At the start of a new year, we are often filled with energy and enthusiasm towards our goals. And sometimes, we look towards having the best strategic plan to achieve our goals when we quite frankly need to begin with our mindset. That is exactly why I was so excited to sit down with Desiree Maya, a.k.a. Coach Dez, on a recent episode of Elite Achievement.
Coach Dez has over 15 years of consulting experience and is a credentialed transformational coach. She focuses on helping her clients crush their limiting beliefs and unapologetically embrace the unique individuals they are meant to be. She is also the host of the Born Unbreakable podcast.
I start our conversation by asking Coach Dez about her journey to becoming a coach and how she always knew her mission was to serve and lead others. She shares how she began to understand her purpose as early as third grade. Even her high school counselor had told Coach Dez she was destined to help others. “And then, of course, when I got to college, where you start getting a little more into your vibe and getting exposed to so many different things and people, I fell naturally into the space,” Coach Dez says. “It starts sort of informally, you’re listening to your friends, you’re listening to your colleagues, you’re listening to your family members. And that’s the foundation of really good coaching is active listening. And then, of course, through the craft of practice and formal experiences. When I got into a consulting firm – that’s when I started zeroing in on the more professional nature of what it looks like to coach people and was so fascinated by it that I actually went to a leadership institute to study the art of coaching.”
I’m curious how Coach Dez was learning more about her purpose even in third grade. She explains that one of the experiences that she remembers early on was having the opportunity to run for class representative. She wanted to help speak on behalf of or listen to the challenges of her classmates. “It was just this natural feeling of wanting to be there for others,” Coach Dez explains. “And if there was anything that I could do to help their goals come to fruition. I wanted to be a part of that. And so that manifested the leadership and coaching track seriously ever since that time, from nine years old to now, almost 30 years later.”
One of the things I learned last year is that success leaves clues. And I find it inspirational that Coach Dez can pinpoint an experience from third grade that helped her become the coach and influencer she is today. I think we can all look back at our past and those things we enjoyed doing and see incredible clues that led to who we became and who we are meant to be. I know Coach Dez is passionate about helping people embrace their unique individuality, and I ask her to share more about that.
“My motto is to be unapologetically you,” Coach Dez confirms. “And I think I had to go on my own journey with that before I could believe it myself, if that makes sense. Part of your craft is going through your own chaos. That is part of the learning. And what I realized is I felt like there was always a friction or a tension that built because I constantly wanted to be in service of others, which on its own is a wonderful thing. You want to please other people, help other people, but it’s a double-edged sword because you can lose yourself in the process. It’s a delicate balance between doing what you think other people want for you and ensuring that it aligns with what you truly want for yourself. I remember going to an Oprah Winfrey event in the beginning of 2020, right before this whole COVID situation came upon us. One of the things that she said that struck me was about going through the different decades of our life. In your 20s, you’re starting to form your opinions, starting to become more of who you are. And then, in your 30s, your confidence gets raised because you have the beauty of experience. But then, in your 40s, you work on getting rid of your disease to please. When I heard that, I really took that in and said, what does that look like? What does it look like to get rid of the disease to please? And to me, it is standing up for who you are, even when who you are doesn’t necessarily match up with what someone else believes.”
Coach Dez continues by sharing a personal example. “One of the things that people often ask me, because I’ve been married, and I love children so much but I don’t have my own, is when I am having kids,” she explains. “Or, isn’t that a goal of yours? Nobody is trying to be malicious with these questions. I mean, it’s coming from a good place. I had to get comfortable with saying, you know, I love kids so much, and they’re such an important part of my life, but I do feel really complete not having my own. I live a little bit differently, and I’m proud of that and happy with that decision for my life. The other thing that you recognize when you start being able to say out loud who you are and what that looks like, is that the right people who are just fine with that will get around you. We’re not here to satisfy everyone’s desires of what they want for us. We’re here to be the best version of ourselves and enrich the lives of those around us and those who accept us and don’t judge. They are the ones that are meant to be there.”
