Why Mentoring for Coaches Matters— Keeping the Spark Alive!

Have you ever wanted someone to support you in realizing your dream as an aspiring professional in your field? 


Throughout the ages, mentoring— the passing on of survival and working skills from one person to another— has been the primary way that humans have learned how to navigate successfully the tricky terrain of staying alive and retaining cultural legacies into the next generations. 

These days experienced educators, doctors, professors, corporate managers and executives, and others may be called on to provide mentoring to less experienced employees and students to help them hone their skills as professionals and as colleagues. Many mentors also invite their mentees into important networks for developing professional contacts leading to speaking, publishing, and/or teaching opportunities.

As coaches, we invest a great deal of ourselves in helping clients open their vision for their future, align their career and life planning with their values, find new opportunities on which to base new choices, and motivate them to go forward. Helping our clients keep the spark alive to make changes that matter in their lives is rewarding and sometimes demanding work. 

Periodically, we coaches benefit from skilled mentors who remind us just what it is about coaching that we love to do!

My current coach mentor, Ian White, founder, Coaching Deconstructed, has an open, imaginative mind and always helps me find new, creative directions with my coaching. I have monthly sessions with him to keep my coaching skills sharp and effective.

During one session with Ian, I mentioned that I'd been feeling unclear about a new direction for my coaching that I felt drawn to. I felt I was moving into a deeper level as a coach, and I wasn't sure where I was going with it. Ian reminded me that I was in a time of a transition— one that was "transformational, like starting a blaze!" That image was so powerful to me that I realized, "Yes, this is why I coach. I'm keeping the spark alive! I help my clients reach for what is alive in themselves to make positive changes in their lives."

With this kind of support, I had renewed insight into mentoring a new coach client, Antonia, who planned to apply for credentialing with the International Coach Federation (ICF). She was an experienced coach, but lacked confidence in some of the coaching skills she needed to know to go for her credential. Fundamentally, what she wanted from mentor coaching with me was "to hone my coaching skills. Having been highly focused on making my business profitable for several years, I felt now was the right time to start focusing on becoming a better coach."

Antonia, like many coaches, had evolved a certain style of coaching that was useful to her clients, but also limited in its ability to help them focus on, broaden, and go deeper into new choices and change possibilities. When I modeled with her ways to use certain coaching skills more effectively— such as making an observation, then asking an open-ended question— in her coaching sessions, she was interested— and open to practicing these with her clients. 

At the beginning, Antonia was concerned that she would not be able to incorporate these new changes into her coaching style. What helped her, she said, was the feedback I gave her that "highlighted where I am doing well (which I seldom acknowledge) and where to focus my energy to improve."

After a few months of mentoring, she was delighted to find that her coaching had become more streamlined and helped her clients go further in clarifying and achieving the career changes they really desired. 

Skilled mentoring gives coaches new insights into the depth and power of their work with their clients to re-vision and re-create how to work and live fulfilled. For me, mentoring other coaches affirms my appreciation of the profession and process of coaching as an alive and authentic way of helping people create the career and life changes that most matter to them.

I felt I had lost confidence in some aspects of my coaching e.g. active listening. I also wanted to hone my coaching skills having been highly focused on making my business profitable the last 3 years. It felt time to start focusing becoming a better coach.

Assistance with developing my coaching skills, particularly setting the agenda for the call, establishing client expectations for the call and “forward reflections”. 

Deepened my coaching skills (see above).

It is an aspiration of mine for this year to deepen my coaching abilities and learn PCC certification.  Our mentor coaching is contributing to this goal. 

Providing transparency and honesty in pointing out both my strengths and areas of improvement and celebrating as new learns were achieved. 
— Claudia B.
It has helped me be less judgmental of myself. Eve’s feedback has highlighted where I am doing well (which I seldom acknowledge) and where to focus my energy to improve.

I’ve changed how I am listening to my clients. I’m no longer scribbling notes, but I have the confidence to actively listen, noting keywords or concepts, feeling confidence I’m not missing anything.

To be more committed to my professional development, instead of earning CCEUs for the sake of credentialing! I’ve also allowed myself to experiment. If something doesn’t work, it’s OK – keep trying it. I also feel a bit frustrated by my coaching skills at the moment, but it is like the tectonic plates shifting – I’m finding a new level, so it’s going to take feeling uncomfortable.

