“Personal leadership is the process of keeping your vision and your values before you and aligning your life to be congruent with them” Stephen Covey
These days it seems a lot of women in their 40s are going through a mid-life re-evaluation that includes an assessment of their chosen career or employer. Many of them dream of leaving their Corporate careers to pursue something more meaningful. They are feeling dissatisfied, sometimes really unhappy and with a sense that there must be more.
Through my personal journey I realise these feelings often come from a mismatch of personal values and career or employer. I value belonging, for example, so it was upsetting to work for an employer that encouraged individual competition over teamwork. I value compassion and empathy so it angered me to witness results prioritised over people. When your work and your personal values collide it can have negative consequences. For me, my health (both physical and mental) and family suffered from my unhappiness at work.
My Story – It’s not you it’s me, we value different things
In 2017, I was working for a large corporation. I didn’t dislike the work I was doing but I was dissatisfied. I felt stuck and increasingly uneasy watching people being treated poorly. I had a vague sense there must be more than this but no clear idea what to do about it. Having worked for 20 plus years in the corporate world it didn’t seem possible that I could do anything else.
I went on a journey of self discovery that began with the death of my friend. I worked with my own life coach, quit my Corporate job and trained as a coach to support other women in their 40s going through a life transition. Getting really clear on what is important to me, what motivates me and what I value was an important part of this process. It became obvious my job didn’t align with my personal values.
Find out what your values are
To find out what your values are you need to understand what motivates you. My life coach asked me some great questions like:
What do I love to do?
What conversations light me up?
When I’m at my happiest what am I doing and who am I with?
When have I been proud of myself and what was I doing?
What experiences in my life have left me feeling fulfilled and satisfied?
I searched the internet for inspiration and was able to narrow down my values to the 5 most important to me. I value joy, connection, empathy, making a difference and service.
Love your work by aligning with your values
Once I understood my values I needed to consider if they were shared by my employer. It wasn’t difficult, with their values clearly stated on their website as excellence, discipline, continuous improvement and results-oriented. Line them up against my values and it was not surprising I had been unhappy in my job. With the guidance of my coach I started exploring other options and that led me to the path I am now following as I train to support other women in their 40s through their own life transition.
If you find yourself in a similar situation you probably need to re-think your options but it doesn’t have to be as drastic as a complete career change. You might be able to change job within the same company, you might look at changing employers or it might be as simple as ensuring you live your values in your current job. For example, if you value belonging what can you do every day to encourage a sense of teamwork and belonging in the job you are in.
Mid-Life Career Re-evaluation
If you are facing a mid-life career re-evaluation a great place to start is to ask yourself what you value, what motivates you and what is important. If your priorities differ from those of your job or career it might be time to ask yourself some serious questions. If like me, you still have 20 plus years left in the workforce then isn’t it important that you find joy and satisfaction in a job that aligns with who you are and what you value?
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms” Anonymous
I’ve been working in a corporate environment for 23 years. For the majority of that time, my bosses were men, older and more experienced than me. They were unthreatened by me and did not feel the need to compete or prove themselves.
As I became a woman in my 40s I was exposed to a new challenge – reporting to a succession of significantly younger women. These women had several qualities in common. They were in their 20s, career focussed to the exclusion of all else in their personal lives, full of energy, technically brilliant but with under-developed emotional intelligence. Reporting to a younger boss seems to be a common concern for women in their 40s. Personally I didn’t have a great experience reporting to younger bosses (and to be fair I didn’t handle it as well as I could) so I hope sharing some of the lessons I learnt might be useful.
The timing for me also didn’t help and I believe this is something many women in their early 40s experience. I had my son at an older age and as a solo parent. When I returned from maternity leave I was close to 40, tired from having a young baby and sad about leaving my son in the care of others while I went to work. Let me tell you “baby brain” is real. I don’t know the scientific studies behind it but all I can say is it felt like half my brain had died along with giving birth. Concepts took me longer to grasp and I just wasn’t as switched on as I felt pre-baby.
Women in their 40s reporting to a younger boss
If you find yourself in a similar situation I hope you can handle it better than I did. There were four key lessons this experience taught me.
Put yourself in your bosses’ shoes
“You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
When I was in my 20s I remember looking at new mothers and thinking they were taking advantage. Here I was, working long hours while they seemed to be constantly taking time off work with sick kids or heaven forbid leaving on time to be with their family. They would come back after baby and want to work part-time. My 20 year old self thought that meant they were off enjoying coffees and lunches while I was slogging away at my job. Of course, now I’m a Mum I understand that is far from the truth.
Having been both a woman in my 20s without kids and a mother in my 40s I can see things from my younger bosses’ point of view. They are at the peak of their career potential, trying to prove themselves worthy of promotion and progression all while managing a working mother who is perhaps a little slower to grasp concepts than she used to be and always seems to be dealing with a sick child. To that type of boss I must have seemed like an obstacle in the path of her progression.
