Coaching

Following Your Passion When You're Not Quite Sure What Your Passion Is

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“Follow Your Passion!”

“Live Your Purpose!”

We’ve all, I’m sure, heard this advice way too many times to count.

While inspiring in some cases, it can feel like slightly unhelpful advice when we’re not sure what our purpose is, or where our passions actually lie.

Discovering these things is not, of course, an overnight process. For some of my clients, the desire to get more clarity in the above two areas is the reason they hire me as a coach. They’ve usually been wildly successful doing something other than their passion or what feels like their purpose, and together we work to discover what a new path forward might look like.

Hiring a coach is a great way to gain some powerful traction on the above questions. That said, there are some small things we can do on our own, as well, to kick start the process. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pay Attention to Curiosities.

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” - Mary Oliver

I see many people put pressure on themselves to figure out the answers to these enormous questions about purpose and passion in one massive epiphany that comes with a bolt of lightening at 2 in the morning. While sometimes the answers come to us this way, often the answers are the result of paying better attention over a period of time.

The first thing we can begin to pay attention to is curiosities.

  • What are you curious about?

  • What are you interested in?

  • What do you find yourself reading about in your free time?

  • What types of books are you drawn to?

  • What do you find yourself researching online, just because you want to know more?

  • What are the themes of conversations you’re having with friends?

  • Who are the people you find yourself following or drawn to - through blogs, articles, or social media?

Pay attention. Write these things down. Make a list and continually add to it. Allow yourself to simply add to it over the course of several weeks. And then, look back to see what you notice.

Track Your Energy.

What are the things, throughout your days, that give you energy? What are the things that deplete your energy?

Pay attention. Write them down. I recommend making a good old fashioned T-Chart with a list of “+” and “-” and adding to this list throughout your days.

Do this exercise at work.

  • When do you feel engaged and energized?

  • What are the projects you feel excited to work on?

  • Which types of conversations energize you?

  • And, on the flip side, when do you feel that you’re drained or depleted?

  • Which projects or tasks do you dread tackling?

Write them all down on your list.

Do this exercise at home.

  • What are you doing when you feel totally energized at home or around the house? Are you working in the garage or tackling a craft project or cooking?

  • What are you doing when you feel depleted or drained at home?

Put all of these things on the list.

Do this process for a week or two and notice, without judging, what emerges. Are there any trends or patterns? Or perhaps any surprises?

This process is not only helpful for informing your passions and purpose, but also for making small tweaks that make everyday life more easeful and joyful. I’ve made several small but game changing tweaks to my everyday workflows and rhythms as a result of my findings from this process.

Go Back In Time.

Think back to when you were young.

  • What did you love to do when you were little?

  • What types of games did you play?

  • What were your favorite types of toys to play with?

  • What did you want to be when you grew up?

Think back to high school and college.

  • When were you happiest?

  • What activities were you part of?

  • When were you having the most fun?

  • When did you feel most engaged in what you were doing?

  • When did you feel the most fulfilled?

Make a list of everything that comes to mind. Dig up some old photos and notice what you were doing.

For most of us, there is at least some thread that relates to our passion and purpose. In my case, for example, I played school almost every day. I had an entire school set-up in my basement: blackboard, overhead projector (the old school kind with the plastic sheets and the wipe-off markers - yes, I was that into playing school), chairs, and supplies. All through high school and college I taught water aerobics to adults and swimming lessons and Spanish for kids. I absolutely loved the process of teaching and learning.

While for a long time I thought all of this meant that I wanted to be a teacher within our school systems, I realized in my adult life that I wanted to create spaces of learning and self discovery and transformation and personal growth - for adults - which is exactly what I’m doing today. Putting these pieces together was not an overnight realization - it came after much reflection, lots of additional education, and plenty of time in the corporate world doing something entirely different.

Do Stuff.

Perhaps most importantly, to discover our passion, we need to do stuff that we are passionate about. To uncover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action.

Generally speaking, we will not discover our purpose solely by sitting at home reading books about purpose. We will not uncover our passion solely by reading inspirational quotes about passion, even if they are written in perfect calligraphy (you know the ones I’m talking about).

Rather, we will discover our purpose and our passion by taking action, with purpose and with passion.

Sign up for a class. Take the workshop. Reach out to that person you worked with 10 years ago who is now doing something super interesting and reconnect. Subscribe to the industry magazine. Volunteer with an organization that sparks your interest.

Try stuff. Dabble. Tinker. Allow yourself to be curious, and unattached to the outcome.

Do stuff just for fun.

In Summary.

To discover our purpose, we need to take purposeful action. Purposeful action does not need to mean quitting your job on a whim and moving into a Westfalia van for the next 3 years (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so) or going on a year-long spirit quest in Bali (though it certainly could if you feel called to do so). Purposeful action can mean making a list; starting your day with intention; paying attention to your curiosities; doing things that bring you joy; and noticing what you discover along the way.

