Home » What is a Life Coach and Do I Need One?

What is a Life Coach and Do I Need One?

My journey into life coaching

From age 21, I had an obsession with personal development books and what I would call my ‘moleskin’ sessions. I would take my moleskin journal and plan how I wanted my life to be. I would do this using a variety of tools and I would create visions for the next few months, the next year, the next five years.

what is a life coach and why do I need one
Giving a talk at Ideas World Cup, Google Campus, Madrid, 2016.


Back then, I didn’t have the tools or the discipline to fully follow through with all of these plans, and some of them the universe had something different in store for me – marriage and kids at age 28… errrr no… cue, a month after my 28th birthday big break up with partner of five years and a solo trip to Malawi and South Africa instead.

However, one thing that I noticed is that when I flicked back through these journals there were many examples where I had gotten exactly what I had asked for. For example, during a time of transition when I had just hit refresh by moving back to the UK after 10 months living in Belize, I wrote that I wanted work that combined ‘yoga, travel, HIV, and facilitation’.

Not long after this, and through a bizarre case of me being mistaken for a French dancer when introduced to the co-founder of redzebra… I became a trainer of trainers for a charity called dance4life. This work took me to Holland, Germany, Nepal and India a number of times. All of a sudden, I was travelling the world delivering training which combined  yoga, travel, HIV, and facilitation and I was getting paid to do what I loved to do!

what is a life coach and why do I need one


Through all of this, I learned the importance of getting clear on the kind of life I wanted to create, setting intentions and taking actions to make these things happen.


From international development to personal development

As I neared 30, things shifted for me. My love of international development faded, I wanted to see my work having a more direct impact on people’s wellbeing and happiness. My love of facilitation remained, however, over the years I found myself facilitating workshops on topics that didn’t necessarily light me up – for example on topics that I had no real knowledge of such as climate change. I was at a turning point wondering what direction to take my career in.

Despite the fact that over the course of a decade I had invested a small fortune and spent well over a year in total (if you add up all the weeks) on attending personal development programmes, I wasn’t quite ready to admit to myself that I wanted to work in personal development, it seemed too… fluffy for want of a better word.

what is a life coach and why do I need one
Women, Wealth, Passion and Power Course, Finland, Dec 2016.

I had dedicated many years to working to improve the lives of people with HIV and feared the judgement of others when I so much as considered this kind of career change. I foolishly imagined the reactions of my friends and family when I so much as considered telling them that I wanted to go into the “self-help” world. So, rather than train as a coach in that moment, I enrolled in a Masters in Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy instead.

For many years, I had this little butterfly flutter of a dream about being a life coach. Truth be told it didn’t fully emerge until I trained to be a Passion Test facilitator part way into my Masters. It was here on that training course in Denmark that everything changed. I got a whole new level of clarity and I gained the confidence to follow a career path that really lit me up.


What is The Passion Test?

The Passion Test is a simple process developed by New York Times bestselling authors, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood. The process enables you to identify your top five passions in priority order and to create examples of what your life would look like if you were living those passions full out.

what is a life coach and do I need one
With authors of The Passion Test Chris Attwood and Janet Bray Attwood in their home in Denmark.

NB – The Passion Test facilitator training doesn’t train you to be a life coach, however, it is an amazing tool to have in your toolbox as a coach. If you have any questions about it – do get in touch with me directly.

I became crystal clear that I wanted to coach others on how to create a life that they absolutely loved. I knew that I wanted to support them to create visions for themselves that they would then take action on so that they could experience more joy, motivation, flow and purpose in their lives. And so my coaching journey begun in the most unconventional way…


But wait… what exactly is a life coach?

There are heaps of definitions out there but the one I really like is that life coaching involves purposeful conversations that inspire you to create the life you want.

A great life coach will ask you powerful questions that enable you to find the answers to your questions, to get clear on your purpose in life, to identify your values, to understand yourself at a deeper level and to start living the kind of life that really lights you up and inspires you. And most of all working with a great life coach will give you the courage and the tools TO TAKE ACTION!

A life coach will help you to see what is blocking you and support you to find ways to overcome these barriers and to achieve the goals that you set yourself. Personally, for me coaching is all about gaining CLARITY, and clarity is power. In fact, there is a great quote from my mentor Janet Bray Attwood which goes “When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life and only to the extent that you are clear.”

what is a life coach and do I need one
Facilitating a Passion Test workshop at 37 weeks pregnant! May 2018.

Note, there is a difference between life coaching and business coaching, the latter (er… obviously) is very much focused on developing your business. Life coaching is broader covering all areas of your life.


So, how
can you become a life coach?

The most common approach is to attend an ICF (International Coach Federation) accredited course. These courses can either be completed in-person or online. But…surprise surprise… remember the French dancer story… well…in typical Katie style I didn’t do things in the traditional way…

In 2011, when I was in South Africa conducting my research, I had the opportunity to attend a 9 day transformational leadership programme called Catalyst. This programme was in fact where I met my husband! I then did further training with Lucca Leadership as a coach and returned to Catalyst as a coach in 2012 and moved to South Africa to live with my then boyfriend, now husband. I attended further coaching training as part of my professional development as a facilitator over the next couple of years and then in 2014 something incredible happened.

