Today, I interview Kori Gouge who learned to be very quiet and cautious due to living with a step-parent who struggled with mental illness. Her concern was to not cause trouble or upset, which earned her the nickname “Mouse.”
As she started to grow up and explore career options, her dreams of becoming a writer were discouraged because she “wouldn’t make any money”, so the path to finding her true self began to twist and turn a bit more.
Then she became an Air Force pilot, where this little Mouse discovered she was actually a naturally gifted leader! However, despite excelling in this field, Kori yearned for something different and much deeper. She chose to withdraw from the Air Force to study psychology, with “personal transformation” in mind.
She discovered that when she was in a position to truly thrive from the inside out, she was able to be more effective and truly make the biggest difference. She now uses her story and her voice to help people to adopt this same mindset.
Kori Gouge, M.A. is a Business by Heart Mentor, writer, author, and speaker. She has been coaching, teaching, and writing on personal, relational, and business growth and communication for over 20 years. Her fascination with human behavior and language led her to earn her BA in Psychology and MA in Intercultural Communication.
Her love of adventure led her to several multi-country solo overseas trips and to living and working abroad for close to three years. In her work as a business by heart mentor, she guides transformational coaches to unlock their clarity for aligned client attraction and to grow their businesses from their divine purpose.
Find Kori here:
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Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #40 Kori Gouge
“Motivated to Thrive”
(00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. On this podcast, I invite guests who have had some kind of struggle with speaking anxiety, somewhere in their life, whether it was from an early trauma or a childhood situation, whether it was them trying to move into the social world of high school with peers and trying to get approval. Maybe there was some bullying, or perhaps it might have shown up later in life in college trying to give presentations in these classrooms and be competitive. And speaking of competitive, that is what the work world is about and oftentimes people find that they lose their voice when they go to work and have to fit into a particular kind of corporate environment. So whatever that is, we get to hear their story, plus we get to hear whatever this journey that they took to find their voice and now what they get to do because they have a voice that gets to express their gifts and their passions. So today, I get to welcome my friend Kori Gouge and I’m going to tell you a little bit about her because she’s a Business By Heart mentor, writer, author and speaker. She’s been coaching, teaching and writing on personal and relational and business growth and communication for over 20 years, and her fascination with human behavior and language led her to earn her BA in Psychology and MA in Intercultural Communication. Boy, Kori that sounds like my journey too. This is going to be fun, to hear about what you did. Her love of adventure led her to several multi-country solo overseas trips, wow! And to thriving and working abroad for close to three years. In her work as a Business by Heart mentor, she guides transformational coaches to unlock their clarity for aligned attraction and to grow their businesses from their divine purpose. Oh, in a way, Kori, I felt like I was reading my bio.
(03:00) Kori Gouge
I love it. Oh, that’s amazing.
(03:03) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. I’m sure we have lots and lots to talk about. But let’s start, since this is about Find Your Voice and how you changed your life because you found it. Somewhere along the line you started by not having a voice. Let’s start there in any history, family, any kind of connections you’ve already been able to make. Just share with us your story about not having a voice?
(3:27) Kori Gouge
Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me here. Doreen, I feel really honored to be on your podcast and I’m super passionate also about just the power of voice because I didn’t have one for a long time. I was growing up in a pretty chaotic household. My stepdad wrestled with Bipolar Disorder, and so I learned at an early age to walk on eggshells around him and he actually nicknamed me “Mouse” because I was so quiet and just kind of hiding because I saw that a lot of times when my sister or myself wanted to speak our opinion, there was no room for differences of opinion around him and so it led to a lot of conflict. And as a child, conflict is scary so I just learned, “Okay, well I’m not going to share my opinion”, just going to kind of hide when, of course, that like many people probably experience, makes you turn into a people pleaser. Ended up just wanting to please others and not really make a decision about what I wanted and on that path, lost a lot of our life. You miss a lot of what you really want because you’re just doing what everyone else wants you to do. Do you want me to continue on how I found or just…
(04:38) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well – let’s go back because that situation and then being – there’s both the identity somebody gave you a name and then you taking it on because sometimes people are given an identity and then they say, “No, that’s not me” and they refuse it but somehow you felt that you needed to for your own safety. I guess it was a protective decision to become somebody who was much more quiet. What about your mom?
(05:10) Kori Gouge
Yes, well, it’s interesting that you picked up on that because it’s true. Like you said, we can deny or not accept the identity given to us by others, but for some reason, I took it on as my identity and my mom was the same. She was very much a conflict avoider, and a people pleaser as well. And so, I kind of took on that as my, imitating my mom of “Okay, I need to please people, I need to make sure I’m taking care of everyone”. Not making a fuss when I saw my sister and my stepbrother, who were more willing to speak their opinions. I saw with my stepbrother some violence, with my stepsister a lot of just yelling and high conflict and so watching those two, well, those are the options I saw. And I thought, “Well, I think my option’s better of just hiding”. So that’s how I kind of learned of to navigate my role in the family – was to be sort of the peacekeeper.