You Want to Become a Life Coach? Three Key Things to Consider

Each week, I receive calls and emails from people who are interested in becoming life coaches. For various reasons, their hearts have called them to the profession, and they want to know more - what it's like, any tips I have, and what my experience has been like. 

The tragic truth is that I see many brilliant coaches fail, or become so frustrated with their coaching practice that they abandon it altogether.

Here are three key questions to consider in order to increase your odds of success, happiness, and fulfillment as a coach.

1. Why Do You Want to Become a Coach?

The answer I hear most commonly is "to help people." While this is great and noble, I lovingly say that this is not enough. You can help people in your current job, you can help people by volunteering, and  you can help people through a position with a nonprofit where you still get paid. 

What is your deep, compelling Why that cannot be ignored? What is your Why that outweighs walking away from your corporate job, your salary, and your benefits?  What is your "why" that makes paying $12,000 for a coach training and certification program a Hell, Yeah?

This crystal clear Why will be essential when you start telling people about what you're up to. It will be essential for creating content that feels 100% like you. And it will be essential on the days when building a coaching practice is damn hard. 

Before moving forward with training, certification, or abandoning your corporate job for good, spend some time reflecting on your Why. If it feels squishy, or unclear, spend some more time. Journal. Get quiet and listen. Check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk for inspiration. This Why will be your home base for your business. It's essential.

2. How Do You Feel About Running a Business?

In a successful coaching practice, only a fraction of our time is spent actively coaching clients. The rest of the time is spent running a business: creating content, handling operations, building meaningful relationships, growing your skills as a coach.

New and prospective coaches often tell me, "I just hate the sales part of coaching," or "I don't really like the business part of coaching." If this is you, PLEASE proceed cautiously down the path of becoming an independent coach. 

In order to have a thriving coaching practice, you must run a thriving business. And in order to run a thriving business, you need to either a) love running the business, b) learn to love running the business, or c) build out a phenomenal team of people to support you. who love running the business.

I invite you to spend some additional time thinking about how you feel about becoming an entrepreneur in addition to becoming a coach. The successful coaches I know run a business in addition to running a coaching practice. 

If you decide that the entrepreneurial aspect of coaching doesn't thrill you, there are many ways to be a coach without it. I know several people who have built out roles for themselves inside their organizations, as internal coaches. I know others who are part of coaching collectives, where they are connected with fully vetted clients, in exchange for a commission. They just show up and coach.

We are most successful when we are working within our zone of genius: the place where we are doing what we are best at and what we love. Getting clear on your zone of genius, and specifically where "entrepreneurship" fits into your zone of genius, will increase your odds of success and happiness with your coaching business. 

3. How Do You Want Your Life to Look?

Oftentimes, we start our own businesses because we desire more freedom, in addition to the opportunity to serve others.

Prior to starting a coaching business, take some time to reflect not only on how you want your business to look, but how you want your life to look. How do you want your business to flow with your life? Do you want to run your coaching practice as a lifestyle business, or do you want to build a global company? Do you want to work a couple days per week and spend the rest of the time with your kids? 

Getting clear on this vision up front helps us make better decisions down the line. As my business has grown, I've noticed an unintended pattern of, at times, accidentally recreating my 'old life' from the corporate world in my 'new life' as a business owner: working from 7 am until 9 pm, back to back travel, and a pace that is unsustainable. These days, I love my work so it rarely feels like work; however, one of my values is freedom. At times, I've compromised this value by saying Yes to too many things. 

When I get to this point, I find that it's helpful to take a step back to connect to my vision of how I want my work and my life to look. Doing this exercise up front makes hard decisions easier, and allows us to run our business in an intentional, rather than a reactive, way. Additionally, it allows us to set a clear foundation upon which we can build. For example, I know a number of new coaches who say Yes to taking clients at all hours of the day: 7 am, 9 pm, and weekends, because they are so desperate for clients. Not only does this create challenges up front, but it forces them to attempt to unravel this aspect of their business later on, when they decide it's no longer working. Clear agreements and boundaries up front make things easier for everyone: for us as coaches, and also for our clients.

Bottom Line

This work is the most rewarding, fulfilling, and joyful work I have ever done. I love it, and it fills me up from a place deep within. And, it's hard. Running a business is not for the faint of heart. A business takes time, energy, sweat, and sometimes tears to build. When I moved to Iowa for two years shortly after starting my business, I knew exactly one person. Building my business in Iowa meant combing through the local newspaper each week to try to identify possible opportunities to serve, and it meant more coffee meetings than I can count. Ultimately these efforts paid off and allowed me to create a greater regional impact through my business. And, the path to get there was not glamorous. Being tethered to my Why, being committed to my business, and reminding myself of my vision for my life were essential.

