Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Make Your Big Vision Real: Jennifer Lee of Artizen Coaching

"The people I see who are successful in bringing their vision to fruition are people who have a clear vision. They know where they are heading, they are excited and inspired by it, but they are holding it lightly. They don't need to figure everything out, and they are open to having opportunities come their way. They are receptive to how their vision is going to manifest." --Jennifer Lee, Artizen Coaching

Many of you have big visions for a better world and want to make a difference in 2009. I asked Jennifer Lee, founder of Artizen Coaching, to talk about how to find your purpose, make your big vision real, and deal with the fears that can come up when you pursue your dreams.

Jennifer is a certified coach, artist and yogini based in Oakland, California. She is the author of The Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book and the creator of the Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit. She was also featured in the book, The Girl's Guide to Kicking Your Career Into Gear and her art visioning work is showcased in The Vision Board: The Secret to an Extraordinary Life.

Below is the edited transcript from my Big Vision Podcast interview with Jennifer Lee from January 22, 2009.

If someone who you were coaching said, "I want to make a difference. I want to make the world a better place, but I'm not exactly sure what I want to do," how would you help them figure that out? What tips can you offer for figuring out what your purpose is?

Sometimes that feels so big, you know, they feel called to do something, but they don't know what it is. A place where we can start is looking at their values. What is most important to them? What makes them tick? It really shows what brings them alive. When they are in alignment with that, then things will come more easily. If they are clear on what their values are, they can take action from there.

Also, getting in touch with what's their essence? Who are they as a person? What is the impact they want to have in this world? From there, we can translate that into, what might that look like in a job, or a project that they might do in their community, so that they are bringing that out into the world, and serving people in whatever way is in line with their values.

Once people figure out how they want to make a difference, how do you help them figure out the steps to make it real?

A lot of times that is where people get stuck, their vision seems so big that they don't even know where to start, and that stops them. People might get stuck in the "how," and the entire plan. It becomes analysis paralysis. One of the places that we look to is, what's just one thing you can do now?

If they just start taking one step forward, then they can learn, was that the right thing to do? Was it not? How can I course correct? Pick a place to start from. It doesn't have to be the right thing, it doesn't necessarily have to be logical. Once you start building momentum, and you start getting feedback, and you engage people, then you will start knowing, "Oh this is really catching on," or "That wasn't so good," or "That wasn't what I expected." Pick up, move on, and just keep taking the next step.

I try and have them be confident enough to move forward and not worry about, "Is this is the actual right first step that I must take?" because that's what paralyzes them.

I would imagine fear is one of the biggest obstacles that people experience. Usually they're pursuing their dream, something they hold close to their heart. What are tips, exercises, or advice you give them to deal with that fear?

I would say that the fear often comes the loudest when you are onto something that is really big or really in line with what you want. In coaching, we have a term called the "gremlin" or the "saboteur." That's the voice inside your head, or the many voices that say, "I can't," or "You don't have enough degrees," or "How are you going to earn a living with that?" All of those doubts and questions, that is the gremlin. Gremlins like to keep things status quo. They don't like things to change. They don't want to rock the boat.

Of course, if you have a big dream, that's really going to change things in their world, and they don't like that. I often say that if you have these really loud voices in your head, and even in your life sometimes, like real people, it means that you are actually on your path. You are onto the right thing.

A friend told me once, "to move toward the roar." There is a story about lions in the Savannah in Africa. In the pride, the older lions will line up in front of gazelles, or other animals. The younger lions will be on the other side. The older lions will let out this big roar, and the gazelles will run in the other direction, towards the younger lions, who attack them. If they actually went towards the roar, they would have been able to outrun the older lions. I love that idea of "going toward the roar," 'cause it is actually easier.

In terms of other ways to get around the fear, it's acknowledging the gremlin voices, and asking, which you are going to listen to, or where is your higher self in that, and choosing to take action from there. Sometimes there is more than one gremlin. Sometimes there are other players that are in action in your head, or in your mind. Figure out how you can collaborate with them, and tap into them in a way that is going to serve your purpose.

I would imagine these days a lot of people's fears are particularly revolving around money. What advice are you giving to people about that? That's a big roar, right? How do you run into that one?

Yeah, it is a tough one. The reality is that we are facing tough economic times. It doesn't mean that big dreams have to wither on the vine. I think that we need to be smarter about how we spend our time and our energy. Sometimes that means that the project, or the idea that you have might take a little bit longer.

I have some clients who are choosing to stay in their job, and then build things on the side, but because they know they are putting focus and energy on their idea, or their project, they feel better. They are not going, "What am I doing with my life?" They have some focus, they have an end goal in mind, and they are still getting a paycheck.

Other people have taken the risk and said, "I need the time and the flexibility," so they are being more open to their job just being a job. They can make whatever money they need, so that they can focus on what they really want to create. There is the idea of just having a good enough job, being OK with that, and making that conscious choice so that they can focus on what they are really up to in the world.

The other thing that's really important is coming up with a budget. Knowing how much it is that you need to make in order to sustain yourself. A lot of times we think, "God, I don't have enough money," and in reality maybe you do, or you are resourceful and can find ways to get by. Once you know how much money you need to make, it's a lot easier to go out and make that money.

You've created two very interesting products, The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit and The Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book. Can you start by telling us a little bit about what The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit is, and how it works?

The Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit is basically all the inspiration, guidance and supplies you need to make a portable vision board. Vision boards are great because they can be a touchstone for your vision, and you have a visual reminder of what you are up to.

This kit takes you through a meditation to help you visualize what you want in different aspects of your personal life, and then guides you through how you would go about making the vision boards,collaging, things like that. Then, it moves into an action plan, so that it's not just this pretty thing that you made, but you actually are taking some steps to make it happen.

