Bring your passion to the table!

Tamara is a personal coach offering individual and group coaching and support services.  She brings a unique background of health and wellness into her new profession. Her busy schedule balancing family and work requires that she finds the right motivators and tools to make it through her day. I was lucky enough to spend some time getting to know Tamara — mom, busy professional and entrepreneur, and to learn from her firsthand how she got to where she is today and how she stays there. 

What four words would you use to describe yourself?

I prefer to see myself as aligning with certain values. This helps me to schedule my time so that I am really doing what’s important. I can see how day-to-day, week-to-week, I am fulfilling my values and what’s important to me. These values are growth, balance, service and community.

That is a great way to answer that question! How did you come up with that approach? 

Working in corporate wellness, we’ve done an exercise a couple of times where we worked on identifying our values. Organizations are realizing that there is greater life satisfaction when our personal values are in alignment with our professional values, or the values of the company or community we work with.

The company that I provide some coaching services for has identified what the corporation’s values are — trust, flexibility and relationships — and they really encourage employees to understand and embrace their personal values. I first did this exercise several years ago, and then I did it again last July before launching my own coaching business. For this exercise, we were given cards with different values. We sorted through them and consistently took cards out until we were left only with what speaks to us and what is really important to us. It was a great process. It was really interesting to see how my values have shifted. I went from having success and accomplishment, as two of my earlier values, to adding a new value, growth.

I want to challenge myself to learn new things and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I also want to have more autonomy and independence to set my priorities. I think it’s applicable in so many different areas of our lives. 

When people say “describe yourself,” they are asking about your personality. I could say, “I’m motivated, I have a good sense of humor,” but I feel like may be this is how we think of ourselves in terms of how other people see us. And when I choose my values, it’s really clear to me that this is how I see myself, this is how I want to project myself, and these are the principles that I want to guide me in making my decisions. It’s a deeper way of looking at myself.

Can you tell me about your background and experience in naturopathic medicine? Let’s start from the beginning, what is naturopathic medicine?  

Naturopathic training includes all conventional medicine, with an emphasis on treating the root cause of the ailment. We treat the whole person. We have guiding principles that we call therapeutic order to begin treatment with the least harmful measures such as changes in diet, lifestyle, and then we progressively use more aggressive strategies, such as pharmaceuticals and minor surgery, as necessary.

I graduated from naturopathic medical school in 2007 while living in Phoenix, Arizona. I completed a residency in family medicine at a primary care clinic, where we provided conventional treatments like medication management. We had a full scope of practice, including prescribing medications and doing minor surgery. I was doing what people would do in a regular primary care setting, like a doctor or physician assistant. 

One of the most important things I learned was that we really have to understand all of the conventional treatments and diagnostics in order to treat our patients, because people live in a conventional world with conventional therapies. The environment that I was in served a population who knew what they wanted; they were paying cash, they wanted their medicines, they wanted their injections and they wanted to be able to get back to work the next day. This really informed my training and guided me toward a very holistic view of healthcare and wellness.  

The way I apply this to coaching is by meeting people where they are at, and partnering with them to get them where they want to be.

Shortly after completing my degree, I returned to Minneapolis and joined a corporate wellness company. I began coaching clients with chronic medical conditions through the wellness programs provided by their employers. This is all very conventional in terms of “What medications are you taking? How are you managing your asthma or diabetes?” but at the same time, I learned an entirely new skillset that I hadn’t learned in medical school — and it was coaching

Previously with my new patients in Minneapolis, they would leave my office with a laundry list of things that they needed to do, anything from changing to an anti-inflammatory diet, drinking a certain amount of water, getting a certain amount of exercise, to following a supplement regime. What I didn’t realize at the time was while it was very easy for me to do these things, for a new patient, struggling with a medical condition, it wasn’t. He or she didn’t necessarily had the same amount of time, energy, or motivation that I had. 

Coaching the employees helped me better understand different personality types and different behavior change tendencies. By learning that, I was better able to meet people at where they were, and to provide more “small step” approaches, which is very much a coaching approach concept.

I really enjoy coaching people within the corporate wellness context, but what was missing for me was the opportunity to do things how I wanted to do them. Working for a corporation, there are certain products and services that we can’t endorse. I use lots of things that help me, such as technology like Fitbit or apps to track diet. These are valuable tools for people to better manage their health and habits. When I work with people privately, or with people who contract with me directly, they have the opportunity to get my full scope of experience. 

