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7 Killer Life Coach Questions

There are a number of aspects of Life Coaching that you need to be, at the very least competent at, if you’re going to be successful. Of course you need a big stick, but you also need competent rapport building skills and to be able to shut up and listen, sometimes for long periods.

Just as importantly though, you need to ask great and relevant questions.

Great questions are at the core of good Life Coaching because they allow the client to think differently and can frequently be the precursor to breakthroughs and a-ha moments.

Today I thought I’d help you Life Coach yourself by offering you 7 top secret life coaching killer questions that many would, and probably have, wrestled crocodiles in vain and died for.

If you want more than a measly 7,  download the free version of ‘Don’t Ask Stupid Questions‘ it’s full of them.

If you use the following questions on a regular basis I guarantee you’ll see a marked improvement in the quality of your life, or your money back

So let’s get cracking with a highly scannable post containing the worlds greatest life coaching questions. Or more accurately, the best ones I could think of on a lazy Sunday afternoon in between football games.

1. If you did know, what would the answer be?

Imagine you were sat with me in my office. You had come to me because you wanted help on starting a business on the Internet selling wheelchairs to frogs that had had their legs eaten by evil Frenchmen. We were casually chatting about how to get your business up and running when I asked you:

“What’s needed for your business to be successful?”

You may reply that you have no idea, that’s why you hired a life coach. It would be now I would cunningly ask,

“If you did know, what would the answer be?”

On the surface it seems like a dumb ass question if ever there was one. After all, you’ve just told me you don’t know, right?

Wrong, you just think you don’t know.

You’ll be amazed to hear in this situation that MOST clients then go on to give me an answer of some description. It’s almost like I have given them permission to step outside of how they’d normally think and use their imagination.

It’s like one-person brainstorming.

I’m not saying this will always throw up the right answer, but it allows people to be creative and it starts the thought process moving toward a solution.

2. What would have to happen for you to be able to achieve that?

It really doesn’t matter what it is you’re looking to achieve, change has to take place and there is no way around that.

This question is designed to drag any potential hurdles to the surface by asking what would have to happen and the key is the word ‘have’ (in this instance, must and need would be equally acceptable).

Let’s take our goal as an example. To give away 1m books we know we have to giveaway 10,000 first. We also know that we have to arrange for the books to be printed and we’ll need distribution in place.

None of the above are negotiable and they are the things this question is designed to drag to the fore so that a successful plan can be worked out.

Keep asking “and what else would have to happen” and eventually you will have a list of all your known steps you have to your goal.

3. What else can that mean?

A few years ago a client told me a guy that cut her up on the Interstate that morning was trying to kill her. I made the mistake of laughing thinking she was joking. She wasn’t, she really thought the guy was trying to kill her and got pissed at me for taking her brush with death so light-heartedly.

Well I guess it’s possible he had malice aforethought, but I think it’s fairly remote seeing as she didn’t know the guy and when he missed her he didn’t back up for another go, but carried on on his murderess way after she swerved to miss him.

I can’t remember how I regained my composure, but I do know these days I’d simply ask “What else could it have meant?”

Putting the homicidal intentions to one side for just a moment, what else could have happened?

  • The driver could have been having a sneezing fit
  • He could have been on the phone and momentarily distracted
  • He may have been a very poor inexperienced driver
  • His pet ferret may have got out of its cage and be nibbling away on his testicles
  • He could have been drunk
  • He could have been very sleepy and almost nodded off
  • He could be a total knob

I think any reasonable person would believe that any one of the above including the ferret scenario is more likely than “He was trying to run a total stranger off the road in an attempt to murder her whilst at the same time risking killing himself”

This is a cool question to help you reframe any situation, click the link if you want to read more on one of the most powerful techniques used in Life Coaching.

4. Who could help you achieve that?

You’ve probably heard me talk about ‘Mad How Disease’ here before and it’s covered off in more detail by John Strelecky in How To Be Rich and Happy.

When people set goals such as giving away 1,000,000 copies of their book for free, they often run around panicking and wondering how the hell they are going to achieve whatever it is and then wondering why they set such a ridiculous goal in the first place.

I have no idea how to do some of the steps required with our huge, hairy and quite frankly, audacious goal, so I asked you guys. The post ‘Call That A Goal? THIS is a Goal!’ did just that. Rather than running around like a headless chicken, I asked for help and then sat back and waited.

What a brilliant idea that was if I do say so myself. Some of the responses I got were better than the stuff we’d thought of and it saved us a lot of time.

Whatever it is you want to achieve there will almost certainly be people that have done it before. Find out who they are and then ask them, or worst case scenario, read up on them. Better still hire a Life Coach!

5. If ‘X’ wasn’t an issue would you be able to achieve that?

This is a classic sales technique and it’s called isolating the objection. What we are doing here is trying to find out what is the one thing (or maybe several things) that is stopping you achieving what it is you want to achieve?

