by Talib Mustafa Shakir
It all started with a vision.
Yes, just like most things in life it is usually a vision that sparks some of the most life changing moments in our lives. What was my vision?. It sounded outrageous until I explained the plan of execution. The vision was to develop a life coaching program for ex-offenders. To help them make better choices in designing their future.
Yes that got a few laughs. I mean we are talking about a profession that typically caters to executive and business leaders, so what and how is a person who has been engaging in anti-social behavior for so long going to benefit from coaching? “A lot!” was my response. Let me explain.
I can say this with confidence because I am an example of how Life Coaching has truly helped me change! I came to prison at a fairly young age, seventeen, and have spent 20 years (straight) behind prison walls. During this time I participated in many programs and none of them had been that effective, in the sense that they did not do anything to empower me to be successful out in society. It had been about recognizing the wrongs that I had done, and due to that focus it set barriers on life’s possibilities.
Is this the way that I want to live my life? Is my life limited to one bad choice and youthful ignorance? Do I have to settle for that and never experience the many possibilities and joys that life has to offer? NO! I don’t think so. That is not living and if that is the case why even leave prison, if I am predicted to come back. ( note: there is an almost 70% chance of recidivism) This would be living without hope and not the life that I want for myself nor others. So I decided to do something new, think outside the box.
In thinking outside the box I learned about this thing called Life Coaching. At the time I was taking correspondence courses in Psychology and I had a friend of mine who is a great guy tell me about this new form of Psychology called Positive Psychology and that the idea was to not look at what was wrong at a person but what is right and move from there forward. That was my “AHA” moment. This is what I was looking for and needed to learn more about. It was at this moment that I begin to retrain the way that I thought about myself and others. That there were possibilities and that I had the option to explore them in a manner that was going to help me overcome the past and more forward in a positive light in the future. This was my calling!
At the time I was facilitating other self help classes and serving in a mentor group so I was actively involved and had relationships with others who were like minded, so it was easy to sharpen the skills that i knew that I would need at some point.
It was during a meeting of facilitators that I became aware of a book called Becoming a Professional Life Coach that was co written by Dr. Patrick Williams and Diana Menendez.
It was through this book that I learned the art and science of coaching. By far this was one of the most informative books that I had read on the subject. The book bought to light the areas of coaching that I had been missing and needed to tune up, in order to give life to my vision of using coaching skills with ex offenders. It is a must read book and one that I commonly refer back to in order to keep my skills sharp and fresh.
I also read several of Dr. Williams’s articles and other works and found him to be dead on with his approach to Life Coaching as a whole person focus.
Fast forward to today. When I tell people about this vision it is no longer described as a vision but a life plan! When I tell people now about my desire to live the life that I have come to know, through life coaching, people can see it! They say seeing is believing! As a result of this I believe, and now know that Life Coaching is one of the tools that can be, and needs to be, used to aid in dealing with the problem that we have with mass incarceration. It is one of the most useful tools that we can use in addressing an issue that effects society in both human and financial costs.
I am glad to have come to this realization. I feel better as a person as a result of being coached and I am more effective when I deal with others that are looking for ways to make the best out of life, even from behind prison walls!
As a result of this new found insight I had the desire to develop a coaching program that would deal with this population of people, ex offenders. I had a strong conviction that this was my calling yet I didn’t know of the avenues of resources to get it done. So i decided to contact Dr. Williams and propose this idea to him, the idea of coaching not only ex-offenders but all those involved in the system that handle these cases, from inmates, ex-inmates, probation officers etc. I had all ready developed a program that was geared to wayward youth and was looking for ways to expand that idea into something bigger and far reaching.
This vision that I have is to work with the Coaching the Global Village and incorporate the Life After Prison, Gateway Life Coaching program in to this organization. With the experience and wisdom of Dr. Williams and my insight, of the issues that plague many that are incarcerated, I know that this will be a dynamic program! One that will have longevity and good end results.
I am witnessing it right now in the lives of the offenders that I work with now. These are men who are fighting against the status quo of the prison environment yet they have been open to being coached in order to become more functional and whole men. As a result of this they are experiencing healthier relationships with love ones, with each other and most importantly with themselves. This is a concept that needs to be extended and offered to more people.
The Life After Prison, Gateway Life Coaching program and Coaching The Global Village partnership can be the vehicle to bringing Life Coaching to this population! Dr. Williams wisdom and knowledge of coaching along with my insight and experience will open many doors that will expose others to what it means to be a whole and productive person. For this reason I believe that The Coaching The Global Village and the Life After Prison, Gateway Life Coaching program will help facilitate in the process in addressing the needs of those men and women who want to lead healthy and productive lives but they have yet to come across the road that will take them there.