We had the good fortune of connecting with Sharna Fabiano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sharna, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I think a lot of us were prompted to redefine what it means to feel “balanced” in 2020. A chronically stressful period like a pandemic requires a lot of extra forms of support, and that will look different for everyone. In the bigger picture, though, I think of balance as an ebb and flow over time rather than a consistent schedule. I personally need a flexible interplay between my coaching business and my painting practice. I see them as two sides of the same coin. Painting is how I calm and clear my mind, keep my imagination active, and maintain connections between the left and right sides of my brain. I really believe this creative time, alongside my professional training, is part of what makes me present and available for my clients. So I have periods of more intense writing, planning, and coaching, and other stretches of time where I am painting in my studio every day.
I also think of a balanced life as very multi-faceted. Work is part of life, not its opposite. Time for work, rest, play, community, civic engagement, and other things are all essential. I don’t necessarily think all the pieces need to be equally represented, but they all need to fit together somehow. The important thing for me is to know that I’m intentionally choosing how to spend my time in any given moment. Before I became a coach, I wasn’t aware of the need to take care of myself in so many different ways. Like many Americans, I was raised to measure my value as a human being by the quantity of my work, so it took me years to figure out what “balance” actually felt like and what it looked like for me personally. Nowadays, I feel pretty good about guiding myself intuitively. It’s like gardening. You are always in the process of cultivating the things you want to keep and clearing away the weeds. And planting new seeds every once in a while.
What should our readers know about your business?
I really enjoy helping my clients design their own lives and find their own dynamic balance so that they feel vibrant and nourished. Coaching is like painting on the canvas of your life, and it requires the same close listening, high focus, exploratory approach, and trust that any sort of creative work demands. I love the process of dialogue with the client. Before I started painting, I was a dancer, and coaching feels like a special kind of dance. There’s a specific challenge, like a change of career, a geographical move, or a stressful relationship, but the answer isn’t something you can give the client. The two of you have to discover it together through inquiry, pattern recognition, intentional language and imagery, and body/mind integration. It’s often surprising what emerges from the coaching dialogue, and success is the result of mutual trust in the process.
I’m really excited about my new book coming out in February 2021. Lead & Follow is a coaching methodology inspired by principles of tango dance, and the foundation of my new group trainings that focus specifically on collaboration and work culture within teams and organizations. The concept of leadership is familiar to most of us, but without its companion, followership, teams are limited in ways that can be hard to see. But think of a dance couple – how can one partner succeed without the other? We need to understand followership skills more, and how they interact with leadership skills, in order to have a complete and balanced understanding of what it takes to meaningfully connect with others and to collaborate successfully.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely take friends hiking, because it’s amazing that you can be outdoors here all year round. It’s such an incredible blessing. There’s a beautiful 5-mile loop on the shady side of the canyon in Altadena that I treasure because there is a surprising amount of tree cover. Similarly, the 2-mile loop at the Nature Center in Long Beach is built on wetlands and is the closest thing to a forest you’ll find nearby. The Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena, especially the Chinese and Japanese gardens, are gorgeous and not to be missed. Before the pandemic, I would always check the performing arts calendars, both independent theaters and university theaters. I think one of the big advantages to living in or near a large city like LA is access to outstanding live music, theater, and dance. I also like to take friends for urban walks around the neighborhoods of Long Beach – we have dozens of excellent coffee shops, bakeries, and indie shops that express the ethnically diverse and progressive personality of the city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Yes! My long-time teacher, Amy Lombardo, author of the book Brilliance and founder of Brilliance Academy for Personal Transformation and Social Change. I did both my yoga teaching certification and my coach training with Amy right here in LA, and she’s been a tremendous influence in my life for nearly a decade. She’s supportive, bold, wise, fierce, and visionary all at once. I met her at a yoga studio while I was in graduate school at UCLA, and to this day I believe that her steady, grounded presence in those classes was a huge part of what got me through those stressful years. Immediately after my degree, I enrolled in her yoga teacher training, which I still call my “recovery from graduate school.” It was incredibly practical but also deeply healing, smoothing the ragged edges that were left in me from the harshness of the academic environment. Amy’s approach to yoga changed how I taught dance, my area of specialty, and helped me understand how my own teaching could be a source of inspiration and healing for others. That training was also laced with empowerment techniques, which got me interested in life coaching for the first time. After the yoga training, I enrolled in Amy’s coach training as well, where I realized it was time for me to let go of teaching dance in order to build a career as a coach and writer. Magical things happened after the coach training. I became free of emotional patterns I’d assumed were an essential part of my personality. I became a painter. And I wrote a book, Lead & Follow, which is coming out in February!
Photography by Linda Abbott