As a mother in my 40s I can see the immense value that working mothers can bring to an organisation. Never will you get a more focussed, dedicated worker than a mother who knows she has limited time to get her work done before she has to pick her child up. There is no time for chats in the coffee room, long lunches or socialising. When I was in my 20s that was not something I would have understood.
While I could wish that the empathy of “walking a mile in somebody’s shoes” was always a two way street the only aspect we can ever control is our own ability to see things through another’s eyes.
Understand your worth
“Make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth even if they don’t”
When I returned to work after my baby I felt very vulnerable. My brain didn’t work the same way it used to and suddenly tasks that would have been second nature felt a bit harder. My confidence in my abilities and my worth took a huge hit. At the same time I was confronted with these incredibly intelligent women in their 20s who made me feel – to put it bluntly – stupid.
As my self worth took a dive I forgot I had 20 years of amazing experience to offer. I completely discounted everything about myself that made me a valuable person and colleague. I compared my ability to quickly problem solve with my boss and came up short. How I felt about myself and my ability to do my job was being determined by comparison with one small aspect of what was required of me. Never mind that my great strengths lie in my ability to teach, train, mentor and communicate – all areas I am better than my younger counterparts. Ultimately I would have had an easier time of things if I had a clearer picture of my worth and the value I have to offer. If there is one thing I wish for all career women in their 40s it is that they stop comparing themselves to their millennial counterparts and instead get clear on the value they have to offer.
Understand your own priorities
“As you age you’ll learn to value your time, genuine relationships, meaningful work, and peace of mind much more. Little else will matter”
When I returned to work my priorities had shifted in a significant way. While my work was still important, my baby was even more so. Relationships with my friends, family and of course my child were number one priority to me. Without realising it, my focus had shifted from the need for external recognition in the form of promotions and high performance ratings to a deeper need to be doing something of value. From discussions I’ve had with friends I think this is a common experience for not just mothers but a lot of women in their 40s.
This change in priorities didn’t align with what was required to be promoted or progressed within my organisation. While I have all the people skills required to make an amazing manager and leader I was not prepared to sacrifice time with my son or my family for the sake of progression. My time is the most valuable thing I have to offer. If I had truly reflected on this I would have made peace with having a much younger boss. Just as I made the decision to prioritise my family they made the decision to prioritise their career and they were rewarded for that decision just as I am rewarded for mine.
Use your experience in a positive way
“The only source of knowledge is experience” Albert Einstein
One of the obvious advantages I had over my 20 something bosses was experience. I have worked in Australia and overseas in several different industries with many different people. Being an empathic person I spent a large amount of time worried about making my younger boss feel uncomfortable with my experience. I deferred to her where I could, hid my experience where possible and tried to make her feel comfortable. This approach didn’t help my self worth and if I’m honest probably made things more difficult for her. With the unshakeable confidence of youth I don’t believe she was intimidated by my experience but my approach did make me come across as lacking conviction in my abilities.
I had the perfect opportunity to use my strengths and experience to create a strong, happy working environment but I didn’t. I truly believe it is possible to use experience in a positive way while also remaining respectful of your boss.
For women in their 40s, reporting to a younger boss is a challenge they are increasingly likely to face. If we can learn to value our experience, understand our worth, clarify our priorities and understand our bosses point of view it can ultimately be a positive experience.
“If you can dream it you can do it. Just remember this whole thing was started by a mouse” Walt Disney
From a very young girl I have always had a love for Disney. One of my favourite photos from my childhood is me with Mickey Mouse at age three.
The first movie I saw at the pictures (which was what we called the movies back then) was a re-release of Sleeping Beauty. Back then going to the pictures was a huge event. We got dressed up and went into the “city” to watch the movie. Remember when there used to be an intermission and a beautiful red curtain drawn over the screen? I can still picture the theatre and feel the pure joy of watching this beautiful movie.
The Disney revival that began with the Little Mermaid arrived at a fairly chaotic time in my internal life. I was 14 years old, feeling all the feelings that a confused, angry and often times sad teenager can feel. Ariel was not much older than me. Which actually in hindsight is pretty scary considering she gets married at the end of the movie but it’s Disney so let’s gloss over that. Something about her struggles – feeling like she didn’t fit in and longing for something more – really resonated with my teenage self.
The next few years saw some wonderful Disney classics with similarly inspiring female characters. Princess Jasmine in Aladdin and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. All of these movies end in happily ever after and the princess being “saved” by a man. It is not this message that my teenage self connected with but how passionately these princesses pursued their dreams and made bold choices to progress their own lives. They had big dreams (none of which initially involved a man) and they had the courage to go after those dreams. My teenage self also had big dreams and these characters gave me hope my dreams could come true.
