Personal Growth

“I freed hundreds of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had only known they were enslaved.” - Harriet Tubman

It wasn’t until 5 years after my husband left our 23-year marriage that I realized I had been enslaved.

I remember standing in our kitchen while we were still married, saying to myself that this was a wonderful life I was living but it wasn’t mine. We had “everything” on the outside but there was a void, a disconnect to what mattered on the inside & I ached for it.

Building a house to families without a home - with my beloved children!
Building a house to families without a home – with my beloved children!

When my was-been (ex-husband) wanted to buy the big home on the acre lot, I was fearful that it would change our focus but he calmly assured me that it would only enhance our lives.

I trusted him to make that decision on our behalf, even though within me I knew the dangers of what could be the underlying motivation. In time, the focus insidiously shifted from investing in the meaningful foundation of our marriage to the outer appearance of how we were perceived.

Monies that were once available to give away or experience a life-changing adventure began to be primarily  poured into the home & outward appearances.

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Bucket Loads of Stuff

I get it … “everyone” does it, right? But I’m not everyone and he knew that when he married me. I was the adventurous, soulful, truth-seeking girl that passionately inspires change in the world.

Time & energy was being redirected by the bucket loads to things, stuff & what-nots. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with “stuff” unless it sucks you dry of vibrant life-giving energy & becomes what you live for.

There is nothing wrong with ‘stuff’ unless it sucks you dry of vibrant life-giving energy & becomes what you live for…

Sadly, it became apparent that he was unconsciously being swept up into creating the “perfect” life that served the ego not the soul.

The essence of our marriage was being sucked dry & the once heart-felt connection we had experienced was being replaced with harsh expectations, cold connections, bone-chilling distance. However, it was in no way apparent on the outside.

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The Odd-Girl Out

Thirsty to make a difference I still found my way to Calcutta, India, and Addis Abba, Ethiopia, to work with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

I spent months of my life serving & speaking in Mexico, Nicaragua, Russia, India & trekking in the wilderness, climbing Kilimanjaro. Each time, I’d return to the palatial home we lived in and felt like the odd-girl out.

Mother Teresa said that you can find Calcutta in every part of the world, wherever you find the lonely, the forgotten. I began a ministry to high school & college-age kids in the urban core and filled that huge home with inner-city kids.

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Over the past decade, I started to intensely study yoga, meditation, mindfulness & intertwining these practices to an even deeper level in my life.

With my BS in Occupational Therapy, I received my MA in Leadership from seminary and became an ordained minister. I was raised Catholic, went to a Presbyterian seminary and became an ordained Baptist minister.

I’ve studied Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Christian meditation and became certified as a meditation instructor from the Chopra Institute. After working 1-on-1 with Martha Beck (one of Oprah’s Life Coaches) for three years, I became certified as one of her Life Coaches. I studied and became certified as a Jin Shin Jyutsu (an ancient form of acupressure) practitioner, studied Resonance repatterning and Kundalini Yoga.

Seeking The Deeper Truth

As a truth seeker, I awakened to the reality that the body, mind and soul are inextricably linked. We are designed to live in sync. I have explored this connection in my soulful & physical adventures of marathons, triathlons, rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and yoga. 

The body, mind and soul are inextricably linked.

I also deeply value expressing the soul creatively through art, dance, singing, music, theatre, writing & film. We are experiential beings designed to explore our potential in every area that we are intrigued by. These explorations are invaluable to our expansion body, mind & soul.

 

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I unequivocally believe that there are many currencies that make up being wealthy and that investments in one’s self is the only lasting investment that compounds, hence my studies were/are my most valuable investments.

The currency of energy, enthusiasm, love, family, friends, creativity, health, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, passion and purpose are invaluable.  Money is only one currency & the one most highly regarded in our culture.

The currency of energy, enthusiasm, love, family, friends, creativity, health, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, passion and purpose are invaluable.

Wealth can be an incredible blessing but it can also be the source of a great deal of havoc when it is valued above authentic currencies.

Bone-Crushing Divorce

When my was-been left, I was baffled and completely unable to wrap my head around what had occurred. I had changed, continued to evolve through yoga, meditation, nutrition, soul seeking but I was simply on the same trajectory I had always been. What made it so unbearable that he would up and leave? I’m not sure I will ever make sense of it.

 

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It was a bone-crushing divorce. The need to control and crush was undeniable and evident to all. In utter disbelief, I wrestled to make sense of my new adversary: negotiating life as a single parent.

Left With the Shards

The confident, strong, capable, effervescent, adventurous, playful, loving, thriving woman and mom was replaced by an anxious, scared, hurt, beaten-down, protective single mom fighting to survive.
During this five-year period:
  • I had become a single mother
  • My best friend died after her eight-year battle with cancer
  • My best friend from college committed suicide
  • My dad died
  • We lost our family home
  • The family in which I had invested my hear was nowhere to be found
  • The economy crashed

I panicked and secured a full-time job in public television, pushing aside my motivational speaking and life/wellness coaching business. The life I created was obliterated, and with it everything I loved and in which I invested had vanished.

The life I created was obliterated, and with it everything I loved and in which I invested had vanished.

I was left alone with the shards to create a new life for the 3 of us & we called ourselves “Stronghold 3”.  We’d huddle together in that big house on one small couch.  We were inseparable.
I was their rock where they weathered all the crazy changes that were going on in their dad’s life. Desperate for attention of my own, I started dating two guys at once: Ben & Jerry. I went to bed with them every night to spoon.
Over time, they became clingy & I became fluffy. After the shock waves finally lifted, my body was depleted of energy and my heart was drained of all joy.
Once a marathoner and triathlete, my body felt like it was filled with lead, my heart empty and my mind stuck in “poor-me” thoughts. I was unable to run more than three miles and my workouts were puny. Stamina depleted, I was overwhelmed with the stress of being a single-mom and my playful energy tank was empty. I grieved the loss of what our family would never be and I got stuck in my dark sadness.

I grieved the loss of what our family would never be and I got stuck in my dark sadness.

It’s wild to think that my mother died at 56 from anger, bitterness and resentment after her debilitating divorce. She was overweight, inactive & a sugarholic. Diabetic with high blood pressure, she had three heart attacks in a 10-day period and her body did not have the stamina to recover.
We discovered that she had been addicted to valium. Although she sought help through counseling, she was unable to integrate the insights to elicit change. She was unable to be a strong mother. From as young as I can remember, it was my job to take care of her.
On May 6th, 2015, I turned 56: the age my mother was when she died. I am passionate about being in the most vibrant health ever…mind, body, soul.

Settled for Less

I  made the best of life after divorce but realized that I had settled for less. I had somehow begun to believe that as a single mother my life would be less than that of a married woman and that my opportunities would be bound by my limitations. When overcome by my loneliness, I found fleeting thoughts of suicide sting me.

 I had somehow begun to believe that as a single mother my life would be less than that of a married woman.

However, the undying love of my kids would not allow me to entertain that possibility. They needed me and I was here to sacrifice everything for them…they are my heart and my soul. It was devastating to not be able to protect them from the pain of the master control games spouses play amid a divorce.

The Most Painful Consequence

I did all I could to avoid the power struggles, but to no avail. This is perhaps the most painful of consequence of divorce My own father told me about his divorce through a note he left on my dresser asking me to tell my mother that he had moved out and wanted a divorce.

My deepest hope was that my kids would never experience the turmoil of a torn family and instead they got it in spades! Dodging, maneuvering, orchestrating…I twisted myself into all sorts of parenting positions to offer relief and protection for my babes with no concern about what it was costing me.  I desperately did not want them to experience what I did but no matter what I did, it was impossible. They were crushed and I could not protect them.

Finding Guts and Grit

However, in time I realized that just like before the divorce, I was not living the life I was intended to live — I wasn’t the adventurous, soulful, truth-seeking girl passionately inspiring change in the world I knew myself to be.  I was the beaten-down version of myself who hinted to reflections of my mom but in no way reflected the truth about myself. So it was time…time to find the guts and grit to start ALL over.
My first step was to stop buying into the self-limiting beliefs that, as a single mother, my opportunities were limited and to push through the belief that I had missed the boat.

My first step was to stop buying into the self-limiting belief that, as a single mother, my opportunities were limited.

I had been hesitating to take my kids across the border to Tijuana, Mexico to build a home for precious families who lived in cardboard. How could I, a single 5’2”, tiny flaca [blonde white chick in Spanish] risk taking her kids across the border — not to mention the financial cost and time away from work?
But somehow, someway I knew that if I decided to go the doors would open in the most unlikely way. And open they did.

Crossing the Border

Stronghold3! crossed the border, slept in tents, had bucket showers, swung hammers, mixed concrete by hand & built a 22′ x 11′ home for a beautiful family of six.
I reconnected with my passion to make a difference with my kids alongside of me. This was a significant step in re-embracing my true self. It reignited the guts & grit within me to keep tackling the next challenge & embracing the next opportunity.

I reconnected with my passion to make a difference with my kids alongside me. This was a significant step in re-embracing my true self.

I left my job at KCPT public television after two years of seeking the illusion of security and putting aside my life’s calling.  Opportunities began to appear out of seemingly nowhere urging me to risk returning to my passion and purpose as a life/wellness coach and speaker.
I mustered up the courage, let go of my grip on fear and at the very moment I left public television, KCTV5 asked me to be their life and wellness expert with a regular TV spot called “YOU GOT THIS!”. I was on-air live five days later. Then the Kansas University Medical Center’s Department of Integrative Medicine, an incredible cutting edge team focused on a holistic approach, referred clients to me as their wellness coach.
TV, radio,speaking gigs, articles and ideal clients began appearing effortlessly. My professional strength and traction were building. I felt led to rebuilding my physical strength and stamina to re-energize my body, mind & soul.

Revitalized

So I took myself through a mind/body transformation to reclaim my strength to see how far I could go. I cleansed, trained and fueled my body with the most nutrient-dense nourishment I could find.  I was amazed that my energy was revitalized beyond what I had ever experienced in my life. I was running faster, my body was stronger and sleeker and momentum was building. I am now beyond elated at my body’s ability to handle stress.

 I was amazed that my energy was revitalized beyond what I had ever experienced in my life.

At the same time, I realized that my head needed to be in the game. If I was to cleanse my body I had to cleanse my mind of all the negative thoughts sabotaging me. This was quite the challenge as I had replayed the divorce over and over again in my head, trying to figure what had happened and how to never repeat that painful experience ever again.
Without realizing it because of my weakened state,  I was creating more of the same pain by focusing on the difficulties. Reflection serves a purpose but once we learn from it, it’s time to recreate new stories of promise and embracing potential.

Embracing Who Your Are

Hence, I created my “YOU GOT THIS!” Body Fit, Mind Fit, Soul Fit philosophy. I began to fervently practice these tools in order to exemplify my  motto: “Live it to Give it!”
I knew that I was not the only woman who had been betrayed, bludgeoned and lost sight of her strength and calling. All too often, women in their 50’s can begin to believe that their lives no longer matter.
They have most likely sacrificed a great deal of themselves in the raising of their kids and in support of their halfhearted marriages. It’s scary to step out beyond what you know to embrace the unknown but the world is waiting for you.

All too often, women in their 50’s can begin to believe that their lives no longer matter. 

The world needs you to embrace the truth of who you are, coupled with the tremendous life experience you have to own your voice & live out loud.  Your wisdom, grace, life experiences and heartbreaks have prepared you for this time in your life.

Don’t settle for less than who you are. Dare to live it.

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And, as T.S. Eliot said:

“It’s never too late too be what you might have been.” 

Trauma is a difficult thing to endure.

Though great pain and hurt is associated with the trauma itself, there are times when the months and years following the trauma seem just as difficult to work through.

For many of us, trauma is something to lock away for as long as we can. Like a caged lion, it likes to remind us it’s there by unleashing fierce roars when we least expect it.

Frozen in fear, we try to ignore the presence of the the ferocious memory.

The experts at the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma (IVAT) pointed out our mind’s constant effort to repress our childhood trauma can lead to a myriad of health problems, including:

  • Posttraumatic stress syndrome
  • Dissociative disorder
  • Depression
  • Sleep-related disorders

Preserving your health isn’t the only benefit to working through past trauma. We talked with Romane Stewart, the mind behind the popular website Making Motivation, about trauma and how confronting it can benefit us:

 

You’ll Acknowledge the Truth

It’s scary, but it’s true. In order for us to move on from our trauma we need to accept it’s reality. Along with that comes the host of challenges we’ll face as we come to realizations about who we are and how our trauma has affected us.

“We have to be true to ourselves and accept our reality. This is really the first step in mastering the self,” Stewart said. “We have to look at ourselves and properly assess our challenges by asking questions like, ‘Why is this happening?’ and ‘How did I get here?’ and ‘How is it affecting my life?’”

“We have to be true to ourselves and accept our reality. This is really the first step in mastering the self.”

Asking these questions and confronting the truth will empower us.

“We have to take control of our lives if we ever want to have a chance of living the life we want,” Stewart said, “ and, most importantly, the life we deserve.”

You’ll Inspire Others

Our personal stories serve as a narrative to those around us. The choices we make have the potential to inspire others to not only intensify their journey of personal development, but, in the case of those who have endured trauma, to confront their trauma and begin to move forward.

“One of the biggest problems we face in society these days is the lack of role models.”

“You’ll be a positive example in the life of others,” Stewart said. “One of the biggest problems we face in society these days is the lack of role models. If you can prove to others that you have succeeded through your respective challenges, you’ll gain friendships and credibility.”

Your Self-Confidence Will Rise

When you confront your past trauma, you’ll be more confident and comfortable about who you are. As you move forward in life, you’ll be better equipped to meet and overcome the challenges you will face.

You’ll have the ability to accept yourself and challenge yourself to do the things for which you’ve been longing all your life.”

“Your self-confidence levels will go up and you’ll feel like the sky’s the limit and that your challenges exist for a reason,” Stewart said. “You’ll have the ability to accept yourself and challenge yourself … to do the things which you’ve been longing all your life but never envisioned yourself being victorious in.

Keep a Journal, Staying Motivated, Goaly Life Coach Blog

Finding the Spark that Pushes You

Have you ever met one of those people who seem to always have energy and enthusiasm for whatever it is they’re doing? Their zeal is infectious, but at the same time, it can be annoying!

We wonder how it’s possible to be so motivated in a world where most people miserable at work, exhausted or unsatisfied with their life.

We wanted to get the opinion of the people who are right in the middle of the daily struggles of parents, teachers, kids, executives and employees. So, we talked with several of our Goaly.com coaches.

We asked them: How do you stay motivated in your life?

Keep a Journal

A journal can be your catalyst for change – use it as the place where you write down your goals and track your personal development.

“A journal can be your catalyst for change. It will act as your inspiration and show you how far you’ve come.”

When you reach a stage in your life where you feel like you’re treading water and you don’t feel inspired to keep pushing forward, your journal will act as your inspiration and show you  how far you’ve come.

“I’ve journaled since the first journal I started in 2005,” financial coach Michelle Tascoe said.  “Ten years later I am on journal 27, and have documented all the lessons, declarations and goals set and reached each step of the way.”

Express Your Gratitude

Our own personal struggles, the way people have hurt us and the seemingly endless stream of news reports of evil acts across the globe tend to make us lose sight of the positives in our life and in our world.

Carve out a few minutes from your day and use them to examine the good things in your life and give thanks for them!

“Taking time every day to remind myself of what I am grateful for helps tremendously.”

“Taking time every day to remind myself of what I am grateful for helps tremendously,” said Hayden Lee, academic coach on Goaly.

Set Goals

Becoming motivated is difficult when you don’t have a clear direction in your life. Whether it’s a short-term goal or a long-term purpose, having a finish line or destination in mind is a tremendous way to motivate yourself.

Goaly parenting coach Lisa Read says goal-setting is an important motivating factor in her life. She even uses a mentor and life coaches to help keep her accountable and stay focused.

“My aim is to continually challenge myself to raise the bar.”

“I set myself long term, yearly, monthly and daily goals so that I’m clear about the direction I’m working towards. I also hire coaches to help me stay on track and I work with a mentor,” she said. “My aim is to continually challenge myself to raise the bar.”

Lisa Read has more great advice for parents. Check out her introductory Goaly video:

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We love our limiting beliefs…

Our personal refrains of “I’m not good enough” and “I don’t deserve that” or “I can’t be loved” are what experts call “limiting beliefs”, those powerful notions in our minds that deter us from doing certain things because we believe they are beyond the limits of what is due to us.

New York-based life coach Lisa Romano – author, head of her own coaching practice and mother of three – pointed out one of her previous limiting beliefs: that surviving was more important that happiness.

“Life was always about survival,” Romano said. “When I told my father about me wanting to divorce my first husband … he looked at me square in the eye, and as disgust swept across his face he said, ‘Who ever said you had to be happy Lisa? Life is hard. All you have to do is survive.’ I knew in that moment why it was that I never accomplished the goals I set out to achieve.”

Romano’s experience is just one of many common limiting beliefs which hinder us from inner liberty and joy. Here are nine common limiting beliefs and how to overcome them now:

#1 “I cannot be loved because I have too much baggage.”

Part of  Lisa Romano’s struggle was that, after having three children and being divorced, her family and friends told her ‘baggage’ made her undesirable.

The key to overcoming this limiting belief was to refuse to give up on her dream of finding a loving partner. As feelings drive thoughts, she said, you have to feel your worthiness.

I held steadfast to my dream of one day manifesting a relationship that would make me feel seen, heard, validated, and respected.

“In spite of how ingrained my limiting beliefs were, I held steadfast to my dream of one day manifesting a relationship that would make me feel seen, heard, validated, and respected,” she said. “I know it is hard to believe, but my new husband asked me out on our first date precisely on my forty-fifth birthday. It’s been almost two years since we married, and life is better than I ever could have imagined.”

#2 “What other people think matters more than what I think.”

Carole Ann Rice, a life coach based in the United Kingdom, said this belief is far too common. The results of this limiting belief, she pointed out, are devastating – “When you live by the approval of others you die by their criticism.”

The key to overcoming this belief is to acknowledge and embrace that you are in control of your own fate.

When you live by the approval of others you die by their criticism.

“I get the client to ‘own’ their own lives, to see that they are the authors of their own destiny and that they can’t live by the rules of others,” she said.

#3 “What if people think I’m crazy?”

Barrie Davenport, the life coach behind the Atlanta’s Live Bold and Bloom, said this limiting belief usually arrives when we are making daily choices big and small.

“We all want a guarantee of success and ease when it comes to change and decisions in our lives and work,” Davenport said.

We feel a sense of uncertainty that spurs our doubts. The key to overcoming this limiter, she said, is coming to terms with the fact that nearly every decision you make carries a certain measure of the unknown.

We all want a guarantee of success and ease when it comes to change and decisions in our lives and work.

“Get comfortable with the feelings of uncertainty and learn to trust your own intelligence and judgment,” she said. “When you apply common sense, the wisdom of experience and appropriate due diligence, you are doing everything you can to lessen the risk. But eventually you must take a leap of faith.”

#4 “I am a failure.”

Gary Amers, a top life coach in the United Kingdom, said the limiting belief that you are a failure sticks to us like a magnet. The bond which keeps us chained to our limiting belief is a mix of images, sounds and language.

Amers said the use of negative language as we think about our failures is a key component of our limiting thoughts. If you’re constantly telling yourself you’re a failure, change the language. 

If you actually felt like a success, how would that feel?

Amers suggested asking yourself the following questions: “What if you weren’t a failure? How would that feel? If you actually felt like a success, how would that feel?”

Once you’ve asked those questions, turn your focus to your limiting belief: “Could you doubt your belief even just a little bit? How does it feel to know you can doubt it? Now that you’ve analyzed your limiting belief, is it a complete lie? How do you know for certain?”

#5 “I’m too…”

One of the most common limiters life coaches hear is the “I’m too” phrases: “I’m too old,” “I’m too set in my ways,” “It’s too hard” and the like. These limiters, Barrie Davenport said, are based on fear — we make excuses to have a reason for passing up an opportunity.

I challenge (my clients) to break down the effort into small and manageable chunks and take the first few steps toward their goal

The best medicine for this limiter, she said, is to take the big task and divide it up into easier-to-approach parts.

“I challenge (my clients) to break down the effort into small and manageable chunks and take the first few steps toward their goal,” she said. “More often than not, they see their limiting belief didn’t hold any water.”

# 6 “I am not enough.”

California-based life coach Christine Hassler and Las Vegas life coach and New York Times bestselling author Christy Whitman both pointed out this limiting belief. Whitman said it’s “the most common and usually the hardest to change.”

We feel the unending pressures of our job, our families and our inner growth and we succumb to the sense that we are missing something.

“(This belief) comes from forgetting we are totally whole, complete, and connected to Source energy. When we were born, we knew we that,” Hassler said. “But then things happen in our life that create hurt, fear, doubt, judgment, etc. and we totally forget and buy into the limiting beliefs.”

Overcoming this limiting belief is a matter of remembering who we really are, exploring our past and discovering a sense of spirituality. 

Remembering we are one, loved and totally connected to source usually requires doing personal growth work.

“Remembering we are one, loved and totally connected to source,” Hassler said. “Since remembering that is not always easy, it usually requires doing personal growth work to tend to some of the past hurts in combination with getting on a spiritual path of some kind.”

Whitman said using your mental energy for positive thoughts and not the negative ones you normally entertain is  another technique to overcome this belief.

“We need to find the energy in our minds and bodies and shift it into what we do want and then feel the new energy replacing the old energy,” she said.

