—By Joan Virginia Allen—
“When I grow up, I want to be like you,” I said to my daughter, Cami. I was 80 years old.
With those words, an amazing journey was set in motion that included travel, exploration, inspiration, transformation, and the creation of my first-ever business.
My daughter Cami had been a professional coach in Sacramento for 10 years. The way she was with people fascinated me. She was fully present, listening with interest in what people had to say, asking genuinely curious questions. People felt seen and heard and connected to her. I wanted that. So I asked her if she would teach me how to be a coach.
Partly as a result of my request, she created and launched a brand new coach training program* in 2019. I was her first enrolled student. And so it was that our journey began.
The first class consisted of 10 people ranging in age from their 20s to me, as an 80-year-old. Each person was already a professional. There were lawyers, a therapist, a musician, business owners, a doctor and yoga teacher. Some wanted to become coaches, some wanted to learn to be coach-style leaders, and some wanted personal transformation. For one year, we met once each month in Sacramento for a full day of training, with significant homework between sessions.
Just the location of the training was a stretch for me.
It meant being gone three days a month, traveling alone to and from my home in Southern California, plus a significant time commitment for studying and practice in between trainings.
This was a big decision. And so Cami and I started our coaching relationship, as we explored why I wanted this. What was my purpose in taking this on? What did I want to accomplish? This would be a huge s-t-r-e-t-c-h for me – stepping out of my comfort zone as a retired elder law and estate planning attorney, active certified fitness instructor, published author, blogger, tree climber, avid hiker, happily married wife, mother and grandmother. What was my intention and what commitment was I willing to make? As she coached me, the answers became clear. I wanted to explore what was possible for me and how I could make a difference.
But we recognized the challenge for both of us would be the role reversal. What it would be like to have my daughter as my teacher, and me as student? Could I be open and willing enough to learn from her without judging, without involving our history together, without being resentful or questioning her ability and/or knowledge?
I can’t say it was easy. But we set ground rules. And it was worth it.
First rule: she would call me “Joan” in class. At the outset she disclosed to the class I was her mother. She cut me no slack, showed me no special attention, and treated me like everyone else – with respect and a belief that we could do whatever we set our minds to do, challenging us to truly see ourselves and our unlimited potential.
Outside of the training, there were some rough patches in our relationship. I asked her to continue being my coach at all times when we were together. I felt it gave me more opportunity to immerse myself in being a coach. But eventually I began to feel she was being critical of me and I began to feel inept and incapable. I started to take it personally and had hurt feelings. It took me some time to integrate the tools and spirit of the training to a point where I was willing to be honest with her and myself and have the courage to tell her how I felt. This was another reason I wanted to be more like her. She held the space open for me to express myself. I felt heard and seen without her taking it personally and without judging me. This is the space I felt she created in her coach training. As a result, our relationship has continued to grow and deepen.
Little did I realize the journey I had embarked upon. It wasn’t just about traveling alone every month, learning a totally new skill set, or working with people who were all significantly younger than me. One of my greatest gifts of learning was about the voice in my head, the Sabotaging Voice that started off by saying, “Are you sure you are capable of taking this on? After all, you are 80!” It’s the voice that holds me back, but I don’t even hear it.
I pride myself on walking the talk and being a model of successful “dynamic aging” – physically, mentally and emotionally. And yet, there it was – my fear that I was too old, I wouldn’t be taken seriously, I would never be able to be a real Coach.
It was an important lesson –– to learn to recognize that voice, set it aside as an unhelpful voice of fear or self-criticism, and focus on what was important to me. And to trust that I could do it.
And I did.
In 2019, I graduated and was certified as a professional certified Coach. I earned the respect of each of my cohorts. I became a successful, effective Coach and launched my own coaching business. All by 81 years old.
One of the most impactful experiences was Cami’s skillfully guiding us to explore our life’s purpose. At 80, I discovered my life’s purpose is to explore, inspire and empower. At 84, this now guides every decision I make in life. Because of the masterful and transformational training by my daughter, I can join her in the work she chooses to do, making a difference in the world, one coach, one client, at a time.
Joan, Cami and Minnie
Photos by Morgan Potter Photography
Joan Virginia Allen is Coaching Dynamic Aging. She is the creator of Dynamic Aging 4 Life Magazine. She co-authored the book Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility.