Facing Resistance

I recently attended a 3-day Health Coaching conference in Phoenix titled HCI LIVE — Spark the Revolution. The name and pictures from past LIVE events had me on edge from the get-go, with my strong resistance to rah-rah events and equally strong discomfort in large groups. But register and show up I did.

I began the long weekend with the determined expectation that I would NOT sign up for any additional coach training programs. It’s not that I don’t love the Health Coach Institute program through which I’ve been recently certified. But I believed I didn’t want (or need) another commitment of time and/or money to advance my career.  I went to Phoenix primarily to meet up with some of my Facebook “tribe,” to see what the hype of the LIVE event was all about, and frankly, to enjoy some sunshine in the midst of a cool northwest spring.

But something remarkable happened over the course of the three days. I moved from a closed-off guardedness about future training programs (and the event itself) to an open willingness to participate and reconsider my established point of view. At first, I simply observed the program and activities from a distance. Then I gradually opened up to the learning and experiences available during the event. I chose to be fully present and amenable to learning–and to the perspectives of others–without losing myself to the “hype.” I paid close attention to my own intuition and wisdom, and in the end, combined what I was learning from others with what I could learn from myself. The wisdom of others and my own wisdom coalesced, and resulted in an outcome far different than I could have predicted at the outset of the conference. It also led me to trust myself, and my decision-making processes, more completely.

Carey Peters and Stacey Morgenstern, founders HCI

What follows is a description of what happened. As you read, consider your own process for making complex, multi-faceted decisions that stand to profoundly impact your future. Or maybe just decide which car to buy next time you’re in the market.

Day 1 — From Mostly Closed to Mostly Open

Almost 800 lively, positive-energy people attended the Live event. I’ve participated in things like this before with large motivational groups, but it’s been awhile. I am 53 now, live alone with my two cats, and I am a massage therapist by trade so I deal with one client at a time. I have a small but close group of friends and I interact with others mostly one on one. In short, I am not a “big group” person. I get intimidated and easily overwhelmed by too much excitement. I KNEW that excitement would be the name of the game at the conference — a high-energy, loud, enthusiastic, hand-waving, cheerleading type of environment. I tried to prepare myself psychologically as best I could.

On Friday morning, my roommates and “tribe” members Tracey and Katie and I made our way to the large conference room. The dress for the conference was listed as “business casual”. I am not a business casual type of gal, preferring sporty attire. Before I left I’d obsessed about what business casual meant, and had spent time shopping at Macy’s for this trip. I was deeply afraid of getting the dress code “wrong” and being judged for being too casual. It mattered that I felt properly dressed on Friday morning, as if dressing the part could help me act the part, somehow lending legitimacy to this event where I felt like an outsider.

L to R — Tracey, Katie, Kathie (notice the business attire…)

During the morning activities–which began with lots of excitement and clapping, standing up, sitting down and group stretches–I did my best to play along. But I remained reserved and cautious, feeling like an imposter going through the motions. The founders of HCI, Carey Peters and Stacey Morgenstern, held the floor all morning with a multitude of inspirational messages. Some broke through my resistance, particularly the questions:  “Why sit in silence when I’ve been given a voice? Why try to tone it down?” And the statement “The moment you begin to experience pain or discomfort is the moment you move forward”. Food for thought as they sent us off for lunch.

The First Aha

After lunch, the scheduled speaker was Dr. Sean Stephenson. I had seen a picture in the program of him, and it was evident he was a man with a story first and disabilities second. Dr. Sean blew me (and everybody else) out of the water with his passion, story, inspiration, and incredibly amazing presentation and persona. (There is an interview at the end of this post with Dr. Sean Stephenson, on overcoming self-doubt and creating happiness. If you have not heard him speak, it’s well worth a listen).

Sean talked about pain, which has been a significant part of his physical experience of life. He was born with a genetic disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bone” disorder. Most of his bones were broken during delivery, and he was not expected to live. Live he did, though throughout his lifetime pain and broken bones have been a constant in his life. Age 38 at the time of the conference, he stated he’d broken over 100 bones in his body. “Pain is part of the human experience. You can either run from the pain or choose the kind of pain you are in. Choosing your pain puts you in the driver’s seat. Ask yourself, Is this painful thing I am experiencing going to be a gift or a burden?” This resonated with me as a person and massage therapist. Pain of one sort or another is something we all share–and certainly, I thought, I’d like to use my long chronic pain history as a gift and let go of it as a burdensome thing.

Dr. Sean Stephenson

Sean also talked about insecurities, and I was definitely experiencing those. He stated, “The cure to insecurities is self-care, of the mind body and spirit.” He declared that self-care is the base of the human pyramid. “Without foundational self-nurturing, we cannot connect to our higher life purpose. To realize that higher life-purpose, we must surround ourselves with empowering people and an inspiring community.” What really resonated for me was his statement that it’s ok to immerse myself into self-care when I am feeling overwhelmed. That was all the permission I needed to make sure I was taking care of ME as I was also engaging with others and learning and “moving into” the whole weekend.

That evening I went on a hike alone to a nearby mountain, South Mountain, in the Phoenix foothills, walking distance from the hotel. I made a decision on that hike that I would open up to whatever might occur since I was there. To engage some, but also keep the boundary of self-care in the forefront of my mind too.

