For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fixated by the idea of finding my calling. Around age 20 I bought a book called ‘Finding your own North Star’, which was all about finding a pathway in life that was right for you. It has been really important to me to find meaningful work and live a life that is in line with my own values. Now here I am, three-quarters of the way through a professional coaching qualification, and working towards a career and life that has a strong coaching component.
Looking back, it would seem an obvious choice: I grew up wanting to be a ‘psychologist’, since I was young I’ve gravitated towards books and magazines about personal development and understanding what makes people tick, I have a degree in psychology, trained as a Kids Line counsellor, I read countless articles on facebook about resilience and wellbeing, and I’ve always been a more natural listener than talker.
I’m also really fortunate to have received coaching from four different coaches, in different contexts so far in my career. As a result, I firmly believe that providing staff with work-related coaching opportunities is one of the greatest investments an employer can make in its people.
Coaching lights a fire in my bones. I absolutely love it and am incredibly grateful to be creating a career that is so rich with meaning. So many of us (who are in the privileged position of having choice in our lives) crave this. I credit coaching for helping me get clarity about what I want to do, and crucially, for helping me gain the necessary self-belief and flexibility of mindset. Having got to this point feels like magic to me – and that’s the essence of what coaching can create.
Honestly, experiencing first-hand how transformative coaching can be is what motivates me to become a coach. I want others to know that big shifts are possible for them too – and I want others to have the opportunity that I’ve had.
Bear with me if you’re still a bit hazy on what exactly coaching is. I’m keen to explain that further in another post. For now, I’ll illustrate four features of coaching, drawing upon my own experiences as a coaching client.
Asking powerful questions. Good coaches ask powerful questions of their clients. Powerful questions have the ability to transform your perspective.
I was in a job I loved, that was highly satisfying, and was working with people I adored. I was also pretty tired from the huge workload. But I didn’t actually want to leave. My coach asked a simple, but powerful question: ‘do you see yourself still here in five years?’. This question really got under my skin. I had a strong, instant reaction – I knew I wouldn’t be there in five years. The question helped me connect to my future self. It was a trigger for a different way of thinking that saw me eventually moving to a completely different industry.
Shifting perspective. Coaching provides the opportunity to shift your perspective – it helps you ‘see into yourself’, and uncover unconscious ways of thinking or behaving that might be holding you back. It’s almost like holding up a mirror – a coach will reflect back their insights based on what they see, hear, and sense from you – things you may or may not be able to see yourself.
Last year, I was feeling overwhelmed and emotionally ‘heavy’ from my work environment. My coach helped me consider whether there might be a different way of doing life at work. Maybe I could choose to think about decisions that were made and conversations that were had more objectively, less personally. I’ve tried this on for size, and it’s something I’m keen to stick with because it saves me a hell of a lot of energy.
The areas we struggle most with, whether at work or in our wider lives, give us clues for where we might benefit from a shift in perspective. There’s a saying… ‘where you stumble, there lies your treasure’. Are you curious about what your stumbling blocks could teach you?
Creating strategies. One of my biggest self-development challenges is perfectionism. This probably reached a peak whilst studying at university, but the demands of work meant I had to start learning to accept things done ‘good enough’. Nonetheless, many of the patterns continued in my working (and personal) life. I learned the hard way that perfectionism + a job with significant responsibility + a programme of work I felt really passionate about was a recipe for exhaustion. But looking back, it wasn’t until I received coaching at work that I really started to become aware of this issue and how much it was holding me back. My coach could clearly see these tendencies in me, and helped me identify my own strategies to manage it effectively.
Fast forward a couple of years and I rarely, if ever, take my day job home. Assignments are done well, but I don’t fret over them, because I know there is an opportunity cost – I miss out on other bits of life. I now have an inbuilt radar that detects when my perfectionist tendencies are taking over (like when I’m spending too many hours on a particular task, or I’m feeling particularly ‘stuck’ with something). This is a signal to me to take a step back, mix up what I’m doing (go for a walk or bounce some ideas off a colleague) and refocus on what is most important. Probably the biggest indicator of how far I’ve come is captured in one of my coaching business principles: ‘prototype, not perfection’. Quite simply, I will learn by doing, rather than becoming paralysed trying to perfect things (like this post, for instance).
I owe these remarkable shifts in my own development to coaching. It is possible to change unuseful patterns!
Having someone on your side. And finally, one of the most heartwarming things about coaching is not only having a trusted confidante, a voice of reason, and someone who is willing to constructively challenge you, but having the experience of someone who is always in your corner. A coach has your back and wants you to succeed. They don’t see you as a problem to be ‘fixed’ – a key tenet of coaching is that people are inherently whole. Having an objective person standing firmly in your corner helps you believe in yourself – and in your innate capabilities, strengths, and uniqueness. In turn, this helps you stand more firmly in your own corner, more of the time.
In my next post, I plan to talk about what coaching actually is, and what you can expect as a client. If there are particular topics you’d like to see in future, please contact me – I’d love to hear from you.