Amam Onyerinma: Why I Am a Life Coach and My Plans for Nigeria

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Her wide smile is endearing; so is her visage. Patient, empathetic and attentive, her gaze calmly settles on the troubled soul before her. She chooses her words carefully, kindly and blends them with a reassuring grin. She knows life is not a bed of roses. But she also knows how to guide a willing soul through the thick and thin – to find the roses among the thorns. Dr. Amam Onyerima, a top-flight educationist, derives fun and pleasure sharing knowledge and imparting ideas to people on how to improve their life and that of others. She is the face behind the ‘Live abundantly’ brand, which encourages people to live a contented and better life. Apart from being a certified life coach, based in Los Angeles, United State of America, her other passion is caring for the less privileged – especially those with special needs. She is a regular visitor to an orphanage in Idimu. Being in Nigeria provides a window for her life and work; little wonder she has made up her mind to return to the country after decades overseas. She speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba during one of her recent visits to Nigeria about her life and her plans for the future. She sheds light on why people can be suicidal, the difference between a motivational speaker and a life coach
Are you like a mind reader or something?
No, I’m not a mind reader. But I am very aware of what is going on around me. I pay attention to people’s actions, their words, and non-verbal communication.Is it correct to say life coaching is new in Nigeria?
To be honest, life coaching has been around for decades. But there has been a greater awareness in the past 20 years. I have been a life coach for over 10 years. Previously, it wasn’t considered or taken seriously as a viable profession because people felt if I give you ‘advice’ then I am coaching you. But coaches don’t dispense ‘advice’. They guide the client to uncovering the answer. If you are going through major shifts in your life, then a coach supports you in attaining a desired goal. Unlike psychology which focuses heavily on what happened in the past and how it affects you today, coaching is about where you are today, then moving forward. Simply put, it is an action-based profession.
We are certainly aware that things have occurred in the past but the coaching focus is on the present; about what is going on in your life today. It’s about moving you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, professionally from where you are at this moment to where you wish to go, whatever the goals are, no matter how small or varied, the coach is there to propel change. There are different types of coaches: business coaches, executive coaches, personal coaches spiritual coaches, transitional coaches; they all operate within the coaching realm. We attend a training and certification programme and then we identify our niche and continue to harness our skills through further training and practice.

What is the difference between an inspirational speaker and a life coach?
Well, not every inspirational speaker is a life coach neither is a life coach necessarily an inspirational speaker. I know coaches who do not like speaking publicly; they just want to work with individuals or in a small group. In essence, a coach supports a process whereas an inspirational speaker aims to motivate.

How does one live above the frustrating issues in the country and find happiness?
Happiness is an internal state of being; it is how you feel about yourself at the core of your being. When you are happy as a person, with yourself, with your life, with your situation then the things which occur around you are merely a condition. The condition can weigh on you but if you are internally happy, if you’re in a place where you recognise life is full of events and some of them are beyond your control; then you can stay happy. Happiness is truly a state of being therefore you can be ill and still be happy. This is because you have recognised there are events in your life that are unexpected and being unwell is a condition. Having a cold does not make you unhappy rather it is uncomfortable and bothersome. We all need to find that source of deep happiness which can be beneficial, resourceful, gratifying and satisfying regardless of the life conditions we currently face.

Is depression a bigger part of unhappiness?
Depression is a serious psychological illness, if left untreated, can lead to suicide. It robs the individual of happiness and the desire to experience living. It is a mental disorder where events which have occurred in life weigh heavily and, along with a chemical imbalance, can tip the scale resulting in the taking of one’s life.

What about bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder formerly known as manic depression is also a mental illness characterised by mood swings. It is essential that those suffering from mental affliction seek medical treatment as they can enjoy a rewarding life through medication and therapy and, of course, coaching.

How can an unhappy person get to appreciate himself again?
As a coach, my job is to find out what causes you to be unhappy because if I can understand the root of the suffering…the trigger then we can collaboratively work on designing a plan/action which can provide skills and steps for taking control of your life and bringing happiness and a sense of fulfillment.

