Possible Things: A Coaching Philosophy That Gets Professionals Unstuck
A Conversation with Nancy Sun
Nancy Sun is Founder and Principal Coach at Possible Things, where clients are guided to reach their full professional and personal potential through a holistic, patient and actionable approach. As a coach, she brings not only senior-level recruitment experience at Lehman Brothers, but perhaps more importantly the ambitious career transition into acting where she has featured in multiple television shows, films and plays. A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Nancy has since completed a two year actors conservatory with Maggie Flanigan Studio and more recently an ICF coaching certification course with Accomplishment Coaching.
Nancy helps her clients get unstuck in their careers and in life.
(s)peakeasy: In your career path you’ve moved from financial services to yoga instructor to acting and now coaching. At each stop you’ve experienced a high level of success yet have moved forward in what appears to be a very intentional way.
[ Nancy Sun ] Thank you for your acknowledgment! That said, it appears intentional and successful looking back but it did not always feel that way moving forward. The through-line is that I trusted and committed to my instincts - no matter how circuitous - even when the “how” was not readily apparent.
Was your transition into coaching the result of the experience of sorting out the “how” through your career changes / advancements?
I find coaching to be the most effective way to support others exactly where they are and where they want to go.
I successfully left behind the “golden handcuffs” of the financial services industry to become a full-time freelance creative. In the last six years, I’ve been on the set of 8 television shows, 1 studio film, and 2 independent features. I have been in 5 plays and originated roles in 3 world premiere productions. This reputation has inspired lots of friends and friends-of-friends to reach out when they are ready to leave Cubicle Culture. However, I’ve become keenly aware that what worked for me will not automatically work for them.
The best value coaching provides is a professional, non-judgemental partnership. Your family, friends, and day-job may be attached to having you make certain choices and living your life a certain way. They have a stake in how your life goes because your choices may impact them. Thus, their advice - through no fault of their own - may not serve you to your highest and best.
Applying a broader definition to love, what barriers within yourself must you remove to receive from life what you desire?
Coaching is a relationship where the coach is unconditionally committed to what the “coachee” is committed to and supports them getting there.
Related to this commitment to your clients, you state, "Your best life occurs in the pursuit of the goal you have been avoiding." Can you elaborate a bit on what this means, and how one can identify these evasive goals.
Great question! Goals are not by their nature evasive. When goal setting, I think of the famous Rumi quote,”Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Applying a broader definition to love, what barriers within yourself must you remove to receive from life what you desire?
Thus, your best life is the result of you living in integrity with your best self. And you develop into your best self when you commit to going after what you want.
You speak of the need for clients to leave their comfort zone and opt-out of past-based patterns in order to more clearly see and then work towards new goals. How do you identify the past-based patterns that might have your clients stuck in the first place?
With my clients, I co-create new practices that support the person they want to become and who has the life they want to have. In our sessions, I apply the Socratic method a lot with my clients so that they can access their own wisdom and take full ownership of their epiphanies, process, and progress.
If you were to give someone an assignment associated with this approach to help them to break the habits that may have resulted in them being stuck, what would that be?
Coaching is really a “one-step-at-a-time” practice. What best supports an individual with goal setting would be borne out of what their responses are to what is limiting them...so it makes sense to just start with “the first step” here.
To let go of a self-defeating habit, I would suggest asking yourself these questions with compassionate curiosity:
What thoughts keep you stuck?
What feelings do your “stuck” thoughts create?
What actions do these “stuck” thoughts and feelings inspire you to take?
What results do you get from these actions?
How does the above align with the experience of life you want to have?
And if these thoughts, feelings, actions, and results *don’t* align with what you want, how else has this cycle served you?
The key here is to get really present to all the ways a self-defeating habit no longer “sparks joy,” acknowledge how this habit has fulfilled its purpose, and now release it to create space for something new.
Do you borrow any of what you have learned from your theater training to your approach to coaching?
As a coach, I apply the same unconditional positive regard I have as an actor for my characters to my relationships with clients. From our first session together, I give my clients trust, empathy, and compassion.
One way to reach your professional goals is to align what you want professionally - your intention - with what you say you want - your words - and doing what it takes to get there - your actions.
My actor training has also contributed to my active listening skills. When coaching, I listen not only for the verbatim “content” of what my client is saying, but also the subtext, i.e, their thoughts, feelings, and judgments about what they are saying? What do they want me to get out of their share? What are we not talking about when they choose to talk about this? Although active listening was covered in my ICF coaching certification program, years of script analysis and acting got me closer towards my 10,000 hours for excellence.
For businesses a brand story needs to be developed, shared, and reinforced by a content strategy, and to be central to content development plans across all channels. Do individuals trying to reach professional goals need to have a personal brand story and content strategy?
For individuals, I relate to this question about “content strategy” as really one about practicing integrity. Integrity is an alignment of your intention with your words and your actions. One way to reach your professional goals is to align what you want professionally - your intention - with what you say you want - your words - and doing what it takes to get there - your actions.
Thus, for individuals, sharing with others how you are practicing integrity - telling and retelling what you want professionally and what actions you are doing to get there - contains an innate “brand story” for your career’s benefit. There may not be a need to ‘put a hat on a hat’ by putting an official content strategy on top of this self-integrity practice.
Is it accurate to say that you fall somewhere between life coach and career coach? Can you elaborate on what you feel is the difference and, perhaps, why it's important to address traditional aspects of both approaches in professional and personal fulfillment.
I prefer to simply identify as a coach. I specialize in supporting creatives and entrepreneurs simply because these are the individuals who are currently compelled to work with me. This is likely due to my background as a successful career pivoter; I had a six-figure career in financial services talent development and recruitment before becoming a full-time creative entrepreneur.
I eschew choosing between being a “life” or “career” coach because I support each of my clients as a whole human being. How a person does one thing is how they do everything. Often, what limits a client’s success at work, for instance, also has consequences at home. Coaches often identify a “niche” just to position themselves differently from other coaches in the market; however, clients would be doing themselves and their coaches a disservice by limiting the support coaches can provide to only one area.
Other than yourself of course, are there any online resources / courses / books or people who you recommend for those seeking to begin the process of goal-setting and achieving personal and professional progress?
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
There’s Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber
Getting Real: 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life by Susan Campbell
The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra
Your favorite instagram, twitter or LinkedIn accounts.
My social media:
Coaching Website: http://possiblethings.co
@yumisakugawa to unblock your creativity
@_wherewithall_ to support your development as a manager and leader
Catherine Andrews Sunday Soother newsletter: general tips to create a more meaningful life.
What podcasts, if any?
For breakthroughs in love and intimacy:
Where Should We Begin? Hosted by Esther Perel
For breakthroughs in personal relationships:
Dear Sugars, hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond
For general goal-setting and well-being:
Happier, hosted by Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft
For entrepreneurs and career pivoters:
Second Life, hosted by Hillary Kerr
And something for everyone:
The Marie Forleo Podcast, hosted by Marie Forleo