Grow In Order To Be Great: The Personal Growth of The Wellness Coach

Great coaches are always finding ways to grow.









Personal growth is a lifelong process, and for the wellness coach it is a key component of their professional development as well. I’ll be blunt. If you are afraid of personal growth and change you’re not ready to be a coach. Do your work. Do your healing if need be, and when you can lovingly embrace your own growth as a whole human being, go for it, coaching may be right for you. Acquiring professional skills are an important part of your professional development, but that’s not all there is to being a great coach. It often comes down to “who” you are, not just “what” you are doing.

Wellness and health coaches are often working with clients who have to face their fears. While not there to do therapy, the coach will have clients who are facing change in their lives that sometimes shakes the status quo to it’s core. Lifestyle improvement helps the course of an illness and some of our clients will come to us for just such improvement while facing a life-threatening disease or health challenge. Our clients deal with grief, loss, self-doubt and fear as well as excitement, anticipation and joy. The better equipped we are to handle such emotions within ourselves, the better able we are to remain centered and be of real value to our clients who are in the midst of such experiences. Such a coach can empathize easily and express it in a helpful way. Such a coach has the courage to stand in there with their client through the tough times.

In the many years I practiced psychotherapy and counseling I found myself saying that when people try to numb certain feelings they discover that there is no “local” anesthetic, only “general”. When we run away from certain feelings, minimize them, suppress and repress, all our emotions take a hit. The result may be an insulator from our pain but at the same time we have reduced our ability to feel joy, sensitivity and connection. When we engage in a conscious process of self-development, exploration and growth we enhance our “full-feeling reactivity” as I believe it was Carl Rogers used to call it. We have access to more of who we truly are.

Growth requires patience.

The Wellness Coach’s Personal Growth Plan

Some personal growth comes our way as just part of living. The opportunity arises and we grow from it. The best coaches and the best human helpers of all types that I have seen also seek out personal growth experiences. They want to “stretch” themselves. They aren’t afraid to do some travel out on the edge of their comfort zone. They make a conscious effort to grow personally. Such endeavors are as individualized as anything like that can be, however, let me make a few kind suggestions for the wellness coach looking for ways to grow.

1) Solo time. Don’t make a stranger of yourself! Spend some time alone where you can eliminate all the distractions that take you away from listening to yourself. Spend several hours in your own personal retreat. It’s not the same as meditating, though that can be part of it too. It’s time to truly “be here now”, to allow whatever wants to come up to rise to the surface. If you discover that there is pain and old wounds that need attending to, so be it! Make an appointment if you need and do that work too. What you may discover though, is that like vision quest guide John Milton ( will tell you, once you get beyond letting down and de-contracting, and beyond all the distractions, you are able to “rest in the radiance of the open heart.” Even a couple of early morning hours just to yourself (absolutely before you start your workday) can have profound effects.

2) Read. Reach back to a classic like Carl Rogers’ On Becoming A Person, or Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. Read something beside a “how-to” book. Read fiction. Read blogs. There are tons out there so be choosy about which you follow. Expand your view of the world.

3) Stretch. Find what you are attracted to that will provide an experience that will stretch you to move further into new territory. Go on an outdoor adventure trip. Travel to a country where your own language is rare. Train for a long distance race. Learn Tai Chi. Check out the credibility of some kind of experiential personal growth course and go for it! Esalen is still very much in business ( and so are many other such places. Sometimes leadership training can be a true personal growth experience too (

4) Live your life in balance so you can be a bit “out of balance” sometime and be glad of it! Maintain that healthy wellness lifestyle that gives you the energy and stamina to dance all night, to go further down that path than ever before, to see an amazing sunrise, to try something extraordinary.

What are some of your favorite ways to consciously “grow”? What holds you back from doing them more? What inspires you to live an extraordinary life? Please leave your comments!

Real Souvenirs of Travel, and Returning to Basics By Maria Hodkins

When I posted “Bringing Home Wellness: Souvenirs of Awareness” ( it drew a fabulous comment from my good friend, Maria Hodkins, who is an itinerant chef and cooking instructor, . Rather than have those words languish in the backwaters of commentary on a single post, I felt they needed the spotlight of a featured guest blogger piece. Enjoy!

Olive groves flank a Tuscan hill town.

“Wellness travel” in my mind includes the elements of keen observation, contemplation, and personal transformation. So often, travel vacations are experienced only as pure entertainment or a quest to find relief from stress and fatigue. There is nothing like stepping outside oneself into a different world to raise personal awareness of cultural or personal habits that keep us imprisoned in unhealthy lifestyles. The act of opening oneself to foreign (not necessarily out-of-country) influences can be a very creative act, drawing us out of ourselves and our highly-regimented routines and thinking patterns. As a friend once told me, “There are a thousand ways to wash dishes.” (What?….but my mother taught me that THIS was the best way!) When I travel, I am constantly jotting down notes in my travel journal, even drawing diagrams of projects or structures that inspire me with possibilities. These observations of how people live creatively and well are my true souvenirs of the journeys. When I was living for a summer in Spain doing an intensive language study in Spanish, I leased a room with an elderly couple in their third-floor apartment. All cooking was done on a double-hotplate in the kitchen, and the meals were unbelievably delicious; showers were only allowed twice a week, to conserve water in a drought-parched city. After returning to the U.S., I was horrified to watch my neighbors watering their lawns, realizing the absurdity of our “green lawn” values in this country, and the incredible waste of precious water. I have only been able to justify watering a food-producing garden since then, and give thanks daily for the water that flows so freely from our taps.

