Journaling, Questioning, Coaching, and Vibing (Podcast)

Season 1, Episode 13: Journaling, Questioning, Coaching, and Vibing

Season 1, Episode 13 Transcript

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Episode Intro

Buckle your seat belts, everybody. And this week's episode, I'm going to be talking about how I fell in love with coaching and ultimately became a coach. But also how you can do some coaching on your own. And. What you can do. With something as simple as a $1 notebook and a good ink pen. It can change your life. It can be revolutionary.

And it can help you make some really bold decisions that you might not have expected.

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Journaling, Coaching, and Questioning

Hello, everybody! Blake here with another episode of the Finding Fulfillment Podcast. In today's episode, I'm primarily going to be talking about journaling and questioning. These are two of my absolute favorite topics to discuss. Honestly, this is what got me into coaching in the first place.

If you haven't heard me talk about coaching before, please know that when I discuss my role as a coach, I am not one of those social media bros that you see all over the place– the people who brand themselves as a coach and put out these really stupid ads where they're like getting out of a sports car or they're in this really fancy loft, and everything that they're doing is about wealth and sex appeal, and  they're trying to sell you on their course. And if you just take their course, then, you know, for $500, you'll learn how to make 10,000 and all of that bullshit.

Those types of quote unquote "coaches" are all over the place. That's not what I am as a coach. Please know that first and foremost. I want to get that out there, want to shrug off some of that stigma of all of the untrained, uncredentialed coaches out there and say that that is not what I do when I coach.

Instead, I'm trained in coaching through an ICF accredited program. The ICF is the international Coaching Federation. It is an independent accrediting body that sets standards for what professional coaching looks like and what that should entail. And there are a couple of different accrediting bodies out there. The ICF is not the only one. It's just perhaps the largest and the oldest.

I may be off of that. It may not be the oldest, but it is certainly the largest. Within ICF-style coaching, what you're looking at is a co-creative process where the coach is able to reflect back to you what they're hearing and make observations about what they understand from what you're saying, from your body language, what you're not saying, and help guide you through a process of self discovery. And coming to your own conclusions through this process of what we call powerful questions.

Now I did not really get into coaching until... I almost said this year, we're in 2021 now, so it's actually last year. I did not get into coaching until last year. So I'm still fairly green at it.

Coaching is one of those things that I had read about in a few books. I think the first time I came across it was in Jen Sincero's book, You Are a Badass At Making Money, which is pretty good. It's a pretty good book. It does lean a little bit too heavily on the Law of Attraction for me, and I might end up doing an entire podcast episode about the law of attraction since it comes up so often in self-improvement circles. I think it's a really fraught concept that we need to spend some time unpacking.

But regardless in Jen Sincero's book, she talks about wanting to work with this coach that had a really great reputation. And the first time that I read that– in probably 2017, 2018– there was something compelling about working with this coach as she described it. And it really made me raise some questions about what coaching is, what it looked like, what it entailed.

At that time, I did some basic Google searching. I read a couple of articles here and there. I checked out some books from the library, but nothing really gave me a good sense of what it meant to coach or to work with a coach. 

Fast forward to February 2020. I have an opportunity to travel to Colorado for a weekend writing retreat with the author, Sam Horn. I've talked about Sam Horn on the podcast before. Her book, Someday is Not a Day in the Week is one of my favorite books.

I got so much out of reading that book and it really inspired a creative spark in me. After I read that book, I wanted to learn a bit more about Sam and what she did. So I, again, went to Google, found her website, and saw that she offered some one-on-one consulting. Out of curiosity, I reached out and said, "Hey, I want to learn a little bit more about this, what your costs are and what this actually looks like."

And pretty soon after I reached out, Sam's administrative assistant reached out to me and set up a time for me to speak directly to Sam. It was a 30-minute conversation and I went into it thinking, "Oh, this is going to just be a sales pitch for her consulting services. Looking at the prices that her assistant sent to me, like it's out of my price range anyway, but it's not going to hurt to, listen to the sales pitch. Besides Sam as an author, I really like. It'll be cool just to get to speak with her."

