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FROM HOPELESSNESS TO POSSIBILITY: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A COACH

APRIL 4, 2018

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I’m an Integral Coach. I’m also a martial arts instructor, creative director, and workshop leader. I couldn't have imagined even one of these things as a possibility when I embarked on my year of training at New Ventures West.

Many people come into the Professional Coaching Course with particular intentions for what awaits them at the end of the year. Some envision going into private practice as a coach, becoming a better HR professional or manager, adding depth to a role as a therapist or teacher, or in some way building out their professional repertoire and creating more options for themselves.

Sometimes it looks just like the vision. Other times — oftentimes — folks are surprised. Going through the PCC almost always results in a greater sense of freedom and possibility, but not the way we expect. Here’s how it went for me.

Feeling Trapped

I was sitting on a sloping green lawn on the campus of a large university where I was working in fundraising. Far from a pleasant mid-day breather, I had been dragged to this spot – to the ground, really – by the weight of my situation. No aspect of the job I was doing had any meaning for me, except that I could contribute to the mortgage my partner and I had just taken on. We’d moved across the country to start a new life in the bay area. Having worked in a small nonprofit back east, this job was, at the moment, the closest I could find to what I’d done in my previous life. Except it wasn’t close at all.

Feeling more deflated and suffocated with each passing day, it was increasingly evident that I couldn’t stay where I was. Yet I couldn’t perceive a way forward. I was trapped in vapidity, desperate for meaning and connection. I wasn’t exactly positioned on my knees that afternoon, but definitely in a mood of postulation.

Finding the Thread

It suddenly occurred to me to engage in an informal thought experiment around the old question, “if money wasn’t an issue, what would I do?” Immediately what rose to mind was a writing workshop I’d been attending for years: one in which connection and healing are the real takeaways — writing being the vehicle by which this occurs. By diving into personal, sometimes painful stories in a safe, non-critical space, folks mine the depths of their souls and memories, and come out more in touch with themselves and with deep compassion for those around them. No activity had ever been more nourishing and meaningful for me. That, I realized, was what I wanted my life to look like.

I didn’t see a way from here to there. I wasn’t even sure if that’s precisely what I wanted to do, but I was drawn to the essence of the possibility. I loved to write but understood that, to be able to hold a container for a powerful process like what occurred in the workshops, I needed to develop myself in some way I couldn’t yet perceive.

Still, there it was: the whisper of the thread connecting me from hopelessness to possibility.

First Steps

What happened next is both the most inexplicable yet undeniable piece of the whole journey. An inner voice I’d never heard before whispered, “What about life coaching?”

Huh. “What is life coaching?” I wondered. I’d heard of it but had always found the term kind of trite (still do, honestly). And yet, in direct answer to my desperate questioning about the direction of my life, something about this mysterious ‘suggestion’ took hold, moving me to take steps.

The first step was to google “life coach,” find someone local, and book a session with him to see what the voice in my mind was talking about. It was lovely. I felt seen and understood, and came to some big insights about myself. I asked where he trained, and had the experience that (I’ve since discovered) many who wind up at NVW have: he’d trained somewhere else but wished he’d known about NVW because he definitely would have come here. The depth of the learning and transformation, he heard, was unlike any other.

Okay then. A few weeks later I came to an orientation session at NVW and felt immediately clicked into my tribe. My cells seemed to understand that whatever I needed would happen for me here. I cursorily investigated one or two other schools, though I knew this was where I’d end up. (Beyond the physical, intuitive draw, I realized the term “life coaching” tends not to apply.)

Beyond Expectations

As many a PCC graduate will probably attest, the year was a washing machine of transformation. On the very first day I found myself in a room with 19 other vulnerable people bravely sharing their stories: precisely the kind of space that nourished me most. The things I found out about myself throughout the year were staggering in quantity and depth. I discovered those aspects I personally needed to develop, among them groundedness, voice, power, even anger: qualities I’d always resisted and thought I could skirt around (nope, not if I wanted to help anyone else!). I learned why they were important and concrete ways I could cultivate them.

The moorings to my current life slowly began to release as I found hidden pockets of capacity and possibility in myself. A new part-time job, far more aligned with my values, presented itself serendipitously. My partner and I found a way to make the finances work, showing me that I was never as trapped as I thought I was. I watched my external landscape morph as my internal world shifted seismically.

