The Biggest Myths About Coaching (And Why They’re All Wrong!)

June 25, 2021
Podcast

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. In this episode, we dig into some of the more pervasive myths about the coaching industry.

Did you know that the coaching industry only began to take shape 35 years ago? As a discipline, coaching itself is still in its infancy! Nevertheless, myths about the coaching industry already abound. 

Many of the common misconceptions about what it means to be a coach are throwbacks to early perceptions about the newly emerging field of coaching. These days, the term “life coach” is less likely to conjure up the image of a cheesy motivational speaker than it once did. Though we still appreciate the classics:


Public consciousness around coaching is rapidly shifting. As a consequence, the demand for coaching services is on the rise.

So if you’re thinking about becoming a coach, let’s break down 5 common myths you’re most likely to encounter. Separate fact from fiction so you can jump into your true calling with confidence!

MYTH #1

The field is saturated

Don’t believe everything you see on social media.

If you’re thinking about becoming a coach, you’re likely pulling more coaching content into your field than the average bear. Once you begin following coaches and wellness professionals, you’ll be subjected to more advertising for coaching and related services. As this feedback loop intensifies, it can start to feel like coaches are suddenly everywhere! 

It's a common misconception, but trust us... they’re not. Even with the rise of newly trained coaches entering the industry over the past several years, there’s still plenty of human need and market demand for more coaches.

Trust the facts.

Recent studies have shown that while a minority of people have sought coaching at this time, a growing majority plans to! What the data points to is a seismic shift in the public’s consciousness about the value of coaching.

In the near future, a growing number of potential clients will seek coaches—and the need for coaches will be greater than ever. We are starting to see this trend pick up even more in the wake of the pandemic. As folks are starting to center themselves and reach for opportunities to make a better life, they're looking to coaches for support.

For more intel on industry data and trends, see our annual report: State of Life Coaching & The Wellness Economy

MYTH #2

Anyone can coach without training because the industry isn’t regulated

While anyone technically CAN call themselves a coach, we don’t advise it. Becoming a successful coach requires hard work, serious study, and a business mindset. 

“You can only ride on charisma and what you personally ‘know’ as a coach for so long before the bottom drops out.” - John Kim

The theoretical roots of coaching stem from sports psychology, goal setting theory, human development models, positive psychology, mindfulness, and neuroscience. Understanding the science behind why coaching works alongside the application of those techniques is a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor. 

The work of a coach is FACILITATION.

Life coaching is a job, just like any other job. You need to develop expertise in change theory and human development in order to be effective.

Serious professionals show up better in the coaching space with the increased confidence that comes from having a handle on both the theory and practice of coaching. Which all leads to more positive outcomes for our clients!

For more on coach-specific training and how to become an ICF Certified Coach, check out: What Certification Do You Need to Be a Life Coach? 

MYTH #3

Your life has to be in order BEFORE you can be a strong coach

Anybody who’s watched Grey’s Anatomy knows that your own life can be a dumpster fire AND you can still be good at your job.

Joking aside, you really don’t need to have a picture-perfect life to be an effective coach. Coaches facilitate discovery and change processes for people, groups, organizations, communities and even nations. It’s a role. One in which you must develop technique and expertise in order to perform well. This has little to do with your actual life outside work.

Of course we all have bad days. Coaches have sick days too! In fact, the International Coaching Federation Code of Ethics calls for coaches to pause work if you feel that you can’t do a good job and seek appropriate medical attention if you need it. 

MYTH #4

Coaches are “wanna-be” counselors or mental health providers

Coaching, counseling, psychology, psychiatry, and social work are all distinct disciplines. A certified doctor or mental healthcare professional is highly trained in their specific field, as coaches are trained in ours. Each is overseen by different professional or regulatory bodies.

“Don’t call yourself a ‘coach’ simply to negate the fact that you don’t have credentials in another discipline.” - Noelle Cordeaux

These fields complement one another but are separate professions. The “fruit bowl analogy” is a good one: each of these disciplines is a different kind of fruit: apple, orange, pear, and so on. Each is essential work, focused on various aspects of a client's growth. They all go together nicely in the bowl of “helping professionals,” but they don’t all do the same thing. 

Want to further understand the differences between the disciplines? What’s The Difference Between Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching?

Considering doing both? From Therapist to Life Coach: How to Make the Move Successfully

MYTH #5

Coaching involves giving advice

“If you think coaching means giving people advice, man that’s a lot of pressure.” - John Kim

An assumption exists that coaches give advice and it is SO false, but we can’t fault the average consumer for this one… because that’s what most professions do. If you hire an attorney, they give you legal advice. If you hire a financial advisor, they give you  financial advice. But coaches don’t advise.

David Rock, who pioneered brain-based coaching, perhaps said it best: "Coaches help people think better."

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.  

Great coaching is, in essence, a facilitation process.

Coaches provide a customized conversation that helps a client strategize and create a plan to get what they want by thinking and acting more resourcefully.

Now, what about consulting?

Sometimes a client relationship also calls for consulting, and that’s OK. If you're qualified to consult within your specialty, go ahead and consult! Just don't call it “coaching”.

Spell out your consulting or mentoring services in a separate contract so it’s clear for both you and your client when and under what circumstances you’ll be “switching hats”. 

Additionally, don't call yourself a coach to negate the fact that you don't have the credentials to do something else. If you're not a counselor, psychotherapist, financial advisor, legal advisor, or health professional, etc.; it's unethical to advise people under the heading of "coach". 

PRO TIP: Sharing your story is different from giving advice.

If you choose to share a personal experience in a client session, just make sure to check in with yourself first. Ask: “Am I about to tell this story for self validation, or to enhance the coaching process for my client?”

Thinking about becoming a coach?

One of our values at JRNI is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

JRNI Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

[Free Guide] 6 Steps to Start Coaching Today

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