Freshly harvested porcini mushrooms destined for the table in Tuscany.

The return to “old ways”of eating–homesteading arts, growing, cooking, and eating local, organic foods has new name: the Slow Food movement. It did start originally in Italy, and is “a non-profit member-supported association. Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” ( This awareness of how food affects our health and wellness is a burgeoning movement in this country, with renewed home food gardening, cooking classes, CSA’s, farmers’ markets, and, thankfully, is even creeping into the hot lunch programs of our schools. This is an encouraging leaning toward wellness lifestyles in our culture. We can learn so much from other countries, as well, who have not embraced all of the industrial food practices that we have blindly accepted here.

As an itinerant chef and cooking instructor on the Colorado Western Slope, I observe how people respond to learning about the ecology of food and how it empowers them to change their lifestyle and consequently their diet into more vibrant, nutrient-based foods. And much can be said about the intangible satisfactions of cultivating, cooking, eating, and sharing those foods–a deeper “satiety” ensues, alleviating that unspeakable hunger for meaning and inner peace that we seem to be constantly seeking. Nothing restores me when I am out of balance more than turning a quart of milk into my own creamy yogurt, teeming with probiotics, or pulling a loaf of golden-crusted bread from the oven that I have shaped with my own hands. It is truly travel into the Mysteries of life, available on a daily basis, right in your own home.

Please add your comments and keep the dialogue going!

Maria Hodkins loves to cook, and is a passionate cooking instructor. She has taught cooking at CSA farms, international and gourmet food markets, culinary stores, and in schools.   She has been an itinerant chef, personal chef, cooked for many commercial food enterprises during her lifetime, and operated her own private catering service.  Cooking and culture is a lifelong study of Maria’s.  She teaches not only the love of food and cooking, but also its fascinating roots and development by exploring the historical-cultural evolution of foods. 

Maria is a professional journalist, food writer, artist, illustrator, and visual journaling instructor, and she also incorporates art and writing into some of her cooking workshops. She has taught Eco-cooking classes, where participants create Food Portraits illustrating the origins, culinary uses, and health benefits of fresh farm market produce. She is currently is one of the main instructors at an innovative Farm School at Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn in Paonia, CO (

Check out more about Maria and her writing workshops at She can be reached at

High Tech Can Dissolve Healthy Boundaries For Business Travelers

Is this the view from your office window?

More and more jobs are requiring people to engage in travel as a continual part of their work. High tech solutions to communication have made it easier to travel and get the job done, and, to our stress-level’s demise, travel and never get away from working on that job. As I flew from Newark to Denver on the way back from speaking and training in The Azores Islands, the man next to me spent the entire transcontinental four-hour flight glued to his laptop working on a PowerPoint presentation. The absolute second (no exaggeration here) our wheels hit the Denver tarmac he turned on the iPhone he had poised for action and began responding to e-mails. Oh, and by the way, this was all happening Friday night!

Now, is high tech to blame? When we can do the work remotely, should we always?  Where are the healthy boundaries essential to our health and wellness.?  My laptop was in it’s case and turned off the whole trip back. I turned on my phone at some point, I think in baggage claim. It was Friday night, for crying out loud! Then again, I don’t work for this fellow’s company, or own his business. I have no ideas about the life of that particular fellow traveler and what I felt was pity and compassion for him more than criticism. However, the question is, how many of us are living his kind of life?

In the wellness coaching I’ve done for many years I’ve encountered lots of people like our anxious friend here. They usually try their best to meet what they perceive as the expectations of their job and, much too often, develop all sorts of stress-related disorders, gain extra weight (the stress/cortisol connection to weight gain is well documented, drive up blood pressure, pump stomach acid, etc., etc. They also, tragically find that this way of “living to work” instead of “working to live” has detrimental affects of relationships with family, partners, etc.

There are both external and internal sources of the stress and urgency that work-driven people feel. Yes, we need to validate the experience of people who have jobs that continually set production expectations at unrealistic levels. Companies that create health problems this way have no room to gripe about paying the bill for the poor health of their employees. Sometimes there are ways to affect the workplace and adjust the work pace, and sometimes this is not an option. In some situations we can find ways to cope better, in other situations where nothing will respond to our efforts to make it better the conclusion becomes one of self-preservation and leaving that job may be the healthiest move one ever made.

Then there is the internal perception of work in our lives. There’s reality, and then there’s fear. That fear may be realistic, or what we feel may be much greater than the situation warrants. The sources of our exaggeration can be many. Our perception can be distorted by feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth driven by any number of old family dynamics and other earlier experiences in our lives. Folks buy into what psychotherapist Albert Ellis called “irrational beliefs”, a classic of which is that “One absolutely must be competent, adequate and achieving in all important respects or else one is an inadequate, worthless person.” (

Work/Life Balance has been a focus of life coaching since it’s inception, and is a central issue if much of the wellness and health coaching that is done today. Gaining insight about one’s tendencies to drive one’s self and overwork can be a critical first step to mastering this challenging balancing act. Coaching may be the answer, but often deep-seated beliefs that drive “work-aholism” ( and perfectionism require rolling up one’s sleeves and doing some counseling. Self-help books might get one started, but to truly achieve change in this tough area, having an ally may make all the difference in the world. Healthy boundaries are what make work and life come into balance. Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep on that flight back home? (If you can in one of those airline seats!)