‘X’ will often be money, but it may also be a whole host of other things such as qualifications, age, weight, time etc.

For example I regularly hear things like:

  • If I had more money I could do that
  • If I had a degree I could apply for that job
  • If I were younger I’d attempt that

And I’d respond:

  • If money wasn’t an issue could you do that?
  • If a degree wasn’t needed would you apply?
  • If you were ten years younger would you give it a go?

There are two aspects to this. If the client then says yes with enthusiasm I know it’s a genuine objection rather than just fear holding them back. Then all we need to do is look for ways to break that belief or remove that hurdle.

If they are still unsure then I know we haven’t found the real reason and I need to do some probing (not the anal type by the way, I hardly ever do that anymore. Not after last time).

6. What can you learn from that?

Ok, so the dogs insides have just exploded out of his rear end at a speed approaching Mach 3 shortly after you gave him the remnants of your 5 Alarm Chili. You could rant and rave about how unfair life is, or you could ask yourself, what can I learn from that?

In the above example, you can learn that dogs and spicy food don’t mix. You can also learn not to stand behind the dog to check where the smell is coming from and not to have a new carpet fitted prior to poisoning your hound.

If you can learn something from a negative situation and put that learning to good use, then it was useful experience and your life is full of hundreds of such experiences.

It also acts as a reframe similar to the “What else can this mean?”

7. What would you be prepared to die for?

This is a different kind of question in so much as it’s really designed to help people that don’t know what their goals are.

The answer to this will give you a real heads up on your values and what is crucially important to you.

The answer may be your family, your country, your porn collection or something altogether different. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you know.

If you’d die for your kids, then you can use your kids as motivation to achieve some great stuff. It’s better to be a brilliant parent, set a fantastic example and leave a legacy than die anyway.

Why not why?

The more astute of you may have noticed I didn’t use the ‘why’ word. I’ve spoken about this in the past and I know some Life Coaches don’t agree with my take on this. That’s ok though because we can just accept they’re wrong.

I hardly ever use ‘why’ with clients and there are a couple of very good reasons.

Firstly, it has negative connotations for many people and will throw them back to childhood and being grilled as to why their room was a mess, why they didn’t have better grades and why they were taking their ferret out driving on the Interstate when the cage lock was broken?

I’ve no wish to have my clients anywhere other than with me, so anything that can have them thinking about negative events from earlier in life isn’t helpful.

More importantly though, the ’why’ word is highly accusatory.

If I ask you “Why wasn’t that TPS report on my desk at 9.00am with the correct cover sheet?” you’ll immediately look to defend yourself by searching for reasons/excuses.

If on the other hand I’d asked, “What stopped you getting the report in on time?” or even better, “How can we make sure you get the report in on time next time” you wouldn’t feel under attack.

These types of questions are designed to look for solutions rather than explanations. If you manage people in any situation this is an incredibly useful approach and well worth learning.

24 comments to 7 Killer Life Coach Questions

  • Ha ha, brilliantly written post. And it gave me an idea (albeit not a very good one – but maybe you can ‘spark off it’).

    Regarding your 1 million books distribution thing, maybe you don’t need to distribute them – remove the problem. The idea would be to get 1000 small printers around the US to print 1000 copies each (is my math correct?). Each printer could insert their own ‘advert’/sponsorship in return for cheap printing. Then you get the people who the book is intended for to collect direct from the printer. Or maybe you can recruit 1000 local volunteer distributors (schools, colleges, etc).

    Right then, I’m off to question myself 7 times…

  • Tim, I like the questions a lot. Especially the last one.:) Come to think about it, I’ve been using some of them with my clients. I love the stare some of them give me when I ask them something they have never thought about before. That’s a powerful coaching process right there.



  • Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TimBrownson: I’m selling out with a list post. 7 Killer Life Coach Questions Any Rt’s appreciated!…

  • “The more astute of you may have noticed I didn’t use the ‘why’ word. I’ve spoken about this in the past and I know some life coaches don’t agree with my take on this. That’s ok though because we can just accept they’re wrong.”

    I agree with your comment above but can’t help wondering why did the ferret want to kill that woman driver?

  • Nice post and nice questions. It really made me decided why I would ‘die’ for my passion of helping others.

  • Tim,

    Great post! Thank you for your brilliant sense of humor.

    I enjoyed every little word and the big ones too.



  • @ Mark – You maths is spot on. The printed idea is a very cunning one indeed, thanks!

    @ Eduard – Too many people under estimate the power of questions, but doing what we do, we can see it every day.

    @ nlp – Look, I’m a Life Coach not a Ferret Coach you know.

    @ Craig – That’s a great passion to have man.

    @ Shann – Thanks petal!

