"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." ~ Emily Dickinson
Today I have Laura Neff here, from More in You Life Leadership Coaching. Laura is a caring and compassionate friend, and the more I get to know her, the more this just shines through so brightly! She is an amazing woman, and someone who truly shines at living life openly and authentically.
Join me, as I sit down with Laura and we touch upon how life has brought her to where she is today.
1. Tell us a little bit about who "you" are (family, career, any special life experiences you’d like to share, etc.)
Lance, I think you started out with the toughest question of all! But I’ll give it my best shot. First, I am a wife to my love, Robert. We met nine years ago here in North Carolina through a local whitewater kayaking club, and three short weeks after the first “hi,” before we’d even kissed, hugged, or held hands, we had “the” conversation…the one that goes, “Well, I…I’m terrified to say this because I don’t know if you’ll go screaming the other way…but, I…I think you’re the one!” “I feel the same way!” “What now?” “I have no idea, but can I kiss you?” “Yes!”) Nine years later, we work hard on keeping our relationship healthy and strong, and we stumble sometimes, but we help one another back up, and we make sure we always have a good support system in place. Two years ago, we gathered with many dear friends and family members and got married under a huge Oak tree in our back yard. We live on just over two acres of land and on our “farmette” have a dog, three cats, and two chickens who make us laugh and give us two eggs a day!
I’m a corporate escapee who’s played and dabbled in lots of vocational arenas since (like corporate communications consulting, writing/editing, teaching English, organic farming, working in a riverside coffee shop/café in Colorado, managing a retail bead shop/teaching people how to get in touch with their creativity/making & selling my own jewelry, etc.). All those forays were adding puzzle pieces to the larger picture, which became clear about four years ago, when I dove into life coach training & certification. Now, I’m a Life Leadership coach with a home office and thriving practice, and I can’t imagine doing anything else! (Except for my newest venture, which is to found and launch the International Alliance of Midlife Women [IAMWomen]. Stay tuned for more on that. )
I’m the youngest of seven in a family that resembles the Brady Bunch, except when Mike (aka my dad, Bob) and Carol (aka my mom, Ellen) married, they had one more…me!
And I’m so blessed to have many, many incredible dear, wise, funny, strong friends in my life. Seriously, life is good!
Lance's Commentary: See, Laura…it's all part of my plan to get the hardest questions done first!!
One of my favorite family vacations was a week-long whitewater rafting trip in Idaho. So, I would LOVE to hear some of the stories you have from kayaking! And to you and Robert…sometimes you just "know"….chickens and all. What I also read in here is that life has truly been a journey for you…and one that has led to where you are today. I suppose for all of us, this is true. Still, there is something very connecting about reading the directions you have went in life, and to where that all puts you today. Laura, I love it!!
And I just can really feel that "life is good" whenever we talk! You embody those words so wonderfully!!
2. What led you to start your Life Leadership coaching practice?
In the years before realizing that coaching was what all those puzzle pieces added up to, I could literally feel the angst, tension, nagging, and sometimes real pain of living a life on the outside that did not match who I was on the inside. (This was especially true for me in Corporate America, but also in the years after that, though to a lesser degree.) And, thankfully, I realized early in my adult life that no one else was going to correct that angst/tension/nagging/pain for me. And so the circuitous route I forged was one that held all the key elements of Life Leadership: being fully at choice and taking full responsibility for my life, gaining more and more clarity on who I wanted/needed to be and what was next for me, becoming conscious for the choices I was making and their impact, becoming closely acquainted with my courage, and along the whole way, learning how to recognize and work with my fear. Since then, I’ve worked, played, learned from, tripped over, lost & found, and experimented with all of these elements myself and with anyone and everyone around me who was willing.
In short, this work is who I am. It’s the talk I’ve gotta walk. As a dear friend says of vocation, coaching, for me, is “that which I can’t not do.”
Lance's Commentary: Just from our conversations, I get a couple of very strong feelings. One is that you care. That's such a wonderful quality, and one that I really believe is you, at your core. The other strong feeling I get is that you are very much vested in "walking the talk"…that what you say is what you do. There is a comfort level in all of this – one that makes talking with you so easy.
3. What’s one thing that has happened from going down this path that has been a real surprise, and what has it meant to you?
Definitely the challenge and realization of what it is to come into my own as a business owner.
I’m an entrepreneurial girl at heart, but I’m also someone who, when I’m not awake at my own wheel, can dive into a new venture without really thinking through what it will entail or look like. Being committed to my coaching practice as a lifelong and ongoing expression of who I am but also as a well-functioning business has meant slowly unfolding into my fullness as a business owner and all that responsibly entails. Often it feels as if my “business owner shoes” are still too big, and I’m playing grown up, toddling around trying to keep them from falling off. But I can tell my feet are growing, slowly but surely!
What this has meant to me is a new layer of my understanding of responsibility, and also it’s helped in my lifelong journey to grow out of my self-perception of “little sister” and into a new identity of “grown, capable woman.” (You youngest siblings out there know what I mean!)
