Transforming awareness: being a life coach – part 2

Transforming awareness: being a life coach - part 2

In October 2019, PETER J. REDING spoke with VICTOR KANNAN about being a pioneer in the field of professional Life Coaching. In part 2, they speak about the importance of sacred space, inner connection, and revitalizing the sacred in secular spaces through awareness.

Q: You also talk about sacred space. I love this where you say that sacred space allows us to reconnect with our brilliant and resourceful nature. You talk about sacred self, and quite a bit about the Creator, God, God-given talent, and things like that. Obviously, you are heeding quite a bit of spiritual philosophy and spiritual orientation in coaching people.

PR: Thank you. Yes, 100%.

Q: And I’ve always heard that businesses are secular minded. So how do you differentiate between religion and spirituality, and bring the idea of spirituality in a secular market place? Or is it that they don’t care because they all believe in God?

PR: We were told, quite frankly, about 25 years ago, when we started Coach for Life, that if you present yourself as a spiritual coach training, you’ll not get business from the secular world. Here, in the United States, we have a separation of Church and State, even in our Constitution, right? So, school systems can’t include prayer, because it needs to be separated.

30 to 40 years ago, I spent a lot of time in the world of very large corporations that leave this stuff at home, not just spirituality, but also emotional things. You know … “We don’t want to hear you complaining,” “We don’t want to hear you whining,” “We don’t want to hear the issues you’re having in your lives, whether your kids, your parents, your husband, whatever. Handle that at home.” “We’re not paying you to be emotional. We just want you to come in and do the work.”

Well, that was ridiculous, because human beings are innately emotional; they can’t help it. It’s part of being human. I would also propose that most of the world believes in some form of Divine Presence. They have all kinds of different names for it, they practice and honor it differently, they use different language for it, but the core, the bottom line, in all the spiritual traditions of the world is that there is a guiding force that’s there 24/7, 365 days of the year. And when I’m quiet enough and listen, it will serve me.

We don’t talk about religion and we don’t talk about religious practices, but we do talk very seriously about being connected with your Creator. You may call it different things – your spirit, your God, your Deity or your deities. Are you connected to that part of your beingness? Now, there are some people who don’t come to our training because that sounds … They say, “I want executive coaching. How do we get more effectiveness in results and performance? You know, that’s all I’m interested in. I’m not interested in anything beyond what I can see.” And there are other people who intentionally come to us because they’ve been separated from their sense of honoring themselves spiritually in their work. So they want to have that connection: “How can I do my work, as a coach, as a CXO, as a parent, as a community leader, as an NGO executive, with that sense of spirituality, honoring the ecumenical? We have Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and how can we honor all of them so that we can work together?”

So, if I am in search of who I am, and I go back to the source of that, I can go two different ways. I can go to my heredity, right? Where did my great grandparents come from, what language did they speak, what culture were they in, and when did they migrate to the United States? You know, am I a third generation, fourth generation or fifth generation American? That describes my DNA. Fantastic. That’s the human part of me. But if I stop there, I haven’t gotten to the inside of me, my soul, that is infinite. There wasn’t a beginning and there’s not going to be an end; that part will continue, I believe, after my death, after I shed my body. So if I don’t deal with that part of humanity in life, then I’m stuck with the “who I am” being defined by externals.

Going back to the secularism of business, or broader, the world, it has been incredibly generative for people to be reconnected. With that transformation back to themselves, they have a new lease on life. They see things differently, quite literally. They start having a true North, a compass, a guidance system that they can rely on a hundred percent of the time, when they have that inner connection with their Creator. It’s amazing.

Q: So, is inner connection with the Creator the same as sacred space within?

PR: Yes, I believe so. The sacred space that I referred to is as a human being. My coaching contract is four pages long, but the essence of it is: I will hold sacred space for you to do the work that you are ready to do. What we’re talking about is the inner work. There are external issues, but the sacred space is: I‘m not going to judge you. I’m not going to tell you what to do. Even if you ask me for advice, I’m going to most likely turn it back to you and say, I don’t know what’s best for you in this situation. What is coming up from inside of you that you already know on how you want to handle this?