  • Wow the Universe is working for me today….my entire 2 mile walk this morning I was celebrating how wonderful and gifted I am about asking others fabulous and motivating questions and what a skilled listener I am…The last 1/2 mile I was thinking how I could learn to ask myself some killer questions – I already am a fabulous journal writer and have great conversations with myself…
    I decided what was holding me back on the questions was that I truly wanted someone else’s input…and feedback… and I wondered how I could get that…I was about to turn off the computer after 1 more check on twitter…and Voila the questions were right here…Thank you…
    Timing good all the way around. Still need some more people time, face to face, but this will get me moving forward in the mean time…Thank you
    I do love your drawings…

  • These are great for effective work with clients. Thanks for the reminder and fresh take on the foundation :-) My favorite is #1. Just last week I got a bewildered face on one of my clients after being asked this question. Once she got over the shock of such a strange question, she was able to open her own door to personal success. Good stuff.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Mead, TimBrownson, TimBrownson, TimBrownson, LisisMB and others. LisisMB said: RT @TimBrownson: I'm selling out with a list post. 7 Killer Life Coach Questions Any Rt's appreciated! [...]

  • I used to use “If you did know, what would the answer be?”
    It’s effective and help others find out their answer.
    Now, I’m so happy that I found more good questions to support my clients.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Awesome post. These questions really got me thinking. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting past he first hurdle and then realizing it isn’t as difficult as it seemed.

  • @ Patricia – Wow, that is spooky. Good old universe I say!

    @ Sybil – Thanks. It is really cool when stuff like that happens.

    @ Tzong – You’re welcome

    @ Bart – Yep that sounds like a recipe for life if you ask me.

  • Great post (as ever), Tim :-)

    I think this one is a bit like your #1 … I’ve got a close friend at church who’s coming out of a long difficult time in her life. When she’s upset or not sure what to do, I sometimes ask her “What do you think God is saying to you?” and that always helps her find the answer. I know that won’t work for everyone (substitute “the universe” or “higher power” or “my unconscious mind” or whatever your being of choice is), but focusing on a being/concept that loves you and has your best interests at heart seems to lead to the truth.

    My personal favourite question, of course, is “Can chocolate make this better?” The answer is always yes. Chocolate makes everything better. ;-)

  • Great coaching questions! And I’m definitely on your side when it comes to ‘why’. I notice I get pretty obnoxious (even more than usual) when someone asks me ‘why?’ My knee-jerk response is ‘Why not?’ (delivered with an appropriately sarcastic tone of voice).

  • Appreciate the great post. You’re right that often clients will say that they don’t know what to do, but they can see how much they really have to offer themselves when you get their expertise involved with a question like #1. When they say they’re stuck I like to ask them “if someone else was going to be accomplishing this for you, what would you have them do?” Most of us are happy to give other people our great direction.

  • Tim, #5 is really working for me right now, along with using the question, I’m using the statements you used as examples as my template in preparation for our coaching call today…”If I had/were _______ I could ______.”
    “If I had…known that Tim’s free coaching was this good, I could have…saved myself some money.” Actually, the more I work with you and the more use from your blog, I’m glad to know that you’re not motivated by money, because you and your services are priceless!

  • @ Ali – Thanks a lot and you know better than most how obsessed I am with questions!

    @ Ian – Well we don’t want you getting obnoxious so what would have to happen for you to smile every time somebody kicks off an enquiry with ‘Why?’

    I use the God question a lot. Usually along the lines, do you think he screwed up with you or do you think it’s more likely he sees you as being as worthy as everybody else on the planet?

    @ Karen – Agreed on giving others direction, that’s a nice spin on it.

    Shame you found out a tad too late ;-)

  • Hey Tim wanted to let you know that I just used #3 on my most recalcitrant client-me-and it saved me a lot of grief. I only spent a couple of minutes jumping to conclusions whereas in the past I have almost worn myself out, so thanks!

  • @ Karen – You’re welcome.

    So what else can THAT mean. It can mean that you no longer even think of this at a conscious level, but that you reframe at a rapid unconscious level maybe?

  • I love this post. It is giving me great food for thought (and action). Thanks again. Look forward to reading a lot more from you in the future.

  • “What will you be seeing, hearing and feeling when you successfully resolve this now?”
    “Looking back from having successfully resolved that old problem you used to have, what got you here?”

  • As a photographer and coach, I especially appreciate the reframe technique. Placing a piece of art into another mat and frame makes it look completely different. “I wonder how this masterpiece—or piece of crap—would look if we framed it like this, instead?”

  • Sam

    Tim, what an awesome post! Just started researching if Life Coaching is a possibility as a career change. Each one of the questions gave me a good glimpse into what that might look like. I so appreciate your sense of humor. I was chuckling as I read your post..

    Thanks Tim for what you do.

    - Sam