7 Reasons Your Professional Development Starts with You

7 Reasons Your Professional Development Starts with You

As life goes on, we typically encounter a variety of challenges, changing environments, and new roles that require us to adapt. Our ability to manage change is important and necessary for our personal and professional success, and professional development may be something that can help you reach those goals. It helps us to avoid stagnating or getting stuck in a rut both personally and professionally. To keep from getting in a rut or to get out of one, you may be wondering how to begin your journey towards professional development – especially if you are juggling full-time work with the care of your family. This may sound overly simple, but the honest truth is that the journey begins with you!

 

Developing Self-Awareness 

 

Professional development is closely tied to self-awareness. Through observation and reflection, we pause to take an honest look at ourselves. In the process, we get to know who we really are: what our core values are, our strengths and talents, where we see room for improvement, and the direction we would like to go. If working with a coach is an option, they will help you create a roadmap and guide you along this important journey of self-discovery. While there is no set way to do this, the roadmap to professional development with a coach may unfold something like this:

 

  • Knowing yourself – Through a process of reflection, meditation, taking assessments, and asking yourself important questions, you can get to know yourself better. You may be surprised by your discoveries of untapped talents, abilities, and strengths. You will also become more familiar with your conditioning, filters, the mental models that you subconsciously follow, as well as the habits that help or impede your growth.

 

  • Knowing your why – Asking yourself why you are here and what your vision is for your life and career can be transformational. These are powerful questions such as: Who are you? What is your purpose? Where are you going? Are you thriving, or merely surviving? Do you feel your work environment recognizes and supports who you really are? 

 

Manifesting Your Intention 

 

Once you know who you are and what your “why” is, the next challenge is to know how to manifest this intention,  your vision. Many of us may know and feel where we would like to be in our life and work, but we don’t know how to make this happen. It begins with these steps:

 

  • Setting your intention –  Having a very clear intention is essential. Without it, we often flounder, not knowing and the actions and goals needed to manifest our desires. An intention could be, for example, to start your own wellness business and work for yourself while also helping others.

 

  • Creating realistic goals – Now that you have a clear intention you can create a series of goals and a timeline for achieving them. 
    • What small steps do you need to take to manifest your vision? 
    • Do you need to obtain more skills? 
    • Do you need to invest in a training or certification program, so you have the qualifications you need? If so, creating a task list – which might contain small actions such as looking into licensing or certification programs – could be your first step towards activating your intention.

 

  • Achieving your goals – While it is up to us to take action and do the work needed to achieve our goals, having an accountability partner such as a coach, supportive friend or colleague would be very helpful at this juncture. An accountability partner will help you mark your progress, encourage you if you lose steam, and help you regroup if you get off track or lose sight of your intention. 

 

  • Celebrating your milestones– Achieving even one small goal along the way is something to be acknowledged and celebrated. Reflective journaling and noting important milestones in a calendar will give you the positive perspective you need to forge your way forward. A supportive group that can celebrate with you is even better! In the words of Vicky Saunders, Founder, SheEO “Who you are surrounded by often determines who you become.”

 

Becoming Who You Are 

There is nothing more fulfilling than becoming who you are designed to be; who you came here to be both personally and professionally! While life and work are bound to throw problems at us, with plenty of twists and turns in our journeys, knowing who we are, anchors us to a deeper and more meaningful reality. By overcoming challenges, we become stronger and even more deeply committed to our unique vision.

 

We hope these points will inspire you to begin the journey of knowing yourself and knowing your “why” in life. We encourage you to manifest your intentions through greater self-awareness, professional development, and continued growth.

You Can Figure It Out!

You Can Figure It Out!

I have read Marie Forleo’s book, “Everything Is Figureoutable” twice, once because I loved the title and was intrigued. The second time was more recently, as I prepared for the Book Club meeting I am leading later this month. I am grateful for the main theme of this book that we have the power to figure out any challenges that may arise in our life!

As a Neurocoach, I work with my clients on mastering their mindset. This book is all about the mindset – the key to transformation! Our mindset is responsible for most of our success in life! It’s our core beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that drive our behavior and results. By embracing the core belief that we can figure out anything, we are creating thoughts of empowerment. By approaching our life with a “can do” attitude, we are setting ourselves up for success!

