img_4329My Wellcoaches Professional Coaching Training adventure started at 5:00 am in peaceful Burlington, Vermont. The alarm jolted me out of bed and then it was off to the airport to travel to La Jolla, California for a 3-day residential intensive. My supportive husband, sleepy and tired him self after dropping our daughter off at college the previous day, drove me to the airport.

Nine hours after leaving Vermont I arrived at downtown La Jolla with an entire afternoon to play, something I need to do more of! I feasted on Mexican food and took a long walk along the Pacific marveling at seals and sea lions living along the rocky shores. I squeezed in a pedicure and a dynamic Rocket Vinyasa yoga class, which kicked my butt and the jet lag out of my system. By 8 pm PST (11 pm EST) I was exhausted, yet my positive emotions – joy, gratitude, serenity (thank you Rocket Yoga), interest, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe (the miracle of flight!) and love were high.

Day one of class I woke excited and ready for my new adventure. I felt like I do when I cliff jump – scared, but aware that I’ll land safely and feel exhilarated. Having worked with Wellcoaches® for a decade, I knew I was in good hands. Curious and open, attributes that help build a meaningful life, I entered the conference room that would be home for the next two and a half days.

I received warm greetings from Kate Larson and Erika Jackson who were leading the training. An extrovert (which would be confirmed later by the Briggs Myers Personality Assessment), I found an empty seat at one of the three round tables in the room, introduced my self to several classmates and become engrossed in conversation.

The first exercise of the day: Draw a picture of your life, catapulted me out of my comfort zone. I can’t draw! (Actually I probably can draw, but never learned how because my older sister is an artist and always drew pictures for me.) No wasn’t an option, so I set stress aside, grabbed a rainbow of Sharpies and started doodling. We completed our life maps, and then each of us had 5 minutes to share our journey. The stories were deep, powerful and driven by self-determination. Lives shaped by hardship (death, divorce, cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction, poverty), resilience, joy and a longing for meaning, connection and growth.

In the afternoon Kate gave a stimulating talk on neuroscience, which she explained connects what we “know” and “feel” with what can be studied. As a coach, what I find most inspiring about neuroscience is the brain’s neuroplasticity. The energy hungry, command center for our nervous system has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout our entire lives. We can literally change our minds by consciously cultivating new, positive connections and neural pathways.

images-11My new take-away from the talk was SCARF, a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others developed by coach David Rock. According to the model five domains drive human social experience: Status (one’s relative importance), Certainty (ability to predict the future), Autonomy (our sense of control), Relatedness (how safe we feel with others) and Fairness (our perception of equitable exchange with others). Recognizing and understanding these drives (which can activate threat or reward) can have a major impact on the choices we make in our lives. For example, if I feel threatened because of a perceived lose of certainty, autonomy or social status rather than going into fight-or-flight mode, I can tune in to my emotions and recognize my brain’s wiring. Instead of reacting, I can take a deep breath ( to calm my nervous system and respond to what I’m thinking and feeling.

wheel_of_life1Next up: The Wheel of Life, a great self-assessment tool and foundation for goal setting that I use with my clients to give them a snapshot of their lives and help them achieve balance and success. The wheel contains eight sections – Career, Money/Finances, Health & Wellness, Friends & Family, Physical Environment, Romance, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Fun & Recreation.

Erika asked us questions to help us rate our level of satisfaction in each area and then had us physically move up and down the hallway (top of the hall was 10, very satisfied, bottom of the hall was a 1, not very satisfied) to indicate where we sat on the wheel. This was a bit uncomfortable because it forced me to take a hard look at my level of satisfaction in life domains that I tend to ignore. While most slices of my life pie (personal growth, romance, health and wellness and physical environment) were tasty others (friends and fun) needed more juice. I set an intention to work on fun and recreation, spend more time with friends and get a better handle on my finances.

images-4After taking a look at the Big Picture (the Wheel of Life) we looked at what people need every day for physical and mental wellbeing. Drawing on David Rock’s concept of The Healthy Mind Platter for Optimal Brain Matter, Erika explained that we need both inner nutrients – sleep time, focus time, time in and down time – and outer nutrients – physical time, play time and connecting time – on a daily basis. In line with my Wheel of Life, I realized that my brain diet was missing play and connecting time.

images-8After class my brain was filled to capacity and in need of down, focus and play time. To feed my mind plate, I took a long walk along the beautiful La Jolla cliffs lining the edge of the Pacific. The seals played effortlessly – surfing and butting heads – while the sea loins connected cuddling each other generating oxytocin, the mammalian hormone of care and connection.










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