So the sacred space is incredibly rare in the world that has been accustomed to an advice addiction. Advice addiction works in two different ways: One is when I’m addicted to getting advice, so that I can do what you want me to do, so I don’t screw up and you’ll like me, or promote me, or consider me for the next job; two is when I give advice, and I’m addicted to doing so because it makes me feel good that I’m passing along my knowledge and wisdom to others who don’t know what they’re doing.

And that continues throughout life, as a kid, as a student, as a young worker, as a mid-level manager, as an executive. The sacred space in coaching is very different. It’s starting to break that co-dependence to say: I’m holding this space for you to figure this out, and I honor the fact that you may choose something that I don’t think is right for you, without telling you that. Because there’s going to be a life lesson in there that I personally don’t know, that you need to go through to get to your own clarity. Does that make sense?

Q: Yes, it does. I mean you’re holding a space where they feel safe and they can go back into finding who they are, discover their authentic self, and develop the courage to make the choice and to feel good about it. That unleashes the energy for them to be successful in terms of executing what they discovered in themselves.

PR: The last point is spectacular, Victor. The last point that you just shared is that there is an ownership of that choice. Good, bad or indifferent, they decided.

Coming back to an executive, corporate, “We’ve got to get stuff done” mentality, the person in coaching who comes up with their own solution has a 95% chance of following through on that. If instead I tell them what to do, or an executive in their company says, “Okay, so Victor I want you to do this, this and this, and come back in three days from now and let us know what you’ve done,” the chances of them doing exactly 1, 2 and 3 over the course of time are maybe down to 45 to 50%. They’ll try it, do it half-heartedly, and maybe if they see some other shiny thing in the meantime, they are going to do that instead. When someone has ownership of it, even if I don’t think it’s going to work, or it’s the harder way to do it, they have the commitment and ownership to be successful. Spectacular!

Q: I have an observation to make here, and then I will ask a question. One of our spiritual teachers wrote a long time ago: Don’t offer advice unless asked for. So when you’re talking about the advice addiction being a problem for both the giver and receiver, especially when one is above, one is below, the below says, “Tell me what to do,” and the above says, “I’m telling you what to do,” that’s not getting the best out of people. That’s an observation from a spiritual teacher’s perspective: Don’t offer advice unless asked for.

The question is: Peter, there are two authentic selves in a relationship, right? The boss and the employee. What if they don’t align? What if there’s an authentic conflict here? How do you resolve this? What is your professional advice?

PR: It comes back to compassion. I love you, but I can’t live with you. I love you, but I can’t work with you. I love you, but … Please continue to be your most awesome, magnificent, amazing true self – that’s my greatest goal for mankind. It doesn’t mean I am the right person to be with that other person, or to do work with them, or to raise a family with them, or to have children with them, or to whatever with them.

And, there is enough love to wish them well, to wish them success, to wish them happiness in their life, but it may not include me. That’s how I would handle that, and I’ve experienced that. Again, it takes courage from both parties to say: We’ve gone as far as we can, and it’s time for us to go our separate paths so that you can honor yourself, and I want that for you. They’ll say the same thing for me. Again, in familial terms, in corporate terms, in civic terms, in religious terms, or all of the above.

Q: Peter, how does one go from authentic self to building an authentic team with several individuals? If you want to do anything, whether it is in a corporate board room, or building a website, you need a team to work together. So, how do you go from authentic self-building to authentic team building? What are the things to watch for, what are the things to celebrate, and what are the things to avoid?

PR: Well, I think there has to be a common denominator of honoring the individuals. I think there also has to be a group gathering that says: What does our group authenticity look like? It’s one of those things that corporations do all the time in terms of mission, vision, values, purpose, UVP – Unique Value Proposition. Why do people come to us versus our competitors? So, there’s an attempt to do that.

Dozens of times over the course of my career, in various organizations, and at various times of an organization’s growth, it has been my experience that it is 90% external: This is how we want to show up for our client; this is how we want to be perceived by our competitors; this is how we want to be perceived by the general public, etc. There are always elements of the inner part of the organization, the heart and soul of the organization, what they are driven by, what is their passion, and I’m starting to see more of that actually, which I think is great.

When an organization has been able
to find its authentic self,
it will attract the people
who are attracted to that inner passion.

When an organization has been able to find its authentic self, it will attract the people who are attracted to that inner passion. “I love going to work because I know that the people in this community …” This is autobiographical, and I’m going back now forty years. “I love working for this company, and selling the products, and bringing these products into the hospital. I’ll go home at 3 o’clock in the morning after doing in-service for three shifts with nurses, to teach them how to use this equipment properly in critical care areas. I feel really good about that, because I knew this community was safer because people were able to have access to that equipment when they went to that hospital.”

