Episode 24: What Lights You Up: Reconnecting With Your Innate Purpose with Linda Stephens-Jones
Listen to the podcast here:
Episode 24: What Lights You Up: Reconnecting With Your Innate Purpose with Linda Stephens-Jones
I have the pleasure of speaking with Linda Stephens-Jones. She is a certified Christian faith life coach and expert in helping women, especially those in mid-life find their path forward and particularly show them how to get fear out of their way from pursuing the path they were meant to live.
It’s my pleasure to be with a Christian faith-based life coach, Linda Stephens-Jones. Welcome, Linda.
Thank you for having me. I’m glad to be here.
Linda, I like to start off by having our audience understand how it is you came into coaching. It seems like every coach has their own journey that’s inspired them and brought them to the place wanting to do this kind of work. Would you mind sharing your own journey with us?
I’m a person of great faith. I decided to retire a little early from my federal service career because my mom had advanced dementia. I wanted time with her. I didn’t know how much time we had. My only plan was to retire and spend time with mom. Many of my friends and colleagues said, “What are you going to do? What’s going to be next?” I kept saying to them, “I’m not sure, but if whatever it is, the Lord will bring it at the right time.” Sure enough, about a year after I retired after having been blessed by a lot of time with my mom, being in her presence, laughing and enjoying those small moments. As I lifted my head to say, “Maybe I will do something in private practice.”
I have a clinical social work background. I thought, “I’m not sure. Let me see what’s out there.” A long story long, I ended up just as I started to be prayerful about what’s next for me. I put my resume in a social work databank and out popped a job for a life coach. I thought that was interesting since I had not made any indication of that as my interest. Over the next three weeks, everywhere I went and looked, there was something about life coaching. I started to do some research and it turned out it was a very compatible career for my strengths, gifts and interest. It led me to start looking for some faith-based life coach training. I found the Christian Coach Institute and it has been an absolutely wonderful journey since then.
Where is the Christian Coach Institute?
It’s in Charlotte, North Carolina headed by Janice LaVore-Fletcher.
Linda, I know through your website you talked about helping people who seem to be drifting alone without any intent or plan, or people who are struggling with letting fear stop them from reaching their dreams. I was wondering if you could tell us a little more in-depth about your ideal client and whatever issues or struggles they may be experiencing. How is it you go about helping them move further on their own journeys?
I like to think of myself as someone who gets what it’s like to be at midlife and maybe having dreams that you were excited about at some point in your life, but somewhere along the way, you kept deferring your dreams because of the needs of others. You may have had to defer your dreams because of finances or getting on one career path that demanded so much of your time. Child rearing, grandchild rearing. There are so many ways that women reach midlife, the 50s and 60s where they have settled. They have a familiar routine. They do what they do and they do it well, but deep inside there is a longing for something more. I find sometimes those women even are asking themselves, “Is this all there is?” They have questions about, “I’ve raised my children.” They may be what we call empty nesters where the young adult children have moved on. I have even seen women in midlife who are faced with a loss, caregiving parents and the parents passed away or divorce in midlife. Any of those major change or challenges that can grip a person, women in particular, are my niche. They can grip a person and leave them feeling, “I better stick with what I know. I better stick with what’s familiar.”
Stay in their comfort zone.
What I try to do is meet people where they are in those hunkered down comfort zones. I help them to see it’s okay to reconnect with for the first time with what’s inside of them. What lights them up? What brings them joy? Why do they lose track of time when they were involved in? All of those things that make life sweet. Often, not only are people in their familiarity and in their comfort zones, but they have fears of trying to do some things differently.
When you talk about figuring out what’s inside of them, I hear the word your innate purpose. In my own work, I talk about the acorn as a metaphor. I tell people, “The acorn was always meant to be an oak tree.” It’s never going to be a maple or a pine. All those potentials of the oak tree are in that acorn. We all come into this world with a unique set of potentials that only we could bring. As we typically grow up, we get all this programming from how we interact with our families, schools, society, culture and media. As you’re talking, that often is what leads people maybe in a career path because this is a sensible career. It’s got the 401(k) or it’s something that your family thought you would be good at. I love what you’re doing with your work because it seems if they follow those paths based on the programming, they may have missed their innate calling.Failure is an option. Try different things until you find what feels best for you. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t always mean making a dramatic shift from one career to another, but sometimes it’s owning that there’s something else that you long for and enjoy. I will give you one example that was amazing. I worked with someone who was very good at mathematics. Growing up, the person had an interest in being in the movie industry, behind the scenes, etc. The family said, “Science and engineering are for you.” It is a classic example. She followed that career path. The longer she stayed in it, the less satisfying it became, but once she had reached a certain point, she felt she had invested far too much to walk away from it.