There is so much to unpack in what Coach Dez shared, and I start by recapping the powerful lesson she learned from the Oprah Event. I too have found myself doing many things as I’ve grown my business that I shouldn’t be doing. I ask what advice she has to help us stop doing things to please others and lean into our own intuition instead.
“The first thing is to always follow your gut instincts,” Coach Dez says confidently. “There’s a reason that you have your head, your heart, and your gut. And your gut is usually the thing that speaks to you immediately. And when you follow that, you’re not overthinking things. And the second thing I would say is to have an attitude of curiosity. Because when you carry that attitude, and people ask you questions that maybe make you feel like you have to explain or defend something, being in a state of curiosity allows you to ask them questions that opens a dialogue and space of mutual understanding. People often don’t have the context or enough information to understand where you lie. And part of that is you creating psychological safety by asking them questions to understand where they’re coming from. Now, you’ve just invited somebody to get to know you better instead of being in a defensive posture. And I think if we can shift to that, it would create so many more bridges between us as individuals in the world. I’m a big fan of building bridges instead of walls. And so, creating the safety to have these kinds of enriching conversations is a great way for you to be able to be you while allowing somebody else to be them at the same time.”
I love that when we are our authentic selves, others can grow confidence. I ask Coach Dez what additional ways she believes build confidence.
Coach Dez says it starts from the inside out, not from something externally, but from mindset. She explains that our mindset is the first thing and that language is one aspect of that mindset. “How we talk to ourselves is critical,” she says. “I was in a mastermind the other day, and we were talking about this concept of A.N.T. ‘s, which stands for automatic negative thoughts. Ants, they’re crawling around in our heads all the time. The problem with these little critters is we get conditioned with them because of things in our past or childhood. Maybe it’s a teacher, a family member, a friend that says something and it hits you, and it sticks with you. So, all of a sudden, these tiny little blocks built on top of each other create these things in your head that say, oh, I must not be good enough for that, then, well, I probably shouldn’t try that, because I didn’t do very well the first time. And these negative thoughts compile on each other, and they become patterns into our adolescence, and unfortunately, into adulthood. Then as adults, we’re faced with having to recondition our language to help us understand our capability and capacity are much bigger than we actually believe they are. The way you talk to yourself is a critical factor in building confidence. Because there’s a difference between saying, I don’t know how to do this, I can’t do this, versus saying to yourself, how can I do this? Just by the way you’ve said that, you’ve changed your language from limiting to possibilities. It’s not to say it’s an easy shift. But that small nuance of the words you choose makes a big difference in what you believe you’re capable of. Another tip is external, and that’s posture. When you’re speaking, or when you’re walking out in the world, there’s a big difference if you’re looking at me, and my head’s kind of down. I’m not making eye contact with you. Versus if I have my posture up. I’m looking directly into your eyes. I’m excited about what we’re going to talk about. That exudes confidence just in the way that I’m showing up. Because I’ve opened up these possibilities of us having an engaging conversation, versus having an attitude of like, oh, yeah, I don’t know about this. Even if you’re not an expert on the topic, again, going back to being curious, you can ask great questions. Confidence can be built by asking confident questions, such as, tell me, how did you learn about that? How did you get interested? I’d love to learn more. That’s a confident statement or question.”
I’ve started to observe many successful people get their needs met, and their needs might be seeking more knowledge, by asking those questions. They’re less afraid of looking foolish and not knowing the answer. And I quite frankly think they’re more afraid of not learning and not growing. I love how Coach Dez shared that confidence can be built by asking great questions. And also, A.N.T. ‘s, which is a powerful analogy to help us recognize that we all have these automatic negative thoughts. I wonder how these ants get in the way of achieving our goals and what we can do to crush them.
Coach Dez explains that they get in the way big time because they can keep us from pursuing our dreams and crushing our goals. She says it can stop us from asking that person on a date because we had a relationship that didn’t work out, or from going for a promotion because we had a bad presentation one time. It creates a feeling of unworthiness when we turn temporary moments into permanent suffering that doesn’t serve us. She suggests asking ourselves how the thought is serving us because, most often, it is not. The next step is to ask what you can do when you’re triggered because self-awareness is critical.
