Empower Yourself, Empower Your Life. Life-Shifting Tips from Dr. Jeffrey Hull

written by Anjula April 30, 2009

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Certified Executive/Life Coach, Dr. Jeffrey Hull, MBA, Ph.D.

About Jeffrey Hull: Jeffrey Hull, MBA, Ph.D. is a writer, psychotherapist, and certified executive/life coach whose clients range from single individuals in private practice to multinational Fortune 500 corporations. Throughout his professional career, Dr. Hull has worked with hundreds of individuals, organizational teams, and community groups, and is widely recognized as a pioneer in the fields of performance coaching for executives and life coaching for individuals.  A former Director of Human Resources at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Dr. Hull has worked with senior executives at AT&T, Banque Paribas, Bankers Trust, MasterCard International, TD Ameritrade, and HSBC.

Over the past decade in private practice, Dr. Hull has created an innovative approach to healing and personal growth called The Life-Shifting Method ™ that synthesizes the most up-to-date methods of life coaching and psychotherapy.  He works with clients in every domain-mental, emotional, physical and spiritual-addressing the full spectrum of life’s challenges.  His new book, “Shift! How to Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear” will be published by GPP (Globe Pequot) books later this year.

An avid meditator and yoga practitioner, Dr. Hull is a certified Vinyasa yoga instructor and regularly leads retreats and workshops for East/West Living, One Spirit Interfaith Alliance, The Forge Institute and SpiritJourneys, Inc.  Dr. Hull has been featured in the NY Times and IBD (Investors Business Daily) and has published numerous articles in the New York Jung Institute Journal, Quadrant, and the San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal. He has appeared on NBC news and was featured in a story on “Creativity in Business” for Good Morning America on CBS-TV.  You can learn more about Dr. Hull and the Life-Shifting Method at www.life-shifting.com.

LM: At what point in your life did you say, “I’m going to become a life coach and help people find joy in their lives”?

JH: I’m not sure that I ever did say such a thing specifically.  I started “coaching” people as a natural outgrowth of my job as a Human Resources Director for Booz, Allen & Hamilton, back in the mid-90’s.  My favorite part of the job was interviewing candidates, asking them about their dreams and talents, and holding meaningful “career discussions” with the consulting staff.

It was always so gratifying to help someone experience that “aha” moment of awareness around their passions, interests and talents.  I’m not sure exactly how it came to pass, but one day I found myself in a workshop with Thomas Leonard, the founder of Coach University, and lo and behold, discovered that one could actually make a living counseling people and supporting them in manifesting their dreams.

LM:You are recognized as a pioneer in the fields of performance coaching for executives and life coaching for individuals.  Can you expound on the key components for both Performance Coaching and Life Coaching?  Are there any key similarities between the training you provide in these two fields?

JH: In my work, “performance coaching” specifically refers to supporting executives in “raising their game” as leaders.  In the corporate and professional worlds, I work with leaders who are interested in developing their skills, talents and capabilities as strategic thinkers, creative collaborators, and team builders.  It is crucial, especially in today’s challenging economic environment that executives and professionals of all kinds constantly seek out opportunities for personal growth.  “Performance coaching” can be a powerful contributor to this goal.

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Executive at Play

For me, the critical success factor for “high performance” almost always comes down to self-awareness: knowing your strengths, your blind spots, your “tendencies” under stress, and, constantly seeking ways to improve.  Coaching is ideally suited for this kind of exploration because it offers something I call “mirroring” — a direct, unflinching feedback loop, delivered with compassion, that leaders cannot really get from training or other education programs.

On the other hand, just about everything that applies to “performance coaching” is applicable to “life coaching” as well. It is just that the context– all of life, instead of organizational results — is BIGGER.

It is my belief that we are all leaders.  Every time we get out of bed in the morning, we are leading our life–and as such, we must take full responsibility for our “performance,” our level of self-awareness, and the manifestation of our talents and dreams in the world.  So life coaching, as with performance coaching, provides the support of a compassionate “mirror,” — an investment in self that pays off in unimaginable ways.

LM: When an individual comes to your for Life Coaching, what are some of the key elements you focus on to help them discover purpose, success and happiness?  (i.e., Personal coaching, goal setting tools, personality assessments, etc)

JH: This is a great question because it begins to get to the heart of what makes my “life-shifting” approach to coaching somewhat unique.  You see, I’m a big believer that you cannot manifest your true potential in the world just by setting goals, or putting together an “action plan.”  I know too many people who have all sorts of “strategic plans” tucked away in their attics — books they were going to write, graduate degrees they were going to complete, companies they were going to start, houses they wanted to buy, trips they were hoping to take, you name it! –and yet, these plans sit on the shelf, gathering dust.

Having an intention is important–getting in touch with your dreams and holding a vision — BUT, it is also crucial to work through your emotional demons from the past — the fears, the dramas, the memories — all of which  may rear their ugly head just when it is time to move forward, holding you back and cutting off your momentum.

The key to “shifting your life into high gear” is to focus on the future, raise your self-awareness in the present, and release the baggage of the past.  It is essential that we do all three of these in order to move ahead with our dreams.

