When it comes to the imminence of change, there are a number of signs – some subtle, others blatant – that let you know it’s time to take that next step. But there are also many instances wherein we remain stuck in a job, relationship or similar situation when we’re unable to look past the tunnel vision we’ve unknowingly created. Whole Person Coaching tempers the continuous reasoning of the rational mind (“I can’t afford to do that,” “I’ll be letting people down,” “I won’t be able to match up to someone in terms of achievement or wealth”) and leverages the heart and gut to provide radical clarity on an individual’s true desires.
The dynamics of Whole Person Coaching – and in particular its Courageous Space component – work to enable the client to build a new view of themselves, other people, and their life as a whole. From this perspective, the process of discovering next steps is simply a matter of becoming attuned to what they really want. More specifically, it enables an individual to filter out false messages and champions them toward following through on their goals.
With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Jerry. He’s had one of the most diverse career paths of anyone I’ve ever met. He possesses a resume and range of experience that make him a fascinating storyteller and an individual who is able to competently advise people on everything from farming techniques and wilderness maintenance to high-end remodel construction, home inspections, and even matters of spirituality. Yet despite this nearly bottomless well of expertise, he has suffered throughout his life with issues of self-doubt and other personal insecurities. When he originally came to us, his outer goal was to build the value of his business. But it quickly became clear that it was time for something completely different.
Here’s what he learned, and the conversations that got him there.
The white noise of life can make decisions difficult, even impossible. But Whole Person Coaching cuts through it, quickly and permanently.
The old adage ‘the forest through the trees’ is a very real struggle for many of us. Mired in our own rational modes of thinking, we fall victim to the common sense reasoning of our own minds, not to mention the expectations of others. These stumbling blocks throw the door wide open for doubt to infiltrate our confidence. And once it takes hold, it can often keep us stuck and struggling for years.
Meet Jerry. With his life experience, I can honestly say he’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met. To give you a quick snapshot of his life: he grew up on a farm, went to college, got a degree in soils, and worked for a couple years on an irrigation project (which didn’t go anywhere).
When he got fed up with that job, he considered the priesthood, applied, and was accepted at a seminary. It’s worth mentioning that if he hadn’t been accepted at the seminary, he was headed to a ski resort in South Dakota where he planned to get a job by leveraging his skiing and outdoor expertise – all while spending the winter skiing. But the seminary came through and he went, spending four and half years studying to be a catholic priest. During that time, he traveled all over the United States in a variety of spiritually-centered, service-based roles. But in the end, he stopped short of becoming ordained and was literally adrift, unsure of what his next step was.
Moving to Portland, Ore., he met a friend who owned rental properties and landed a job as his handyman, fixing houses. From there, he branched out on remodeling jobs of his own, got licensed and did remodeling for the next 20 years. He then formed his own remodeling company, co-owned with another individual, and did high-end upgrades to a number of local homes and businesses. But again, he got burned out.
So he sold his half of the business and took two years off, during which he put nearly 5,000 miles on his mountain bike. Never still for long, he built upon his construction experience and studied to be a home inspector, ending up the sole proprietor of a successful inspection business for the next 14 years.
And that brings him to us – in a lifelong state of “in-process” – where he’s now facing the next change: retirement.
What is the true effectiveness of Whole Person Coaching? It acts like an idealized mirror, providing a third-party, non-biased reflection of support and encouragement to move an individual beyond the chatter of the mind.
When he arrives on our doorstep, Jerry is lost in ‘not knowing’ – a state he describes as living at “the bottom of the canyon.” His predicament is compounded by a predisposition toward insecurity and doubt, both of which have infiltrated his confidence. Now in his mid-60s, he has a lot riding on the comfort and financial security of his future. At the same time, he’s extremely self-aware, and a devoted lifelong learner. He recognizes that, even though he has a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills, he’s stuck.
A successful home inspector, he was hit hard during the economic fall. So Jerry’s stated goal is to accelerate the building of his business – a development that, from his narrowly-focused point-of-view, will enable him to either love the business more or increase its value for sale.
But here’s where things take a detour.
I hear a disparity between his outer goal and his inner goal. In particular, it becomes clear that his underlying wish is to discover that “next” thing. So in the sessions that follow, it becomes a dance between where to focus his attention: building a business that he doesn’t really love, or trying to discover what will really be most fulfilling to him in the long-run.
One week he focuses on the business, the marketing and sales tactics, the grind. The next week, he gives himself permission to focus on exploring the unknown territories of his future – that next invention of who he is.
Here’s how we start out…
Feroshia Knight (FK): “What were you hoping to achieve with coaching – your original reason for calling a coach?”
