What Does a Life Coach Do?

“We need people to be able to share our weaknesses with—as well as our strengths—and without shame.”  Caroline Myss

I have this inner struggle to explain, and maybe even justify, what it is I do as a life coach. That elevator speech that’s supposed to roll off your tongue and over yours lips never seemed quite right to me. On any given day it changed, and oftentimes, it was with an apologetic explanation that left me feeling like what I had to offer was ridiculous, unnecessary and unimportant. Naturally, it follows that if I felt that way, then down inside I thought what I was doing was irrelevant and not needed.

Why did I bother with this occupation that I sometimes feel is ridiculed and dismissed by so many people? The answer is simple—because I’ve seen the difference it has made in others’ lives. I’ve seen people engage in the world in new and meaningful ways. I’ve seen them tap into what was once unused energy and potential, and develop parts of themselves they never knew existed.

Having said that, I still continued to doubt that what I have to offer truly mattered and had value; then I saw this quote from Caroline Myss, and in an instant everything changed for me. She gave me a bona fide understanding of what I do and affirmed that it is very much needed.

For the most part, I believe we tend to relate to the world with the hopes that everyone sees only our strengths—even if we are not quite sure what they are at times. We want to be seen in a positive light and valued for who we are. We are seeking connection and acceptance. This is an honorable goal and one which we all hope to attain, but many times it is thwarted by our own disconnection and lack of acceptance of ourselves. We readily accept and honor our strengths because we see them as positive, while we shirk acceptance of our “so-called” weaknesses. Whenever we try to hide something about ourselves that we perceive as negative, we create shame. Shame is a weight we carry that keeps us from recognizing all that we are, and all that we have to offer. We are prone to view ourselves as a mix of positive and negative qualities. And hope that the negative qualities are not seen by the outside world.

Let’s look at our perceived positive and negative qualities in a different way. Think of a magnet… no matter what type of magnet, the opposite poles always attract. The opposing poles are drawn together and can be magnetized to form one cohesive magnet. When we view our opposing qualities in this manner, it becomes clear that making the connection we are seeking is acquired by accepting every aspect of ourselves and allowing them to form and unite as a whole; thereby, transforming the shame that arises when we remain disconnected.

Bridging the disconnection and magnetizing those parts of ourselves we oppose, is a necessary journey we all take. It’s an ongoing process that I have come to revere. I can only imagine the difference it would make in the lives of others, if they knew they had someone to share their weaknesses, as well as their strengths—and without shame. That’s what life coaching does, it gives you the experience of making that connection, and knowing that the acceptance you are seeking is not only possible, it’s necessary.

Take Your Cues from Nature

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
~Albert Einstein

Many years ago, I took a drawing class and one of the first assignments given by the professor was to just start paying attention to nature. There was an upcoming project which required us to draw a tree. At the time, I thought this was something I was strictly doing for the sake of art in order to help me develop my drawing technique. What I came to understand was that paying attention to nature provided a deeper level of understanding and wisdom to my life in general.

This particular class was conducted in autumn while the leaves were changing colors and the days were getting shorter. I began to notice the beauty of the trees and how no two trees were exactly alike. Their branches reached outward and upward, and grew in a pattern that was unique to each one. Because it was autumn, it was also evident that the leaves were changing colors and beginning to fall to the ground.

As the weeks moved forward, I found myself not only paying attention to the trees, but nature in general. I watched the clouds roll in and out as the day progressed. There were days of beautiful sunshine and days in which the sun was masked by the clouds. The rain would move in and sometimes there were violent storms; the wind would whip through, but eventually dissipate. I noticed that the weather constantly changed and we were not always given advance notice as to when or how it would happen. I reflected on the fact that we did not have control over the weather, but we accepted what came our way; we did not allow it to prevent us from moving forward in our lives. We just had to allow nature to take its natural course, pass through our physical world, and process the effects of it once it passed.

As I was paying attention to nature, I began to notice that nature reflected my own life, and how I could take my cues from nature. I noticed that just as hail storms can move through and create physical damage to our homes and cars, so can our anger move through us and create emotional and physical damage.

Nature reflects the cycles of birth and death. There are waves of storms and of calmness, sunshine and gloom. Our emotions roll in and wash through us, just as the clouds roll in and out. Just as the seasons change and transform, we do too. When we resist those changes, we resist our natural evolution of growth and development. When we push against nature, we are refusing our own cycle of change and development, and this creates our suffering. Making judgments about the cycle of change we experience is what causes us to suffer.

