My next Creative Life interviewee is a certified life coach, artist, writer and yogini. You may have read about her work as the founder of Artizen Coaching, watched her wreck her journal on her blog, Life Unfolds, or perhaps read her inspiring monthly columns in the Wish Studio. When she's not coaching her clients to reach for their dreams she's putting tools like her Right-Brain Business Plan e-book out into the world to help the rest of us do the same.
Friends, pull up a chair and take a peek into the virtual world of the inspiring Ms Jennifer Lee…
SC: Could you tell us about your path into life coaching?
JL: I worked with my first coach nine years ago and learned loads in the process. I hired her because, at the time, I was at a company I didn't like and I wanted a change. I had no idea that we would cover so much more than that and the coaching powerfully opened the doors to a deeper understanding of myself. I thought some day I'd like to become a coach myself so I could help others live more fulfilled, authentic lives, too. It was a few more years before I took the introductory coaching course at the Coaches Training Institute (with the nudge of my second coach). I fell in love the moment I walked into the room – I found my peeps and my calling. I jumped right into the courses, certification and their leadership program and built my practice up on the side while I stayed at my corporate job for another three years. During that time I co-led a leadership retreat with my friend Brighid and realized that I wanted to be doing this work full time. So in 2006, with the support of yet another coach, I finally took the leap into entrepreneurship and haven't looked back since.
How do you weave your art and yoga in with the coaching?
Art weaves into my coaching when we need another way to access or express feelings beyond words. For example, I had one client who was dealing with loss, so instead of talking it through I asked her to get some markers and just draw. Through her choice of red and her bold movements, she discovered that she actually had a lot of anger around the situation. Allowing herself to intuitively scribble helped bring awareness to her emotions so she could move through them. Also activities like vision boards, drawing your body, sculpting with clay or dancing around the room can provide new perspectives to a situation. As for yoga, I haven't had a client sport a downward dog on the phone just yet (haha!). Rather, it shows up in the subtle ways of helping my clients connect with their breath, body and the spiritual philosophy of yoga. We might start a call by taking some deep breaths to get grounded and checking-in with what they notice in their body right now. It's a quick, easy way to help us both become present.
After hearing you mention her in your interview with Jamie Ridler, I’m fascinated by Sparkling Sage, the name you gave your inner muse. Could you talk us through how this name came about and how naming your inner muse helps you?
The name Sparkling Sage emerged from some coaching I received while assisting at a course for CTI. We did a visualization about who we are becoming. The woman coaching me helped me to articulate being both wise beyond my years and playful at the same time (we had just skipped together around the room, after all!). The word sage came easily and my coach offered the word sparkling which I was uncomfortable with at first but committed to trying it on. I now love it! Knowing the name of my inner muse plus having visual reminders of her through my wo-manifesto and my inner muse portrait help connect me with her creative essence. I call on her when I need grounding, inspiration or guidance.
Life coaches always strike me as very positive and ‘up’ people – how do you personally deal with creative blocks and down days?
I'm actually not a naturally positive person (just ask my husband!), so it's important for me to have ways to deal with the roller coaster of life. When I have blocks or down days, I allow myself to be with the blues. I might even wallow in bed wearing my pajamas for a whole day. I journal about how I'm feeling or I do some expressive art. One of the keys for me is realizing that my tendency (especially being an Enneagram Type 4 Artist/Romantic) is to focus on the negative or what's missing. That awareness helps me make more conscious choices about honoring where I am or moving forward. Some ways that help me move through the blocks include writing down everything I'm grateful for (Carla White's Gratitude Journal app is fantastic for that, as is my blessing box), revisiting my notes in my blessings box, identifying what is working for me, writing affirmations, spending time with my husband and friends, connecting with my creative cohorts, cuddling with my dog, listening to uplifting music, trying something new or just going out in nature.
You’ve put two great tools out into the world: The Right-Brain Business Plan e-book and the Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit. How did these come about and how can we best use them?
