Coach Interview Series: Olga Berg

by Brandon

Olga Berg

Certified 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 Olga Berg. Olga is a coach and Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. She is based in New York City.

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

Olga: I’m working with very aware, successful, educated and wonderful people who may be encountering difficulty in their life or want to let go of stress reach a new level of fulfillment.

My background is in linguistics, and when I work with my clients I focus on belief systems, identity, and how they are expressed through language. We work on finding and removing the subconscious obstacles the client may be facing, and then we question obstructing and limiting beliefs and thoughts. As a result, people live more freely, become more creative and engaged, they feel happier. With the tools I teach them, they are able to overcome with ease even the most difficult of circumstances.

My clients value the work we do together, and this makes me very happy. A client came on his birthday recently, he said he felt it was the best thing he could do for himself on this special day. When difficult decisions or transitions arise, clients come to me and find a resolution, peace and clarity. My goal is to support them in being self-sufficient, so I help them become independent and establish a personal practice of self-inquiry.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Olga: In my previous career I worked as a conference interpreter for large international organizations: NASA, the US Department of State, UN, IMF, etc. I was lucky to be on the inside of major negotiations, high-level state meetings, Space to Ground Communications at NASA. I observed how people interact, how they overcome cultural and political differences and reach a common understanding. I was curious and I started exploring the mind, language, and perception. While before I was helping people who speak different languages understand each other, now I help people to better understand themselves and their own internal language.

I have studied many different disciplines and teachings: hypnotherapy, NLP, yoga and many types of meditation. I have visited monasteries, participated in retreats, studied with many spiritual teachers. Eventually, I discovered something that felt like the perfect fit. It was brilliant and simple, and it was called The Work of Byron Katie. The process is classified as Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction (IBSR) in scientific language.

There is a study currently being launched at Stanford. Several studies were done in Europe, in Germany in particular, which show that the process of questioning our thoughts can help us be more productive, reduce procrastination, experience less stress, have better relationships, and be more present. Ultimately we all want that, right? In his recent video “Presence without thoughts”, Eckhart Tolle says: “Questioning of your thoughts is inseparable from the arising of presence…questioning your thought implies separation from your thinking. Presence or awareness grows with dis-identification from thinking”.

We create problems in our minds because we identify with the thinking behind them, and that is actually fantastic news! This means that we can find the cause of our problems, and transform them. It might sound complicated, but it is really very simple, the practice brings spontaneous mindfulness, effortless presence.

I did a ton of traditional therapy back in the day, and I did not find it very effective for myself. With inquiry the client quickly becomes very self-sufficient and receives tools they can use anytime, any day, anywhere. And, of course, they have my unconditional support whenever they need it. All our sessions are confidential and are scheduled online or in-person depending on the client’s preference. Occasionally I do retreats, like the upcoming one in Hawaii in March:

When somebody comes to me, we start with an intensive inquiry into the problem area and help them establish their own practice. After that, they come when they feel they need a little extra support. I don’t specialize in any particular area. I just work with the thinking in the area they struggle with. People come with relationship problems, money problems, stress. Stress is a big issue, particularly for young people. When the confusion in the mind is cleared, it affects all areas of life.

I have had clients bring family members, I work with couples, some times children. The process really works and just cuts to the chase. When we get through the projections that keep us separated, when we truly see the other person, we feel compassion, we feel connected, and it makes everything so much easier. Healing is simply a change of viewpoint.

Even everyday thoughts like, “I do not know what to do” or “There is no way out” could be quite debilitating if we really believe them. When they are truly addressed, things just flow. Even slowing down in the moment when a stressful thought arises and asking yourself “Is it true?”, can have a profound impact.

The most rewarding parts is seeing people flourish. I’ve helped my clients get through trauma, the death of a loved one, grave physical diagnosis, difficult business and life decisions, and be being happy, engaged and live their lives to the fullest. This is hugely satisfying to me.

NCA: Can you just elaborate on the new problems, the new challenges that the younger generation is facing that maybe 10 years ago, maybe 15 years ago weren’t the case?

Olga: Yes, I think that life in general is more intense with the younger generation than it was 20 to 30 years ago. Young people are subjected to much more pressure to succeed; the information stream is much more intense. Social media alters expectations and encourages comparisons. Requirements from parents and schools are higher. When we feel we are not doing enough, or well enough, our self-esteem drops. In my childhood, we had time, we played outside after school. We didn’t have to do homework until the wee hours of the morning. Now the competition is extreme. The expectation of going to an elite college, succeeding, landing a great job, particularly of children who were afforded good schools or private schools, is extremely high. 

