When I first discovered Kate Swoboda, I was hooked by her brilliant voice of wisdom and truth. We interviewed her back in September as she was launching The Coaching Blueprint for new and emerging coaches and am thrilled to go deeper with Kate in this two part interview.
In case folks missed our interview with you in September, give us your “elevator” speech.
I’m Kate Swoboda, sometimes known online as Kate Courageous. I’m a life coach, speaker and writer, and I work with women who want to live powerfully through practicing courage.
You’ve been a force of good online for almost a decade; share with our readers the evolution of Kate Swoboda.
Has it been a decade, really? ;-) I started writing online as a means of self-expression, and never anticipated that it would turn into what it has ultimately become—blogging, writing, and making a livelihood through a website. My first websites were very diarist, just a record of my life and my thoughts on life. I liked connecting with readers. I was pretty secretive about my blog with “IRL” people, because I was so open and vulnerable that it felt like too much to have someone knowing that much about me.
In service to transparency, what felt so open and vulnerable to admit was that I had a fractious relationship with my family; I had at various points in my life been depressed, suicidal, bulimic, a cutter; I felt isolated from people around me.
My blog (and I) evolved past those times, and as I grew older it was still diarist but became musings on life—what I was learning, discovering, how I was growing. I became a coach in 2006, though from 2006-2008, coaching was a side gig to being an English professor at a local college. I tried in 2008 to make coaching a full-time gig, but went about it in completely the wrong way (basically, with a “if you build it, they will come” mentality). By the end of 2009, I started to find my footing, mostly because I’d aligned with my vision for myself and what I really wanted to do with what I was offering to the world: I wanted to educate, inspire, and lead people around a shared and co-created vision of living 100% fully alive. The way to do that? By practicing courage, a skill that I’ve refined and continue to work.
Your Courageous Life launched at the end of 2009. It’s my hope that rather than have it as an expressive outlet, it’s a resource for people who are challenged by some of the same things that I struggled with and that I still can struggle with, at times: being present to my life; acceptance; loving and having compassion when people are acting like, well…assholes.
A pretty central question to my site is: How do we make the choice to love ourselves and others, even when it’s hard? I think practicing courage is the answer.
What is your Life vision?
To completely and totally love and accept myself, so that I can completely and totally love and accept everyone else, and thus facilitate healing in the world.
I would want anyone reading this to know that I consider this a shared vision—feel free to adopt it for yourself, as well. Then comes the good part: asking yourself, daily, if you’re living it.
How did “courage” become your cause?
In 2008, I spent a month traveling around Europe. Before leaving, I queried some local papers about writing articles—a series I was calling, “Dispatches from Europe.” Two of my article ideas were picked up, and from there, my trip took on some additional magic—I was staying at luxury boutique hotels, for free, eating amazing meals, meeting amazing people, catching planes/trains/automobiles and feeling freer than I’d ever felt before.
People kept commenting on how “amazing” it was that I’d made it happen, and a few commented on how they would do the same thing if they had the money, the time, etc., etc. I looked around at my life. I was living on a small teacher’s salary at the time, with very little money coming in from coaching. I didn’t have a lot of time, either—but somehow, I had parlayed the idea of traveling for 30 days into an even grander adventure. What had had me thinking, “I can do this,” whereas someone else thought they couldn’t?
I realized from that experience the true definition of practicing courage: it’s feeling afraid (because no one gets out of that part), diving in anyway (because what else would you do—stay stuck?), and transforming (which is always what happens when we meet our fearful edges).
I thought about my life and all the things I’d ever done where anyone had looked at it and said, “I wish I could do that, but…”. I realized that every time I’d done anything—write a book, start a coaching practice, take this trip, etc.—I’d been practicing courage. I was afraid, just like everyone else. I just didn’t see any reason why my being afraid meant I shouldn’t be doing it. Fear was along for the ride. I tattooed the word “courage” on my shoulder, in Sanskrit, shortly after that trip.
I still didn’t fully embrace it as my cause, though—that came later. In 2009, I spent a summer in Italy, and again, the same old messages about “wish I could…but…” were all around me, some of them coming from the same people. I realized that one person in particular who was saying these things was someone who made three times as much money as I did and who lived in a less expensive part of the United States (I live near San Francisco). I realized that it was all just fear—that person was afraid and letting it stop her, whereas I was afraid but doing it anyway.
I got the idea to have a retreat at the villa where I stayed—but before then, I thought, I’d try an e-course. Then things really started connecting and it was like, “Wait—the big dream is to amp up my coaching practice, to do this and this and this other thing…what am I waiting for?”
Could you tell us a little bit about what your current projects are? Share a brief “break down” of your big projects and main offerings.
In addition to one-on-one coaching, I offer downloadable e-programs and—starting soon—I’m going to be doing some tele-circle groups.
The thing that excites me most about this technological age is this: no one needs to be alone!
I just ran a Breathing Space circle with 6 women hailing from different areas (one woman was calling in from Australia!) and they became such good friends that they are planning to continue to stay in touch on their own.
Many people who use my e-programs tell me that they start their day with them—they sit down with a morning cup of coffee and take 20 minutes to watch a video where they get a bit of a “virtual me” to interact with, and read something that touches their lives.
Do you feel you had a “turning point” in your life? Can you share some of the story with us?
In 2005, I was out for a routine run and felt that something was “off” in my foot. I limped home. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong; even an MRI revealed no scar tissue or damage. It turned out that I had dislocated a bone in my foot so slightly that it wouldn’t turn up on an x-ray.
The verdict? Multiple doctors said that I would need to wear an orthotic for the rest of my life, and that running was not a good idea.
I know, I know—that sounds like the beginning of Born to Run by Chris McDougall (which I have read, and loved). In my case, I didn’t head down to Mexico to meet the Tarahumara—I decided that the doctors didn’t know what they were talking about. For two years, after a succession of chiropractors, I met the one who could fix my foot. He did it in five visits. For several months after that, I took a daily walk in which I repeated to myself, “With every step I take, my foot is getting better and better.”
Today, I’m a runner again. I’m training for a marathon at the end of this year.
The lesson I learned, and that I hope anyone reading this will take away? Don’t let other people define what you’re capable of. Somewhere out there, there is an answer to your challenge. If you take full responsibility for your life, it will present itself faster than you could imagine.
In what ways do you see women giving up their power and how do you keep yours burning bright?
I think the ways that women give up their power aren’t exclusive to women: it boils down to not taking responsibility for your life.
That might seem like a response that’s too direct, or possibly unfair given the very real forces of oppression that are out there. My take on that is that everyone’s work is to heal from something, and that very commitment to healing—that right there!—is a form of “taking responsibility for your life.” Yes, some of us have more access than others. And—whatever access you have—take responsibility for your life.
This is a practice. This is not just done in one fell swoop. I’m powerful when I take responsibility for my life, and yes, sometimes I don’t—I want to make it someone else’s fault.
One of the tricky things with this terrain is that someone might start “taking responsibility for” their lives and work in vain against anyone having any kind of effect on them (“If I’m taking responsibility for my life, that person won’t bother me!”).
For me, taking responsibility for your life also means: cry when you need to cry. Laugh at every opportunity that presents itself, and actively seek those opportunities. When you’re angry, beat the shit out of a pillow. Living 100% fully alive, living powerfully, is not about selective numbing or striving for some version of yourself that would be “improved.”
Living 100% fully alive is about embracing everything that comes into the circle of your existence. Taking responsibility for your life is, in fact, a very non-violent position—because it’s rooted in acceptance combined with right action.
How do I live powerfully? By making this my practice. I’m like anyone else on the planet—if I’m not working my tools, staying present, checking in to make sure I’m in integrity, I’m lost.
How do you begin to turn around the inner dialogue of “something is wrong with me”?
With gentleness. With acceptance for that voice. With an interest and curiosity in why it’s there and what it has to teach you. With care. With presence. With respectful boundaries.
I believe that when we attack that voice and turn away from that voice, which is the voice of some part of us that is wounded, we just drive the wound deeper. So—if that wound were a small, 10-year-old girl who believed that something was wrong with her, how would you speak to her? And would you be willing to speak to her that way every single day, until she no longer believed that something was wrong with her—because you loved her that much?
Can you give us some thoughts on numbing? Why we do it – and how to stop it?
Numbing is a form of fear—so practice courage. Get curious about the numbing—why do I do this? Why is this my habitual reaction? What benefit does it give me? The answer to that latter question is usually a reflexive, “None whatsoever,” but we do things because we get a very real payoff. I often think that numbing in particular is a response that attempts to control the flip-side feelings of overwhelm—everything coming at us at once, too fast.
The place to start with anything is accepting it, getting curious about it. Get some answers for it, and don’t make it “wrong” for being in your life.
Find Kate on the web at: YourCourageousLife.Com. Join us in May24th for Part Two of our interview.