When a New Year rolls around, most of us resolve to do better. We promise ourselves that we’ll lose weight, exercise more, reduce debt, make and save more money, and generally do more of the things that are good for us. The common denominator beneath our resolutions is the desire for a better life, to be a better version of ourselves.
Connie Jones has made it her business to help people overcome the obstacles that keep them from being the person they want to be. When she articulates her mission, it sounds something like this:
“I’m passionate about transforming people’s lives so they can live bravely, freely, and wholeheartedly in a life they love!”
These words are more than a mission statement. They reflect the deep conviction of a woman who nearly lost herself, more than once, to a life of performance. She has fought hard for the life she was meant to live, and she’s determined to help others do the same.
Connie was born in Hazelhurst, Ga., the daughter of a high school football coach and teacher. The baby of the family, she has a brother, Philly, who is a year older.
The family moved a lot. Her father was always building a program in a community where teams were struggling. Places like Fitzgerald, Vienna, and Winder, Ga., were home to the Jones family.
“Everywhere Dad went, he built the program,” Connie says. Getting the community on board, Coach Jones grew winners.
“My Dad was kind of like God in every community we lived in,” Connie said. “It was kind of like being a pastor’s child. They put our family on a pedestal.”
Her mother stayed at home until Connie went to school. Then she progressed along with Connie, teaching kindergarten, first grade, and so on, eventually becoming the school librarian and then a math teacher at Connie’s high school. She was able to teach in the same school her kids attended throughout Connie’s school years.
Connie describes her mother as very disciplined, very structured, “one of the mentally strongest women I’ve ever met in my life.”
“It was fierce all the time,” Connie said. “As much love as there was in our house, it was all about achieving, living up to very, very, very high standards.
It all worked beautifully for a while. Connie was homecoming queen, captain of three sports teams, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a member of her high school student council and church’s youth council, class president, valedictorian, and a scholarship recipient.
Philly went to Furman on a football scholarship. Connie followed in softball.
It all ended in her sophomore year of college.
“My body collapsed beneath me,” Connie says. Suffering severe depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and eating disorders, she spent two weeks on her parents’ sofa, unable to function, and then 90 days in in-patient treatment in Arizona.
Her doctor’s first assignment: “Do nothing for a year.”
“We don’t have to keep doing things that aren’t making us peaceful and happy and fulfilled, things that are just stealing from us every day and kind of sucking our souls.”– Connie Jones
For someone who had spent two decades performing, learning to “be” rather than “do” was very healing.
“All that achieving, striving, perfecting meant I hadn’t had much room for my heart,” Connie says. She followed her doctor’s orders, worked with a nutritionist and therapist, and developed a relationship with her parents she’d never had before. It was a healing time for her family as well.
Always a Daddy’s girl, she and her father became very close during this time.
“We are a lot alike,” Connie says. She and her mother, however, experienced a lot of conflict.
“Our issue was that I realized how amazing and intelligent and gifted she was but my expectations of her were different than what her gifts truly made her within her heart,” Janie Jones, Connie’s mother, says. “It has actually been a really positive thing because all of us better understand ourselves and have all tried to make some changes. Sometimes unless you have a crisis you just go on with your life and you don’t stop to think about what you’re doing and how you’re living your life and how you’re impacting your family.”
Eventually, Connie transferred to the University of Georgia. By then her dad had transitioned to college coaching and was on staff at UGA. It made sense to be there too, she said.
In the meantime, she’d changed her aspirations. She decided she’d make it through college and be a wife and mom. She’d been in several unhealthy relationships, mostly with football players, she says.
“It was all about them,” she says, but she was looking for her value. Growing up, she remembers, her identity was wrapped up in being Coach Jones’ daughter, Philly’s little sister, or someone’s girlfriend.
“I was still trying to find Connie,” she says. “There were no athletics to throw myself into. I decided I’ll just be a wife and mom. I’ll make it about everyone else. I was going to marry someone who has a name for himself, and I’d be somebody. I decided I’d pour myself into a guy. I did okay, but my whole life felt empty. I felt lost.”
In the meantime, she earned an Exercise and Sports Science degree from UGA. After college, she began a career in fitness and personal training and was in a relationship with a baseball coach for five years. Six weeks before their wedding, an event which had a guest list of 900 people, she broke it off.
While she was still looking for herself, she’d done a lot of work, Connie explains, and when she found things in the relationship she couldn’t trust, she knew the marriage would be a mistake.
“It was horribly heartbreaking,” she says.
Following the breakup, she rejoined her parents, who by now were in North Carolina. She finished a masters degree in sports management at the college where her dad was coaching, but it was a wake-up call. At 28, she was back at home again.
“I was starting over. Again. I missed my whole 20s.”
“What in the world was I going to do with my life,” she wondered. In Connie’s mind, her life had been failure after failure.
Following the advice of friends, she began looking for a larger town where people would pay good money for sports performance training. She made her way to Peachtree City in 2002 as the first coach hired by Velocity Sports Performance.
“I literally just moved here,” Connie says. “I did not know a soul.”
She loved the family atmosphere and sense of community she found in Peachtree City. She made friends and began building a life in her new home.
Soon, she realized fitness training was not where she belonged. She wanted to help people who were struggling with some of the challenges she had faced. So, while working a full-time job in sales, she pursued a second masters in counseling, attending class on nights and weekends. Then she spent 10 years building a private practice.