That’s another one of those variables that come in. You’ve invested so much of your lifetime, your energy and your education. The case with my client, in our working together, she was willing to commit herself to begin to work on her passion on the side. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to hear the things she’s doing. She needed space. She needed men and a partner to help her to feel permission to what sometimes women in midlife feel is a little selfish, to see if they could tap into what makes their lives happier or more fulfilling. I do believe 90% of the women I’ve worked with in midlife had to make that breakthrough to decide, “I’m worth it to see what else is there for me and how my strengths, gifts, passions, how they can serve the world.”
I think a couple of things when you were talking was the first one. I loved the example with this woman with the mathematics and the engineering, because a lot of people think it’s got to be all or nothing. You’ve got to make this entire jump. How are you going to pay the mortgage if you give up your job? I love the strategy of even creating a little space to pursue that passion. It seems to me, at least in my experience, that when people are doing something that’s tapping into that passion, that’s where the creativity, the innovation and positive energy fills them up. By putting some time aside to do something that is more of your passion, it’s almost like the rest of your life gets more energized.
Everything starts to come alive. Here’s one factor that I often and behind the scenes champion for my client about and that is, it’s okay if others don’t get it. What that thing is that lights you up and you enjoy so much. Maybe it’s stepping away from the book clubs. Book clubs can be time-consuming if you all are doing a book every couple of weeks or a book a month. You want to spend time alone writing screenplays. It’s okay because writing screenplays may be what lights your life up. Sitting in a group discussing the latest book may not give you that same light. That’s one of the things I’ve found. As women, we can get preoccupied with, “How are others going to take this? What is it going to look like? What are they going to say?” As a coach, I’m encouraging people to connect to those things that are within. In the world, you show up in your community everywhere you go with a brighter light.
One of the things I share with people is in terms of listening to that inner voice because I got people, friends and family members to be well-intentioned. They may say like, “What are you doing? You should do this. You’d be great at this.” I tell people, “No one but you know what it feels like, know what your mind is doing, know what energy is going through your body when you are writing a screenplay.” Who else is in a better position to guide your life? It seems like you’re concurring to listen to that inner voice.
I’m encouraging them to listen to it and to reconnect to it or connect to it for the first time. For some people, they have a long history of putting the needs of others first.
To a point that it takes some work to begin to build a little space for yourself and for your own authentic priorities, not the should dos but the want to dos.
I do think especially when I’m working with mothers who are launching their children to college, it seems like that’s almost an ideal time for some of the work you might be doing. Often they get the space once the children are launched to do that. It’s almost like you have to start learning about yourself. I’ll reflect on people, I’m like, “You can tell me a lot more about your children, about how their minds work, what their strengths are and what their personalities. You can see glimmers of what they may be meant to do. How well do you know yourself though?”
Isn’t that true? I think one of the big values in my coaching particularly women say are in midlife with the sets of challenges. I’ve given some examples that come with midlife is being willing to say “I need a new perspective. I’m entering a season where what has served me well up does not serve me well in this season.” This idea of being totally 150% focused on your children’s needs or once they go off to college or even when they’ve graduated from college and they are surveying which kind of employment opportunities they want. They don’t have the same kind of needs for your guidance or direction as they did when you were raising them up before they went to college. This notion of what serves you in the season that you’re in. That sometimes means a need to change the approach or the focus of where you spend your energy.
I liked that phrase, “What serves you in this season that you’re in?” I also see this phenomenon of the more adult children who are either in college or starting their own lives. They take comfort in the fact if their parents, especially if their moms are doing their own thing. They’re pursuing a passion or going to school. They’re comforted by the fact that their parent is discovering more about who they are in continuing their journey versus just in the empty house or hovering over them.
I think the parents have the sense of always wanting to be this role model for their children and wanting to show their children or raising their children the idea that you can do. You can be. Go for it. Try it. Failure is an option. Just try different things until you find what feels best for you, but not as easy necessarily to apply it in their own lives.Fear and uncertainty are not stop signs. We can feel fear and keep going. Click To Tweet
Linda, one of the things you do talk about is helping people overcome fear. Could you talk a little bit more about how you help people do that? Does your faith-based coaching come into play there?
