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Lifestyle: Life Coach Certification

An emerging trend toward the idea of Lifestyle Coaching seems to be gaining momentum as a viable business opportunity. The purpose of lifestyle coaching is to provide consultative and educational services that help clients to discover and live a better life. The notion of life coach certification provides practioners with a source of authority and basis for establishing themselves as a trusted professional in the eyes of the public. In general, the market for lifestyle coaching is focused on providing solutions to help people bridge the gap between what they want to do or be in life and their present circumstances. In other words, lifestyle coaching is about providing a service for the preservation (and perhaps the recovery) of an individual's identity in the confluence of everyday life.

One of the most common intellectual foundations for constructing a business platform is to position the business as an valued entity that provides a solution to a problem. Of course, we are also familiar with the idea that solutions may be provided to problems that don't exist, or perhaps proposed solutions help to manufacture a problem in the minds of the marketplace. Lifestyle coaching, like the psychology industry, will face a number of challenges...

Lifestyle Coaching

Lifestyle coaching is framed on one end by birth and on the other end by death. In between is something called life. A style is a particular kind or way of expressing something that is characteristic of an individual or group of people. So a lifestyle is a particular way of living a life. It will be important for the word style not to become too closely associated with the sense of conforming to the popular taste, current fashion, or latest vogue, otherwise lifestyle coaching will be nothing more than a strategy designed to help people accept and embrace conformance and subservience to the status quo. More to the point, if lifestyle coaches are to develop a viable moral approach to business development they need to ensure they do not intentionally or unintentionally manufacture victims.

A common association for coaching comes to us through sports. In this context a coach is someone that provides training and instruction to atheletes that is designed to win as many games as possible. In education, the idea of coaching is seen as an important teaching strategy:

A view of teaching which is student-centered, supportive, challenging, models desired outcomes, and allows students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. Teachers who assume the role of coach regularly provide students with constructive feedback designed to improve learning and "push" performance towards high standards.
So a lifestyle coach, in this sense, is someone that provides customized, supportive, challenging and models the desired outcomes related to living a vibrant and fulfilling life.

Lifestyle Coaching and Expertise

It may seem somewhat pedantic to articulate one possible definition of what a lifestyle coach might be, but after scanning a wide variety of websites about the topic I found myself unable to clearly define the term. One of the reasons for this is that the content and subject matter of lifestyle coaching seems to touch upon a wide variety of expertise. This is not surprising since the "profession" purports to coach people in life itself creating a conundrum for itself: the object of the coaching is so vast and expansive that it is difficult to find a focus.

For example, I found the following subject matter associated with lifestyle coaching: alternative health, nutrition, wellness, career, parenting, paradigms, specific programs for women, religion, retirement, transpersonal hypnotherapy, spirituality, open communication strategies, creating a preferred life, achieving potential, attaining high performance, discovering purpose in life, improving motivation, neuro-linguistic programming, success and empowerment, optimal breathing, absolute achievement in life, and more. The John F. Kennedy University has a broad definition and defines life coaching as:

Life Coaching focuses on assisting people in all stages of adulthood to create a fulfilled and balanced life. The life coach explores the client's internal self, heart and soul, to identify core values, determine life mission and clarify future vision. Compared to other types of coaching, life coaching is more likely to approach the client's life as a whole. The focus may include such areas as personal fulfillment, health, career, money, relationships, personal growth and spirituality. Techniques to facilitate needed changes in the client's life include cognitive approaches, intuitive guidance, somatic exploration, emotional awareness and connection with the sacred.

So in many ways it seems that lifestyle coaching is closely associated with holism, or the coaching of the All. On the other hand, the opportunity for building connections and relationships across this vast range of expertise and resources may be significant and ultimately beneficial. This opportunity, in my opinion, cannot be properly fostered through traditional certification methods.

What Precisely is "Lifestyle Coaching"

In general, accreditation in any field of expertise comes from an institution or organization that is viewed as having some degree of authority. This usually means that the organization is populated by a group of recognized experts that are deemed to be successful in the field of endeavour, and are therefore entrusted with granting others a right of passage once educational criteria are fufilled. The granting of certification to individuals and groups becomes the basis for the development of the expertise as well as a revenue stream. Individuals that achieve certification are then able to promote their connection to this source of authority as a means to build a practice.

Since lifestyle coaching is a relatively new phenomenon, so are the sources of authority and this represents one of the biggest challenges for an emerging field of expertise. This problem can also be seen in the divide between traditional medicine and alternative or holistic health practioners.