First, she worked for a counseling agency, where she was the lead therapist for drug court. For eight years, she helped people break free from addiction, something she understood.
“You don’t have to be in a court-ordered program to be in bondage to something,” Connie says. “There’s a lot of other types of bondage. Performance and achievement is an addiction of its own.”
“You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” – Brene Brown
“I really felt like we were successful. We had a team that was caring. I’m so proud of the program we built then.”
Five years ago, it was time to make a change. She left the agency on a Friday and opened Connie Jones Counseling and Coaching on that Monday.
The financial realities of starting a business, being on her own as a single woman, were terrifying, she admits. To make it all work, she did what she has been programmed to do. She performed. Twenty clients a week is considered full time for a therapist. She saw 26 to 30.
“For two years, I worked like a dog and ended up in adrenal fatigue and burnout,” she says.
The day she realized the pace was unsustainable, that her body was once again paying a price for her performance, she called a life and business coach. Because of all of the changes the coach helped her make, she spent the next year transitioning her practice into a coaching business.
“I realized once we started working together that it was the work I was already doing. I just didn’t know it was coaching,” Connie notes.
The main thing she learned is that her beliefs and her mindset were holding her back.
“I wasn’t being powerful,” she says. “I was just kinda succumbing to whatever was coming at me. And I felt like a victim in my own life. Coaching really changed that for me. It opened up the world of possibilities.”
Connie says it helped her understand what her blindspots were. She saw the things that were keeping her “playing small.”
Coaching is a different process than counseling, Connie explains.
“Counseling helps people heal. Coaching helps people move forward, and it helps people get unstuck. It helps people have real transformational breakthrough. Both are incredibly valuable and necessary, and I’m grateful that I can incorporate both into helping people get the healing and breakthrough they are seeking.”
She uses this analogy:
“Counseling helps people unravel the ball of yarn. Coaching helps people knit the sweater.”
With the help of her coach, Connie discovered what she was created to do.
“I realized how I wanted to show up in the world every day,” she said. “I started using my resources and my energy and my time to do that rather than what I didn’t want to do, what was killing me. I started taking care of myself, and I got better.”
Two years ago, Connie Jones Counseling and Coaching expanded into The Peachtree City Therapy Group, and a year later became Arise Counseling and Coaching.
You might say she joined the family business.
“I am my father’s daughter,” Connie says. “Coaching is a gift.”
Finally, she understood why as a young person she was so drawn to the game, why she could sit and watch film with her father for hours.
“It was because I related to him in that way,” she says. “He would see things other people did not see. He would figure out what adjustments were needed, how to win.”
“I do the same thing. I can see the blind spots, the things that keep people stuck, and then I help people create wins in their lives and in their businesses, too. ”
She does the same thing with organizations and teams. She sees the gaps they can’t see.
Most of Connie’s clients come to her when they’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and unfulfilled, when their dream has become their nightmare.
The coaching process is rewarding and liberating. People transform by gaining clarity about what they really want, and by shifting their mindsets and their habits in order to move forward.
“Once they have some freedom they’re eager to go to the next level,” Connie says.
While helping others find that peace and fulfillment, Connie has stepped into her own. She has built a team of people at Arise Counseling and Coaching who can help people with a variety of challenges.
She’s also reunited with her parents again, but for different reasons. Connie and her mother are living together so that they can support each other and care for her father, who has Alzheimer’s. It’s not the plan any member of the Jones family had for their lives, but they are making a beautiful life together. They live joyfully with their seven rescue dogs on several rolling acres of countryside.
“It’s one of the hardest and most beautiful things all at the same time,” Connie says. “At this point, my mom is really my best friend. That’s attributed to all the healing we’ve had and the work that both of us have done.”
“We’ve always been a really close family,” Connie explains. “We’re there for each other. This made sense. Mom gave her life for my dad’s career and supported him. She had these big dreams of travel, moving to the beach when he retired. None of that happened. It’s more for her. She can’t do this alone. It made sense for us to be together.”
Connie also notes she’s fortunate enough to have a special person in her life, Rusty Huddleston, who is all about family, too. He helps Connie care for and support her parents.
“He’s as close to them as I am, and my dad enjoys him. So, it’s one of those really unconventional arrangements.”
She’s living out the practices she teaches.
“We can’t hold onto our picture of what should have been because it’s never going to work out that way,” Connie says. “You just go with it and make the best of it and appreciate the moments. You enjoy what you have.”
And you keep dreaming.
Connie and her mother share a dream of building an animal sanctuary. Her mom has rescued thousands of dogs, transporting them to homes all over the nation.
Connie also dreams of building a Transformational Center with like-minded and like-hearted healers and wellness professionals. They’ll help people transform their lives and leaders transform their businesses and organizations.
She’s writing a book about her journey, growing her career as a speaker, and preparing to lead people she calls warriors. She wants to impact more people, to help men and women who are stepping into their true identity and living out their destiny in the world.
More than 400 people are members of her “Warrior Arise! Tribe” facebook group, a place where she releases daily inspirational messages and videos to encourage people on the forefront of this movement.
She wants to get married, to build and share a life with someone whose heart and mind are aligned with hers.
In retrospect, what does she have to say to the girl on the sofa?
“You haven’t failed.”
“You are enough.”
“You’re not too much.”
“There’s more for you.”