(06:10) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, and to not have a voice that was louder than theirs. Do you have any kind of memory where you did speak up and you do remember having some kind of negative consequence?
(06:28) Kori Gouge
Well, one thing that really sticks out and this is, I think developmentally, as you start to assert your independence as you grow up, and as an adolescent in high school, I’d always wanted to be a writer. And so I told my stepdad who was an artist, he was a photographer, that I wanted to be a writer, and he shut me down and said, “There’s no way you can be a writer, you’re not going to make any money, you need to do something that makes money”. And my mom didn’t have that same conversation with me, but she had instilled in me, “You need to do something that makes money”. So hearing him say, “Well, writing is not going to make money, you can’t go to college for money”. And again, instead of being secure in who I am, and knowing this was on my heart and my divine purpose, I shut it down and said, “Okay, well, I’m not going to do that”. So guess what I did? I went and studied Engineering.
(07:17) Dr. Doreen Downing
(07:19) Kori Gouge
Because that’s in the time, and I’m still today to this day, it was a career that was known to be, you can make a lot of money as an engineer.
(07:27) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, well, some of my – I have a client who is a woman and an engineer, and she works with me because she has such a challenge in a male dominated world. Did you go into any kind of engineering jobs?
(07:40) Kori Gouge
I went into the, well, so I got interested at the time and wanted to live more of a life of adventure. So I wanted to be a Air Force pilot, and to eventually become an astronaut and engineering was the route that I saw as a way to do that. So I actually enrolled into or applied and got accepted into the United States Coast Guard Academy, where I thought I could get into engineering and I could get into flight school, and somehow make my way into becoming a fighter pilot. I didn’t really put those pieces together. But it was the avenue I saw – the military was the avenue I saw in order to get me to the moon.
(08:20) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, my, there’s something already because I know you and you are already – you’ve spoken divine today on our podcast, but it seems like there’s a part of you who really wants to soar and that idea of early on thinking about fighting and flying and going to the moon feels like metaphorically, it really works early on. Your purpose was trying to show you something.
(08:51) Kori Gouge
Right. So true, yes.
(08:54) Dr. Doreen Downing
So what happened next while you were in that school?
(09:00) Kori Gouge
The positive thing about that experience was that it was my opportunity to really learn more leadership skills and in leadership, you have to speak up and so I found myself in situations where I was nominated to be a platoon leader for a group of incoming cadets, and had to be in charge of their development and training and just being able – being nominated for that role and knowing I had to step into that role. It’s interesting what happened. I took it, I took it on, I took on that new identity, and found my voice, like slowly over time. That was kind of the instigating incident where I started to find my voice and say, “Oh, actually I am a leader”. I never knew, because I’d been a mouse for so long and so that really pulled out the leader in me that was like excited to guide others and to train others and to watch their transformation and be a part of that. So that was really like, fundamental in my development of reclaiming and finding my voice.
(10:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
I loved hearing that the context demanded something of you but again, since I think you and I both have an appreciation for divine intervention, and maybe some way that purpose is trying to work through us, for us to be able to be more of who we can be, and what we’re here for. So to hear you talk about learning how to be a leader in this context, and you also said “care”, and that feels like something that I felt from you, in that all of your posts do seem to be coming from a caring place. And there you are growing these cadets into being more of who they can be. But you had to have a voice. What else about that journey to find your voice?
(11:00) Kori Gouge
Well, it was interesting, because I also felt it wasn’t in line with me, after I’d been in the Coast Guard for three years, and had felt the tugging on my heart of this is a really noble profession, but I didn’t feel it was my calling. And so that was a really difficult decision, as a 19-20 year old thinking, “I’m going to leave something behind which everyone values and everyone’s proud of me, and this is on my trajectory to this amazing career” and here I am saying, “I’m going to walk away from it, because I want to study psychology, and I want to study personal transformation”. And so that was really hard and I really had to, like, ground into my voice and hear a lot of people telling me it was not a good decision. And I mean, I can’t tell you how many people, especially in the Coast Guard, who convinced me it was like, probably the worst decision of my life. And family, of course, kind of concerned I was being maybe irrational or too emotional, whatever it might be, but I stuck to it and left the Coast Guard and went to school for psychology. So that was a pretty significant event, because my identity at that time had been wrapped up of course, in “I’m a cadet the United States Coast Guard Academy, and I’m going to be in the Coast Guard and have this amazing career”. And now I don’t know who I am. Now I’m a student again starting over on my career path. So it was pretty significant again, finding my voice, finding who I am, finding my path and trusting my own voice in that versus the world’s voice telling me I was on the wrong path, making the wrong decisions.