Keeping me cognizant of and focused on the PCC markers, and the outcomes desired. Providing feedback based on your deep observations of my coaching skills, and the client’s responses.
— Helen F.

Creative Use of Coaching Structure for Successful Change


How can the creative use of coaching structures help you develop the professional and personal changes you really want?  

Life coaching is fundamentally a dynamic conversational structure— a co-creation between the coach and client to bring forth the new ideas, images, and perspectives that will best serve the client in creating transformative career and life changes.  From the beginning, I, as the coach, set up a special structure for effective change-making by creating a safe "container" to hold myself and my clients to help them go farther and deeper in exploring new possibilities and directions.

This "container" is the invisible structure that holds the energy and flow of the coaching conversation—while the coaching conversation itself is the structure that's heard and felt, and moves the client forward.  As I set the foundation for safety and trust into the coaching "container," clients feel supported and able to participate fully in the coaching exploration about what they really want to achieve.  

Using powerful, stimulating questions and imagery, I expand the conversation to help clients develop the big picture of what they really want, which can sometimes feel scary as well as exciting.  When they are clear about their new choices and direction, the coach can then re-shape the structure of the conversation to help them focus on choosing actions and timelines to manifest their dreams and goals.

Brian, a retired teacher, was struggling to complete the book he was writing based on The Remembrances of Times Past by Marcel Proust.  Brian had recently had a birthday and commented that he felt old, but that this next year for him was supposed to be one of "energy and change." Sensing that he was feeling discouraged about aging and the lack of progress with his book, I re-phrased this as "a year of energy and transformation." Then I asked him, "What's in the cocoon that wants to come out?"

"Good question!" exclaimed Brian, and his face brightened. Then he described the image that came to him of a chick pecking its way out of an egg shell, emerging cautiously but gaining energy by moving. "The egg is transformed into a chicken with its own distinctive internal structure," he said.  "By its own efforts, it's hatched from the limited external structure of the egg shell.  It's free to move and make sounds!" With his energy opened by a resonant image, Brian felt ready to re-focus and create a plan for moving on and completing his book— which he did shortly thereafter!

In this case, the structure of the our coaching conversation expanded with a powerful question that both acknowledged Brian's feelings of stuckness and concern with his book and his life— and offered "cocoon" as an image of potentiality for transformative change. As Brian connected with this image, he was able to take it further and create a new opening to go forward with his book.

The structure of our conversation then shifted to a more straightforward planning mode with action steps, a timetable, and a method of accountability.

What I've found is that using creative structuring as an integral part of coaching conversations supports people in getting out of stuckness and into successful outcomes.  This can help you—

  • Transform unsatisfying ways of working into heart-centered livelihood that feels successful and purposeful to you

  • Create more time and energy (life balance) for living with fulfillment and purpose

  • Shift gears into retirement in ways that feel deeply satisfying to you

  • Create more effortless, personalized, and authentic marketing outreach for solopreneurs

  • Learn how to have more effective coaching conversations with clients (mentor coaching)

What is the structure you need to create the career and life-balance changes that matter to you? 

Change-Making at Solstice— Listening with the Heart

Now, on the shortest day of the year, with even northern California cold enough to wear hats, scarves, and gloves, I'm reflecting on the seeming polarities like light and dark, love and fear, that have swung us back and forth over our political and personal landscapes this past year. For me, the experience has been like standing on rock cliffs, being battered and splintered by an ongoing series of huge waves under the low-hanging clouds of a storm.

One such wave was the result of the presidential election in the United States in 2016. For myself and the majority of the electorate we've now seen what it's like having a president, a Congress, and a Supreme Court actively working against what we hold dear for our society— a healthy environment, health care access for all, up-to-date public education, and fundamental equal rights for all— so that we may have work and build lives in connection with our authentic desires, our relationships, and our world.

At such times, it seems that there are only the polarities of storm or calm, vitriol or caring, hate or love, dark or light. But when we're able to stand steady in the storm, listening with the heart to the connectedness of life, we can bring oppositional forces into calm and wholeness. And it is in this place of heart-centered awareness that positive change can emerge.