Revisiting My Childhood
As I reached adulthood my love for Disney never changed but different ways to experience it opened up to me. I followed the path of many Australians and moved to London for several years. Suddenly Disneyland Paris was easily accessible and the US wasn’t that far away which meant Disneyland. There is nothing quite like the experience of visiting a Disney park for me. It recaptures the feelings of being a child again. Free of responsibilities and full of the joy of life with endless dreams and possibilities.
I remember lining up for ages to get a picture of myself with Winnie the Pooh. Pretty funny for a 25 year old woman but at Disney anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how old you are if you want a picture with Winnie the Pooh that is ok. If you want to ride a children’s ride about a boy who never grows up at age 30 then that is ok as well.
Disney as a Mum
Disney has an even closer hold on my heart now I am a Mum. Getting to witness the joy on my three year olds face as he met Mickey, Minnie and all his other Disney heroes is so precious. Being only three years old I was able to take my son to a princess lunch and he loved every minute of it (not sure how he’ll feel about it when he’s 21 though!). Cinderella gave him a sparkly kiss on his autograph book and he still talks about how he was her little Prince. Disney as a child is pure joy. You believe you are meeting the real Mickey Mouse and not just somebody dressed up in a costume. When we met Thumper and Miss Bunny he had so much fun playing with their tails (I’m sure the characters didn’t have quite so much fun). It was a moment in time (captured in a photo of course) where we were just together having fun.
Planning a Disney Holiday
My family are planning a holiday to Disneyworld at the end of 2018. Planning a trip to Disneyworld is like a military operation. There is so much research, so many blogs to read, so many podcasts to listen to and so much pre-planning. Did you know if you want to eat at some of the popular restaurants in WDW you have to book a table 180 days in advance? If you want to ride the popular rides you can book a Fastpass 60 days in advance? You can even prepare hour by hour (or minute by minute if you want) touring plans. What that means is 180 days out from our Disneyworld trip I have to decide what I might feel like eating or doing on a Tuesday in November and more importantly what my family might feel like doing. That might sound crazy and you know what I love it! I’ve spent hours pouring over my plans, listening to podcasts, reading restaurant menus, deciding what characters to meet and throwing myself into the world that is Disney.
Lessons Learnt from Disney
As you can see I have a life long love (or could we call it obsession) with Disney. 2017 was a difficult year for me personally with the death of my friend and the unhappiness with my career. Immersing myself in planning a WDW holiday allowed me to escape into a world of dreams and fantasy. I learnt a few things that I feel to share.
Dreams can come true
If you’ve read my story you will know I’ve recently made an enormous change in my life. I left a career that no longer fulfilled me to chase a dream. While I am still in a transition phase I already feel I am living that dream. There is so much joy, calm, excitement and fear in going after what you dream for your life.
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you”
As Walt Disney said “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them”. It required courage to leave a secure, well paid job to pursue my dream of helping women create the life they envision. I’ve been open about the fear but also the joy and happiness that has come from being brave. I truly believe all my dreams will come true (they already are).
Find Your Joy
I am a qualified accountant so it isn’t surprising that I’m very organised and love planning. There has been a temptation as I move towards a new life to dismiss those aspects of myself that remind me of the “accountant in me”. You know what planning this holiday has reminded me. I find enormous joy and pleasure in planning, organising and yes even spreadsheets. Disney has reminded me to follow my joy whatever that may be.
Embrace your inner child
“That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up” Walt Disney
Disney has taught me to embrace the child within me. The child who can be silly, joyful and full of emotion. I’m not embarrassed to admit I cried when I watched a You Tube video of the Happily Ever After Fireworks. The music, the projections, the fireworks all remind me of my childhood, my hopes and my dreams. There is something very powerful in the way Disney is able to tug on our heartstrings and remind us of the child within.
Slow Down and Let Go
Ok full disclosure this is a lesson I hope to apply when we are actually on our WDW holiday. Having spent the best part of 12 months planning to what is a ridiculous level of detail I know I will need to let go and just flow with the moment when we are there. I have no control over weather, illness, grumpy children, rides breaking down, other guests or any of the myriad of things that could disrupt my plans. If I spend the entire time racing us from here to there without looking up to enjoy the moment it will be an opportunity lost. I want to enjoy spending time with my family in the most magical place on earth.
Fully embracing and owning my inner Disney geek is a beautiful sign to me that I am truly beginning to accept myself for exactly who I am and what I love. May there be many more years filled with the joy of Disney.
“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you go on anyway” Karen Salmonsohn
I have just got back from an incredible few days in Auckland where I attended the Beautiful You inspiration day. It was affirming to meet so many like minded people all with hopes and dreams of making the world a more loving place. We had some incredible speakers at the event. One in particular inspired me to write this post.
Her name is Emma Mildon author of “The Soul Searchers Handbook”. She told us her story of 300 rejections from publishing houses before she finally understood she needed to try something different. While she spoke I was reminded of the quote “if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” While I really loved that part of her message it was her persistence in the face of so many rejections that spoke to my heart. Her message was simple. She persisted through those rejections because she just knew in her heart this book was meant to be published.
Strength of inner knowing
Her message led me to reflect on an enormously important period of my life where I did exactly the same thing. I have often asked myself why I kept going through the years of IVF, miscarriages and loss. Listening to Emma speak I had a realisation that it was because I knew deep down in my heart that I was meant to be a mother. That inner knowing gave me the strength to keep going in the face of enormous challenges.
The start of a long and (sometimes) lonely road to motherhood
I want to start at the beginning of this part of my story. I found myself in my early 30s, single and facing the prospect of giving up on my dream of becoming a mother. The decision to become a single parent by choice deserves it’s own post so I’ll skip over that for now and move straight to the part where I made my dream come true.
At the time there were two clinics in my home city with donor sperm available to single women. The first clinic I approached had a 12 month waitlist which felt ok because it gave me time to make sure this was what I wanted. Looking back I can see that was just the beginning of the challenges life was going to throw my direction. I truly believe these challenges were sent to test my resolve and make sure I was really committed to my dream of motherhood.
During that 12 months the barrage of invasive testing began. I have PCOS (likely impacting egg quality), I have a blocked fallopian tube (impacting my ability to conceive without IVF) and one thing I was already well aware of, I was overweight which impacted my ability to even access treatment. A lot of clinics are not comfortable treating overweight women and this clinic was no different. Any person who has ever suffered from PCOS understands how difficult losing weight can be. It’s a never ending battle against your own body. The clinic set me a target weight to achieve by the time I reached the top of the waitlist.
While I was waiting I heard of another doctor sympathetic to both overweight and older women. I approached his clinic, had additional mandatory counselling and placed myself on their waitlist. This clinic ended up being the clinic through which I had my son but the challenges were far from over. Life still needed to make sure I was really certain.
The road to motherhood starts getting rocky
The choice of donor sperm is also for another post but needless to say I reached the top of the waitlist and was ready to go. My initial protocol was to attempt the less invasive intra uterine insemination (IUI). This approach requires near daily blood tests to track hormone levels and then at the appropriate time an insemination procedure is performed. My memory is a bit hazy about how many times I attempted this but I think this went on unsuccessfully for about 6 months so approximately 6 failed attempts. At this point it was decided that I should move to IVF.
IVF is a whole other ball game. I spent the best part of three years full of synthetic hormones. I felt I handled the whole thing amazingly and wasn’t impacted at all by the hormones but I think my friends would say otherwise. Being emotional, sensitive and angry became the new normal for me. Scheduling my life around regular blood tests, injecting myself with hormones, invasive ultrasounds and surgical procedures became just part of life. My very first round of IVF only two eggs were collected and neither fertilised. I’m not sure I would have been able to continue if I’d known I had another 12 IVF cycles to go.
During this time I had a couple of “chemical” pregnancies which are effectively early miscarriages. Your blood test shows the pregnancy hormone is positive but it goes away by the next blood test. So I kept going month after month changing the protocol each time in the hopes this might be the one. I became my own advocate researching everything I could about IVF, PCOS and fertility. I tried Chinese herbs, acupuncture and meditation. I joined support groups and read everything I could get my hands on. Fortunately, my IVF doctor was open to trying different things within the boundaries of basic IVF protocols.
As I was stepping into my own strength the support from those around me dwindled. It became too hard in the face of what seemed an unattainable dream. I was advised to give up and counselled to look to the reality of my situation. How to explain that I knew I would be a mother somehow so I had to keep going.
Finally after 18 months success. I was pregnant! I saw her little heartbeat twice and all was going well. I excitedly went to my 12 week ultrasound looking forward to seeing my baby. When the probe was placed on my tummy it was immediately obvious something was wrong. I heard her words “I’m so sorry I can’t find a heartbeat” like I was hearing it through a fog. The pain of miscarriage was like nothing I have ever experienced. The only positive to come from it was that I knew I could get pregnant.
The quest to become a mother begins
So began what I can best describe as a quest to have a baby. There was never one moment I considered giving up but I did have to draw very deep within myself to keep going. My research continued and I came across an American doctor who had written a book called “Is your body baby friendly?”. His book talked about how sometimes the body will view an embryo as a foreign object. It was like he was describing my experience. Chemical pregnancies, miscarriages, multiple failed IVFs and the part that pulled it all together for me a diagnosed autoimmune disease. I have Crohn’s disease which means my body is pretty much designed to attack itself. For the first 10 weeks of my failed pregnancy I had been on steroids to calm my immune system. When I stopped the steroids my baby died. I just knew this was what was happening for me but how to get somebody to listen. This information wasn’t widely accepted in the medical community.
