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Life Coach Davia McMillan - what shaped her values

by Sarah Poole

The promotional graphic for this event describes the gutsy, out there, Davia McMillan, who is helping people tackle their fears and hurdles, head on, as a life coach. Whilst ordering lunch at Foxtrot Charlie Cafe, she told us some surprising things that shaped her values and led to her becoming a coach.

Davia revealed that when she grew up here in Brunswick, the room in which we were meeting was not part of a café. It was part of a friend’s family home above their Sydney Road takeaway! Going to the small community school across the road is probably one of the reasons community is always close to Davia’s heart. Hanging out with unemployed kids after school across the road where the jeweller is now but then Davia's mother ran a youth outreach centre, is probably another reason.

 At seven doing wrong weighed heavily

At seven Davia learnt the values of trust, honesty and forgiveness, on this street, when she was seven. Loving stationary, one day she stole an eraser from the newsagent. Her mum made her give it back and apologise! Davia learned the value of what happens when someone is prepared to forgive you. She also found that stealing weighed heavily on her. Being forgiven and freed of that guilt was an incredible learning experience that has stood her in good stead throughout life.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?”

A second profound experience which led Davia to develop empathy came when her mother moved in with her boyfriend, who was a paraplegic. Fourteen year old Davia was studiously helping to unpack, putting cups away in the kitchen cupboards, when the man who would become her stepfather came in and made Davia re-arrange the entire kitchen sitting in his wheelchair. ‘It was a brilliant learning experience!’ Davia tells us, eyes gleaming with passion. “He was an amazing man, who had achieved many feats throughout his life. I really understood him in that moment and what he was trying to teach me about his world and its limitations. ”

“The things I liked to wear had already been invented!”

Another profound experience came when Davia found that she was very much alone – a fish out of water studying fashion design at University. She loved design but didn’t really care about the fashion industry. “The things I liked to wear, blue jeans and black jumpers, had already been invented!”

Inspired by her step father, who had travelled all around the world competing in wheel chair racing and marathons, and by now in her early 20’s, Davia saw a gap in the market. She started making customised racing clothes for wheelchair athletes and the business soon became international. Unfortunately, “It was a bit ‘niche’, before its time”. However, Davia gained a load of business insight.

Later working at the leading edge in the disability sector, Davia piloted a program for young adults with acquired brain injury and/or intellectual disabilities. She's proud to say it's still running in the Latrobe Valley today.

Davia's next step involved going into business as an artist. Mostly creating mosaics, working with landscape designers and property developers, but the tile dust affected her health. She continues to paint and draw, sometimes using it in her coaching as a meditative exercise.

The Great Unanswerable Question

When Davia became a full time mum, she was satisfied with life for some time. However a day arrived, when she began to feel her life was inadequate. She has since discovered that ‘when will I ever be enough? is a question frequently asked by her clients, calling it ‘The Great Unanswerable Question’. “One day the answer could be ‘YES, everything is going well and I am happy with my life,’ but the next day the answer may be ‘NO, I am not enough yet! I still feel inadequate!’”

As a coach Davia teaches people to spot that doubt, and powerfully choose to do whatever they need to do to get past it. Davia describes being a coach as holding the space for someone else’s reflection, teasing out what is most important to them, working in partnership with them, applying unbiased listening, reflecting, and then holding them accountable to do what they want to do.


Davia uses mBraining in her coaching practice to stop the tug of war we often experience as a result of our emotions conflicting with our thoughts. Our head, heart and gut each represent a brain and play a role. The head brain thinks, makes meaning, justifies, assesses. The heart brain’s core competency is emoting. It’s where our values sit - respect, forgiveness, honesty. Our gut brain is where our identity and motivation sits. “When someone insults you, it’s a ‘kick in the gut’. Sometimes when you do something which is confronting, you can feel ‘sick in the guts’”. The gut is essential for self-preservation.

Getting brain, heart, gut in alignment

Davia explains that making wise actionable decisions requires brain, heart and gut to be in alignment so that we can experience flow – Compassion (heart) – is when you see what is at the heart of any situation for yourself, then you have the creativity (brain) to come up with the ideas to actually generate that thing, and the courage (gut) to take the actions and steps to move towards that goal. Davia suggests we read the book (see below) to learn more.

Testing decisions via an mBraining meditation

Davia finished the session by taking us through a meditation, where we each quietly tested an idea or a decision with our brain, gut and heart. I came out of the meditation feeling relaxed and more in touch with my thoughts, passions and ambitions, and I have tried this out a few times at home.

Thanks Davia!!

The book ‘mBraining – Using your Multiple Brains to do Cool Stuff’ was written by Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka.

Sarah Poole and Davia are both members of The Women's Table.

See more about Davia at her Life Design lab 

Sarah runs Thriving Places

You can also see our blog about her on this website.

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