Finding what makes you happy can take help
Jenny Fenig holds a large-group seminar at Cranwell Resort. ”Much of our energy is focused on the essential inner work necessary to be a leader,” she says.
Photo by Scott Barrow
“There’s no such thing as a weakness, just a lesser strength,” recalls Julie Bishop of her first encounter with a life coach. At the time, Bishop was the vice president of a successful interior-design firm in Baltimore. “We were rebranding our mission and our vision, and my boss hired a personal coach for each VP to be able to work more sustainably.”
That experience was transformative, leading Bishop to start her design firm and prompting her move to the southern Berkshires in 2005 after having her second child. However, just two years later, she says she was burned out from overwork and knew something needed to change. “I had two young children, an unhealthy marriage, and I found that I had lost my spunk,” she says. “I actually forgot who I was.”
In an effort to reclaim her creativity and confidence, Bishop attended a personal-transformation workshop led by (now deceased) spiritual leader and author Debbie Ford. That’s when her career as a personal coach took root. Bishop then enrolled in an intensive, two-year training program at the Ford Institute in La Jolla, California, to become a Certified Integrative Courage and Leadership Coach. She has joined the ranks of many regional life coaches who offer a multitude of personal-growth services.
“Local clients come to me because they have found themselves at a crossroads and desire clarity of direction,” says Bishop. “Some are searching for fresh inspiration that has been eluding them in their creative passion for longer than they want to admit.”
The questions they have are profound: Should I leave my spouse? How can I finally pursue my dream job? Why do I have these self-destructive habits? Bishop works one-on-one with clients or in very small groups to get to the bottom of these queries.
Jenny Fenig, another Berkshire-based coach, has carved a niche utilizing the local landscape for large-group seminars and workshops geared more toward finding a social-media platform, essentially a launching point for individual’s “brand of voice,” especially for those who want to enter the realm of coaching.
“My live events and retreats provide fertile ground and a sacred container for business-minded female leaders to gather for connection, discovery, and up-leveling,” Fenig says. “You make more traction in a few days than you would in a few months.”
But be wary of “very formulaic, very standardized” coaching approaches “with a lot of franticness about them and a high price tag,” says Amber Chand. She is a self-taught visionary coach who has cultivated and trademarked her coaching style, The Visionary Journey, the heart of which is in-depth conversations and mapping out with clients what their future selves will look like.
“Everybody these days wants to be a life coach. You can go online and get a certification in under an hour,” she says. “But what does that even mean? I’ve incorporated my 30-year journey into my coaching program. I am an entrusted guide.” Many of Chand’s local clients, predominantly women, are “looking to launch their enterprises, change their career path, and discover some important life and entrepreneurial tools that will support their journey.”
In the land of creatives and the infamous Berkshire shuffle—piece-mealing projects to make ends meet—the ability to transition quickly and gracefully from one career and/or artistic path to the next is crucial to survival. And it isn’t easy. Lawrence Carroll is a native Australian and former high-school teacher (17 years in the trenches) who is now an educational consultant and Certified Professional Life Coach. His clientele reaches across the pond to Europe, Australia, and other lands, but he has noticed a trend here in the hills.
“They are struggling to find balance between their working and personal lives,” Carroll says. “These clients tend to find they are not happy with how much time and energy work takes up. They want to live healthier and happier times with their family or doing other things they love. I had one client who worked in IT and felt like he’d reached a dead end there. He just wanted to be a musician full time but there was pressure to support his family. For him, music was actually a deep spiritual yearning, and he didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.”
According to therapist Isabel Clark, LICSW, who runs a private practice and is a contracted family therapist through Berkshire Health Systems, what lies beneath needs to be dealt with before seeking out a life coach.
“The best time to start life coaching is when a person is in a fairly positive place in their lives or has completed traditional psychotherapy,” she says. “It is important to heal deeper hurts before trying to make surface life changes.”