Knead for growth: The harmony of life coaching and bread making
Have you ever thought about combining life coaching with sourdough bread-making? It is a day of discovery, chemistry, adventure, and joy.
As a keen sourdough baker, I was asked by a friend to share some of my knowledge in a bread-making session. We met over FaceTime and, although I was slightly sceptical of this format, it was actually very successful, not only for baking but as I was to discover, for coaching conversations too. We baked weekly throughout the summer, spending whole or half-days creating wonderful loaves – sweet and savoury, a mix of flours and liquids. The feedback was very positive from our families and partners!
Baking with natural leavens combines moments of activity and downtime. It is a process that involves the transformation of a shaggy mass into a wonderful loaf of fresh bread.
My baking partner, Sue, is also a coach. We found the more we baked the more our conversations became like coaching conversations, and we started to talk about how sourdough baking might work with coaching. Family and friends all thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to pursue it.
The next step was to find a volunteer to trial the idea. I knew someone who was at a crossroads in her life, with big decisions to make and she was delighted to spend a day baking and life coaching.
The day was a brilliant success – a journey of discovery, exploration, and adventure for us both. For me, it was that ‘spring in your step’ feeling you get when things go well. My client went away invigorated with a plan and actions to take her forward.
On this occasion, we met face-to-face. However, the baking sessions with Sue were done virtually. The great thing about online coaching and baking is that people can participate from any location.
What did the day look like?
Bread-making is a bit like coaching. It is a staged process and starts with preparation.
Pre-session baking and coaching
I met with my client to sketch out the schedule for the day, agreeing on the areas they wished to focus on. This got us into the right frame of mind. For the breadmaking aspect, we went over the pre-kneading and leavening process.
The way in
After assembling and mixing the ingredients, the first stage was vigorous. We kneaded, pulled, and stretched our dough until it came together into a smooth structure that we shaped into a ball. The dough was placed in a bowl, covered, and left to rest for a short period. We used this time to look at the things that my client wanted to achieve from this coaching session. It also gave us an opportunity to connect and become focused.
For the next stage, we went back to our dough, kneaded it for a short time, returned it to the bowl, and covered and left it a little longer. We then resumed our coaching conversation and worked more on exploring my client's topics, their values, and goals. We focused on how to make these thrilling and important.
"I loved that the time was broken up by the (k)needs of the ‘dough’, little chapters of conversation that could focus on one question or thought.."
We returned to our dough and repeated the kneading and shaping process, covered and let the dough rest for one hour. This time was used to explore in greater detail my client's goals for the session.
For the third time, we repeated kneading and shaping, returning the dough to the bowl. This time we left it for a further two hours. In the first hour we continued to work together on my client's goals and in the second hour we took a break to rest, reflect and restore our energy.
Once refreshed, we checked our sourdough which had doubled in size. We ‘knocked this back’, prepared it for proving in baskets, and left it to double in size once more.
"It was very gentle approach to teasing out answers to questions I didn’t know I needed to ask myself. It's brilliant."
Exploration and discovery
At this point, we went for a walk. This physical activity stimulated our coaching conversation and we spent about 90 minutes walking. We explored strategies and questions including what might get in the way? What would help? What would make the most sense? What is possible? We focused on the actions for my client to take. For the rest of the time, we took a break until, once again, the dough had doubled in size.
Putting together a plan and actions
This was the final stage the dough had proved, and we spent about 20 minutes preparing the loaf for the oven. While the bread was baking, we discussed the next steps for my client.
Six ways life coaching and sourdough bread-making connect
1. Knead for growth
The key is the concept of growth and time. Coaching takes many forms and I have found combining it with sourdough bread-making offers an opportunity to be creative, embark upon a journey together, and promote reflection and insight into what is important and stimulating.
2. Deep thinking and learning
We know from research that walking has positive effects on well-being. Sourdough bread-making gives you similar benefits. The session is physically active, and informal. It stimulates your senses, while engaging in coaching conversations. The process slows you down and grounds you, having a calming effect, which helps to resolve matters and to think creatively. This activity engages your mind and body to help unlock your potential, working towards the realisation of your goals.
3. Reflection and time exploration
Life coaching combined with sourdough bread-making allows time to reflect and shape your next steps. You reflect while kneading, or when the bread is proving. You will consider probing questions while stretching the sourdough. This process is an opportunity to give yourself time and space to work on yourself.
4. Resilience and change
Improving resilience is important to help us manage under pressure. Knowing how to cope with setbacks and how to maintain our well-being and our stress levels ensures that we can make the most of our lives. The act of sourdough bread-making builds resilience – working the sourdough from a messy inedible start, through a lengthy process, that results in a delicious and nourishing loaf of bread; a reminder that change is possible for all of us.
In the transformation of the sourdough, a kind of alchemy occurs. We see a change in composition, structure, and character. This is like the process of life coaching. You take a journey of discovery and exploration to identify your goals, develop these, and take action.
6. A flexible process
The coaching helps you navigate barriers, and think about the road ahead and which direction to take. It is a flexible process that follows your voice and time. The bread-making follows life coaching – it could be attending and listening, it could be using the reflective spaces to self-challenge, or it could be exploring possibilities and next steps. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, you will leave with a delicious handmade loaf of bread to accompany you on your journey.
Reaching out to a professional
If you feel you would benefit from seeing a life coach, but like the idea of my services, I offer both half-day and full-day bread-making and coaching sessions, during which I introduce you to a delicious array of bread recipes to use on our coaching journey.
The sessions are mindful, compassionate, and explorative – kneading your growth. For these in-person sessions, the venue, all baking materials, and equipment is provided. Alternatively, if you would like to book an online session, that is also possible.
For more information, please get in touch.