A Research Paper By Madalyn Morris, Purposeful Aging Coach, UNITED STATES
Purposeful Aging Interview
MADALYN Hi Joan, I just want to thank you again for this interview.
JOAN Hi Madalyn.
Journey Towards Becoming a Certified Life Coach
MADALYN So Joan, you’ve repurposed your life many times over. What lead you to your journey towards becoming a certified life coach?
JOAN I have two daughters who did coach training about twelve or thirteen years ago and I liked what I saw. It was something I would have liked to have done with them and it was not the right time for me. One of them is using it in her life, all the time, every day. The other one became a professional coach and has a very successful practice. She is a former attorney and now coaches attorneys, as well as, anyone who needs or wants to coach, does several pieces of training in organizations, and has [unintelligible: 1:05] from Coach Training Academy.
So, I thought, yeah, now when she started her coach training, I thought, “OK, this is the perfect opportunity. Not only do I get to learn how to be a fine coach — because I’ve seen how she shows up — but I also get the opportunity to know her on a different level, at a different, in a different space — in a different space. And so, it was very cool because I stopped — if you can — I stopped being her mother and I stepped back and became a student — in a training — and it was an amazing experience.
MADALYN Wow! Talk about the roles changing. How wonderful for both of you.
Good Communication Skills Are Key to Successful Coaching
JOAN It has been. It has been a marvelous learning experience but learning at so many different levels. Also, communications — which is so key to coaching — learning to communicate with one another at that level where we listen to one another. We ask curious questions so that, with the intention of understanding where the other one is coming from rather than, like, normal conversations where, you know, you’re waiting for your turn to say your part. In this case, as a coach — as I’m sure you know — our job as coaches is to listen and to reflect what we hear, and that gives us a deeper understanding. So it’s been marvelous. It’s been an outstanding opportunity.
Discover Your Conscious Purpose
MADALYN Sounds wonderful. You know, you’ve written about the process of looking through your life to find the common threads that lead you to the choices you’ve made and how they helped you discover your conscious purpose. Could you elaborate on that?
JOAN Yes, so what was fun — I’ve done a lot of different pieces of training before doing the coaching training. So I’ve done EST many years ago with Werner Erhard, and then I’ve done several programs that get you started on discovering what your purpose is. And so, finally, when I took my coach training and became certified, we did an in-depth exploration of purpose — then I recognized what my purpose was and it’s very simple. My purpose is to explore, discover and empower. And it’s — as an attorney — what I know is that less is better. So if I start elaborating on what I’m exploring, what I’m discovering, and how empowering comes about — merely by the act of specifying — I limit, because whatever I don’t specify doesn’t get included. So by stopping, right there, just with explore, discover and empower — that handles it all — it leaves a completely open world to me. And when I went back to track my entire life — from the time I was a kid — I realized that that’s exactly what I was doing. My mother was a very, very curious individual. She was curious about everything, and she explored everything, and she generated that — and my dad was like that too. They generated that in us kids. So, I think, its curiosity — is a huge thing for me and it has driven me to explore. And of course, exploration has led me to all kinds of discoveries. And then, empowerment is basically about what are the tools? What is it that, what is it that causes us to decide to move in one direction or another? But I would say that that’s basically [unintelligible: 5:44]
MADALYN You’re going out. Oh, I’m sorry, you went out. I didn’t hear the last sentence.
JOAN Oh, I’m sure it was critical also.
MADALYN You know, I’m curious about — you have very fond memories about how you were raised with a very curious mother. Did you raise your daughters with that same energy?
JOAN Oh, I sure hope so. I sure hope so. I’m pretty sure, from what I see in our relationships, I’m pretty sure that they’re all very curious — even my son, who is not a coach. But I think, all of the children are very curious about what’s out there in life.
MADALYN What a gift. What a gift to pass on.
JOAN It was, for me.
Dynamic Aging Meaning
MADALYN Wow. Well, you know, you have an incredible website and there is so much great information on that and — what does ‘dynamic aging’ means to you?
