Personal growth and discovery – an interview with Yannick Picard
By Anthony T. Eaton
“Beliefs shape the viewfinder people use to see themselves, navigate life, and make decisions that impact the future…” -Yannick Picard.
What is my life’s purpose? These five words bring us one of the most complex questions that we ask ourselves. For some, a minority, the answer is evident early on and often straightforward. For others, perhaps a majority, it is an ongoing search for meaning. Discovering one’s purpose in life is often an evolving process driven by introspection, personal growth, and change. The evolving nature of this process is what drew me to Yannick Picard, a certified NeuroActivCoach. Like many people, Yannick spent much of his life unaware that his long-held beliefs about who and what he was supposed to be were impeding his ability to live an authentic life and have a positive impact on the lives of others.
“For the better part of 14 years, I was content with my path in life, at least from a career perspective. I then realized that there’s more to life than attaining arbitrary career objectives.”
You spent more than a decade working in real estate and then made a pretty dramatic change by becoming a NeuroActivCoach. How did that all come about?
I fell into coaching; it was the result of a personal situation. After dating someone for nine months, followed by a difficult breakup, I found myself looking for a strategy and tools to get over the relationship and move on with my life. My sister had just completed a personal development course and thought I might also find it helpful, so I immediately signed up for it. Although I’d initially enrolled for less than virtuous reasons, I quickly realized how powerful the course’s tools and strategies were once I started practicing them on fellow students, friends, and family members and saw the breakthroughs and transformations that were occurring – not only my own but the others as well. Once I recognized how life-changing these techniques were for me and those I knew, I realized that using them to help other people was what I wanted to do with my life. I had found my purpose.
How has going through coaching and then becoming a coach changed your life?
For starters, I don’t think I knew what childhood or emotional traumas were before the breakup, let alone what mine might be. To put it plainly, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’d often get triggered into an uncomfortable emotional state by particular types of situations and interactions but felt these emotions were just a normal part of life. It wasn’t until I started my personal development journey that I found out that triggers acted as a “warning” and that you can choose how to respond to them. Our personal triggers are similar to the “Check Engine” light appearing on the dashboard of a vehicle. To continue with the analogy, a warning light would appear right in front of me but I’d ignore it, and it would eventually turn off. The result: I would get triggered, not address what was happening, ignore it, hoping it would go away. After I became aware of my tendency to ignore my triggers, I started journaling to keep track of the situations that would cause my “ Check Engine” light to switch on. This gave me a starting point for changing my behavior. Once I became aware of my personal triggers, I was able to focus on transforming my reactions to them and start the process of healing.
I can recognize in others a lot of the same problems I have experienced. These include low self-esteem, abandonment and attachment issues, poor self-worth, self-sabotage, and other similar self-limiting responses to earlier traumatic experiences. When subsequent events trigger these feelings and tendencies, they elicit an unpleasant reaction or bodily sensation. So now, the moment I’m able to recognize this reaction and see the trigger for what it is, it’s game over for that trigger. With further reflection, I can determine its inception, and then I can focus on healing from and letting go of past trauma. Until you figure out what triggers you, you’re basically stuck in a loop.
How has being a member of the LGBTQ community made you a better coach?
That’s a great question. Looking back, I knew I was “different” (by which I mean gay) around the time I was 9 years old. The bullying started around that time as well, which is also around the time I started hiding… I didn’t want to be “found out” and have an even bigger target on my back. The bullying was bad enough on its own, but if my classmates ever found out I was gay… I often imagine how much worse it could get for me.
I think back and wonder, if I knew I was like the rest of the lot (straight), would I have spoken up and sought help from my parents or my homeroom teacher, knowing there was nothing for them to find in my “closet” (that is, being different, being gay)? I think that having experienced that firsthand ― the fear, the hiding ― has given me additional perspectives that, as a white man, I wouldn’t necessarily have “gotten” otherwise had I been straight. It’s also helped me foster a great sense of empathy towards others which I’m not certain I’d have developed had I experienced life differently.
Interestingly, my dad only found out recently that I’d been bullied as a kid when he came across my YouTube video. The first thing out of his mouth was: “Why didn’t you tell me this? I was a commanding officer on the [military] base, knew all of their parents, and could have sorted this out.” Which made me wonder… would that have made it better for me? What version of Yannick would be here today if not for what happened to me? I have zero regrets playing the cards the way I did. I’m grateful for the circumstances and the choices I’ve made, as they created the version of me that is here today. Had it not been for the adversity I faced, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to overcome it and help others do the same in return.
Can you give some examples of what limiting beliefs would be and how someone would replace those?
For instance, something happened when you were 10 years old. Looking back at this experience today, you know it wasn’t a big deal – but at the time, as a 10-year-old, it was. For example, let’s say you loved track and field. You had a meet and ended up getting disqualified, and maybe a few tears came out in front of your teammates, they started laughing at you, and one of them called you a “loser.” Well, it’s very possible that you bought into that description of yourself and gave up on track and field altogether. And now you’re 35 years old and still feel like you’re not “good enough” – at anything. Every time things are going well for you, you find a way to self-sabotage… your work, your relationships, even your leisure activities. This happens over and over again. That’s what carrying a limiting belief can look like. It is insidious and can manifest itself in all aspects of your life! As far as how someone might replace such a belief to move forward in the present, it all depends on what the belief is and the individual holding it.