Only the Beginning

This, of course, is only a fraction of what happened, but it was a powerful start to what has now been an eight-year ongoing journey. For instance, once I understood that embodiment and power were important and why, I took up a martial art, Aikido, and am now a second-degree black belt and an instructor at my dojo. I rediscovered a creative side that I had all but buried during my professional life, and now have the privilege of working at NVW sharing this life-changing work with the world in ways that I enjoy. I even lead workshops — not writing ones as I’d originally thought, but in a realm that is nonetheless about healing and compassion. My life fits me now in ways I only ever fantasized about a decade ago. And it continues to deepen and unfold.

Did I see myself ending up here? Of course not; how could I have? But these are the kinds of stories of possibility we hear from graduates all the time. It’s impossible to say how it will go for you; each journey is as unique as the person on it (just as every Integral Coaching® relationship is completely customized for the client). But what will happen is that lost or missing parts of you will be restored, and you will feel more in harmony with your own life — and more equipped to be of service — than you ever have.

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WHAT YOU THINK YOU NEED—AND MORE

MARCH 27, 2018

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After I returned to my yoga practice after a longer-than-usual break last year,  the teacher said something that kept sticking in my mind: "Get more props than you think you need."

In a yoga class, props are objects like blocks and straps and blankets that help you bridge the distance between, let's say, your hands and the floor in a posture like a standing forward bend. Props are important for a few reasons. Among them: every body is shaped differently; props allow you to explore possibilities in a pose with less risk of injury; and you are able to practice longer and deeper if you're not exhausting your energy all at once pursuing some "ideal."

I've been practicing yoga for a long time, and as my body ages I confess to having some difficulty setting my ego aside and accepting what my body can actually do on any given day.  So "more props than you need" has become an interesting metaphor for me about allowing something to be easier, more possible, than it might be without extra support. 

How might this look off the mat? And how might it relate to aligning how I spend my time with what I say I value? As I reflect on the difference between activities I consistently show up for and those I don't, four things come to mind.

  • Props. Whether it's hosting a meeting, cooking a healthy meal, making a tweak to my web site, or taking a two-mile walk—I can set up for success by gathering the physical stuff I need as I begin.
  • Peers. I'm inspired by the participation and the expectations of others I know and admire—whether in person or in my social media network. 
  • Practices. I can create simple structures, rituals, and reminders that help turn an aspiration into an everyday habit.
  • Praise. I notice that I'm more likely to do something again if someone notices and appreciates my effort.

Could these four things make an activity or a goal more possible for you? If yes, here's my invitation. Take a look at the picture I've drawn below. Jot some notes. Try some things. Make it your own. Allow yourself to gather more around you than you think you might need.

Finally—don't overlook the value of a great teacher or mentor or coach. A few well-placed words can inspire your everyday efforts, and allow you to stretch beyond what you thought was possible.

Props in my life

© 2017 Michelle Hynes

Michelle is an Integral Coach and consultant based in Portland, OR. Lots more on her website.

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WHICH COACHING CERTIFICATION PROGRAM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

JULY 11, 2017

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“Finding your path is part of your path.” – Carlos Gershenson

Have you ever found yourself not being able to articulate exactly what it is you’re looking for, but know it the instant you find it? This was my experience with finding a coaching certification program.

I spent over 16 years in corporate sales and business development focused on—or perhaps more accurately preoccupied with—how to achieve more results and exceed goals, how to be a better leader, and how to do more with less. I read every great book on leadership seeking the answer, the one path, or the formula that would lead me to greater success. But what did greater success look like? At the time, the only thing I could envision was what I suspect is true for a lot of people: a pretty traditional career path, moving up the corporate ladder with common measures like title, financial compensation, more responsibility, "a seat at the table," etc. I’m not saying there was anything wrong with that path. I’m pointing out that at the time, it is was the only possibility that I could envision for myself because it was already laid out.

In the meantime, I spent my weekends on philosophy, meditation and yoga retreats in an effort to gain a semblance of peace, harmony and equanimity in my life and in myself. That strategy seemed to work for several years. Deplete during the week, recharge on the weekends. Rinse and repeat. Nothing ever really changed or shifted, but it was enough to maintain status quo. It was a bit like the movie Groundhog Day.

My responsibilities continued to increase. I was spending more time traveling. Weekend getaways weren’t always enough for me to fully recharge, and sometimes getting away was not even possible. I knew there had to be a way to incorporate the peace and harmony from my retreats into my leadership and work life. It didn’t make sense that I had to escape my life in order to function in my life. Viktor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

As a leader, I wanted to learn how to evoke excellence in my team while also helping them balance the pressures of work with the rest of their lives. Only later did I realize I was seeking those very things for myself. I decided the path to helping my team achieve these results was to pursue a coaching certification.

But which coaching certification program? Why Integral Coaching?

