Life Coaching and NLP – Differences and Similarities

Isn’t life coaching the same as NLP? Very often people ask me this question. The short answer is: No.

Attending countless London life coaching and NLP events, I found it surprising how many people confuse Life Coaching with NLP. Sometimes even life coaches and NLP practitioners themselves confuse the two. Although they overlap in many different areas, they are also inherently different.

The Origins

The exact origins of coaching are difficult to track down. And it’s because its origins date way back in time. The practice itself has existed for decades but only recently it has been termed as Life Coaching. In the UK and London it emerged during the 90s. Unfortunately this makes defining life coaching tricky. And asking five different coaches what it is that they do will probably result in, at least, five different answers. One reason might be that this profession covers almost every walk of life, be it business, career, relationships, health, wealth, spirituality etc. The one thing that is common between all of them is their aim to get their clients to achieve results.

How NLP originated, is on the other hand, well documented. And unlike coaching, any NLP practitioner should be able to explain exactly what NLP is. There are lots of material on what NLP is and how it came to be; therefore it isn’t necessary to revisit this here.

The Process

Generally speaking, coaches start with identifying what is it exactly that a client wants to change. Many clients would know what they want, for example changing their job, losing weight, finding a partner, getting a promotion, improving their business etc. There are cases however where clients don’t know what it is that they want. Figuring this out is the prerequisite to a successful coaching process. Following that, coaches lead their clients into developing a detailed plan to achieve their goals, taking into consideration any challenges that might come along the way. Then progress will be measured and the process will be sped up, slowed down, or modified according to constant feedback.

Similar to a life coach, an NLP practitioner’s objective is also to identify specifically what the clients want and lead them to acquiring it. There is one major difference however. Where a life coach’s main concern is the present and the future, an NLP practitioner will sometimes dig into the past. The reason is because NLP can be therapeutic and it could help rid clients from any negative emotions, limiting beliefs, limiting decisions etc. that are holding them back. For example, a woman might take all the right steps to meet the man of her dreams. Or a man might do all what it takes to buy his first house. But if she feels not good enough or if he feels he doesn’t deserve it, they both will very likely fail to reach their goals.

The Result

Both life coaching and NLP work towards a positive outcome. And even though they might follow different paths, these paths will very often intersect. Any experienced coach or NLP practitioner will tell you that both areas could heavily depend on each others. If a client wants to create more wealth when the client firmly believes that only deceitful people are wealthy, creating wealth will be very challenging. Similarly a knowledgeable NLP practitioner will know that destroying this limiting decision without tasking the client with action steps and committing the client to them, will get the client nowhere.


Whether you see life coaching and NLP to be very different or very similar, what holds true is that to get the best results possible, both are unquestionably essential. If you’re looking to rid yourself from negative emotions, phobias, negative attachments to the pasts and the like, then an NLP practitioner might be the right choice for you. If on the other hand you’re looking to achieve more, reach goals and so on, then a life coach might be the right choice for you.