That said, I do believe that getting in touch with our core passions as adults is easier than most people think.  You don’t really need a whole battery of assessment instruments or diagnostic tests.  Most importantly, you need to feel safe enough to allow your personal, unique and special story to emerge.  You need a guide who will take you back to the place, usually in childhood, when your talents, passions, and interests just bubbled to the surface — when doing what you loved just came naturally.  The key to re-claiming your passions is to re-connect with the playful, light, and fun self — who is always still alive, in everyone.  Once this vein of gold is tapped, the passions will re-emerge, and the challenge becomes how to make them manifest in the REAL world.

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Reconnecting with Your Playful Self

LM: Can you share with our readers more about your private “Life-shifting” practice?  When did you start the practice, what was the impetus?

JH: My Life-Shifting Method ™ was created in late 2003, after I completed my Ph.D. in Depth Psychology and started practicing as a psychotherapist.  I had been an executive coach and life coach for over ten years prior to this, and I found that adding the psychotherapeutic component to my work with clients in private practice to be exciting, gratifying and essential to helping people truly live out their dreams.

I realized though, after practicing in a “traditional” psychotherapy mode for about a year, that weekly 50 minute sessions with clients that go on for years and years was not only something I wasn’t particularly interested in doing, it didn’t seem to fit the real need of most of my clients.  What most people really need, I discovered, is a synthesis of the best methods from psychotherapy–cognitive, analytical, etc.–and life coaching (visioning, goal setting, real world planning, support/community).

Once I started designing my practice around the needs of the client, rather than around the specific traditional patterns of the profession, I found that my work with people just exploded with accelerating success.  Clients would come and work with me for just a few months, every other week, and transform their entire lives–change careers, re-invent stale relationships, re-connect to their dreams.  It was a revelation to me that change could be so profound and so quick.  In response to this, I started delineating what has become the Life-Shifting Method–a six-stage process for healing, transformation and self-renewal.

LM: What is the best thing about being a Life Coach?

JH: The best thing about being a life coach is watching someone transform right before your eyes.  It moves me, way beyond words, to think of how many of my clients have completely re-invented their lives–at age 25, 40, 60 and beyond.  I am constantly astounded by the ability of the human heart, the flexible brain, and the strong body to re-imagine itself all throughout the journey of life.

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The Lotus is a Symbol for the Center of Consciousness (chakras) in the Body.

To be witness to the kind of joy and happiness that comes from waking up and living out one’s dreams — it is truly a privilege.  Something that I would do for free.  Something that I will do all my life–and I feel blessed to know that I do something from which I will never want to retire.

LM: All of us from time to time, feel stuck, or have unfulfilled dreams, what are some tips that you can provide our readers with on how to get “unstuck?”

JH: Let’s see.  This is another really great question.  I can’t help but reflect on how our entire country feels a bit “stuck” right now.  As individuals, as families, communities — even entire nations — we all go through cycles, (that is fundamentally what the life-shifting method is about), and getting “stuck” is just one of the inevitable steps in the process of constant change.

The first thing I do with clients is have them reflect on the nature of “life change” itself–on how nothing ever stays the same: we are all constantly evolving.  The market goes up and down.  The economic cycle goes through boom and bust.  I encourage clients to see that “being stuck” is just a normal part of the change process called life.  This is an important first step: acceptance.

The second thing about “being stuck” that we have to grapple with is recognizing that change is afoot.  We may feel “stuck” or in a “rut” or “grounded to a halt” — yet the feeling of stuckness is actually resistance: some part of you, or all of you is holding back in the wake of a change that is coming.  Hence, the deeper feeling that appears as “being stuck” is most likely FEAR; fear of change, fear of an unknown future, fear that who you’ve known yourself to be — may no longer serve you.  I encourage my clients to explore questions like these:

  • What change may be percolating under the ground of my life?
  • What deep desire for my life have I ignored, avoided, or dismissed as impractical?
  • Is there a SHIFT in the works?

The third step in the process of shifting out of “stuckness” is to reflect on what you may need to “let go” of–some aspect of your identity, your story, your way of seeing yourself, may have outlived it usefulness.  For example, if we think about the cultural and economic “stuck” place that we are in right now as a country, it seems fairly obvious that the identity — our story — that we have outlived is the one called “consume, consume, consume” or put another way: “debt is always good,” “stock markets always go up,” “having more stuff is always better,” etc.  Part of the “shift” out of any stuck place requires a release process: we have to let go of outmoded ways of being; we have to shed layers of identity that may have served us up to a point, but have outworn their usefulness. This can be a painful process, but it is a necessary step along the path to revival, rejuvenation–and re-birth.

LM: Is it possible to coach yourself – to be your own life coach?

JH: Absolutely!  There are any number of ways to “coach” yourself: self-talk, affirmations, meditation, journal writing. I’m a big believer, as a Jungian trained psychotherapist, in the power of dreams to help us coach ourselves. By tending to my dreams, writing them down, exploring what symbolic meanings they might provide, I am constantly discovering new sources of inspiration, creativity and joy…that come from deep within ME.

