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The Complete Guide to Becoming a Habit Coach

Helping people make changes in their lives is what makes coaching so powerful and fulfilling. Habit coaching is a specific coaching specialty that focuses on immediate and direct impact that then compounds into massive life changes.  Habit coaching is both a great way to start your coaching career and also a great addition to the offerings of experienced coaches.

What is habit coaching?

Habit coaching helps a client create a regular habit to improve their productivity, health, and well-being, or other aspects of daily life. These habits are the very foundation of positive behavior change. Establishing even seemingly minor habits can have powerful positive ramifications for a client.

Habit coaching focuses on approaching bigger goals by starting with keystone habits, and then the coaching moves into helping with long-term habit formation through science-backed tactics, accountability, and motivation.

Because habits are a daily activity, coaching is performed daily, most often through a coach checking in with the client through a messaging app.

Of course, attempting to consistently perform a new habit will expose larger problems that the coach and client will work through together.  But always, the client focuses first on making incremental progress through actual action. This helps the client build the vital confidence and momentum they need to move toward their goal.

Habit coaching can include breaking a bad habit, often through the use of replacement habits. (That’s one of the techniques covered in our Habit Coaching Certification.)

Who Needs a Habit Coach?

Anyone who wants to make changes to their daily routines can benefit from working with a Habit Coach.

Because habits are massively popular in pop culture (i.e. there are several best-selling books about habits), many new clients have already decided on an important habit that they feel will help them. In this case, coaches should trust that the habit will become an entry point to the bigger issues that coaching traditionally addresses.

For existing clients, habit coaching most often comes up after a period of goal setting. Those new goals need to be backed by the consistency of new habits.

What is the science of habit coaching?

Habit coaching turns the idea of traditional coaching inside out. Instead of starting big, you start small—yet still end up with the same types of successes. Habits add up.

To be effective in building habits, you need to coach for momentum. Habits are easy to start but hard to keep. Countless people “start” new eating plans or quit habits like  smoking, but most of them relapse. Habit coaches are trained in helping clients build momentum so that the new behavior really does become integrated as a real habit that eventually feels effortless.

How do coaches do this? One way is evaluate client needs based on the Open Gates Model for Successful Behavior Design. Understanding the Open Gates Model goes beyond quick-fix tips and “life hacks” to address the underlying factors that can prevent clients from establishing the behavior change they desire.

Research has found that small, frequent coaching interventions are an effective way to help people actually change their behavior. Just a couple of examples:

  • Workers who were coached via a chatbot were more likely to develop the habit of taking the stairs rather than the elevator (M. Piao et al).
  • People with diabetes who received coaching showed improvements in glycemic control and quality of life (DianaSherifali, RN et all).

How is habit coaching different from other forms of coaching?

The most obvious difference to people familiar with other forms of coaching is that habit coaching is almost always performed over text messages rather than in-person or video-based sessions. This is because habits are daily and so the client needs daily contact. But a daily session is both more coaching than is necessary and also completely impractical for most people’s schedules.

Despite the difference in format, habit coaching is still very much based on traditional coaching concepts. The relationship between client and coach is partnership-based. Yes, the coach sets the initial structure as firmly being about building a habit. But it’s the client who leads the way by defining the habit, taking responsibility for performing the habit, and participating in discussing solutions to the challenges that crop up.

Habit coaching is about a laser-like focus on a small-but-significant daily goal. Rather than spending time on in-depth assessments and other exercises, habit coaches move the client into action—and success—right away. These goals can start very small—for example, a client who wants to do a daily stretching routine might start with putting their mat down on the floor of their bedroom so it’s ready to go when they first wake up.

The best habit coaches have experience in establishing the same daily habits that their clients want to enact. They understand what really works to overcome hurdles that interfere with client success, and they understand the motivations of the client.

Habit coaching can be a useful addition to other forms of coaching, when it helps the client establish personal habits that support their growth. An executive coaching client, for example, could be habit-coached for setting daily priorities. A life coaching client might be coached to do a daily journaling practice.

With habit coaching, clients get:

  • Support and accountability. Good coaches have personal, rather than theoretical, experience in that goal.
  • Advice. Although advice is not the main job of a coach, coaches often have expertise that will be helpful.
  • Coaches check in with clients usually on daily basis (though each coach sets their own cadence for weekends, holidays, etc.).

Advantages of Habit Coaching

  • Immediate positive impact on clients by the daily actions they complete. Seemingly small health and fitness habits especially can make a big impact over time.
  • Creates a strong foundation for reaching larger goals
  • Gives clients an immediate feeling of success through small wins; builds self-confidence and confidence in the coach
  • Can give the coach a way to connect with the client 7 days/week via accountability check-ins
  • Every day can be a “fresh start” for the client, with a low barrier to success
  • Accessibility: habit coaching is typically available to clients at a lower price point

How to become a habit coach

Habit coaches need to understand the methodologies that lead to client success, and they need a platform for delivering the coaching.

Habit coaching certification gives clients confidence in your coaching ability and gives you a solid framework for how to deliver the coaching.

A coaching platform gives you a secure way to exchange messages with the client and for them to do daily check-ins on their progress.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Determine the habits you will coach for. Typically this process starts by examining which keystone habits support your coaching specialty.
  2. Get a Habit Coach Certification. There are now several organizations training coaches, but is the first organization to train habit coaches, has the most experience with both coaches and clients, and has tools specific to habit coaching. This certification is an 8-week course that you complete with a cohort of other professional coaches. You get weekly live instruction, powerful learning exercises, and the support of peer coaches who are learning right along with you.
  3. Set up your coaching profile and platform. Be sure to offer standard habit coaching so clients on the app can find you.

Here’s what coaches had to say about our 8-week Habit Coach Certification: