Can a Life Coach Teach Self-Efficacy?

Firstly, what is self-efficacy? Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s own capacity to successfully execute performance-specific behaviours to attain their goal which has a proactive effect on their performance. Albert Bandura, the father of self-efficacious philosophy said it best when he claimed, “perceived self-efficacy is concerned not with the number of skills you have, but with what you believe you can do with what you have under a variety of circumstances” (Bandura, 1997 :37 as cited in Palmer & Whybrow, 2019). Bandura saw people as ready agents of change that could contribute to the well-being of their lives and influence their circumstances with positive action to guide and motivate their efforts (Bandura 1982, 2005 as cited in Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).

One of the main roles of a life coach is to encourage their client to enhance their beliefs about what they think they can achieve. One’s belief will have a direct effect on their motivation and how they feel, which will then influence how they approach, tackle, and perform a task. Bandura, like many life coaches, attributes a positive belief in one’s abilities to enhanced human accomplishments and personal well-being.  Life coaches strive to encourage their client’s achievement motivation which then assists them to accomplish tasks, even if they are challenging.  This has a positive effect on the individual’s self-esteem, and they begin to improve their abilities and develop mastery orientation (Louw & Louw, 2014).

An individual’s beliefs about their efficacy can be developed by four main sources: 1) mastery experiences/successful past performance (which serve as capacity indicators); 2) vicarious experiences provided by social models; 3) verbal persuasion (and other social influences that inform the individual about the perception that others have of their abilities); and 4) psycho-physiological and emotional states (from which one infers his/her ability, strength and vulnerability to failure) (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019). Mastery experiences tend to provide the individual with the most benefits as they provide authentic evidence of the individual’s ability to perform, which becomes the basis for future success (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).

One must learn to face challenging tasks with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appreciation for their own inner motivation and perseverance to see them through the assigned task. Setting goals and self-efficacy go together as the goal provides the vision and guideline for the future, while self-efficacy directs one’s focus and behaviour over long periods of time to achieve the desired outcome, even in the absence of external incentives along the way (Palmer & Whybrow, 2019).


Louw, D. A., & Louw, A. E. (2014). Early childhood. Child and adolescent development (2nd ed., pp. 152-222). Bloemfontein: Psychology publications.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2019). Self-efficacy within coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer (Eds),
Handbook of Coaching Psychology : A Guide for Practitioners (2nd ed.). Routledge.

What Exactly is Life Coaching?

Sir John Whitmore was one of the pioneering and influential figures in the life coaching industry. In his seminal book, Coaching for performance, Whitmore drew on Timothy Gallwey’s inner game model that recognises that the internal state of an individual plays a significant factor in performance. Whitmore states in his book that coaching is about “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn instead of teaching them – a facilitation approach” (Whitmore, 1992, p. 8 as cited in Passmore & Tee, 2020). Reflecting on one’s own life, consider the impact of self-talk on performance, decision-making, and problem-solving. How crucial do self-awareness and personal responsibility become when considering such matters?

When an individual enters into a life coaching engagement, they will experience a transformational process created by a unique relationship based on collaboration, trust, confidentiality, and conversations that are meant to develop self-awareness, inspire change and create action (Passmore & Tee, 2020; Van Zyl et al., 2016). The role of the life coach is to facilitate and support the client as they move towards reaching their goals and enhancing their well-being, in a collaborative solution-focused, result-orientated way (Passmore & Tee, 2020).

While the life coaching process is focused on goal attainment, it also allows room for self-reflection so the client can make sense of their situation. This is designed to help the client link their personal identity with specific action perspectives. The reflective process that the coaching client experiences is often a joint experience by the life coach, as together they reflect on the challenges the client is enduring. This meaning-making dialogue opens up awareness of how actions, limited thinking patterns, and self-sabotaging behaviours affect one’s life. As the coaching conversation progresses over time a new narrative unfolds in the developmental process. Van Zyl et al. (2016) state that the art of life coaching is to alter the client’s past history in a collaborative way by incorporating new events and persons and by creating and challenging the story’s plot.

By providing a safe and collaborative space for the client to explore the deeper aspects of their lives and their presenting issues, the life coach gives the client permission to delve into the potential of what change means to them. Defined as goals, these changes play a key role in transitions from existing states to desired states or outcomes (Van Zyl et al., 2016).


