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Transforming Lives Through Coaching & Well-Being Innovation – Interview With Dr. Zoran M Pavlovic

Dr. Zoran M Pavlovic is a Psychiatrist by training, a certified Rational Emotional Behavioral (REBT) Therapist by Albert Ellis Institute, New York, USA, Certified Coach by the European Coaching Association in Germany. He is a Fellow at the Institute of Coaching (IOC), Mc Lean, Affiliate of Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA, Forbes Contributor and Neuroscience Expert with 30 years of combined experience in Clinical Research and Pharma Industry.

Photo of Dr. Zoran M Pavlovic.

Dr. Zoran M Pavlovic, Executive Coach

Please tell us about you and your life so we can get to know you better.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Zoran M. Pavlovic, a licensed coach with many passions and pursuits. My life is a tapestry woven with mindfulness, companionship, active compassion, and a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth. At the heart of my daily routine is meditation. Each morning, as the sun gently rises, I find solace in the stillness of my meditation space. It's a sacred time when I connect with my inner self, aligning my thoughts and intentions for the day ahead. My practice grounds me and provides the clarity I need to navigate life's complexities. In my home, the presence of my beloved pets brings immeasurable joy. White French Moyen Puddle Buggy, my faithful dog and cycling companion, is a loyal friend and a constant reminder of the importance of living in the moment. Our rides through nature's beauty offer a unique form of meditation, a shared mindfulness journey.

Playing ball with my lively Black French Toy, Puddle Toto, and sharing quiet moments with my elegant Bengal Cat, Eli, are some of my favorite leisure activities. These furry friends remind me of the simple pleasures in life, where a game of fetch or a gentle purr can be the most profound expressions of connection. Stretching, planks, Qiqong, and lifting dumbbells are other cornerstones of my daily activities. I cherish the vitality they provide and the energy they infuse into my day. Culinary art is a soothing creative outlet for me, as I'm dedicated to nourishing both body and mind through every bite.

I enjoy preparing spicy, sweet, and sour vegetarian meals rich in neuro-nutraceuticals, antioxidants, vitamins, and microelements. My 26-year-old daughter, Mariza, is a constant source of inspiration and pride. After obtaining her master's degree in fashion design in Milan, she started working for a sports fashion company in Belgrade, designing sneakers for Nike, Under Armour, and Sergio Tacchini. She is developing her brand by creating clothes and leather bags for women in her spare time. I support her dreams and endeavors with unwavering devotion, offering guidance and continuous encouragement.

Beyond my family life, I'm deeply involved in various professional endeavors. Coaching is my primary focus, a service I provide to clients seeking personal growth and transformation. I guide them along their unique journeys, drawing upon my extensive knowledge of coaching psychology, neuroscience, brain health, and spirituality, cultivated through my dedicated reading, continuous education, ongoing self-reflective practice, and daily encounters and exchanges with my coaches.

In addition to coaching, I wear many hats. My involvement in consulting with pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies on their neuroscience projects allows me to bridge the gap between science and well-being. It's a role that aligns with my passion for holistic health, as I collaborate with these organizations to develop products that enhance individuals' quality of life and mental well-being.

In addition to my professional commitments, I actively participate as a volunteer mentor for the HBA (Healthcare Businesswomen's Association). This role allows me to empower and guide aspiring female leaders in the healthcare and life sciences industries. I believe lifting women's aspirations creates a more inclusive and equitable world.

As a passionate writer, I regularly contribute to Forbes and Life Science Leader magazine, sharing my thoughts on leadership and well-being. My column "New E-R-A in Clinical Project Management," published in the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) 's official journal, explores the fascinating intersections of emotional intelligence, resilience, and agility as critical success factors in today's VUCA-based project management environment.

I'm honored to be a part of the editorial boards of several esteemed neuroscience journals, including Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, Annals of General Psychiatry, and Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. As a Fellow, I write blog posts for the renowned Institute of Coaching McLean, an Affiliate of Harvard Medical School. These roles allow me to contribute to advancing knowledge in neuroscience, mental health, leadership development, and well-being promotion in the workplace.

To further share my wisdom, my website houses a library of helpful resources on leadership, soft skills, and mental health. It's a place where knowledge seekers can find valuable insights to support their personal and professional growth.

My thirst for knowledge remains unquenchable. I am finalizing my further education to obtain a Professional Certificate in Executive Coaching, including my ACC ICF Accreditation at the Henley Business School Center for Coaching at the University of Reading in the UK.