That makes a lot of sense since your perception of an event when you’re 10 years old is much different than the perception of the same event at 35. Those experiences leave an imprint on us even if we don’t think they do.
I started reading the book What Happened to You? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey, and it looks pretty aligned with what you are describing. The question isn’t ”What’s wrong with you?” – it’s ”What happened to you?”
“Above all, I pledge to objectively and skillfully guide you through your journey of self-betterment, to help you reach your personal and professional goals, and to teach you strategies to transform your life.”
Some people measure personal success by material gain or external gratification (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but most people at some point notice that something is missing. Do you think our society teaches us that success is measured by things, and even excess?
Absolutely. I have a friend that keeps falling back into the trap of comparing himself to images of influencers. I’ll often remind him that the photo he sees is rarely the first take but more often selected out of hundreds of photos taken – and is most often touched up using editing software. We have gotten great at airbrushing and filtering information to make ourselves appear more desirable. Now, imagine what this does to those struggling with low self-esteem?
For example, I did three different photoshoots, and we took over a hundred photos during each session. I was looking for something really specific in the photograph. We’d often get close but never landed “the one” until the third photoshoot. Now, consider that I had a professional photographer with me… this isn’t something most of us carry around in a tote bag and can pull out when we feel like it. Don’t get me wrong – I often get complimented on that specific photo. But that individual who so kindly compliments me often has no idea about the amount of work that was required to get that single photo, let alone the editing that took place after the photo was taken.
I find it interesting how some individuals can make significant progress once they change the way they look at life and their personal circumstances, while others struggle because they believe that their own circumstances are set in stone. How do you help the latter?
Consider for a moment that it’s all a choice. The ones that can choose to believe that they can, do so, while the ones that don’t believe that they can, don’t. I once told someone I could change their past without stepping into a DeLorean. By that, I mean that if you’re open to considering a different perspective on a disempowering moment in time, you have the ability to alter that moment for the better without actually going back in time. I help the latter group of people to realize that they have, and always had “the power within” to alter their own circumstances; I help them tap into this power by teaching them mental fitness and strategies to develop their mental fitness by weakening their Saboteurs and strengthen their inner Sage.
Looking at the image below, it becomes clear that there is more than one way to see the same thing – even something as seemingly straightforward as a physical object. You’ll probably ask, is the figure a six, or is it a nine? Some people, accustomed to looking at things from one perspective, will argue it’s the number six. I often find myself inviting the person to shift their focus a bit to re-examine if it’s always the number six – or if it could be the number nine? Or perhaps it could even be both? (Or, for the sake of further argument, perhaps it’s not a number at all, but a lowercase letter “G,” or… well, you get the picture.)
Having gone through this pandemic and all of the social and political unrest of late, do you think it has changed the way people define their priorities and what is essential, or has it created more angst?
I think it is a mixed bag of sorts. It has been a wake-up call for many, and for some, they realized that what they were doing with their lives held no real importance for them. It was trivial. Many put on the “COVID-19 pounds” and binged what was on Netflix and what was in their fridge, while others focused their attention and invested their time learning or developing new skills. There is nothing wrong with choosing one over the other (or doing both, for that matter). You need to accept that, consciously or not; you made a choice. Learning to play guitar, learning a new language, or binge-watching seven seasons of “Scandal” and ordering out each day. That being said, I realize that for some, the isolation made an already difficult situation that much harder, and series binging series was a way to distract themselves.
For those who need social stimuli and interaction, the isolation continues to be challenging depending where in the world you live in. On the flip side, if you don’t need that, it relieves you of having to make up excuses to avoid attending a social gathering or spending time with a certain group of people. This was a great time for those who are people pleasers or have avoidant tendencies!
An introvert by nature, I joked that the first lockdown was like the Olympics for me. Many create plans as a means to avoid life, as a way to avoid looking within. Prior to the pandemic, I was a big avoider (Ph.D. in avoidance if such a thing existed), and that was my biggest Saboteur. I found the distancing rules allowed me to be guilt-free and have an easy way out. I knew that a calm sea never made for a skilled sailor; however, what the lockdown allowed me to accomplish is to become familiar with this particular Saboteur so that I could put in place and practice strategies to weaken the avoidant behavior.
What advice can you give to those who find themselves at a crossroads or just looking for their purpose?
Fear has programmed each and every one of us to go down the “usual/safe/known” path, but the “usual/safe/known” path will lead you right back to your comfort zone and the same results you’ve always gotten, which is feeling trapped and/or stuck. My advice would be to go down the unexamined road; this is where magic can happen. It’s only by exploring new directions, taking different actions that you’ll experience new results and stretch out of your comfort zone.
What does the future hold for you? What are you working on, aspiring towards, or want?
Personal development is the ball game I’m playing in. It’s amazing, and I can’t see myself doing anything else at this point. It’s not only helped me to overcome several forms of self-sabotage; it’s also allowed me to help many others do the same. The thing is, I can only help others reach as far as I myself have reached (that is, to overcome what I’ve overcome). So, I’ll be continuing down the path of self-development. This will enable me to continue helping others uncover and overcome what stands in their way of living a happy and successful life (no matter the definition attached to their idea of success).