Everyone wants to be happy, and Alionka Polanco wants to help.
As a certified life coach, Alionka's mission is to help you get what you want out of life. Between self-publishing her book and speaking engagements all over the United States, she took the time to show us how a life coach could help us (and you) get what we want.
Trueself: What is a personal life coach, and how does one get certified?
Alionka Polanco: A personal life coach is someone who you hire, and they look at your life in its entirety. It's not just career, jobs, business, but also personal relationships with your parents, and with your significant other. It's your health, it's your spirituality, it's your dreams, your fears. A personal life coach takes care of everything, or at least is looking at all of the moving pieces of your life and helping you make everything work together.
As to how you get certified, I specifically went to NYU. We're here in New York, so I like to learn in person but there are actually a ton of programs online where you kind of attend classes, and then maybe once or twice a year, you get together in person for trainings, and so there are lots of certification programs for coaches.
Trueself: In the HuffPo article you wrote, you describe yourself as a "possibility seer" and "vision ambassador," a "fear destroyer," and a "dream accelerator." I loved all of those things. You've been doing this for three years now - how did you get into it? Where did the interest in life coaching come from?
AP: Well, I did my undergrad in acting, I did my Master's in Education, and at the end of both of those degrees, I was like this isn't what I want to do with my life. So at the end of my Master's degree I was I think, 24, and I was like, 'What am I going to do with my life?' So I took a personality assessment, the Myers Briggs and my personality type said a good career would be a counselor or a coach. And I had never heard of a life coach before, but I know I didn't want to be a counselor/therapist, but I was like, 'Oh, coaching? What's that?' So I looked it up, and everything I read about it, I was so excited. You get to make a difference in people's lives, you get to work for yourself and make your own schedule, and you get to help people. So I think ultimately, my role in life, I don't know, why I was put here on Earth, was to help people. When I read up on coaching, I just felt instinctively like 'Yes,' and then I started to coach even before I signed up for NYU. I remember the first session still, September 2, 2013, and I just remember crying after the session, because I was just like, "this is it." This is what I'm supposed to do with my life. That is how I came to be a life coach.
Trueself: The title of your HuffPo article was "How to Get What You Really Want in Life," and I think that that's something that people don't know. So obviously you're not going to be able to tell us how to get what we want in life right now, but how do you start somebody on that path?
AP: Absolutely, well I think that's such a good question, because I think that especially as Millennials, it's almost like you're expected to know what you want, and I went through this phase where, I mean, you have to also know as a high schooler, I was an overachiever. I was class president, editor-in-chief of my yearbook, in the drama club, just everything. And so to then grow up and not know what I wanted to do was really upsetting, even for me. And for my parents, obviously, they were like, 'We don't get it. You're so smart. What's going on?' And I speak specifically about Millennials, because I work with a lot of Millennials, but I think that's something that people experience in life. It's just like, you grow up, and then you're set free, and you're like, 'Wait a second, how do I maneuver this?' And so then we fall into the patterns of like, 'I need to be an adult,' and 'I need to do this.' And when you hire a life coach, the question becomes, 'What do I want to do?' So to answer your question about how to get what you want in life, the first step of it is you have to figure out what you want out of life.
I just wrote a book called Beyond Profit: The Successful Woman's Guide to a Meaningful Lifeand in it, it takes people through my process about how to get what you want out of life. And the very first step is to take inventory of what's going on right now, so what do you not like and what do you like. Because there's always a trade-off in our lives. And once you take inventory, it's about then deciding, 'Okay, I know where I'm at right now, where do I want to be?' And a big thing that I do with my clients is I ask them to look 10 years ahead of time. So if we were to meet 10 years from today and life was roses and all good things, what would have happened? What does that look like? And I actually find that most people do know what they want, but because they're so busy in their day to day, it's not framed at the top of their mind. So when you ask someone 10 years down the line what their life looks like, for the most part they're able to say that and then through my process, we reverse-engineer it. If that's what you want in 10 years, where do you need to be in 5 years? And if that's where you need to be in 5 years, what needs to happen in 2 years. And if you want to be there in 2 years, what needs to happen in the next 12 months? And then people work with me from 6 months to a year to kind of lay out that plan. And then in the process, you learn a lot about yourself. How you work, what works for you, what doesn't work for you, your preferences change, it's normal, but I think the awesome thing about having a life coach, or at least someone in your corner, is someone saying, 'You told me this is what you want,' and it's okay if that's changing but you're not taking action towards that, and I have to call you out on that.