My research continued until I finally found an Australian doctor who had studied under the author of the book. The catch was he was in Sydney which is the opposite side of the country. Not deterred I contacted him and flew to Sydney after an extensive phone consultation. The procedure in Sydney confirmed my suspicions. My body was attacking every embryo. The only reason my failed pregnancy had got as far as it did was because of the steroids. From that point on things ramped up. I started daily injections of blood thinners, taking enormous amounts of folate and the hardest part, I started a regular process of flying to Sydney for infusions in hospital to suppress my immune system.
Finally success I became a mother
I had one more unsuccessful IVF cycle on this new protocol and then success! I hardly dared to believe it was possible but over the next 9 months (with multiple trips to Sydney) I stayed pregnant. My baby wasn’t completely out of the woods though. I had to stop my blood thinners two weeks prior to my scheduled caesarian. In that short time my body went back to it’s old tricks. I won’t go into the specifics of his birth but I certainly consider myself the most fortunate woman in the world to have my healthy little boy.
My son is the most precious thing in my life and has brought me more joy than I even dreamed could be possible. Five years later I still pinch myself that I have the privilege of having this gorgeous little man call me Mum.
Inner knowing and challenges
So that’s the story of my path to motherhood. Life threw everything at me to make sure I really wanted to be a mother. Even writing about that time I can’t quite believe that was me. I just kept going and going certain in the belief I was meant to be a mother. While I was unaware of it at the time there was an inner knowing deep, deep inside of me that just knew I was going to be a mother.
The journey to motherhood was the making of me as a person. I discovered I am a strong, resilient woman capable of great sorrow and enormous love. The inner knowing drove me to keep going and take things one step at a time. I didn’t look too far into the future, I focused on where I was and here I am five years later mother to my amazing little boy. I know that whatever life throws at me I have the strength to handle it because I’ve done it before.
“Good things come to those who wait… great things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen”
How life coaching found me
A little over six months ago I came home from a horrible, soul crushing day at work. My dear friend had died a little over two weeks before and I was feeling there must be so much more to life than the way I was currently living. All I could think of at the time was that there must be a way for me to get out of this job and do something different but I didn’t know where to start.
I have a (not so secret) obsession with all things Disney and was planning a trip to Disneyworld for my family in 2018. Through this obsession I had discovered the magic of the podcast. When I was feeling overwhelmed I found comfort in listening to these podcasts to transport me to a different place.
On that day in October 2017 I suddenly realised if there were podcasts on Disneyworld there must also be podcasts on mindset, life and all things spiritual. I can’t even remember what I put into the search criteria but I was absolutely guided in that moment because what came up was a podcast called Awaken Radio. The podcast I listened to on that day was “How to manifest your desires by following your intuition”. The beautiful, calm voice of the podcast host was Connie Chapman. I felt an instant click of connection and as soon as the podcast finished I googled Connie Chapman and found out she is a life coach.
If I’m really honest I hadn’t even heard of life coaching at that stage but when I read her website I realised this seemed like the answer to all I’d been searching for. I had been guided to her for a reason and I felt very strongly that my life was about to change. I contacted Connie immediately and arranged a chat with her. In just that first session I felt like I’d come home to myself. The excitement was overwhelming. I just knew that this was it. So I signed up for one of Connie’s coaching series and the transformational work began.
My Experience of Life Coaching
If you were like me and have never heard of life coaching let me tell you a little bit about my experience of life coaching. Life coaching is like having your very own personal cheerleader. Somebody who believes in you so strongly and knows that you are capable of doing anything you deeply desire. A life coach doesn’t do the work for you though. Connie helped me find the clarity I so desperately wanted, she helped me see my fear for what it was, she gently guided me to understand my deepest desires and go after them. It was my responsibility to show up whole heartedly to every session with the intention to do the work and dig deeply within myself to transform my life and transform my life I did. I had my last session of the series with Connie last week which is why I feel to write this blog now. When we looked back over how my life both internally and externally has transformed in just six short months I was so grateful to Connie and proud of myself.
My Life Before Coaching
At the time I was guided to Connie there was so much that was unclear to me. The death of my friend to breast cancer began the journey towards self transformation. The lessons had begun. I realised that life is too short to be held back by fear. I started saying to myself and others “how would I feel if I was told I had a terminal illness, would I be content with where my life is now”. The answer kept coming back a resounding no but I didn’t know what to do with that. I was desperately unhappy in my job but started to have a glimmer of hope that I could do something to change that.