“When you’re aware of what’s there, now you can do something about it,” says Coach Dez. She shares how we can approach it a few different ways, from shifting our language to journaling and digging further to find out the root cause of what you’re feeling. Once you identify the root, you can decide to move on or let it go. “It’s not these grand gestures. It’s recognition,” Coach Dez explains.
It sounds so simple as Coach Dez describes that it’s not grand gestures but about reflecting, journaling, and understanding, then allowing ourselves the opportunity to shift and take our power back. I ask for her recommendations for someone who hasn’t spent a ton of time reflecting and journaling, and how they can start to build that into a regular practice.
“Small bites, small bites,” says Coach Dez. “I think sometimes people think of a process like meditation or journaling. And because it’s foreign, it’s daunting. Like, I’m not going to sit there and write for an hour or meditate for an hour, and it doesn’t have to be like that! There’s this concept called savers. And it’s a book that describes a morning ritual where you can start doing these things in one-minute increments. Then you can move to five minutes or ten minutes.”
Coach Dez explains that you can begin as you have your morning cup of tea or coffee for something like journaling. By coupling it with something you’re already doing, it doesn’t seem like you’re adding something new, but rather just creating a different way to experience it and set your intention for the morning. Plus, it isn’t intimidating because it doesn’t take much time.
What a beautiful perspective that we can apply to so many areas of our lives – the different goals we strive to achieve, and the different rituals we’re looking to embrace. I heard Coach Dez say, add the practice to an experience you’re already doing. It’s not like we have to find more time to do something, because we’re all so busy. And to start small. I believe we have this all-or-nothing mentality. And when we decide to go after these big goals, we think we have to run the marathon tomorrow, when in reality, the first step might be to walk around the block and build consistency. The permission to start small is really helpful. I ask Coach Dez what other common self-limiting beliefs get in our way.
“I’m not enough,” Coach Dez begins. “I’m not capable. I fear the unknown. Fear is huge. It’s one of the biggest things that stand in people’s way. I get into conversations with clients about the worst that can happen. Let’s move into that fear because part of it is confronting it. And because often, when something feels uncomfortable, we avoid it, and it stays there. The longer you avoid something, the more it keeps showing up. When you confront it and have a conversation with it, just like you do with a friend, it’s the same for maybe a conflict that you’re trying to resolve. It’s just an inner conflict instead of one with another person. And those are usually the ones that are hardest to solve because we don’t want to sit down and have conversations with ourselves. So, naming it and saying, okay, well, what is the worst that can happen? And then reframing it to say, okay, well, what’s the best that can happen? This helps us shift into this mindset of abundance versus scarcity because there is enough to go around. And there are opportunities that are meant to be seized. They’re waiting for us to conquer them. And it’s our mindset that gets in the way of these. I’m not good enough. That’s impossible. I’m not good at that. I’m not a business person. I’m not an expert on money. What do I know about growing a business? I mean, these are just questions. And if you heard a friend saying that, you wouldn’t buy that because you love that person enough to go, no, you’re talking crazy talk right now. But we don’t do that to ourselves. We allow it. That’s unfair.”
Why do we do that? Why do we allow these limiting beliefs and negative self-talk to happen with ourselves?