The Right-Brain Business Plan e-book came about after I intuitively created my own business plan in a visual way. The idea got such great response that I wanted a way for others who also found the traditional planning process daunting to have a fun, creative alternative. It's perfect for creative entrepreneurs who are just starting out or who want to take their business to the next level but want a more accessible, visual approach. The e-book gives you permission to create your plan in any way that inspires you. One woman did hers as a mobile and another as a bracelet – it's very out-of-the-box!
The concept for the Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit was born during my coach training. We had an assignment to create our life vision in a creative way and I had just taken a book binding class where we learned this cool folding technique. I brought my portable vision board to class the next day and everyone loved it! It's a fun way to envision what you want in all aspects of your life and it can fit in your pocket to take with you on-the-go. The kit comes with a guided meditation, a booklet that walks you through the process and some inspirational resources.
On your website it says: ‘A cornerstone of coaching is the belief that we are all naturally creative, resourceful and whole.’ Could you expand on this a little more?
Coaching is about empowering the fabulous you that you already are to become even more fabulous. You are not broken and nothing needs to be fixed. You have all of the capabilities, creativity and capacity to unlock your own answers and to take the steps needed to move forward. It helps to have someone like a coach honoring who you are and holding you BIG in case you happen to forget or overlook just how capable and powerful you are.
What’s a musepreneur?
A musepreneur is a creative entrepreneur who uses her right-brain intuition and inspiration to launch and grow a business or any endeavor. She has fun following her passions and making a living doing what she loves. I've met so many fantastic musepreneurs like you, Susannah, online and in my local women's networking groups. One of the other great things is that musepreneurs tend to get inspired by each other, so we are great at connecting and supporting one another.
What books/music/artists/blogs inspire you? Could you share some recommendations?
Oh, too many to list here!
A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink
anything by Keri Smith
The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam
Juicy Pens and Thirsty Paper by SARK
The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing by Natalie Rogers
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
Music: India Arie and Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield always inspire me and when I'm feeling moody I love listening to Portishead and Bat For Lashes
Being self-employed can often mean you’re working 24/7 – how do you maintain a good work/life balance? What does a typical day look like for you?
Very true! I probably work more now than I did in my demanding corporate roles. However, because I'm creating my own schedule and doing what I love, I enjoy my lifestyle. Yoga, journaling and creative time help me maintain balance. Oh, and also naps! My days vary, but one might look like waking up without an alarm clock, journaling, doing yoga or going to the gym, coaching clients, writing, working on my own creative projects, walking my dog, hanging out with my hubby when he gets home, working a little more before bed time. Once a week I go to an intuitive painting class. Having structured time for that helps me stay accountable to my own creative process. On Fridays I honor my self-care and I clear my calendar of any meetings (except with my hairstylist, massage therapist, the local nail shop, my inner muse and/or friends).
What does happiness look like?
Happiness looks like this…
What three things could a person do towards making their creative projects – eg a business idea or book – a reality?
a clear vision for what you're wanting to create and be open to how
that vision unfolds. I will often create vision boards or prototypes
to help make my dreams and ideas seem more tangible.
Ask for help. If you're trying something new, it's unrealistic to think that you'll know everything you need to. I bet there are many people with experience that you can learn from, so reach out.
Take small steps each day. You'll gradually build momentum until one day you're surprised by just how far you've come! Plus, it feels great to celebrate little victories along the way.
You're having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?
Being the big introvert that I am, I don't do a whole lot of dinner parties. However, it would be pretty cool to have all of these folks around a table:
Martha Stewart - I admire Martha's impeccable taste and brilliant entrepreneurial mind (also her culinary team can cater the party because I know the food will be delicious, besides cooking for groups stresses me out!)
Oprah Winfrey – I am inspired by the positive impact she has made on so many people's lives
Frida Kahlo – Her creativity, sensitivity and perseverance touch me
Pippi Longstocking (okay, I know she's not a real person, but she is famous!) – I adore her playful, independent spirit and unusual strength
Madonna – Her talent for continually reinventing herself amazes me
Buddha – I'd love to be in the presence of such profound wisdom, peace and knowing
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Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today, Jenn! I'm feeling very inspired to commit to a day of self-care every week…. who else is going to try that?