(Note: This post continually quotes from Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles).
It recently dawned on me that through my posts here, random blurbs on Instagram, and status updates on Facebook I have left little crumbs all over my platforms regarding coaching. It has come up in the little ways it has changed my life and created new awarenesses , but I have yet to dedicate my time and words to truly fleshing out what this profession and this change of course has done for me, and can do for others. On a daily basis I am reacquainted with the power, force, and velocity that coaching has brought into my life, both as a client and coach. And like any tale, why not start at the beginning?
In October 2016 my cousin, who I had seen do a complete one-eighty with his life, called me. It was odd. We sporadically texted, and always got along, but I don’t think his name had ever appeared across my iPhone when we weren’t traveling together. My sister and I are close with our cousins, we grew up seeing each other multiple times a year, and got to witness each other’s transformation from toy-toting-children, to awkward bat/bar mitzvah teens, to fun “functioning” adults. We’ve seen girlfriend and boyfriends come and go, various hair styles, both gains and losses in weight, and trial and error with drugs and alcohol. My cousin was the first person I saw puke from over drinking, I remember how stupid he seemed. We were on a family cruise around Mexico, and it was one of the first trips where all of our ages didn’t quite fit together, at least for us outliers. The order of our births are as follows: Alex (said cousin who called me), Daniel (his brother), my sister, and I. Alex had recently turned 18, so an all inclusive cruise around Mexico, where booze was suddenly available endowed him with a ghost-like appearance on the trip—he was elusive. When I did find him he was off to procure the next drink, or try out a different adult venue on the ship. I would get excited when I found him, and then soon be let down to learn I could not join.
My sister and Daniel were just under two years apart, so their fourteen and fifteen ages fit together nicely. They weren’t yet entranced by club music, flirting, or hard liquor, but they were swimming in their awkwardness together, which made them two peas in a pubescent pod. Me, the youngest outlier at eleven, was left to my own devices. To young to be gawky and not old enough to indulge in spirits, I spent the trip begging my mother to hang out with me, and dodging back and forth between the upper decks and the frozen yogurt machine.
Not all trips carried on this way, in fact as I got older the dairy was harder to put down, and the liquor easier to pick up. The years when our ages didn’t fit slowly fell into the past, and soon we were all adults living various lives across the greater United States. Alex and I always had a special bond, we were both writers at heart, deadly sarcastic, equipped with edged tongues sharp with wit, a characteristic passed down from our verbose Grandpa. So, when I was driving to San Francisco from a Oregon-home visit, and saw his name, I was immediately both excited and curious: why was he calling me?
The discussion took various roads, but the center circled around the coaching program he was in, and the new avenues and transformations it was leading to. This was the first nugget of info I was given around coaching. Though I had already noticed major changes in who he was, I was not yet clear on the source. We began talking regularly and in October he called to enroll me. A new modular program was beginning in San Diego in November, and he saw me in it. When I look back on this decision, I am actually surprised how easily I made it. I have on several Life occasions had opportunity knock, and been too lazy or “preoccupied” to answer. But thankfully, this time the pound was too loud to ignore. It landed right where it needed, and it made a beautiful dent.
I was, as previously described, “stuck in slow-moving quick sand.” When I did nothing I was pulled further and further in, and when I tried to make movement, it became even more chaotic because I had no idea where it was I wanted to go, or even where I was coming from, which in turn pulled me right back down. We grow up told that school is required. You go, you go some more, and then many graduate from college and think “okay done!” I did not experience this sentiment. I went, I went more, and I figured “why not continue?” Academia was comfortable. I knew who I was in the classroom, I knew the exact student I was while tapping on my lap top, I knew how I would get things done, when I would start, and more or less the grade they would be given. I found comfort and pride in my role. I was, and am, a great student. It is an identity I have shaped and lived into for twenty-eight years. There were times it was challenging, but it came rather easy. Books, discussion, ideas, journals, research, papers, grade, lather rinse repeat. That is not to say it doesn’t give me great pleasure, I became who I am in those classrooms, immersed in those pages, a part of those discussions. And I don’t regret it for a second. But two years after graduate school I felt lost in the world. Leaving the books and papers behind sounded awful, yet continuing on felt almost fantasy like. Continuing down the PhD path made me feel fraudulent. I didn’t have some specific research goal or inquiry; I just wanted to make the world a better place by reading, writing, and instilling in others what I had discovered along the way.
This metaphor of quicksand incorporated various things, but one was the context of “either/or” that I was living in. I had convinced myself that I either had to continue down this academic path and teach, OR I had to give in and find some office job. I was so stuck, I had forgotten to look at my wildest dreams, to really ask myself what I wanted out of life and be a warrior for it. Until that is, my cousin re-introduced me to Possibility, and reacquainted me with the believer I had buried in sand.
