Expert perspective: conquering your demons through fitness and a life coach

Pro insights from Jeri Villarreal: life coach, fitness entrepreneur, and triathlete

Do you ever ponder how very successful people came by their success? Do you start comparing your life to their life? How does that make you feel? Personally, I start rationalizing things like it’s because they’re extremely good looking, they’re way smarter than me, or simply that their success was due to pure luck. For a minute, I feel better about myself until I see the next Facebook post or LinkedIn update. 

Many successful people go through their own doubt, but they do something about it like getting a life coach. Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Eric Schmidt Google) have life coaches. Even Oprah has a life coach. To be clear, a life coach isn’t a therapist, but they can help you find clarity, identify ways to overcome obstacles (made-up or real), help you make progress towards goals, and most importantly help you find a level of fulfilment. 

I met with Jeri Villarreal, a successful life coach and fitness entrepreneur. Jerri’s path to becoming a life coach is incredibly unique. Here are some insights about her journey, with loads of inspiration to share, and how she helps people overcome their demons.  

Prox: Tell us about how you became a life coach? 

>> Jeri Villarreal: 

“I followed an unconventional path which started with me doing triathlons. I’ve always had the belief that to be an athlete, you were born an athlete. I also never considered myself to be very fit. I started running around when I turned 38. This was a way to help me push through my seasonal affectiveness disorder (SAD), like a lot of people, winter is hard for me. As I progressed, I started moving up in mile and felt like a runner. I then graduated to triathlons. 

Being close to 40, I was at a point in my life that I wanted to stop saying no to things. I didn’t really have much to lose. 40 was supposed to mean something though I didn’t know it was supposed to mean. And, triathlons became symbolic of the different challenges in my life, it showed me how I can push through the challenges. It was a feeling that I wanted to share that I had to share with everyone.”

Prox: What are the specific challenges you help people overcome?

>> Jeri Villarreal: 

“A lot of women share a lot of challenges I faced. I didn’t start things because I was afraid of failure. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good at it. But I learned how to stop the cycle. That was life-changing for me. I can’t even think the way I used to think. 

When you’re young, you’re so bold and feel like you can do anything. Something happens at the middle school age where you start feeling you can’t. You’re afraid of not being good enough. I coach people through life challenges like: 

  • Finding clarity when people feel lost in their life
  • Improving health and wellness
  • Overcoming self-doubt, building self-confidence
  • Helping people put a plan to their vision
  • Making a life change or career change
  • Finding more fulfilment, removing bad habits like procrastination 
  • Support in business challenges like identifying ideal customer profile, putting a business plan in place, getting clear on their message

I help people take on and accept challenges, helping people visualize success in an area that they haven’t accomplished. Most of my clients are at a point in their life where they can only see so far and don’t know how to overcome roadblocks.”

Jeri practices Islam and wears a hijab, and not surprisingly, it has become a personal trademark on social media and force of positive change. She shared how this resonates with so many women of faith who aspire to do what she is doing, changing the way their religious community perceives them, but also how the outside world defines what a woman of faith can or can’t do. She recently counseled a group of Mormon girls who wanted advice on how to compete in a triathlon but still be true to their religious beliefs. Jeri explained, “Once you see people who look like you doing something different, it gives you the idea that this is something you can also do so I try really hard to show up.” 

Prox: Can you share some practical tips for people looking to make a change? 

>> Jeri Villarreal:

“First, stop saying no to things you want. I don’t say no anymore. I don’t say I can’t anymore. My kids are of this mindset now. They don’t say they can’t do something. They admit that they are not very good at it right now, but you can always work on making it better. Can’t is just a temporary point in time, it’s not a final answer.

“I can’t” is just a temporary point in time, it’s not a final answer. 

Jeri Villarreal

Second, we’re often overwhelmed by the goals we set for ourselves. We don’t know the steps, they feel too big, and we give up. I like to break things down into smaller, manageable steps. I always break it down to the smallest element in time. I say I can do anything for 60 secs, or I can do anything for one day. Break things down into the smallest moment in time.”

I always break challenges down to the smallest element in time. I say I can do anything for 60 secs, or I can do anything for one day.

Jeri Villarrel

Prox: Is there someone in your life who has served a source of inspiration?  

>> Jeri Villarreal:

My mother, she was a single parent until I was 13. She was one of the first women to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in engineering then secured a job at Fortune 500 company as a lead engineer. As a person of color and a woman, in a male-dominated profession, she faced a lot of unusual workplace challenges. When I was 16, I remember her starting her engineering firm, TSi Geotechnical, from our basement. The firm now has offices in three states. Growing up, I didn’t appreciate everything she did. I can now admire how she created all of this for herself.”

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