Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What is life coaching?

I have to admit being caught off guard when talking with a colleague from a previous work life. We ran into each other at an event and I mentioned I was training to be a life coach. She asked, "What's that?" 

My answer didn't roll off my tongue. Instead, I stuttered and stumbled on my words, realizing I wasn't really clear on how to articulate what a life coach does for someone who doesn't know. I think I muttered something about business coaching and she nodded with a little more recognition. 

So it makes sense that I actually spend time defining it in a way that works for me. At this stage in my training, I know that coaching is a partnership between two really smart people, with one asking a whole lot of questions to help the other find their own unique answers. It goes where friendships can't, and it's different than mentoring, counseling, or consulting, because the person being coached is their own Subject Matter Expert. 

But none of those are really satisfactory, succinct answers when someone asks, "What's that?" 

As a life coach, I help people move their lives forward - whether that's getting unstuck, reaching a previously unattainable goal, transcending limiting beliefs or situations, or gaining clarity on what they really want. Coaching is a powerful conversation, a synergistic partnership, a personal empowerment process unlike any other. I help people learn to better communicate both personally and professionally, connect deeply with themselves, and connect dots between where they are and where they want to be. Ultimately, I'm a catalyst for creating positive change. 

Well, it's still not succinct, but it's feeling and sounding more satisfying. And I'm not sure I'm completely there yet, but it is something I intend to live in to. 

I'll keep working on this, so stay tuned.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Learning to coach

I am whole, resourceful, capable and creative. Is that right?

That statement is one of the basic tenets of life coaching - holding ourselves, our clients, and people in general as whole, resourceful, capable and creative.

Yet those four words just don't always stick and I find myself doing a mental double-take to make sure I've got it right.

So yes, I am studying to be a life coach. And right now, I have more questions than answers - which is actually kind of funny given that more questions than answers is exactly how I "should" be as a coach. But I'm speaking about my own experience. I currently have more questions than answers about how, where and with whom I want to apply the skills I'm now developing. And can I even do this?

Then there are the practical questions: How can I apply this to my current work? Makes sense to do that... since there really is some cross-over. How can I leverage that? Then, down the road, what kind of business do I want? What kind of clients do I want to work with and will they be attracted to what I offer? Do I come up with a business name? Or just use my name? What about a website, graphics, business cards, welcome letter... all those physical materials that let people know I'm in business? And then support that business.

But really, can I actually learn this stuff?

Sure, I kind of already do this. In a way, it's been my life's work. But this puts a new context and framework around my innate abilities in ways that are unfamiliar and  uncomfortable. As I discovered last night in a session with my own coach, I'm learning a new process and a new way of being about stuff I already know and do. Despite knowing that I need to be in this place of not knowing, I am not very patient with myself and feel that I should know how it all works... yesterday.

I found myself drawn to coaching while doing a life-design workshop last spring. I recognize that I have spent my life in this realm. It really is my life's work: exploring ways of being, delving deep through therapy, reading stories of adventurous truth seekers, creative visioning, studying belief systems and "alternative" lifestyles, following the journeys of unsung heroes and heroines. I am a good listener, naturally curious, and have been told often throughout my years that I would be a good therapist and have at times been asked to help with coping or problem solving. But I wasn't drawn to therapy, nor did I see any value or opportunity in the personal work I'd previously done. Sure, it was useful - to me. But could I use all this stuff I've explored, studied and practiced in a professional setting? It has a real purpose? What a great thing to discover.

At this stage in my life, I am definitely an expert in navigating life's twists and turns and managing the proverbial curve balls, as I have had many. I have been and felt victimized, and I have been a survivor. I have experienced profound loss throughout much of my life. All this experience has helped me to learn and thrive. And what I do know is that I want to help make a difference in the lives of others.

How many times did I wish there was someone there to help me navigate? I found my way, but there were times I desperately wanted some kind of support and didn't know how to find it. I grew up learning what it meant to be burdensome and didn't want to risk that with those I cared about (I still have a little bit of work to do here...). So I sought advice and insight from astrologers, psychics, therapists, spiritual leaders, reiki masters, numerologists, and countless others. They have come and gone and the one thing they had in common is that despite a possible intuitive sense, they didn't know me - and wouldn't. It wasn't that kind of relationship. They came from a particular life perspective and offered what they knew. But it wasn't enough. And wouldn't be. I wanted someone to know me, hear me, help me. Who better than me? Looking outside of myself wasn't working. I didn't want to be rescued; but I wanted to be heard and guided. I'm not sure I realized it then, as I do now, that I wanted help accessing my own inner wisdom - support based on my own needs and the idiosyncrasies that make me the unique person I am.