Beginning the coaching journey
Before our first session Connie asked me to answer some questions for her to help both of us understand what had brought me to coaching. My answers then are like a window into my soul six months ago. I feel I want to share one of them now even though it is very personal to me. The question Connie asked was What has brought you to coaching? and my response was:
“The recent death of a friend far too young and many conversations with her before she died have made me realise I want to be living my life differently. I’ve always been interested in living from the heart and trying to be my best self but now seem to be able to start on this path without it being just another thing I have to do. I find myself working for a company with values completely opposite to my own and doing a job that does not fill me up or make me feel good. I’ve been drawn to helping people and teaching my whole life but haven’t really understood what that could look like for me. My friend told me when I leave my job my whole world will open up in front of me. When I saw your website I just felt excited like this is the beginning. I can feel my beautiful friend cheering me on and for the first time in my life I am trusting the excitement I’m feeling and I just know this is my time to do something amazing”
When I read my words I can feel the excitement and the lack of clarity all at the same time. At that stage I was still very much stuck in fear about leaving my job and had no idea that life coaching could be in my future.
The Life Coaching Series
Very early on in my coaching with Connie she guided me to the realisation that life coaching was where my heart was drawing me to go. So with her support I started making small steps towards achieving my desire. She sent me the link to the Beautiful You Coaching Course. The moment I opened the website my heart said a huge yes and I knew I’d found it. I immediately signed up to enrol in the May 2018 course. My practical head based thinking told me May was better for me than February. February was too soon, I wouldn’t be ready in February and if I picked May then I had an extra few months where I wouldn’t really have to be in action. So lesson number one – “listen to my heart instead of my head”. One day I felt a huge pull to change to the February course. I went on the website and the February intake was now full. I had missed my chance. I decided then and there that if my heart was telling me February was my time then I needed to listen. So I put my name on the waitlist. Less than a week later a place came up which I immediately took. I haven’t regretted starting in February for one moment. I resigned from my job in February and was able to throw myself heart first into studying.
The wonderful thing about Connie’s support was that she is practical at the same time as she supports you to go after your desires. So she encouraged me to be practical about my employment situation. She was incredibly supportive of leaving the toxic environment I was working in but I needed to make sure I could support myself and my son. So I started a bookkeeping qualification at the beginning of our coaching together. I am a qualified accountant but bookkeeping feels more supportive for me in the other things I want for my life like flexibility and time to spend with my son. I also began looking seriously at my money and slowly came to realise that I would be ok if I left my job.
The action I took towards life coaching felt right and inspired. Anytime I took action from a place of panic or fear things didn’t seem to work out. After one particularly difficult day at work I lost sight of my desires and decided I needed to just find another job. I came home and started desperately searching through Seek for any jobs that might be suitable. The panic was palpable and of course there didn’t seem to be one single job that I would be suitable for so that made me panic even further. When I came down from my spiral I realised there was a lesson in that moment. Perhaps this felt so difficult because it wasn’t aligned with my desires.
Through all this action the fear was intense. Almost every session I would tell Connie that I knew I needed to leave the job before I could really move my life forward but I just couldn’t bring myself to overcome the fear that would arise in me. Little by little Connie helped me change my mindset and see that through the inspired action I was taking I could do it and I would be ok. The huge break through for me was when I realised that the biggest fear holding me back was the fear that I would fail. I would show the world who I truly am and that wouldn’t be enough, I wouldn’t be enough. So I would show up as who I truly am, really deep down and I would fail. That lesson was the click I needed. It would still be a couple of months for me to finally feel ready to leave my job but by the time I finally said those words “I would like to hand in my resignation” I was so ready and knew it was right. Those words felt like a celebration to me. I felt exhilarated and excited and so proud of how far I’d come. There is no way I can fail if I show up as who I truly am. The outcome may look different to what I see in my mind’s eye now but the journey itself is success.
A Life Transformed
So here I am six months later truly living a life transformed. While there have been amazing changes in my external world; I have quit my job and living my dream studying towards having my own heart centred business and I have met some wonderful like minded soul-sisters it is in my internal world that my life has truly transformed.
So how has my internal world changed in the past six months:
I now know I am capable of overcoming enormous fear to live the life I desire. While I still don’t really know where this adventure will lead me I know I’ll be ok because I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Everything will be ok;
If I listen to my heart instead of my head I will be guided to where I need to be. In the past six months whenever I’ve tried to rationalise or think myself through the situation I feel stuck and everything feels difficult. When I surrender and really listen to my heart the action feels inspired and flows;
It is important to take action but the right kind and sometimes no action is the best action you can take. Action that is aligned to your desires and dreams and feels right is guided action for me;
I have let go of the outcome and am trying to live every day in that moment. Enjoy the journey not just the destination. When I get really committed to achieving a certain outcome I find it harder to be in the flow of the moment. I have an amazing vision of my life coaching business and what that will look like but if it doesn’t end up like that then it will be something just as wonderful;
I have started to see every challenge as an opportunity. If a challenging situation is presented to me then there is either a lesson for me to learn or the roadblock has been placed there to gently guide me back to the path I am meant to travel. On an almost daily basis I panic about money and how I am going to build a business that can support me. I am learning to bring myself quickly out of my head and into my heart to remind myself that all will be ok.
