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Blog

Welcome to my blog, where you'll find substantive, well-researched articles that blend neuroscience, philosophy, poetry, personal reflection, and the latest life coaching tools in service of helping people engage their full potential. 

 

Filtering by Tag: Transition

The Power of Thresholds: 10 Guideposts for Transition

Kirstin Hotelling Zona

Like the mechanism of the beating heart, or the process of birth shared by all mammals, creativity is born not by way of unwavering action, but through the pulse of contraction: surges of energy born on the back of quiet periods that appear, to the observer, so still as to be lifeless: the winter tree shorn of leaves, the tangle of brittle stalks upon which last year’s peonies balanced and billowed, the birthing woman sunk in sudden sleep between the volcanic heaves of her womb’s sharp cinch and release.

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Why I Coach

Kirstin Hotelling Zona

Welcome to my new blog! I’m so happy to have you here.

While thinking about what I wanted to say in my first blog post, I kept coming back to the woman I was before I started my own journey, and the women I now work with: Why do I attract and work with the women I do? What do I teach them, and just as importantly, what do they teach me? It feels important, in this foundational post, to start here, in the whys and hows of not only who I am as a coach, but with why it’s you I want to connect with.

As women, we’re conditioned to be caretakers (a role whose flip side is also the "nag"). If you are a woman who works in any of the caring professions—a physician, a nurse, a midwife; a professor, a teacher; a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor; a stay-at-home mom—you have also come of age professionally in a work culture wherein "success" is often equated with, and even measured by, self-sacrifice: extra-long hours, chronic busyness, and expectations of availability (emotional and well as physical) that can leave you feeling trapped by and resentful of the very work that provides you with a strong sense of purpose. As a result, it can be especially difficult for you to clearly identify, let alone act upon, the restlessness or dissatisfaction you may feel in your life, especially as you reach your 40s and 50s and are afforded a chance to pause, look back, and seriously consider what's ahead.

Does this ring true for you? It did for me. As a successful tenured professor at a research institution, a writer, a devoted mother of two, and a wife of nearly 20 years, my own unhappiness reached a fever pitch about four years ago. Habituated to putting others' needs before my own—and taking pride in doing so—my internal unrest became a deep and shadowy source of guilt and shame: Who am *I* to feel unhappy? What I do really matters, so how could I be dissatisfied? I've got it all, so what's wrong with me?

In both my personal and professional experience, women in the caring professions struggle in particular—often silently and agonizingly—to make sense of their own internal dis-ease. To others, our lives look not only highly successful, but noble and rewarding. Admitting our unhappiness, even to those we love, can often incur surprise and disbelief, responses that can reinforce our tendency to mistrust our inner knowing, a tendency that I was blind to in myself. Consequently, we come to fear, and believe, that *we* are the problem: that if we weren't so irritable, so edgy, so selfish, everything would be fine. We accommodate marriages that leave us feeling cold. We spread ourselves too thin, sometimes dangerously so, to prove how capable and caring we are. We do so much, but don't feel like we do enough. We start to think, in a back-of-the-brain, hazy sort of way, that something’s missing, isn’t right …. But we don't know where to turn, what to do. And if we think we might know, we second-guess and mistrust that knowing: we are living, after all, the very life we worked so hard to create.

It’s at this point in my own journey that I hired a life coach, and with her help, transformed my life. In future posts I’ll be diving deep into this process and what I've learned (about the nature of desire, about marriage and divorce, about divorcing with kids, about codependency, about healing, about self-trust, about addiction, about how to make lasting change in your life), but for now, I’ll say that coaching is about managing our minds—becoming aware of the long-standing, normalized, and often non-conscious habits of thinking that once served us but that no longer do—and learning to feel the feelings we’ve taught ourselves to avoid. These skills are key to shifting out of resentment, self-blame, and sabotage into resilience, self-compassion, and intentional action. Learning to coach ourselves is a total game-changer: these skills make all the difference between a life of “almosts” (I almost started the business I dreamed of, I almost wrote the book I wanted to write, I almost commited to the love of my life, I almost left my marriage, I almost traveled the world, I almost was the mother I wanted to be, I almost helped the people I really wanted to reach, I almost became the woman I know I can be…) and a life in which we feel fully alive, totally engaged with our creative potential, and enveloped by possibility.

Throughout my life I've always been drawn to and fascinated by human potential: as a teenager and twenty-something, I explored this fascination by way of drawing. I'd sit in cafes, bookstores, libraries, at bus stops, docks, and playgrounds, and sketch the people I saw, paying special attention to eyes, hands, and the particular slope and stretch of the neck and upper back. In my 30s, I married, had children, and dove into my academic life as a scholar and teacher. I also read, wrote, and published a lot of poetry, compelled by the depths of feeling and insight I encountered there. Poetry taught me about the power of ambiguity (as opposed to ambivalence), and paradox, and the limits of either/or thinking-- how, that is, to stay engaged in the face of both strong feeling and uncertainty.

In recent years, I've studied a wide range of contemplative practices, and have sought and learned about healing as a process and a mindset. I've also divorced, started a new career, and transformed my life from the inside out. Though my decision to become a life coach took courage and seems to some a risky move (in my mid-40s, with two kids headed to college), it also makes perfect sense: as a coach and entrepreneur, I'm able to fully integrate all of my life's work, and spread my wings wide in service of what I've always cared about most: identifying, connecting with, and coaxing into light that spark of goodness, the thrum, the life-pulse, that ignites every one of us. This spark—inner fire, higher self, authentic truth, the divine, whatever you like to call it—is the source and force we must harness if we are to heal ourselves and each other, and survive (let alone thrive) as a species in this cosmos.

So, here's to your goodness—to the beautiful, tender, urgent, calm, loving light you already are.

My Blog is dedicated to her, and to your yearning to know her fully and let her guide your way.

With love,
Kirstin



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