After earning her Bachelor’s degree on Communication Arts, Shann Vander Leek leaped with both feet into the high-pressure television advertising business, first as an account executive, then as a sales force leader. She was responsible for millions of dollars in sales revenue, negotiating with hot-shot advertising agencies representing Toyota, Coca-Cola, State Farm, Pizza Hut, and Chevrolet, among others. Sure, the paychecks were great—but the job was killing her soul. Today, Shann is following her true calling, supporting women in the corporate world as they break free from their “golden handcuffs,” and guiding them to create full and balanced lives. Unconventional and delightfully curious, she is a world-renowned Transformation Goddess, a yoga instructor, and a wildly popular motivational speaker known throughout the industry for supporting powerful women as they face life-altering transition. A recovering workaholic and Type A perfectionist, she has invested many years into deep personal development, spiritual study, and shadow work, and has established herself as an expert in the field of personal development and transformation.
Shann is the founder of True Balance International, and the co-founder of Anxiety Slayer. The author of Life on Your Terms, and the best-selling co-author of A Juicy Joyful Life, Embracing Your Authentic Self, and Wake Up Women: Be Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy, she also writes a monthly column for Aspire Magazine. Shann lives with her husband and young daughter in the village of Suttons Bay, Michigan, just minutes away from the shores of the sacred ground that Good Morning America viewers voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America”—The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
MO: How did you make the leap from being a successful advertising expert to becoming a life coach and transformation enthusiast?
Shann: I began by exploring my interests and preparing my exit strategy. For about one year, many of my evenings, weekends and lunch hours were dedicated to self awareness and studying for my professional coaching certification. This transition time included, setting a new household budget, reallocating investments, setting up a line of credit, and buying a new car (for the first time in 11 years!) The plan was to build my coaching business and the True Balance brand, one day at a time, until I could give my two weeks notice.
Straddling two worlds was fairly easy. The job I no longer enjoyed was palatable because I could see, feel and taste the light of my future. The most difficult part of the divide would turn out to be leaving my sales force. Leaving them behind was my biggest cross to bear until I allowed myself to let go and to understand that each person was amazing in his or her own right and would ultimately be fine in my wake. During this time, finding humor in the day to day corporate environment was the greatest blessing. Ultimately, you do what ever you can to NOT take yourself too seriously when working through a life changing transition. The discovery of professional humor, allowed for functioning well in the environment and finding some peace in the moment.
MO: What are some easy steps for individuals to become more empowered? Is it a different process for everyone or does the core part of the process remain the same?
Shann: Becoming empowered begins with a powerful sense of self or self-confidence. I recommend beginning the empowerment process by taking inventory of your strengths, personal interests and “far-fetched” dreams.
The core part of empowerment is the same for everyone. You can live your life on your own terms if you believe in yourself, your unique talents and abilities.
To boldly go where no one else has gone before is a sexy idea. Sexier still is discovering mentors, explorers and visionaries who are willing to share the bold steps they have already taken along with the lessons they learned along the way. Often times all we ever have to do is explore our curiosity. Reach out to someone who has already traveled to the place you wish to be. Ask questions. Learn all you can about the steps to make to move forward and you will become empowered.
It’s never too soon, nor too late to follow your passion.
MO: Can you talk about writing and publishing “Life on Your Terms” and the “Life on Your Terms Accelerator Series”? What does your creative process look like and what inspires your writing projects?
Shann: My personal career transition sparked my curiosity. Every day, I observed people bumping around from one role to the next, one task to the next, seemingly dead inside. It made me ask myself: how have so many people become cut off from a world filled with abundance and wonder?
I was full of questions:
• What if I could talk to wildly successful entrepreneurs who have figured out how to fully leverage a life of entrepreneurial freedom, happiness, tranquility and passion?
• What if together these entrepreneurs and I could identify common threads amongst these visionaries who have summoned the courage to push through the keyhole and gain access to the shiny world on the other side?
• What would happen if I distilled these entrepreneurial characteristics into an inspirational guide? If I was able to create a life filled with abundance and passion, and if my personal story was inspirational to others, then wouldn’t a collection of stories be even more powerful?
These questions guided me to write Life on Your Terms and the Life on Your Terms Accelerator Series, which I hope will inspire even just one person to find the courage to follow his or her heart, and to live fully, with complete abandon.
All of my writing projects are inspired by curiosity.
MO: What would your advice be to someone who is stuck in a rut but remains uncertain how to explore and discover their passions or interests?
Shann: The only way to create life on your own terms is to get curious about your future and risk moving forward. If you are so out of touch that you have no idea where your interests live, shake things up. This can be as simple as answering the question: “If you could do anything without the fear of failure what would you become?” or “If you only had five years left to make a professional contribution, how would you make use of your time?” of “What did you always want to be when you were a child?”
Several of the liberated entrepreneurs in my book said they’d wished they would have explored their options earlier.
MO: Can you provide our readers with some advice on navigating the challenging process of career transition?
Shann: Whether you have made the choice, or have been forced to significantly alter your life, it’s time to begin navigating through your transition. All life changing transitions have four distinct stages.
The first stage of any significant transition begins with suffering and skin-crawling discomfort. You know a radical change is coming, but you might not be sure what to do about it. Chances are you will be down in the dumps. You may feel frightened, angry, uncertain, or like you’re reeling out of control. During my career transition, I remember feeling lost in a fog, and completely freaked out by the fact that the ideals around which my whole former life had been built – were no longer acceptable.
During this painful first stage, I recommend staying with your regular, comfortable routines. When you are filled with a black hole of uncertainty, the best thing you can do is create a nurturing daily plan focused on self-care. Try to cut back on extraneous commitments at home or work, and take the time to be gentle with yourself.
The second stage of transition involves deep introspection. You may start to withdraw from the world, retreating into a safe and private emotional space. Initially, this might be a way to protect yourself from the pain and uncertainty you’re feeling, but this retreat can also allow you to begin to let go of old patterns and behaviors which stand in the way of your positive transition. You may feel contemplative, curious, spiritual, detached, or highly emotional – sometimes all at the same time.
Writing your thoughts in a journal is a good activity to try at this stage, especially if you’re feeling withdrawn and are having trouble talking to the people around you. If you’re still unclear about where you’re really going, try making a simple compare/contrast chart. Fold a piece of paper in half, and label one column “Want,” and the other “Don’t want.” Then, fill in the blanks. Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do. It helps you set boundaries and build a solid foundation for your ideas.
The third stage of transition is a big shift from the first two. It’s filled with positive energy and includes research and exploration in the outer world. When you reach this stage, you are finally starting to feel like you have some direction. You’ve gotten an inkling of what the real nature of your upcoming transition might be. You become secure, optimistic, and confident. You are uncovering a new path and ready to walk through the doors of a ripe new opportunity. In this stage you will want to explore the Internet, read about new topics of interest, and continue to write in your journal.
Your discovery period is also the perfect time to explore new connections and talk with trusted confidants. Immerse yourself in discovery – not just in your chosen field, but in any area that interests you. Sometimes, even things that are unrelated on the surface can work themselves into your new path in unexpected ways. Allow yourself to play on a brand new playground!
When you have navigated the first three stages – fear and discomfort, going internal, and exploring new frontiers – you are ready to move into the magical stage of creative renewal.
The fourth stage of transition is a blast. When you reach the creative renewal phase, your vision has become clear, and you’re ready at last to create life on your terms. You are highly energized, committed, and optimistic. You are also determined to make significant changes quickly. Things seem to flow quite naturally for you. Mentally and physically, you feel unstoppable, because you know that everything is possible.
When you experience your creative renewal, allow yourself to be in the flow of the moment. Allow your plans to unfold without force. Become enamored of your new path, hang loose, and enjoy the magic carpet ride! I declared my new path on New Years Eve while surrounded by my friends and family. What an exciting time to acknowledge and embrace my future and let go of all the uncertainty and discomfort!
Questions to Consider:
What stage of transition are you experiencing right now?
How long have you been in this stage?
What do you need to do right now to honor the stage you are experiencing?
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Shann: I am super excited about my newest coaching creation for women who do too much. The new Transformation Goddess Website and offering just dropped at the end of March.
The Transformation Goddess Experience was created specifically for creative, spiritual, courageous women who are ready to unearth their inner Goddess through self-study, self-care, sacred ritual, and luscious living. By joining me, each transformation Goddess will learn how to become an empowered, delightful force of nature, and share her inner grace and feminine strength with the world!
The Experience is comprised of a 3-month divine feminine mentoring partnership, and includes: a Luscious Virtual Retreat, transformational coaching, inspirational teachings, and creative expression through journaling, photography and yoga. You are welcome to learn more about this tantalizing offer at www.TransformationGoddess.com
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