That was not at all what that conversation was. At no point in my conversation with Sam, did she try and sell me or make a hard sell on her services. Instead it was a 30-minute coaching call. At the time, I didn't know that that's what it was. It's only in retrospect that I've come to understand that what that conversation was was a coaching conversation.

Leaving that 30-minute conversation, I fell so motivated and so enthusiastic about some of the creative projects that I wanted to work on. And like I mentioned, at that time, I couldn't afford to do Sam's one-on-one consulting. I was making a little bit less money than I am right now, and I had just bought my first house and was still figuring out, like, how do I budget the upkeep of a house?

And so one-on-one consulting with Sam was not an option at that time. A few months later, her assistant reached back out and said, "Hey, you've previously expressed interest in working with Sam. So I just wanted to let you know that Sam is hosting a writing retreat this February. Slots are limited. If you want to participate you'll need to re to basically apply in reserve that spot soon."

The email was a much more professional and eloquent than that. That's just my recollection. But when I got that email, I went to my manager and essentially made the case for how this retreat would benefit me in my current role with my current employer.

My employer offers a professional development reimbursement fund. It's limited in how much you can get reimbursed, so you can't just go do anything and expect to get reimbursed. And what you're doing also has to be directly related to your role. But one of the good things about my role is that the skills I use primarily are communicating and critical thinking, and what cultivates communication and critical thinking skills, especially in a written format? A writing retreat!

So I got approved to be reimbursed for the retreat and I had to just cover my own travel and stay expenses. But as far as tuition and enrollment, my company was going to cover me for that. So I very excitedly went back to Sam's assistant, completed the application and sent that in, and within a few days found out that I was going to be going in February to Colorado to the writing retreat with Sam Horn. 

That writing retreat...Oh, my God... it was transformative. Initially, I was going to say that it was very formative in my creative and entrepreneurial processes, but instead I think transformative is a more accurate description of it.

At that retreat. I was the only guy who attended. I was also quite a bit younger than the women who I was attending with. There were only eight of us, so it was a very small, very intimate, very hands-on retreat. I learned so much in that one weekend. It was such an eye-opening process to spend that time in the company of some brilliant minds, and to be able to discuss and reflect ideas back and forth with each other, refining these broad concepts that we were working with into something very tangible and applicable and practical. Over the course of that weekend, we all went through the process of putting together what was essentially a book outline and proposal.

Now I will say that the outline that I had created during that weekend is not Big Picture Living. It did not become Big Picture Living. It was a separate project entirely where I was focusing specifically on shame and the experience of shame amongst young men. That's a project I'll probably come back to at some point. It's something that I love talking about, love researching and love writing on, but it wasn't the projects that I needed to write within this year.

Regardless, throughout the course of that weekend, what Sam was doing was coaching us. And we were coaching each other. And one of the ladies who I was there with, who I admire so, so much was a professional coach. That's what she did full time. She worked directly with businesses and individuals as a coach. And so coming out of that process, I had a deeper understanding of what coaching looked like, but also what could become of coaching, what the outcomes were of going through the coaching process.

It really set in motion this reframing of how I approach the content that I write, the content that I want to create, the entrepreneurial endeavors that I want to take, and also how I work one-on-one with other people.

As I got back to my life in Kentucky after the retreat, it wasn't long before we entered the first stages of COVID lockdown. I'm based out of Kentucky currently, and thankfully, thank goodness Kentucky's governor was very quick to enact COVID safety measures as advised by the WHO and the CDC.

A lot of States around Kentucky really, really struggled, especially early on, with COVID and with transmission rates, but Kentucky managed to keep our transmission rate quite a bit lower than surrounding States.

As good as that was from a public health standpoint, it was also a really sharp change of pace where I had just gone from traveling across the U S and being amongst all of these amazing people in a one-on-one in-person capacity, and spending my free time at the gym or at coffee shops or bars, to all of a sudden, only being in my house and not being able to really leave my house. And so I thought, "I've got all of this time. I can't leave my house. I need something that I can focus on and really put my effort into."

And as I brainstormed what that would be, I decided to go with coaching. I reflected on my experiences the year prior, and said to myself, "Of all of the things that I've done within the last year, within the last 365 days, the thing that has probably benefited me the most was working with Sam, with her as my coach. I want to learn more about that. I want to be able to have that type of impact on someone else."

