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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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PROFESSIONAL COACHING CERTIFICATION AS A PILGRIMAGE

OCTOBER 24, 2017

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I recently spent some time in northern Spain walking the ancient Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James). The Camino is a pilgrimage that has been walked for hundreds of years by people with a wide range of motivations from spiritual, to life transitions, to wanting a cultural experience. At the essence, all pilgrims are seekers. While some may be attracted by the adventure or the landscape, inevitably we all encounter an inner journey — a journey into the deeper parts of ourselves that get revealed in the solitude, the challenges, the tribulations, the support and the learning that emerges along the way.

This experience reminded me of the Professional Coaching Course, a year-long journey that people embark upon for varying personal and professional reasons with the sincere intention to learn to be of service as a certified professional coach. This decision to engage in the world through professional coaching certification is like saying yes to a pilgrimage.

There are three primary elements that form any pilgrimage: 1) the intention or calling, which is our inner motivation for saying yes to the journey, 2) the journey itself, which has some milestones to guide us along the way, and which is enriched by the challenges and learnings that are found in the experience, and finally 3) the destination, which is not only the physical space to which we arrive, but is also the destination that we find newly and freshly in our own hearts.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” —Mark Nepo

I came to New Ventures West back in 2005 seeking a life of deeper meaning and a career where I could support others in “achieving their goals and reaching their potential.” I knew little about what this meant back then, but I trusted the sincere intention of this calling. I had held leadership positions in the past where I learned that the more fulfilled people became, the better outcomes organizations would have, and the better our world would be. As I embarked in this adventure as an Integral Coach, I discovered that it was not just about the tools but also about how we are with each other: less about achieving and more about becoming. But how do we become more human? How do we become more of who we are meant to be and contribute to the world in our very unique ways?

Michael Mead says: “Our very mortality hides within it a divine seed, planted at the beginning, waiting throughout each life to be enlivened and flower forth.” I believe this is exactly what Integral Coaching is, and what the year-long training for professional coaching certification at New Ventures West is about: the very exploration of how each of us can become more human, more alive, and more capable of responding to the needs of the world from our own very unique location. Yes, we become Integral Coaches, but we become much more than that. We become enlivened human beings who are more in touch with our unique gifts to the world and are committed to bringing them forth in support of our own humanity.

This has been my journey, my pilgrimage, and the best part is that it is not over. I continue to learn, to unfold, to discover ways in which I keep becoming more human and more in service of the way in which life wants to shine through me.

Cynthia Luna is a Professional Coaching Course leader at New Ventures West. She is also a founding partner at LF Leadership, and a guide on The Leader's Journey, a program for professionals on the Camino de Santiago.

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COACHING CERTIFICATION: ARE SHORTER PROGRAMS BETTER?

JULY 20, 2017

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As the Director of Enrollment at New Ventures West, I enjoy hearing about the different metrics that potential students use to compare our coaching certification program to other coaching certification programs.

The length of coaching certification programs sometimes comes under scrutiny. There are coaching certification programs that offer “certifications” after just a day, or a weekend, or a few months. Some coaching certification programs offer “fast track” programs for students who feel like they need to get it all done in the shortest time possible.  A shorter runway can seem attractive to someone who is eager to begin working and making an income as a coach.

The Professional Coaching Course (which confers an Integral Coach® certification) at New Ventures West takes 12 months, during which the cohort meets in person over four sessions for a total of 17 in-class days.  Between sessions, lots happens: readings, learning calls, writing assignments, coaching, and more. The year is chock-full and we can’t imagine it being any shorter. Yet, we sometimes get asked why we don’t offer an abbreviated, “fast-track” option. We don’t offer it because we know it won't support you in learning the Integral Coaching method.  Here’s why:

Your clients will thank you

During your time in the Professional Coaching Course, you’ll conduct at least 3 coaching programs consisting of 10-12 sessions with clients. Our program is organized so that you have 7 ½ months between when you can begin meeting with clients and when your sessions must be completed.  This generous timeline allows for an  experience that feels spacious for you, and supportive for your clients as they are free to develop at their own rate. Each coaching client is unique and will have different developmental challenges. A longer timeline allows you to respond authentically and personally to each client’s needs, rather than being forced to cram more sessions into a shorter timeframe. You will be able to experience how a client’s development unfolds over time and see the way a coaching relationship can mature and blossom.  In the end, your clients will thank you for an experience that supported their needs.

Extended support as you integrate the methodology

Some say coaching is an art, and some say it is a science. At New Ventures West, we believe it is a little of both. The intention of our faculty is not to merely leave you proficient in the science of our methodology, but to support you as you deepen in your expression of the art. This is when a coach is able to uniquely clarify their offering as distinct from the offerings of other, equally qualified coaches. In a crowded marketplace, the ability to make this sort of distinction is becoming more crucial by the day. During your time in our coaching certification course, you are supported with multiple opportunities for practice, feedback, and personalized coaching to help you go deeper in your integration and expression of the methodology.

Some things can’t be taught—only developed

At New Ventures West, we firmly believe that coaching is more than a series of techniques, tools, and developmental tricks.  We believe coaching is a way of being, a powerful orientation in the world. Our methodology is rigorous, and you will learn models and other tools for working meaningfully with clients. However, we are also intent on addressing those aspects of coaching that can’t be taught, but rather must be developed in each individual student.  

For example, what does it take to be the kind of coach who can hold a powerful, resilient emotional field as the client bravely explores ground they have always avoided? What are our own ideas about what it means to be “helpful,”  and how do these ideas keep us from offering our clients the support that would really assist them in becoming more competent and skillful? How might our coaching become more meaningful if we focused on developing our own cognitive, emotional, somatic, relational, spiritual, and integrative competencies?

As you can imagine, these kinds of questions aren’t things that can be fully addressed by a learning module. They are invitations into a new way of orienting to the world and toward our clients. Stepping into new orientations takes not just learning but integral development—and integral development takes time.

Give yourself the time

Long-term development, integration of science and art, and a truly supportive, spacious experience for both client and coach are just a few of the aspects that set Integral Coaching and New Ventures West apart from other coaching schools. If this approach appeals to you, we invite you to give yourself the time to explore what is possible.

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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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