Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hot Mama Interview with Kate Courageous!

Why take big risks? Cross huge thresholds? Put yourself through the agony of facing your fears? (And do you have to experience agony when facing your fears??) What's waiting on the other end of Courage? And how can you find out?

This is what coaching can help unearth: the power you've always had, but seemingly lost.

My friend Kate Swoboda, aka Kate Courageous, is a courage-expert, dream-manifestor, and limiting-assumption-breaking-Queen. She was also my coach for a few months leading up to the blast off of our grand bicycle adventure. As fears about death and inadequacy circled my psyche, Kate helped me unravel the unhelpful stories I was holding--stories that were holding me back. She helped me notice and move past my fears so I could explore whole-heartedly what life had in store for me.

Bonus:: Info on bomb-ass Coaching Blueprint that's 'bout to be hot off the press, and in pre-order mode ahora.


Hey Kate! First of all, want to take a stab at any of the questions above?

Absolutely: Take big risks, cross huge thresholds, and put yourself through the agony of facing fears because the process itself, as well as the end result, all goes into the mixed bag of living 100% fully alive. Does it have to be agony? No. Does it often feel that way? Yes. Are we in choice? Completely.

Okay... Let's get personal. What was your most recent encounter with Big Fear and how did you choose to respond?Okay... Let's get personal. What was your most recent encounter with Big Fear and how did you choose to respond?

My most recent encounter with Big Fear was quite recent: starting a Master’s in Counseling program. I had taken all of the pre-requisites, applied to grad school, gone through an application process and interview, and moved myself and my boyfriend to a new city. Within the first week, I “just knew”: the timing for being in school again was completely off. Grad school was not bad, the program was not bad, the city was not bad, nothing was bad--the timing was just off because a lot had shifted in the 9 months since I first applied. I knew that I needed to honor that, but I was afraid of blowing this big opportunity. I also felt really guilty--someone else, somewhere, received a rejection letter to the program while I was let in.

How I did I choose to respond? By crying a lot--and being with that wave of fear. I turned over the Stories that were coming up. I had Stories that I was being a flake, Stories of embarrassment, Stories that this had something to do with my identity. I reached out for support. Reading all of this, you might think that it was pretty simple. It felt really, really awful. There are no shortcuts. Then I took a deep breath and got honest with my Department Chair. The great thing is this--they were amenable to my taking a leave of absence.

Can you break this down into a practice we can try at home?

When you’re feeling afraid, feel the feelings that can go along with that.

Cry! Or just sit and breathe. Or beat the shit out of a pillow. Or journal like crazy. Choose something that is the opposite of your natural tendency (if you avoid crying, for instance, go there first--if you’re always crying and getting upset, try silently meditating).There’s a real preoccupation in our culture with trying to be calm and contained when we’re dealing with something big, and the consumer media has just about convinced us that it’s supposed to be simple and easy.

Dealing with hard stuff is not simple or easy--and it’s okay that it’s not easy. I genuinely believe that there’s a bigger purpose in working through pain. At the very least, it teaches us out to be allies for others.

Why do all of that? Because when we do, we’re using our bodies to birth our answers. There’s an energetic stuckness that releases and a clarity that comes.

How did your courageous journey begin, and what's been the biggest change you've seen in your life since?

It’s your typical story of a dysfunctional family dynamic and some pain in childhood--eating disorders, cutting, depression, thoughts of suicide. Throughout all of that, though, I had this real internal will or drive; you could say that some of my self-righteousness ended up being helpful to me because I was stubborn in my belief that the way my family showed up was wrong and I was right. We’ll call it self-righteousness as a survival mechanism. ;-)

I was always practicing courage, which is: feeling afraid, diving in anyway, and transforming. Over the years, I’ve unfolded more and more into just being with that process and that fear, rather than white-knuckling my courage practice.