There's the story of the brilliant poet, songwriter, and singer, Leonard Cohen, who died in 2017, and how he quelled a riot at the 1970 Isle of Wight rock concert in England. I was there, too, one of 600,000 in the passionate, free-flowing audience, many of whom were upset about political, economic, and social injustices of that time, including the Vietnam War. However, since the concert went on day and night, I seemed to have slept through Cohen's 4 AM performance on the last night of the festival that followed a literally blazing Jimi Hendrix set.

This was what I missed. Apparently, on that dark, rainy night, the audience was cold and restive and trashed the stage. Cohen, awoken at 2 AM after Hendrix played, was only bothered because the organizers couldn't locate a piano and organ for his musicians. "I'll come out when you find them," he said, and did, two hours later. As film reviewer Mike Springer wrote, "Perhaps the most moving moment [was] at the beginning, when Cohen [brought] the massive crowd together by asking a favor: 'Can I ask each of you to light a match, so I can see where you all are?'" In this way, he gathered that huge group of disparate, upset people in a cold, damp, inhospitable place into one whole, and transformed their mood and attention by listening to their hearts with his calm and deeply centered presence.

Fast forward to 2008, to Leonard Cohen's concert in London at a time of world-wide economic depression. I was very moved by what he said before performing his famous song, "Anthem," to the people in his audience. Again, he changed the atmosphere in the concert hall by speaking to their feelings of fear, anger, and upset with lovingkindness— "Thank you so much, friends. We're so privileged to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos."

And then he sang:
"So ring the bells
that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in."

In our lives, it's not so imperative to seek perfection as to embrace our wholeness.  This includes our stormy encounters, as well as the thin band of light we see on the horizon. When we put our attention on this light, we can see it radiating outward, reflected on the waves of the sea, reaching and opening our listening hearts.

So try this— when you find yourself in a difficult work situation, relationship, or political landscape, focus on whatever you can that is beautiful or inspiring in the midst of that challenge. Find that crack where the light gets in, whether it's a compassionate glance from a colleague, a memory of a loving moment, or a song that opens your heart. In this way, allow the change you long to make begin from listening with your heart.

As poet and inspirational speaker, Mark Nepo, wrote in his book, The One Life We're Given: "When we can keep breaking through what has hardened and keep what is alive soft, the cracks turned into openings fill us with an undying light." In this season's darkest days, may we celebrate the beauty of the light and love within us as we move forward into the challenges and changes of the new year.

Resilience—Empowerment for the Launch You Need to Make!

As a life coach, most of the requests for my work are from people who want to make heart-centered changes in the way they work, mentor other coaches, or re-balance the way they live. At another level, I’m attuned to the level of resilience they have that will support them in making the changes that really matter to them. This is important, since creating significant changes that feel deeply satisfying usually requires taking risks and shifting some habitual ways of doing and being. 

As Linda Graham, MFT, says in her recent book, Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster, resilience gives us "the power — the flexibility— to choose how we respond. It takes practice, and it takes awareness, but that power always lies within us." Resilience develops in us with the love and acceptance of who we are by our parents and/or other key people in our lives. It continues to expand as we allow ourselves and are encouraged to keep growing and developing our inner potential of skills and interests.

This is what Carol Dweck, author of Mindset— The New Psychology of Success, calls the "growth mindset." If you've grown up with this attitude that you can do things differently and make positive changes in your life, you're more likely to be able to learn from inevitable failures and errors and continue to move forward. You may even make a huge leap that could be a major mistake, but becomes instead a highly fulfilling outcome that takes you by surprise!

Take Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde. As a smart, good-looking, popular college student, she has doting parents and friends who support her in her goal to meet a wealthy man to marry and support in his upward-bound career. She clearly has great poise and confidence in herself. Her first re-defining moment comes when she applies and gets into Harvard Law School to win back her prep-school boyfriend who will also be in her Harvard Law School class.

Now her resilience quotient is really tested. Coming to Harvard is for her like going to a college fraternity party, and she hasn't a clue about this new culture she's entering with its own brand of intellectual expectations. She has enough confidence in herself that she doesn't give up when treated as a social and academic outcast. However, she keeps hitting walls and feeling stuck because she's not yet clear about either what's really important to her at this time in her life or how to empower herself by accessing her potential. [Note— Helping clients achieve this kind of clarity is an important part of the work of trained life coaches like myself.]