“Because we live with our own triggers,” Coach Dez explains. “And we live with that inner child of wounds that we maybe haven’t let go of, or we haven’t addressed, or we haven’t faced. We don’t see that in the people around us because we haven’t lived their wounds. It’s easy for us to see other people at their best and to see ourselves at our worst because we know what that darkness looks like. But imagine if we could give ourselves grace. This goes back to confidently embracing the learning opportunities you’ve had in your life and maybe saying that the relationship didn’t work out because there’s responsibility on both ends for that. But the only part that I can control is me. And here’s a couple of things that I noticed that I could do better and then focus on that. It doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen again. It just means that there are different things to work on. So then, when you move on to the next relationship, you can be better than the last one. Because really all we’re doing every day is wanting to be better than we were yesterday. That’s all we can do. So, it’s not to dwell on what we didn’t do, right? It’s to lean into our full capabilities, to focus on where we can grow. And when we look at that as a positive, it’s limitless. You know, and that’s the reason why in big or small businesses, they do things like postmortems, or they have these lessons learned conversations after they engage with a client and something didn’t go right. Or something happened within the team, and employee engagement scores weren’t so great. The reason you diagnose those things is so you can pinpoint, oh, okay, these are things where we had a blind spot, we could do better. But it doesn’t mean never do it again. It’s not defeat. It’s just learning. And when you look at things in that light of this is an opportunity for us to learn and grow, you’ll start to change the attitude of failure into growth and transitioning to the next best thing.”
I ask Coach Dez if she thinks we ever arrive at a space where we’re completely confident and fearless or if this is ongoing work that each of us has to do. She confirms that it’s always ongoing. “I wish that I could tell you that there’s this day where we wake up and are omnipotent, and we have that Titanic type of feeling moment where we’re at the edge of the boat, like I can conquer the world,” says Coach Dez. “Those moments are there. But for every moment like that, there’s a moment in between where we question ourselves. But that is a good sign. I’ll give you an example of why. The other day, a good friend of mine who has been in restaurant management forever called. They got a new, elevated restaurant management job in a higher-end restaurant and went from feeling on top of the world in their previous positions to very insecure. These new people have more experience. This makes me nervous. Which is understandable. I think anybody can relate to that moment in their life, where they’re like, I know I have skills. I know I have capabilities. But this is kind of new. I’m trying to figure out how to apply these skills and capabilities in this new environment. That discomfort is good. It’s a sign of growth. And also, we need to be humbled. Humility is a huge part of growth and success. If you’re always in the position where everybody’s coming to you and asking you, and you’re the expert, what are you doing to help other people grow around you? If you’re the one that has all the answers, if you want to build a team, and you want to build people around you, then you want to help them. And so, it’s good for us to be in these moments of discomfort because it’s a sign of growth.”
I am so appreciative that she shared this expectation around great moments where we are confident and that it’s okay in between to question ourselves. We can reframe that perspective because discomfort is a sign of growth. I think that’s helpful because we often think, why am I not perfectly confident all the time? When am I ever going to be fearless? But that is not the reality. We need to adjust that expectation.
Coach Dez agrees and shares that when you listen to some of the greatest speakers and influencers, like Les Brown, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey, you’ll hear them talk about the moments when they weren’t sure. They second guessed themselves when they made a mistake and decided they needed to go in a different direction. She affirms that this is just part of being human. What makes us resilient is that we can bounce back from those moments. She also shares that part of the maturity in that space is to give ourselves grace.
“Grace for the moments when we need to take a step back and reevaluate,” Coach Dez shares. “For the moments we decide that we’re going to lessen the pressure on the accelerator, or maybe even hit the brakes. Because sometimes, we need to. I do a lot of executive coaching and change management work. And one of the mantras that I have is sometimes we need to slow down to speed up, which means every now and then, taking a purposeful pause, reflecting on a situation, and determining if there needs to be a course correction, will pay dividends later, instead of just rushing through just because it’s what we always do. It’s not always the best solution.”
Slow down to speed up and learn to give ourselves grace. I’m so inspired by my conversation with Coach Dez. We’ve explored many important topics, such as owning our journey, how confidence comes from the inside out, and the acronym A.N.T. ‘s, those automatic negative thoughts. And then how it’s easy to see others at their best and us at our worst. I ask Coach Dez where people can connect with her if they are inspired to learn more about her work, and she suggests her website. There you can also find links to her social accounts and podcast, Born Unbreakable.
With that goal achievers keep celebrating your weekly wins, noting the lessons that you learned, and identifying your priorities for next week so you can consistently pursue progress in the direction of your goals.