By: Alyce Blum, CPC
I recently became a certified professional coach and started my own business, Alyce Blum Coaching. At first I didn’t think starting a business would be so hard, how naïve of me, right? As it turns out, it’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I’ve quickly learned that having a support system of other coaches who I check in with on a regular basis is key to moving forward.
Every week I meet with two other coaches that are part of a mastermind group, a place where we coach one another and create space to get support from fellow entrepreneurs. A few weeks ago we all did an exercise where we had to think about the most influential experience in our life; and share how that experience has affected the way we live our lives today, the way we make decisions, how we treat others, and ultimately the way we see ourselves.
Below is what I wrote and I hope it will be a source of inspiration for you to take the time to think about the places, people, and actions, that have greatly formed the person you are today. I have included questions that are meant to guide you in doing this exercise on your own. (Or grab a few friends, a bottle of wine and make a night of it!)
What was the most influential experience in your life?
Living abroad in Guayaquil, Ecuador at the age 16 was the most influential experience in shaping who I am today. These days I work by myself and when I can't seem to find the inspiration or motivation I need to keep building my business I’ll find myself thinking about the time when I lived in Guayaquil.
My vivid memories of feeling nervous, overwhelmed and alone mimic many of my current challenges as a new entrepreneur. I’ll stop and think about how brave I was when I was only 16 years old and that if I could successfully live in a foreign country at such a young age, then today, I can do anything I put my mind to.
Which of your 5 senses (sight,smell,touch,taste,hear) transports you to a time in your past, helping you relive a certain moment? What do these memories create space for you to think about in your current life? (gratitude, aspirations, current challenges, etc.)
My interest in going abroad was sparked by my sophomore year geography teacher, Mr. Muncakchi. I clearly remember sitting in his class next to a huge world map. He asked the class to think about what we really knew about the world, about the people who live in it and about the billions of differences that existed. At that moment I looked up at the map and I felt something deep inside and heard myself say, "Holy crap, I don't know anything about the world...but I want to know everything!" After convincing my parents it was a good idea to let me go abroad I was off for 6 months that would ultimately change my life forever.
There are many times where I've smelled something so distinctly ‘Ecuadorian’ that it immediately brings me back to living abroad. Heavily perfumed, scented cleaning products, and most notably burning garbage are two scents that epitomize my time in Guayaquil. Immersed in these smells I stop to think back to that time when I could barely speak Spanish, let alone find gratitude for the life I was living. Today, recognizing this helps me to stop and be present in the moment, ultimately reminding me of the beautiful life I’m living.
How did your influential experience challenge you at the time and how did you deal with those challenges?
I recall the language barriers and intensely missing my family and friends so much that it forced me to turn to myself for comfort, love and support. It also made me question my Jewish identity as I lived with an extremely religious Catholic family and went to church with them every Sunday. At first I felt so weird and uncomfortable going to church, but then I would calm myself by saying, "It's ok, this is part of the experience...you're not betraying Judaism or your family. After a few months of attending church I recognized that it had in fact strengthened my connection to myself, to the Jewish religion and I was able to share some of my Jewish traditions with my host family.
While living there I learned so much about life, about people, about poverty, and about the lack of respect that millions of people endure simply because they are born into inhumane conditions. Watching my host mom communicate with no respect to the maids in our home angered me and I quickly learned that the way we speak to one another has a huge impact on our feelings of self-worth or lack thereof. Today I try to think about the words and tone I use to everyone I speak with and am reminded that communication is an extremely powerful tool that is available to us all.
What did you learn about yourself after your influential experience came to an end?
I've learned more about myself in the years that followed my return than when I was actually living there, and surprisingly in ways that I didn't expect. For example it made me recognize that the minimal communication I chose to have with my parents while I was abroad was simply because I was too prideful to admit how sad and lonely I was. It was easier to be hard headed towards my parents, and push them away, rather than just admitting that I was crying every day and desperately needed their reassurance that everything was going to be O.K.
It also made me realize that my ability to be happily independent has often times worked against me rather than working for me. I've had to work hard over the past few years to accept the fact that it's O.K. to ask for help and I’ve learned how to be outwardly vulnerable so that others can be a source of support and comfort to me even when I think I can do it all by myself. Today I’ve come to recognize that when I felt most uncomfortable, those were the times I was in fact growing, maturing and gaining a wider perspective in life.
Imagine your life 5 years from now, what actions will you look back on that will have positively influenced you?
As a coach, an entrepreneur and a human being I practice the art of gratitude daily to help ground me and bring me back to the events that have shaped who I am and ultimately carved the path I’m on today. I am grateful to Mr. Muncakchi, for peaking my interest and for encouraging me to think beyond the world I knew. I am eternally GRATEFUL to my parents for always believing in me and for supporting my growth, education and desire to explore new cultures when they weren't ready to be empty nesters, but they put their desires aside so I could take flight and see the world. If you find yourself craving change and desiring to widen your lens of the world, remember, that if you ask for help the journey will be a lot smoother and ultimately more joyful.
Potentially, this exercise will remind you why you chose your career, the place you live and the people you surround yourself with today. Or, if you’re looking to make changes in your life this will give you the space to incorporate aspects from your most influential experience into the life you’d ideally like to be living. Be kind to yourself and use this a reflective tool to highlight that all of life’s experiences happen for a reason and that when we are open to them we can always learn and grow.
ABOUT ALYCE BLUM, CPC
Alyce Blum Coaching LLC | www.AlyceBlum.com
Trained under the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) Alyce provides public speaking, strategic facilitation and consulting services for leaders and visionaries in the private and non-profit communities.
As a leadership, executive and networking Coach Alyce actively listens to her client’s needs by asking the right questions. Honoring a confidential and non-judgmental space results in clients creating their own solutions, which ultimately builds confidence and self-esteem. Working with Alyce provides a set time to create benchmarks while holding clients accountable for their desired success. She is passionate and believes in the coaching practice because it directly enables clients to ask for what they want in their life and then come up with a deliberate plan to take action.
Before pursuing a career in coaching Alyce was a legal recruiter with Patton Boggs LLP in Washington, DC and facilitated international trade with the Canadian Consulate in Denver, CO. Alyce thrives on connecting like-minded individuals through networking events and multi-cultural experiences. Having traveled to over 19 countries Alyce believes that many of life’s greatest lessons happen when you’re forced out of your comfort zone and are forced to quickly assess and adapt to new and challenging situations. Alyce’s lens on life has been shaped by the various opportunities she’s had connecting with people from different backgrounds.