Cheryll Messam: Taking you where you want to go

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE All Woman writer husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 06, 2012

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CHERYLL Messam is one of those persons who will take you from where you are now to where you want to go. Her role is simple — listen, assess and guide. Yet it can have significant impact on your life forever.


"Our thing is forward thinking. We give support in goal setting," Messam, who is a certified life coach told All Woman on Thursday. "Sometimes persons may have something big that they need to do but they waste time and procrastinate; but deep down they know they can do it if they have the right support, and so coaching would be dynamic on their part."


Messam said a life coach helps guide persons along, as well as give them the assurance that they have a confidential one-on-one relationship with someone. The relationship is a non-judgmental one and it helps to have someone meet you where you are and help you look at your own thoughts about where you want to be.


Messam, who was born in Kingston, attended Gaynstead Prep before moving on to Wolmer's High School for Girls. She grew up in a nuclear home with father Henry McDonald Messam, a lawyer, mother Sadie, an educator, and two older brothers, John and Locksley.


Little Messam loved to dance. And with a mother who was an educator who at one point worked at the Jamaica Library Service, it was no surprise that she grew up with a love for reading. Then there were her other hobbies of swimming and lyming with her friends.


Then at age 11, Messam gave her life to the Lord and became a member of the Webster Memorial Church where her family also attended.


"The highlight of most of my teenage years was the relationships I formed at the Webster Memorial Church. We had an active youth fellowship which met on a Friday," Messam said. "A group of us kind of grew up there. We met there every Friday for eight years into our early 20s, so that was a very dominant activity in my teenage to young adult life."


Since her early teen years, Messam's life's dream was clear — she was going to be a clinical psychologist; setting up her own counselling centre and helping women in particular to develop their self-esteem.


But things did not go as originally planned.


"Becoming a life coach was an evolution," she laughed. "In 1990 I started that journey. I started UWI (University of the West Indies) for about two years part time. Then I got an opportunity to go and study in the States and so I transferred to Miami Dade College and did an associate in arts degree in psychology, came home for about two years and worked at BNS (Bank of Nova Scotia). I then went back to finish my bachelor's at Florida International University (FIU). By then I had a bachelor's in psychology. In the United States context, for you to be understood as a psychologist you had to have a doctorate. And so I fully intended to do that. And I didn't want to have a bachelor's, a master's and a PhD in the same field, and I had an interest in training and development in the context of human resource development," she explained. "So I said 'let me do my master's in human resource development and then in my doctorate let me switch back to my psychology field in human resource development with a concentration in adult education'."


But after applying and being accepted for her doctorate, Messam could not come up with the money to do it. And despite getting a partial scholarship, she needed to find the difference. Though she could have turned to family members for a loan, she went against the desire to ask and instead deferred the admission for a year and came back to Jamaica with the hope that things would turn around soon.


They didn't. And so that deferral expired.


She then worked at the Planning Institute of Jamaica as a training and education specialist and then at the University of Technology (UTech) in 2003, where they had just established an Education and Distant Learning Unit, and as the programmes manager for that section.


"While I was in the States I worked in the Instructional Development Centre at FIU so I began learning the distance methodology so I was able to bring that knowledge to this new job."


Today Messam is still at UTech after moving from the Institutional Relations Department in 2009 to the Alumni Relations Committee there.


"Even though I kind of turned my attention away from clinical psychology, I have always wanted to support people in their development so that kind of influenced all my educational choices," she told All Woman.


She explained that life coaching is a relatively new industry, just about 20 years old, and is an area that persons sometimes confuse with counselling or psychotherapy. However, she explained that psychologists are persons who help with psychological problems while life coaches assume a person's good mental health and takes persons from where they are to where they want to go.


"We do forward thinking," Messam said. "I will meet you where you are and help you look at your own thoughts and come to your own conclusions as to what you have just decided to do. I will coach you but I will not impose my values on you."


So if a person wants to form a non-judgmental relationship with someone who will hold them accountable to what they say they want to do, then engaging the services of a life coach should be considered.


"Doing the life coaching curriculum has been good because I have examined myself and helped develop myself," she said. "I am excited! I am excited about where I am as a person and I am growing in my own self mastery and my influence on other people. I am excited at the challenge of introducing life coaching in the Jamaican context in a visible way and I am thinking now of how to use my skills to enhance my work at UTech with the Alumni Relations Committee. We want to reposition alumni relations as a relationship that is mutual — we give you value and you support us. I would feel I have done a good job if the alumni at UTech feel that UTech continues to journey with them in their personal and professional development beyond graduation. I'm hoping to be effective in bringing that to reality."


As she sat in the Observer's meeting room on Thursday explaining the seven levels of energy that each person possesses, the excitement of her job was evident not only in her voice but in her constant laughter and positive body language.


Messam started her own company You in Mind Jamaica in 2009, with one product 'Manna', a Jamaican audio bible portion with 240 scriptures in five life themes — healing, relationships, work, finance and life. Her dream today is to not only be a master coach but to get more involved in corporate coaching.


Mastery she said can be achieved by logging in over 1,000 hours and submitting it to the International Coaching Federation. This she said can be achieved in five years or less.


"I really want to specialise in the corporate area of coaching," the life coach said. "In the corporate setting, I want to be able to help industries raise the level of engagement of employees in their workplaces. Because the higher the level of engagement, the higher the productivity. It's a win-win situation for them (employers)."


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