(12:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, it reminds me of a Mary Oliver poem. Yes. And she’s at the very end, though the voices were loud, she kept going and going, and the only life she could save was her own. And so that, what I heard also – what you just said about the tugging on your heart and the strength of being connected to one’s heart feels like it’s an important message to everyone today is” What’s the truth inside of you? And it feels like our heart is one of the biggest truth tellers, but can we listen to it? And you said a word, you said, “grounded into your own voice” So I think that’s maybe a tip that people can take. So how would you say people can ground into their own voice?
(13:40) Kori Gouge
Well, I would say, and this was kind of what helped me in making that decision was, I had seen who I had been when I was thriving, and I noticed this change in me that I wasn’t thriving in a way that I knew I was capable of. And it was that internal conflict of, “I know this, I’m a person who wants to thrive and who can thrive and who excels in most situations”, and finding that I was in a situation where I felt like, I wasn’t motivated to thrive. And that really was a concern for me, because I knew that’s not how we’re naturally wired. I think we are naturally wired to thrive, but we have to find our environment and find our calling, and our purpose so that we can thrive. So I think there are situations where you’re placed in where you’re not thriving. In order for you to see, this isn’t right for you and then if you can honor that and say, “Okay, well, I’m not really sure what’s next but this, I know, is out of alignment. And so if I’m going to trust my heart and trust my intuition and trust there is something for me, where I can thrive and because I’m thriving and, of course may contribute more to other people. When we’re suffering and struggling, we’re really not much good to many people, unfortunately because it puts us in that place where we’re questioning ourselves, doubting ourselves and it becomes a very self-absorbed place to be. And so you’re not looking at how you can help others, because you’re trying to just figure out how to help yourself. So when you’re thriving, you’re like, “Oh, like, how many people can I help now?”
(15:10) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh yes, well, that was an amazing kind of moment there where you really said to people, “Look at your environment and look at your body as you are in that environment and what is your body telling you? Are you happy? Are you thriving or not?” And then the other thing that I feel like you are telling people is about trust, if it’s not working, it’s not working. There’s truth in that, but trust that there’s a way to find a way to find yourself, find your voice and find where you can get aligned. And I think people like you who have coaching businesses are, once people say, ”It’s not working, it’s not working, what do I do?” They reach out to people like us who have programs that help people find their voice. In fact, I just did a three-month program and a woman entered because she was in a corporation and feeling like she couldn’t speak up. She, now at the end of 12 weeks has applied for other jobs and is finding places where, in fact, she said in the interview, she was about to go to, “I’m just going to be myself and if it doesn’t work, then that says that it’s not the place for me”. So I think that, I guess I was just saying how excited I am about giving people opportunities. And so it feels like that’s what you do in… tell us a little bit more. In fact, you haven’t yet really, but you have shown us your wisdom. What do you do for people who feel like they can’t thrive and they want more, but they’re scared and they’re, they don’t quite trust yet that it’s possible. Like they really want but they don’t trust and they find you and they go, “Well, maybe”. So what do you do with people?
(17:11) Kori Gouge
What’s interesting, that story, because a lot of what I do is helping so I mostly work with coaches and therapists and guiding them and consultants and guiding them to be leaders in their field because when they come to me and a lot of coaches in the more personal development, transformation, space struggle, because there’s so much information, there’s so many strategies. And a lot of times those strategies and those techniques and tools that everyone is bombarding you with, disconnects you from yourself and disconnects you from your heart and your voice and you think you need to do your business and your coaching, and your practice according to someone else’s guidelines and blueprints and strategies and formulas. And so then you lose that trust. You’re like, “Well, I have to do it their way, which means you can’t trust yourself to figure out a way to do it your way”. And so when they come to me, we relearn or unlearn all this stuff that didn’t work and really, I guide them to uncover like their true like, what is their core story about why they can’t thrive and why they can’t figure it out in the business and why they have to use someone else’s strategy? And really get into their gifts and how their gifts from that story, from that core story of why they can’t, why they’re struggling. The gifts that came from that are the gifts that equip them to be an amazing coach and to be an amazing leader. And once they start to see that differently, then they see that they wouldn’t have been able to be the coach they’re meant to be if it hadn’t been for those challenging situations in their life. And as they start to see themselves differently, then they start to speak differently. They start to speak with more confidence, they’re more bold in their message. And kind of like your clients said they feel more confident and being authentic and sharing what’s on their heart versus thinking they have to follow a template as far as what they need to say when they show up online. Because of course, when you have a template, you end up disconnecting from what you really want to say because you feel like what you want to say is not important. Or you need to say it in a certain way in order to attract clients, instead of speaking from the heart and really letting your voice come through and knowing that your voice is going to speak to specific clients who will resonate with your message and want to work with you and only you, because of your story and your path.