Jerry Bier (JB): “I was at a point where I really needed a change. It was time to give up my job and do something else. Deep down, that’s not only what I wanted but also what I needed. I’d ridden the horse to the end and needed to get on another horse.”
“You wanted to grow your business, sell it, or retire.”
“I wanted more money,” he says. “I wanted to get more clients and facilitate my retiring by making the business more salable. And I realize now, in the process of working though that, that I was just plain physically tired.”
“It’s the dance between the heart and the mind,” I reply.
“Exactly – my heart says go have fun but my mind says ‘you only have one chance here’.”
“It keeps you awake – it keeps you going!”
“Definitely! That’s why I was always so great as a self-employed person: I need that fear to motivate me.”
“During the process, I started hearing you say yes to a lot of things in your life,” I say. “Going on trips, taking care of things in your life, putting yourself out on the internet, meeting people.”
“That’s true. I’ve always done that.”
“But you weren’t. You’d stopped. When I first met you, you weren’t doing that. Why?”
“I was just too frustrated with the lack of options,” Jerry says. “I’d just come out of the economic downturn, which really racked my business, and I’m also my own worst critic. But in the past couple of years, what’s been hitting me is retirement. This is it! This is my last shot! So I feel the need to really plan, really think this out – make good decisions. I can’t let the short-term thrill of “Oh I’m going to Europe on a ski trip for two weeks” cloud my thinking. I’ve begun looking at life long-term.”
“In addition to the long-term, I hear the balance of rest, play, work. When we met, you were all about work, and going to the gym… but also working very hard at the gym.”
[Laughs] “Yeah. I see some of these others guys doing inspections, and they’re making more money. But I also know they’re giving up a lot that I have. So I continually weigh these things. I’m able to see the necessity for balance now. Because at the end of the day, if I don’t have the possessions or notoriety that one of my competitors has, that’s OK.”
Can someone overcome doubt and find their way forward, overcoming a lifetime of built-up preconceptions, simply by tuning in to the wisdom of their whole self? Yes, they can!
Whole Person Coaching integrates the discipline of neuroscience and, in particular, its central focus on connecting to an individual’s three brains. In short, we’ve found an unparalleled level of human development and personal success through a reliance on the unified perspectives and wisdom of head-based intellect, heart-based values and gut-based instincts. It’s a process that is usually accomplished by tapping into the wisdom of these parts through powerful questions.
When we are out of alignment, we only listen to select parts of ourselves. And like one piece of a larger puzzle, it doesn’t give us the whole picture. In Jerry’s case, his head was shouldering all the weight, trapping him in the forbidding restraints of his rational mind.
Part of my process was holding a space so he could feel safe, exploring what mattered most. He was very critical of himself. Yet every once in a while he’d let out that creative spirit and recognize he wasn’t inside his passions.
Consider this excerpt from one of our sessions…
FK: “What’s the one question you’d love to be asked?”
JB: “Probably, ‘from your lived experience of trying to figure out your own life, what advice would you give someone’?”
“And…” I prompt.
“I would tell them to follow their gut!”
“And it’s not easy to do,” he says. “For me, it took a lot of prayer and reflection, creating time for myself, distancing myself from friends who could influence my decisions. I did that when I left the seminary. I didn’t tell anybody I was leaving. I didn’t tell anybody I was thinking about it for one whole semester. I knew my classmates would identify with me, and I didn’t want that. I wanted something like I found here: someone who would step back and give me a non-biased view and non-biased advice that could help me sort through the crap I was dealing with – sort the chaff from the wheat.”
“And now…?” I ask.
“I hadn’t really thought of this before,” Jerry says, “but that was probably the most important thing I learned in the seminary – to do that. You have to really know yourself and not be afraid to take chances. That’s the other thing I would tell people: be your own person. And even though we all tend to go along with the crowd, it’s important to step back at times, see where the crowd is going, and see if that’s what you are called to do. See where your gut plays into that. From my religious training, that’s known as “the spirit speaking.” Everybody has that. And if you’re going to be truly happy, you have to first discern that. Once you discern what that voice is telling you, then you can make the decisions. But discerning it, and deciding which message is truly the spirit speaking, that’s the hard part. Following is easy.”
“So how have the tools of coaching enabled you to put that into practice?”
“Coaching has helped me reestablish a balance in my life and focus on what’s important, reestablish what’s important to me. It’s made me look at the things I’ve always know are important but have allowed to slip out of focus. And, most importantly, it’s given me a note of confidence – that how I do things is just fine for me, regardless of the standards of others and what they’ve accomplished. It’s helped me relearn things I’ve always known; reestablished my values, my priorities; and reaffirmed me as a person who’s made good decisions.”
