Getting to know you: Michelle Ward, Life Coach

Last spring when I took Holly Becker's Blogging Your Way e-course (which, by the way, I totally recommend), I was lucky enough to "meet" some fabulous bloggers that I might not have come across otherwise. Michelle Ward is one of them, as our blogging genres don't exactly cross-over. But her blog When I Grow Up Coach is a daily source of inspiration for me. Michelle is a life coach who helps creative folk navigate their fears and uncertainties of following their artists passions into a career.

Basically the kick in the butt that so many of us are in dire need of.

I asked Michelle to explain a little more about her coaching, but also some nosy personal questions, because I just love getting to know someone better! I hope you enjoy getting to know Michelle!
1. Why did you decide to become a life coach? And um, what exactly is a life coach?
Ain't "life coach" a fun, slightly mysterious title? You can absolutely take it at face value & look at it literally: a life coach is a coach for your life! Just like a tennis coach is there to see where the player needs improvement, and shows her how she can achieve the best results over and over, and cheers her on through the wins and losses (while sometimes giving her tough love to help her get to the next level) - a life coach does that to ensure you live your life to the fullest. While you rely on your best friend or partner to listen to your troubles and offer advice, and you pay your therapist to talk about your past, your coach focuses on the present and future, intently listening and asking questions to help you discover your unique path. (Disclaimer: I stole that copy from my website! There's a more thorough answer on my What is Coaching? page)

Why I became a life coach....have a few hours to kill? To make a long story short, I decided in my late 20s - after going to NYU for musical theater & chasing my Broadway Baby dreams since the age of 6 - that I didn't like my performance opportunities more than I hated the business of show. At the time, I was at a "grown-up" job which provided me a livable salary & benefits, but I hated almost every minute of it. As someone who spent my whole life following my passion,  it was absolutely unacceptable to me to stay in a job that I wasn't passionate about (& had to suffer an emotionally abusive boss to boot!). I went to NYU's School of Continuing Ed to take a career change workshop, & even though I was set to find a stable job that I could be passionate about, it just confirmed the fact that I wanted to be a life coach. After I got past the fact that I could be a life coach without being hippy dippy, & that someone else paying me doesn't equal "stability", I dove in to get certified at the International Coach Academy.

Read more after the jump...

2. How long have you been blogging? What is your favorite thing to blog about?
According to my Blogoversary counter, about 500 days. Holy guacamole! Oh, I just love my blog. I started it for business-type reasons & have just found it to be such an amazing way to find members of My Tribe - people that live all over the globe that are like-minded, kind, supportive, smart, funny people that I never would have met otherwise (like you, Ms Maggie!). Picking my favorite thing to blog about is such a tough question, though! I think I'd have to say that my Tough (Question) Tuesdays series is my fave, not because of what I'm blogging but because of the comments it provokes. Love getting to see the answers from others, & building that community. My new Grown-Up Gigs series has also been super awesome, because I'm getting to expose some "offbeat" careers for creatives that they might have never considered (LEGO artists, improv pranksters, wearing shirts...). When someone comments that it switched on a lightbulb in their head, that's like gold to me.

3. What are common themes you hear from people who may be in the market for life coaching?

Well, I work specifically with creative types that are looking for a career change, so it's fairly specialized. That said, there are a plethora of challenges people come to me with. Some of them are stuck in a job that they hate, but don't see a way out where they can believe that they can follow a creative passion & make money from it. Some of them are looking to take their creative pursuits & bring them to the next level, whether it's incorporating a hobby into a too-busy schedule or wanting to bump up their game to sell more goods/make more money. Some of them have an idea as to what the next step is but are scared to make it. Some of them have no idea, but know that the career they're in presently just ain't working for them. Some of them come from "traditional" families & believe that their artistic pursuits can't be "real" jobs. Some of them think there's a box that they need to fit in, & don't know how to focus their interests/passions.

I work with my clients on discovering their strengths, their interests, their skills, their work values, their personality types, etc to find out what road they want to go down. Along the way, we work on those roadblocks that stop them - the belief that they won't be able to make a living doing what they love, that nobody will understand them, that they're not "good enough" - so we can keep working our way to the goal. I'm a firm believer in not taking a leap without a net, but planting the net firmly beneath you & taking baby steps, having it being pulled out little by little, until you're standing on your own.

4. Stepping away from work for a moment, what is your favorite part of your home? What makes a house a home?

I'm moving into my very first home with my husband next week (we've been renters - this is our third apartment together but our first purchase!), & I can't freaking wait. It really does feel like Our First Home, since we get to do whatever we want to make it ours. Even though we're not there yet, I know that my favorite part of our home will be the view. We saw about a dozen apartments in the same building complex with the same layout, but the one we bought has 12th floor views of the Brooklyn Bridge & the Manhattan skyline. Day or night, it's going to take my breath away & remind me of where I am & what I've accomplished. There's nothing like the Manhattan skyline to make me feel like there's a big fat opportunity out there waiting for me. In general, I think what makes a house a home is the love & warmth & comfort inside. Filling it with the things (& people!) you love makes it an instant sanctuary.

5. What inspires and motivates you?

My passion - knowing that I can make a living doing what I love. My clients - having them move forward in reaching their goals gives me a second, third, & fourth wind every day. My family - knowing that they're cheering me on & will pick me up when I fall allows me to keep running the race. My financial security - knowing that I can support myself, & possibly my family (!), without sitting in a cube for 9 hours a day wakes me up in the morning & tucks me in at night.

6. What are five things you can't live without? (fun place for a picture or two) Only 5?! OK (pout). I'm assuming things aren't people, right? If so, then (in no particular order) 1. Laughter/Celebration 2. Pajamas 3. Performing 4. Music 5. Bubble baths