#7 “Somebody else can do it better than me.”

Jill Tupper, a life coach in Kansas City (Mo.), said this limiting belief is one of the most effective in stopping us from taking action.

“We hold ourselves back, utterly convincing ourselves that it’s not worth the effort as another can do it better,” she said.

The starting point for deconstructing this lie is seeing yourself as you truly are — imperfections and all.

We hold ourselves back.

That can be difficult, she said, because we hold ourselves to such high standards of perfection we often cower back from a task and let someone else accomplish it.

“Cognitively we know this is absurd,” she said, “yet we fall for it again and again.”

#8 “I have less value as a single mom than I did as a married mom.”

Many single moms face the startling realization that the world around them — even their friends and family — is disappointed they got divorced. Live with this disapproval long enough and you start to believe it, Jill Tupper said, pointing to her own experience with this limiting belief.

“It had infiltrated the depths of my psyche in such a way that its talons had sunk their grip into my mind and heart and I bought it unquestionably,” she said.

It was rolling up my sleeves, facing my fears and stepping way out of what I thought I could do on my own.

Tupper’s personal solution was to do something in direct opposition to the belief — she took her kids to Mexico for nonprofit work, an idea she said she had convinced herself was crazy because she was a single mom.

“It was rolling up my sleeves, facing my fears and stepping way out of what I thought I could do on my own that broke the dark curse I had placed upon myself,” Tupper noted.

#9 “I don’t deserve this.”

This limiting belief comes from a weak self-esteem, Barrie Davenport said.

“We don’t feel worthy enough to be successful or to go after what we really want in life,” she said.

One of the best ways to rebuild your self-esteem is to do the thing you don’t think you deserve.

For a lot of people, this belief is instilled in them during their childhood and they nurture it as they grow older. Davenport said the best way to combat this limiting belief is to approach it head-on: identify the thing you think you don’t deserve and pursue it.

“One of the best ways to rebuild your self-esteem is to do the thing you don’t think you deserve,” she said. “Go for the goal and achieve something meaningful to you. Accomplishment is an amazing self-esteem booster.”

Learning to be somebody different

Limiting beliefs, no matter which ones they are, can become so ingrained into our way of thinking we lose sight of who we can be. Restoring our thoughts and our self-perception is possible, said Aboodi Shabi, a personal development and leadership expert: we can be who we want to be.

Even though you think you might be attached to your fixed notions of self, and resistant to change, they begin to understand they can learn to be somebody different than who they currently are.

“In my coaching, the biggest realisation for clients is that many of the ‘truths’ they have about themselves are just something they learned,” he said. “And, even though they might …  be attached to their fixed notions of their self, and resistant to change, they begin to understand they can learn to be somebody different than who they currently are.”

Life coaching has an amazing history…

While it may seem like the field has become popular in the last 10 years, the industry’s roots dig deeply into the soil of the 20th century. Some even say the philosophies of life coaching date back to the ancient Greeks and the famous philosopher Socrates.

“Coaching isn’t something new. It’s built on a lot of history. It’s not magic or hocus-pocus.”

Regardless of when the industry started, you probably want to know why understanding the history of life coaching is important.

The Harvard Expert: Vikki Brock

For this answer, we talked with Vikki Brock, a Harvard grad widely regarded as the authority on the history of coaching.

Vikki Brock, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog

“People need to recognize that coaching isn’t something new and that it’s built on a lot of history,” Brock said. “It’s not magic or hocus pocus or anything.”

For Brock, coaching is a tradition built upon hundreds — if not thousands — of years of important philosophies in the medical and non-medical worlds.

“It’s built on strong, interpersonal skills,” she said. “By understanding that it’s got solid roots, the individual who wants to get coaching may start from a more trusting place and be able to be more open.”

How did coaching get it start?

Great question…you can thank postmodernism for laying the groundwork for the emergence of modern coaching.

Thank You, Postmodernism!

Postmodernism is the thought movement which started in the 50’s and replaced the modernist way of thinking that dominated the world up to that point.

This shift from modernism to postmodernism was a global shift. Here are five examples of how our thinking changed:

  • A scientific world ruled by logic, rationality, objectivity, and analytical thinking gave way to a humanistic mindset where human bonding, networking, subjectivity, community and collaboration ruled.
  • A world where conformity was emphasized was replaced with a world where individualism and human potential took center stage.
  • Our ravenous pursuit of economic wealth faded and in its place emerged the pursuit of meaning, happiness and purpose.
  • The model of leadership in which people at the top teach and decide gave way to the community model of leadership where we learn from each other and participate in decisions together.
  • Change’s pace was relatively predictable, but then became far too fast to predict.