Passmore, J. & Tee, D. (2020). Defining coaching. Passmore, J. & Tee, D. (Eds.), Coaching researched – A coaching psychology reader for practitioners and researchers. Wiley-Blackwell

Van Zyl, L. E., Stander, M. W., & Odendaal, A. (2016). Coach as a fellow human companion. Van Zyl, L. E., Stander, M. W., & Odendaal, A. (Eds.), Coaching Psychology: Meta-theoretical perspectives and applications in multicultural contexts. Springer international publishing

Carl Rogers

Person-Centered Therapy – A Useful Model for Coaching

The counselling model that aligns with my characteristics as a life coach

As a life coach, I am attracted to person-centered therapy as I feel that an important element of counselling (and life coaching) is to recognise that every individual has the capacity to resolve their own issues, have the capacity to define and clarify their own goals and can direct their personal growth toward self-actualisation if the environment and conditions are conducive to exploring such potentialities (Corey et. al., 2021). I feel that the life coaching environment should facilitate such an experience where clients are assisted and given the primary responsibility of moving away from maladjustment to psychological well-being (Corey et. al., 2021).

Carl RogersCarl Rogers was one of the most influential figures in the development of person-centered therapy. He believed that at a person’s core they are trustworthy, resourceful, and able to make positive changes in their lives if they provided the appropriate conditions that foster growth (Rogers 1987a as cited in Corey et. al., 2021). He also maintained that there are three main attributes that therapists should ascribe to, to minimise defensive behaviour, enhance the therapeutic relationship and help foster growth in their client. These are congruence, unconditional positive regard, and accurate empathic understanding. Additionally, by being real, on a person-to-person level, the “role” of the life coach is to be without roles and enhance the quality of the relationship provide an attitude that is encouraging towards the client’s need to become more open to experiences, to trust in themselves, to have an internal source of evaluation, and a willingness to continue to grow is a basic goal and provides a general framework for understanding the direction to take in person-centered therapy. Therefore, the humanistic perspective is characterised as a shared journey and a way of being that reveals the humanness of the client and the life coach as they participate in a growth experience.


Corey, G., Nicholas, L.J., & Bawa, U. (2021). Theory and practice of counselling and psychotherapy (3rd SA ed., Ch. 1 & Ch. 2). Cengage Learning.

How An Empathetic Life Coach Helped Me

There was a time early in my life coaching career that I found I was losing direction, not fully understanding the counselling environment, and lacking the skills to communicate effectively with my clients. I thought it necessary to consult with a good life coach in my area to assist me with my concerns.

I find that when I am in a new environment, I tend to become more closed-off in my behaviour as I approach new situations with hesitation and often-times, scepticism. I will often guard and hide my feelings around people I do not know to appear that I am un-phased by what is happening and may even appear indifferent. However, meeting my therapist was refreshing as his friendly and welcoming attitude made me feel comfortable to get the process started. Even though I may have appeared stand off-ish, I really wanted someone who would accept me, listen to what I have to say, and understand my feelings towards my situation. My Life Coach’s attitude ticked those boxes straight away, and he skilfully brought in a deep empathetic approach throughout the Life Coaching process. This created, what Pedersen called “an inclusive cultural empathy” the flowed smoothly during our interactions.

Upon deeper reflection I was looking for a role model, someone to boost my self-esteem, and someone I could aspire to be one day. I desired to feel respected as someone with potential to create positive changes in people’s lives.

My Life Coach made excellent use of the common counselling techniques such as making use of good questions; being able to correctly paraphrase and even summarise what I was saying; helping me to work on some core issues; accurately reflect on key emotions and affective states; and express empathy in a way that really made me feel supported. He confidently and effortlessly embodied what Carl Rogers defines as the three attributes of a skilled life coach. These are: (1) congruence, (2) unconditional positive regard, and (3) accurate empathic understanding, as mentioned by Midwinter and Dickson.

During my therapy sessions I noticed the questioning process he used seemed to be intentionally picked to stimulate certain reactions in me. Most questions were used as open questions, but each type of question would allow me to further explore my issues as if noticing them from many different angles. Sometimes the questions would confront certain limiting beliefs, while others were used to create momentum in my own thinking and problem-solving abilities. I always felt like we were on the same team as he was able to leave out his own agendas, while his use of questioning seemed to provoke a deeper understanding of me and my concerns, as opposed to pacifying his own curiosity.