JOAN Dynamic aging started — I met someone who changed my life physically — Katy Bowman, with nutrition — who created a nutritious movement. I met her when I was 71 and I was experiencing several physical issues which are pretty common to aging. I had chronic backache, I was wearing orthotics in my shoes, and I had pelvic prolapse. And so, you know, these were all things that people face, and that is considered normal, and I wasn’t buying it that it was normal. So, I talked to my chiropractor who said, “Go find Katy Bowman,” she happened to be in Ventura. And so I did find her, and I started working with her, and in that same class three other women were also in their seventies — they had all started before I did. Anyway, after about a year — well much sooner than that — I began to notice the changes in my physical abilities. And after about a year, I invited the three of them to come to my home and I said, “I want to know if you’re experiencing what I’m experiencing — I’m getting better. I don’t have a chronic backache anymore — ever. I’ve removed the orthotics from my shoes and I have the tools — I have learned the tools — to work with the prolapse. And then, there’s so much that’s going on.” I said, “I’m just curious if this is true for you?” and they — without exception — said yes. One had a frozen knee and restless leg syndrome, which restless leg syndrome disappeared within a couple of weeks of doing some of the exercises. She’d never had a knee replacement and she now just turned eighty — she’s younger than I am. But anyway, the other, one came in with chronic knee problems — that’s gone. Another came in, she was a chronic exerciser and the logic of what Katy teaches. Katy is a biomechanist and it’s all based on science and aligning the body so that your body functions physically, optimally. And so, her restorative exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles that are necessary to maintain that alignment. So, anyway, going back to your question about dynamic aging — so I said to those other ladies, I said, “I think we should write a book and share what’s going on with us because I don’t think this is normal that we’re getting older and we’re getting better.” And so, we started and we wrote a draft and then we contacted Katy and Katy said, “Hey, how would you like to collaborate on a book with me,” she’d written many books — she has written many books. “So how would you like to collaborate on a book with me? I’ll write the science and we’ll interweave your stories in it — and it will be an exercise book as well as the story.” She has her own publishing company — Propriometrics Press — and she said, “We’ll publish it.” So we did and the book came out in 2017 and was named ‘Dynamic Aging’.
So, that began that part of the journey. It’s been a very popular book — it’s been translated into multiple languages. And then I decided to create a blog post so that I could track the progress of the four of us as we continue aging, and then the website came about when I got my coach training. I decided that what I wanted to do — the Dynamic Aging wasn’t just the physical movement that keeps us healthy, but it’s also the mental, emotional, and spiritual movement that is engaged more in coaching. And so I thought, “Well, this is a perfect marriage of two skills.” The physical — the movement of the restorative exercise, which I taught for several years and am certified in that — and the coaching, to be able to coach people. What gets in the way? One of the biggest things that happen for people is that they want to exercise and then they don’t — and so, it’s a perfect coaching topic. What’s getting in the way?
MADALYN Yeah, interesting. Yeah, you know, and there’s been a global shift in how people age. People are pushing up for retirement and repurposing their lives, contributing to society, embarking on new careers, leading value-driven lives. What’s the age range of your clientele and what are some of the most common challenges they face?
JOAN So, the age range is all over — it is everywhere — from the twenties into their eighties. So, yes — the common challenges are what’s common to everybody. It’s not, it is not unique. Dynamic aging is not unique to an age group. From the time you’re born, until you die, you are aging — if you’re lucky — and you get a choice as to how dynamically you choose to do that. That’s physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — there’s a choice there. And so, I don’t see differences between the ages. People, you know, come — there are such common themes where people are challenged — like time-management is a biggy. Overwhelmed — I’m overwhelmed by this situation. Exercise is a great one. So many people come in with, “I want to exercise and I just can’t do it — and I want to do it.” OK.
I work with a lady who is finishing up her thesis for her master and I coach her around what we would call ‘the critical voice’ or the sabotaging voice — that constant conversation in our head that says, “Oh, man. You’re not, you know, you’re not good enough. You don’t know the answer. You can’t do this, yadi yada.” And so, for her to be able to recognize that, and deal with it, and be able to complete her thesis on time, and to get what it was she was looking for. So, yeah, it’s just a gamut— a wide gamut — of things that we grapple with as human beings — not necessarily depending on age.
Purpose, Mission, and Values Alignment
MADALYN So true. So true. So, you know, how do you help your clients align with their purpose?
