The Hardest Thing About Being a Life Coach

There are Life Coaches that will tell you that coaching is easy.

It’s not.

Coaching people is rewarding.

Very tiring.

Very emotional.

Never a dull moment.

But it’s certainly not easy.

The hardest part is not the focus though.

It’s probably not even question asking or rapport building – even though both are crucial.

Equally, focus is a skill that you need. One that will alway require fine tuning, but there can be an even harder part.

Slipping Back Into Old Habits

A few months ago I was talking with a client and she was stuck.

I peppered her with questions.

She was right there with me, but I noticed I fell back into an old habit of helping her instead of letting her dive deeper into her ideas.

It’s a common mistake, but the more you coach the more you begin to understand when to help a client reframe or dig a little deeper to uncover some personal gold.

I asked her whether she was ready to start her own business.

She paused.

I jumped in and asked, “How much do you think you need to start?”

We All Make Mistakes

Insert forehead slap here.

She immediately began to talk about savings and costs and we got off the topic of actually starting the business.

Then last week I asked the client the same thing.

She paused.

I was about to step in again and caught myself.

I paused.

She went down a path I didn’t expect.

She told me about her father’s business. Her voice picked up and I could hear the passion.

As she talked and as she continued to tell me the story, I knew she was ready. She didn’t need to come right out and say yes or no.

The Hardest Thing About Being a Life Coach

It’s the ability to know when to talk and when to listen and not to say anything that is the hardest part.

It’s hard because not only are most people uncomfortable with silence but we are also hardwired to want to help and offer solutions to problems.

But helping comes in many forms.

Sometimes letting the other person put the pieces together is the best help we can give.

This especially goes for coaching.

It’s not like having a conversation with a friend.

In fact is often the antithesis of having a conversation with a friend.

Coaching people is about guiding them through their own discoveries.

You can’t just tell them what to do (unless that’s why you have hired them, such as hiring myself or Tim to help you grow your coaching business).

They have to understand what they need to do and more importantly, really want to do it.

This comes through understanding the right techniques and of course a lot of practice.

I still make this mistake every so often (and speaking with Tim, I know he does too) and when I do I always regret it.

What do you think is or would be the hardest part of being a successful coach?


  1. Hi Karl,

    That certainly is a tough one. And as most coaches have an intrinsic desire to help people it make sit very tough on occasions, especially when you can almost feel a clients pain and frustration.

    Outside of that, I think being able to separate the problems you have in your own life from your ability to coach can be hard. And I don’t mean the having to be perfect to be a life coach thing (like Tim I don’t subscribe to that). What I mean is, I may be having a shitty few days, be feeling down, and not in a pace where I feel like the best person to help anyone else. Those days can knock the self belief a little.

    Overall, my mindset is generally one of it all being possible, that there is always a way, and I generally keep moving forward. But there are some days when I don’t believe a word of it 🙂 Those days can make starting a session tough. I generally find though that once into the session and back in rapport, the client actually lifts me out of it, ha ha. Which is nice of them 😉

    • Tim Brownson

      I agree mate, we’re human and as such there will be days when we feel less than stellar, but we have to get on with it in any way we can!

    • Karl Staib

      Hi Keith! I totally get it. I’ve been in dark places when starting a coaching call. What I found is similar to what you said. I let go, focus on them and the session usually goes in a wonderful direction. It reminds me of this quote from Sonita Lontoh “We don’t find true happiness by focusing on ourselves, but we do by connecting with and helping others.”

      When we put the focus on others instead of how we are feeling we lift ourselves up and out. Isn’t that what coaching is all about? 🙂

  2. I would say that, the question possibly needs a little clarification, allow me to explain, it can be: The Hardest Thing About Being a Life Coach- whilst in a session, or in general.

    I would say hands down in general it would be,- to let go of the people you meet that can so greatly benefit from being coached! In session I would say when the client tells you they are embarking on something that so clearly clash with their core values, I find it hard to let them be that which does not match their values. In SA we have this awesome expression which is EISH!

    Keep up the awesome work Tim
    Pieter Pretorius MY BEST LIFE Coaching SA

  3. Michael

    There are quite a few great points in Karl’s message, and in the comments!

    Typically, it doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, once I engage with someone, all my focus is on the conversation and my own ball of issues is put on pause for the time being. Having worked in sales for longer than I’d like to admit, one of the most powerful tools I use, on a daily basis is the STHU technique. Ask a question and Shut The Hell Up. The client needs that time to answer, and if you are strategic with this technique, you can get far more information than you expected.

  4. Hi Karl

    Great post – love the honesty! I can relate to that feeling of wanting to give clients advice, stemming from years of midwifery mentorship and clinical supervision that I’m working on removing from my ‘habits’.

    The hardest part for me is being patient. Knowing that the client WILL discover their own path forward IF they choose to, with my coaching support. That it won’t happen overnight. That each session they see things from a new perspective. That they will continue to make changes long after the coaching – DUE TO the coaching. And they will celebrate it and tell you, because their lives have changed so much from their ‘stuckness’ when they first engaged with you.

    That’s after 4 years of coaching – and I know the stories will expand as my caseload builds and develops. It is such an honour to walk alongside clients, and as you and Keith suggest – learn from them too!

    • Karl Staib

      Hi Sandra! Celebrating with clients is one of my favorite parts. I try to make it a part of our routine to help remind the client of how far they’ve come. It is such an honor to be hird and help people. We have picked a wonderful profession.

  5. This article is spot on. Knowing when to double-down on a topic or when to hold back and let them wander, these are things that I’m learning but the more I coach the more I’m able to spot when each is appropriate.

    I would say the hardest part of coaching is just being patient and understanding that the client needs to come around on their own terms, rather than mine. Sometimes I can see us getting somewhere, then they pull back because of old fears or thought patterns, so you have to slowly coax them back, and again, and again, and again, each time getting them closer to being willing to make a change on their own. Sometimes I want to yell “JUST DO IT!” but I resist, and instead yell that into my notes after the session 🙂

    • Karl Staib

      Hi Samuel! Lol. I sometimes want to yell the same thing. Good thing we resist, otherwise we probably wouldn’t be in business for very long. 🙂

  6. Nancy Phair

    The hardest part of being a successful life coach?

    Hmm. For me, it is probably two things. Trusting my instincts and big ear listening. I feel certain that more coaching experience will help with trusting my instincts. Big ear listening will likely improve with practice as well so long as I put more attention on it.