The key to self-coaching is finding a way to listen to your inner voice–to dialogue with a deeper, centered, soulful part of yourself that often gets buried beneath the constant chatter of the surface personality–the ego.  I like to call this inner guide my “soul,” but the language we use doesn’t matter, listening and dialoguing with ourselves in a manner suits us…that matters!

In fact, I think that the very best life coaches are ones who help the client create a safe container in which they find themselves “tuning in” to themselves…not the coach.  The coach may be a powerful facilitator, but at the end of the day, we all need to listen in to the divine spirit within ourselves.

LM:Can you share with our readers some key Life-Coaching tips on dealing with stress in our daily lives?

JH: When we get caught up in the symptom called “stress” it usually means that our energy has become scattered, our thoughts are distracted and racing, and we have lost track of the present moment.  We live in a culture that is addicted to results — to meeting goals, accomplishing things.  On the one hand, this makes us creative and productive, but the down side is that we can forget to enjoy life, to pause, breathe and relish each moment.

Stress is a normal part of living life. What matters is not that we try to banish stress — can’t be done!–but that we have practices in place that remind us who we are and what really matters.  For that, I recommend clients find a suitable meditative breathing and physical alignment practice, of which there are hundreds of different kinds (personally, I am a practitioner of Vipassana Meditation and Vinyasa Yoga).  I strongly advise clients to make time for physical activity — even if it is just a walk in the woods or a bike ride. Exercise is the best de-stressor of all.

LM: How would you describe your coaching style?

JH: Warm, grounded, heart-centered and intuitive are words that come to mind when I think about the way I approach my work.  It’s an interesting question because even though I bring many years of experience to my practice and a tool box filled with a long list of trainings — psychodynamic psychology, Freud and Jung, shamanic healing, the Enneagram, Kahuna healing, leadership assessments (Hogan, the Brain Map, Predictive Index, Myers-Briggs), and so on–these are not what I find really makes a coaching relationship work.  For me personally, success with a client comes down to what I call the three C’s of coaching:  compassion, clarity and courage.

  • Compassion means guiding from the heart, creating a safe space for people to tell their unique story of pain and joy and sorrow–all of it.
  • Clarity means diving below the surface of words, images and feelings, and listening in for the core meaning, trusting that my intuitive skills–and those of the client–will guide us to the heart of the matter.
  • Courage means having the willingness to share what I see, even if it takes us down a path that a client might prefer to avoid.  Confronting the “Shadow,” as Carl Jung would say, is key to personal transformation.

LM:Can you describe a typical coaching session for us?

JH: I’m not sure that I could describe a “typical” session.  Each client is unique and I take my cue from where ever they happen to be, in the moment.  We always start with what I would call “the presenting symptom”–the fear, the anxiety, the stuckness–and enter an exploration process together.  Key to each session, for me, is to move fluidly back and forth between the present, the past and the future.

I help my clients get grounded in their present experience, re-claim lost vitality and creativity, and overcome life patterns that may hinder them in their quest to live out their dreams. I’m also a big believer in giving “homework” beyond the time we spend together. Whether it is physical exercise, creative exploration through writing or painting or music, polishing a resume or reading just the right book–the work of manifesting one’s dreams in the world is a full time job.  The session with me is just the primer for the pump–I offer myself as a catalyst, a role model, a champion, and healer…whatever is needed in the moment to get the creative, life force flowing again.

LM: Why do people need to hire a coach?  Could they get the same results by talking to a good friend or family member?

JH: I would never underestimate the value of support we receive from trusted friends, mentors and family.  However, the closer we are to significant others, the more their own lives become entangled in ours, and as much as they may desire for us to succeed, their own fears, projections, and concerns may actually become obstacles to our forward movement.  We may feel guilty if we get too far beyond the comfort zone in which our intimates have placed us.

There are times in life when it is extremely helpful to invest in getting professional support, feedback and guidance, particularly from someone who does not have an agenda beyond a desire for your personal success.

LM: Your services seem psychological but also physical as well. Is this a mind-body balance sort of coaching?

JH: You’re right on about this!  I’m what I would call a somatic coach/therapist — a big believer in listening in for the wisdom of the body, the heart and the head.  As my mentor and spiritual coach, Tom Lutes, often reminds me, there are too many of us in the intellectual West that walk around like “brains on a stick.”  We ignore the physical body and dismiss the value of emotions that may feel uncontrollable or irrational.

Instead we place all our emphasis upon our mental faculties — which is why we always hear about the power of positive thinking; e.g. “change your thoughts to change your life.” I’m certainly all for tending to our thinking — and supporting clients in exploring their belief systems and conditioned mindset…BUT, it is also crucial that we not just bring the body, the heart and soul along for the ride, but tend to the deep meaning they carry.

Feelings and physical symptoms may not always be easy to interpret or understand, but they are where the gold often lies.  It is my belief that true transformation and self-knowledge emerges through listening equally deeply to the body, not just the mind. My intention with clients is to help them reach a place of “embodied wisdom”– a centered, vital, alive and aligned experience of joy and peace — where they revere and revel in the gift of their full humanness: heart, head and soul.

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