Her inner "aha!" moment arrives when— dressed as a "Playboy bunny" at a party of her classmates from the law school— she finally sees that this is exactly how her former boyfriend really regards her. Still in costume, she goes to buy herself a laptop computer for classes that very evening and for the first time gets serious about studying law on her own terms.

If Elle Woods had asked me to be her career-transformation coach at a low point in her Harvard experience, I would be very curious and interested in exploring the quality of her resilience under considerable personal challenge. Her fearlessness, warmth, enjoyment of adventure, and compassion for others are at the heart of her ability to reach out to people in friendship and to share her own vulnerability. 

I'd also help her become aware of the kind of support she already had from several influential mentors at the law school. In what ways did they help raise her confidence in her potential and abilities to become highly successful as a lawyer? What did she learn from them about her own resilience at just those times when she lost the sense of who she really was and her purpose in being at Harvard Law School?  

A key question here for Elle Woods is, "What do you need to believe about yourself to take all your fearlessness, warmth, adventurousness, and compassion for others to shine as an outstanding lawyer in your own, authentic way? 

Resilience in coaching, then, is what you can learn to build and draw upon to go further than you ever imagined. Coaching helps you develop awareness of your own resilience to turn professional and personal challenges into new ways to live out the life you really want. The more resilience you develop, the more you'll empower yourself to launch into the full range of your inner potential for working, creating, and living well!

Two BIG Ways You Benefit When Your Life Coach Has Mentor Coaching

If you have a life coach who is having mentor coaching to sharpen and deepen her coaching skills, what she learns she will pass on to you. As a coach who has both been mentored and mentored other coaches, I have experienced the value that skillful mentoring can add to what a coach can offer to their clients.

Below are two major ways in which I see mentor coaches helping their coach clients be able to give their own clients— maybe you!— the kind of coaching that creates deeper awareness and leads to more lasting impact and successful results! 

Confidence in Making Transformative Changes

What would it be like to have someone at your side to help you have confidence in making transformative changes?  "Great mentors . . . see us in ways that we have not been seen before.  And at their best they inspire us to reach beyond ourselves; they show us how to make a positive difference in a wider world." —Dr. Laurent A. Parks Daloz, Mentor: Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners

Almost every client I've ever coached has aspired to make positive changes in the wider world. My coach clients, in particular, have found their life purpose by making strategic changes in the way they work and helping their clients to do the same. One woman was a doctor who became a life coach helping parents, teachers, and doctors work compassionately and successfully with people with ADHD. Another is a former corporate employee who now coaches other women with business backgrounds wanting to re-direct their talents towards social action projects. 

With these coach clients, I dig more deeply into when their confidence in going for the big picture of what they want to offer feels shaky and what they need to do feel that confidence again. As we do this, they realize that this is often exactly what they're supporting their own clients in doing. I once asked a coach I was mentoring who felt she was pushing too hard when she didn't feel confident enough, "If you want to get off the escalator, what does that look like to you?" There was a pause, then she replied, with a sense of surprise in her voice, "That is the exact question I ask my clients!"

Moving out of Limited Thinking into Resonant Change

Creating resonant change is about making the kind of change that resonates with who you really are. The art of coaching is about inviting your client into a deeper place by listening to his experience. You're probing. You're going deeper into what your client might not be saying or doesn't yet know. As a mentor coach, I encourage coaches to go beyond what a client says, and into the tone and emotional breaks of his voice, the level of energy he projects, and his silences. In using curiosity and deep listening skills, coaches support their clients in making the new changes in their lives that they truly desire.

Life coach Ron Renaud, PCC, in a recent webinar for the International Coach Federation (ICF) Los Angeles, highlighted something very important about what a skillful coach offers his clients. "Coaching is about helping people get access to the richest parts of themselves. By the accessing the pathways of sensing, feeling, and thinking in their clients, the coach helps his clients go more deeply into what they say they want— and emerge knowing what is really important to them."

In mentoring other coaches, I support them by questioning and exploring limited, narrowly defined choices, encouraging them to feel where their inner awareness and energy are leading them to make breakthroughs. This, then, adds to their professional tools for helping their clients make their own vital discoveries and changes.

Exposure to this deeper, broader way of coaching is how mentoring can offer coaches the skills needed to help their clients move out of limited thinking and develop the confidence to make changes that will transform their lives!