I’m glad you asked that because I find that there is a threat of fear at least 70% to 80% of the time. If it’s not something that our client would call fear is something pertaining to a lack of confidence, but generally fear is somewhere in the heart of the hesitation. It’s not only fear but it’s uncertainty. They’re in constant what’s familiar to them and the idea of moving into something that they are not sure how it’s going to go is that uncertainty. I have this mantra I say to my clients often, “Fear and uncertainty are not stop signs.” We can feel fear and keep going.
We build this formula for ourselves that if I feel fear I must stop. If I start pursuing something, if I start exploring something new, if I feel afraid, I have to stop. I say, “Feel the fear and keep right on going and do it anyway.” Step by step, the fear diminishes. As a coach, I will say to your audience, I have practiced this in my own life. I try to practice what I coach. When I got my first few speaking engagements, I was very dry mouth and I’m getting light-headed just that the idea before I went on stage. I got up there and held the podium until I felt comfortable to let it go. I felt nervous. I wasn’t in a familiar setting, but I kept going. By midway, I felt more and more comfortable.
I help people to not give fear more power in their lives than it should have. There’s a healthy place for fear in terms of some things that could be unsafe or some things that could be dangerous that we want our antennas to go up and make sure that we are protecting ourselves or protecting our loved ones. There are some things over here that are different than what I’m doing and I’d like to try them. Fear has no control there except the control that we give it. That’s why I don’t tell people, “Wait until the fear goes away or wait until you don’t feel nervous about it. Eventually, you will get comfortable and then you can go do it.” I say, “Feel the fear and feel dry mouth and keep going.”
That’s the thing because avoidance only feeds fear, but the action will eventually extinguish it.
I also look at it as, we consciously give power to certain things in our life, but fear is one of those things we almost subconsciously give power to. The more we stay away from whatever it is, I’ll use for example being asked to be a speaker. The more we build it up as, “I could never do that. I would be so nervous. All of those people are going to be looking at me.” Whatever those cues are that you give yourself of how, “I couldn’t do it.” I have recognized that you can give yourself some different cues. You can give yourself a cue of our Father in heaven saying, “Do not be afraid.” He says that over and over in his word. “I’m right here. I will send a comforter. I am with you always.” I have found that with clients who are open to faith-based coaching, we can actually look to the Bible for some comfort around issues of fear.
Once I had a client whose husband had passed away and I did not work with her during the season of grief because she needed to walk through and get help with her grief first. When she got about a year down the road and was trying to figure out how to restart her life as a single person. This was instructive for me because someone became interested in her and she was so afraid. She was so nervous about it. I like to have humor and not give too much power to a moment of anxiety or fear. She called me and she was like, “What am I going to do?” She was in that mindset and I said, “I have one question.” She said, “What?” I think she was expecting me to say something coach-like, I said, “Do you ever get hungry?” It helped to bring her back down and get perspective about a person was just inviting her out to eat. It wasn’t a do or die situation.
You changed her the way she was thinking about it.
I think for all of us, sometimes when we have uncertainty or fear about something, we have made it a big thing. “What could happen?” Another thing that I do with clients is to say, “What is the worst thing that could happen here?” Let’s put words to what you see as the worst thing that could happen. Often when people go there when they actually voice, the worst thing that could happen is I feel a little foolish or someone laughs at me or I don’t do it well. Often when they put words to it that also puts it in perspective that this is just one thing. It’s not the totality of who you are or all of your amazing strengths and gifts.
It’s not a life or death situation.
Not to minimize how fearful some people can be, but I find ways to help reduce the power that that fear has. One way, we’re going to walk right up to it. We’re going to show the fear. We are not afraid. We’re going to keep going, even if we feel afraid. Other ways are to help them to put the fear in perspective. In some cases put words to it and they see it’s not life or death.
That fear is coming from our more primitive subconscious part of our mind. Although it’s a very powerful part of our mind, it’s not the rational part of our mind.We consciously give power to certain things in our life, but fear is one of those things we almost subconsciously give power to. Click To Tweet
It’s not. The less we own it and do something about it, the bigger, hairier and scarier it is generally.
It sounds like some wonderful work you’re doing with people, Linda. I do appreciate all your work here. You do have a program. I believe it’s about Taking Off Our Capes and I was hoping to hear a little bit about what that program is about.
I would love to share what that’s about. I feel in my own experiment as a coach. I am not telling clients anything that I don’t believe in doing in my own life. The idea for this group came to me after I had been on a challenging season. Within a six month period, my sweet precious mom passed away. I was in a season of grief and within that same six month period, I had to have major surgery. As I was rehabbing from the surgery, still grieving for my mom and I was prayerful about what was next. I had coaching clients who had been so great and so patient, willing to wait, had given me a little bit of time. As I started to work with them again, I was praying for how I could use the challenges that I have faced to move forward and to live fully again.
