Hugging Complete Strangers: A Weekend of Life Coaching
I’d heard about life coaches before.
I’d previously pictured a strong, scary, yelling man on the sidelines of your life, telling you what plays to execute. Or a man in a windbreaker giving you some inspirational speech in a locker room.
So what is a life coach?
A life coach is kind of like a personal goal therapist. They help you achieve things in your life using weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one sessions. Less frequent sessions are possible, but are not ideal. If you have a goal you’re trying to reach, wouldn’t you want to focus on it at least once a week? Life coaches take an objective standpoint and are trained to ask the right questions to help lead you to your right path. They are not there to give advice or share opinions, they are there to coach you into making your own decisions, the decisions that are right for you and will help you reach your goals.
The idea of someone coaching you in your life was kind of a foreign idea to me, until I was tossed right into the thick of it when I attended Module One of The Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching’s (iPEC) Coach Training Program.
On top of that, I’ve found myself to be a bit shy when put in a situation where I don’t know anyone. This sent my anxiety into overdrive.
That is, until I heard that Module One would only consist of 15-20 people. My walls began to come down when the opportunity to connect with others became more probable. Instead of picturing myself in a hotel’s grand ballroom, sitting among rows of other aspiring coaches, I pictured us in a small room, spending hour upon hour with each other, bonding over our shared experience.
So I went. Even though I knew almost nothing about life coaching, and I had no intention to become a life coach, I did know that I wanted to be a leader. I did know that this weekend would teach me things that would transfer over into other parts of my life. What I didn’t know was that it would help to make me a better person.
Day One: Learning About Life Coaching
I walked into Module One of iPEC’s Coach Training Course a bit scared and a bit wired after already drinking two coffees before we’d even reached 9am. I scanned the room for a place to sit and found a spot in the U-shape of chairs.
Outside of my comfort zone and immediately being asked to find a partner and share an interesting fact about myself sent my brain into overdrive. I forgot every thing I’d ever done. What a start to the day.
Some other things changed as the day went on. With each break in the day, with each new chance to congregate around the coffee cart, my walls began to come down, and so did everyone elses’.
Beyond that, I started to truly learn things, but I wouldn’t realize how much I’d learned until the next day.
Day Two: Losing My Victim Status
On the first day we learned about energy levels. There are seven and they all have their different pros and cons. Level One is the lowest, Level Seven is the highest. We may be operating at multiple energy levels at once, but they all have to do with our point of view and affect the way we lead our lives.
Level one is a level of victimization. Things are happening to you and there’s nothing you can do about it so you create an attitude of victimization in your life.
It wasn’t until I learned this that I realized how much I had victimized myself in my head. Even something as simple as being forced to walk a few blocks because the subway was under repair had been something that would have left me thinking “poor me.” Until I attended Module One.
The morning of Day Two I walked those extra blocks with a smile on my face. I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed the opportunity to take the city in and feel the sunshine on my face. I know this all sounds a little silly, but the point is that through the conference I was able to completely change my perspective. It was empowering.
Day Two was one of awareness. I was now aware of how I perceived the world, and how I could change it.
I was breaking down my barriers, and possibly also my joints. Sitting all day is not good for these runners’ knees!
Day Three: Hugging Strangers
What has struck me most was how much things can evolve over the course of three days.
In the beginning I felt shy, scared, and insecure. Others admitted their fears as well.
By the end we seemed more optimistic, more open, and more empowered. Instead of feeling a bit of panic each time we were told to find a partner, a new partner, I found myself excited to learn from someone new.
I know, it sounds like I drank some kind of Kool-Aid while I was there. The truth is that it was because I was open, and because I kept myself at a distance as well, that I got so much out of this. Not only did I allow myself to participate and get everything I could from the weekend, but I also tried to watch from a distance, which helped me see the full picture of what was happening.
The pinnacle of the weekend came down to the last minutes. Module One was over. No more sitting in chairs. No more group work. No more learning. We were free to go. But we didn’t. We congregated in the middle and each person began hugging each other.
This is so not me. I was hugging strangers here, but they weren’t really strangers. We had opened ourselves up to each other, experienced something challenging and uplifting together. In some ways they knew me in ways that my friends had never seen me.
The weekend truly changed the way I see things. I even began saying that everyone should take Module One of iPEC’s Coach Training Program, just so they can become better people.
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