There are key concepts in this book that can elevate you to embrace the mindset of being able to figure out anything:

  1. The Magic of Belief: our beliefs are the main source of “why we do what we do.” By digging deep into your core beliefs and understanding which are serving you and which ones are holding you back is a pivotal exercise in approaching your life with a proactive mindset.
  2. Eliminate Excuses: we all have made excuses as to why we haven’t achieved something! Excuses are a result of our brain doing its job-keep you in safe and familiar territory! Beyond that, we have the ability to examine what our inner voice is saying. Is it saying, “I can’t?” or is it really saying, “I won’t?” Discriminating between these two phrases can add powerful insight as to how excuses may be holding you back.
  3. Dealing with Fear: As Marie states, “Fear is not the enemy. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.” Fear is a natural emotion that dates back to our earliest days as humans. In those early days, fear kept us alive! Recognizing that fear is not our enemy, but a signal of something to pay attention to, to move us forward, inspiring us to act. Action is the anecdote to fear!
  4. Define Your Dream: What is it that you really want? In order to achieve any goal or dream, you need to clarify what that means and commit to it. Maire says, “You wouldn’t have the dream if you didn’t have what it takes to make it happen.” She has five specific steps to follow to make your dream a reality:
    1. List your top one-year dreams: be brutally honest about what you want!
    2. Get real about this dream: narrow down your list based on the ones that make your heart jump! Then get curious about how important this dream is and the degree of difficulty you may face in pursuing it.
    3. Choose One! Choosing a primary dream will require your focus to achieve it!
    4. Make It Specific, Measurable, and Actionable: use simple and clear baby steps to cultivate mental, emotional and behavioral discipline in moving forward.
  5. Determine Your Next Three Steps and Get Started Now: resist your mind telling you that you are not ready yet! 
  6. Start Before You Are Ready: don’t let your mindset talk you out of getting started!
  7. Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: think of five small things you can do now to move a project or goal forward: breaking down your action steps into smaller micro steps can lead to big progress!
  8. Refuse to Be Refused: don’t let the fear of judgment. Think of your goal or dream as something beyond yourself.
  9. The World Needs Your Gift: If you believed that everything is figureoutable, what would you do?

 

I am looking forward to the May Book Club, where we will have an interactive discussion around these key concepts and encourage each other to adopt the mindset of knowing we got this!

Mindful Happiness

Mindful Happiness

The pursuit of happiness has long been the goal of humankind. But, what is happiness?  For us, it could be a feeling of calm and security. For others, it may be a feeling of success on a professional and/or personal front. Happiness is truly subjective! One of the keys to unlocking the path to being happy is to practice mindful happiness.

Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” So how does mindfulness increase our feelings of happiness?

By utilizing the power of awareness of the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to connect with our heart, mind, body, and spirit with crystal clear transparency. When we allow our thoughts to be focused on the “now,” we invite our clarity to serve as a compass, guiding us toward the happiness that may have eluded us in the past.

When practicing mindfulness, we pay close attention to the signals that our bodies are sending us, those pangs of guilt, shame, regret, and learning to bless and release them through allowing those signals to remind us that we are a work in progress. Through the mindfulness practice of breathwork, we empower our bodies to cleanse some of the adverse biological reactions that our bodies and minds have created in reaction to our perception of the lack of happiness. 

Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice! Our bodies and minds have a natural tendency to fight stillness. If you have tried meditation and find your mind racing with that list of “to-dos” or constant distraction, it’s not your fault! Our brains are designed to be the operating system that we rely on both consciously and subconsciously. Taking some small steps in quieting your mind will lead to training your brain to power down temporarily. Here are some steps to try when working on quieting the mind:

  1. Find a space that will allow you solitude and quiet
  2. Start with an intention of a short time period, perhaps 5 minutes. You can always increase this as you increase your skill level!
  3. Pay attention to your breath. Using this awareness as a focus increases the release of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increases the “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine: both of which are “happiness hormones.”
  4. Notice your body: find a seated position that is comfortable to you and that will allow you to relax.
  5. Allow your mind to wander. Remember, when your mind is sending you messages, it’s doing its job! Work on recognizing the thought without judgment.

Mindful happiness occurs when we align our mind, body, and spirit with our unique strengths. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey of the authenticity of our truth, a lifelong practice of pursuing a wholeness that is genuine and unique to each of us. Each moment in our life gives us the opportunity to be keenly aware of the path to follow, even if it’s one that you need to create. By following your individual journey through mindfulness, you will own the key to creating a life of fulfillment, which in my view is “happiness.”

Looking Ahead to 2021

Looking Ahead to 2021

There is so much to love about this time of year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to reflect on the past year and begin anticipating the months ahead. Goal-setting is my jam, but if I’m honest, I easily lose momentum when it comes to resolutions. In hindsight, I’m grateful I didn’t put pressure on myself back in January 2020. Who could have known what a crazy year we’d all face?

While this certainly wasn’t the year anyone expected and we’ve all had to make adjustments, I can still say I learned a lot. Here’s what stands out as I reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021:

What I Will Keep

I’m grateful to say that despite the chaos in the world around us, my personal mental health blossomed this year. I chose to take a few months off of work, slowly re-built my hours, and now work a part-time job that brings me enjoyment and involves little stress. I learned to be gentle with myself, letting go of the pressure to live a life that looks like everyone else’s and instead embrace what works best for my family.

I also took on new hobbies: how to garden, how to cross-stitch, and how to paint with gouache (okay, I’m still learning that one). I became more flexible, a necessary skill to survive this year! And best of all, through a therapy session and much prayer and reflection, I learned to accept and appreciate my spouse instead of focusing on what could be different. 

What I Will Leave Behind

I’m grateful for the opportunities to leave some things behind and start fresh in 2021. If you’re like me, you felt the pull of the news and social media more than ever this year. The pressure to be connected at all times has worn me out and threatens to dismantle the inner peace I’ve worked hard to protect. 

I also want to leave behind the negativity and temptation to complain that has seemed inescapable. I imagine it will be some time before our lives all go back to “normal” (or whatever our new normal will be). Acknowledging the grief caused by the pandemic is necessary and valuable. We are allowed to mourn the many losses we’ve experienced. But as much as I can, I want to move forward with thankfulness for what I have. That leads me to my goals for 2021!

New Goals for the New Year

In 2021, I want to continue prioritizing health, self-growth, and gratitude. I want to hike with my daughter (I just purchased hiking boots for both of us), do another stitching project (also purchased), and go on a writing retreat, among many other things. I am trying something new and starting my goals this month so that I will hopefully have already created new habits before the New Year hits. 

What good from this year will you carry with you into 2021? What will you leave behind? We’d love to know!

The Sisterhood Journey

The Sisterhood Journey

This has been an amazing Wholistic Woman Retreat journey. It is true that it’s about the journey, and not the destination, or else we would have arrived in Sedona, AZ 10 years ago. We really needed the last decade to learn and grow our own programs, develop our community, and create a safe environment for women – and in the case of 2020, a safe way to travel with each other. For me, it’s easier to work backward starting with now – the present, and then retrieve the last 10 years of growth.  

Traveling Sisterhood…

My life and business have been immersed in travel, and I am like “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” coach if you have ever seen that movie. Naturally, I have been focused on a WWR destination retreat experience because of my love for travel. Sedona was the soulful place to make that dream retreat a reality – just as WWR was a dream for our founder Carol. Twenty women in 2020 joined us in red rock country – my most favorite place. It was fun to have the founding coaches be my “wing women” for retreat take-off and other special WWR team members, including one of our past co-founders, coach Jeanette. Together, we arrived and it exceeded my expectations…Sedona sisters for life.

Be Whole…

When we started Wholistic Woman Retreats over 10 years ago the vision was to offer women retreats for one to two days and now we have experienced a three to four-day retreat! We also offered monthly in-person meet ups that turned virtual in 2020. Our group of founding coaches were go-getters putting on two retreats the first year – a one day and a two day! Oh my! We were just getting started. Wow, we thought we can do this with our team strengths that make us “whole” – which became our motto – Be Whole…in heart, mind, body, and spirit. We formed a like-minded Wholistic coach approach, like in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, the one pair of jeans fit the four best friends of different sizes and personalities, sharing them equally to lead them in heart and spirit and to feel braver. Our organization leads that way…loving your sisters and loving yourself.

Connection and community…

We learned over the decade that our women love retreats and wanted to retreat more often. Somewhere in the middle of our time as an organization we took monthly Build Your Own Business (BYOB) Success workshops from my business model and morphed them into our WWR community. The different venue locations, coaches, and creative topics opened the door from 10 to 20, to 30, to 40 and sometimes 50 women, month to month. The connections grew stronger over the years. This is one way we created a safe space in our community and developed the motto that we follow to this day…come as you are when you can.

Coaching Circle and Growth…

During this time we expanded our coaching community bringing on partner coaches. This is my favorite part of our growth as an organization. We are so much more and stronger together. We built internal and external coaching opportunities – supporting and meeting each other where we are and developing our coaching circle. We work as a team to strengthen our retreats, membership, alliances, sponsorship programs, and most importantly ourselves. We are women- on- the- grow becoming our best selves. Carol, our founder, became an author writing her first book Lost and Found; Laura, a co-founder, faced her fears with public speaking and jumped out of a plane – wait can we pause and say that again, Laura jumped out of a plane! For myself, I recognize my 15-year company milestone that includes joint ventures in airports with Minute Suites, the Travelers Retreat, and my Wholebeing Institute Certification in Positive Psychology.  Our founding and partner coaches have all grown so much personally and professionally.

Celebration of sisterhood…wherever you are

We celebrate hundreds of women from our day retreats, overnight retreats, monthly events, international women’s day events, women’s conferences and organizations, and our Soulful Sedona destination retreat. This has been the time of my life. That’s when you know it is right – and feel a calling to go on. We now have businesses that believe in our organization and offer scholarship funds to assist our women-on-the-grow.

Gratitude, growth, connection, and celebration are words to wrap-up this year and this decade. Meaningful words that will be our foundation for what’s ahead.  One of our founding sisters is now branching out on a new journey and one thing I know, like the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, is that we will be together even when we are apart. Thank you Laura for being on this 10-year journey.  Thank you Carol for the invitation to be a part of something so much bigger than me. Thank you to all the WWR founders, partner coaches, community and members, sponsors, and alliance partners. Whether you have traveled one mile or hundreds of miles with Wholistic Woman Retreats, I look forward to being on this journey wherever you are… and celebrating sisterhood.

Off we go!

3 Advantages of Receiving Feedback

3 Advantages of Receiving Feedback

During my last coaching call, Coach Carol pointed out to me that I was seeking feedback in nearly every area of my life. I was intrigued by this observation. I think it’s in my personality to crave feedback — I love affirmation, and I’ve always been the type of person to want to do things the best way possible. This craving for input has led me to seek my mom’s input on parenting my daughter, to ask my boss if I should tackle a project from a different angle, and question my husband on his honest take on what I serve for dinner.

But not everyone actively seeks the input of others. It can be intimidating (not to mention humbling) to invite the opinion of someone else. Trust me, the discomfort is worth bearing. I’ve learned several specific advantages of receiving feedback along the way.

You learn to not let mistakes define you

The biggest reason people avoid seeking feedback is their fear of failure. Who wants to be vulnerable to exposing mistakes? As we shared in a recent post on professional growth, people with a growth mindset believe intelligence can be developed, and they view failure as an opportunity to learn and try again. They see possibilities, rather than limitations. Therefore, someone who receives feedback with an open mind is able to move forward instead of staying stuck in their current situation.

You learn new perspectives

Do you want to stay sharp and ensure your work doesn’t become stale? Seek feedback from safe people who will challenge you with unique thought processes. By being open to the ideas of others, you allow yourself to grow as a person and embrace change. You might learn your coworker has a brilliant method for time management, for example. Perhaps your business coach longs to convince you to let go of a problematic client.

Admitting that there is more than one way to approach an issue frees up your mind to see a variety of strategies. A whole new world of possibilities awaits those who are willing to see them!

You set an example for others

A leader who invites feedback from their team will not only grow in their own leadership but also inspire others to adopt a growth mindset. If you desire your team members to be open-minded, you must be willing to display this skill and seek opportunities to strengthen it.

Plus, the more you practice receiving feedback, the better you become at giving it. After all, the tenth step in Brené Brown’s feedback readiness checklist is, “I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.” 

Whether or not you apply the feedback you receive is up to you. Either way, you’re sure to gain from the experience. 

Bittersweet

Bittersweet

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” ~ Closing Time by Semisonic

Bittersweet… that is how I am feeling writing this blog as I am writing about an ending, and endings often have a bitter component (this one definitely does), and sweet because I am writing about listening to and trusting my inner knowing and that absolutely feels sweet.