I also provide reciprocal pro-bono peer coaching sessions through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) platform, fostering growth and excellence in aspiring coaches.

Tell us about a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to where you are today.

My grandfather, Stojan, was a towering figure in my family's history—a distinguished member of the Serbian and Czech Academy of Sciences with a Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, previously headed by Professor Marie Curie, the only woman ever to receive two Nobel prizes. My grandfather's relentless pursuit of knowledge, insatiable curiosity, and unwavering dedication to making impactful contributions to the world were the cornerstones of his existence. The memory of his passion for scientific discovery ignited a spark within me—an insatiable curiosity that would define my journey. Yet, it wasn't just my grandfather's legacy that influenced me.

My grandmother, Mariza, born in St. Petersburgh and raised in Paris, had a voice that resonated equally through the halls of our home. She insisted on the importance of learning foreign languages, believing that the ability to communicate across cultures opened doors to a world of understanding. Her insistence instilled in me a fascination with language and a deep appreciation for the power of communication. From a young age, she would sit with me, teaching me the delicate intricacies of various languages. She believed that understanding different languages could give us insight into the hearts and minds of people from diverse backgrounds. Through her patient tutelage, I began to appreciate the richness of human expression and the power of words to transcend borders.

As I grew, my mother, Nadezda, significantly influenced my life. Her insights into the intricacies of the human mind and her compassionate approach to understanding her father, Bratislav (my grandfather), who was suffering from Major Depression, sparked a profound fascination with psychiatry within me. Her wisdom formed the bedrock of my empathy and belief in mental health care's transformative potential.

Conversely, my father, Milan, nurtured my fascination with pharmaceuticals. A pharmacist by profession, he instilled in me an early appreciation for the role of medications in alleviating human suffering. His unwavering belief in the profound impact of pharmaceuticals on improving lives introduced me to the world of psychopharmacology.

Once I got my board certification in psychiatry and started my private psychiatric practice, I realized the potential for real-world impact—a chance to translate theory into tangible, life-changing solutions. The thought of helping individuals find relief from their mental health challenges fueled my determination to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. The crowning achievement of my efforts was the publication of articles in esteemed psychiatric journals, including the official journals of the American Neuropsychiatric Association and the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CINP), the largest global psychopharmacology association. Two books on the most prominent brain neurotransmitter, Glutamate, and Glutamate-based Neuropsychiatric treatments, followed. These manuscripts explored innovative approaches to treating a spectrum of psychiatric and neurological conditions, serving as beacons of hope for individuals seeking help.

My journey also led me to delve deeply into the theories of a fellow psychiatrist, Carl Jung's Collective Subconscious, and psychologist Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). These theories illuminated the intricate and constant interplay between conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions, enriching my understanding of the human psyche. They armed me with powerful psychotherapeutic and later coaching tools to guide individuals' inner development and growth.

In 1999, just after the NATO bombing of my hometown, Belgrade, another transformative moment unfolded when I took Diamond Way Buddhist refuge with Danish Lama Ole Nydahl in Budapest. This spiritual path, with its teachings of mindfulness, active compassion, loving-kindness, interconnectedness, and roots of human suffering, resonated deeply with my evolving worldview. It taught me to cultivate a deep sense of presence and awareness, allowing me to approach each moment with clarity and intention. Interconnectedness, another pillar of Buddhism, deepened my appreciation for the interconnected nature of all living beings. It reinforced the idea that our actions have far-reaching consequences for ourselves and the world. This understanding fueled my commitment to making a positive impact, not just at an individual level but on a broader scale.

Today, I stand at the juncture of these pivotal moments—a culmination of my family's legacy, academic endeavors, and spiritual exploration. As a coach, mentor, researcher, and advocate for mental health, I draw upon the wisdom and insights amassed during this journey. Each moment, each influence, and each lesson has shaped me into who I am today—an individual dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of others, one transformative moment at a time.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Heruka Lifescience & Health Innovations?

For me, the journey toward founding my coaching practice began on the twin paths of my career: one as a seasoned psychiatrist and certified psychotherapist and the other as a leader in the clinical research industry.

While these two paths seemed distinct, for me, they intersected at the crossroads of understanding human behavior. I realized I had unique skills, combining deep psychological knowledge with practical leadership experience, which could benefit not just my patients but a much larger segment of society, including organizations, leaders, and employees.