What about you? What is your Why? How do you feel about running a business? And how do you want your life to look in this new chapter? For more on this topic, check out 5 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Coach

5 Key Questions to Ask When Looking for a Coach

According to the International Coaching Federation, there are nearly 50,000 professional coaches worldwide - and that's not even counting the many, many people who call themselves coaches without any type of training or credentials.

While coaching has been around since the 1990s, its popularity has grown in recent years. And - for good reason. Coaching can be a powerful process for creating positive change and oftentimes radical transformation in our lives - from gaining the courage to leave an unfulfilling job, to designing and creating work that deeply aligns with our passions, to taking our 'side hustle' to a full-time business, to creating more balance and clarity in our lives. 

When looking for a coach, finding the right coach is essential. With 50,000 certified coaches to pick from and thousands more without any certification or credentials, there are many fish in the coaching sea, despite the fact that coaching is a relatively niche industry.

Here are 5 key questions to ask your potential coach(es) to help you find the best match.

1. Who do you coach?

If the answer is "anyone," think very carefully before moving forward. Good coaches are clear on who they can serve best and who they are most passionate about working with. This question is less about demographics ("I coach 30-40-something men") and more about ensuring your potential coach has alignment, purpose, and clarity in his practice ("I most love working with people to create clarity during times of transition, because transition has been a crucial part of my own journey to today.")

In my own practice, for example, my compelling 'why' is impact, which means that I most love working with people who care about making a positive impact in the world in a way that feels alive and aligned. Under the umbrella of 'impact,' I coach people on a number of specific topics: career transition, leadership, launching and growing a business, bringing all of who we are to our work in the world, creating more impact while also creating more balance, joy, and ease. While the details of our work together might vary across clients, the alignment with my 'why' of impact remains consistent and unwavering.

2.  How did you begin your coaching journey?

The best coaches I know bring a combination of experience, perspective and approach, and training/formal learning. It's helpful to explore all three with your potential new coach.

Experience: our experiences shape and inform us, and it's important to understand not only who your coach is as a coach, but also as a human being. Some questions to ask include:

  • What was your experience and path prior to starting your coaching practice?
  • How does this part of your path fit into or shape your approach to coaching?

Perspective and approach: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to coaching. I once made the mistake of hiring a "coach" who spent all 60 minutes of every single session telling me how to run my business (the way he ran his, of course) and telling me stories about how much money he made (a lot). Clearly, I hadn't fully followed this process prior to hiring him. I ended up spending a lot of money (paid up front) for a coach whose perspective and approach were completely misaligned with mine. Big mistake - and big lesson learned. Questions to ask to avoid repeating my mistakes include:

  • What is your approach to coaching? 
  • What can I expect from our work together?
  • How might this approach be similar and different to that of other coaches out there?
  • Can you tell me a little bit about what a session together might be like?

Training and formal learning: while I know a few great coaches who don't have a formal coaching certification and some really bad coaches who do, it's important to feel confident that this individual is not only qualified - but also brilliantly equipped to coach you. Typically this means that the individual completed an ICF-accredited coach training and certification program. While there are many programs available, both online and in-person, I have found that the strongest coaches in my own personal network are those who have completed a program that involves both in-person training and a subsequent certification process. (note: there are, of course, exceptions on both sides of this general observation.)

I did my training through The Coaches Training Institute (CTI), which is the largest and oldest coach training program in the world - and one that I highly recommend to other new coaches who are starting out on their own coaching journey. 

Some specific questions to consider here include:

  • Did you complete a formal training/certification related to coaching?
  • If so, which one - and how did you select it?
  • What parts of the training/certification do you find you use most...and are there any that you don't/that you disagree with?
  • Outside of formal coaching training, what other tools do you typically use in your work with clients?

3. Do you have a coach?

The analogy here is that most of us wouldn't feel confident going to a doctor who doesn't go to the doctor. The same is true for coaching. Coaches typically become coaches because they believe in the power of coaching. But believing in the power of coaching and believing in the power of coaching enough to pay for it out of our own pocket every month are two different things.

I recommend thinking carefully about hiring a coach who doesn't pay for some sort of coaching herself. This might mean having a 1:1 coach, being part of a mastermind group, and/or being part of a group program. Personally, I currently work with two different types of 1:1 coaches, I regularly talk with an executive-level mentor, I work with a spiritual advisor, and I'm part of several mastermind groups. I am a coach because I believe in the power of coaching - and I believe in it enough to make a significant investment in it for myself. The greatest coaches I know believe in it that much too.

4. When do you coach?

Great coaches have boundaries.

When I first started my coaching practice, I was accepting coaching sessions at 7 am, 7 pm, and anytime in between. I quickly realized that I couldn't best serve my clients with this model - and just as quickly changed my approach. 