His ability to pay attention and to remember critical information in the stories I was sharing was admirable. By paraphrasing short sentences and summarising much longer statements really made me notice how focused he was on me, without ever needing to interrupt me. He seemed to understand that I was responsible and capable enough to come up with my own solutions.

Becoming skilled as a life coach requires the use of empathy as a tool that helps deliver a certain outcome, and in this case is used to help counselling clients (1) gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their behaviour; (2) provide a sense of hope and motivation that they can achieve their goals; and (3) a space where they can feel safe to be open and vulnerable. It is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules to abide by when using empathy, but more so that the therapist will have some useful guidelines that can be adjusted to their own style and most importantly customised to fit the needs of the client. Each component that makes up a well-rounded style of empathy needs to be learned with proficiency and then fine-tuned to make best use of it. Life Coaching should also understand the importance of knowing when not to make use of any components of empathy that are not best suited to the task at hand.

Making good use of high quality, intentional questions helps the clients to explore and really open  their imaginations when delving into their issue. While inappropriate use and overuse of questions can make a client feel intimidated, interrogated, judged, and victimised. Being aware of what one would like to achieve with a question is vital. Questions should be used to identify feelings, underlying motives, core meanings and/or limiting beliefs to name a few, and not to try confuse, trap, or mislead the individual.

The ability to paraphrase and accurately reflect a client’s affective state is a skill that requires active listening and memory recall. Clarkson noted that it can also be used to check the counsellor’s  understanding of what has been said and to spark further elaboration. Such skills must be used with caution due to the negative consequences that can occur if misused. If done too often can make the client feel like the therapist is just pretending to understand  and not really “getting” the what they are saying. Paraphrasing the incorrect information, and/or reflecting the wrong affective state back to the client can likewise make the client feel that the Life Coach is simply not listening, or perhaps hearing the wrong thing. However, done correctly and with tact, can help the client identify their feelings, to feel understood, and feel encouraged to explore their concern further. Correct use of paraphrasing and reflection can demonstrate that the counsellor’s  attention is solely focused on the client and their needs. Rogers and Farson found that when people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.

Knowing how to summarise lengthy pieces of dialogue is a vital asset in therapy, as most often clients will come for counselling with numerous problems that need to be resolved; and an entanglement of different issues that relate to each other at certain intersections. Clients also often feel that the people in their lives either do not listen to them, or do not really understand what they are going through, so it can be difficult for them to freely discuss such issues with them. Over time this can create a build-up of unexpressed emotions and issues, which are then released as a barrage of incoming information when with a Life Coach. The counsellor must use great skill in (1) staying with the conversation; (2) remembering crucial bits of relevant information; and (3) knowing how, according to Angus and Greenberg, in their book Working with narrative in emotion-focused therapy, to integrate the mix of information into a coherent story that resonates with the client.

During my own counselling sessions I found that my inability to paraphrase and/or summarise the correct information back to the client, while at the same time trying to stay focused on the conversation has been a difficult task for me. In trying to “get it right”, I often lose focus on the topic and do not pay attention to using active listening processes such as verbal fillers, eye contact, open body postures and/or providing targeted questions. Being attentive and responsive to the client’s needs are essential elements of becoming a great life coach. In order for me to be my best going forward, I feel that staying focused on the topic of the conversation and on the feelings that it brings up, will help me to formulate the correct response so my client is always assured that I am truly engaging in the conversation. As mentioned by Egan, I must learn to be more perceptive so I can identify key emotions and points of interest in what is being expressed, so I can then respond accurately and with empathy for the greater needs of the client.

So sum up I would like to share a quote by Norcross that emphasises the importance of empathy in Life Coaching, and goes as follows: “Empathy is linked to outcomes because it serves a positive relationship function, facilitates a corrective emotional experience, promotes exploration and meaning creation, and supports the client’s self healing”.


Lynne E. Angus, L. E & Greenberg, L. S. (2011). Working With Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Changing Stories, Healing Lives. American Psychological Association.

DeVito, J. A. (2019). Foundations of interpersonal communication. The interpersonal communication book. (15th ed., pp. 15-42). Pearson education.