So this is what's driving me. The desire to be that person for someone else. In powerful, life changing ways. To be a partner to, a guide, a listener... a coach. Damn... Did you hear that? A coach. The idea of charging real dollars for this is a strange one to me. It feels like the kind of thing I would do for free. Like certain types of consulting and writing. But there are those who have means and are able and willing to pay, and if learn this well and get paid well, then I can be available to and offer this gift to others who maybe can't or don't have the same resources. I love that. I hope it works out that way.

I might just have to create it. Can I? I'm whole, capable, creative and resourceful. So if I don't know how, I'll just have to figure it out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dear Flori

Flori Montante, July, 2011 at Palisades
(celebrating a belated birthday)
Thank you, Miss Flori, for all you brought to my life. You were vivacious and passionate, with seemingly endless energy. Today you left this plane for another and I am left feeling grateful to have been a small part of your world.

You were a gift to me in so many ways. Because of Festal and Pagdiriwang, I came to know you, and get a glimpse of the culture you dearly loved and worked so hard to keep alive. And I think you felt like educating others was part of what you were put here to do. I'd say you were successful.

How many times did we sit around your dining room table and you shared the details (and chocolate, and of course some Filipino treats...) of your Pacific island heritage, what it meant to be Filipino, a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, a performer, an artist, a daughter, and a festival producer - in no particular order but all important? The courage it took to leave your home for another an ocean away. The care you showed for your people - family, friends, colleagues, the young, the old, the talented, the successful, the poor, the well-to-do - was always evident. And saying you loved music would be inadequate.

"Auntie Flori." Community matriarch. I know how you struggled with letting go and letting younger generations build on what you created; you had a vision. Your standards were high and hard to meet, and the time and cultural expressions changed. But you left a legacy that will be remembered at unexpected times.

We talked just before Christmas about celebrating our birthdays again. We were going to talk about those last little pieces you wanted me to add to your bio that we had already added to several times. You didn't want to leave anything out. I know I suggested cutting some detail and emphasizing highlights, but we left most of it in, just in case. But Flori - you accomplished more in your 80+ (86? 87?) years than many could in two lifetimes of equal years. Would you ever have felt like you did enough? You demanded a lot of attention and wanted the credit you worked so hard for. But you were also quick to call out the successes of others, and give credit where it was due. Your appreciation of me was a gift, too; you always let me know. I'm glad I could be there to help when you asked.

Beautiful, gracious, proper, and (mostly) always put together, I will miss your laugh and how you loved to have fun, dress up, and be the "friendly" hostess. And there's no replacing your flair for the dramatic or the mischievous sparkle in your eyes. I will treasure the conversations, how you'd shout "Laura!!!" with enthusiasm when I'd call, the lunches, dinners, and ... we even went to a theatre production oh so long ago. I didn't tell you then but Forrest was terrified by your driving. But even he appreciated your zest for life (just not sorry to learn you weren't driving anymore, I'll be honest, if only because he was afraid for you...). I have no idea now where we went, but I know we had a good time. I even felt like part of your big extended family when you invited me to events like your 80th birthday party and the celebration at China Harbor - the occasion of which I've also forgotten.

I'm not sure how to honor you but somehow it feels important that I do. So many in my family left this world too young. Maybe that's why I so appreciated your vitality and effervescence. You were feisty and spoke up about injustices or when you weren't happy about something, too. A Sagittarian trait you modeled well. I think you only recently really slowed down. And I know there was more you still wanted to do; I think you knew this was coming and you wanted to take care of anything unfinished. I think you did plenty, Miss Flori.

Perhaps I'll gather a friend or two and raise a fizzy pink drink in your name at Palisades. Big glass, little umbrella. It wasn't your birthday, but who was going to argue with a little old lady who insisted it was?

As one of our mutual friends said in an email message, "Dear Flori, she was crazy and maddening and impossible, but I loved her spirit and I will miss her so much."

Well said. Me, too.