Kaulen Taylor Pickell

Kaulen Taylor Pickell is the CEO, founder, and coach at Selfcareavan. Selfcareavan is a coaching and consulting firm that she founded in October 2023. At its heart, Selfcareavan is about helping people tap into their inner wisdom and creative, life-, career-and reality-shaping power by cultivating a more caring and compassionate relationship with themselves. 

She tells us that, “With a firm foundation of authentic, soul-centered well-being, they can be, lead, and spread the positive, transformational changes we need in our communities, workplaces, and world—one to one to all.”

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey and what inspired you to choose this career.

As a child and young adult, I loved writing. In fact, I thought that I would be a writer, a journalist, or even a teacher or professor. However, when I graduated college with an English degree, I was really concerned about having enough money to live independently of my parents and not being a burden on them. 

I saw many of my college friends getting jobs at a firm called Hewitt Associates. Hewitt had a booming benefits administration outsourcing business and was hiring liberal arts majors straight out of college. The pay was pretty good for the late 90s, about $32,000 a year—almost twice what I could have made as a new teacher or journalist. I realized that with that kind of salary, I could afford my own apartment, pay my car note and insurance, and not have the weight of financial worries that my parents had. 

I told myself I would be at Hewitt for maybe two years before going to graduate school or moving on to a job more aligned with my degree. However, 25 years later, when I finally left to start Selfcareavan, I was still with the same company. Or rather, a version of the same company, since Hewitt had been bought and sold a couple of times in those two decades. 

I stayed for 25 years because I loved the people and it was a truly exceptional company with very innovative people practices, at least until we went public in the early 2000s. At that point the leadership and culture started to swing back toward old school corporate norms. Still, my career (and pay) grew and evolved. I found a niche in employee communication and behavior change consulting and thought leadership, where I was very successful. And I became a Partner in my mid-30s. 

During those years, I got married, bought a house, stabilized my mental health (the anxiety and depression I’d be struggling with since my 20s), had two boys, and traveled and enjoyed life.  Although I felt a call to something more, and alternately loved and hated my job, it was difficult to walk away from such financial comfort and stability, not to mention the benefits of seniority and ability to work from home full time.

I always enjoyed coaching and people development as a leader and manager. However, when my mother passed away from ovarian cancer in 2017, I felt a stronger calling towards it. I knew it was something I needed to pursue outside of corporate America. Despite this, it took me another six years to overcome my fears. Finally, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and took the leap into solopreneurship.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

There are two major turning points in my life that changed my journey:

The first turning point was my mother’s death in 2017 at the age of 64 from ovarian cancer. Sitting by her side, fully present through the last stages of her illness and death, I realized on a deep and visceral level how very precious each moment of our lives is. I saw in vivid detail the suffering that I, that all of us, create for ourselves by identifying with our largely fearful thoughts about who we are and how the world is. Thoughts and beliefs that are nothing more than stories, that can always be reimagined and retold to center on love, not fear.

After my mom’s passing, I felt awake and alive in a way I never had before and I wanted to help others realize the power and wisdom they have to transform their own reality, to live in the now, where joy and love is always endlessly available. That’s when I first began to dream about my own coaching business, founded on self-care and self-compassion—practices I believe, and have personally experienced, to be essential to personal and collective well-being.

The second turning point when I experienced a psychotic break in January 2021. From my mid-30s until my mid-40s, my mental health had been fairly stable. However, the intensity of world events, and the highly emotional and polarizing news and social media I consumed between 2016 and 2021, combined with many significant work stressors, took a toll on my mind and body. 

I was hospitalized for two weeks and on medical leave for almost four months. It took me about a year to fully recover. Although I returned to the same job I had before, I knew I wouldn’t be there for long. Like my mom’s death, this event cast a stark and revealing light on the illusory stress-making and play-acting of humans, especially in corporate America. Even in my company, which was now focused on technology to enable employee well-being, there were so many empty words and promises and so many lives worn thin and harried over…what? All that human energy and suffering to feed  “—illionaires” at the very top of the corporate food chain.

I knew that I could not continue to support corporate America’s marketing of well-being as a workplace differentiator when so many senior executives and so much of day-to-day corporate practices and cultures were out of alignment with personal and collective well-being. As a coach, I felt I could more directly and authentically help leaders and individuals awaken to the greater wisdom and truths within themselves. I could help them hear and accept a higher calling to create more meaningful cultural and systemic change and transformation. And so, in October 2023, once I knew my team had good leadership and a foundation of well-being to sustain them, I gave notice and left to start Selfcareavan.

Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.

Right now, my primary goal is to establish a strong foundation for Selfcareavan, both a thriving client base and an active, supportive, safe, and inspiring online community. 

