Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment

My new theory:
People don’t ever really change, and that’s exactly as it should be!

If you’re a coach or client, you may think I’m crazy to type that out loud.  You may be grimacing at your computer, coming up with loads of examples that prove me wrong.  You stand by to feverishly defend your websites that boast magical abilities to support clients in living into their potential.  We are, after all, in the business of evoking transformation, aren’t we?  If so, how can this be true?

Last month, I got to hang out with my mother and three of her childhood friends.  For 10 days I didn’t really talk to anyone under the age of 83.  These are 4 very accomplished, out-spoken, well-educated, liberal, fun women.  I was the Sherpa and chauffeur on their annual reunion trip, this time to the Florida Keys.  Throughout our trip,  I felt I could see them across time at ages like 4, 8, 13, 19, 26, 35, 47, 56, 64, 72, and now in their 80s.  I could see how, though hips and bits may get replaced, some things truly never change.  Best of all, I could see how GREAT that is!

One day during lunch, I leaned over to one of the women and asked, “Has she always been this bossy?”  She replied, “Oh yes!  Always.  ALWAYS!”  We giggled.  It wasn’t the fact this one was still ‘bossy’ that intrigued me; it was the fact that this woman had always cared about getting things done.  It was the fact she has always had a zest for life, a passion for experiences, a desire to lead, and an ability to see what needs to be done and be assertive in service of that which intrigued me.  Since the ‘bossy’ one was my mother, I know very well that she’s not always bossy, and that she’s so much less bossy than in the past, but this awesome, passionate woman — the one who has always lived for a cause, has led and inspired change, and has infused the world with new ideas and great fun — has and always will be who she is through and through.  Thank God that will never change!

This morning, I got the most beautiful email from my very first coach, Keri Kuerbis Lehmann.  She gushed about me and told me how amazing she thought I am.  She tried on the word proud, but it didn’t fit.  Instead she just acknowledged me and loved me completely.  Sometimes as coaches we feel a little proud, but mostly, we just feel relieved — relieved when our clients peel away the layers of crud they’ve piled on their potential, revealing and celebrating the beautiful human beings they are.  Keri began that journey with me, and it’s such a thrill to hear her words 16 years later, celebrating how much more ME I am than ever before.

When I hired Keri, I struggled with time management, money-management, and well… managing pretty much everything seemed a struggle!  My husband and I ran our own business as glass blowers, but business was down.  We’d gone from 7 employees down to 2 or 3, my passion for my work was all but gone, and all I had to do to keep the business, our home, our family, and the rest of life going overwhelmed me.  I was filled with self-doubt and a master at seeing my faults.

That’s all true, AND……. As I look back, I see that I was also a vibrant, courageous, creative, entrepreneurial, caring, honest, well-meaning person.  I failed often at the details, but my intentions were always good.  I didn’t trust myself much because I failed to meet my own expectations, but we’d actually pulled off a remarkable feat:  We had grown a business in the middle of nowhere, making things that no one needed, to the point where we employed 7 people in our tiny town, and our work was in over 700 shops and galleries across the country.  I was infertile, yet we were parenting two beautiful children.  We started with no money, yet we acquired a horse, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 20 acres of land and a beautiful 3200 sq foot home we brought back to life from its abandoned status.

If I met that young woman today, I would think she was rather remarkable!  I would want coach her, because I would want her to see herself the way I saw her.   Just like my coach, Keri, didn’t judge or criticize me then for what I struggled with, I no longer judge that younger me either.

As I prepare my books for my accountant here at tax time, I still feel those twinges of “I don’t know how to do this!” and “I’ll never get it done”.  I can feel how some of the hard things never seem to change.  I’m better at these things now, but it still doesn’t feel easy.  I’m not sure it ever will.  What’s different now is that I don’t hate myself for it.  I look to my mom and her friends and I’m glad they still have each other and that aspects of them will never change.  I’m glad my mom was ‘the bossy one’!  I’m grateful to the ‘happy, curious one’, the ‘easy going one’, and the ‘one with the exquisite ability to hold onto the entire picture’.  I love who they’ve each become with time, and how much they’ve remained true to themselves always.

Of course some things change.  Of course we adjust and grow and evolve along our paths.  Shifting our perceptions can evoke powerful transformation.  However, who I am at my core – who I have ALWAYS been – I can count on that never changing.  I have been, and always will be, a vibrant, courageous, creative, entrepreneurial, caring, honest, well-meaning person.  Sometimes I’m still harsh, critical, and out of touch on some level.   I often feel far from vibrant.  When overworked, I don’t feel very creative. My hair went curly, my skin wrinkles, I learn new tricks, and I gain and lose weight.  Those things are all on the surface.  Like wind across water, the surface changes.  A little behavioral nip ‘n tuck never hurts.  The core though… That place where our values, life purpose, inner strength and resources live?  That will never change.  Our relationship with it will evolve.  Our ability to express, accept and know who we are will improve and expand.  But who we are at our core will never change.  And that, in my humble opinion, is a very good thing.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and I’m eager dialogue with you about this.  Do you believe it’s possible to change who we are at our core?  Would you ever want to?  I’m curious……

Still just me,



Comments on: "People Don’t Change – An Optimistic Viewpoint" (15)

  1. Nice post, Helen – you’ve got me thinking. Here’s what I’m making up…So, if it’s more a process of revealing and reclaiming than actually changing (except for the behavioral nip and tucks) then the transformation is more apparent than real. The actual transformation happened when we forgot who we were (somewhere in childhood) and now we are on a journey home. My reality as I experience it changes because I become more of who I am, more in alignment with my original state. I am closer to home.

    In fact, from the other perspective, the notion that I have to change myself to have a better life kind of smells fishy – the odor of: I was born “wrong.”

    At the same time, we are the unique expressions of one unified consciousness which is evolving. So, we are doing this dance of evolving, while remembering. hoo ha! No wonder we get confused 🙂

    And if I can rest in who I am at my core being something that will never change, I can, as you so nicely model, love that someone (called me) exactly as I am. Then I can stop working so darn hard and just have some fun for a change. Fun for a change…now I like the sound of that!

    • helenhouse said:

      Oh Kathy! YESSSS! What a juicy, thought-provoking response! THANK YOU! Like everything seems to be in life, this is one of those things that contains the delicious ‘both, and’. Yes, people don’t change…. and Yes, we are constantly evolving. I love that both are true! I’ve been coaching for a long time now and it’s always felt to me that I was part of that ‘dance of evolving, while remembering’ you speak of. I just talked to my mom (the ‘bossy’ one 😉 ) and she said that as a second grade teacher, she always said that at age 7 she could picture so clearly how each of those kids would be as adults. The essence would never change. Behavior, attitudes, beliefs etc? They can change, but essence? No.

      I love that notion – “If I can rest in who I am at my core being something that will never change……… I can stop working so darn hard and just have some fun for a change.” Now that’s a change worth aiming for!

  2. coachkeri said:

    Darling Helen, What a refreshing perspective — so contrary to the “people don’t change, bah humbug!” one. I love what you are saying, especially how you have befriended the past you who judged herself so relentlessly…for she is indeed courageous, resourceful, smart, talented, magical and powerful — a creative force to be reckoned with!

    It’s a beautiful and complex question you pose. I believe we change and we don’t. When we can remove some of the judgements, and limitations we become more of our Selves — and more of our beauty shines through. Lots more to say about this — I could go on and on… And then there’s my mom.

    I lost my mother last year. She had struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism for most of her adult life, and when she finally set it down a few years before she died, there she was. My Mom. Thank God/Goddess I had changed enough to see her.

    I love you, Helen. Thank you for loving you, too! xxoo

    • helenhouse said:

      Beautiful! Keri, first of all, I’m sooooo glad you got to have your mom! Both that YOU had changed enough to see her and that SHE had changed enough to be there in that way. Those are those surface changes I was talking about. Though they seem soooooo bloody deep when we’re in the midst of them, and they can be so all-consuming and even debilitating, they’re still just the giant toothaches of life getting in the way of us showing up. You know how when you have a toothache or a migraine you feel about as far away from your essence as one can get? Addiction, alcoholism, holding on to past pain, being in reaction, living from our limiting beliefs… all migraines. Toothaches. I love that line, “When she finally set it down”…….. reminds me of the song “Lay my burdens down”. We must keep laying those burdens down so we can rest in who we are.

      (Sheesh… I look forward to going on and on with you about this soon! I think we’re very much in alignment…)

      Now, here my dear 1st coach, is a paragraph I snipped from this blog:
      16 years ago, I hired my first coach – Keri Kuerbis (now Lehmann). In our very first conversation her voice was the sound of pure love and acceptance to me. I’ll never forget our first coaching call after I’d hired her. She had me grab something to write with at the end and asked me to make a small sign I could post where I could see it. She said, “Ready? Got your pen and paper?”… (yes)… “You may want to do this in all caps”… (ok)…. “Okay… write ‘I’……. “AM”……(yes)……. “A”……(uh huh)…. “GIFT”…..! As I wrote, I burst into tears. The moment I felt my hand write the words, and I saw them before me, Hope entered my world like never before. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but I was so darned used to putting myself down and seeing my shortcomings that the notion of having someone on the other end of the phone who was going to support me in believing in myself – who so clearly believed in me just because I was a human being, a naturally creative, resourceful and whole human being – was beyond profound.

      Do you remember that? You have always been that person who believed like no other. Thank you for the gift YOU are and for choosing to share it with me! I love you.

  3. Gretchen Baker said:

    Helen, wow! There must be something in the air around this perspective because I have had these thoughts (yours and Kathy’s) swimming in my head the last 3 weeks!!

    After turning 50 last year, I committed myself to doing things that made me “uncomfortable” (not illegal or immoral – just challenges to my own comfort zone) and I just had 2 of those experiences recently. What I have discovered is that the more I step out of the comfortable box of who I think I am or who I think I should be (as a mom, community member, neighbor, coach – the labels go on), I feel like I am stepping more into who I really AM! And yet, when I write those words, they almost don’t make sense – but they totally do!

    I’m not certain if I’m actually stepping into who I am (at my core) or who I want to become (changing), but I’m not really sure if that matters at the moment. I see that whatever challenge I’m drawn to has an element of something that is exciting, something that could change my perspective of me and my place in the world and maybe I’m drawn to it because it’s already who I am – as Kathy so beautifully put it “a process of revealing and reclaiming.”

    Of course, for me, that begs the question, “How did I get ‘covered up’ and ‘lost’ in the first place?” Well, right now I just want to spend the next 50+ years revealing and reclaiming and supporting others to do the same!

    Thank you for sharing!!

    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks for your awesome response, Gretchen!

      These words make PERFECT sense to me: “the more I step out of the comfortable box of who I think I am or who I think I should be …I am stepping more into who I really AM”. NOTHING confusing about that at all!

      Maybe there’s no difference between stepping into who we are at our core and who we want to become… as long as that wanting is coming from a sense of ‘rightness’… not righteousness, but the all-is-right-with-the-Universe-as-I-move-in-this-direction-and-it-sort-of-terrifies-me sort of rightness. 🙂

      Getting covered and uncovered may be part of the game we’re here to play – Like the peek-a-boo games of babyhood. You can’t see me… peek-a-boo! I can’t find myself…. peek-a-boo! Okay… it’s a little corny, but sometimes we think we’re hiding just like the baby thinks its hiding…but we’re NOT.

      Keep revealing and claiming, Baby – oh yeah!

  4. I’m loving this post (and all the responses). I don’t have anything insightful or entertaining to add right now, but felt compelled to say thank you and wanted to let you know I am simmering on this and letting it land. I’m reading Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” and this ties in oh so perfectly.

    I have to say that a core essence of being that underpins everything is rather settling for me. Even if that essence is not exactly what I had envisioned as “ideal” or “optimal” in life, just being able to work from that essence and change my perspective and relationship with it is a huge shift.

