T oday’s Inspiring Women Series is a woman that has been featured on my blog before, as she is someone who has helped me with both my photography business as well as my life coaching business. She was my first and last portrait client and the life coach who helped me move through the fear and the resistance I had to launching Lesleystefanski.com.
Name: Natalia Chouklina
Occupation: Life Clarity Coach
Please tell us a little about you:
I’m Natalia – a life coach, e-program leader and a lover of life!
My dream is to live in a world where we feel safe to express what we really want and need, everyone is loved and cared for, and kindness is a default response in every situation!
Three of your favorite things to get you through the day (apps/drink/workout):
- Upon rising – hot water with lemon
- Uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep – ahem, can you tell I’m not a mom?
- My trusty Day Designer by Whitney English
Who are you inspired by, and why?
The answer to this question changes based on what’s going on in my life. It used be that my answer to this question, I would list famous luminaries and thinkers; however, these days my inspirations are much closer to my heart.
I’m inspired by my parents because they didn’t give on each other and their marriage after 30 + years together, and believe me, they came pretty close a few times. As I am about to tie the knot myself, I think of them often. Their life lessons I’m taking along with me and I’m deeply inspired by their commitment and love to each other. They are my perfect example of intentional living!
My fiancé Matin inspires me everyday. A few months after we started our relationship, I decided to plunge into the world of entrepreneurship and unknown, thus impacting his and my life dramatically. Although this wasn’t what he signed up for, Matin’s support has been unconditional and unwavering, he’s been my rock! I haven’t always been so kind, patient and understanding with others during their process as he is with me. He’s teaching me that we are capable of extraordinary love.
These days I’m also deeply inspired by the work of Sussannah Conway, Hannah Marcotti and Elizabeth Lesser. These women embraced their own inner wild and creative woman, and travel the path less traveled with courage, honesty and vulnerability. It’s inspiring what they’re creating.
To get where you are today, how did you ‘feel the fear and move through it’ anyway? Where there any moments you thought you’d just simply quit?
Fear has been walking along side me from the day I could feel and think. In the past, I pretended it wasn’t there; I waited for it go away to take the next step, and I thought that feeling afraid meant that I wasn’t ready or had stepped on the wrong path or should quit. I was wrong.
Now, I accept that fear is a part of life, and I know I will feel afraid when I attempt a new project, a difficult conversation or face my own vulnerability. I feel afraid when I don’t know the answer to the question – What’s next? And how can I find out? By diving in and finding out for myself. It sounds nice and neat on paper but it’s hardly a pretty process for me.
We always want to know how others balance it all, and I’m sure you feel like you don’t, but tell us some ways on how you stay on top of your game. What gets left behind, what gets top priority, and what helps you stay grounded?
Well, my secret is that I don’t try to balance and do it all. I live my life based on how I feel in the moment and my intentions. These days it’s all about living a good life and simplifying.
The question I ask my clients and myself often is – If you can’t have it all, do it all and be everything to everyone (let’s be honest, that would be impossible), what would you rather have? What would you rather do? Who would you rather BE? And, what do you need to say no to, what choices do you have to make to create space for that?
This question isn’t an invitation to live smaller and to settle. This question is about getting clear on what you value the most in life and making it your priority. What I see a lot around me is that we are everywhere and nowhere at the same time, so we don’t feel grounded and connected to anything. We skim the surface of many topics but don’t go deep enough to be truly touched and moved by them – and deep inside we yearn for depth, meaning and purpose.
I say no to a lot of things to make space for things I actually want in my life. Examples of what I said no to, to date – not owning a house and carrying a mortgage, not shopping expensive brands, not partying till dawn. There’s no way I can do all that and have the amount of freedom, space and flexibility I’ve come to enjoy and value so much. But you might be dreaming of the house and an expensive bag, it’s ok. It doesn’t make it right or wrong, it just makes it yours and might call for you to make different choices.
What are your must-have tools to keep on top of every day tasks as well as your busy life?
My intention is to live a full, rich and deep life, and this doesn’t include being busy. I’m done with ‘busy’ as a sign of my self-worth, success and drive. I don’t know a single person who feels empowered and purposeful while running around like a chicken with her head cut off. When I find myself doing that (nobody is perfect), it’s a sign that I lost sight of my intentions and I need to re-center, again.
But, I still need to get stuff done. After all, I run my own business. Here are my must have tools for that:
- My MacBook Pro – I run my entire business on this machine!
- My agenda – Always paper. Current fave is the Day Designer by Whitney English. I’d be lost without it and miss all my appointments
- Skype and iPhone – for client, business and personal calls.
- Silence – Lots of it! Can be used for writing, reading, and simply being.
Living intentionally takes action and dedication, is there a specific moment in your life where you made the decision to live intentionally? Or has it always been the way you’ve lived life?