About 18 months ago I started feeling the nudge to move on from my leadership role with Wholistic Woman Retreats.  There was no specific reason other than that I was craving simplicity in my life and honestly, I didn’t trust the nudge.  The overwhelming thought when the feeling first came in was WHY?  Why would I walk away from something that was having such a positive impact not only on my life but also on the lives of so many amazing women?  So I did what I believe a lot of us do when we don’t understand our feelings… I pushed it down and ignored it.

(Side note:  This is not something I recommend!  Ask my children… ask my coaching clients… They will tell you that they’ve heard me say on more than one occasion that feelings are meant to be felt.)

Shortly after that, Wholistic Woman started seriously discussing turning the dream of holding a destination retreat in Sedona into a reality and the feeling morphed into a voice in my head that said “Finish what you started.” To me, this meant that I was supposed to see the destination retreat come to fruition and I was supposed to stay to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the organization.  My inner knowing told me that 2020 was going to be the year I finished what I started.

So here we are…2020 is coming to an end, something I am certain we are all excited about, as none of us could have predicted the insanity and uncertainty that this year has held.  We, as an organization, moved from monthly in-person coaching events to a virtual platform… We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote with a virtual retreat that supported the programming of Frederick’s Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business group… We took 20 women to Sedona, Arizona where we held an in-person retreat while following CDC guidelines regarding Covid-19 and are happy to report that everyone stayed healthy… And, we closed the year with both an in-person brunch for people who felt comfortable gathering socially as well as a virtual event for those that didn’t with our annual gratitude celebration which this year included celebrating 10 Years of Wholistic Woman Retreats!  For me, this absolutely feels like finishing what I started.

So, I am listening to the call on my heart and will be stepping away from leadership with Wholistic Woman Retreats.  This choice is about saying yes to an inner knowing.  I am creating space… space for whatever is next… space for something that I can’t even envision right now… space to let Divine Intervention step in and show me what is next for me.  I am trusting the nudge!

I am in no rush to fill the void that will follow this decision.  If there is one thing that 2020, the year of Covid-19 and it’s stay at home mandates, has shown me, it is that I enjoy space, downtime, and simplicity.  Therefore, I am inviting the bitterness I feel around saying goodbye to the active role I’ve held for the last 10 years here with Wholistic Woman Retreats while at the same time experiencing the sweetness of anticipation of the unknown future.  In this season of gratitude, love, and giving, this decision feels like an unopened gift… a bittersweet gift.

To all you beautiful women who have trusted me to support you in your personal and professional growth, I want to say ‘Thank you’!  It has been an honor to witness your fear, your uncertainty, your tenacity, your bravery and your strength.  Thank you for doing your work!  Your growth helps heal the world.  You bring light and love where there is darkness and fear.  There is no job bigger than that.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

To the Wholistic team, thank you for supporting me in my growth as a coach and leader.  You have witnessed my fear, uncertainty, tenacity, bravery, and strength.  You know me deeply and I have never felt anything but love and support from you.  You are the reason this decision is so hard for me to make.  I love you all.  It has been the privilege of a lifetime to work alongside you.  I will always be your biggest supporter.

The beauty is, geographically, I’m not going anywhere.  I will still be here and I look forward to continuing to witness the sweetness of the work you all will continue to do.

10 years ago, Wholistic Woman Retreats was a new beginning for me and this year that beginning is coming to an end… I wonder what new beginning will come from that beginning’s end!?!

My Experience With Private Coaching: 3 Invaluable Benefits

My Experience With Private Coaching: 3 Invaluable Benefits

I’ve always loved the idea of private coaching, and have even entertained the thought that I might make a good coach myself. But before the spring, I had never experienced an actual coaching call. I consider myself a self-aware person. I have a nice life: I have a job, good health, solid faith, loving family and friends… what could I gain from private coaching? What would someone coach me on? It turns out I had a lot to learn! 

Why I Started Private Coaching

I started private coaching earlier this year after quitting a job I was extremely invested in. It took a lot of courage to quit, and I was proud of myself. I didn’t want to lose this suddenly realized self-empowerment. I wanted to dig deeper, to fully recognize my ability to control my own choices and behavior. I had attended Wholistic Coaching Coalition events for several years and appreciated that each event left me feeling encouraged and motivated, but I had never tried their private coaching service. I knew the best way I could continue moving forward on my journey towards self-growth was to receive expert help.