My focus has moved on from medical conditions. My demographic is people like myself who are entrepreneurs, who may still be working, and who probably are balancing competing priorities with work, and family, and self care. I work mostly with people around my age, in their 40s, and what is different in my practice now is that I am able to bring more of myself. I have a lot of experience trying different businesses and learning more about what helps people become successful, whether it be managing their time, managing their energy, or developing certain habits. 

My coaching approach focuses on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. She’s the author of “Better than Before,” and she has podcasts with her sister called “Happier.” There are so many different personality frameworks, like Myers Briggs. I like the Four Tendencies because it specifically addresses how we respond to inner and outer expectations. 

It’s important to have people in your life that you can be real, honest, and authentic with, and to know that they are going to have your back.

The behavior tendency model addresses questions such as “Am I someone who is more guided by external expectations or am I more guided by internal expectations?” and “Do I have difficulty meeting internal or external expectations?“ I am something called an Upholder, a smaller category, where I very readily meet inner expectations that I set for myself, and outer expectations that other people have for me. There is a group called Rebels, who defy any expectations that are set by others, as well as expectations that they have for themselves. They really struggle to get things done. You have to figure out and understand these different personality types or tendencies in order to find the approach that works best for them. 

I love it! It’s the first approach that I felt really made sense. When I work with someone, I ask them to complete the quiz so they can identify their tendencies because that is going to help me a lot. One of my clients right now is a Questioner, and I know that she will not follow through unless she understands the “why.” Why is this more effective? Why is this important? The downside of being a Questioner is that they can stall out with analysis paralysis, because there is always more research that can be done. That’s been really helpful. I feel like that is definitely a unique approach that I have in my coaching. I do a lot of reading on the Four Tendencies, as well as other ways to develop habits, and I think habits are really what have helped me to find balance in my own life.

As people grow in their lives, can their tendencies change? 

Within the Four Tendencies, it’s like a Venn diagram, where you have 4 overlapping circles. So my group, that meets inner and outer expectations, we overlap with the group that meets outer expectations but has difficulty meeting inner expectations. And on the other side, I overlap with Questioners. Depending on where we are at in different situations, we can lean in different directions. Sometimes at work, there will be tasks that I need to understand why this is important because otherwise I don’t want to take them on. That’s a Questioner tendency and that will overlap with the Rebel tendency that resists delivering on expectations. We have a strong affinity for or show up the most in one group, but we can definitely lean one way or the other. It’s pretty uncommon for someone to leap across the board. So as an Upholder, I am probably not going to be a Rebel and just completely defy all inner and outer expectations. But you can see a little bit of that in the questioning of “I’ll do it if it makes sense.”  

In naturopathic medicine, we learn that “one size does not fit all.”  Every approach needs to be tailored to the individual. That’s what I love about the Four Tendencies, because I can tailor my approach to the particular change in tendencies of my clients. They are not going to do things the way I do, unless we fall into the same categories. And people in my category may not seek out coaching because they have the mindset where they are wired to meet all expectations. Maybe they come to me because they are constantly meeting expectations, but they just have to make sure they are finding time for everything.

You identify as a serial entrepreneur; What keeps you motivated along this entrepreneurial road? 

I don’t remember saying that! {Laughs} Fundamentally, we have to find the purpose or the passion for each project. Working with clients or patients, I am really driven by wanting to improve their quality of life. 

One of my first successful endeavours was as an Airbnb host. For several years, I enjoyed welcoming guests from all over the world, and providing information and small touches to make their stay more enjoyable. The idea of hospitality and making people feel comfortable and welcomed is a skill that can positively impact all of our social interactions. The way I apply this to coaching is by meeting people where they are at, and partnering with them to get them where they want to be.

What do you think is the most important thing to being an entrepreneur? What makes an entrepreneur different from other people?

Again, the passion. You have to be passionate about what you are doing. You’ve probably heard the quote “Do the job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” When you have a vocation, which literally means “calling,” when you find your calling it is going to enhance your own quality of life and life satisfaction. You bring the passion to the table. I think it’s infectious. That’s how you attract people and help them—when it comes to coaching—to be their own best selves.  

What is your long term vision as a businesswoman? 

I envision myself using technology to expand my reach and serve more clients. The traditional fee-for-service and hourly payment structures are a recipe for burnout. I encourage my clients to work smarter, not harder. I currently provide one-on-one services, by phone or Zoom, but I would also like to serve groups via webinars and interactive courses. 

I recently attended a course for women entrepreneurs, and the collective experience of other attendants really added a lot of value. So many of us face similar struggles, and I acknowledge that there is a lot of wisdom to be learned from our peers and I don’t have all of the answers. There is definitely additional value from the group experience when it is in addition to working one-on-one. 

You must have faced challenges on your road to success; Could you tell us about some? What helped you in the most challenging moments? 

We have this idea that “If you build it, they will come.” Last fall, I launched my website and I thought, “I’m online now! People will find me and I’m going to have a hundred clients banging down my door!” The reality is that people see so much every day, and there are all kinds of advertising, and things that are brought to their attention. There is a lot of competition in the marketplace, so you can’t just be out there, be available, and expect that people will come to you. It takes a lot of marketing and strategy. That’s been really challenging. You wonder, “Is it because of the services that I provide?” You have to do a reality check – no, there is not a problem with the services that I provide. The problem is about letting people know about the services. It’s not about me. You have to separate that. If your business is not growing as much as you like, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you are doing to market it and how to correct that.  

I recently learned some very concise advice, which is “Do, defer or delay.” Focus on what you can do, and what you are good at. For me, it’s providing services. Defer or delegate to someone else the kinds of task that are just not good for you. Delay things that maybe you can kick the can down the road because they are not that important right now. We don’t have enough time in our day to do everything that needs to be done. You have to prioritize. Do, defer, or delay is an easy way to think about how you make choices.

Who is your “support group”? (Who are the people that helped you when you needed it the most?) 

Developing the right support really takes time and there’s also a process of elimination. In my younger years, before I saw myself as an entrepreneur, I had friendships and relationships based on location or convenience. Some of these relationships were not very healthy, and really detracted from me being my best self and achieving what I want. It’s important to identify the relationships that might suck up our energy. It’s a hard decision, because you don’t want to cut somebody out of your life if you are their main support. Help them get support with what they need, and then focus on cultivating relationships that are going to help meet you where you are at. 

In my life right now, a lot of my friends are also entrepreneurs on some level. I have friends who are creating private practices, who do project management, and entertain on the side. My life partner, he has a non-profit day job, and he and I have collaborated on business projects in the past. Being in an environment where creating another side hustle is status quo, we are going to push ourselves and want to do different things to challenge ourselves. Having people to bounce ideas off, or strategize with—all above helps us not live inside a bubble. We live in a society and we have to check ourselves and get perspective. Support is super important.  

It’s important to have people in your life that you can be real, honest, and authentic with, and to know that they are going to have your back. From a business perspective, I also have coaches that I have worked with, and mentors and people that have experience a couple years ahead of me who can provide that perspective and actionable strategies together with next steps.

With your busy life, what do you do to take care of yourself? How do you balance intense work, stress and the rest of your life? 

I exercise and meditate and make time for sleep, every day. My work schedule varies from day to day, but I make sure that I get 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep. If things get too busy, the exercise would be shortened but I will never sacrifice the sleep. Unless I have to catch an early flight. Sleep is really key. That’s a foundation for me.  Getting the sleep I need is going to give me the energy to start my next day.  

The meditation helps me to balance and get grounded. I can be a very high energy person, so my meditation usually happens at the end of the day, when I’m preparing for sleep. It’s also really important for me to make time to connect with family, my daughter and my partner, here at home, and my mom and siblings in town as well. It’s important to have time for everything and some people think it’s very odd, but I literally schedule everything. So I don’t have a to-do list. If it’s on my schedule, I make sure it happens. 

I have 30 to 60 minute blocks throughout my day. They might be things like client calls, interviews, or networking meetings, but I also have things like yoga a least once a week on my calendar, or going to the gym or to swim. Family activities are also on the schedule. It’s also a good way to communicate with my partner. I schedule more than the average person. It keeps my life running!

What moments from your coaching practice inspire you the most? 

I really appreciate the opportunity of a client letting me in. It’s a very vulnerable space for them and vulnerability as a practice is very difficult for me. It’s a reminder that when we let other people in, and when we ask for help, the opportunities to succeed and improve our quality of life just expand immensely. When people are really honest with me, which they really have to be to make any progress, that is the best opportunity to really help and support people. 

I appreciate that opportunity, and I feel like situations where I can rise to the occasion are when people are feeling really stressed out or overwhelmed, and they are needing a new perspective on “How do I get through this phase?” and “What do I need to focus on now?” I think I can help people take a step back and gain some perspective so they can recognize and understand the next steps that are going to help them to regain their balance. 

We invite you to visit Tamara’s website.

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