Why Kick Start Your Creativity— and How to Do It

When I was growing up, you were considered either creative or not creative. You could draw, or play an instrument, or act in plays— or you couldn't. You always knew who the "creative" ones were. They had a special status— either admired, or thought to be weird and socially limited. In any case, the kids who were "creative" were often set apart from the others in mutually exclusive ways. 

From a coaching point of view, I feel this was a serious mis-education in limitation for everyone concerned.

Fortunately, we now live in the age of inclusivity and expansiveness when it comes to what defines creativity and who can be creative. As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic— Creative Living Beyond Fear, writes, "What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." 

Since humans have an ingrained sense of curiosity from birth to seek ways to satisfy evolving physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, we all have a strong drive within ourselves to live creatively. It's a way of living that we all can do with support and encouragement. Why do we want to do it? Because in doing so, you add enormously to the energy, joy, and fulfillment that living with such awareness brings us.

With coaching, I've found 3 useful pathways for helping people infuse their lives with creativity and satisfaction—

1) Encourage new ways of visualizing the opening of your life—

This is actually the core foundation for all transformative change. It's how I often begin coaching with people who feel stuck or indecisive about how to work and live fulfilled. With envisioning, you give yourself full permission to bring out into the open everything that's most important to you in your life.

Yes, fear of the unknown and doubts about your own competency can arise as you expand your outlook on the way you want to live. Sometimes you may feel challenged letting even the vision of how you really want to live happen. 

With your own desire and the right kind of support, however, you can learn to activate your creativity and imagination— and free your mind and spirit to soar! 

2) Change your current career to one you love that feels totally different

The process of changing the way you work to something that truly engages you is a highly creative act demanding awareness, commitment, and an openness to the possibilities of change. Changing your career can also be an opportunity for transforming your whole life in fulfilling new ways. One of my clients— Josh, an artist, who made his livelihood as an architect— felt his creativity stifled by management demands in the large architectural firm where he worked, though he enjoyed doing architecture. What he really minded was that he had little time to do his own art and to have quality time with his family.

In our work together, Josh developed his confidence in following his own creative path. He streamlined the way he worked so he had time to workout during the week, left his office on time instead of two hours later, was able to have several hours of time with his children, and created an award-winning architectural design.

Ultimately, Josh fulfilled his dream of being a partner in his own architectural firm, with time for his painting and sculpture. To do this, he developed innovative ways of doing contract work with his old office, while building his contacts and winning project bids for creative building projects for his own firm. 

Often, opening the energy of your creative self is about tapping into the wellspring of what makes you come alive. As Rabbi Sharon Brous puts it, "Each of us participates in creation every day when we make a [conscious] choice about how we want to live in the world."

3) Bring forth a part of yourself that longs to be expressed

What is something you loved to do when you were young that made you feel glad to be alive— that perhaps you've forgotten about? Remember Robin Williams as the grownup Peter Pan in the movie Hook? When forced to rescue his children from the pirates, he learned what he'd loved as a boy and forgotten as a man— how wonderful it was to feel free, playful, and fearless in a cause larger than himself! 

Are you curious and interested about some part of your younger self that you'd like to call back and live out now? Were you ever told that you couldn't or shouldn't sing loudly in the shower, paint whatever you liked, dance on your way to school, or collect squirmy caterpillars on hikes? 

Feel the opening of your energy now as you bring your singer, painter, dancer, or collector self back into your life. Re-create opportunities to sing, paint, dance, and collect whatever you like. Kick start your core creativity and re-kindle the joy of feeling fully alive! This is the key to connecting with the way of living and working that is most deeply satisfying to you now.

What Makes Taking a BIG RISK for Change Worthwhile?

Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking at least one risk that is a definite challenge to what is known and familiar to you. Such challenges can be external, involving changing professions, investing capital to create change, or moving to a different place. But at a transformational level, taking a BIG RISK involves changing from within yourself, too. So what is a BIG RISK to one person will not necessarily be the same BIG RISK to someone else with a different personality, skills, and life experience.

The bigger the challenge is to a person, the bigger the risk will seem. For one of my clients, Jessica— a parent planning to come out with a book about a controversial subject that she was passionate about, bullying in public schools— was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in a dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or how to land safely in an emergency. She was a person who protected her privacy, and her biggest fear was that she would be exposing herself and her family to intense, possibly hurtful, public scrutiny in order to promote and sell her book.

Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck. She'd written her book, but didn't know whether to publish it. I started by having her define what the value was to her in taking on such a huge challenge. While privacy for herself and her family was important to her, as her son started college, she felt a strong inner drive to voice her concerns about bullying at school that had strongly impacted her family when her son was a young teenager. Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. I also heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied, felt they had no one to help them, and whose lives at school became a horror. 

With her family's support, she was willing to take the risk of their public exposure because of the big picture she held— feeling that, through her book, she could become a leader in the movement to create a positive and safer environment in public schools. Her deep desire was to change the way principals, teachers, and teaching aides are trained in viewing and dealing with bullying in the schools. Her intent was to set up a new paradigm for classrooms and playgrounds to become safe places for children and teens to be and learn. 

As she said this, I asked her to notice what she was sensing in her body. She paused for a moment, then replied that she'd been holding her breath tightly in her chest and diaphragm. When I asked her what she was feeling there, she responded, "Fear of believing that I can risk my life as it is and become a more public voice for change."

It's important to remember that taking a BIG RISK to make a change that matters vitally to you is not about the absence of fear. It's about becoming aware that fear indicates the presence of a direct challenge to your spirit— and that you need to prepare inwardly and outwardly to move past your fear. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. This is what makes taking the risk worthwhile— taking on the challenge of making a change that inspires you, and that will transform the way you are and what you can offer to the world.

As we continued our sessions, Jessica decided to see taking her risk to publish her book from a new perspective— My Big Adventure!  I'd asked her, what will be your reward? Now she was able to reply, the adventure itself, learning to fly freely! 

We also practiced grounding techniques such as stopping to breathe slowly and fully to calm feelings of anxiety and hold her new Big Adventure perspective in going forward. Another grounding exercise was guiding Jessica to feel her feet on the ground connecting with the embracing energy of the earth. I also had her place her hand on her heart to connect with her own love and compassion for herself, to give her nourishing support from within for taking the risk to make the change she desired (Linda Graham, Bouncing Back).    

Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take that would help break down the BIG RISK factor. Using the metaphor of trying to land a small plane safely in dangerous, unknown territory, she saw that she could prepare by having her equipment (her book) carefully inspected before flight time (by her editor and her friends reading over her manuscript); have training in making emergency landings (learning how she could handle criticism of herself and her book); and very importantly, learn to manage fear. She recognized how vital it was to have understanding friends and professional/ emotional support people to help her through any challenges that would arise after her book's publication.

She checked out the terrain of who she wanted to read her book, and made a list of her allies in getting the book out and getting positive reviews from teachers, principals, and other parents she knew. She had in-person and online talks with these people and began to get contacts for interviews on the radio, newspapers, education journals, and online sources. Jessica felt excited, and increasingly confident, that she was making progress in checking out where she'd be landing with her book with her action plan to change the public school culture and create zero-tolerance for bullying.

At a deeper level, Jessica found her inner well of inspiration to create something bigger than herself of true value in the world— a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. As a consequence of taking this BIG RISK, she felt prepared to fly forward, confident that she was prepared from within to meet the challenges of getting to where she really wanted to go! 

"You shifted perspectives . . . You allowed your heart to open. You let the bird out of the cage. You are flying!"  — Pamela Hale, Flying Lessons

Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body to Create Positive Change

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What's an easy way to find out from within yourself whether you're making a new professional or personal choice that's right for you?  

The good news is that we have in our own bodies this great, built-in resource that's surprisingly accurate in helping us affirm new choices for what we want in our work, our relationships, our creativity, and our well-being. This is the wisdom-energy of our bodies. Becoming aware of this resource as part of the coaching experience is often a fascinating part of the journey in itself for coaching clients.

From many years of giving stress-management classes, I've noticed how people at work cut off from connection with their feelings and their senses. I've seen that type of tightened, hunched-over body posture often in professionals from non-profits, tech corporations, schools, and businesses. The message so clearly embodied is: "Work is hard and demanding. It takes all my energy and leaves none for breathing and feeling. I will myself to focus only on my work and not my well-being, unless maybe there's time for that later (and there probably won't be)."