I began private coaching with Coach Carol, and through our conversations I have received invaluable input. The following are three things I appreciate most about our time together:

Expert observations 

Each of the Wholistic Women coaches offer their own unique expertise, such as positivity, leadership skills, parenting, finance, and more. Carol is trained in CliftonStrengths, an assessment that helps people discover their greatest talents and how to best use them. I shared my assessment results with Carol, and she references my report on our call. For example, she will point out when I’m using my empathy strength on my husband, or when I’m using my developer strength on myself. These insights have not only been empowering, but they’ve also given me a new perspective on my talents. 

Thoughtful questions 

One promise of private coaching is that recipients will be carefully listened to. I never have to wonder if Carol is actually listening to what I’m saying, because she asks thoughtful questions in response. Depending on the topic, her questions are designed to either help her understand me better, or make me dig deeper. I’ll admit, sometimes this aspect of private coaching can be difficult. It isn’t always easy to be vulnerable with someone. However, I’ve developed a trusting relationship with my coach and I feel fully comfortable being my true self with her. (It’s an incredible feeling!)

Action steps 

There’s more to private coaching than just talking — the process also involves taking action! Carol and I work together to create action steps based on what I’m struggling with or hoping to gain. These action steps motivate me to move forward, and I’m always excited to share my results with Carol. I keep a journal to record her questions, observations, and action steps, and I reference it often.

If you are looking for someone to listen, offer new perspectives, and help you grow, give private coaching a try. I highly recommend it! 

Our Wholistic Woman Story

Our Wholistic Woman Story

Wholistic Woman Retreats Celebrates 10 Years of:

  • Wholistic growth – heart, mind, body, and spirit
  • Teamwork
  • Loving and learning together
  • Laughter and joy
  • Overcoming fears and a few tears
  • Encouragement and Celebration
  • Wholeness

My heart is warmed as I look back over the last 10 years of women’s retreats that we have created and led. I tend to be a forward thinker so a recent walk down memory lane, looking at photographs from our past retreats, left quite an impact on me. It stirred similar emotions as those I experience when I look at pictures of my children in their various ages and stages. I exclaimed over how much development has occurred while simultaneously fondly remembering the moments that led to such growth.

It’s good to see how far we’ve come as a community, and as individuals. Since pictures tell the story so well we will be sharing photos and memories over the next 10 weeks. We hope you will enjoy the memories with us as you see the smiles, hugs, and positive energy that flows from the faces of the women who participated in our retreats. Perhaps you will see your own face among them. We encourage you to share your memories of experiences with us over the years.

Our Story – 10 years in the making…

My most important lifelong lesson has been learning how to recognize, trust, and act upon the nudges God sends my way. The creation of Wholistic Woman Retreats has taught me more about listening to the nudges God places on my heart, the seeds He plants in my mind, and the stirring of His call within my spirit.

Our story began with a dream

As so often happens, the dream started well before any action occurred. The seeds of a retreat idea were planted in my heart about 10 years before WWR ever took shape. It began when I joined the Family Life Committee at my church and helped with the coordination of many family retreats at West River Retreat Center on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Many friendships were formed through those retreats, and an especially important one was with a young woman on the committee named Pat. 

Some friends lift you up and help you to be all that you are called to be. Pat has been such a friend for me. When I went to life coaching school, Pat volunteered to be my ‘guinea pig’ and allowed me to practice my coaching skills with her. As I did so, I shared a dream that was stirring in my heart. It was a dream to take what we had done for the church and offer it to women in our area. At that time, I was going through a difficult phase of my life and divorce was on the horizon.  As my hopes for a happy marriage ended, I entered a valley of grief and looked fearfully ahead at the prospect of raising my two young sons as a single mother. I felt lost and alone in this disappointing and confusing time. I responded to an inner nudge and began to reach out to try new things, lift my spirits, and make new friends. I reconnected with yoga, meditated, and explored spiritual practices that expanded my perspective, just to name a few. Feeling isolated, I even started to a side jewelry business in the evenings to get out and socialize with other women. In these years, I often felt overwhelmed and overloaded and realized that many other women felt the same way, whether they were single mothers or not. It seemed to be a universal female experience. My gift of empathy led me to deeply care about the challenges that I saw in the women around me, and which I recognized within myself.   

I wanted to give those struggling women a break. The memory of the rejuvenating benefits of those family retreats resurfaced. I recognize that when we get away from the day-to-day grind we can truly rest, reflect, gain new perspectives, learn skills to manage better, and feel recharged. Once filled we return to our family commitments, jobs, and activities with renewed energy.