As William Shakespeare so insightfully pointed out in his play Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Thinking that one cycle is better or worse than the other is what fuels our resistance and fear.

Our external situations are always changing, as does our physical form and energy. Our bodies age and degenerate. Our physical energy patterns also reflect the cycles of nature. Maintaining maximum energy levels all the time is not possible. Each of us experiences times of high and low energy. There are times when it is necessary to rest for large amounts of time. Just as bears hibernate in the winter, we too can require larger amounts sleep, and there are times when we require very little sleep at all.

The cycles of nature are reflected in all areas of our lives. There will be periods of success and failure. Success is equated with growth and this is usually considered positive, but sustained growth cannot last forever. Just as plants wither and die, so do the chapters in our lives which no longer serve us. Releasing thought patterns and behaviors which stunt our growth, require dissolution in order to allow a new perspective or creative force to emerge and bloom anew.

With this one class assignment which was geared toward art, I learned a tremendous life lesson. I learned that resisting the cycles of nature and change is like grasping at the wind. The wind is fleeting and impermanent. It slips through our hands if we try to hold onto it. Everything is temporary and surrendering to the cycles of change is honoring our true nature. If we take our cures from nature we will learn to become present with what life presents to us and embrace its beautiful illustration of infinite possibilities.

Happiness

My son and I were driving down the expressway one day, and somehow stumbled into a conversation about happiness. At one point, my son said, “most people are happy and just don’t know it.”

My first thought was that this was a profound statement for a 21 year old. My second thought was that I knew exactly what he meant, and was in total agreement with his statement. I knew he meant that a lot of people spend a majority of their time thinking about the things they don’t have, instead of focusing on what they do have. Our lives are a reflection of what we value, and what we choose to focus on. Once we accomplish a goal, or acquire something we desire, we tend to immediately think about the next thing we want, instead of looking at whether we have what we need. Most of the time, we have what we need, plus a good deal of what we want. When we focus on what is lacking in our lives, it kicks us into a state of unhappiness. After thinking about his statement for a few seconds, my son went on to say, “you know you’re happy, when you wake up in the morning and you’re just happy to be alive.”

Of course, I had to ask… “Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling happy to just be alive?” He said, “I used to, when I was younger.” I understood that the responsibilities of adulthood had taken the place of his carefree youth, but I was glad to hear that he’d experienced the feeling of just being happy to be alive. I know that no matter what he does, or where life takes him, he will have times of adversity and sadness; but I also know he will have this experience of happiness to access.

In that moment, I was happy being right where I was, and with someone who understood the real meaning of happiness. The extra bonus was that this person was my son!

A Simple Act of Kindness

Just recently, I walked into a Starbucks on a cold morning to purchase a warm drink. I placed my order at the counter and was reaching in my wallet to get the money, when a gentleman standing next to me said, “I’m paying for her drink.” I glanced over and saw there was a line forming behind each of us, and I didn’t know this gentleman, so I assumed he couldn’t be talking about me. I handed my money to the cashier and he said, “he’s paying for your drink.” This was completely unexpected and I was curiously surprised, so I uttered the first words which came to mind. I looked at this man and said, “Why do you want to pay for my drink?” He responded with, “I just want you to have a wonderful day.” I told him how grateful I was, and that his generous act of kindness was such a nice surprise.

We moved over to wait for our drinks to be prepared. I told him that a few days earlier, I purchased two items at a retail store, and as I was walking out of the store, I looked at my receipt and realized that I was only charged for one item. I went back to the same cashier and told her I was not charged for one of the items. She was surprised that I would come back, and said that something good was going to happen to me. I told this gentleman that he was the good thing that happened to me.

He went on to share with me the real reason I’m writing this. He said that the previous week, he was in line behind a woman in this same Starbucks when she said, “I’m paying for his drink.” He said he was as surprised and grateful as I was, so he asked her what he could do to repay her. She said “just buy someone else a drink one day.” He then told me that I was the one he had chosen to buy a drink for.

He got his drink, and again, wished me a wonderful day. I did have a wonderful day, and it spilled into the next day, and the next.

This nameless, faceless woman that I have never met, connected with me through this kind gentleman, and made a difference in two lives… with just one simple act of kindness.