So I turned to the ICF website, found a coach training program, ACA Coach Academies, and it was... still quite expensive, but it was close to being within my budget, taking on minimal credit card debt, and it was completely remote. It was completely online, so it wasn't something where I had to worry about in-person exposure. It seemed promising. I reached out with some introductory questions about the program, about the curriculum, and the instructor for it (and the owner of ACA Coach Academy)set up a zoom call with me.

She was amazing. She just walked through my questions and I felt really comfortable in trusting her with my coaching education. I decided to go ahead and enroll in ACA Coach Academies, and in June of 2020, I completed my coach training program. Before you can be an ACC (an associate certified coach), you have to complete 60 training hours plus a hundred practical hours. And so that course that I took, that was the 60 training hours that I got.

 I think that, in retrospect, I probably would have approached my coach training a little bit differently. I think I probably would have waited, maybe until I could do more in person work or until I was in a place with my website and my job where I had more free time to connect with and find new clients.

Because the process of coaching, I absolutely love. The process of finding clients and being able to convey the value of coaching without delivering like a hard sales pitch, I don't love that. You know, that part is really, really difficult for me, and I'm constantly thinking about the horrid pseudo coaches that abound online.

Every time I start to have a coaching conversation or a conversation about coaching, I should say with someone, especially online, I have this sinking fear of "Ugh, what if they lump me in with these other guys?" But all of that said, in spite of the things that I would have done differently in terms of forming my coaching business, far as the actual coach training went, I really am grateful for the value that that's brought to my writing and to the content that I create, and also to my focus for what it is that I'm doing with my writing and with my content.

I launched my website because I love to create content. And at the time that I launched it initially, I was doing it so that I could learn front end web development. That's a pretty big chunk of my job. It was a smaller part of the previous role that I was in when I was learning it, but it was a very difficult part of that role, and it was something that caused me a lot of stress. And so I said, "if this is so difficult for me, what can I do to make it easier?" And the answer was, "well, you could quit your job and find something new," which I did not want to do, or "I could learn some basic front end web development."

So I launched my own website as a way to teach myself HTML and CSS. That then bled over into learning some basic JavaScript and a learning HubL, which is my CMS' proprietary coding language. And getting comfortable with things like APIs, some basic Python, and web hooks.

Anyway, that's not the important part. The important part is I was using those skills to start my website because I love to create. That's one of my core values. It's something I come back to all the time when I feel stuck. And so for me, creating my site was just about the process of creating– specifically creating– things that I'm passionate about.

And I was getting to the point where I had several thousand monthly readers and didn't really know what I was doing with the site. I was just kind of publishing content to publish content and not really making money off of it at all. I was questioning like, "what's the point of all of this? It costs me a lot of money to, pay contributing writers and do all of this with the software that I'm subscribed to just to create graphics and create content, create interactive elements, all of that."

And it was coming out of coaching training that really helped me reframe that and say, "Oh, okay. I'm not just creating to create, I'm creating so that I can build my platform and my brand as a coach, but I'm also creating this content because I think that this content can be helpful to my readers in the way that coaching was helpful to me."

So that kind of became my guiding principle: I want to create content that helps people. I want people to be able to walk away from my content and feel more focused, more empowered, or generally more curious about what it is that they are doing with their lives. That's really important to me. Ideally, I would love to evolve that into a sustainable second source of income. That's, I think, every creative's dream: to enjoy what they're creating while also making some money off of what they're creating.

But regardless, helping people and being able to convey that spark of inspiration and enthusiasm, that's what's most important to me.

I share all of this because coming out of a coaching framework, and a lot of the action items that I incorporate into the content that I'm writing, is oriented around journaling and questioning. Journaling and questioning are two of the most powerful tools at your disposal, and going through the coaching process and receiving coach training, I've really come to appreciate the sort of self-coaching that you can do with a journal as you get comfortable with questioning.