I was so inspired at the Passion Test facilitator training that I volunteered to be an assistant on the next training. It was there that I had a conversation with Janet Bray Attwood that would change the course of my life forever! There was a moment that only her and I were on Zoom while we waited for the other team members to join. She asked me what my dream was.

what is a life coach and do I need one - Thailand
Passion Test Master Trainer Programme, Koh Samui, Thailand, April 2017.

I told her I wanted to be a transformational leader, that I wanted to train others to be Passion Test facilitators, that I wanted to coach people and speak on stage and travel the world. From clarifying my vision to making it happen things moved fast. She said she needed someone to coordinate a course she was running in three weeks time and asked if I was available and from that point her and I worked incredibly closely for three years right up until I got pregnant and stopped travelling.

I supported Janet to deliver training courses and her personal coaching courses all over the world over the last three years. In fact, I would attribute much of what I learned about coaching to her, she is a phenomenal coach and it is such a privilege to work with her and learn from her. I completed my certification as a Master Trainer of The Passion Test and facilitated on a number of Master Trainer courses. Janet and I spent a lot of time working together, I calculated that we spent a full three months of every year for the last three years running programmes away together – Italy, Finland, the UK, Thailand, Denmark… it has been an amazing journey and she has been and continues to be an incredible mentor to me.

what is a life coach and do I need one
Janet and I at Elevate Conference, Denmark, November, 2016.

So, I learned coaching ‘on the job’ and over the last three years I have enjoyed coaching a variety of different clients from all over the world, both in person and online. Last year I realised that over 90 percent of my clients were women living abroad so I decided to work specifically with this group.

At the start of my coaching relationship with my clients I use The Passion Test as a way of helping people get clarity on their ideal life at the start of us working together. The process helps people get crystal clear on the five things that matter most to them in priority order and then have a filter through which you make all decisions, once you have this, you have your compass, your north star, your purpose all figured out. Then the client’s passions form the framework around which we set goals and create an action plan to support them to live their ideal life. And the results are phenomenal, see here for testimonials.

When looking for a life coach it is well worth reading or asking for testimonials and also taking time to speak with the coach to get a feel for them and see if they are the right fit for you. For the yogi’s among you, I often liken this process of finding the right life coach for you as the same as finding the right yoga teacher. You want to feel a connection with that person, respect their skill and be willing to be open to what they share with you.


How is a working with a life coach different than therapy or counseling?

In the most simple terms therapy is more focused on the past and coaching on the future. From my experience of practicing both as a therapist and a coach, from my own perspective, in therapy sessions I have a lot less structure and I am very much going with the flow of what comes up in the moment with the client and the process is ongoing with regular sessions. We work with past traumas and things that are causing them distress in their lives to see where they have arisen from, how these things impact their lives and simple things they can do to reduce the stress or anxiety they are feeling.

what is a life coach and do I need one
Passion Test workshop at 37 weeks pregnant! May 2018.

With coaching, at least the way I do it, it is a lot more structured. At the start of the coaching relationship we set intentions and we set an end point, by which point we will review where the client is. In coaching the client will set goals and identify barriers to achieving those goals and decide which kinds of behaviours and habits will help them to reach their goals. We create action plans and have an accountability plan. It is much more practical and action focused than many forms of therapy. I would also say I am a lot ‘harder’ in my approach as a coach, as a therapist I am soft and gentle and as a coach I am not your ‘friend’ I ask hard and challenging questions and help you to see through your bullshit excuses!

In many regards people go to therapy because they think something is ‘wrong’ with them and need to be fixed, in coaching, people may be drawn to it because they know they want more in their life but they can’t pinpoint what that looks like or they have a goal but they don’t know how to get to it.

If you are experiencing depression or serious anxiety I would recommend seeing a therapist so you can work with what is going on for you in the present time and look at what has caused it and identify coping mechanisms. I wouldn’t recommend seeing a life coach for this. Of course, therapists also have much longer term training and are considered health professionals equipped to deal with mental health issues. Coaches are not.

what is a life coach and do I need one - beach in Thailand
Janet, Katie and Ritsuko in Thailand, February 2017.

And it is totally ok to have both a therapist and a life coach, I did for a couple of years! They both served very different purposes in my life and I found having both hugely beneficial, if you do go down this route it is very important to tell your coach that you have a therapist and vice versa.


Do I need a life coach?

Anyone who knows they want more out of life can benefit from having a life coach. Perhaps you are at a point of transition and wondering what path is next, maybe you have so many ideas you don’t know which to choose from.

Coaching is for people who want to make the most out of life and are ready to invest in themselves by putting time aside to take a good look at themselves and take action towards creating a life they love.

Life coaching is about getting clear on what you want your ideal life to look like, clarifying goals that you want to achieve and identifying what is getting in the way of you living that ideal life in order to clarify goals and identify obstacles and problematic behaviors in order to create action plans to achieve desired results.


What are the benefits of working with a life coach?

