Coach Interview Series: Kirsten Parker

by Brandon

Kirsten Parker

Mindset and Action Coach

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 Kirsten Parker. Kirsten is a Mindset and Action Coach based in Los Angeles, California.

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

Kirsten: The people I work with just want to be happier! That’s what it always boils down to. In broad strokes, those are the people I work with. I do that with mindset and action coaching in a couple of different ways.

I do one-on-one and small group work primarily with women around their 30’s who want to move themselves and their careers forward. They’re ready to start feeling and acting like the confident, purposeful, grounded, focused, unstoppable people that they really know themselves to be. They want results. They want to create those tangible changes in their jobs and habits and relationship and they want to enjoy it.

I think that deciding to do something you really want is one of the scariest things that we can do. A lot of people avoid it because they’re afraid that they’re going to have to be in struggle and misery until they either succeed or they fail and those options are both really intimidating. In my work, we also prioritize enjoying the present moment while we build this awesome future because if it just feels like work and it’s not fun, then what’s the point?

I think people don’t even realize what they’re really afraid of. Their brains trick them into thinking they’re afraid of failure or they’re afraid of losing money. I also really enjoy this work because we get to dive deeper into those questions and find out what people are actually afraid of feeling. Because that’s usually what it comes down to. You’re just afraid of feeling embarrassment or you’re afraid of feeling rejection. That’s where it really gets juicy for me because once we pinpoint that and you make an agreement with yourself that you’re actually okay feeling all of the feelings, that’s when you realize, “Oh, I can be unstoppable.” That’s so amazing. That’s the one-on-one work I do. That’s like long-term individual client work.

I also run workshops with companies and organizations. They bring me in when they want to provide more self-management resources for their teams. I think of what I teach as tools that you put together to build the skill of self-management: handling stress, managing energy, communication and leadership — things where they have personal agency but also the ability to affect the larger culture.

Once […] you make an agreement with yourself that you’re actually okay feeling all of the feelings, that’s when you realize, “Oh, I can be unstoppable.” That’s so amazing.

NCA: What initially got you interested in becoming a coach and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete?

Kirsten: Frankly, I was in therapy on and off for more than 10 years — probably like a lot of people. I think therapy is great for what it exists for but I felt eventually I wasn’t getting anywhere because I was asking therapy to be coaching and I just didn’t know it. I didn’t realize that they exist for different functions because I didn’t even know coaching existed.

Therapy is very normalized in our society and I think coaching is in this cool time where it is not as taboo and woo-woo as it used to be, but it’s still not as mainstream. I think people think it’s normal to just go to therapy forever and talk about the same problems and that’s productive — and it’s just not.

Of course, it’s always some inspirational person who showed you that this field exists and this work is possible. I was in my early 30’s when I got exposed to this amazing coach. This woman was starting a group coaching program and I was like, “Well, I’ve never heard of coaching but I have nothing to lose so I’ll try it.” And it totally changed my life because that’s where I learned the difference between therapy and coaching.

I learned the fundamental concepts that people use to shift their perspective in coaching, like “You can choose which thoughts you believe and that changes your reality” and asking the question “What are emotions and how do you process them?” It was the idea that you’re fully responsible for your life experience, basically. That was mind-blowing to me. I didn’t know if everybody knew this and I just was behind. But I really didn’t fully understand that you are in charge of your life experience 100% and I don’t think you can have a productive conversation about your life and about your future until you understand that. That’s what coaching did for me.

NCA: After that, did you seek out certification on your own or did you just go straight into it?

Kirsten: I went straight into it. I signed up with a Master Coach who was teaching these skills and I’ve always invested in coaching, thereafter, by getting coaching myself. I’ve explored certification programs but it hasn’t been the right time. It hasn’t been necessary yet. I take ongoing classes in positive psychology which is really fascinating to me and informs a lot of my work and I complete trainings and things but the short answer in certification is no. And I don’t know if I will, so it’s going to be fun to find out.

I’m not the guru. I don’t have all of the answers. Everyone has their own answers. They just need help unlearning what’s not working anymore and then learning how to […] get good at that skill of self-management.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of that experience and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Kirsten: The most rewarding part is when the client shares that they’re proud of themselves for how they’re showing up in their lives, how they’re making decisions, and how they’re prioritizing themselves. That’s the goal. Because I’m not the guru. I don’t have all of the answers. Everyone has their own answers. They just need help unlearning what’s not working anymore and then learning how to use all of these tools that we talked about so they can get good at that skill of self-management. It’s seeing them trust that they’ll follow through on the commitments they make for themselves and seeing them learn the tricks that their brain’s going to play on them with biases and habits.

We’re all so much more capable and complete than we think we are and when someone actually gets turned on to that idea and they start believing, “Oh, I am capable. I am complete. I can have the amazing life I want.” That’s the reason that I will do this job forever.

Realizing that everything I think of as an imperfection, like humanness, is actually an asset and not a liability to my work — I think that’s been a huge challenge because there are so many biases. It’s really tempting to get in the way, like thinking that you can’t be taken seriously without a PhD or you have to figure everything out yourself before you can help anybody do anything. We’ll come up with any excuse that we’re not ready or qualified.

When I stopped focusing on that lack and comparison mentality and really just started showing up as myself and focusing on connecting with people and serving them, that’s when my business grew. That’s when I also started enjoying it as much as I do now, too.

NCA: Has there been a mentor or somebody in your life who played the most instrumental role in your career in becoming a coach?

Kirsten: I worked with 3 different coaches personally and then I’ve studied with more beyond that. My current coach who I’ve been working with all year is Winn Clark. She is a fellow California-lover and wine-lover. I just look up to her with the utmost respect. She’s actually my main support in the challenge that we’re just talking about — this idea that you have to be anything other than what you are in order to help people. She really challenged my belief on that.

I’m a life-long learner. I’ll always be taking classes and investing in myself and investing in more education but she really challenged my perspective that I needed to wait to finish anything or hit any milestones before I would actually be helpful to people. And I saw results in my clients so I believe her. Her mentorship has invaluable.

NCA: Can you offer some advice to somebody who is just in the beginning stage of becoming a coach?

Kirsten: I feel like I’m talking to my past self. [laughing] I would say get a coach. Find someone that you enjoy working with and ask them to coach and mentor you because you will learn not only from just watching them coach and how they coach you, but you’ll also be able to serve your clients so much more powerfully because you can relate to their experience on that level.

We also have to be able to relate to our clients on every step of the process. From that scared step in the beginning, to the expansion and contraction of coaching with someone, to that satisfaction when you’re done and you followed through on this commitment you made to yourself. I think that’s the most valuable thing I have done for myself and my business and I would say whatever else you do, get a coach.

This is the best job in the world. We get to make it up. You get to make up exactly how you work, what you work on, who you work with — and it’s all for the purpose of helping people feel better in their lives and about their lives. I can’t imagine being happier doing anything else.

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