(Source: “Grounded Theory of the Roots and Emergence of Coaching”
by Vikki G. Brock, pp. 346-347)

Individuals started to move away from their support systems (family, friends, etc.) to find work, leaving them without any disciplines aside from psychology to help them cope with their self-directed journeys.

With modernism out of the way and a new reality rising, the world was ready for coaching. But first, it needed a good dose of Gestalt.

Gestalt Therapy

As the seeds of postmodern started to push up through the soil of the global psyche, another important movement was taking place: Gestalt therapy, a psychological tool German psychologist Fritz Perls popularized.

Fritz Perls, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog
Fritz Perls

Perls believed Gestalt therapy focuses on the patient, who has the potential, through the awareness of his or her present feelings and non-verbal cues, to recover his or her lost potential. The answer, Perls thought, lies inside the patient.

Gestalt therapy viewed the individual as an integrated whole made up of thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Gestalt therapy viewed the individual as an integrated whole made up of thoughts, emotions and feelings, a philosophy which fit perfectly with postmodernism. The Gestalt approach could be applied to nearly any coaching situation and  it was from this framework that coaching started grow and mature.

However, the Gestalt method was just part of the picture of coaching’s early history. Other thought leaders came into the picture who shaped coaching.

 

The Major Players in the History of Coaching

As we’ve talked about, we can thank postmodernism for the social environment which made coaching possible. Think of it as the soil.

Then, Gestalt therapy became popular, emphasizing humanism and being present in the moment. Think of this as fertilizer making the soil of postmodernism rich and ready for planting.

A long list of influential thinkers and coaches then arrived to plant and water the seeds that would grow into the diverse, influential industry that is now coaching.

A long list of influential thinkers and coaches then arrived to plant and water the seeds that would grow into the diverse, influential industry that is now coaching.

Though major players came to the forefront in the 60’s and 70’s, Brock said, their ideas and philosophies were built on the influence of psychologists and sports coaches who came before them.

Brock lists psychotherapist and doctor Alfred Adler as the 20th-century source of thinking that paved the way for the emergence of coaching in the postmodern era much in the same the Gestalt method did.

Alfred Adler, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog
Alfred Adler

Adler practiced in the early 1900’s. He emphasized “individual psychology,” in which he believed individuals were whole beings connected to family and society who could use principles of psychology in their own life to bring about personal development.

 

Brock links Adler’s ideas to several men who came after him, including: Napoleon Hill, Martin Heidegger, Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow. These men, along with other psychologists  like Carl Rogers, Virginia Satir and Albert Ellis in turn prepared the field for possibly the most influential name in coaching history, Werner Erhard.

 

Werner Erhard: The Father of Modern Coaching

Werner Erhard might be the single most influential person in the founding of the life coaching industry, not necessarily because he started the idea of coaching but because he started a movement which influenced many important names in coaching’s history.

Werner Erhard, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog

Erhard started his professional career as a salesman, transitioning into several different fields before starting Erhard Seminars Training, or “est” for short.

In 1982, author Steve Tipton wrote about the then-contemporary est movement, saying the principle behind est was simple: find fulfillment in your own path and pursue inner satisfaction along with “outer” success:

“est defines what is intrinsically valuable in self-expressive categories consonant with counter-cultural ideals. Then it uses these personally fulfilling and expressive ends to justify the routine work and goal achievement of mainstream public life. This formula … motivates them to lead this life effectively, with an eye to inner satisfaction as well as external success.”

The idea that you should find a career that fulfills more than your financial desires seems normal now, but at the time, the philosophy was radically different than the modernist mindset which still lingered.

 

Erhard’s Influence: Business, Sports, Ontology, American Coaching

Erhard’s seminar series and teaching influenced thousands of people, some of whom started their own coaching niches based on his philosophies.

The following categories and personalities are sourced from a 2014 presentation by Vikki Brock.

Management and Consulting

Ken Blanchard, Robert Hargrove, Warren Bennis and Peter Senge are four of the big names in the history of management and consulting coaching. Blanchard, author of the bestselling “The One Minute Manager” is perhaps the most famous of the bunch.

Sports

Timothy Gallwey, Sir John Whitmore and Graham Alexander are the key players in this niche.

