Do you remember the last time you went through an experience so stimulating and eye-opening, you could not find words enough to convey your excitement? And I mean true enthusiasm, almost to the extent where you feel you have notably been missing out by not experiencing it any sooner in your life.
I had an experience just like that, but before you are getting too creative in your thoughts, let me reveal what I am talking about and no, I did not try skydiving or met the holy ghost in person. This past weekend, I started the journey of becoming a Certified Professional Coach. I got to spend 30 overwhelming hours with one of the most amazing trainers (superstar Lesley Picchietti), a fantastic group of like-minded people, and … I was taught things I do not know how I was able to survive without until now.
But let me rewind. Several months back and still in Germany, becoming a Coach was not something I had on my radar screen. As an HR Professional and by the nature of my role, my encounters with Coaches were plentiful and I even worked with a bunch of colleagues who either were certified Coaches already or on the verge of becoming one. Potentially slightly overstimulated by the topic, it did not cross my mind that this could be a path worth looking into.
This view however changed when I had reached a phase in my job towards the end of last year (I was working very closely with top level leaders, and we all know how challenging this can be sometimes), where gradually I realized that my toolbox, which I had been using so successfully ever since I graduated, was starting to reach its limits. Despite being aware of all the opportunities that were out there to improve things, I was not always able to inflict the change I wanted to.
As self-critical as I am, that bugged me majorly because it suddenly came to me that I might be reaching a personal plateau in my abilities and unless I worked heavily on overcoming that, many things around me would be plateauing, too. It became clear that if I wanted to continue to bring about change in my environment – which I certainly do – I needed to start with myself (yikes, really?).
By changing I do not mean getting a new haircut or learning how to do pivot tables in excel (this btw can be a life saver, so if you know nothing about pivot tables, I encourage you to find out).
I am referring to a fundamental change that takes place deeply inside us and by which we discover and overcome some of the limiting beliefs and subconscious assumptions we all hold (yep, all of us). By addressing those and taking a closer look at the bag we all carry around with us, we can become a better version of ourselves and at the same time bring the interactions we have with other people to another level.
With all that going on in my head, I literally woke up one morning (I was still in Germany), knowing that I wanted to get certified in Coaching. Uh-huh. From that very moment on, this was my journey and it was as clear as never before. As I envisioned my time in Chicago to be predominantly dedicated to self-growth and self-discovery, Coaching seemed to fit in just perfectly. I was ready for this, a bit scared too, but looking forward to the transformation which was bound to happen (so they say).
For those of you who are new to this and have no clue what Coaching is all about, I want to offer a simple definition: A Coach is a person who partners with a client to help them bring about change in their life. This change can be as small as getting better sleep at night or as big as wanting to live a happier life or have a more fulfilling career. Coaches have the unique ability to uncover things we are not able to see ourselves and can help us achieve goals we never believed were attainable (sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?).
After thorough review of all sorts of Coaching programs and some level of uncertainty about which one to choose (@Oliver, I know you’re reading this, thank you very much for spending the time during your well-deserved vacation to coach me through my decision-making process!), I signed up for IPEC’s 8-months program. The program’s kick-off weekend was scheduled to take place the second-last weekend in March – I will get to this in just a minute – but, no pain no gain, prior to this a bit of pre-work had to be completed (okay, let’s do this).
Pre-work meant answering 50 pages of questions about how my life has been so far and 50 pages of questions about how I see my life evolve in the future. These questions covered all parts of life: health, spiritualism, career, family, parenthood (yeah, one to skip), relationships, culture, finance, enjoyment and personal energy. You got to be kidding me was my initial (silent) response to the task, and it took me days to get this stuff done, feeling a little angryish while typing down all my answers.
By the time I was done with this fun little exercise (thank goodness), I realized I had spent more time reflecting upon myself than I had probably ever done before. I formulated my vision for the future, identified areas I wanted to improve or change in my life and really enjoyed the clear picture I suddenly had about everything that was going on for me. So I guess it was time well spent after all.
Totally excited like a child awaiting Santa I approached the first in-person weekend of the program. I was one of 86 participants who met in the Westin in Rosemont just outside of Chicago for three intense days of module one. There were people from all walks of life, all very accepting of one another and openly embracing that all of us are different.
I was overwhelmed by the passion, positivity and honesty in the room and by how quickly all guards came down, leading to some tears here and there whenever somebody was suddenly struck by a moment of enlightenment. We already peer-coached each other throughout this weekend, immediately putting many of the skills we learned into practice. I was astonished by how quickly we were able to make a valuable difference in someone else’s life by simply listening and asking the right questions.
I also got to dig a little into my own bag, which I initially thought was not worth exploring, but hey, we have all got our issues, haven’t we? We might push them aside, ignore them, or not even be aware they exist. But there are beliefs, assumptions, interpretations and our inner voice that might be limiting us in whatever we want to accomplish. My little peer-coaching sessions had such an impact on how I now view the world and the people around me, I am still blown away.
I also experienced connections very different from everyday life, where many (not all!) conversations unfortunately remain at a superficial “so, how are you doing”, “oh, I’m great”, “that’s so cool” type of level. How many times have you started to tell someone about something that you experienced or struggle with and before you notice, the conversation turns out to be about the other person (telling you about their own experience with something similar)? Or worse, you end up with all sorts of advice that you never even asked for.
We can all get more conscious about how we feel about ourselves as well as the interactions we have with others. It is something I am dying to learn more about in the months to come and I cannot wait to explore all aspects of my life in greater depth. I am ready to make changes where they are necessary and at the same time keep things how they are where it already generates happiness and joy. I want to end with a quote that was introduced to us as part of our first weekend and which I find a lot of truth in and maybe you do, too:
“Each moment describes who you are and gives you the opportunity to decide if that’s who you want to be.”
Now, who do YOU want to be?