I've talked to many struggling coaches who have said, "I have to accept coaching sessions early in the morning and late at night, because people work, and it's the only time they're available." Ironically (or not), these coaches are still struggling to create a financially sustainable business, while burning the candle on both ends in order to accommodate these "potential working clients." 

These days, I take on a very select number of coaching sessions in the evening - and do all of my other coaching during the day. My clients all work. And, my clients value and prioritize our time together, so finding times that serve both of us well is easy. 

Part of the coaching process involves creating more clarity. Find a coach who is clear on who she serves and how she works. This provides a great foundation for powerful, clear, and transformative work together.

5. Does this feel right?

The last and possibly most important question to ask yourself when finding a coach is, "does this feel right?" As Derek Sivers says (and many others have since repeated), "if it's not a hell yeah, it's a no." 

As a coach, I want to work with "hell yeah" clients. After talking to your potential coach, you'll likely know if it's a "hell yeah." While the financial commitment might feel like a bit of a stretch (which is often a good thing), the connection and the alignment with the individual should feel clear. 

Is coaching feeling like a "hell yeah" for you? Interested in talking more? Connect with me here. 

Avoiding The Black Chairs (And Doing What You Love Instead of What Everyone Else Is Doing)

 

I recently had an opportunity to catch up with a friend who co-owns a restaurant. She was telling me about the new chairs she recently purchased for her restaurant. As she put it, "It's easy to pick the same old black chairs that are in all the catalogs. But I wanted to put some more thought into it." And she did. The chairs are awesome - fun and unique and completely aligned with the vibe of the restaurant.

The same is true for entrepreneurship. For leadership. For speaking and coaching and doing the thing we do. It's easy to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to look around the catalog and pick the black chairs. Because more or less, the black chairs are successful. They aren't offensive. They're easy to find. While people may not *love* the black chairs, at least they don't have strong feelings against them.

And before we know it, we're seeing those same damn black chairs everywhere we look. Each of them exactly the same.

The question I found myself pondering during and after this conversation was, what becomes possible when we set aside the catalog?

What happens when we stop looking at all of the other restaurants' standard black chairs? 

What happens when, instead, we tap into our deepest passions and the things that make our *own* heart sing?

For my friend, the result was beautifully designed, unique, and fun. For the event I led that day, the result included some Madonna and some Katy Perry.

What is your version of the chair that makes your heart sing....the version of the chair that has nothing to do with everyone else's standard black chairs....the version of the chair that is completely, uniquely you?

"Being Busy" and "Being Good" - An Entrepreneurial Epidemic

 

There’s a bit of an epidemic happening these days. It’s happening to good people doing good things with good intentions.

It’s been written about a number of times before, and there’s a small movement underway to fight it.

While we’re all familiar with this epidemic in the corporate world, it’s hitting a population that we don’t talk about as much because it often, from afar, looks like success and abundance and prosperity and “making it.”

The epidemic is busyness, and its most recent target includes entrepreneurs, freelancers, startup founders, coaches, trainers, public speakers, and people kind of like me.

At a recent networking event, I was greeted by a well intentioned woman with, “You good? You busy?” In her question was a clear implication: Being good means being busy. Being busy means being good.

I see a similar correlation among my peers almost daily. When we’re “good,” we’re busy - meaning we are booked a lot, traveling a lot, gone a lot, and busy doing the things we do to stay busy. Being good means being busy and being busy means being good.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love to be busy. I love having multiple projects happening at one time (I’m an ENFP, after all). I love being busy developing strong relationships and creating new clients. I love working in the early morning over coffee, and I love jotting down new ideas late at night.

I love the work that I do, so of course - I love doing more of it.

However, the epidemic of busyness that’s hitting hard in the entrepreneurial world is clouding the real question at hand: are we having a positive impact?

  • Are we doing work that we believe in and can stand behind with all of our being?
  • Is it original and fresh and different than the other stuff that’s out there?
  • Are we working with clients we love, who push us to be even better at what we are doing?
  • And are we completely connected to our purpose?
  • Do we love not only what we are doing, but how we are doing it?

 

  • Do we love the travel, the hustle, the schedule and the busyness?
  • Do we love saying “yes” to the things we’re saying yes to?
  • And do we have enough time and space to completely, whole-heartedly, and fiercely serve our clients?

If this is what busyness feels like, then YES, let’s create more of it.

But if we’re sacrificing impact, or relationships, or pieces of ourselves in order to be busy - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re doing a lot but with minimal impact - then please, let’s stop.

If we’re creating busyness in order to create the illusion of “being good,” then please, let’s stop.

Let’s step back and pause. Let’s reconnect to our purpose, and let’s reconnect to the reason we started doing this work in the first place.


Let’s redefine for ourselves what it really means to “be good” and let’s start doing that instead.