It's one of those things where many of us don't really go deep with our own internal dialogue and with our own internal thought processes. We recognize what we're thinking as we're thinking it, and we react to it. We stay on the surface. We're constantly skimming the surface of our own experiences and our own outlook.

And because of this, we often make very reactionary choices. And take very emotionally-driven steps in our lives.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Emotions are not bad. I say that pretty much every single podcast episode. Emotions are not bad. It does not matter if it's anger, sadness, guilt, regret, whatever--emotions are not bad They are just an indicator of what's going on internally. And it's okay. We can examine that. We can respond to that.

The problem is that most of us aren't very good, by default, at examining what's under those emotions. What is it that makes us feel a certain way on a certain day? What is it that makes it so that some days we wake up and we're enthusiastic and excited, and other days we just want to stay in bed and not deal with the world because it's all just a little bit too much?

Wow, that's particularly true of these last nine months or so, isn't it?

Regardless, we stay on the surface. In order to be able to stay focused on our core goals and core values, we have to be willing to go deeper. We have to be willing to go below the surface of those emotions and start to peel back the layers of what it is that's shaping our outlook on any given day; what it is that is blocking us, what it is that's causing us to question our own value and our own opportunities. Journaling and questioning allow us to do that. They allow us to get that depth that we need in understanding our own emotions and our own worldview really.

There's a process that I've written about quite frequently, actually, on my website. And I'm pretty sure it's come up in past podcast episodes as well. But it's a framework for journaling that I take and that I highly, highly, highly recommend especially if you're just getting started with journaling or feel uncomfortable getting vulnerable with yourself and putting your thoughts down on paper.

But, in a nutshell, the way this process works is to start in your journal by writing down just an observation of what it is that you're feeling. And this starting point, as simple as it sounds, it's a bit tricky if you're a newbie because it's absolutely critical that you be honest with yourself, number one. A lot of us, when we are writing, we assume that there's going to be an audience, and so we let the expectations of others influence what it is that we write. Don't do that. Don't assume that anybody, but you is going to ever see this.

If it helps, give yourself a permission slip to burn whhatever you write once you're done writing it. I give you permission. Please don't start any forest fires. Please don't burn your house down. But if you need to put a cast iron skillet on the stove, throw your paper in and drop a match on it, just keep some water handy nearby, right.

So that's step number one: be super honest with yourself and just put down what you're feeling on paper. Don't try and make it pretty. Don't try and make it sound deep. Just put it down as honestly, as you can, as true to what you're experiencing.

Once you've done that, get a little bit more descriptive with it. Write down what you feel in your body. As you're thinking about this particular emotion, just check in with yourself and see are your shoulders tensed? Is your jaw clenched? Are you tapping your feet? Are your hands shaking?

What's what's going on with you physically? For example, with me, if I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed I can almost assure you that I'm nauseous. So I would write down that I feel nauseous. I feel it particularly between my stomach and my chest, around the base of my ribs. For me, I also usually have really tense shoulders and a really tense neck when I'm feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Also my hips get really tight. Usually it's just as a byproduct of how I sent sit hunched and, kind of curled inward, but regardless of the cause, that's going to be your second observation.

So step one: What are you feeling? How would you describe your emotional state?

Two: what is that experience like in your body? How are you experiencing that in that moment?

And then three, I want you to start questioning: why it is that you feel that way? And if you don't have a direct answer, if you're someone who maybe deals with just chronic anxiety or general overwhelm, that's okay. You don't have to be able to pinpoint a specific source. But write down why you think you might feel that way. If you just need to sit and write over and over again, "why do I feel this way? Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel this way?" That's okay. Just get that thought process going. Start peeling back that layers of why you feel this way.

As you get some ideas about what may be the cause of what you're experiencing, whether it's positive or negative, flesh those out a little bit, create a sort of narrative around these possible routes to what it is that you're feeling. One way that you can do that is to question the assumptions that you're making, and this is really, really powerful. It's the method that I most often recommend.

As you make an observation about what you're experiencing, you make a hypothesis about why that is. Then you question whatever assumptions are in that hypothesis.

For example, a really common experience is wanting to shift gears in your life a little bit, but being afraid to change your career or start a new career or apply for a job that you think you might not be qualified for.