In New Ventures West, I had found a coaching certification program that articulated what I was seeking so desperately throughout my career, through all the retreats and all the reading: a path for development. An emphasis on real, lasting results. Coaching outcomes defined as long-term excellence, the ability to self-correct, and competence in being self-generating.

After a short coaching session with a New Ventures West Integral Coach®, I was reminded of a Rumi quote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” In that moment, I knew the New Ventures West coaching certification program was the path for me and I have not been led astray. My completion of the coaching certification a few years ago was the first step on a path of continued personal and professional development.

The other day someone asked me, “So since your coaching certification, all this training and development work you’ve been doing, are you happier?” I’m not sure if happy is the best adjective to use. Am I more fulfilled, engaged, alive, deeply content and of service? The answer is a resounding and grateful "yes."

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CHOOSING A COACH TRAINING PROGRAM

MAY 23, 2017

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My path into a coach training program

Eight years ago I found myself entering a life transition. Up to this point I was making a living as a technical consultant, working just enough to stay financially stable, while I devoted the majority of my time to nonprofit work. Specifically, I was part of organizations that worked to create a more just and loving world. One of those organizations did (and still does) this through developing tools for individuals and businesses to understand their connection to labor slavery and the practical steps they could take to end this shadow economy. The other provided learning experiences to support people in integrating their spirituality and life with God in practical, sustainable, and transformational ways. It was wonderful, challenging work. I was once glad to be a part of it and felt an inner restless—calling, if you will—that had me question my participation.

Honoring my place (privilege) in the world

Before all this I had studied engineering to the point of earning a masters degree. After finishing graduate school I decided engineering was not for me. The world (people, environments, etc.) was suffering in many ways, and I wanted to be part of alleviating this suffering—being the change I wanted to see in the world. So, I eschewed my technical training and entered nonprofit work. In order for life to work I took on minimal technical consulting work. All was fine and good. I viewed my life as a whole and the consulting was a way for me attend to the majority of my financial needs  and the other work was to help create a different a world. Fine, right? Well, yes, for a while ... and then no.

There came a point where I realized I wasn't completely "owning" my place in the world. I started to see that in my consulting work people interacted with me in a more open and curious way than with other colleagues and consultants. I was waking up to my influence and had a growing sense of my responsibility to step into and steward this influence.

Simultaneously, I began questioning how I relegated myself to a particular way of living (two means of work, each addressing a different concern) and how this also was a way in which I wasn't being responsible. In the current structure of the world, with my race, socioeconomic upbringing, talents, education, etc., I saw how I could be a funder of good work in the world rather than a requestor. With all of this swirling inside of me I knew a transition was in order.

Coaching?

I'm simplifying the story here, but what presented itself as a way of stepping into myself more was coaching. I was doing this in some capacity already, though I didn't call it coaching, and now felt life inviting me to do this more formally and with more rigor and intention.

The next step, then, was to find a coach training program. Little did I know this wouldn't be as easy as I thought. There are A LOT of options out there. If you've been looking for a program you've probably noticed. One of the most confusing aspects of my search was the disparity in how long the programs were, ranging from 24 hours to 1 year in length. Being a frugal person I first opted for a shorter program and in the first hour knew it wasn't what I was looking  for. Having been working with people in nonprofits and leading learning labs on life integration I had firsthand experience with the complexity of supporting humans in their desire for change. In this first exposure to a coach training program  I found the concepts too basic and not addressing the dynamism of being human.

Back to my search. After much googling, attending free intro calls, etc. I did a web search that ended my quest. I was a student of the Enneagram and thought, "if there is a school that uses the Enneagram, perhaps it will have enough depth in its approach to work more fully and effectively with people." So, I searched "enneagram and coaching" and found two schools. After a bit of investigation of each, you won't be surprised to read that New Ventures West stood out.

The main thing I'll say about why has to do with the way in which the method is infused with 1) a great appreciation and respect for the individual person, 2) a studied and refined way of understanding how people change and 3) a tried and true way of supporting people in their life. Coming from a background of working with people and change, what I found in the Integral methodology addressed the questions I had about how and why my previous work sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. I found it—and continue to find it—to be an effective way of supporting people.

My hope in sharing a bit of my story is help you as you search for your next step in (possibly) becoming a coach. You can join a Free Intro Call to get a better sense of whether New Ventures West is a fit. Whatever the next step is for you, please step into it with all of you.

Adam is a leader of the Professional Coaching Course and the Global Graduate Director for New Ventures West. He is dedicated to bringing more justice, love and creativity into the world.

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