I made a decision to live intentionally when I realized that the way I lived my life to date simply wasn’t working for me anymore.
I’ve always been an avid goal-setter, and I was so good at achieving these goals. Yet, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the way I thought I would feel even when I overachieved my goal times a hundred. I would tell myself that in order to feel financially secure and free, I needed to make 6 figures. When that happened, I still felt scared, unstable and far from free.
I felt like I was a dog constantly chasing my tail – I was tired, disillusioned and bitter. And I was only 26 years old!
Danielle LaPorte said it best – ‘You’re not chasing a goal, you’re chasing a feeling you think achieving this goal will give you’. Feelings = intentions. When I discovered that for myself and chose to focus on the intentions, my world started to make sense.
Don’t get me wrong, I still set goals and I’m still one of the most driven people I know. But it went a long way for me to reflect upon what my goals were in service to and what I was ultimately getting at, and to eventually realize that there’s more than one path that could lead me there, that it was never about ‘either my way or the highway’.
How has your life changed since you’ve been living it intentionally?
I discovered creative solutions to problems that plagued me for years, like how to have a loving and healthy relationship with my parents.
I am living the life I dreamed about while doing cold calls in my cubicle three years ago.
I am about to marry the man who loves me exactly the way I always wanted to be loved.
I am doing the work that feels fulfilling and completely aligns with my passions and interests.
I am supported and surrounded by the most gorgeous group of women who blow my socks off on daily basis.
Most importantly, my life is not so complicated and dramatic anymore. I‘m no longer always chasing something, hustling to get somewhere or trying to prove anything. Instead, I’m enjoying living my life and all the gifts it has to offer today.
It’s a different way to live life but I found it to be a lot more interesting, gratifying and yes, successful. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what life can do for you when you let it. When you let go of your agenda and must haves for just a minute, life might present you with something you didn’t even know you wanted or offer up a solution to a problem that will exceed your wildest dreams.
How have family/friends been supportive?
Not all friends and not all family were supportive.
The process of living intentionally and discovering your power makes you vulnerable, and it’s super important to surround yourself with people who get it. I was lucky to have a few of such people in my life, and boy, did they ever cheer for me! In the moments of weakness, they literally carried me through! I’m so grateful.
Some people didn’t get it and my own process presented a threat to their belief systems, turning a comfortable and numb status quo upside down. These people left my life and I left theirs. It was sad and painful at the time, and I’m so grateful for the times I shared with them and lessons we learned together.
Do you have any rituals or friends you call upon when you need extra support or encouragement?
When I need help, support and encouragement, I ask for it. I figure out what I need in this moment, and make a clear ask of people who I know get me and what I’m about.
When I feel caught up in my feelings, which happens often because I’m very sensitive, I give myself the gift of time. When I receive an email that triggers me, I make myself step away from a computer and tell myself to sleep on it (and ask for support). Works every time.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to live intentionally but doesn’t know where to start?
Get very clear on what you value, how do you want to feel and what are you intending to happen in your life.
Don’t skip this step – many do. Take your time with it. It’s like digging a house foundation – the deeper the hole, the higher you can build. Otherwise, you will end up with a wobbly house….
You can easily do this on your own. Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map is good for this. You can also work with a life coach if you want a personal touch and support. That’s what we do!
Where do you look to draw from when you want inspiration, visual or narrative, for the life you intend to live?
- Nature – everyday I make a point to go for a walk in Stanley Park. I leave my phone and other gadgets at home. To me, nature is one big metaphor for living an intentional and purposeful life. Every leaf, every little bug has a purpose and agenda, and yet they work together so well.
- Books – I read books that align with my intentions. Right now it’s simplicity and surrender so I seek out books about these topics to remind myself that others have traveled this path before, to get ideas and to stay focused.
- Lately, Pintrest – every year I create a vision pin board for the year ahead. I review it often. Also, I have a separate board for every desired feeling I want to cultivate.
- Knitting – this is a new one for me. I don’t know what it gives me just yet but I so inspired by this activity. I love the whole process – finding the project, choosing my yarn, feeling the yarn at the store and taking in the colors, casting on the first stitch…. It’s so satisfying and it makes me squeal with joy!
I’m always inspired to hear what other people’s dreams are, what dream of yours are you currently working towards that you envision happening in the next year?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot myself.
My ongoing dream is to continue building a profitable coaching business my way and according to my definition of success. It’s a work in progress but I see movement in that direction.
In the year to come, I dream of becoming a wife and a mother. I know I will have to say bye-bye to uninterrupted sleep but it will be well worth it!
Lastly, I can feel my heart is yearning to say something. I don’t know what it is yet and how it will be delivered. Maybe it will be a book, maybe a program or perhaps something entirely different. I can hear the sound of the train coming but I can’t see this train just yet. I’m willing to be patient and wait, I know that the train will come in time.
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