My early retreat ideas were of a physical place where women could gather to enjoy coffee, connect with one another, perhaps take a yoga class, or learn new life skills while their children were well-cared for. I envisioned a coffee shop/retreat center that would provide a haven for stressed out young mothers, empty nesters, and women searching for something yet to be defined. I visited various locations and my faithful friend Pat would sit in my car, sometimes in the pouring rain, while we talked about what was possible.

The dream, however, took an important directional change when my cousin asked a significant question one day. He asked, “Do you want to own property or be a coach?” I quickly knew the answer. My gifts are clearly designed for coaching. I’m a teacher, listener, encourager, planner, and cheerleader at heart. I’m grateful for my cousin’s question because it steered me away from the responsibilities of commercial property ownership and directed me towards leading retreats. Little did I know that it would also mean leading a retreat team.

At the core of my dream was the desire to support, encourage, and pamper women like myself, who give a lot to their families, friends, community, and careers. Women who needed a break, and a chance to refill their ever-depleting tanks. My strategic strength kicked in and expanded the vision to include massages, body work options and even shopping. I also wanted to offer learning opportunities where they could discover strategies to improve and more consistently be their best…however they defined it.

As my dream continued to evolve in my mind and heart, I started speaking about it to others besides my friend Pat. I was encouraged when women would say to me, when you have your retreat, I want to come. My heart was touched even more when, occasionally, some women would say, when you do your retreat, I want to help. Those statements were water that sprouted the seeds within me and from which this organization ultimately grew.

The story takes shape

In the fall of 2009 I went for coffee with a new friend, Jeanette Eleff, who was a fellow coach and entrepreneur. She was curious to hear more about my dream of doing retreats and she asked great questions to help me give voice to my vision. In the end, she summarized with, “Carol, I can tell that you’re a mover and a shaker. I want to help you do this retreat.” My response indicated the self-doubt I was feeling, “Really? Do you mean that?” You see, my top strengths lie in relationship-building. I’m better at connecting with people and thoughts than with actually making a dream become a reality. I have found that I need people around me who activate me into action. Without Jeanette’s prompt, I might still be thinking about my vision to this day. Her reply of “Yes, I certainly do mean it” changed my life and, as a consequence, touched many, many other lives.

Jeanette and I met throughout the fall to plan a day retreat for women which would be held the following spring. As we planned, I mentioned that several women had offered their help once the dream was in motion. We agreed to invite those women to a planning meeting. So, on a January day in 2010, I lit a cozy fire, poured cups of hot tea, and sat in a circle with five women who shared the heartfelt call to lead a retreat. Jeanette and I welcomed Kelye, Laura, Sandie and Lisa into our circle and in doing so the Wholistic Coaching Coalition took shape. In three short months we planned and held what would be the first of many wonderful retreats to nurture women’s personal and professional development. 

To be clear, we didn’t plan to start a retreat organization. We simply planned a retreat. We agreed on the core principal that it would be wholistic – and purposefully spelled it with a ‘W’ to remind us of our intention to provide programs focused on the whole women – her body, heart, mind, and spirit.  The first retreat was held in the Catoctin Mountains at a beautiful lodge known as ThorpeWood. We invited practitioners to offer their services, thus providing an element of pampering and education about alternative bodywork – acupuncture, reiki, massage, chiropractic and more rounded out a day of reflection, learning new life skills, good food, laughter, and mutual support. Forty-five women joined us for this day retreat in the woods. For me, it was a dream come true as I walked among them, felt their energy, and saw their glowing faces. It felt amazing to pour into others and to have our offerings received with such appreciation. We were providing a gentle, soaking rain of love onto the thirsty soil of these women’s lives…and in doing so we blessed our own lives.

Some dreams are too big to do alone.

At the closing session of the first retreat, I reflected that I couldn’t have done it without the team of women who showed up and offered their assistance. I still believe that today, 10 years later. Some visions require a team to make them a reality. My dream took flight with Jeanette’s spark of encouragement and the subsequent team that formed. We co-created something that was wonderfully enriching for women. Through this, I’ve learned that I thrive when I am interdependent with others whose talents complement mine. My developer and woo strengths expanded to initiate partnerships with other coaches and business partners. My dream became a shared vision, and we went on to hold many kinds of retreats over the past 10 years. Day retreats, overnight retreats, evening retreats, and most recently a long-desired destination retreat to Sedona, AZ. Each retreat provided a platform for founding and partner coaches to teach their area of expertise and to provide the attendees with new resources, tools, and strategies for personal and professional development.