I have two interest areas that I am particularly passionate about, both on a personal level and as they relate to my coaching business:

The first is helping individuals have a more positive, mindful and intentional relationship with AI-driven news and social media. It starts by helping people understand how AI shapes both their usage behaviors and the content that is presented to them, and how they can work in partnership with the algorithms to ensure they get more of what they need to grow and thrive in their life and career. I want to help people counteract the mindlessness and doomscrolling that social media companies and marketers love, but that offers so little value to us as users. In May, I will be launching the first cohort of a new group coaching workshop called “Get the Feed You Need.” The focus is curating, creating, and fine-tuning our digital feeds and usage habits for greater well-being, however we personally define that.

The other interest area I have is travel. Travel has been life-giving and life-changing for me, my husband, and my family. I love helping people who want to have transformative, life- and well-being-elevating travel experiences realize that goal. I believe, like many things in life, great travel experiences are the result of having the right mindset—specifically a mindset based in imagination, creativity, and flexibility. This spring I started offering coaching and workshops to help individuals, families and groups with travel design and planning.

In terms of role models, there are so many people that I admire. I would say there are a few women in particular who have shaped my life and my beliefs, and opened my world to new possibilities. Some of the most significant ones are: Martha Beck, Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle, Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene), and Pema Chodron.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

Probably the biggest challenge for me as a solopreneuer has been getting used to not having a steady and reliable paycheck. That was a big part of what kept me in corporate America for 25 years—fear of exposing myself and my family to financial risk, and fear that I would have to give up the things that I love like traveling the world. Facing this fear, and transforming my relationship with money, has been a big focus for me over the past six months. I have a life coach and a therapist that I work with. With both of them, I have done a lot of work to understand and reshape my beliefs about money—what it is, what it represents, how it flows, what it can do. I realized I have a lot of limiting, fear-based beliefs about money that developed in my childhood. Beliefs like “having/earning money requires suffering,” “having money makes people selfish and greedy,” and “I can’t make money doing something I love, that’s good for the world.”  It’s been incredibly important for me to see how these are not hard truths, they are simply stories that are keeping me stuck in scarcity. Releasing the fear of not being or having enough, and building more faith in myself and the universe, is critical if I’m to do the work that is ahead of me, that is my calling.

What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?

I’ve loved working with my first 1:1 coaching clients.  They’re all really incredible, talented women with big aspirations, who want to make big changes in their lives or careers.  I believe the impact I have is in holding a safe, encouraging, inspiring space for them to talk candidly and fearlessly about: what they want and desire, what’s holding them back, and what actions will get them where they want to be. As a coach, I help shine a light and reflect their intuition, wisdom and insights back to them. I help them acknowledge their fears and worries and transmute them into something empowering. And I help them hear and trust their own instincts when it comes to taking action, so they can act from a place of knowing. And all of this with a foundation of self-care and self-compassion.  

I hope that in the next few years I can do much, much more of this! I’d love to grow my 1:1 coaching practice and my group coaching practice significantly in the next year. I’d also love to do more writing and public speaking. Most of all, I can’t wait to see the powerful change that my clients will create in their lives, their careers, and the world!

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I would absolutely love to see more people advocating for the organizational, cultural and systemic changes that will make economic well-being a reality for our entire population. I think the biggest challenge we face today is the huge and growing pay disparity between C-suite executives and everyone else. I would love to see more bold, purposeful leaders taking a stand to ensure we have ethical, balanced and fair pay practices across the board. Not just in unionized populations, but everywhere. We should not have multiple billionaires in a country (and in companies) where so many people are still struggling to pay rent, feed themselves and their families, pay for child-care, and access medical care.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

In the last 10 years, I have seen incredible women rise into senior leadership positions, but I’ve also seen incredible women passed over or opted out of senior leadership positions.  If I may generalize a bit, from my experience, male leaders are particularly good at compartmentalizing:  focusing on the end and excusing the means; focusing on the what and ignoring the how or why; telling an expedient story without acknowledging the untruths.  Women leaders are, in my experience, less capable or comfortable with this subdivision of reality. Consistency, authenticity, integrity, credibility matter more to the woman leaders I’ve worked with, and unfortunately, I think the power players that fuel corporate America still want compartmentalization and video-game-style leadership from their top executives. The ends do matter to them more than the means. 

But we can change this. I am hopeful that women will continue to be at the forefront of challenging and transforming these paradigms. That’s one reason I think coaching is so important—it’s critical to shaping and empowering a next generation of women AND male leaders who recognize the interconnectedness of everything and everyone on this planet, who are truly committed to caring for the well-being of all humans, and who have the imagination, confidence, clarity and courage needed to help us build something better, truer, greater.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

In a world where AI is getting smarter and more capable every second, your imagination and creativity is your greatest, most human, and most differentiating power.  Use it. Practice it. Play with it. Imagine the world you want to live in. Imagine the careers. The workplaces. The public spaces. The communities. The daily activities. Don’t limit yourself to what you’ve known and what has been. Be a visionary. Be a disruptor. Practice sharing your ideas and visions with others until you see them come alive. Help people feel your visions in their bodies. Listen to your soul. Then speak from your soul to other human souls. You have the ability to make and remake this world, our existence, for the better. For everything good and true. Don’t be afraid to be the reality-making force of being you are. And care for yourself, always. You’ve got this.

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