And as you start to write on those experiences and what that thought process is like and recognize okay, "I feel incredibly anxious. I don't like the job that I have. I want to get a new job. I think this industry. Might be good for me. But the roles that I'm seeing are way too intimidating. I am not qualified for that." Okay. In that example, you're making the assumption. That (a) this other industry is a good fit for you and (b) that you're not qualified for it. So that's two things that you can explore in that journal entry

The idea that you would enjoy it: So what is it about this career that you think you would enjoy? How does that differ from your current role? What are aspects of this new potential role that you think you might dislike or might struggle with? What is it that you're looking for In a workplace? What do you want in coworkers? What do you want in a manager? These are all questions you can ask about assumption, "this industry might be better for me" that you can explore.

Then there's that aspect of, "I am not qualified." Okay. Let's explore that. What traits do you think someone going into this role would need? What traits do you have? What skills, traits, experiences do you see yourself as lacking? Is there a way that you could get those experiences? Is there a way that the experiences you already have had could translate or apply to some of these experiences that you see as a gap?

So again, you have this assumption that you can explore and flesh out. As you go through and ask yourself these questions, you end up getting a deeper understanding of what it is that you really want to get out of a specific situation. In many ways, it helps you alleviate negative emotions and negative experiences because you pull yourself out of that visceral present experience of, "I feel like shit," and you have an opportunity to just be mindful and reframe it. And that does a lot from just a psychological perspective and an emotional level to help you feel better, but it also raises really interesting questions about what your values are, what your end goal is, and it can help you formulate some of the ways that you can get there.

That is really, really similar to the process of an actual coaching session. The main difference is that with the journaling and questioning approach on your own, you have to be able to separate yourself from your emotions, from your experiences, enough to recognize what your assumptions are, and how you can question those assumptions.

That's a pretty difficult thing to do. Most of us can't really create that space by default. It's something that takes a lot of practice and a lot of getting used to, to be able to recognize that your immediate experience of the world is not necessarily an absolute truth, and that it can be broken down and questioned. 

With a coach, there's a more dynamic element to it. You're in a dialogue with someone who is not lost in the weeds of your individual thoughts. They have their own perspective. They have their own worldview. They have their own experiences. And so as you are reflecting to them and discussing these things with them, they're able to question it with a bit more objectivity.

Sometimes that can be challenging on an individual level. If there's something that you see as an intrinsic value or an absolute truth, and someone goes "So I'm going to be kind of direct for a moment. I hear you saying X, Y, Z. What if actually ABC?" And suddenly they're inviting you to question the foundation of your identity.

That can be a challenge too, but as far as the actual process of peeling back the layers and getting comfortable and raw and honest with yourself about what you want and how you can get it, it's a bit easier to get in that flow and to go through that process directly with a coach.

But, again, you can, with a bit of practice, get something similar by going through this process of journaling and questioning.

So coaching has completely reshaped the way that I approach my own content. And my own long-term goals. I'm hoping that if you decide to explore this method of journaling, that you get the same experiences and you get the same outcomes. I hope that this is something that can benefit you and empower you to make really amazing decisions about your own life and your own future.

I want you to feel emboldened and courageous, and whatever your next steps are, if you do have questions about this journaling process. Please feel free to reach out to me as always. My email address is blake at selfhimprovement dot com.

You can just shoot me an email. I'll reply back. I try and respond to all emails within two business days, but please understand that just because life is life, sometimes it might be a little bit slower than that. Additionally, I feel obliged to say, if you do want to work through this process, one-on-one with a coach, you can also reach out to me about that.

There are links on my website about my coaching rates and what that looks like. And before, before you pay anything, we always have a one hour introduction section just to make sure that we're aligned on what the coaching process looks like and make sure that we're a good fit to work together. I wouldn't want to charge you money if I'm not going to be the best person to help you.

Keep that in mind, if you want to explore coaching, definitely be sure to reach out, but with all of that said, I'm going to go ahead and wrap up.

Guys, gals, non-binary pals, go grab your notebooks, go grab your pens and put yourself together a life roadmap. Plan something big for yourself. Do something bold.

Have fun. Be safe, everybody. 

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