts. But most of them have a limited attention span. None is devoted just to us. Most of them are just like us, feeling underused and unsung. They, too, are wishing for a coach. Think how spectacular it could be — the putty that is you placed in the hands of the right coach. Your coach, like a potter, would find the work of art straining to escape the clay.

There are loathsome coaches sure. There are coaches who are dictators and Svengalis and ordinary louts. Not my coach. My coach would carry me piggyback down a mountain and thank me afterward.

We’ve created this comparison chart with the help of dozens of therapists on the CoachVille R&D Team who are also experienced coaches. And, while not everyone will agree with every single word pair, it’s our view that this chart does help to clarify the differences between coaching and therapy. That said, the fact is that many of the differences between modern therapy and personal coaching aren’t as big as we might like them to appear. Both professionals can be working with fully functioning adults who are working through a difficult situation. Both disciplines focus on helping people make changes and accomplish goals that really matter to them. They are different ways of working; each with its own special value.

Conventional Therapy
tends toward…
Personal Coaching
tends toward…

issue resolution
why me?/why this?
overcoming obstacles
traditional relationship
unconscious>conscious level
away from
looks backward
raising standards
somewhat vulnerable
cognitive/behavior patterns
letting go
needs help
past > present
needs, wants
issue resolution
driven by unresolved issues
absorbs information
feelings, discussion oriented
self understanding
nurturing, supportive
asks why
disruptive situations
usually a measured pace
no personal disclosure
medical model
presented complaints
mostly monologue
was then
professional ‘arms length’
behavior norms
self concept
prognosis for recovery
diagnosable conditions
emotional scares
emotional issues
healing of emotional damage
self imposed limits
coping/protective mechanisms
self responsibility
new perspective
family dynamics
personal dynamics
tends toward process
heal past
medical model
behavior awareness
focused scope

personal evolution
problem solving
what’s next?/what now?
sustainable flow
collaborative, equal partnership
conscious>consciousness level
focuses forward
raising standards
generally open, not vulnerable
actively building
life dynamics
wants a partner
present > future
needs, wants
life design
chooses goals and actions
acts on information
more action oriented
self potential
catalyzing, challenging
asks what
often a rapid pace
personal disclosure as useful
performance model
co creation
common situations
mostly dialogue
is now
close, collaborative
self discovery
self assessment
support, solutions
chance of success
everyday situations
related experiences
missed opportunities
building reserves
personal operating system
new approach
organizational dynamics
personal style
tends toward results
create future
performance/growth model
personal awareness
unlimited scope

Copyright 2002 by

May be distributed
with attribution.
I am often asked about Life Coaching and the difference between a coach and a mentor, or between coaching and therapy. Thomas Leonard, founder of CoachU and cochville, wrote the following article which will help you understand the distinctions.

Consultant: Studies the mechanics of riding the bike. Teaches you the laws of physics, how the bike is propelled, what is necessary for balance, and laws of motion/propulsion. A consultant tells you where to sit and where to put your feet and when to pedal. They may even offer or suggest a training program to upgrade your bike. Then he/she leaves. Consultants are necessary experts.

Therapist: Discusses the basis for your fears about riding and the consequences of falling. Discusses if your parents rode, and why that might be important. Explains why it is important for your self-esteem or psyche, for you to learn this and be successful. Therapists are very useful to unwire whatever baggage may be impeding your potential to ride.

Parent: Buys bike for you. May put on training wheels, and take them off when they think you are ready. Runs by the bike holding on until you have balance to continue, and then cheers you on as you go off riding into the sunset. Occasionally will threaten to take away riding privileges if you don’t comply with ground rules.

Mentor: Shares with you their experience/expertise of bike riding. Gives you tips on “drafting” and the most effective way they’ve found to ride. Models the way they think you should ride, gives you strategies about things like changing tires quickly in a race, how to get the most speed for your effort, what the best bike is to buy in their opinion, and how to negotiate gravel at the bottom of a hill. Teaches you their version of proper maintenance, warns you of dangers of riding in traffic and tells you how to avoid them. Sometimes holds an “I know better than you since I’ve been there before, so you’d better listen to me” hierarchical position.

Coach: Listens to your desire to try riding. Asks you if you need instructions on how to ride and asks where you might get them. Asks if you like the color/kind of bike you’re about to ride. May even help you pick the bike up and help you get on. Runs along side the bike “checking in” to see if you’re enjoying the experience and asks what might make it more fun. Will help you discover what you need to take care of yourself when/if you fall. When you stop, the coach might ask about your experience and what was valuable, and whether or not you want to pursue mastery of bike riding. If you do, the coach asks you how you might devise a plan whereby you can attain that mastery. If you don’t, then the coach may ask you if you want to continue riding casually or if you want to devise a plan to sell the bike.

Thomas J. Leonard, Copyright 1997, 98, 99, Coach University

Feel free to contact Margo for a no obligation coaching session to learn more about coaching and find out if you and she are a fit to facilitate you in Living All Your Possibilities.