JOAN I think it’s the coaching skills that we mentioned before. It’s the business of facilitating them, in being able to articulate what it is they would like to accomplish and then asking genuinely curious questions about what is that like for them? Why is it important to them? What would it look like to them if they could have that? What does it give them? What are they ignoring? What are they pretending?” And then listening — really, really carefully — to what they say and then being able to act as a mirror. So, to be able to reflect what I hear and it’s magical — as I’m sure you’ve experienced — is that when you, when somebody hears what they have said — repeat it back or paraphrase back — all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh my gosh! I had never thought of it that way.” And so, it breaks down habits, patterns, the things that drive our lives, the things that we’re not aware of. And, I think, taking a stand for our client — that when they don’t believe they can do it, knowing that they can, that they have that capability. If they can write it down, if they can articulate what they want, they can have it — and to believe that even when they don’t.
MADALYN Very powerful.
JOAN Seems to work well.
MADALYN What advice would you give to your younger self?
JOAN That’s such an interesting question. I think if there was one thing — and this is interesting because I always have my coach and it’s interesting that the same issues that my clients bring me, I find myself bringing to my coach. And so, recently I had a coaching call where I was concerned about being able to do something. What I was going to be doing — I’d been asked to coach a senior coach and someone who had a lot more experience than I have, and they had asked me to coach them — and I was nervous about it. And, what I discovered through my coaching call was that I did not believe that I was good enough. And of course, that was my critical voice saying, “Yeah, nope, you’re not going to be able to do this and she’s not going to tell you because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but you already know that you’re not good enough to do this.” And so, the coach, my coach reflected that back and said, “It sounds like your critical voice is like someone who has jumped on your back and who says to you, ‘No matter what you, you’re not doing enough and you’re not doing it right,’” and out of it what I got was that doing my best is good enough. And, the beauty of that is not that I stopped — here, what I am, with my best — but that I’m always exploring and discovering what is my best. So it was huge for me.
MADALYN That’s big.
JOAN It was for me. I now have it, I now have a post-it on my coaching desk that says, “My best is good enough. What’s next.”
MADALYN And I can certainly relate to that. So, is that what you would tell your younger self? That your best is good enough?
JOAN Yes, with a caveat not to stop.
JOAN Don’t stop there. It’s got to be what’s next because if you stop — if I stop here then my best is not good enough — because I’m not growing, I’m not learning. So, it’s always with that, “All right. So, this is best right now, today, in this minute, this is the best. This is my best.” Just like my giving you this interview. I can go back and look at this and go, “Oh man! Ah! I could have, ah, why didn’t I say that? Or why did I say that?” But for right now, at this moment, this is my best and so it’s good enough.
MADALYN That’s wonderful. I appreciate you sharing that. It’s universal.
JOAN It is, isn’t it?
MADALYN Yeah, we’re not alone in that feeling that your saboteur [unintelligible: 19:53]. So, I have a final question. If you had to put a message on a billboard for everyone to see — what would it say? Or what would it be?
JOAN Trust yourself.
MADALYN Ah. Trust yourself.
JOAN So, in the same coaching session, what came out for me was that I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust that my best was good enough and I think that it’s integrally tied in, and it’s my voice that jumps on me and says, “You’re not good enough. You can’t trust yourself that you can handle this.” It’s that whole thing of being able to take that weight off of me and to say, “I am going to trust myself. I’m going to be courageous. I’m going to be curious. I’m going to be compassionate and I’m going to be vulnerable. And I’m going to do my best. And I’m going to trust myself.”
MADALYN Yes. I will heed that advice. Well because I know — when I breathe into that and into my intention and my heart — I know that is my best, and that it’s in the moment, and that it’s real, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that. It’s interesting how, you know, I remember growing up being very trustful and adventurous and this. And I think, you know, as we get older and we’re submerged more in the world with all of these, you know, things around us and thoughts of other people — I know for me, I lost that trust.
JOAN It’s a choice. I think it is a choice and, for me, it’s being reminded. That was is so helpful about coaching because yeah, OK, now I trust myself and I will for a while — and then it will come up again. I mean, this isn’t something that goes away. So, each time it comes it’s nice to have a coach — and it will show up differently. It will show up in some other issue that I bring to coaching, and then it will turn out that the root cause is, “Oh, sounds like you don’t trust yourself. Oh, shoot. I knew that. I knew that.”
MADALYN So then, do you catch yourself now, and you just work through it, and move forward?
