Businessmen 150x150 Whats the Difference Between Life Coaching and Mentoring?

Life coaching and mentoring transform lives.

When I first entered the world of life coaching and mentoring, I had trouble understanding the difference between the two. Was a mentor also a coach, and could a coach be a mentor? It got more confusing when I researched online and found conflicting definitions. Some websites even said mentoring and life coaching were the same thing.

I can see how people might come to this conclusion. Life coaching and mentoring are two ways to transform people’s lives. They both help people overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Even the skills overlap, including clear communication, active listening, and being able to give constructive feedback. The difference is in the methods and the structure of the relationship between coach and client (or mentor and protégé).

As a life coach you are similar to a sports coach, except you’re helping people succeed in the game of life. You bring out the best in people who are struggling, and help them learn how to succeed. The purpose of coaching is to actively and efficiently help a client achieve certain goals. This creates a formal, short-term relationship between the life coach and the client. These relationships usually end when the client has learned what they need to know and has achieved a specific goal. Of course, the client can always return if they need coaching for another issue.

Mentors, on the other hand, are like informal teachers to a “mentee” or protégé. They are usually more concerned with awakening the person’s inner potential for learning and action, as opposed to helping them achieve specific results. In my more imaginative thinking, a mentor is like a wizard. Think of Merlin or Professor Dumbledore. They don’t give up all the answers or tell you what to do. Instead, they guide you to the answers with problem solving and the use of metaphors and story-telling. The role of a mentor is all about effectively passing on knowledge and experience. Mentorship can be formal (i.e. business mentoring) or informal. However, the relationship between mentor and protégé is almost always long-term.  Let’s summarize:

Life Coaches

1. Excel in a specific subject, ability or skill.
2. Usually have short-term, formal relationships with the client.
3. Help the client learn how to achieve goals. Challenges the individual while providing support for immediate issues.
4. Use structured methods to guide behaviors and outcomes.


1. Are a treasure-trove of knowledge and life experience.
2. Guide and support the protégé through personal growth and understanding.
3. Generally maintain an informal and long-term relationship with the protégé.
4. Are generally less active while “holding the space” for the protégé, i.e. listening, sharing ideas, problem solving.

Life coaching and mentoring are wonderful opportunities to transform lives in different ways. Whether you want to be a successful life coach or a mentor (or both!) I highly recommend getting Dr. Craig’s FREE report.