For example, the International Coach Federation (ICF) offers a wide variety of ICF Accredited Coach Training Programs. Of course, and this is not necessarily a criticism, the first priority of organizations grating certification, like any other business, is self-preservation. The information related to certification on this site is estensive, but it is also interesting to notice the complete absence of authentic success stories. Undoubtedly the ICF has success stories to share, but it does seem odd that an organization devoted to providing life coach certification fails to mention the specific achievements it has made in elevating people's lives.

A Google search on the phrase life coach certification reveals a strong orientation to traditional educational delivery models. For example, the Coach Training Alliance (CTA) offers certification in six-month twenty-lesson course format. For $2,199 USD, a student seeking certification through the CTA will receive:

30 hrs - Student Contact Learning Hours: instructor lead sessions, direct observation, and telegroup mentoring.
25 hrs - Online learning, cyber coursework, self-study, and action challenges.
55 hrs - TOTAL
While the course may provide some benefit, the folly in this approach is obvious. If an individual desires to provide meaningful life coaching for people in need then one would assume that there would be significantly more than 55 hours of traditional education involved. In fact, I would assume that there is more than traditional education involved.

What kind of "profession" emerges from a 55 hour course? What kind of profession emerges from a 555 hour course of study? Certification in lifestyle coaching, in these examples, breaks down not because certification isn't needed, but because the methods and processes by which individuals achieve certification are obtuse with respect to the practical realities the student will face in the field.

Lifestylism and Blended Expertise

The idea of lifestyle coaching makes a clear attempt to integrate knowledge and processes from a wide range of expertise. Since areas of expertise are often well protected by virtue of the fact that a single of area of expertise can occupy a lifetime in itself, it is only natural that friction would occur. Because of this friction, there is a resulting need to create distinction and articulate how thigs are not the same as this article about the differences between coaching and psychotherapy reveal. Since the subject matter of lifestyle coaching is so diverse, I suspect there will be further articulation of differences between competing modes of expertise.

On a more practical level, a certified lifestyle coach will potentially develop a practice in which they provide advice to clients. The nature of the advice can range across a wide diversity of expertise. More importantly, I believe that any lifestyle coach must have the personal experience of failure in life and have successfully navigated the that failure through resilience. We all experience failure in life, and if you perceive that you haven't chances are you eventually will. Overcoming failure through resilience is the trademark of success and is fundamental to building a vibrant way of life. This means that a lifestyle coach is more than an occupational class that achieves certification through a fews hours a traditional educational training, it is a responsibility.

Of course, marketers and brand developers long ago picked up on the value of failure, or difficult circumstances in life, as a means to promote a solution. We can see this through a variety of means:

  • Statements that travel along the line, "I was once here in this bad place, but now I am here in this good place. Let me show you how."
  • Quotes from philosphers or other famous writers that inspire images of the wonderous life, however I am often left wondering if the writer read the entire book or got the quote from a book of quotes.
  • The promise that a method, process, training program, course of study, etc. will provide the basis in going from a less desireable state to a more desireable state.
  • The opportunity to be your own boss and develop a viable business in a new and emerging marketplace.
While I'm sure there are sincere and well-thought marketing approaches used by lifestyle coaches, for the most part, I find the intellectual references and marketing tactics inane and potentially misleading. And the "limited time offer" is really sad. If the product is worth it, then charge full price. In fact why not say, "For a limited time only we are offering a 25% increase in our regular price."

The Quest for a Vibrant Lifestyle

If we partially live by example, then the lifestyle of other people who have experienced challenges in life and overcome them are essential models for learning. It is for this reason that I believe that one of the most important sources for understanding lifestylism is found in the authentic narratives of real people experiencing real challenges. There is more to grow from in personal accounts such as those of Dax-Devlon Ross, Erik Weihenmayer, Viktor Frankl, Jean Vanier and many others than traditional training programs that reduce life experiences to information.

In addition, lifestyle coaching has already been elevated and extended beyond coachng through community organizations such as Tamarack and Philia. These are organizations already focused on engagement, a vital aspect of what it means to learn and a critical dimension of achieving a vibrant lifestyle.

The current ideas surrounding lifestyle coaching, to me, seems limited in breadth and depth. However, I have not personally experienced a lifestyle coach so my comments may be askew. I would suspect, though, that an experience with a lifestyle coach would possess the same wide range of quality one experiences with a family doctor even if the certification following the name is similar in stature.

The other aspect that I have not yet found, but perhaps will discover in time, is the critical perspective that lifestylism is as much or possible more about the design of a sustainable and durable learning environment than it is about traditional counselling and consulting practices. This may be due to the fact that the development of business strategies around counselling and consulting are well defined in our society, while the business proposition for a comprehensive learning environment remains somewhat illusive. It will be interesting to see how things unfold.

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