If the organization is driven from an inner passion it will, yes. It’s in their words on their website, or in the quarterly reports, but even deeper than that they live it. You see the founder doing things that founders don’t do. They’re there to console their employees after disasters happen, that they’ve been impacted by, whether it’s a natural disaster or another kind of disaster. The founder will celebrate those times when an employee went the extra mile to fulfill the purpose of the organization.

It does not have to be 100% alignment. Then it would be like one person, with one brain, and all the different talents and viewpoints would not get into the mix. From a practical standpoint, I shoot for 80% alignment within a group. Whether it’s a project team, or a development team, or an accounting team, or a marketing team, or what have you, 80% is awesome. I think there will always be 20% of, “I really don’t like doing expense reports.” “Well, get over it, that’s just part of the deal.” If I have 80% satisfaction while contributing to the passion of that work, I’m a happy guy. I think there are happy team members as well.

Q: Thank you. Do you meditate, Peter?

PR: I do. Not formally as others have talked about meditation, but I meditate every day. I take quiet time in the morning before I get up. I allow the thoughts of whatever my waking state is – sometimes it’s project oriented, sometimes it’s a new idea, sometimes I’ll ask a question of Spirit when I’m wrestling with a topic, a situation, I’m opening myself up to guidance, I’m open to inspiration and guidance … from odd things. It could be from a road sign I see, or it could be from another person who shared something. Before this conversation, I picked up a book, to prop up my computer, and it’s the book I Am That.

“The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death.
The body will survive as long as it is needed.
It is not important that it should live long.”
So I get inspiration from all over the place when I’m open to it.

I’ll read a quote: “The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death. The body will survive as long as it is needed. It is not important that it should live long.” So I get inspiration from all over the place when I’m open to it. I intentionally open myself up to that at the beginning of each day, intentionally and consciously.

Q: Nice. If you could leave a thought with our readers, that will help them find meaning in their lives, what would it be?

PR: Find out who you really are. It’s one of the things that is my next chapter in life, I think. The last third of my life is dedicated to sharing with at least a billion people the simple methodology, no charge methodology, self-administered methodology for them to get to know who they really. Or at least the beginning of that inner journey. People take selfies, right. Why not take a core selfie? It’s a snapshot of who you really are deep down, and you can do that at There are some exercises you can do. It’s free, you can download it. I would love to have a billion people go to that site.

The last third of my life is dedicated
to sharing with at least a billion people
the simple methodology, no charge methodology,
self-administered methodology for them
to get to know who they really.
Or at least the beginning of that inner journey.

Q: You know Heartfulness is also free. It offers methods to relax, meditate, rejuvenate, and also deeply connect with one’s own Self and balance the material needs with the spiritual purpose. We work upon elevating our own consciousness and really begin to have a joyful existence, without limit.

PR: I really agree with that. Yes, it takes consciousness, or you can say awareness, it takes time and energy, and it has to be elevated to a priority inside. If I’m not feeling fulfilled, then what can I do about it? It’s not more money, it’s not more work, it’s not more projects. Martin Luther had a book inscribed with, “I’m so busy today, I’d better take another hour on my knees,” which is again this idea of quieting the external monkey mind, meditating, opening up to that inner guidance, that divine guidance.

So this is not new information. It’s just supporting individuals in this noisy, multitasking, 365 x 24/7 world. Make the space. It’ll pay you 100-fold in dividends, may be 1,000-fold.

Q: Peter, thank you so much and I wish you all the very best for today and every day of your life.

PR: Thank you Victor. I honor your work, and your organization’s work, and Heartfulness, and on behalf of the planet, thank you!

Read part 1  

Interview by VICTOR KANNAN
Illustrations by JASMEE RATHOD


Peter J. Reding

About Peter J. Reding

Peter is a pioneer in the field of professional life coaching, and is the co-founder of the Coach for Life Institute. He has been the co-creator of many coaching and learning models during the last 30 years and has trained over 3,500 people to be professional coaches, all over the world. He is the 2005 recipient of the ICF’s Global Peace Award, and was one of their first Master Certified Coaches.

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