Four phone conversations later I found myself on a plane to San Diego, about to start my first weekend with Accomplishment Coaching, the World’s Finest Coach Training Program. I sat on the plane hoping this was it. This program was going to change my life. It was going to open up space for major personal transformation and self-discovery. It was going to be the outside force that gave me internal strength to get out of the sluggish quick sand. I would like to tell you I didn’t believe any of this, that I was skeptical, seems to me that’s a better story: unconvinced and then wildly surprised, a nice non-believer turned believer tale. But alas, this is not that story. Because everything I hoped for, every positive ion I filled my head and heart with, I believed. And it came true. And that, at a 30,000 altitude nutshell, is what coaching is all about.
What is coaching? There are an infinite number of ways to answer that, and I am sure any coach or client has varied responses. In fact when I started to write that question I had a particular idea of how I would go into this, but my stream of consciousness came up with a different account, so here we go: I would like you to envision a great sports coach. This could be one you had, someone who is renowned for this post, or even your notion of the perfect team leader. What is their role? What do they do for the team? Individual players? The number one job of a coach, that comes to my mind, is to co-create the space for the player to play and be their absolute best––to support them in reaching their highest potential. The coach doesn’t get to come on the field, they are not responsible for moves, dribbling the ball, or scoring the goal. That is all up to the player. The coach’s responsibility is not to be the shining light or the star, but the being that reflects it.
Coaching outside of sports is no different. As a coach we do not do the work for you, we are not the ones who are going to practice everyday, get dirty, fall, get back up again. But be damn sure we will be there on the side line for inspiration, reflection, accountability, etc. The role of coach is to serve someone so powerfully that they never forget the experience; it is holding space for another to look into themselves deeper than they ever have: to distinguish what they want, what they fear, what motivates them, and what holds them back, their purpose, their vision, and where they betray or sabotage themselves; to ask difficult questions that bring new levels of self-awareness; to aid them in seeing where they are coming from, what drives them: fear? love? joy? anger?; to invite them to empower their choices, their yes’s and no’s; to be the person that holds up the mirror. To be a coach is to make a Stand for someone’s greatness, their potential, and their dream life.
What stops you from going after your dreams? Why are you on this planet and what do you want to create with your time here? These are important questions to ask yourself, and these are the types of conversations clients have with their coach. It is an open and safe space to truly look inside yourself, and determine how you want to spend your time here: who do you want to be? What legacy do you want to leave? When you look back in sixty years, what do you want to be able to say about your life? In coaching we not only get to the root and heart of all these questions, but we create the “hows”, the structures to get someone from where they currently are (A), to where they want to (B).
Coming from coach, and stepping into that role has changed my life logistically and financially, it has also given me the purpose I spent years looking for. I wake up everyday and feel at cause and aligned with my Being and what I want to achieve here. I always knew I wanted a job that had meaning, that would facilitate the type of world I want to live in, I just had no idea I could do it over the phone or from my apartment. I am a firm believer that we change the world every day, one step, one person at a time. Energy is everything. So if you can shift your energy, create your dream life and exude joy, happiness, fulfillment, you are going to affect those around you, which in turn will influence people around them. “The world changes when we change. The world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world” (61).
I think we imagine that change has to be some huge drastic event, but it is as straightforward as empowering the choices you make, smiling at strangers, being supportive, asking for support, being seen, and choosing to truly see others. How we interact with ourselves and others is how we change the world, it is as simple as that. And what is going to save the world, and all of us, are shifts in perspective. We know we are ruining our environment––that is proven fact. We have the answers to make the changes, to revert the course. We already know what needs to be done, who needs to do it, when, and to what degree. Yet we don’t. We are not using our resources. So we don’t need answers, we need shifts in thought, “our greatest tool for changing the world is our capacity to ‘change our mind about the world’” (66).
It is imperative that we take a different thought path, a different route. And that route begins in our minds. Coaching is all about the nature of our thinking: what we create and repeat in our heads, and how to to shift that. It is getting ourselves and our clients out of their content, out of their survival mechanisms, fear, and self sabotage; it is changing what happens inside our minds, to then create external action. As Marianne Williamson puts it, “taking responsibility for our lives means taking responsibility for our thoughts” (37), to take control of our lives, we must first be aware and understand what is happening mentally. Therefore coaching is about recognizing the narratives we have going on inside, to create new ones outside.
As coach, and client, I have become present to how oddly our minds work, and by odd I mean opposing. Most people do not wake up and go through the day telling themselves how amazing they are, or filling themselves with positivity. Strangely, we spend most of the time questioning ourselves, and even putting ourselves down. Within each of us is a nay-sayer, a little voice rooting for us to stay small, to stash our dreams away, to believe we “can’t” or that we “shouldn’t.” This little devil is in our minds and we let ‘em run the show. There is a great part in Williamson’s book I can’t help but share. She writes: “years ago, I told myself not to worry about a devil. I remember thinking the there’s no force of evil out stalking the planet. That, I told myself, is all in my mind. Then I realized this is not good news. Since every thought creates experience, there’s no worse place it could possibly be” (34). So while there is no actual hoofed, red horned devil running amuck out there, there is a voice in our minds that tells us no, that lets fear do the talking.
Coaching makes a full-on assault against that voice. Bye bye little devil, the gig is up. Having a coach facilitates a reclaiming of your life, your mind, which opens a space to fill with positivity, joy, self love and worth. As a client I have experienced a taking back of my thoughts, and self perception because coaching invites you to think big, to get outside of your fears and comfort zones. It creates a space for you to not only recognize your absolute potential, but step into it. “Our self perception determines our behavior. If we think we are small, limited, inadequate creatures, then we tend to behave that way, and the energy we radiate reflects those thoughts no matter what we do. If we think we’re magnificent creatures with an infinite abundance of love and power to give, then we tend to behave that way” (67). It all begins inside of each and everyone of us, and if we do our part to shift our thoughts, we will create change, revolution, and ultimately a planet of love and peace. We are not going to win this revolution against hate, racism, misogyny and fear by playing small and listening to the naysayer in each of us, we are going to win by living up to our most beautiful and true selves, by coming from love and peace and clarity. And this doesn’t just manifest in actions, it begins with our thoughts. It begins with what we tell ourselves and how we think. It begins by looking in.
Since my first day as a client I have yet to stop learning about myself. I have dug so much up you would think the waters would be murky, but they have never been clearer. I wake up everyday and feel at purpose with what I want my life to be, whilst creating the world I want to live in. A question that comes up often in sessions with clients, and with my own coach, is around commitment: what are you committed to? And what is your relationship with commitment? An exercise I took on with my program is making a list of all the things I am committed to in life (joy, writing, love, laughter, service, justice, being environmentally conscious, etc.) and taking one bold action each day to something on the list. Every morning when I wake up, and before anything else, I look at that list and make a decision. How will my time today be at cause with what I want in life? How can I bring purpose, passion, and determination to my day? This can be as simple as the fact that I want my life filled with sunshine, so my action is to go to the park and BASK. It can be as bold as declaring I will talk to five strangers that day about coaching to build my business. Whatever it is, I know that each day I am building my dream life, I am manifesting my commitments and thus fulfillment and pleasure in everything I do. And fuck, the feeling is utter luminosity. Everyday I am a warrior for every thing I want in life.
Look, I could go on and on about coaching, but bottom line, if you want to unleash your dreams, fight your fears, and look face to face with your potential and choose yes, you might like it. I can of course only speak for my experience (though I have a multitude of accounts from others who agree) but I can say with absolute confidence that I believe it will shift your perspective, and in that you will take part in this march to bring acceptance, love, and light into the world. Being coach and client has made me present to my greatness, and the greatness of those around me. It has allowed me to step into my highest self, and fight for my ultimate dreams. Everyday I tell myself what I want in life and what I am determined to manifest, and you know what, IT’S ALL HAPPENING.
Williamson writes, “many people are convinced that the world is headed for an inevitable major collapse. Any thinking person knows that the world is in many ways moving in a downward spiral, and an object continues to move in whatever direction it’s currently headed. Only the application of a stronger counterforce can change its direction” (82). She then argues that miracles are that counterforce, I disagree. WE are that counterforce. It is up to us to change its direction, when we shift our thoughts, THEN “the world will experience a radical shift.” Our parents were the counterculture, it is now our turn to be the counterforce that takes this country, and world by storm. Let us find ourselves, and in turn manifest the planet we want Earth to be. I sign off ready for action, ready to stand alongside every person as they find their greatness. These shifts come from within, and they will abound to every corner, every country, every continent. Let’s ask for a new world, a new life, and then build it, together.
**I dedicate this post to my cousin Alex Terranova. He is a true believer. A man that once had his back against the world, but now is spending all his time, energy, and power in making it a better place. He is a Dream Mason, a builder of dreams. He is my cuzzy, my mentor, a true pain in my ass, but a beacon in my heart. Love you.