I will be forever grateful to Connie for her guidance and the transformation she has helped me make for myself. It makes me even more excited for what is to come. Guiding somebody else to make a transformation in their life is exactly what my heart is telling me is right.
“People always come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.”
In learning to become a Beautiful You life coach I have been gifted a wonderful coaching buddy to practice with and on. This involves us going through a full coaching series as both a coach and a client. We have each set one powerful goal to work through together. One of my key feeling words for 2018 is to feel supported so it felt natural to set a goal that will help me experience that feeling. For the next three months I will be working to achieve my first Beautiful You goal which is
“Find my tribe and form meaningful connections“.
Why is finding my tribe important to me?
Given the transition my life is in I had many options to choose from when deciding on a life coaching goal. Finding my tribe and forming meaningful connections clicked with me immediately.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post “Overcoming Self-Doubt” it is really important that I surround myself with the right people. When I question my abilities or choices it helps to have a group of people I feel connected to who will cheer me on or challenge me depending on what I need in that moment.
As my family would say, I am an “over thinker from way back”. I’ve always felt there was something a bit odd about my desire to understand myself, my place in this world and the meaning of my life. Over the years I have (often secretly) dabbled in aspects of an alternate life using crystals and acupuncture in an effort to have a baby, Feng Shui and smudging to clear bad energy in my house and reading countless books on different approaches to life in my never-ending search to find something that resonates. Only two months into this new phase of my life I already feel less “odd” and more connected to my authentic core. I realise there are so many amazing, interesting people in the world who are in no way odd but have similar views and interests to me. They are my tribe, they are out there and they are searching for me too.
Leaving my job has opened up space for my new tribe. For the past 14 years I have worked for a company with a few thousand employees. Since I started working full time 23 years ago, I have never worked for a company with less than 1,000 employees and have been surrounded by people all day. Now I find myself working from home with just me, myself and I. What an exciting opportunity.
Understanding my starting point
The first step in understanding where I want to be is to acknowledge where I am starting from. So I have spent time reflecting on where I am and the connections I already have in my life. I found this exercise very affirming as I realise I already have so much. I have truly supportive friends who don’t in any way think I’m “odd” (or if they do then they never make me feel it). I have also made some wonderful new connections that are already enriching my life in so many ways.
Being an “over-thinker from way back” I of course, started to think about myself as a friend and some of the lessons I have learnt over the past few years. This feels like an important part of understanding my starting point.
I had a particularly challenging period of my life when I was trying to have a baby. As with all challenging experiences there are also great learnings if you choose to see them. Relationships were one of the areas of my life impacted during this period. On reflection I learnt some very important lessons over that time.
Everybody has their own challenges to face
There were many times during that period I felt a lack of support. My reaction at the time was to withdraw from these friendships sometimes completely. With hindsight (isn’t it a wonderful thing) I realise I didn’t take the time to consider if there was a reason for the lack of support. Perhaps my expectations were too high, perhaps that person had their own challenges and didn’t have the energy to deal with my problems or perhaps I hadn’t been clear about the support that would have helped me. For a person who prides myself on my empathy it was often lacking at that time.
High expectations of friendships can be unfair
If we are being true to ourselves there needs to be some level of expectation within friendships. However, if that level of expectation is too high we are being unfair to our friends and putting the friendship at risk. This happened to me during my “trying to have a baby phase”. After years of procedures, IVF, miscarriages and set backs I was pretty over the situation myself but still expected my friends to be endlessly understanding and supportive.
Every friendship is not made equal
I have a tendency to try and make every new friend a “soul-sister”. Somebody to meet every one of my needs all the time. I now recognise that a healthy friendship group is made up of lots of different types of friendships. There is the friend you go out and have fun with, the friend you can cry with, the friend you talk crap with, the friend you get all deep and meaningful with, the friend you can travel with and so on. Sometimes you will get several of these wrapped into one friendship (and I’m fortunate I do) but it is unfair to expect every person to be every one of those things for you.
Friends for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime
“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realise is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant”
I get quite emotional when I read this poem. It so perfectly sums up the biggest secret I know about relationships. When I let go of trying to make every person a lifetime friend I am free to appreciate them for what they bring to my life for the time they are meant to be in it.
Where to from here?
Now I have a greater understanding of where I am starting from the next step will be to get clear on my vision for my tribe and what does a meaningful connection mean to me.
“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go just remember how far you have come. Remember every thing you have faced, all the battles you have won and all the fears you have overcome.” Unknown
Self doubt is something that has been rising within me since I entered this transition phase of my new life. Studying life coaching with the Beautiful You Academy has shifted me outside my comfort zone and into an exciting but slightly terrifying and completely unfamiliar world.