JOAN Sometimes. Sometimes, but sometimes I’m not aware. It seems like we get so engaged in our own stories and beliefs, and it seems so logical to us, that we don’t recognize that it may be that critical voice that is leading us down that path. So, yeah, when I can consciously recognize it — but that’s why I say I always have a coach. It’s one of the real benefits of the coach training that I did is that had an ongoing coaching circle. So, we believe that coaches need coaches. And so, but you don’t always — because coaches need coaches it’s nice to have a coach where you can — you might say trade services. So, in other words, there’s a circle of — I don’t know, maybe ten or fifteen right now who are engaged in that — and so, I coach one person and then another person coaches me. And then they coach someone and someone coaches them. It goes around in a circle so that, at all times, we have a coach that we can turn to and we’re always working on something. So we have a coaching plan, we have a twelve-week session, and they’ll always have that available to us.
MADALYN So, when you say a twelve — that’s a wonderful thing — when you say a twelve-week session, is that mean you meet every week with the same coach for the twelve weeks?
JOAN Correct and we have a coaching plan as to what we want to accomplish in that twelve-week.
JOAN It has been.
MADALYN Powerful. Do you have any regrets?
JOAN [laugh] My answer to that is — what would it buy me if I focused on my regrets?
JOAN I used to think that my regrets were really valuable. It was important for me to think about my regrets because that’s, then, what would motivate me to move forward and to do things differently. I don’t think I must focus on regrets to move forward.
MADALYN It’s, you know, similar to the artist, that actress that feels she needs to suffer to be a better actress and that — yeah.
What Are You Grateful For?
MADALYN What are you grateful for?
JOAN Pretty much everything in my life. I would say, I’m grateful, day by day, for the parents I chose. They were two very powerful people. And by powerful, I mean they were vested in being role models to create a life for us where we grew up believing that we were special and unique and that we could accomplish anything that we set our minds to. And so, my brothers and sisters, and I, have been very fortunate in that we bought it. We believed it and so, that’s one of my — that is always my first place of gratitude. But then, also, because — well, I just have had the absolute best people in my life, for me. So, I’ve had — I have three beautiful children I gave birth to and an outstandingly awesome step-daughter. And I have my soulmate as my husband — for forty-seven years, so far, and that’s the second marriage — so pretty darn good. And I’m grateful for the fact, I’m grateful for being physically so fit —for knowing the tools. And I’m grateful for this — if you saw my website, I started a new blog series in May where my husband and I — my husband is eighty-five and I’m eighty-three and he had a hip replacement in October —and we have chosen to declare that we are going to hike Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite, next June. And so, we’re on what we call ‘A journey of self-discovery,’ where we have, we’ve hired a personal trainer who is part of Katy Bowman’s group for strength training and the training for hiking. And so, I’m very grateful for the fact that we can have that experience and utilize my coaching skills, and knowledge, to meet up with the things that come up for us. Not so much the physical things — although that’s a part of it — the mental and the emotional things. Can we do this? Are we too old to do this? And that’s where my critical voice is constantly there saying to me, “You’re too old to do this. What on earth are you thinking?” And so it’s nice — it’s when we go into breakdowns and getting to break through — it’s all those things, all those coaching tools that are so valuable to keep us on track. So, yeah, I’m grateful for, I’m grateful for the life I have.
MADALYN So beautiful. Will you post pictures? So you’re going to make a blog around your trip in June?
JOAN Yes. Yeah, what I’m doing right now is each month I publish, usually, a couple of posts and there are pictures there of us as we’re making progress. And then, yes, there will be, of course, the one when we get up there. So, we have our reservations in Yosemite — so we’re committed — and we got several family members who will join us on this. And, yeah, we’re, super, super excited about it.
MADALYN Sounds super exciting.
JOAN I think — thank you.
MADALYN Well, Joan, I want to thank you so much for your time and your words. You are such an inspiration to me. I admire, I respect you and, you know what — you go, girl!
JOAN [laugh] Thank you. It’s been, it’s been a pleasure and I think — one of the exciting things, I think, as we get older is to take a look at not getting bogged down by what society says. It’s just like when I started with Katy and was so amazed to find out I was getting older and I was getting better physically. And so, not to let societal norms dictate how we’re going to live our lives. Figure it out for yourself. Choose. Find something you love to do and then do it.
MADALYN Thank you so much.
JOAN You’re welcome. My pleasure.