What occurred to me was when we need others most, when we are in a valley or in the sense of something the most difficult things that we face, those are the times when we often pull back from others. We often say, “No one would understand this.” You try to muddle through it on your own. I decided there were other women of middle age. They may not have had the death of their mom, they may not have had major surgery, but they have had some mid-life challenges. What we do, the idea of the cape is we strap it all on. We walk around with these capes filled with regrets, sadness, procrastination, loneliness from lack of reaching out and building relationships to feeling resentful about sacrifices that we’ve made that we don’t feel were appreciated.
Just any number of things to where we are eventually walking around with a cape on that’s pretty heavy, where a lot of life challenges. We haven’t worked through them and they weigh you down. I tested this idea out. I felt led so I chose some people to ask if they want to be a part of a test group. It was every hypothesis that I had come true. The women came together in tremendous support of each other. That’s another thing which I think is a myth, that women don’t support each other well. There’s this first inclination even though we will support others, when we are going through something, we hunker down and isolate ourselves.
I basically asked this group of women if they would be willing to share what was on their capes, to own those things that were their capes and if they’d be willing to take those capes off. We are having the group again. It’s a virtual group. I’m in the Washington, DC metro area, but we had people from Georgia and other places. I do use Webex so we can see each other and feel together, but we can be anywhere. I was so affirmed. I felt so blessed at how well it worked because women were encouraged by strangers, people they did not know, but who had the same kinds of concerns, who needed support with the same kind of things. As a coach, it’s not just a kumbaya. I asked those women also to identify a vision for their lives moving forward. I asked them to go big to get outside of a box, out of their comfort zone, but with us supporting them and feeling connected to other people.
In that setting to create a vision to be able to articulate or actually to put in writing what is your deepest longing, the dream of dreams. They did and then we had a process to begin to take concrete steps in that direction. For some, it was taking steps to overcome one of their fears. For some, it was wanting to travel more and building that time instead of always being indispensable to everyone else. The idea is that women come together, own their own challenges. Work on those challenges while they are receiving the support of others who are also walking through challenges. The most awesome part of that is periodically I still stay in touch. All we have to do is to say, “Are you starting to put that cape on?” That’s our buzzword or someone will send a note and say, “I am cape free,” or “I don’t even know where my cape is. I’m so free.”
It sounds like a wonderful program, Linda. If people wanted to get in touch with you or to learn more about the program, what is the best way for our audience to contact you?
Thank you for asking, Lisa. The best way for anyone to reach me is through my website. My website is www.LindaStephensJones.com. On my website, I have a simple form if anyone wants to have me schedule a discovery session for them. If they want to ask questions about coaching or hear some of how I work with clients, I’m happy to do that. I offer those complementary sessions through the website as well. I not only have the Taking Off Our Capes group, but I also have a group that I’m doing called Six Steps to Self Renewal. A part of the concept is the same and that is you reach a point in life, you’re exhausted, you feel on the verge of burnout. You feel you don’t have a lot more to give and you need to have some time to restore and practice good self-care. I have a six-session group where we come together and not only encourage each other but also help to hold each other accountable about deserving that self-care and practicing it.
Thank you so much, Linda, for sharing your insights, your wisdom and for the work you’re doing particularly for women. Helping them move through their journey in a more meaningful and purposeful way.
Thank you, Lisa. This is my sweet spot in life. I love this work. I’m so passionate about being as a coach, being a resource for women. When women opt for faith-based coaching, we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the difference between the two. Even for women who come for professional coaching, my passion is helping them to overcome the challenges that stand in the way of them living a more fulfilling and more rewarding life.When we need others most, those are the times when we often pull back from others Click To Tweet
It’s been a pleasure having you on as our guest.
Thank you, Lisa. It’s been my pleasure.
Please remember to visit www.TheCoachingConnector.com for more articles on Guiding You Through The Maze to your best personal and professional life. Also, please remember to subscribe to Guiding You Through The Maze and share a link with anyone you think would benefit from the information we’re presenting. We’re so glad to be part of your journey. I wish you much success.
- Linda Stephens-Jones
- Christian Coach Institute
- Guiding You Through The Maze – Apple Podcast
- Taking Off Our Capes
- Six Steps to Self Renewal
About Linda Stephens-Jones
- Lentino, L.M. (2014). Constructive thinking how to grow beyond your mind. Sudbury, MA: Grow Beyond Your Mind.