You get clarity whereby you understand yourself at a deeper level and what you want, what makes you tick and how to go about taking action to doing more of this in your life and really living into your potential. This has a knock on positive impact on your wellbeing, your relationships, your career etc.

Working with a life coach enables you to stretch yourself and your vision for yourself and more importantly to TAKE ACTION to make these things happen. All of a sudden you have an accountability partner who is supporting you to be the greatest you can be and who will call you out when you don’t do what you say you want to do.

what is a life coach and why do I need one
Supporting Janet Bray Attwood on one of her private coaching programmes in Lago Maggiore, Italy.

I had an amazing coach called Poul Flindt, (emailweb),  for a year and a half right up until a few days before I gave birth this July. We spoke every Monday evening and during that time I was on fire with what I was achieving! I set goals and I made them happen – co-wrote a book, designed and filmed my first online course, created a new business with my husband, entered into a business partnership with my coaching business, designed and facilitated high level UN meetings in Geneva, wrote my 15,000 word dissertation, had 2 x 6 month therapy clients, got way more coaching clients, ran a series of passion test workshops, facilitated Master training courses with Janet in beautiful locations around the world, had a consistent exercise routine, daily meditation practice, paid off all my credit card debt and got pregnant (one of my goals was to be a mumma)!!!

He really helped increase my confidence and also to learn to set boundaries with some of my clients and to really value myself professionally.

what is a life coach and do I need one - katie pregnant
38 weeks pregnant in Madrid. Photo courtesy of  Julie Haley

You decide what it is that you want to work on and what you are working towards with your coach and the benefits will follow. Some of my clients have quit their full time jobs and started their own successful companies. Others have quit their jobs and travelled the world. One found her soulmate. Others have started amazing side projects, for example, I received an email recently from a client who has just written her first book and recorded an album. Things she wrote down in our sessions as goals to achieve. Other clients might make smaller changes in their lives that involve them starting new hobbies, working on their relationship with themselves and improving their relationship with their partner etc.


What happens during a coaching session?

This depends on the coach, there are so many different approaches. The way I work is that I set intentions with the client at the start of our relationship and then during each session I work with a specific question that the coachee wants to find an answer to. The coaching sessions are bespoke to each client and their desires, goals and dreams.

I mainly work online with clients, though in some cases I do take on in-person clients in Madrid.

The sessions are designed to meet the client’s specific needs and most likely during the sessions you will:

    • Discover your top five passions in priority order using The Passion Test
    • Understand your why – what your drive is in life
    • Identify the barriers and blocks that are holding you back
    • Learn tools to overcome those barriers and blocks and to start living full out
    • Create a clear action plan on how to take action in creating a life that you absolutely love based around a series of goals
    • Begin to rewire your mind and your heart for success
what is a life coach and do I need one - filming online course
Filming my online course ‘A Whole New You

Coaching is based on the premise that the coachee has the answers inside of them, the coach’s role is to ask questions to support the client to find their own answers. In addition to this, I share a whole lot of tools I have learned over the years from a variety of approaches including NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) mindfulness, action planning, meditation etc.

Some coaches work with sessions 50 mins in length others may go up to 2 hrs at a time or longer! It depends on the coach. Coaches often sell their sessions in packages, for example, I have a coaching package that is 8 sessions of 1.5 hrs each.


How many sessions does one need?

This really depends on you and what you want to achieve. Some clients I have worked with on and off for up to a year and a half, others I have just had 8 sessions with.


More about my workshop at the upcoming She Hit Refresh Retreat

I am super excited to be running a half day workshop as part of the upcoming She Hit Refresh Retreat in Morocco (April 14-20). This workshop is all about CLARITY and discovering your passions. I will take the group through The Passion Test so by the end of the workshop each of you will be clear on your top five passions in priority order. This means that you will be way more effective at making decisions and you will start to align your life around the things that you love.

You will also create examples of how you know you are living your passions full out. For example, one of my passions is being super creative. One of my markers is writing a NY Times bestselling book, as I mentioned I have co-written a book now and we have meetings about publishing it so let’s just see what happens…
what is a life coach and do I need one

You will also learn the secret to living a passionate life, the formula for living a passionate life and you will build confidence in yourself and alignment with your true purpose in life. You will leave the half day workshop with a clear vision of your ideal life and during the week of the retreat and as part of the following workshop with Cepee you will set clear goals and start to build an action plan around them.

You can contact me via email, or on my Website, Instagram or Facebook. You may also be interested in my free guide ‘The Ultimate Guide to Thrive: 21 Tips to help you to find your feet in a foreign land’ available on my website.

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3 thoughts on “What is a Life Coach and Do I Need One?”

  1. I loved reading about your journey and how you became so involved the passion test process! You’ve inspired me to do another re-set myself and prioritize what I am most passionate about. Thank you for sharing!

    1. She Hit Refresh

      Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for reading Katie’s story, we’re excited to take the Passion Test at our upcoming retreat. Best of luck with your re-set!

    2. Thanks so much Lauren. Yay for your re-set! Let us know how it goes and feel free to get in touch on email or FB if you are interested in any re-set tools that might help, happy to share. With love x

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