We believe that each program attracted the women who were meant to be there. Each one attracted the sponsors who felt led to support us, allowing us to offer enhancements that would not have been possible without them. Expanding from our home base of Frederick Md, we have held retreats in Virginia, Pennsylvania, other parts of Maryland, and now Sedona, AZ. Over the years, a wonderful community of women as formed. We refer to them as women-on-the-grow. They are busy women who know how important it is to take time to recharge. Retreats are key to sustaining their well-being and to continuing their lifelong development. Some of these women have stayed with us for a season of their lives, others came for just a single event, and still others have stayed connected to us throughout our ten-year journey. We have welcomed and cared for them all.

Our belief is one of attraction.

We believe that the women who are meant to attend our programs will arrive right on time. Personally, I believe God is nudging and/or calling them to us. I trust that they know within themselves which of our coaches and partners they are meant to connect with and to follow. 

As coaches, we are skillful at meeting each woman where she is and accepting her for how she is. We practice non-judgment with open minds and hearts. We give encouragement and celebrate progress. We believe in life-long learning and personal growth. We teach tips and strategies to expand self-awareness which ultimately leads to more choices. With increased awareness we can decide if we want to continue what we are doing or if we want to make changes, either slight or major shifts. We offer an environment of love and support. Women soak up knowledge and deepen the roots of their own spirit in our midst. Hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits grow stronger and more confident in this rich soil.

This beautiful organization has been a dream come true. 

I celebrate our 10 years of living, loving, and growing together.

I celebrate the original team, and the subsequent team which evolved as some women moved on and others joined us on this journey.

I celebrate the many coaches (both founders and partner coaches) who have contributed their unique voices and expertise to our community.

I celebrate the alliance partners who offered their expertise providing necessary business skills to support the smooth operation of this impactful organization. 

Most of all, I celebrate the women – in all their stages of life – who have attended our programs.

I am profoundly grateful for the growth I have been honored to witness. Thank you for being part of my life lesson as I continue to learn about following God’s nudges and the calling He stirs within my heart. My soul bows to each of yours in gratitude for being on the journey together…then – now – and in the days ahead.

4 Skills Your Group Coach Should Have

4 Skills Your Group Coach Should Have

Whether you’re attending as an individual or signing up your team, you know group coaching is the next right step. You’re ready to bounce ideas off of other people and receive helpful feedback. But how do you know which group coach will be a good fit for you? Here are four skills you should expect a quality group coach to have:

Active listening

Does your group coach listen patiently and make you feel heard? An article from the Gift of Life Institute on the importance of active listening states, “Listening has been shown to be essential to communicating respect for another person.” Active listening goes beyond simply hearing what a person says and physically shows empathy, understanding, or a desire for clarification through nodding, asking follow-up questions, and using affirming language. “Active listening includes responses that demonstrate that you understand what the other person is trying to tell you about his or her experience.”

Red flag to look for: interrupting and dismissive language. In fact, your group coach should not only be an active listener himself/herself, but also be able to foster active listening within the group.

Goal-setting

Group coaching participants can be working together on the same goal or may be comprised of individuals with similar goals. A great group coach will listen to your pain points, ask meaningful questions, and come alongside you to create goals that are clearly defined and achievable. He or she will help you stay focused as you work towards meeting your goals.

Red flag to look for: criticism and judgment. If you find yourself struggling to succeed, your coach should provide encouragement and practical suggestions.

Constructive feedback

One of the best benefits of group coaching is receiving constructive feedback. Remember, you have to be open to receiving feedback in order to see results! A skilled coach will not only provide you with direct feedback, but also facilitate a group environment that encourages honesty, curiosity, and open communication. Constructive feedback is achieved by asking questions and offering positive and motivating responses.

Red flag to look for: a negative group environment. Part of the group coach’s job is to create a safe and healthy foundation built on trust and mutual respect.

Accountability

Your group coaching sessions will include time for “checking in” on your goals. You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with members of your group outside of the sessions. A successful group will celebrate one another’s successes and continue challenging one another to grow.

Red flag to look for: lack of follow-up from the group coach. Your group coach should be engaged in your journey.

Looking for group coaches you can trust? Our team of professional coaches offers coach-facilitated groups where you can expect to benefit from all four of the above skills (and more)!