Gallwey was a tennis coach who created an approach to sports called the Inner Game, in which players ditched self-criticism for self-exploration. Coach and player were partners, a philosophy which became the bedrock of modern coaching.

Alexander and Whitmore are credited with the GROW philosophy of coaching, in which athletes are challenged to come up with a goal, identify the reality, tackle the obstacles and move forward.

Ontology

Erhard’s dialogue with politician and entrepreneur Fernando Flores resulted in the emergence of ontological coaching, a movement that included Rafael Echevarria, Julio Olalla and James Flaherty. This movement has been very influential in the business world.

Rafael Echevarria, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog
Rafael Echevarria

According to Olalla’s Newfield organization, “ ontological coaching addresses the concern for more effective action while also addressing the concerns of the human soul that are mostly left out of our learning practices today”.

American Coaching

Other coaches played an important role in the popularity of coaching in the United States, including names like Laura Whitworth, who co-founded the Coaches Training Institute and the Alliance of Coach Training Organizations, and was a founding member of the Personal Professional Coaches Association; and Thomas Leonard, who founded Coach U, the International Coach Federation, the International Association of Coaches and Coachville.

Three  Important Philosophies
Within Coaching’s History

The names we mentioned were largely responsible for the rise of coaching in the modern world. In the midst of this growth, several important philosophies integrated themselves into mainstream coaching:

Hypnotherapy: Milton Erickson

Erickson was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who championed using hypnosis as a form of therapy. Though Erickson wasn’t a coach, per se, his 1950’s theories on using his own casual version of hypnosis became a popular trend in the years to come in the coaching world. For example, U.K. life coach Gary Amers is a clinical hypnotherapist.

The Inner Game: Timothy Gallwey

Gallwey was Werner Erhard’s tennis coach and author of a book called “The Inner Game of Tennis” Gallwey’s ideas about coaching and the mind were eventually used in the business world, spawning what is today a popular area of life coaching.

Timothy Gallwey, History of Coaching, Goaly Blog
Timothy Gallwey

The book, published in 1974, made the distinction between the outer game (the actual competition) and the inner game (the competitor’s mind). The “Inner Game” philosophy emphasizes methods for removing anxiety and self-doubt of the inner game to produce positive results in the outer game.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): Richard Bandler and John Grinder

Bandler and Grinder are two very popular names in the coaching world. In the 1970’s they originated the method of coaching known as NLP, in which coach and client can use the client’s neurology, language and experiences to reach the client’s goals.

Bandler and Grinder’s philosophies about communication and coaching are a combination of several different ideas, including Milton Erickson’s hypnotherapy and Perls’ Gestalt therapy.

Leaving the Church, Looking for Help:
The 1990’s & Beyond

Another important cultural factor in the rise in coaching has been the decline in worldwide church attendance:

Just like postmoderns leaving their homes and their support systems, churchgoers are leaving their support system of spiritual leaders and they’re looking for wisdom and advice.

“I think we all need someone outside ourselves in order to help us see where we are blind,” U.K. Leadership developerAboodi Shabi said. “In the past we might have gone to a priest … for guidance, someone outside our lives who could bring new perspectives, or provide a spiritual framework for our lives. I think those are some of the reasons for the growth of coaching in recent times.”

Where Coaching Is Today

As we’ve read, there are hundreds upon hundreds of building blocks which make up the modern industry of coaching: psychology, psychiatry, Gestalt therapy sports coaching, hypnosis, NLP and more.

The beauty of life coaching is that though the industry is made up of more than 100,000 coaches and has literally dozens of niches, the mosaic of interests and specialities is based on the ideas and philosophies of the 20th century’s most influential and well-studied psychologists and psychiatrists.

This strong foundation of science and innovation has led to the heart of the coaching industry: to bring about real change in the lives of the clients with whom coaches partner.

A 2012 study by the international Coach Federation, one of the most respected coaching organizations in the world, showed that coaching clients said their sessions with their coach produced measurable changes in their life.

  • 80% said they had improved self-confidence
  • 73% said they had improved relationships
  • 72% said they had improved communication skills
  • 67% said they had improved life/work balance

Vikki Brock estimates that there are more than 500 coach training centers around that world, and that the coaching industry is growing by 2,500 new coaches per year.

While the future of coaching depends on as many factors as  the past of coaching, one thing is clear: the present state of coaching is transforming the lives of clients whose goal is to become the person they’ve wanted to become and to embrace the aspirations for which they’ve longed.