To live on purpose is to live with intention. Many folks allow life to happen to them and make reactive decisions based on circumstance or perceived limitations. Circumstance and limitations are real and worthy of examination but do not, truly, have the capacity to cause complete stagnation and suffering in life. We have a very high degree of control over our experience both mental and physical.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Noelle Cordeaux, CEO and co-founder of JRNI, a coach training program and coaching collective. She is also a feminist scholar, coach, speaker, and sexologist who specializes in the relationship with the self. She has carved out a unique niche in the world of coaching, combining positive psychology with clinical sexology to help her clients gain true progress. Noelle holds a B.A. in Literature from Rutgers University and a Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Becoming a CEO at age 36 was not part of my life plan. It’s hard and there are days when I face my isolating mountain of work with a grim view. Becoming an economic justice warrior was also not part of my plan. I never dreamed that creating jobs in an emerging industry and championing folks to begin second, third, fourth, and fifth careers would become my life’s work. But it has, and I have accepted the challenge before me.
I am not a stranger to personal transformation. I have lived many different lives. I suffered from eating disorders at a young age, experienced trauma and debilitating depression in my 20’s, fell into an unhealthy marriage that ended in divorce and stumbled out into the world at age 29 incredibly, unsure of myself and reeling from the weight of expectations that are levied on women’s bodies and minds. I didn’t believe I was fit to make something out of the lumber of my life, let alone build a temple where others could find peace.
I set about seeking. I learned. I read. I fell in love with the science of applied positive psychology and began to understand what it meant to have self-agency and self-efficacy. I was encouraged to do something with my time by a community of mentors who I deeply love and admire. I applied to graduate school and was accepted. I maintained a 4.0 through two masters degrees and in 2013 and began to lend my voice to the online community that would become JRNI and our life coach training program, The Catalyst Coaching Intensive. I was accepted into my dream PhD at age 35 and JRNI was launched in its first iteration later that year. I left my PhD to take the helm at JRNI and brought my young company to profitability within a year.
I am driven by the stories of the coaches we train and by the stories of the individuals who come to our community for support. I could be any one of these folks and they could be me. I’m not unique. I have simply accessed tools, education and community support that changed my life. I believe it’s vital to provide others with the education, community, support, and opportunity to do the same. It’s also vital to herald that second, third, fourth, and fifth chances are possible, that there are people who care, and that finding meaning (through connection to others) is within reach.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
To live on purpose is to live with intention. Many folks allow life to happen to them and make reactive decisions based on circumstance or perceived limitations. Circumstance and limitations are real and worthy of examination but do not, truly, have the capacity to cause complete stagnation and suffering in life. We have a very high degree of control over our experience both mental and physical. It takes guts to face reality and decide to buck circumstance. It takes grit to actually create change; but just like learning any other new skill, once you get the hang of creating change and choosing how you want to exist, it gets easier.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?
Oh so many! With my story, I’ll start in the beginning, around age seven, when I first began to wrestle with eating disorders and depression. It is really hard to understand forces that affect you when you are in the middle of the storm. Looking back, I can see how my disposition towards depression and the development of eating disorders at a young age shaped my worldview. I carried with me a sense of helplessness, a belief that I could not do hard things, that my worth was the sum of my attractiveness as a female, and that professionally, my best bet was to find someone to take care of me and perhaps work a supplemental job. I entered an unhealthy marriage. I spiraled into a span of years that can best be described as “dark grey.”
There was, however, a small glimmer of hope that lived inside of me. I knew, intuitively that I had something special to share with the world. People always came to me for help. I have an extraordinary capacity to calm and inspire others. I took a job helping adult students chart their academic course and the flicker that lived inside me began to spark.
I loved helping people. I would talk for hours with my students. We chatted about life and love, their hopes and dreams, and of course, the courses they were taking that semester. Every single person left my office feeling like they could take on the world after consulting with me. I still keep in touch with some folks from my first position with the college and we are now old friends.
After having such a great experience with the adult students, I began to get curious about my gift of helping others. I started googling words like “planning,” “helping,” and so on. At the time, my belief in myself was so shriveled, the thought of going to graduate school seemed impossible. I am actually grateful for this, because I discovered the field of coaching as an alternative to pursuing clinical psychology.