    Simmering, tinkering, chewing…

    Thanks Helen!


    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks, Amanda, for reading, responding, and best yet – simmering, tinkering, and chewing on it! I’ll have to read Brene Brown’s book now. I know this in not my own unique brand new theory… I’m thinking it’s just one of those universal truths people have been writing about and talking about for eons. I’ve just found a way to have it make sense to me.

      This intrigues me: “Even if that essence is not exactly what I had envisioned as “ideal” or “optimal” in life”…. hmmm… as I chew on this, I think essence is probably always ideal and optimal, it’s our behavior or the way we’re expressing (or not!) that essence that isn’t optimal. When I’m yelling at my daughter (not proud moments!) I’m not expressing that essence in an optimal way. When I speak my truth to her with love, that’s a truer expression of it. When I worked with prison inmates, it was so clear to me that our essence and our behavior often seem to have nothing to do with one another. It’s so easy to let behavior cloud our ability to perceive essence…

      hmmmm… now you’ve got ME simmering, tinkering, and chewing!

      See you next week!

  5. yes. Is that too cryptic?
    That which is Me, is changeless
    I, like you, am a slice of the Divine hologram. Illuminate with pure light and the entirety of Divine is readily seen

    yes 🙂

  6. Great post, Helen! And you elicited great comments from everyone else as well. I agree with everything that has been said. The thing that keeps coming up for me is that we all are born naturally creative, resourceful and whole. We never lose this state of being but our minds frequently forget this for ongoing periods of time. The transformation that we experience is generally remembering that this is our natural state of being. Being human, we can only remember this for short periods of time. It’s one of those odd little paradoxes of life. You have to forget in order to remember. But oh how sweet is that moment of remembrance!

    When I had cancer, I committed myself to a year of healing. Although the healing was going to definitely be physical, I also decided to work on myself in order to become better and different. Why go through cancer if you’re not going to change? The shocking irony that occurred to me when my treatment was over was that I had changed only to become MORE of myself! That wasn’t my goal starting out but it has continued to remain my goal ever since.

    I think that the biggest “change” that we can work on is becoming ever more compassionate and accepting of ourselves and others. Given that we all are NCRW, when we get out of our own ways, miracles occur. When we can see and hear with our hearts as well as our minds, the view is infinite. I think that this is the biggest gift that we as coaches can provide to our clients. Keri certainly proved that to be true with you. And I have no doubt you offer the same to all of your clients.

    Thanks for this excellent reminder, Helen!

    • helenhouse said:

      Ah, Judith, as always you articulate things so beautiful and help us see things anew… or remember even more clearly! One of the things I most love about the changes in the CTI model is the tension that lives between the cornerstones “Naturally Creative Resourceful and Whole” and “Evoke Transformation”. Henry said one day about Co and Active that ‘it’s in the resolution of the tension between these two where the magic lies’, or something like that. I think the same can be said about those cornerstones. As coaches, we need to be able to hang in the tension between these two to co-create that magic with our clients.

      So glad cancer brought you more to yourself, rather than taking you away from us.

      Big hugs,

  7. helenhouse said:

    YES! Not a bit cryptic, and thank you for expanding, Oh Divine slice o’ da Divine hologram. Nice to be in this beautiful light pie with you!

  8. Helen:

    Wonderful post. So much of the work I do with my clients is helping them to understand that we waste so much energy trying to change who we are and ultimately set ourselves for disappointment and shame when we don’t succeed. And that the real value is to come to know and accept ourselves for who we are, all of who we are. I see the relief register in their souls when we reach that point. This is when we can start creating the roadmap towards their most authentic and best lives. How cool is that?

    Thanks for giving this voice and for sharing some of your story along the way.

    Take care,

    Nan Watts

    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks, Nan! (Sorry I missed this comment earlier!) I love what you write: “This is when we can start creating the roadmap towards their most authentic and best lives.” I love that the road map grows out of total self-acceptance. What better soil to nurture and grow our seedling selves in?

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Be well,

  9. Scott Bauer said:

    But they can and sometimes do. That also can be good, no grand.

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