Even if one deals with the trigger, is there a possibility that one can always go back to being unhappy?
Of course, you can return to a state of unhappiness if you don’t use the tools.
You must remember, we are all born happy but through the process of living we have learnt unhappiness from the things that happen in our life as well as those around us. The awareness of unhappiness is key to unveiling of our true happiness. You do understand that being happy and being unhappy are all part of the life experience. You can’t be happy 100% all the time, you are going to have moments when you are questioning yourself or somebody does something that is painful, you have to get over it by recognising that it is part of human experience.

So one doesn’t need to have everything to be happy?
No you don’t, you can be happy with a minimal amount of things. You can live in a shack and be happy because you’re content with your inner state of being. Happiness is the result of doing things which bring joy; being true to the core of oneself through your interaction with self and others. You have seen mechanics that are very happy. They are happy because they enjoy what they do; they have tools in their hands along with dirt and oil and can perform a task most would prefer to avoid. That is why it is important to respect others regardless of their station in life. Happiness is not about the accumulation of wealth, things, or accolades. These things can offer comfort and attention not happiness. You can buy a new dress for $4000 and turn around and be sad 25 minutes later because you are using the dress to mask unhappiness, therefore it loses its charm. On the other hand, you can open your wardrobe and find another dress which has memories and you look at it and say ah! What a beautiful dress! I remember when I wore the dress. Do you understand the difference?

What has been your biggest depth of misery?
Well, I wouldn’t use the word ‘misery’. But I would say the saddest and toughest time in recent years was between 2007 and 2011; also, two years ago. The loss of loved ones and financial challenge was very sad and painful but it wasn’t misery. I understood and viewed the upheaval as part of my personal experience. A phase we shall only encounter if we are alive. That is why I celebrate the memories I create with others, such as this interview, so when we depart, those memories can fill the emptiness, the space, the void.

What about your happiest moment?
They are numerous; being around children makes me very happy; being around family and sometimes sitting and holding some rocks in my hand evoke happiness.

You’ve written two books. Which one has been published?
Yes, one has been published, the other is a work in progress. ‘Successes Don’t Fail’ has been published and was launched last year in Los Angeles and earlier this year (February) in Nigeria.

What is the motive behind the book?
The motive behind ‘Successes Don’t Fail’ is simply to encourage others through my life experiences to recognise we are not defined by the failures and sadness in our life. There is so much we should be grateful for and the way to live abundantly is to recognise who you are, to literally dissect your life in an organic or inorganic manner and look at all the piece/components and see what is going well and what is not going well. Recognise it for what it is and then make the changes that are necessary to be a happy and successful person. Nobody is a failure, we’re all born happy and successful. Even unsuccessful moments lead us to our greatest success.

Did you train as a life coach or you stumbled on it?
In a way, I stumbled on the coaching profession – thanks to my life coach who recognised my talent and I was encouraged to pursue the training. My ethos is very simple, ‘Encouraging people to live better life’.

You are based in the US. Are you thinking of coming to Nigeria?
Indeed. I am returning to my motherland after 40 years abroad.

Are you going to have an office or a life coaching school?
Well, right now I am researching the market in Nigeria because there are many coaches in the country and they are doing invaluable work. The goal is to establish an office which shall offer personal and professional coaching amongst other services.  I am also working on establishing a unique charitable organisation.

Tell us about your involvement with special needs children.
Indeed, plans are in place to establish an NGO which shall focus on the empowerment of women and the education and well-being of children. A symposium to launch the organisation is slated for March 2017. We are currently developing a website which should be available before the New Year.

When you are not busy, how do you relax?
I read; I write; I listen to music; and I walk. I truly enjoy time with myself.

You’re well-travelled, where’s your favourite place on earth?
My favourite place is wherever I am at that moment in time. So right now, this is my favourite moment because I am with you. I am present and enjoying this moment. I strive to live life in the moment. It isn’t an easy feat but I take in the surroundings, I take in the look in your eyes, your make up, how you smile. I take in everything around me because when I walk away from you that is the memory you have left with me. This time and place is important to me. Where I am, is where I am happy at that exact moment.