Trueself: I really like that notion of even having been a go-getter in high school, that motivation doesn't equal knowing what you want. That's a big thing. When did your book get published?
AP: I actually self-published in June, earlier this year. I'm still an overachiever, that doesn't change, but I have a mentor who in February, challenged me to write a book, and she said, 'If you write this book, and if you publish it by June,' so I had about three and a half months, 'if you bring me a hard copy of your book, I'm going to publicize it to my lists of 100,000 people.' And so overachiever Alionka was like, 'Of course!'
Trueself: How has it been selling?
AP: It's been really awesome. And what I love about it is that, one thing, it's on Amazon, it's like $4, and anyone on any budget can buy it and take themselves through the process that I take people through. And what's cool about it too is, on the last page of the book, I say, 'If you liked this process, and if you want more support, if you want someone to walk you through it, here's my email address. Email me and I'd love to talk to you about it.'
Trueself: Not only is that a good thing to put in there, it shows great business savvy. I love that you got into the 'where do you see yourself in 5, or in 10 years.' My question is, 5 years ago, did you ever see yourself here? Did you see yourself running your own business, helping other people get what they want out of life?
AP: It's crazy. 6 years ago, I won something from a psychic, like a free reading, and she told me, 'You're going to have your own business. You're going to be an entrepreneur.' And at the time I was an actor, and I was like, 'Okay crazy lady.' Because I just had no clue. My parents are entrepreneurs, but it just never dawned on me that I would have my own business, so no, real talk, 5 years, I had just graduated undergrad, I was 22, and I had just spent four years studying something that I was not going to go into and I was just about to start grad school. Crazy enough, I had a scholarship for grad school and that's why I went to grad school, but I knew I wasn't going to be a teacher. I was pretty clear like, 'Okay, I am saving time until I figure out what I want to do.' Even though I kept trying to make that shoe fit, it just wasn't for me. So no, 5 years ago, I had no clue that this is where I'd be. And it's funny looking back because now I speak on a lot of stages, so my acting training is awesome, and I do teach courses, and I help other entrepreneurs start their businesses, so my teaching degree came into play. So it all came into play, just not at all how I ever thought it was going to be.
Trueself: And you're enjoying it, obviously.
AP: Yeah, I love it. There's always growing pains, but now I'm clear, there's no other career for me other than being an entrepreneur.
Trueself: Always going to be your own boss?
AP: I love coaching and I do take on private clients, but right now my business is in the space where I'm actually creating more leveraged income, like more group programs that are teaching-based. I've done retreats, I've done workshops, so we're actually doing more of that. And it's still in the realm of life coaching, like 'What do you really want? What are your desires?' But to get access to me one on one, it's a bit of a higher price tag.
Trueself: You fly all over the place to give speeches and stuff right?
AP: Yeah, it is so cool. I actually just got back from Canada, where I got to speak to a room of 100+ women entrepreneurs about how to have vision, so I took them through that 10 year exercise, and multiple people came up to me and said it was the best speech of the weekend, so I was really excited about that. Then I'm headed to San Antonio in February for an event called 'Practical Magic' and I'm the opening speaker there. It's actually so cool, the woman who runs it, she just bought Julia Childs's home in France. So she's kind of really awesome, and I get to speak at her event. And then right now I'm in contract to possibly speak on a cruise ship in Greece. So that is what 2017's looking like. And kind of like how you mentioned before, I still take on private clients but speaking is something I want to do more, so I'm just creating space in my schedule to be able to do that.
Trueself: Have you had any notable clients?
AP: I do sign a confidentiality agreement, but I can say what they do. I have worked with Broadway actors, high-up sales executives for Google, business owners who make over half a million dollars a year. Some pretty cool people.
Trueself: Any messages you want to send?
AP: Go to my website and sign up for the newsletter. I send out a weekly inspirational newsletter, and it's pretty awesome. And my message is that if you are feeling stuck, if you are feeling like things aren't how you want them to be, please know that that's completely normal. I actually think that we feel fulfilled when we're in pursuit of something. That's why we get something and we're like, 'Okay, what's next?' You know, there's never even a 'Whoo hoo' moment. A, it's normal, B, figure out what you do want, and C, go get it.