In this moment, what comes to me is that the biggest change is seeing that as I become more comfortable with my fear, I also become more gentle. One would expect the opposite--that more courage equals more ferocity. I’m seeing more ferocious love in my life, but not more ferocious fighting or defense of my vision.

How about the dark side of Courageous Living? What new challenges often emerge for you or your clients when you embody a bold and courageous version of self? (And how do you respond?)

What’s tricky is that often, the shadows will loom larger because you’re putting more attention on them as you work with them. There is a phase where things seem worse, harder, more complicated. Almost everyone in that phase will say that things were better, before, and ask themselves why they bothered to start this journey, or work with a coach, or “who needs that workshop”, or they put down the book, or they turn to their default distraction. No one feels peachy-keen about working with what comes up, not even me.

So why work with it? I’ll use the metaphor of going for a run: When you go out for a run, at first your body protests (sometimes it even protests the entire time). It doesn’t feel good. So why are there so many crazy-ass runners out there? Because of the bigger picture--more energy, eating whatever you want, feeling happier, a longer life, stronger bones, the endorphin rush, the release of stress, the camaraderie with other runners. The runners who stick with it stop fighting the hard parts and find some way of learning to be with that initial mile where everything in them says, “This blows.”

That’s how I and so many others feel when we know we’re working with something that just feels...gross. We just keep labeling it: “This feels gross” and seeing if that shifts. Or perhaps we allow ourselves to be pissed that it feels gross. Perhaps we reframe it and start saying, “Thank you” for the gross-ness because that puts it in the place of trusting that there is a bigger picture. Perhaps we get curious about it and decide that we’re going to explore the “gross” to its absolute limit.

Whatever one does, and it needn’t be dramatic, my invitation is to not avoid the gross feelings, because the same lid that we put on ourselves to keep from feeling the gross stuff, is the same lid that covers everything joyful, enlivened, juicy, excited and inspired.

You're always full of inspiring concepts and quotes (your own and others). What words of wisdom are you living by these days?

Oh, you’ve got me now! I am such a quote collector. Lately I’ve really loved this from Pema Chodron: “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.” Also: “The people who irritate us are the ones who inevitably blow our cover.”

I'm really excited about your most recent project--The Coaching Blueprint--for new and aspiring coaches. How did this dream come into being and what are you most thrilled to be offering?

I’ll be frank--I dealt with a ton of fear as I started my coaching practice. In 2008, I tried to go from part-time to full-time with it, and ended up not being able to make ends meet. That was really humbling. In 2010, I embarked on the same journey, and started to see many of the same bumps in the road--but this time, I course-corrected more, studied more, listened more, tried more. Now that I “get” what is helpful and what isn’t, I want to share that with others.

The Blueprint is exactly what I wish I would have had when I started my coaching practice, because it would have saved me a lot of time and money--and let me know that I was not alone in my experience.

The Coaching Blueprint is a downloadable e-program for new and emerging coaches who want to create a fulfilling and successful practice--emphasis on “fulfilling” because it needs to feel good. It’s covering building a strong foundation, marketing practices, and growing beyond one-on-one clients. Along the way, I interviewed 10 other coaches and 2 counselors on how they created their practices: Pam Slim, Julie Daley, Michael Bungay Stanier, Steve Bearman, Jennifer Lee, Michelle Ward, Tanya Geisler, Dyana Valentine, Tara Gentile, Jamie Ridler, Tara Sophia Mohr and Bridget Pilloud.

Kate... You continue to amaze me with your passion and motivation to help others rock their life-visions. A hundred gratitudes for this beautiful, insightful interview. And wishing you heaps of success in all you do!

If you're interested in hearing more from Kate, head over to her site: and sign up for her list-serve! Top-notch, people. Promise.

The Blueprint is available for pre-order HERE and there's even a snazzy list-serve for people interested in learning more. Again, I could't recommend it enough. So quality.
Go forth with courage, friends. Believing in your brilliance as always. xo

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