(19:26) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that’s partly my purpose in doing the Find Your Voice, Change your life podcast. You notice that I didn’t give you specific questions, and that you were supposed to be all prepared with a script and come into this conversation well prepared. And I appreciate your willingness to step in and have us wander around and see what calls us to speak about. There was something you said too, just now, that I wanted to focus on and it was – to me it really is the whole core, the heart of transformation, the turning lead into gold or whatever kind of metal, that then becomes something pretty brilliant. And you said that as our lives have difficulty, and we can look into that difficulty and see what we learned and how that then points to who we are already in our gifts. And I think that has something to do with your story about being a leader or learning to be a leader in the Coast Guard when you were taking on that position and training people. So that feels like even though that was not a good place or a good fit for you, you took a lot of lessons. That’s where you started to find your voice. So I think the message is, from what I just heard from you, is any life challenge or even just trauma, pain, complications, being tied up in anything is – I don’t mean to be too Pollyann-ish here – is the opportunity to find more of who you really are.
(21:14) Kori Gouge
So true and it is, I think, that’s my work too, is guiding people back to themselves and really restoring themselves, their relationship with themselves. Because a lot of time with any sort of difficulty or trauma, we tend to attack ourselves. And so how do we restore that relationship with ourselves? So we see, like you said, we can find the gifts and we can honor that we took on some survival skills as children, and maybe those survival skills don’t work for us anymore, and they’re holding us back. But we can honor that we needed them at the time. I needed to be a mouse at the time, but I don’t need to be a mouse anymore. Right? So it’s honoring those survival sort of mechanisms, so that you can release them and see, “Well, now I can be a lion”. Right?
(22:02) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, that’s a great image, mouse to the lion. Well, just one more thing. I know that you started with the early experience of the sense of being a mouse, somebody said that you took it on. But before that happened, because I think we’re all born with the gifts of who we are, and the jewel that’s within and the essence of who we are. Do you have a sense of before you were in that situation, what some of your gifts were? Very, very early, your precious self? What was, what would you say she was?
(22:45) Kori Gouge
Yes, I mean, I do have memories of being super, like the compassionate, kind, caring, I mean, always with friends, and having, wanting to be on adventures with friends. So creating adventures all the time, going out and creating forts and creating all kinds of fun activities and being very active, very social, very outspoken, I would say. Just not outspoken in the in the respect of being going out after people, but outspoken in the respect of like speaking and being confident in my speaking and sharing what I wanted to say and inviting people to come along and play with me. And just being a very, I would say, secure kid for the most part. So it definitely was a transition to go from this pretty social talkative child, to a child that all of a sudden is like hiding underneath the barstool or, underneath the table because she doesn’t want to be seen.
(23:46) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Well, that makes sense because to me, it feels like that’s the mirror of you, because the work that you do, I understand it is like an adventure. You go on adventures with people to find the core of who they are and help them bring that out and get to deliver it to the world with their voice and their message. We’re coming to an end and I want to give some space for you to share any final words that come to mind or way that you might want to wrap this up for yourself?
(24:24) Kori Gouge
Yes, well, I think part of being in the coaching space and in a space where you’re guiding people to transform can be really challenging. And I think part of the challenge is, part of the work that we do is helping people find their voice so that they – my mission is helping them stand up, speak up and stand out so that they can, instead of feeling like they have to compete, they know that their voice and their message is going to hit the right chord with the right person and not being afraid to stand up and speak out and say something that could be considered a little bit polarizing, because actually, the more polarizing they are, the more they’re gonna attract the right people and get rid of the wrong people. But I think a lot of coaches fear being polarizing, and I even had coaches tell me not to be polarizing in the past. And so it’s really guiding them to know their voice is sacred, and how you use it is important and using it with respect and with love. That of course, you’re going to stand up and speak out because why wouldn’t you? Because it’s coming from a really genuine place of caring versus, “Hey, look at me, I’m so amazing”, which is, people are going to kind of most the time ignore that after a while. So it’s coming from more authenticity and it’s kind of what we talked about the beginning is grounding into a place of trust that you can speak what you’re meant to speak, and can do so with love and can do so in a way that honors you and honors the people who you’re speaking to and with.
(25:48) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, Kori, this has been wonderful having you share yourself, your story and this message to the world about how to be who you are and spread the love. Thank you so much for coming on today and sharing.
(26:10) Kori Gouge
Thank you so much for having me, Doreen.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.