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What Is a Life Coach and 3 Practical Ways They Can Help Women Later In Life

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So, you’re looking for a life coach! Or maybe not — perhaps you’re just curious about what a life coach is and why so many women seem to have them. The truth is that life coaches are more than just a fad, and they might be exactly what we need as we transition into life as an empty nester, grandparent, or retiree.

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Below are answers to every conceivable question about life coaches — if we missed one, add it in the comments and we’ll update this article — and how they can help us navigate the beauty of aging.

What is a life coach?

Usually, we think about coaching in the context of sports or fitness training — perhaps your son coaches your grandson’s baseball team or your neighbor works out with a personal trainer or professional coach. In reality, the coaching industry is much bigger than just fitness. These days, there are coaches for everything, including career coaches, wellness coaches, and executive coaching specifically tailored to CEOs and managers. 

The definition of a life coach is broad and constantly evolving, but it’s generally someone who helps their clients set goals and create a plan to reach them. Those goals might revolve around your personal life, a new career, improving your leadership skills, or creating work-life balance. The possibilities for the lessons you learn from a life coach are based on the goals you’ve set for yourself.

Life coaches can be really helpful for your personal growth, but they come with hefty price tag. According to the International Coaching Federation, the average cost of one life coaching session is $244 (holy moly!), and coaches typically require a commitment of weekly or biweekly coaching sessions. Think it over and review your budget and financial freedom before going whole hog and hiring a full-time life coach. For most of us, the cost is prohibitive. As an alternative, there are workshops and single-session offerings. 

Who can become a certified life coach?

Life coaching is almost like the wild west, thanks to its status as a relatively new industry. There are no federal or state regulations for it, meaning anyone can call themselves a life coach, regardless of background or credentials. Luckily, there is one organization that provides accreditation — the International Coaching Federation (ICF). This organization offers everything you need to receive a life coach certification and start your own coaching business.

Founded in 1995 and based in Lexington, Kentucky, the ICF has three levels for credentials, from Associate Certified Coach (ACC) to Master Certified Coach (MCC). To achieve Master status, a life coach must receive 200 hours of training and perform 2,500 hours of client coaching experience.

The ICF also offers a forum for individuals to file ethics complaints, and it publishes annual reports on the status of life coaching organizations and the industry as a whole. If you’re thinking about hiring a life coach, search for one accredited by the ICF — you can do this by using the “Validate Coach” feature on their website. When you hire a life coach, you’re entrusting not just your money but also your time, goals, and personal life to a stranger. It’s important to hire an accredited life coach you can trust.

Who should hire a life coach?

If you’re wondering if you’d benefit from a life coach, the answer is yes. Who among us doesn’t need a little guidance and cheerleading every now and then? For those of us in later life — empty nesters, grandparents, retirees — a life coach is even more important. They can provide social support and encourage you to stay curious and engaged, both of which are key factors in overall life satisfaction as we age. In fact, according to the ICF’s 2020 Global Coaching Study, almost a third of the people using an ICF-qualified life coach are older than 45.

If you still aren’t convinced a life coach is for you, keep reading. There are three very significant ways that a life coach benefits women over 50.

Redefining Yourself After 50

It’s no secret that 50 is a milestone — and as you add years to that number, the birthdays with a zero at the end seem to come around faster and faster, which is why now is the time to learn (and re-learn) some valuable life skills from a trustworthy life coach.

Taking the time to think about your identity and redefine yourself post-midlife is important. Who are you without your job, without kids in the house, or without the physical mobility you once had? A life coach can help you navigate these questions and figure out what’s important to us right now.

Perhaps you’ve recently retired and you don’t know what to do with all of that hard-fought free time. A life coach can help you rediscover old hobbies and interests or find completely new ones. Or maybe you’re helping your aging parents navigate physical or mental decline, and you’ve started thinking about your relationships and their importance in your life. Research tells us that healthy relationships and social support are critical for aging well, so asking a life coach to provide relationship coaching could be just what you need. They’ll help you figure out the steps you should take to maintain important relationships as your life changes.

When we reach milestones in older life, it doesn’t mean our younger selves are gone — Rather, it means that we are evolving and finding parts of ourselves that were tucked away while we did life’s “have to’s” (instead of its “want to’s”). Take the time to figure out who you want to be in the next stage of your life, and don’t be afraid to hire a life coach to help.

Navigating the End of a Career

Whether you’re almost to the finish line or have no plans of retiring soon, navigating the later stages of your career can be challenging in a completely new way. You want to reach your full potential in your career, but perhaps you’re starting to get worn down or your priorities for how you spend your time are shifting.

The great thing about a career coach is that they’ll personalize their advice to meet your individual situation. Together, you can set goals for your career — whether that means revving it up and accomplishing everything you want to before retirement or slowing down and figuring out a new work-life balance.

A career coach can even help you navigate the end of your professional life, which can often feel like a great loss. Figuring out a retirement plan can be challenging, but there’s no reason to do it alone.

Finding a New Path in Life

One of the greatest joys and greatest challenges of getting older is finding a new path in life. When we’re young, the path can feel like it’s laid out for us; we become students, employees, mothers, and wives. But as older women, there are fewer boundaries, and we have less guidance about what to do with ourselves — what to do with our time, what direction to take. A life coach can help you reflect and set goals for both your personal life and your professional life moving forward. Perhaps you no longer have children in the house or no longer have to go to work every day — how will you fill your time? A life coach can help you decide.

Maybe you want to learn how to paint or become a bird watcher. Or perhaps you’ll devote yourself to your grandchildren or join a book club. Your path in life will likely look different than your path from decades ago. Frankly, this is one of the best parts of getting older — there are still so many paths to explore… and now we have the freedom to walk them!

A Word of Caution

The ways a life coach can help you achieve personal growth are nearly limitless. The key word, though, is “nearly” — there is one thing we don’t recommend seeking a life coach out for, and that’s mental health issues. Life coaches are coaches, not mental health professionals, and it’s important to know the difference. Mental health professionals, like psychiatrists and psychologists, are trained to provide care and support based on clinical research and years of specialized education. They are educated in trauma and mental health concerns; a life coach is not.

Life coach Danielle Copsy told CNBC that in the past, she’s referred clients to therapists, recognizing that she lacks the training and skills to provide them the support they need. This should always be the case — and if you’re looking for someone to coach you through concerns like depression, anxiety, family or relationship trauma (or any type of mental health issue), you should seek out a professional therapist instead.

But when used for what they’re intended — career coaching, relationship coaching, time management, communication skills, and personal growth — a life coach might be exactly the boost you need to achieve your goals and develop a successful life post-50.

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