At the time the coaching field was really undeveloped, so I started to teach myself. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I used myself as a subject. The flame inside me grew hotter. As I started to change, my life changed as well. I developed a sense of agency. “Hey,” I thought, “This is working! I can coach people!” For the first time in my life, I had a PURPOSE.
My new found purpose spurred me, and I became determined to become a coach. I was terrified of school. I was terrified of failure. Truthfully, I was terrified to live.
But because I had my purpose, I pushed on anyway. I enrolled in my very first coaching program. Even then I was so scared. If I had the opportunity to tell my younger self that I would one day be the CEO of a coaching company I think I would have been to scared to step on the path. My journey has been one of many small steps, each one proving to me that my legs are sturdy. If you are reading this and feel fear, you do not have to know what the future holds, you just have to believe that you too, are capable of taking one step at a time.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
We live in a world of increasing individualism, even when scarcity is making it harder and harder to survive without each other. Walk out onto any street corner and you will see people with their heads down, on their phones, avoiding human contact. Our communities are disintegrating. We are losing sight of the fact that connection to community and tribe is a primal, vital part of being human. We are killing this aspect of our humanity and isolation is killing us. So, too, is a focus on material gain. We know from the science of positive psychology that authentic happiness is actually based on having goals in the areas of friendship, helping others and love.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At my company JRNI we believe there is no such thing as a broken human. We believe everyone is capable of, and entitled to, an authentic and fulfilling life. Our approach to wellness is strongly rooted in economic justice. We are living in unprecedented times where humans are being displaced by automation at staggering rates. The field of wellness is a great economic equalizer. Anyone can be taught intersectionality, empathy, basic coaching skills, and how to hold space for others. Wellness is one of the few market segments that has the capacity to withstand economic volatility as the emerging middle class consumer searches en mass for relief from emotional pain and isolation. We are seeking to train coaches, create jobs, and foster connection and community world wide.
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Drink plenty of water. I’m serious here! Staying hydrated flushes your system, keeps you healthy and quite literally quenches thirst. If I’m feeling foggy, or as if I’m not making my best decisions, I know it’s time to drink water and get my mental faculties back on track, which helps me stay joyful and connected to the present moment.
- Engage in 15 minutes of strenuous exercise every day. For me, this has the same mental impact as antidepressants and keeps me on track with what I need to do. Moving our bodies is a wonderful way to feel present and connected to the earth and to this beautiful world.
- Make time to dream about the future out loud. Future visioning is a very powerful applied positive intervention. Sharing your vision with others creates bonding and accountability towards goal accomplishment. This produces very joyful conversations and reconnects me strongly to my purpose. When I know where I’m going, it helps me feel even more excitement for daily life.
- Express gratitude. This is different than feeling gratitude for yourself though that is important too. Tell people why and how you are grateful for them. Get out of your own head and connect! When we tell others the ways in which we are grateful for them, it increases our own capacity for joy and happiness.
- Savor. I always rely on the sky when I need a dose of inspiration. It is always beautiful, free and accessible. When we take time to experience small pleasures, to really savor things as they happen, we’re able to appreciate the larger things that we have to be grateful and excited about.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is very tempting to give energy to small, irritating things. A coaching technique is to appraise the emotion and decide with intention if it is something to which you wish to give your time. You only have so much time. Use it wisely. Life’s too short, and enjoying the time we spend here is a large part of living well.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
A documentary called “What the Bleep Do We Know,” was the catalyst for all of my personal change. I still adhere to the notion that I can change my reality at any time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland — Alice: “I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” If we do not believe in the impossible, life will be very boring indeed!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My job is full time and then some. My project is running my company that offers low cost coach training for individuals and turn-key solutions to organizations that are solving some of society’s most pressing problems in the space of healthcare, corporate wellness, health promotion and research. Our coaching products and virtual support groups are designed to reach isolated and vulnerable populations who face barriers to receive support, help them engage in community, and find meaningful direction in life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There is hope. There is so much hope in the world and kindness. It’s right below the surface. We are harnessing the power of a collective of folks who truly give back to society and each other.
I am inspiring a movement towards authentic living and connection through my work at JRNI. We’re young, but mighty. We are creating radical change through love and community. And it’s working. Join us.