Can Whole Person Coaching inform an individual’s personal life? Yes, by exploring and prioritizing interpersonal relationships based on the intuition of their mind, heart and gut.
Whether he realized it initially or not, Jerry’s bigger, more meaningful goal was to conquer the doubt that had infiltrated his self-confidence. A lot of that is derived from our relationships with others, how we interact with them, and the amount and sense of fulfillment we receive through these interactions.
Within our sessions, Jerry explored interpersonal relationships. He got clear on what he wanted and learned to say no sooner, before attachments where made. He also explored being more effective in his own communication style and, as a result, found that others started relying on him more, drawn to him on both professional and personal levels.
JB: “There’s a friend of mine, Tony, he and I belong to the same trail association. He’s been helping me a lot lately. And I’m a little in awe. He just stepped forward and it’s kind of become his thing: ‘I’m going to get Jerry a good bike so he can do a cross-country trip if he wants’. He’s on eBay all the time, researching bikes, and finds one that’s fully-assembled in Seattle. So I got in on the bidding. And he says, ‘OK, the first thing you have to decide is your bottom line. How high are you willing to go?’’
FK: “So it sounds like he’s teaching you.”
“Yeah, just out of the blue he grabbed me and I’ve kind of become his project. And it’s really nice. He’s doing what I do for everybody else – he’s doing it to me! And at first it was a little uncomfortable.”
“So what I hear is you’re finally able to receive things as well as give things,” I say. “Because you give so much of yourself… you over-give!”
“I over-give because I feel I have to for someone to like me, or I won’t be appreciated. Because I don’t believe in myself. I mean, I’ve known it all my life.”
“Mmm-hmm… we call it ‘the pleaser’.”
“That’s me,” he says.
“But it has sounded like you don’t do that anymore.”
“Well I’m doing it in a more thoughtful way – in a more conscious way.”
“Right – you’re making choices rather than coming from the place of ‘will they like me?’ That’s like superhero stuff!”
“I’ve been able to put myself back together and heal some of those old wounds. It’s being your own person and living according to your core values and needs and desires. Another example would be the trail association I belong to. In a sense, Tony and I have figured out how to work within the system, how to work around difficult people and not cause waves, while still accomplishing our goals.”
“So what I hear is ‘skills at effectively navigating complex situations’. And that’s something you’ve been really building for yourself. My question is: considering all the things you’ve done with your coach in the past year, where do you feel you’ve grown the most?”
“Relaxing, knowing that I’m doing fine, that I’m figuring it out and will continue to figure it out. Letting go of worry surrounding what other people have, or what I perceive them to have – which can lead to jealousy and envy. Accepting my skills, including the parts of my life where I’m limited, and realizing that that’s OK. And trying to let go of that and saying, I may not be good at dealing with something like political posturing in an organization. But at the same time, stopping and knowing that I don’t want to do that anyway. I can work in my own little area and I’m just fine.”
“Boundaries! What comes to my mind is when you were meeting different women, and at first you were open to a lot of different opportunities. But then you started to get really selective and started firing people on a first or second date that weren’t a good fit. And I don’t mean firing in a negative way – you just weren’t investing yourself in places that weren’t going to bring you what you wanted. What do you think is making that possible now?”
“I think a better sense of self-worth – just feeling more positive about myself, the business and my future. And though I’m disappointed I’ve never had a permanent relationship, I have no regrets about the women I’ve dated… and I wouldn’t mind one or two more, to be truthfully honest.” [Laughs]
The power of Whole Person Coaching is its ability to cultivate radical clarity in every aspect of an individual’s life.
Whole Person Coaching nurtures clarity and self-trust in the individual. This trust is essential for successfully moving forward into unknown situations or risky endeavors. And it’s the holistic knowing – mind, heart and gut – that moves us beyond the shadows of our doubts to pursue what really matters in our lives. Put simply, coaching offers a state of clear direction, feeling comfortable with your decisions, safe, courageous and intently focused on next steps.
As we say goodbye to Jerry, he has recently been informed by his CPA that he’s got the green light to retire. As an analytical person, he still ponders and thinks things through. But he now benefits from the complete wisdom of his whole self, connecting his head, heart and gut to make the best decisions ever!
FK: “So you’re still in-process…”
“Where are you heading?”
“This time next year, I’m going to be retired. I’m going to be out of this business. This time next year, I may be on a cross-country bicycling trip.”
(Update: Today Jerry lives a vibrant life traveling the world, volunteering to maintain and build various skiing trails and enjoying the company of many a good friends.)