Lance's Commentary: Laura, everything I see points to you most definitely as a "grown, capable woman"! You know…just so you know…
4. Life has an interesting way of presenting us with some unique opportunities. Tell us some way life has brought you to where you are today.
I love this one! When I was 25, I very unexpectedly spent five months in a hospital and on bed rest due to a mysterious internal spinal fluid leak, and that time has made all the difference.
Throughout those months, if I stood up or sat up, I’d be instantly gripped with such a blinding, nauseating headache that all I could do was get horizontal again as quickly as possible and wait for the pain to subside. Consequently, I spent much of that time staring at ceilings or out windows, increasingly frustrated about missing my life.
Over time and with much thought, I started becoming conscious of the fact that I’m given the gifts of time and energy every single day and that I’d been taking them completely for granted. I examined my life…the work I was doing, the people I surrounded myself with, the way I had been spending that time and energy, the flippant choices I was making. And I started to wake up to the fact that if I let my life continue on the trajectory it was on (one that had largely been defined by other people), I would get to retirement age, look back, and not be able to see a single speck of tangible, real difference because of how I was choosing to spend my time and energy. I would have unalterable regrets.
So that was the beginning of what, to me, felt like a real awakening. It led to the realization that no one was going to shift that trajectory for me, and it started my journey of understanding who I was, what made me tick, and what resonated deeply within me, and from that place of resonance, what I have to offer the world that can truly make a difference. It took four more years before I was ready to make a leap, but the beginning of the journey was undeniable, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Lance's Commentary: Laura, what a great story of how something that seems "bad" can really end up being so, so good! And that's reminder to me, in any moment that I might feel like "woe is me", that really there can be so much good that might come from this….if I just open my eyes (and my heart) to what can be.
5. You have recently started a new program in your coaching – the Circles of Six. Would you share what this is, and who it’s geared toward.
Yes! I’m so psyched about this!
Circles of Six are small group coaching at its best. Basically, six individuals come together to form a Circle that works together via conference calls and in an online forum for a minimum of six months. The Circles are led and facilitated by me, and everyone has at least one thing in common: they’re committed to their own growth, and they want to experience that growth in a supportive, community-oriented way.
There are three kinds of Circles coming together right now:
- One for women in midlife who need a structure in which they can pause, take stock of their lives to date, and plan for the second half,
- One for folks who need to get searingly clear on their goals and then be held accountable in a very strong way as they move forward, and
- One that has each member digging deeply into the five key elements of Life Leadership (Choice, Clarity, Consciousness, Courage & Fear), using them to move forward in a meaningful way in their lives.
Regardless of which Circle someone’s in, each person gets clear on what their goals are for our time together, they learn from me and one another along the way, they get coached, and they provide steady and loving support to their Circlemates. And, a side benefit to small group (or any sized group) coaching is that it’s often less expensive than one-on-one coaching. I’m so glad to add this offering to my list of services because it expands the range of options, making Life Leadership available to lots more people.
I have a web page with lots of details on the Circles of Six program offerings.
Lance's Commentary: You know what? I am so psyched about this too!! I think the whole concept behind group coaching sessions can be so positive. I have participated in one other group coaching session, and found it to be so beneficial in moving me forward and beyond some of the fears that were holding me back at the time. And…as I continue to move forward in life…it's time, once again, to get beyond some of the barriers that are holding me back from fully living. So, I'm excited to be a part of this program, too!
6. Deep down, Laura, what makes you, “you”?
Big smile here, Lance! There’s a core of me, deep inside, that is unique but that is also connected to every other living thing on this planet. What makes me “me” is that core, and the fact of my slowly-increasing awareness of its nature, what it wants, how it moves, what makes it tick, what brings it joy and pain, what it’s here for. And what makes me “me” is also everything and everyone around me, and how my core is in relation to everything else. It’s a dance that happens all day, every day…the dance of my core and the Universe, the finite and the infinite and vice versa. Oh, and beautiful people like you who create thought-and-heart-provoking questions like these to help me remember who I am and what makes me “me.” Thank you for all that YOU are, Lance! You are such a gift to all of us!
Lance's Commentary: Understanding how we "tick"…I love that thought, Laura! When we can strip away the outer influences in our life, and see clearly into what is at our core…what an amazing place to reach! I sense this very much from our conversations…that this is a place you have visited often, and one that brings much direction and focus into your life. Keep dancing, my friend!!!
Closing Thoughts: Laura, thank you so much for being here today, and for sharing more about who "you" are! I think we have known each other for about a year, and in that time I have really come to appreciate all that you share. You are a shining example of what is right and good in this world, and it's an honor to work with you, and to call you "friend" as well.
As I think about the Emily Dickinson quote above…Laura, know that my life is sweeter because our paths have crossed. You have an energy about you that is both deeply connecting and filled with life. And in that, you bring out life, as you shine yours so beautifully out into the world!