It would be great for someone, especially in the beginning of the year, to do some visioning around what their goals are for the year. It's for anyone who wants to have a creative way to look at their life, and to have a reminder of what they want to create. People who are scared of arts and crafts can do it too because it's actually pretty easy!

You've also written and created the Right-Brain Business Plan e-Book. How does it work?

The idea behind the Right-Brain Business Plan is that a lot of creative people, lots of entrepreneurs who are just starting out, get really freaked out by the idea of, "I have to have a business plan." That's the first thing that people ask about, and it's scary, because a lot of us don't know how to do it. Then they end up not doing it, which I think is a big problem. They don't know where they are heading, and they don't know what it takes to get there.

The Right-Brain Business Plan is a creative way to access the vision and get things on paper. I think that's the most important thing, getting it on paper whether that be via a collage, a mind map, anything. This is really giving people permission to plan in a way that's accessible to them, but it's not a scary, horrible, painful, yucky thing. They can make it as fun and enjoyable as they want.

The e-book takes you through a process of visioning for your business and helps you come up with your action plan and goals around your business in a creative way that works for you.

What's the path that brought you to this work? How long have you been coaching? I know you particularly work with entrepreneurs and artists, yes?

I work with professionals; a lot of people are in the corporate world and want to leave. I tend to attract that. Part of my path was being in the corporate world for 10 years doing consulting, doing change management work, and realizing that although it was intellectually stimulating and interesting, and I enjoyed it, it wasn't what brought me alive.

I found out about coaching by having my own coach several years ago, and I really enjoyed the process. It was so eye opening, "Oh, I get to make choices based on what I think is important for me, and then live a more authentic life. Who knew?" I thought eventually I would want to get into that work. It took me a few years to actually go through the training. I went through the training, I guess, six years ago.

I was doing that on the side, while I was in my corporate job, so that was the path I chose to take, building it up on the side. I didn't know where it was going, it was just interesting to me. I knew I had a passion around it, and it was nice to still be getting a paycheck while I was paying for the training. There is a lot of upfront investment.

I decided to quit my job in the spring of 2006. I had just lead a leadership retreat out in Chicago, and it was amazing to see the transformations that people had in just three days. They showed up the first day and were kind of scared like, "What am I doing here?" By the third day of the first retreat, they were so much more alive, and knew who they were as people, and as leaders.

It was just amazing to see that unfold in three days. When I went back to work, it was like the soul was sucked out of me, like, "Why am I here, I'm not making the difference that I need to be making." I had a very visceral reaction and decided, "OK, now is the time to make the leap and really focus on my passion."

What advice do you have for people making that transition, that leap to going full on for their dream?

The biggest thing I think is having a support structure, that goes alongside with having a big vision. Visions don't happen in a vacuum. You need to have people around you who can support you, and can encourage you. I don't have all of the skills needed to run a business. I outsource some things to people.

Two products that I made, my kits, would not have happened without my designer. I am an artistic, creative person. I had visions of what it would look like, but I was having trouble executing it, and I had other things to do. By having help, by reaching out to people and making requests, it's a lot easier to make that leap rather than just feeling like you are out on a limb by yourself.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in becoming coaches themselves?

I would say go for it. The world needs more coaches! The first thing would be, if you haven't already, get a coach yourself so that you can experience what the process is. Like I said, for my own story, that was really important for me to realize what was possible in my life, and to actually have the experience of making that happen, so that I could help others do the same.

There are lots of different training schools out there. I would recommend going to one that's accredited by the ICF, which is the International Coach Federation.

There are lots of different coaching chapters that you can visit and meet other coaches. I think for any job, it's great to go and talk to people who are doing it now, ask them questions, and get to know what their challenges were and how they made the transition. Talk to people and reach out.

What are the most common obstacles you see to people achieving their big visions, and what are the most common qualities that bring success?

The biggest obstacle is people getting stuck in the "how to" scenario. We talked about that a little bit. They want to figure out everything before they get started. Also, not allowing themselves to dream big enough. I see that happen a lot where people are like, "Oh my gosh, do I dare to dream that it's even possible?" They don't believe that it can actually happen, so that is definitely an obstacle. The other obstacle is trying to do it all by themselves, and not asking for help.

The people I see who are successful in bringing their vision to fruition are people who have a clear vision. They know where they are heading, they are excited and inspired by it, but they are holding it lightly. They don't need to figure everything out, and they are open to having opportunities come their way. They are receptive to how their vision is going to manifest.

The other big thing is that they are willing to take risks, and put themselves out there. It's scary, and that's where the traction starts happening. When they put themselves out there, they take risks, and take action. It's not just a thought in their head any more, it's out there in the world, and that's where it starts to snowball and get bigger.

Is there anything else that you would like to tell folks about your work, about achieving their big visions, or anything else you want to share?

I'd like to say that I think everybody has a vision, and to not think, "Oh my gosh, I don't think I know how I want to impact the world." I think a lot of times people think, "What's the change I want to make in the world? Oh my gosh, that's just too beyond me, too big." It doesn't need to look that way. You don't need to solve world hunger.

Or if you want to, great, because we need that, but it can also be, how can you make a difference in someone's life? Maybe it's in your family, maybe it's in your neighborhood community, maybe it's at work where you see a need for people to come together in more connection. Whatever it is, see where there is a need, and align it with what you are passionate about, what your values are, and what brings you alive.

Then, when you are leading that effort, people are going to be very engaged by you, and they are going to want a piece of that for themselves, because isn't it all better when we are authentic and aligned and happy? It can look a lot of different ways.

Related blogs
Jennifer Lee's Life Unfolds
Green Career Central
Commongood Careers

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  1. Loved the interview. All great points on how to discover your purpose and the reasons why we fear living it.

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it Brandon (:

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