Recognize yourself?  When did you last stop to check in with yourself at work or in other situations during your day, inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, and actually feel the sensations in your body?  For your body speaks to you through sensations-- warmth, cold, tension, flexibility-- and your energetic level. In general, when your body is warm and flexible, and your energy is high, your mind and spirit feel more expansive than when you're cold, tense, and energetically depleted.

When you're in a higher energy state, your thoughts and feelings are more positive, and it's easier to become aware of new possibilities and feel ready to make new changes.

As you practice moving from lower to higher energy states, you start to tap into the aliveness in your body and spirit that you need in order to find fulfillment in what you do and how you are in the world.  Otherwise, though your career choices, for example, may look good on your resume, they may feel unsatisfying, as well as disconnected from a sense of purpose and vitality in your life.

What we can learn here is that when we hold back from feeling our life energy, we cut ourselves off from our intuition and awareness. We cut the cord to the direct knowing of our own truth from our feelings and our senses.  

My client, Jana, was a young college graduate who was not happy with her career choice of engineering. Then she had a bout with colon cancer, which gave her the time to pay attention to what her belly and the rest of her body were saying to her. Healing from cancer was the first step in understanding her life priorities and considering  changing her professional direction to one that was more deeply satisfying. 

In our coaching together, I made time for Jana to practice deep belly breathing that allowed her to relax the pressure from her mind and engage with her body energy. 

When she reached choice points, she learned to pay attention to whether she felt her energy get higher or go lower. Considering becoming a career engineer plummeted her energy. But combining some of what she did enjoy about structural engineering with community planning lifted her energy.

By checking in with her energy when making decisions, she gained clarity about her evolving vision for her new career direction and her future life-- creating a sustainable community by connecting people with the sources of real food and life.  Her sense of purpose come alive as she felt her belly softening and opening. 

She began to envision creating a place for growing healthful food, with beautiful buildings for holding classes and retreats to help people heal their relationships with their food, their bodies, and their spirit. In time, she brought together her technical, agricultural, and human potential interests into a more authentic and satisfying professional direction. 

As Jana did, you can learn to pay attention to the messages from your body. When you feel confident about accessing your body's energy, you become attuned to your own intuitive wisdom. In learning to sense what energetically uplifts and motivates you, you can more effectively make positive, satisfying choices and transformative changes for working and living fulfilled.

Love As Foundation for Transformative Change

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What is the power of opening our hearts that it can transform our lives? In my experience coaching people making career and life-balance changes, being supported in connecting with that which you love is the true foundation for making transformative change happen. This isn't something that you generally learn in school, and it's not often what you learn professionally.  Just try, however, to undertake something really challenging, like making a profound change in the way you work or live, and see if you can do this without going deeply into your heart.

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.—founder of Commonweal and renowned for her healing work with doctors struggling with burnout in trying to heal gravely ill patients— writes in her book, My Grandfather's Blessings, "The heart has the power to transform experience. No matter what we do, finding fulfillment may require learning to cultivate the heart and its capacity for meaning in the same way that we are now taught to pursue knowledge or expertise."

A young doctor, LaVera, who came to see Remen told her about a traumatic event where another first-year student in her medical program suddenly dropped dead. No one in her class, including the professors, talked about the impact of this experience. Busy as the students were with their 18-hour days, they just rolled on through the year without any acknowledgement of how they were affected by this event.  

Months later in a pathology class, the professor passed around a congenitally deformed heart and casually remarked that it had belonged to the student who'd suddenly died.

The sudden impact of that remark hit LaVere like a bolt of lightning, but she noticed that none of the other students showed any sign of emotional distress. And neither did she—until she told her story to Remen and wept.

The metaphor of the heart and what happens when we hold ourselves back from what we feel speaks directly to what is so important about coaching and being coached from the heart. It's often not easy to take the first step in changing your professional identity. You might find it hard to acknowledge sadness or shame at not having taken a different path earlier. You might feel fear (as well as excitement) at leaving a profession in which you've spent years training and working.

As a coach, tuning in to the emotional aliveness of what my clients are feeling in the midst of making powerful changes is a vital, endlessly fascinating part of my work.

For me, this is transformational coaching and has a broad foundation in love. From this aware and caring space, I give people the welcoming experience of being free to be who they really are (sometimes for the first time in their lives) and make new choices for their lives that really matter to them now. 

