Coach Interview Series: Jen Whalen

by Brandon

Jen Whalen

Founder & Guide, True North Adventures

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Jen Whalen. Jen is the founder of True North Adventures, which offers experiential journeys designed to support their clients in slowing down and reconnecting with their own Inner Guides.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Jen: I primarily work with women who are interested in shifting their experience with fear by interrupting patterns of control or comfort that tend to limit their capacity to live the wild, embodied life they desire. I have a background in outdoor education and an MA in Spiritual Psychology, so my current practice is largely an intersection of these two fields. I’ve always been fascinated by the healing power of nature and using experiential adventures as a portal for transformation.

I have 2 young children, so at this point in life, I’m keeping the scope of my practice pretty simple. It’s been refined to the confluence of 1) where I have the most fun and 2) where I see the biggest impact with the clients I’m serving. Right now that looks like an immersion retreat experience and integration coaching before and after the trip. This coming year I’m offering a week long surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica called Be DAREful, and as has been the case in previous years, I will likely continue working with the majority of those ladies on 6 month coaching contracts moving forward.

NCA: What would you say are the factors that led you to choose this career path?

Jen: Like many adventures in life, one experience (and often the adversity in it) nudged me forward in one way and then the next experience nudged me closer to another and so on… each one shaping me in ways that helped me to come into greater alignment with what I love AND the most effective way for me to share those gifts with the world. Looking back now, I can see all the golden threads connecting the people and experiences that have led me here. But as that was unfolding in real time, I didn’t always see that path, and I invested a lot of precious time and energy experimenting, over analyzing, and often doubting myself and/or the process.

I’ve now worked with hundreds of clients, and based on the wealth of experiences gleaned from this work, I know in my bones that experimenting IS the way. These “failures” (or more accurately course corrections) are an essential part of the process. Learning to trust myself and especially the inherent wisdom and resilience in the people that I’m working with, has made this type of work so much more enjoyable. I’m still blown away by the results intentional connection, presence and inspired action can create in our lives when we consistently practice these over time.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is the privilege of standing with people in the shadowy, unknown and mirroring back to them their own resilience and capacity to move through it.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding aspect of that process and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Jen: Those two answers feel intertwined. I work with most of my clients every 2 weeks over a 6-month contract with the opportunity to renew as needed. From the beginning, we create a really strong container (including things like explicit agreements, accountability protocols, etc) in which to do the work. Playing out on our edges like this inevitably brings up the “material” that blocks us from living in alignment with who we really are. Once we settle into the truth that “wherever you go, there you are” though, I find people are really motivated to be with those hard things while holding the intention of clearing/ completing those constricting patterns.

It can feel really challenging to see and take responsibility for the ways looping patterns of limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behaviors, are often unconsciously creating the experiences we’re having over and over throughout our lives. However, I would say one of the most rewarding aspects of this work is the privilege of standing with people in the shadowy, unknown and mirroring back to them their own resilience and capacity to move through it. Sometimes this looks like connecting them with a trauma trained therapist or other resources for deeper healing, but often just holding this loving space for them to be with themselves and their inner resources creates a profound shift. It is a great reminder that we’re all learning, and that if we “project” aspects of our lives and relationships in the same way we could with a challenging climb or wave, we can often create amazing results. (Since this interview will be read not heard, it feels helpful to note the use of “project” here is pronounced as it is in the phrase “project based learning” not like psychological projection.)

NCA: What would be the one piece of advice that you would offer somebody who is in the beginning stages of their coaching career?

Jen: First, do the work. It’s been my experience that we teach what we need to learn — we’re drawn to it because we love it, and often IN that material is also our own learning edge. That can feel really frustrating in the beginning as we find our own way, but giving ourselves the space to also do our own work and fully integrate/embody the material will ultimately be the foundation on which everything else is built. It feels exciting when we uncover these gems in our own learning process. (I remember many times hearing/learning something that felt so powerful and having the impulse to immediately redirect and share with others.) Overtime though, I’ve really found the value of allowing that learning to settle in and more deeply integrate into our own system first… this practice of nourishment seems vital to the wellbeing of everything.

Coaching and holding space for others as a Guide is an incredibly rewarding, exciting craft, but we also need to give ourselves lots of space to continually do our own work and be supported in that process as well. As we do that more effectively, I’ve found it’s easier for us to stand in our own value and ultimately be more skillful in our ability to serve others.

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