How Life Coaching Can Support You in Finding Joy, Even Right Now: A Conversation with Izzy Lenihan

April 25, 2020

Kripalu’s Izzy Lenihan is a certified life, career, and wellness coach who has helped thousands of people make changes, in all stages of their lives, for more than 25 years. She’s now offering online life-coaching sessions using the Kripalu methodology, which focuses on aligning intentions and action through mindfulness and presence. We asked Izzy to share a little bit about how life coaching can help us access greater well-being and self-knowledge during this challenging time.

What are some of the most common issues people are confronting now that life coaching can help them navigate?

People are seeking support in finding answers to big questions: How do I find peace amid the uncertainty? How do I let go of fear? How and what can I contribute to make this world a better place? For many, this time of enforced slowing down has opened their eyes to what wasn’t working in their life before COVID—they’ve realized that they weren’t living authentically and their quality of my life was low, so they’re seeking to create a life and a future that support who they truly are and what they really want. For some, isolation has challenged their relationship with a partner, and they’re looking for ways to get closer again. And for others, their family has thrived during this time, so the question is how to maintain that sense of connection once life returns to being busier and more outward-focused. 

Many of the issues people are working with now aren’t all that different from what they faced before this. In 25 years of coaching, I’ve found that one of the most common obstacles people are seeking help with is lack of balance in their lives—spending way too much time giving and doing, and not enough time receiving or simply being. Another common issue is emotional and mental clutter, which often manifests as clutter in our physical environment as well. But perhaps the greatest obstacle for most of us is our thinking habits. It is said that our lives are a mirror image of our thoughts: If we believe we are not enough or don’t feel worthy of joy and abundance, then our life will reflect that in some way or another.  

How can we access more joy in our lives during this challenging time?  

That’s the million-dollar question now, and always: How can I find joy? The answer I often hear is, “I go out to dinner, I go to the movies, I go shopping.” Without all that available to us, we are digging in and rediscovering parts of ourselves that we’ve forgotten: creativity—painting, writing, pottery, dancing, music, art—and connection—to family, friends, nature, a like-minded community. Become curious; observe yourself without judgment—no “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts.” Notice the times when you are at ease, calm, peaceful, happy. Notice what brings up fear, anger, discomfort. Let those emotions be your greatest teacher.

In Kripalu Life Coaching, we see the practice of being present—a foundational yoga teaching—as one of the first and most important steps to creating a life of joy and possibility. We must first be present with what we are feeling, noticing, and experiencing in order to recognize if it’s bringing us joy, or if it’s not in alignment with our authentic self. 

Joy is something that we are born with—it already lives within. Rediscovering it is the journey, and making it a priority to invite it into your life daily is the key. Joy does not have to be purchased, or chased, or offered by someone else. Joy happens in the moment—like an intimate conversation, listening to a favorite song, enjoying a sunset, noticing a rare bird, helping someone in need. 

How does life coaching support people in finding their true calling?

In coaching, we say, “You can’t hit a target unless you can see it.” Coaching can help define that target. It begins with getting clarity on what you don’t want to do in order to have clarity about what you do want. Then we can work on letting go of old limiting beliefs that are no longer serving you. 

I often ask my coaching clients to describe how much of their life is being lived as a result of the dreams and desires that others—family, partners, society—have for them. I ask them, “What would your life look and feel like if you were to detach yourself from the good and bad opinions of others?” When we don’t value ourselves and don’t believe we are worthy, we will live our lives in search of external approval, which keeps us from finding our true selves and our true passion. 

My parents were blue-collar workers and valued physical labor and hard work above all. The day they recognized my intelligence and offered to send me to college—the first person in my family to go—was a truly defining moment in my life. After being accepted into three schools, I shared with them what I really wanted to do at that time: interior design. They had envisioned me learning accounting, or teaching, or becoming a nurse or even a lawyer—they could not understand how I was going to support myself as an interior designer. So they did what they thought was best for me and for the family, and used my college money to open a bakery. It took a long time, but with lots of soul searching, I discovered my own worth and dharma, and it didn’t have anything to do with the food business.  

I love the passage in Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, where he shares, 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

This passage often makes people weep because it’s the permission they have sought for a lifetime—permission to listen to their soul’s voice, and to share their own unique and sacred gifts.