Interview with Lisa Zahn, Coaching for Clarity and Joy

26 Feb 2014

Posted by karen
karen's picture

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Zahn, a life coach and woman of varied skills, interests and roles.

It was December. I was in a work flatline slump (thankfully, I was still breathing!). Through an online meandering, I discovered Lisa's website and knew I wanted to connect with a woman who is 'living the life of her dreams'. Making contact and arranging a coaching session via Skype went seamless. The coaching session gave me precisely the clarity I needed - Lisa asking the right questions to help me identify some blockages - and equally as important, working together to arrive at some practical and personal steps how to move forward. A plan and accountability. Knowing I was checking in with Lisa three weeks later kept me honest! It is still working - to this very day, as returning to a writing routine was one of my roadblocks. Part of my personal action plan was writing an interview for Lisa and now I get to share the other half of our interview exchange. We all have seasons when we need help - please read on and meet Lisa, a wholehearted, professionally trained life coach who can help 'transform your everyday life'.

 Please tell me about yourself and what is your work as a life coach? How is coaching different or similar to consulting?

The heart of my work is one-on-one coaching with clients who are feeling stuck or uncertain in their lives and want to move forward but need clarity on what they want and how they'll get there. I also write my blog (and now a new ecourse on self-kindness) and plan to lead workshops and retreats. My coaching style is called Co-active Coaching and it's different from consulting in that we meet our clients where they're at and consider them to be the experts in their own lives. This doesn't mean coaches like me don't have expertise and sometimes offer it, but a cornerstone of my model is that my client is naturally resourceful, creative and whole and I get to work with them to draw that out and, hopefully, evoke their own transformation. I get to be a catalyst, in other words.

I love this on your blog: coaching for clarity and joy. Can you elaborate on why you chose that for a tagline? 

Joy is one of my favorite words! I truly believe that, like Christian monk and mystic Henri Nouwen said once, "We have to choose joy and keep choosing it." I want to help people find their joy and choose it. We can do that through the practices of gratitude and vulnerability, and through creating places and communities where it's safe to be open to joy. I also know what it's like to lack clarity, to be stuck and uncertain of how to move forward. I can coach clients to move out of that, using coaching tools like asking powerful questions, finding metaphor, articulating what's going on, and acknowledging, championing and reframing. One of my favorite ways to find new clarity is to reframe what my client thinks is a character flaw into a gift.

What is it about your work that you would identify as the drawing card (or would like it to be) for people to seek out your services as a life coach?

I want to work with thoughtful, smart people who are ready to move out of stuckness--out of the boxes they or society have put them in--and move into a transformed life of joy and clarity. It's not easy and it's a continuous work in progress, but I know it's possible because I myself have been living this way. I have needed coaching to move out of my own boxes, so I know the power of having someone on your side, an objective listener and voice for your best life.

We share some things in common – knitting, gardening, keen on the healing power of herbs, married to the love of my life (over 40 years!). I’m curious to hear the story how you arrived at your current career, including the changes made after being a full-time Mom.

Gosh, it's been a long journey! Who would want life to be any other way, really? One of my other favorite quotes is by Seneca "It takes a lifetime to learn how to live." There is so much grace and optimism in that quote, and I feel I'm living it by continuously learning and stepping into new things. I found coaching through a friend. She introduced it to me and we ended up going through training together last summer, one of the best things I've ever done (thanks, Meg!). 

My background and education is in the ministry where I studied to be a Lutheran Pastor and served as Intern Pastor (Vicar) and Chaplain. Getting married and raising my kids was my true calling, however, and I happily stayed home for many years, all the while dabbling in those things you listed. Now that my kids are teens, it was time for me to find something to really take up my time so I wouldn't hover over their lives so much. I actually applied to finish my Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling but knew I didn't want to work for the church again. I wanted my own business, and I knew coaching was the right model of work for me within the first 12 minutes of practice coaching someone during training.

There are so many opportunities for growth, personally and in our work. How do you navigate through all the clutter of the options – and within that potential, are there future areas of learning that resonate with your calling?

I know exactly what you're talking about! Just in the last few days I've been de-cluttering my email inbox and Facebook newsfeed as much as possible because it IS overwhelming. As someone who loves to learn, it's hard to shut it off. Your word "resonate" is perfect because I've been finding that the only way to decide who to pay attention to, what to learn and where, is to ask myself what truly resonates with me, say 'yes' to those and 'no' to the rest.

Areas of learning that are calling to me right now are in the area of personal growth and helping my clients navigate personal growth. I'm very interested in teaching about self-kindness and compassion because I see that too many of us are very hard on ourselves and we make our lives unnecessarily hard that way.
I will continue to work with that word JOY and bring it to others in the form of one-on-one coaching, retreats and workshops. In my new email freebie, my ecourse called Stop Being Mean to Yourself: 4 Commitments to Self-Kindness (accessed free via my website sign-up form), I've developed a framework toward loving ourselves that involves making joyful choices, learning self-awareness and self-acceptance, and being compelled by our values and purpose. I intend to keep thinking, learning and teaching on those themes.

As you know, nutrition and wellness (teaching, consulting, coaching) is my passion and work. How do you feel about your journey of developing healthy habits? If there are especially challenging areas, how do you make peace with them and remain open to making healthy changes? 

This is a great question and I think I could use some coaching on it! One thing I have been asking myself lately is "what would be the kindest thing to do for myself right now?" Whether it's about work or rest, what to eat, or how and when to move my body, looking at what's 'kindest' really helps. The kind thing is often not the easy thing! It sometimes involves eating oatmeal with yogurt instead of a bagel with cream cheese, or getting dressed instead of lazing around in my pajamas all day, or getting a task completed so I can truly feel at rest when I'm done. I'd like to look at getting more exercise in this way. The kindest thing has to be something I enjoy (I like oatmeal as well as bagels, truly. I do need to move my body more, and in ways that will give me some more muscle strength and energy as I age.
That said, I am quite forgiving of myself on these types of things, because I am certainly not perfect. I don't dwell in the past but instead try to keep moving forward. I have quite a positive body image, for the most part, and that helps a great deal in motivating me to take good care of my health. I believe strongly in focusing on nourishment rather than punishment. 


Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your story: it's been great getting to know you. I will be happy to coach you on developing those healthy habits. P.S. Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose photos that conveyed my perception of your supportive and joyful coaching!

If you would like to know more about Lisa and her work, please contact her through her website.

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