Day 2 — Playing Full Out

Saturday started with yoga on the lawn. The three of us used hotel pool towels and joined maybe 100 people also up to the same thing. I loved starting the day that way — as part of a group, yet still maintaining my self-care and becoming truly present with the day to come. We all figured this would be “sales-pitch” day, as we knew Carey and Stacey would want us to continue on with them for the Mastery Program. As I finished up yoga and donned my second-day business casual outfit, I remained strongly in the camp of no way, not me. I vowed that I’d absorb the teachings here, but remain detached and not let myself get swayed by any clever marketing strategies!

Morning yoga

The morning speaker on Day 2 was the CEO of HCI, Eric Neuner. His message focused on moving from scarcity to abundance and replacing “I don’t know” with “I wonder”. He talked about checking one’s inner dialogue, the things we tell ourselves about ourselves, and our life purpose. Eric’s message summed up: “Let your thoughts be in service to your open heart. Commit to only act from an open heart. Be a Heart Warrior.” Wow. I loved this man’s message and his words left me feeling warm and fuzzy and deeply inspired to take action from a place of love and authenticity. I let myself wonder what the rest of the weekend held in store.

Over lunch at the hotel pool, Katie and Tracey and I talked about Eric’s empowering presentation and how the retreat was going so far. I could tell my resistance to internalize the persuasive messages was softening. That morning we had been asked to create a statement about what we were there to spark the revolution of. Mine was simple — “I am here to spark the revolution of I matter, I am worth it, and I am playing full out”. Not just for me, but also what I stand for for others. It felt a little risky to state out loud my commitment to Play Full Out. What did that really mean, and was I really willing to do it?

The Second Aha

The second big aha came for me after lunch. Five speakers presented, and each of them was excellent. I most related to the one who used the phrase “From Survive to Thrive” as the theme of her story and her coaching business. That theme resonated deeply with me. On day one, Stacey and Carey had said in their opening remarks, “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. Your biology wants you to survive, but thriving is a choice.” I’d had that theme on my mind ever since, and I knew the message of choosing to thrive was one that inspired me personally and in my work with clients.

But the real kicker came at the end of the “from thrive to survive” speech when the presenter gave us a challenge. “All of us will leave here deeply inspired. Then we’ll return home and sometimes it’s hard to keep that momentum going. So before I close, I challenge you all to think of what the NEXT STEP is for you.” She gave us a moment.  “OK, got it? Now hold that in your heart, and commit to doing that next step either before you leave here this weekend or right after you get home.”

Can you guess what immediately popped into my head? “SIGN UP FOR MASTERY” my inner voice commanded. Damn, why did it have to be that? Now the idea was there. It was the thing my intuition seemed to think was the next logical step for my business, even if I didn’t want to agree.

L to R — Kathie, Katie, Stacey, Christel

That night roomies and I joined a couple, “tribe” member Christel and her husband Jeff, for fried food at Crabby Joe’s. We talked over dinner. I told all of them of what crazy thought had entered my previously resistant mind. After much discussion back and forth, I decided to wait until late morning and decide. We had learned in the afternoon (not surprisingly) that we would be given a significant discount if we signed up for Mastery at the event. Of the four of us participating, I was the only one thinking about signing on.

Day 3 — Trusting my Gut

I slept poorly on Saturday evening. I was awake late and up early, trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to make a hasty decision, but I also knew that if I wanted to take my coaching to the next level, I would need accountability and support. This would have to come from somewhere, and the most likely option was continuing on with HCI’s Mastery program.

I had a planned phone call with my sister at 6:00 am to sort this out. She is my closest friend and ally, and I knew she would give me an objective perspective and ask the hard questions too. She’d make sure I wasn’t just drinking the Kool-aide. I hastily left the hotel room in my Victoria’s Secret PJ’s, light jacket and tennis shoes, thinking the conversation would take place on a quick stroll around the hotel grounds. Instead, my legs carried me back up on South Mountain.

After an hour of talking to Kari, I felt 90% sure I would sign up for Mastery. But I still wanted to feel closer to 100%. When we hung up I was at a high point on the dusty, cactus-filled mountain, full morning sun blaring on my body. I was overdressed and sweating, and realized I had to get back down and shower and prepare for the day. When I turned around, I uncharacteristically asked the universe for a sign that would bridge the gap of the last 10%.

The Universe Delivers

As I walked quickly down the trail, nothing spectacular happened, and I started to doubt. I had until 11:30 that morning to commit (to get the deal offered only at the retreat) and I stayed open to possibility. Before returning to the room, I went into the hotel’s athletic club to use the bathroom. Two things happened there, one sign after the next from the universe.

View from South Mountain to Phoenix below

The first was that I ran into a woman who I’d seen running up on the mountain. She was also getting water at the athletic club. Turns out she was also a participant at the conference, and she was a graduate of the Mastery program. She was older, maybe late 50s or early 60s, and said she had no qualms about wholeheartedly recommending Mastery. I loved that she was using the tools she learned in her successful coaching business, and I took that as a powerful sign.

The second thing happened as I drank cup after cup of water and continued reflecting on the morning so far, wondering if the woman was my sign. Suddenly I let the song that was playing through the club’s speakers pierce my inner dialogue. It was Lee Ann Womack, I Hope You Dance. This song has great meaning for me for countless reasons, and I have never been able to listen to it without tearing up. This morning was no exception. Tears filled my eyes as I listened to the lyrics (italics added for the lines that hit me hardest):

I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack 

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance

I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

Dance

I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)

So there it was. I could choose. I could sit it out or I could dance.

I chose to Dance.

Here’s the interview with Dr. Sean Stephenson. Take a listen for a huge inspirational boost!