Ready to Fly

[avatar user=”doller” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]By: Denisse Oller[/avatar]As I arrived at Emory University to begin a “Health Coach” certification program, I recalled my previous visit to Atlanta, some 40 years earlier, to attend an Eastern Airlines training. It occurred to me that Eastern’s advertising tag line – “The Wings of Man” – which sounded so appropriate at the time, certainly would not fly in today’s more gender-conscious world. Here I was again, a woman ready to spread her wings, excited to begin yet another adventure.

After 20 years and multiple national awards for breaking news stories, I am constantly reinventing myself – as a chef, a documentary filmmaker, a writer. I am completing my Master’s degree, I am immersed in my work as Director of Integrated Outreach at ACP; my plate is full!  Why become a health coach?

Through my work at ACP, I’ve met hundreds of low-income New Yorkers who are struggling to stay healthy, to lose weight, to control diabetes, to lower their blood pressure. Their struggle is real and the obstacles are many. I wanted to learn more so I could educate and empower these people to live healthier lives.

I read about the Health Coach course at Emory’s School of Continuing Education and it covered all the areas I was interested in. Health coaching is a process that facilitates healthy, sustainable behavior change by challenging individuals to develop their inner wisdom, identify their values, and transform their goals into action. Wellness coaching draws on principles from positive psychology, and the practices of motivational interviewing and goal setting.

What I learned over three months of intensive education and motivational training would change me in ways I could never imagine, from being more centered and disciplined to learning about positivity and willpower, to experiencing inner peace and stillness, perhaps for the first time in my life.

Of course, this transformation does not happen overnight, any more than going on a crash diet leads to permanent weight loss. It is a process that evolves over time in which we open our minds and hearts, shifting our view of others with acceptance, and connecting regardless of differences.

Learning to meditate was key. Meditation opens your mind and your inner space gradually. In the silence and stillness of meditation, the goal is to find our inherent wisdom to guide us in the path to be a fulfilled and flourishing version of ourselves.

Meditation is not a skill at which I am naturally talented. Staying still has been contrary to my nature for literally all my life. But I am practicing mindful exercises every day for 30 minutes and, despite negative thoughts that might occasionally cross my mind, I notice that a space of light and possibility gradually opens up, which increases my positivity.

I am also, finally, blossoming, or learning to fly. I am taking Tango lessons, a life-long dream coming true. I have taken up writing and photography, and I am also traveling to explore the wonders of the world. But I do not have to go far to enjoy beauty. Once you find the strength of stillness, you are able to connect with everything around you and celebrate life, no matter how many curves it throws at you.

So back to health coaching. The path I have chosen has been transformative, and it is a message I want to share. I have started at ACP, offering my colleagues health coaching lessons. Every single day I witness positive changes, big and small, and it brings enormous satisfaction.  And I am just getting started; this is only the tip of the iceberg.

I remember early on in my life, a friend said to me: “You are so obsessed with work and with competing, that you never take time to smell the roses.” That might have been true then, but now I smell the roses, and I cultivate them, too – like the meaningful relationships in my life. It is part of the transformation, and one more step in learning to fly.