Egan. (2013). Empathic responding: Working at mutual understanding. The skilled helper: a problem-management and opportunity-development approach to helping (10th ed., pp. 104-131). Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.

Midwinter, R. & Dickson, J. (2020). The skill of communicating. Embedding Counselling and Communication Skills: A Relational Skills Model (1st ed.).

Pedersen, P. (2009). Inclusive cultural empathy: A relationship-centered alternative to individualism. South African Journal of Psychology, 39(2).

Rogers, C. R & Farson, R. E. (1987). Active listening. Communicating in Business Today.

Life Coaching Discussion – Let’s Talk About Money

Money is the root of all evil. The source of great pleasure. The key ingredient for chaos, suffering, misery, fun, entertainment and contentment. It is an ingenious concept that strikes at the heart of all our wishes and desires, while at the same time can feel like a scary monster under our bed keeping us up all night.

As a Life Coach, I often wonder what is this thing called money and how does it have such a powerful effect on our lives?

First and foremost, in its most basic sense, it is merely a reasonable form of energy exchange between two or more parties. When viewed in this manner it makes perfect sense to have money in our lives as it allows for a fair exchange to commence in order for a need to be met. It allows for an accepted value to be gained for the time, energy, skill and talent that went into the creation/management of the product or service that is being offered.

As a life coach, I have noticed that money is just a tool and a resource to help us meet our needs. It assists the movement of our societal evolution so we can become better, smarter, quicker and more efficient. It is a collective human invention at its best and is currently the right tool on hand to meet our collective needs. Therefore, money cannot be the enemy or the saviour in our society. We must choose to go within and evaluate our own psychology if we are to find any answers for which we seek.

The real enemy at the gate is the confusion between wants and needs. Humans have very few real needs in order to survive. We need adequate food and water supply. We need basic shelter, decent amounts of sleep, clothing to keep us warm and the ability to procreate to ensure the survival of the species. Beyond that, it starts to become a matter of psychology and it’s in this area where the confusion between wants and needs starts to become apparent. Although it is essential to feel safe, valued, happy, fulfilled, confident, loved and free, it can create distortions in the way we view reality. Human nature is geared towards moving away from pain and towards pleasure. This is where the seduction of money can sweep us off our feet and lead us down some strange paths.

When working with my life coaching clients, I find that as long as money is helping us move in the direction of pleasure, we will find it to be of value. However, the balance is like thin ice that can crack under our feet at any moment because when money, starts to lead us toward pain, then we can succumb to pain-associated feelings such as anger, frustration, jealousy, anxiety, depression and so on.

If money is just a tool then it is our relationship with money that must change if we are to work in harmony with it. If this relationship is currently in disharmony, then we must ask ourselves where are we going wrong and how can we start to repair the damage that has been done?

Firstly, we must look at the relationship itself. If money were your life partner, what would its characteristics be? Would it be kind, nurturing and loving or would it be harsh, critical, estranged and irritable? What are your expectations of it and do you nurture this relationship? Are you getting your needs met or are you frustrated by its lack of support?

Secondly, how is the relationship between your closest loved ones and money?

Thirdly, how were you taught to think about money while you were growing up with your parents or guardians? Were any limiting beliefs about money passed on to you? Are you passing on any limiting beliefs to those closest to you?

Lastly, what money patterns seem to dominate your life? Is it a matter of feast or famine? Loss and betrayal? Never enough? An exciting adventure? Which money patterns seem to repeat themselves over and over again in your life?

From this above exercise, you can start to get a clearer picture of the dynamics of this relationship you have with money and the role it plays in your life. If you are to fix the holes in this relationship then it is crucial to be honest about your role in this relationship, where you may be faltering and then be willing to do what it takes to find a sense of harmony going forward. This may take time, patience and practice, but with some determined effort, anyone can change direction and move toward a better destination.

When my Life Coaching clients have mastered their relationship with money have realised that opposed to being a slave to money, money is in fact their resourceful servant. These people have broken the shackles in their minds and freed themselves from this mental slavery. Freedom from mental money slavery is a choice. It is now up to you to choose to keep your shackles on or dare to be free and find out for yourself what lies beyond the horizon!

Thanks for reading,
Donovan – Life Coach