Brenda Bertrand, spiritual mentor and coach for high-achieving, world-changing women, walks through how she guides her coaching clients through the difficult exercise of planning ahead, especially after enduring a season of weariness and “hope fatigue.” (We’re looking at you, 2020.)
Don’t have time to read right now? Listen to today’s interview here!
As a coach, what are some “normal” things your clients need guidance with at the beginning of the year?
At the beginning of a normal year, people seek clarity for what’s next in all areas of life: career, relationships, finances, spirituality, health, and wellness—you name it. Clients want to get unstuck, get clear on what they want, and figure out how to get it. People get trapped in New Year’s resolutions (which, by the way, don’t work). But for 2021, I anticipate the guidance people seek will be colored by their experience of the epic year that was 2020. Clients will seek ways to process the disruption while discovering how to move forward in the midst of ongoing unknowns. They are interested in carving a safe space to explore their losses, what they’ve gained, and what possibilities still exist in the aftermath of an unprecedented year.
I am dedicated to working with my clients on discerning God’s voice and discovering their own by reflecting, reckoning, and meeting the moment with compassion, confidence, courage, and resilience. Many of my clients are committed to doing their inner work and playing a role in transforming our world during such a crucial time. Women of color, moms, and singles, in particular, are seeking ways to make a meaningful difference in the world without losing their own souls. Soul and self-care are higher in priority than normal.
After enduring 2020 and all of the changes that occurred due to the pandemic, is it normal for people to be hesitant or even fearful of planning for 2021?
Absolutely. 2020 was a big lesson in change, and with it came big fear. I want to speak peace to each person who is experiencing fear. It is normal, and there are ways in which being present to our fear can help us move beyond it—even in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. In my sessions, we face fears and reimagine our relationship with them. When we work on our deep-seated fears, we are doing our most vulnerable inner work. This is where transformation takes place.
For many, 2020 was a traumatic year. Beyond disruption of plans, some experienced the loss of loved ones, the loss of autonomy, the fear of being a person of color in America, the grief of not seeing family and friends in person. Many people haven’t been held or hugged in months. If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us that we are not always in control and are more interconnected than we ever imagined. We have all suffered from what I call “hope fatigue.” Early on, we had some energy to wait this out and hoped to return to normalcy again. But, after a global pandemic, civil unrest, the ongoing and increased fight for justice, and a contentious political campaign in the U.S., we lost steam. It’s hard to get up when you feel like you’ve been face-planting for months!
The Scripture says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12). I think we are still in the hope deferred part of that verse. Fear is a normal response.
What are some exercises you guide clients through when they’re struggling with planning for the future?
Coaching exercises are as plentiful as seashells on the seashore, but I find exercises most effective when catered to the person sitting right in front of me. Nonetheless, three exercises serve as foundational in my coaching practice and critical in this particular time in our history: Mindset, Discernment/Clarity, and Permission.
First, we work on Mindset. I usually start my coaching session, workshops, and retreats with a few minutes of silence. It may be the only time in a woman’s week where she can slow down long enough to hear her own heartbeat and God’s deep love for her. I love creating sacred, safe, and brave spaces for women to pause and listen to God and their own souls. In this space, she can reconnect to her vision and the truest version of herself. This sense of clarity is a segue into identifying what limiting beliefs stand between her dreams and their fulfillment. Usually, we are standing in our own way. Many Christian women struggle with feeling like imposters, inadequate, or ill-prepared. In this exercise, we unearth the inner critic who has a lot to say about how impossible their dreams seem. Most women are one belief away from the life of their dreams.
Clarity exercises are important. In this critical season, we need to discern God’s voice and discover our own to reclaim what is calling in the present moment in the midst of the current challenges. I ask my clients, “What do you want? Really, really want? What is calling you, now?” After they get past the “shoulds” and “have tos,” they can envision themselves doing, being, and having their deepest desire. There’s a lot of social, cultural, and religious conditioning that keep people in general, and women in particular, from connecting to their desires. Some have even been taught to treat desires as evil. In addition to connecting with their desires, I offer theological work to unlearn some of the ideas passed down and imposed on them. We imagine different possibilities and count the process as holy. God’s purposes and plans are often hidden under buried or suppressed desire.
Permission is an actionable and empowering exercise. I like to give women permission slips. High achieving women of faith are brilliant and resilient. Often they are trapped in their own sense of inadequacy that goes unseen by the world because they are so outwardly successful. I enjoy digging around in the areas where women need permission to play a bigger game, show up powerfully, use their voice, and shine their brilliance. My clients are high-achieving women who need permission to pause– to carve out space to discern God’s voice, listen to their own, and take the action needed to live into the lives they’re secretly dreaming of. They usually just need permission to take inspired and consistent action on their goals. Once they have permission and the accountability to follow through, they fly: one step and one day at a time.
Are you feeling hopeful for 2021, or do you have some apprehensions?
2020 was an incredible wake-up call to be present in the moment. My greatest lesson was embracing the tension of opposing emotions: kindness and grace; hope and despair; longing and contentment; rest and alertness. In step with this lesson, I hold both hope and apprehension together for 2021.
I am deeply grateful for the things that matter and am very clear about the things that don’t. I have a clearer sense of the fragility of life, our interconnectedness and interdependence, my immortality, and how short life is. Over 1.86 million people worldwide as of January 2021 have lost their lives to COVID, and people of color are particularly susceptible. I am grateful to be alive and am hopeful that 2021 can be the year that is incredibly formative because of 2020—not in spite of it. To be alive to apply such lessons is a privilege and a gift. Yes. I am hopeful and apprehensive. I’m learning to live in and love the tension. I hold both together. Both are precious to God.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I invite every woman to take a couple deep breaths, pause, and be still. Prayerfully respond to this question: “What are you discerning this year? And what could hold you back from stepping into that call?”
I have also created a free, downloadable gift called “7 Ways to Discern What’s Next in Your Life…even in the Midst of Uncertainty and Chaos.” Join my community at brendabertrand.com to download this tool and journey with like-minded women who are committed to making 2021 an intentional and transformational year! I look forward to supporting your discernment journey.
Brenda is a spiritual mentor and coach for high-achieving, world-changing women. She offers over 25 years of diverse experience, including work in media, university, and military chaplaincy, teaching in higher education, and consultancy at leading global firms. She is an ordained minister and trained spiritual companion with graduate degrees from the University of Texas and Princeton Theological Seminary. She specializes in creating sacred and safe spaces for women to spiritually discern, learn how to integrate faith in their lives, and make soul care a priority.
When she isn’t traveling the globe to find its most sacred places and beautiful beaches, she inspires people to discern God’s movement in their life; value their unique leadership style; amplify their voice; and, believe they are enough…because they are.
Let’s discern together at brendabertrand.com.
This blog is sponsored by ARMORED, a memoir, a love story, and practical leadership guide to managing crisis on your own terms. Click here to order ARMORED and use promo code “4WORD” to save $10 off a $40 or more purchase.
(Offer good through January 31, 2021)