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@Work: CoachParadise


Feb. 5, 2006- Ever feel sort of disconsolate and don't know why? Could it be because you think your dreams have turned to dust?
There's a whole new profession out there now to help you realize those dreams. It's called Life Coaching, and St. Thomas has one of its most enthusiastic practitioners: the diminutive Ann Nayer.
A painter, musician, dancer, social worker and sometime traveler, Nayer was feeling unsettled about a year ago.
A former St. Thomas resident, Nayer was living with her teenage daughter, Lily, in Davis, Calif., where she had moved a few years ago to take a new job as a medical case management worker.
"I had never really lived in America before," she says. "I was born in Manhattan, and I grew up there. I went to Vassar, then got a master's degree in social work at Yeshiva University in New York. I lived in London and then went to McGill University in Montreal, where I got a bachelor's degree in philosophy. Then, I lived on St. Thomas.
"So, I had never really been on the streets of suburban America. I had to learn to drive on freeways, do lots of things I hadn't done before. Lily had spent her childhood on St. Thomas, so it was an adventure for her, too. But I was getting restless being so far from any water. We could go to rivers, but it wasn't like the Caribbean."
One night Nayer went to a concert with an old college pal — now a successful headhunter in a demanding industry — and her life changed.
"My friend talked about how much she was enjoying the music, a passion she had been neglecting, she said. She went on to tell me that her life coach had suggested she get more music in her life. I said 'Your what?'"
"She told me her coach said that indulging her love of music would help balance her professional and family life, would help her rearrange her priorities," Nayer said.
"I really listened to her," Nayer said. "I told her, I could do that, and she said, 'absolutely, you could.'"
"She said I could make more money, and not have to do so much schlepping around. I was accompanying my clients to doctors' appointments, in my job.
"The next day, I looked up all the information I could find on the Internet, and shortly after that I got a call from Maria Nemeth, who teaches at the Academy of Coaching Excellence in Sacramento, nearby.
Nayer continues: "It was a bit of synchronicity, I think. I talked with her and liked her immediately, and I began classes right away. It's a lot of study, and online work," she said. "But I had an advantage because I have spent the last 30 years working directly with people."
She says, "I always thought about how much I wanted to move back to St. Thomas, and I realized coaching was a way to do that."
She moved back last fall, and put out her shingle: CoachParadise.
Nayer explains that coaching is not therapy. "It is ontological, which is the study of being — as opposed to therapy, which is exploring the psyche. The [baby] boomers went in for lots of therapy, and that's not what this is about." She laughs, "We call it from couch to coach."
She continues, "Our goal is looking at what's going on now in your life, not dwelling on the past. I tell a client what I feel: You are a hero in your own life's journey. I am holding you bigger than you hold yourself.
"Rather than focusing on what's wrong, we focus on what's right," Nayer says. "I encourage people to take a step back and look at their goals. I ask them what action they are willing to take. I encourage them to take a small, sweet step forward. It doesn't have to be a big step."
"It doesn't matter so much what a person's goal may be, it's laying out the path to get there," she says.
Her background in social work and the arts is helpful.
"I am coaching a musician. He is using me to upgrade his goals," she says.
Some of her work can be done over the phone, or online. "I have one client now in Seattle and another in North Carolina."
Nayer says without her interest in coaching, she would not be back in St. Thomas. "I have benefited from coaching and being coached, myself," she says. "Without what I have learned, I wouldn't be sitting here. A year ago I wanted to come back to St. Thomas and buy a home and live here. Now, I'm well on my way. Picture your life like how you would like it. You can make it happen. You are your best example."
Nayer is tiny, barely five feet, with long brown hair and hazel eyes. As we sit talking in a crowded restaurant, a teenage friend spies Nayer and pops by to give her a kiss on the cheek. Nayer laughs, "I'm a good milestone for kids," she says. "She used to be much shorter than me."
Her diminutive size has nothing to do with her dynamism. She is a natural at drawing people out, digging for that something special she sees.
Would coaching be something for those who lack self confidence? "No," says Nayer emphatically. "Most CEOs have life coaches; sometimes they're called executive coaches. You wouldn't see an Olympic athlete without a coach. It is a rapidly growing industry."
A member of the International Coach Federation, Nayer went to the ICF's 10th convention last fall in San Jose, Calif. "There are 9,000 members now, up from 150 members 10 years ago. Soon, having a coach will be as common as having a personal trainer is now. It's moved from something for the elite, to something new more people can afford. There are new academies opening up all the time."
And, what has been her most satisfying coaching experience?
That stops her, briefly. She frowns a bit. "Well, every client gives me satisfaction. It's hard to say. I worked with someone who felt her life was a washout, nothing excited her. I was able to find out she had always wanted to write. She loved to write, and we concentrated on that. And with a little effort, she found a job writing."
According to the ICF website, coaches are taught to recognize a person's potential, to provide objective assessment and observations that foster enhanced self-awareness and awareness of others. And to be a good sounding board.
Nayer is soon starting a class for women entitled "Girl, Get Your Money Straight in 2006." She is available for individual sessions as well. Contact her at 774-4355 or at coachparadise@ hotmail.com.
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