A week ago, as I frantically prepared for my trip to Florida, marking the beginning of my professional coach training, I couldn't shake feeling unprepared. I felt certain that everyone else in the class would have more education, practice and success (whatever that means…)
There were 24 students and 2 instructors. I walked into the nondescript room and looked around for the safest chair to sit in. There were three round tables in our large room and about half of the class was already present. My instructor Kate Larsen was the first to greet me. She had taught me during my previous Wellcoaches class that prepared me for certification. I also had opportunity to connect with her after my certification. Though I had never met her, she became a mentor as her background shares some similarities with mine; she lives and works in the Twin Cities, has a background in chemical dependency counseling and personal training, and has three sons. She was enthusiastically and authentically inviting and immediately eased some of my jitters.
Our first assignment, broken down into three parts, was to share with the class a five minute story of who we are. The three parts brought us to an understanding that what we share must have depth and some dirt. In other words, we had to get vulnerable. Ugh… We had time to prepare and were given colored markers and a large sheet of paper to draw whatever sort of picture or timeline might illustrate our story. I created the most boring one color timeline anyone has ever seen - so no one saw it. I presented near the end, about number 22.
The first thing I shared was that I very much enjoyed hearing all the stories and that it was a gift to (re)learn that when we meet or see people we assign meaning and our own stories to them. And that they’re probably always wrong! Of course we were all feeling the same way: afraid, uncertain, insecure, excited, curious, happy, eager, and open. I so much enjoyed and appreciated hearing all of these people share the happy as well as the unhappy moments they felt shaped them - all crammed into 5 minutes.
Next I explained that I would not illustrate my story with my drawing because the simple timeline I created was incomplete. Who they saw before them was created within the last ten years. This transformation included swimming (to be told in my next blog), financial liberation via divorce, and emotional liberation via emotional autonomy (ending for good an unhealthy relationship).
So with that icebreaker assignment we began learning and practicing the art of coaching. We came from all over the world, including Brazil, Mexico and France! We brought with us different areas of expertise and some of us volunteered to share our expertise with the class. I lead the class in a short training exercise to get moving after a full day of learning. Another classmate shared laughing meditation and another Zumba.
I practiced coaching with someone who uses English very little, she speaks primarily Portuguese. We had to get creative about our conversation! Through her eye contact and deliberate word choices, I could feel her commitment and interest in learning about me and sharing with me. What we both hoped to get from the class did not vary; patience, compassion and authenticity.
I took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. My type turned out to be ENFJ which means I’m extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. The brief descriptor for my combination is: Warm, empathic, responsive, and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential. May act as catalysts for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group and provide inspiring leadership.
Each day we broke for lunch giving us the opportunity to explore the campus in search of desirable sustenance. We passed palm trees and ponds with fountains in them. We relished in the heat and humidity after being in cold air-conditioning all morning. With the help of native students, we located the hub of fast food on day one. On our way back to class from an exciting array of college food choices, we passed a sushi shop which became the destination of lunch on day two. Of course that meant we had to navigate our way back to that location the next day. The desire for sushi was strong and we found our way amid the chaotic campus dwellers!
Through a practice coaching experience where I was the coach, I learned I can get too invested in the outcome of the conversation. I want so deeply for the client to feel and have success that I sometimes try too hard to paint that picture. Sometimes people want to feel unsuccessful. I don’t understand it, but I can be patient and allow the space for another person to get uncomfortable enough to find their own motivation to change. It was unpleasant and embarrassing to be corrected, but how will I learn if I don’t make mistakes in a safe environment with people that want me to succeed? And I surely won’t forget that lesson as it’s engrained with the emotion it elicited in me.
I was fortunate enough to learn yet more about neuroplacticity and the capacity of the adult brain to physically change as a result of experience and focus (attention). We learned that social cognitive science has proven that our brains are wired to connect socially. We learned about the executive function of the prefrontal cortex and the hijacking of the amygdala. It is because the brain prefers social connection that we all joined together in Florida to kick off our ten months of coaching practice and learning.
I also had the opportunity to visit the beach each evening. I had a lovely companion that allowed me the time to decompress after each day’s class and listened while I regurgitated everything I was excited about. We even ran along the long Jacksonville beach one evening! It was humid, cloudy, and windy. Perfect! We met a young man riding what looked like a skateboard with huge wheels and using a kite to propel himself. He showed us some very basic facts about wind direction and jumping over piers, so of course we signed up to try it out. Not!
It was wonderful to feel supported and to be able to maintain some sense of routine amidst the palm trees and warmth with someone who cares about my interests. I could not have asked for a better travel companion to compliment the intensive training I received.
I’m looking forward to learning and growing in my coaching abilities with the amazing people I had the honor of meeting a week ago. Over the next ten months, my instructors and classmates will be an integral part of my life. I can’t wait to see how I evolve and what I’ll say after we all meet again next June. I love this journey!
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian