Last updated on June 21st, 2012 at 09:02 pm
We were sitting in a room called the “Braintank,” surrounded on three sides by whiteboards mounted on the walls, covered with scribbles in bright shades of marker.
Sierra, Karen and I were sharing stories from our own journeys about how we came to step into the role of being coaches, healers, and women dedicated to inspiring and empowering other women.
Along the way, over the course of a few inspiring hours as we shared our stories and brainstormed, Karen and Sierra helped me come up with “next steps” in the game plan for the vision for a dream that’s been in my heart for a while. More on that later…
Like me, Karen experienced trauma in her past, and like me, she was a “seeker,” looking for more inner peace and joy. She studied in all different traditions and modalities over the years, learning to be a healer, training as a yoga teacher and Reiki Master.
She became a Transpersonal Counselor, studying intuitive/spiritual counseling, and an ordained minister, and felt she was able to help people that way. But it still felt as though something was “missing,” and she was still searching.
It was a year-long course with Accomplishment Coaching that helped things “click” into place for her. They teach an “ontological” style of coaching, which essentially means that what matters in our lives is who we’re being, moment to moment.
Are we acting from our pure essence, our soul, or from our “survival mechanism,” or the patterns and fears that lead us to sometimes act in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others?
Karen felt like she’d found her calling. Coaching seemed to integrate aspects of all that she’d learned, and was a a fun and challenging way to help others.
Karen and her husband, Kevin, ended up partnering with Sierra and her husband, Rono, to form the “bricks and mortar” coaching center at LifeStylized, where coaching and events take place.
Sierra had started out working in production in LA, and got used to the long hours and wild pace of that life. She felt like something was “missing” sometimes, however.
One day, while in the grocery store, scanning the magazines on the racks, she realized with exasperation that none of the magazines felt like they were truly empowering to women. All of them seemed to be playing the comparison game, and making women feel inferior when we fall short, comparing ourselves to supermodels.
Sierra decided to go out there and find a magazine that was truly empowering to women, helping to build their self-esteem and to join women together to support each other in living their dreams. She searched and searched, but couldn’t find one!
So, she gathered eight women friends in her living room and The Ray was launched, first as an e-zine, and later becoming a full-color print magazine circulated to 20,000.
Sierra eventually transitioned out of her consulting work to run the magazine full-time, but found that she was spending the majority of her time selling ads, which didn’t make her soul soar. She knew she needed to make a change.
With her husband Rono, she decided to move back to her East Coast roots in New York and to launch a business there that could empower and inspire women in other ways. Thus, LifeStylized was born!
My career has always evolved organically. After I graduated from Princeton in 1995, I entered the world of PR & marketing, because I didn’t have the confidence yet that I could make a living as a writer.
I did freelance writing on the side, and worked for an arts council as their PR & marketing director. Over time, I got involved in the community where I live, Troy, New York, and much to my surprise, transformed myself into a community leader, working on all kinds of economic development and urban revitalization initiatives.
Eventually, people started asking me to run for office. I was very seriously considering it, but didn’t know yet for sure if it was what I wanted, or if I had what it takes.
I decided to head to graduate school to explore the concept further. I applied to a few programs, was accepted to all of them, and ultimately chose to go to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, because I couldn’t imagine possibly turning them down – it was simply too exciting to be admitted there!
My year spent earning my Master in Public Administration degree at the Kennedy School was one of the most fun, challenging, confidence-building and paradoxically humbling years of my life. Many of my classmates were world leaders, advisors to their presidents, ministers of finance, leading the charge in making large-scale global change.
I was just a community leader from a small town, but the principles we were using to create transformation were the same. I loved every minute of my year at Harvard.
Mayor of Troy?
While there, I had presented the vision to my class that I wanted to someday be the first female elected mayor of Troy, New York. I studied political leadership, performance management, best practices in cities.
I planned on returning to Troy after graduation and running for office in the not-too-distant future. Life had some other twists and turns in store for me, however. I ended up accepting a job with the mayor’s office in San Francisco, because it was too good of a learning opportunity to turn down.
I figured it would be temporary, but then my marriage fell apart and I decided not to return to Troy right away. I’d fallen in love with San Francisco, and wanted to live out my dreams there for a while.
San Francisco was also a very healing city for me. I finally started to deal with my own trauma from my past, which I’d simply buried for years. I studied with spiritual teachers, meditation teachers, Dharma teachers, yoga teachers, healing myself, seeking inner peace, which despite all of my external accomplishments had eluded me for years.
Back to Troy!
The Universe called me back to Troy, however, when my tenants accidentally set my house on fire in 2008. Oops! Back to Troy I went to put my house back together, and to resolve for myself whether or not I wanted to run for office, now.
The Democrats did ask me to run for office when I returned, but I realized that there was still so much I wanted to do with my life outside of the public arena – finish my book, travel, have a family – and I wasn’t ready to commit myself to that level of responsibility, or to be grounded here locally.
I opted not to, and ended up instead studying to be a coach myself, to integrate the different aspects of my training. I use both the strategic planning principles I learned at Harvard and elements of my spiritual teachings in my coaching, and recently completed a life training certification course with Martha Beck.
Coaching Women Leaders
This is where this story comes full circle! I’ve been harboring a dream in my heart to use my newfound coaching skills, and my political background, to coach women who are in elected office. I want to be able to support women leaders in both making the biggest possible difference, and living happy, healthy lives, taking care of their own needs along the way as well.
Somehow that came up in conversation with Sierra and Karen. They were full of helpful ideas about how I could make this happen, starting with reaching to my network of contacts in the political field and arranging an initial exploratory phone conversation with some female politicians to better understand the challenges currently facing them. And, they pledged to introduce me to a three-time Saratoga County Supervisor who had run for State Senate.
I’d been looking for a way to integrate my current work with my past government work, in a way that inspires and excites me, and this does. Somehow being in a “think-tank” room with other goddesses helped me gain some traction on it and get ready to take some first steps towards making it happen!
Reach Out For Brainstorming Help!
The moral of this story for me is that by bringing powerful women together, and brainstorming about how to create our brightest futures, we can help each other launch cherished dreams.
The amazing dreamers will be taking part, and who knows what we’ll launch as a result of bringing our energies together! I’m thankful for that opportunity.
This week, can you reach out to other women friends for help brainstorming your dreams? It’s time to be in action on the dreams you hold close to your heart!
Lisa Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on the Madam President Project or watch her TEDx speech on YouTube.
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