Welcome Michelle! Tell me about your background:
I spent 20 years in the risk management field, with most of my experience in leading the marketing and sales efforts of firms that provided insurance and risk consulting to entertainment companies.
Throughout my career, I was passionately involved in initiatives that advanced the well-being of my fellow colleagues – things like training programs, employee engagement activities, and community service. Outside of work I volunteered with local organizations that served at-risk women and children. I enjoyed the people development aspect of my work, as it tapped into my ability to see each person’s unique potential and I dreamt I would someday pivot into a role that allowed me to solely focus on uplifting others.
I launched Michelle Pinel Wellness (www.michellepinelwellness.com) in July 2020 to provide integrative nutrition health coaching services to individuals and provide health education and mind-body-spirit integration workshops for groups.
My practice focuses on people with stress-related and digestive health issues. Typically, my clients have exhausted traditional healthcare options and are continuing to have symptoms that impact their quality of life. I help them develop and sustain healthy habits that support their healing and renew their perspective on how to live a happy life with a chronic illness. With businesses, my focus is on educating on the harmful effects of stress and using holistic approaches and mind-body skills to become more resilient.
When did you know this is what you needed to do?
I became more in tune with this inner knowing in 2016, in my hospital bed. Then when I was hospitalized again in 2018, I knew it was time.
How did you know? How long was the gap between when you know and when you took the leap? What was that time like, in the gap?
When I became very ill with a major health crisis, my doctor told me that I was *this close* to slipping into a coma and never waking up. That startled me and challenged me to think about my purpose and whether I was given a second chance at life for a reason.
I felt called to do something that served others. I wanted to heal myself so that I could help others heal themselves.
I focused on my recovery with intention, self-educated on wellness therapies, completely changed my diet and lifestyle, and eventually recovered through natural healing practices. After returning to work, I attempted to align with my newfound purpose by doubling down on my employee engagement efforts at work and with the non-profit organization Dress for Success. But, as much as these activities were fulfilling, I wasn’t able to completely heal by taking on additional commitments.
I ended up in the hospital again in 2018, and decided I had to prioritize my health first and then make the pivot I had been wanting to make. I approached recovery with a focus on holistic methods and incorporated mind-body practices such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga. A few months later, I enrolled in a year-long training program to become a certified integrative nutrition health coach and then at the end of 2019, I enrolled in the Master of Science in Mind-Body Medicine program at Saybrook University's College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Everything I learned confirmed the approaches I undertook were scientifically sound which helped support my decision to launch in July 2020.
What was the catalyst event that got you to take your risk?
Taking the risk to launch the business came from a referral that led to my first client! I wasn’t planning to start my business until I completed my degree program. I was coaching friends and family to gain experience and practice my skills, but eventually, I got a referral to someone outside of my network. With this opportunity, I decided to go for it, launch my website, Instagram account (@michellepinelwellness), and create other materials in case more referrals came my way.
If this hadn't happened, where do you think you would be?
If this hadn’t happened, I would still be focused on graduate studies and probably convincing myself of all the reasons I wasn’t ready! ;)
What did you think of this at the time?
I was excited! This was my first break. I felt it was meant to be and that it would provide me the chance to fulfill my purpose and gain the experience I needed to keep going.
How long were you thinking of pursuing this idea before you went full time? What held you back from doing it? When you felt stuck, what made you feel most stuck? What did it take to get unstuck?
I had been thinking of this idea for over a year (late 2018 to mid 2020) before I went full time.
What held me back were my doubts about whether I was qualified, whether I was truly healed, and whether I would be able to help people.
When I felt stuck, it was often from a sense of being overwhelmed about all the things I wanted to do and feeling unclear about where to begin. The process of getting unstuck required me to slow down, meditate, and put pen to paper. Centering and writing helped me unravel my thoughts and reconnect with my strengths to create a path forward. When I could see the path, I felt calmer.
I have never believed that I have all the answers and that everything I do will be right; instead, I believe that I can handle challenges and failures and learn from them. I was fortunate to have had a track record of personal and professional growth from steadily working my way up from entry level to executive leadership. What a gift that was to propel me to launch my own venture.
How does it feel now to think about the time when you were uncertain if this life pivot was the right path for you?
I feel compassion for myself when I think about those confidence struggles, gratitude for the experiences and lessons learned, and a sense of accomplishment from my efforts thus far.
What is one sentence of advice you have for people who are reading right now and afraid to pursue their true passion?
If you are afraid to follow your passion, take whatever steps to rally support and inspiration from trusted confidantes and outside experts so that you can overcome your fear. Most people regret the things they didn’t do, not the things they tried to do.
Was there a lightbulb moment for you before you took your leap?
I came to accept and believe in my vision following a 3-day meditation retreat. I felt enthusiastic and hopeful about what I could contribute towards the multifaceted problems caused by chronic illness and disability in our communities. I was committed to helping others realize their capacity for self-healing and that moved me forward.
At what moment did you know your ideas had to work?
There was one week that stands out—I had met with two clients and presented a virtual workshop. —and I was over-the-moon happy. I felt more committed to being successful because of my passion and joy in doing the work. After this, I gained more confidence and motivation, because I knew this was what I was meant to be doing. At this point my thoughts were 90% believing in my mission and 10% doubting my abilities. I came to realize that the 10% was perhaps a sign of humility and willingness to keep learning and growing. Since I was launching a virtual business, I was fortunate to have low start-up costs, so it was really about going for it and sticking with it. I knew if I needed to earn more money while I was building, I had business contacts and depth of work experience, so that provided security.
Knowing what you know now on your journey, what would you tell you past self at the moment you were most afraid to change course?
I would remind myself that I can always learn skills, strategies, and knowledge along the way – I don’t have to start as an expert, I can allow some space to become one over my lifetime. What I’ve learned is that trusting in myself is the most important thing.
This means trusting that my intuition about my life’s work can only be right.
My journey has led me to believe that each of us has a purpose in life and it’s our quest to discover it—and if we’re lucky enough to do that, we’re compelled to do the work to see it through.