How do you know when you're following the direction of your heart and spirit? It feels easy to go forward in this way because you're drawn to this energy.  Think of people you know whom you enjoy being around because they love being who they are and doing what they do.  Because they work, relate, and engage with aliveness, awareness, and spirit, with every cell of their body.  Because they shine with the joy of living and working with purpose and love.

I'm thinking of the joy, engagement, and purpose I've seen emerge through coaching and mentoring people from a place of loving connection. There was the coach who was so energized with the new, heart-centered depth to her work with her clients by integrating somatic awareness and techniques she learned during our mentoring sessions.  And there was the architect who moved out of burnout and breakdown in health to radiant joy in creating his own business and shifting his priorities to have time for his family, fitness, and creative passion. 

Opening your heart allows you to claim what has meaning and what gives joy to your life!  In this way, you can dare to risk making the changes you need to work and live with fulfillment, to create and transform. When you then share with others what you love, you let the joy within yourself flow out and inspire them, too. 

What's a transformational change you've experienced that opened your heart and changed your life?

Living Your Life in Dynamic Balance!

Living Your Life in Dynamic Balance

Why do so many people come to coaching seeking balance in their lives? 

Many people I help with making career transitions also feel that it's a great time to open the picture of what they really want in their whole lives. When we explore this in more depth, they see that they want more than just a new professional direction or position. They want to affirm the importance of living in such a way that there is time in their lives for the synergistic richness of meaningful work, caring relationships, health and fitness, personal development, creativity, and simply being.

When you feel your life is out of balance, what happens is that too much of yourself is being absorbed in ways that are no longer fruitful. Living in dynamic balance is about how to refresh and renew yourself within the forces that shape and energize your life— with work, family life, friendships, creativity, spirituality, and well-being.

As Gregg Levoy asks in his dynamic book, Callings, "What is the feedback your life gives you? Is your energy growing or shriveling? Moving or getting jammed up? Is your life deepening?"

Suzanne was a 30-year-old woman who'd moved several years earlier to Portland, Oregon, with her husband and young daughter after several years working with an international corporation in Washington, D.C. She started coaching with me because she felt her life was very much out of balance. While happy with her family, her contract work was unsatisfying to her, she felt isolated from her friends back east, and out of rhythm in her life as a whole.  She definitely felt her energy was "shriveling" and "jammed up."

As we explored what she wanted to do and how she wanted her life to be, Suzanne  realized how much she wanted her life to include teaching yoga again, expressing herself through writing, taking courses at a psychotherapy institute, reaching out to her women friends, and re-connecting with her spirituality. She soon found a studio to teach yoga for disempowered women, took a class in neuropsychology, and reached out for places to start publishing articles about living spiritually.  

Now her energy was "growing" and "moving"! In fact, Suzanne found so many areas of compelling interest that she then had to look at how to fit them into her busy week. Then she took a week-long meditation retreat that profoundly opened her core desire to live authentically, from her heart. 

In this spirit, Suzanne accepted a part-time position on a project she particularly cared about with the organization she'd left several years earlier. She negotiated ways to work as part of a team, even at a distance, so she wouldn't feel isolated working from home.  She also organized a "hub" for herself and some of her women friends as a place to come together to do whatever work each of them was engaged in, as well as connect socially.

In these ways, Suzanne has begun to build on her growing awareness of what it is to live her life in dynamic balance. She no longer tries to make her family life and all her new interests fit perfectly together. Though she plans time for her work routine, including teaching yoga, she's learned to appreciate shifting and re-balancing her energy by following where her curiosity and her caring lead her during the week.  She's learned to trust in herself the evolution of an "inner compass" on her own authentic path. 

Most importantly for Suzanne is connecting with the alive, passionate part of herself in everything she chooses to do now.

Living in dynamic balance is about just that— understanding where your energy needs to go in order to grow and nourish your soul. Living in dynamic balance requires a periodic shifting of your energy from the outer shape of your profession or relationship or creative path to your inner knowing that assesses their meaning and value for you. This, in turn, allows you to re-design your work and other life commitments so you can breathe and go forward, freely, with happiness and with purpose.

Fundamentally, our lives are not jigsaw puzzles that we take apart, then put together again in the same ways. Whenever you create change in some aspect of your life, your whole life changes, as if you're dancing with the universe. This is the “dynamic” quality of “balancing” your life!

             What is the dynamic balance you'd like to have in your life now?