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What do snorkeling and health coaching have in common?

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to snorkel. Recently while in Kauai Hawaii, I began to realize the similarities between the two. Even if you don’t like or have never snorkeled, or don’t like to be in water, I bet you will agree with these possible connections. It is only when we do go deeper with patients that we find the treasures and where behavior change happens.

On the surface everything looks the same.

Each time you go out snorkeling, things appear to be the same, nothing new. From the top surface, everything is just water. Once you start exploring and swimming, the whole world opens up. It is amazing.   All of a sudden you find yourself face to face with new marine life. In one day, I spotted three new forms of life that I had never seen before: Yellow headed moral eel (not dangerous), Black Sea Cucumber, and an Aloloi, a beautiful black fish with a large white spot on either side.

Just like the people we serve, on the outside everything looks and sounds the same. Same chronic health issues as the last patient I worked with. Same issues around personal healthy boundaries as the last time I talked with this parent. This is often true when we begin our introduction and welcome with “How are you doing?” What response do we get? “Fine?” What does “fine” mean? As we know, “fine” often has many different meanings and usually the response “fine” is a surface answer. There is so much happening deeper than the surface response of “fine.”

Often, we don’t feel we have the time, desire, or the skills to ask the next question and explore what fine means with our patients. It is only when we do go deeper that we find the treasures and where behavior change happens. Go ahead and ask that next engaging question, go deeper.

To really see the marine life, you need to be all in.

You can be standing up in three feet deep water and not see anything but water.   It is not until you put on your snorkeling mask, and go fully into the water, when you see fish, coral, rock and sand. It is easy and often common to look at the water from the top surface and question if there is really anything worth putting my gear on and getting wet for.   And, each time the answer is yes. There is always something amazing that happens when we go all in. We have to go into the water to see the amazing marine life.

To understand our patients and clients, we have to be all in to their story, their why, and what really matters to them. We have to dive into their life with an open mind and heart. We can’t assume we already know their story; we need to dive right in, heart and mind, line and sinker.

Slow down while snorkeling and when being with patients.

Once in the water snorkeling, you still may not see anything unless you slow down and stay open to what you might see. Slow down so you can see the small details. Stay open without judgment and expectation. You can’t go in looking for something specific, you have to stay open to what the ocean brings to you. For this to happen one needs to slow down and stay open.

We find treasures with patient conversations.

This is the same as health coaching. A person may seem like just another patient with chronic health issues, a parent with out of control life boundaries, or a client who needs to begin to make changes, but once we start talking with them, we find the treasures, the reasons, and the story. Staying open and listening helps us partner with others more effectively and saves time.

As you can see, there are several similarities between snorkeling and health coaching. Dive deep below the surface conversations with the individuals you serve; be all in mind and heart; and slow down to see and find the treasures. You will find greater connections, more rewarding relationships and perhaps more effective outcomes.

Transform Conversations. Transform Healthcare. Transform Lives.

Dr. Becky Lang



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“Dr. Lang’s training provided me with a better understanding of the motivational interviewing process. The skills I learned from her training have helped me feel more engaged and thoughtful when listening and talking with those around me. Dr. Lang is energetic, knowledgeable, passionate and provides a great learning environment.”

Nancy AdrianseBSDH, Oral Health Manager, Iowa Primary Care Association

“The training I received in Becky’s motivational interviewing class was invaluable. It laid a wonderful foundation for me to effectively empower my patients to develop and implement positive changes for their health. Becky created such a nurturing, nonthreatening environment that allowed me to freely learn and practice. This is certainly a class I can recommend to anyone wanting to learn to assist others with behavior changes.”

Robin GeorgeRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“At the YMCA, we have worked with Dr. Becky Lang for over a decade now to help us shift and shape our culture. As an organization committed to strengthening our community, the coaching and training skills that Dr. Lang has provided have helped us immensely. With her education and guidance she has helped us establish a culture that focuses on building meaningful relationships with our members, focusing on their needs, and coaching them towards success in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Lang has trained all levels of our staff from our front line Wellness Coaches to our Executive Directors and Leadership Teams. Her on-going support has allowed the coaching-culture to come alive in our organization.”

Kim Stewart Kim Stewart Director of Operations, YMCA of Greater Des Moines

“The training Becky provided has been one of the most rewarding nursing experience I have had in 30 years. The style of interviewing and teaching patients is rewarding and positive. Her techniques drive the sessions to be more personal and patient-centered. Through Becky’s teaching, I was comfortable to practice and get familiar with the motivational interviewing process. Becky is an exceptional trainer and I recommend her training to all health coaches and educators.”

Sandy LovelessRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“The motivational interviewing techniques Becky teaches allow patients to set goals and work toward changes that are important to them. Patients feel in control of their own health and allow me to be in a more supportive roll. Becky has a positive and uplifting spirit that makes her classes extremely enjoyable.”

Tyra CarltonRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“Rebecca Lang was a respected colleague who diligently served as a teacher and mentor to hundreds of students over her long career at Grand View University. I had the distinct pleasure to work with Becky and regularly witness her vocation to Wellness education. She motivates those around her by a strong and genuine commitment to a lifestyle which promotes health and well-being.”

Katharina TumpekPhD, Professor and former Chair, Dept. of Health Promotions, Grand View University

“It has been a pleasure to work with Becky Lang over the last 25 years. Within a variety of contexts in the wellness arena, I have witnessed Dr. Lang’s mastery as a wellness educator, a health coach, a professor, and, most recently, as a health coaching trainer. I could go on at length about Dr. Lang’s passion, enthusiasm, high energy, wisdom, and deep knowledge in health promotion and behavior change. One of the attributes that impresses me most, though, is her ability to create a relaxed, fun, interactive, and content-rich training environment. Her refreshingly supportive, inviting, and empathic style of training and coaching allows learners to take risks, experiment, try on new skills, and participate authentically in role play exercises without feeling awkward and intimidated. Through Dr. Lang’s coaching and training, people learn–often more than they imagined.”

Jill NorrisRN, MPH, PCMH-CCE, Director, Care Management, University of Iowa Health Alliance