I am being challenged to think in previously unexplored ways, develop new skills and push myself to do things I never thought I could. Sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it? But along with all this awesomeness has come so many questions and doubts. Why would I think I can do this? Who are you fooling Shauna, you’ll never be as good a life coach as x, y z! How can you support yourself and your son doing this? Phew that’s some pretty heavy self doubt which if I’m honest has the potential to keep me up at night.
Self Doubt can be a good thing
Self doubt can be a good thing? I know that sounds a little crazy but stick with me. For me self doubt has made me question and challenge my thinking. Why can’t I be a successful life coach? Others have succeeded what makes me think I can’t succeed too? What does success even mean to me anyway? Is it just about making money or does it go deeper than that? Yep self doubt has got me asking myself all these pretty full on questions. Which is super challenging but exactly what I need for myself at the moment.
Self doubt has encouraged me to find ways to cope with my inner fears. I don’t want to be crippled by my doubts so I’ve been trying to find things that work to move me forward despite the fear. Some days I manage this better than others. Some days the fear and self doubt are stronger than my desire to achieve my dreams. On those days I need some strategies to help me.
My personal strategies to overcome self doubt
When that self doubt becomes overwhelming I have found a few different approaches help me stay on track.
Surrounding myself with the right people
Sometimes I wonder where my harsh inner voice comes from. Then one day recently it was reflected back at me. One of my family members on finding out I was training to become a life coach said “how can you be a life coach Shauna. You can’t even get your own life together”. Sound familiar? Kind of what I say to myself isn’t it?
Now I love this person but I have come to realise that talking about my dream of becoming a life coach to him will not help me with my self doubts but rather exacerbate them. So I have made a conscious choice not to talk about it with him but instead to talk to people who support me and believe that I can do this.
I want to give a particular shout out to my inspiring coaching buddy. On more than one occasion she has given me a pep talk and lifted me out of my self doubt when I’ve had a wobbly moment. What a gift from somebody I’ve only just met who already believes in me when I don’t believe in myself.
Not getting stuck in the comparison trap (well trying really hard not to)
Since starting this journey towards life coaching I’ve found myself becoming a bit of a “fan girl”. Not of movie stars or famous singers but of some really amazing life coaches. The type of people I aspire to be . I think if I were to meet any of them face to face I would probably turn into a giggly school girl that is how much I admire them. While it is wonderful to have role models it can also trigger my self doubt. When I look at them I can’t imagine I could ever achieve the success they have. So here is what I try and remind myself in those moments of self-doubt “Don’t compare your beginning to another person’s middle”. They too had to start somewhere.
Practice your new found skills
One of the amazing gifts of our life coaching study is the opportunity to practice live coaching with our fellow trainees listening in. On a recent call, one incredible life coach in training blew us all away with her practice session. She was so good I assumed she had some experience at life coaching. It turns out she is as inexperienced as I am. The second I heard that the self doubt hit me hard. I’m not as good as her, I can never be as good as her and then straight into why do you think you can do this Shauna? Wow that inner critic of mine is pretty strong isn’t she? I contacted the other trainee to congratulate her on her awesomeness and ask her how she did it. Well it turns out she practiced – a lot. Now don’t get me wrong she is clearly a very special woman with natural skills and talents that will make her an amazing life coach but it was a real a-ha moment for me. This is a new skill I’m learning and the best thing I can do to help myself is practice, practice, practice. So apologies to all my friends and family. You are about to get lots of requests from me to practice my new skills.
Have a plan and just do it
In those moment’s where self doubt arises I find having a plan helps. If I know what the next small step is and the next small step after that it means I don’t need to have it all figured out. When doubt overwhelms me I can just look to my plan and keep going with the next step. At the moment I am learning how to be a life coach. So there are lectures to listen to, workbooks to read, questions to answer and coaching skill to practice. For now that is enough.
Look to the past
There have been many examples in my past where doubt almost stopped me but I kept going and achieved my dreams. The one closest to my heart was the birth of my son. This may be the subject of a future post but the road to having my son was full of setbacks, challenges, loss and many years of heartache. There were so many times I doubted whether I was meant to be a mother but through it all I kept going. Today Mr5 is the greatest joy of my life and living proof for me that things have worked out when I push through my doubts.
Keep a journal and celebrate the small steps
Finally, keeping a journal has really helped me get clear on my self doubt and what my inner critic is telling me. Putting the words down on paper takes away a little bit of their power and allows me to distance myself from them enough to just keep going.
My journal chronicles how far I’ve come and celebrating every small step and every win keeps my vision bright.
Those are just some of the small ways I am practicing self care as I navigate the challenges of learning new skills and overcoming self doubt.