I named my coaching practice after Heruka, a Buddhist Deity who embodied what I sought to bring to the corporate world – transforming workspaces into environments filled with joy, bliss, wisdom, and active compassion, where employees are fulfilled and engaged while leaders are serving as role models by "walking the talk."

As part of my work, I continued to use psychometric assessments as the cornerstone of my coaching approach. These assessments, often underutilized, proved invaluable for monitoring and evaluating intangible and tangible coaching outcomes. They provide insights into individual and team dynamics far beyond what traditional observation and intuition could achieve. The tangible data these assessments generated allowed me to customize my Coaching to increase the specificity and relevance of intervention, which is simultaneously associated with high Return on Investment (ROI).

While the increased business was certainly a measure of success, the valid metric was the transformative change I saw in the leaders and employees I worked with. I witnessed reserved individuals growing into confident communicators, fractured teams evolving into united fronts, and hardened leaders learning to lead with kindness and empathy. My clients' feedback is often overwhelming, mainly related to their satisfactory professional growth, improved work-life balance, and the positive changes they see in their personal lives.

Photo of Dr. Zoran M Pavlovic

As the company's owner, what are your plans and visions?

I have embarked on a transformative journey to elevate well-being to unprecedented heights. As the solopreneur, I know that by empowering others, I could create a ripple effect of well-being that would touch countless lives and, ultimately, make the world a better place.

Here's an exclusive glimpse of my innovative plans and visionary goals that are shaping the future of my company dedicated to well-being and executive coaching:

I lead the initiative in establishing the Global Association of Well-Being Coaches (GAWBC). This groundbreaking association is not just a platform; it's a movement. GAWBC is committed to uniting well-being coaches from all corners of the globe. This visionary association connects well-being coaches with researchers and other well-being practitioners worldwide. At its core, GAWBC aims to nurture the creation of well-being coaching best practices and guidelines rooted in rigorous Well-being Coaching Research Studies. It's a global hub for those committed to elevating well-being and a gateway to innovative and comprehensive well-being excellence.

As a passionate promoter of psychometric instruments, I started developing the Leader's Well-Being Scale about a year ago, a groundbreaking tool anchored in my innovative 4H STATES OF WELLNESS® Model. This scale empowers leaders to assess their well-being comprehensively, covering Health, Happiness, Social Well-Being, and Inner Harmony domains. Using this self-report scale, leaders can chart their course towards a more balanced, thriving life and, in turn, serve as role models to inspire their teams to do the same.

My coaching brand and authenticity are based on my flagship coaching programs:

I am very proud of creating GRAIL (Growth and Agile) Mindset™ Coaching, which leverages synergy between growth and agile Mindset on individual, team, and organizational levels by infusing agile thinking, skills, and practices into employees, teams, leaders, and workplace culture, thus promoting agile processes and business strategies.

I am very enthusiastic about the HELO (Heruka Employee, Leadership, and Organizational) Resilience™ Program, which offers tools and strategies for individuals to become resilient self-leaders capable of confidently navigating through adverse and uncertain business circumstances. Additionally, on a leadership level, the workshops and coaching sessions focus on strengthening leadership qualities that promote resilience, including effective communication, decision-making under pressure, flexibility, and adaptability. On the team level, the focus is on facilitating collaborative team-building exercises and workshops to develop resilient teams that can handle challenges, innovate, and excel together. Finally, we help organizations embed "Gritty" principles into their culture by promoting perseverance, long-term goal achievement, and psychological safety.

The third one, the 4H SWELL (States of Wellness)® Program, is unique as it is based on my original four-component well-being concept, which fosters physical, mental, and social well-being and inner harmony.

My most innovative coaching approach to Leadership Development is embedded in my Executive Well-Being Group Coaching and Mentoring, enabling top-tier executives to take a step toward a more balanced life by participating in our exclusive group coaching sessions, engaging in candid discussions, and receiving peer support and expert mentoring to maintain peak performance while prioritizing their long-term well-being and self-care.