With explosion of social media, our community time has diminished, there is no meaningful physical work to be done together. This exacerbates the stress and young people end up in a very vulnerable position. Many of them, having gone through a grueling educational system, are at the end very much lost in who they really are or what they really want in life. The desire to succeed overpowers their innate inspiration. They lose motivation and direction. I work with them to help them connect with the present, restore emotional connection with themselves and restore ability to communicate clearly and honestly.

In the UK the educational system children are exposed to a broad well-rounded curriculum in primary school, but by the time they are finishing high school, the students only have to do three subjects in-depth, similar to a college course. They have the opportunity to prepare for college and specialize better. In the US all high school students have to take the SATs, a highly intensive non-aptitude test. Even if you want to train at a university musician or an artist, you still need to spend the majority of your time preparing for the SATs plus your specialty subjects. It is very labor-intensive and distracting for many students. All of this happens at the age when they are learning about relationships, social connections, and for many it is all too much. It is so important to support the emotional health of young people during this time to prevent anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide.

We live in a world of advice. Magazines, TV, social media all tell us how to parent, how to have sex, how to do this, how to do that. In reality, the universe is so multi-dimensional. It’s so complex. We are the only ones who can know in the moment what’s true or right for us in our own particular situation. 

How can parents help their children? There are two sides to being a good parent: 1) We have to strive to be really present with emotions, both in ourselves and our children. And 2) we need to work with your belief system in order to let go of our own childhood conditioning. The more we are present as parents, the healthier the kids. Our self-awareness naturally created self-awareness in them.

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

Olga: The most rewarding parts is seeing people flourish. I’ve helped my clients get through trauma, the death of a loved one, grave physical diagnosis, difficult business and life decisions, and be being happy, engaged and live their lives to the fullest. This is hugely satisfying to me. 

Every person is infinitely creative, and the work we do really opens people up to things they didn’t even think they had in them. I enjoy this so much, to see this unknown potential flourish.

The most challenging for me, I think, is billing and scheduling. [laughing] It’s not my thing.

I love the constant flow and creativity in my life. I’m leading a retreat in Hawaii in March which came together spontaneously without any effort. A magical place, amazing people, campfires, ocean, dance.. so effortless. Seeing life unfold for myself and for others around me is amazing. I love being in the middle of it.

Earlier I mentioned the two sides we work with: inquiry and mindfulness. Mindfulness is such a popular term these days, but I also think that it’s a little bit abused. It is a fantastic thing to bring more awareness to what surrounds me, but the other side of it is that if I have something that is really pulling my attention, it is very difficult to be present and might bring even more stress. If I have issues I’m not addressing, mindfulness alone might not work. 

Inquiry is a very honest way to get to the truth, to catch what we are projecting to the outside. We are very much stuck in a spiritual pretense nowadays. We all have to be nice and kind and compassionate, but, in reality, we have all kinds of thoughts all the time. We have 70,000 thoughts a day to be more precise, and we do not control them at all. The only thing we can do is to change our relationship with our thinking rather than try to control it. This is a fundamental point. The more we are accepting of all of our thoughts and feelings, the better it all flows. We bring more peace and true expression to the world when we are truly present, and not believing our thoughts.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor who was vital to your success as a coach and how did this mentor help you thrive?

Olga:  Byron Katie is really inspiring to me. I met her at a challenging time in my life. I just had three children, one after another. For a variety of reasons, I felt totally run over. [laughing] Everything was fine on the surface. I had a lovely husband, a beautiful house, beautiful and healthy children, but I was not happy. I was just run down and tired, I was working hard, dropping into bed and getting up in the morning, and the whole hamster wheel was spinning again. I was not feeling any satisfaction. 

I discovered Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is” and saw her in a workshop in Chicago. I tried the process and it was just so simple and profound. It didn’t require any secrecy, qualifications or degrees. It was so fundamentally true, and I was very moved by it and started training with her. I am now a Certified Facilitator for The Work of Byron Katie and a trainer for the Institute for The Work in Ojai. CA. I have been involved with The Work for the past 13 years of my life. I love how Katie works with people. I’ve staffed a lot of her events and never get tired of watching her.

NCA: What is one small piece of advice you would want to give somebody who is just starting out in their coaching career?

Olga:  Work with yourself. In the end, we can only give to others what we can give to ourselves. As a beginning coach, one can easily get caught up in the externals, logistics, etc. But ultimately, if you’re doing what is right for you, and if it is really inspired, there are endless possibilities and configurations on how it could unfold for you. We all find what we need and what we are ready for. It is really all about what’s inside of you.

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