Another major project on my agenda is building the specialized exclusive Well-Being and Executive Coaching Retreat to empower individuals to reach their full potential personally and professionally. This retreat will be in a serene and picturesque environment (it is still early to uncover the exact location, but I assure you it will be built in an ideal place with beautiful surroundings) and will offer comprehensive F2F coaching and mentoring activities that focus on enhancing physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

As research in brain health continues to advance, staying informed about emerging strategies and learning about practices for maintaining vitality and promoting healthy aging is essential. Therefore, I created a top-tier educational workshop and training on brain health that will be exclusively available at my retreat. The program's uniqueness lies in the fact that all topics will be presented and discussed by leading experts on brain health, including world-renowned neuroscientists, clinicians, psychiatrists and neurologists, nutritionists, mental and physical fitness trainers, and neuroscience-based coaches.

By introducing these and other well-being enhancement programs, I intend to transform individual lives and revolutionize organizational dynamics, ultimately leading to engaged and fulfilled employees working for thriving and sustainable organizations. I am excited to embark on this inner growth, resilience-building, and well-being-promoting journey with my prospective clients and partners.

If you could change some things about your industry, what would it be and why?

1. Use of Life Coaching to Prevent Chronic Stress, Depression, and Anxiety

I firmly believe that coaching, in addition to stress management, should be proactively used to prevent chronic stress, depression, and anxiety disorders. Prevention is critical for maintaining individuals' mental health and overall well-being. Well-being coaching can equip individuals with effective coping mechanisms and increase their psychological resilience to manage life's challenges efficiently.

2. Adopt regular use of Coaching as a Critical Success Factor in the prevention of Mental Health Disorders in the workplace

Prevention of mental health disorders, including workplace-specific ones, such as burnout syndrome, using various coaching approaches and strategies should be regarded as a critical success factor in building and maintaining mentally healthy workplaces. Prioritizing mental health interventions through regular individual, cohort, and group coaching sessions safeguards employee well-being and enhances productivity, engagement, and overall organizational success. It is a wise short and long-term investment for any organization.

3. Inclusion of Spiritual and Coaching for Meaning in regular Leadership and Employee Well-Being Programs

Incorporating spiritual and meaning-based coaching into leadership and employee well-being programs aligns with my belief in a holistic approach to well-being. Recognizing the importance of nurturing our meaning, purpose, values, and spiritual tendencies can lead to a more fulfilled, motivated, and authentic workforce.

4. Enable more investment in the conduct of large-scale evidence-based coaching and well-being studies

I strongly support the need for evidence-based coaching and well-being studies that compare coaching outcomes to waitlist controls or other similar interventions. Scientific rigor is essential to validate coaching as an effective personal and professional development method. Such studies can provide the necessary data to make informed decisions about the utility of various coaching approaches.

5. Increase the number of global events facilitating exchange between Coaches' Associations and Client Organizations

Establishing more scientifically and research-oriented coaching events is a forward-looking initiative. These events can serve as platforms for knowledge exchange, research dissemination, and networking among coaching professionals and relevant organizational stakeholders (decision-makers, executives, HR partners, Well-Being Champions, etc.). Additionally, these events can help bridge the gap and increase collaboration between academic research coaching centers, individual coaching practices, and client organizations, which is essential for the coaching and well-being industry's growth and credibility.

6. Obtain more funding for conducting sophisticated Neuroscience-based Coaching Studies

Incorporating neuroscientific principles and knowledge into coaching practices is an exciting prospect. Understanding how coaching affects the brain and behavior can lead to more tailored and effective coaching interventions. This knowledge can empower coaches to personalize and optimize their approaches, techniques, and tools, which might expedite client's positive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes.

7. Foster integration of Self-Coaching with 1-to-1 Coaching:

Integrating self with 1-to-1 Coaching resonates with my belief in empowering individuals to take an active role in their development. Self-coaching tools can complement personalized coaching sessions, fostering greater self-awareness, self-efficacy, commitment, and accountability.

In summary, my opinion emphasizes the need for new, proactive, holistic, and evidence-based coaching interventions to add value to the currently available well-being practices. By focusing on prevention, acknowledging the significance of mental health, promoting spiritual and meaning-based coaching, conducting rigorous research, fostering scientific discourse, delving into the neuroscience of coaching, and empowering individuals through self-coaching, the coaching and well-being industry can evolve better to address the diverse well-being needs and wants of individuals and organizations.

I want to end this interview with one of the Buddha's famous quotes that perfectly aligns with the transformative power of every coaching journey leading to personal change: "Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself."

Thank you for taking your time to explore my coaching, mentoring, and well-being world. I look forward to connecting with all of you, who share my passion for continuous learning and improvement and believe in the boundless potential of the human mind and our everlasting quest for life purpose and meaning.

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