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Five surprising lessons from my life coach
Did the best reinvention advice come from her sofa pillows?
Maybe I shouldn’t have hired the first life coach I found online.
“My job is to help you reclaim pieces of yourself that you can’t access right now,” Diane said during our free introductory phone call.
I paced between the cold and hot spots in our old farmhouse kitchen and raised one eyebrow at the dog. He raised both of his in return. The last thing I need is some woo-woo amateur psychologist. What I needed was a plan.
“Put down the box of lists.” Diane had a pithy answer to each of my objectives.
When I said I needed guidance on my life’s purpose, she replied. “Get in touch with your inner self.”
On feeling blocked about my future aspirations, she was concise. “Allow yourself the authority to decide.”
I pictured the cool brunette from her website photo, posed on a velvet sofa surrounded by quilted affirmations stitched on pillows she’d purchased from Wayfair.
Still, she’d struck a nerve. Sub-zero wind chills rattled the single-paned windows while the cherry red woodstove blazed to deep mahogany—the kettle on top whistled at a volume just below urgent.
Maybe I needed a stranger to tell me what I already knew.
Over four months, in the year before I quit my job, Diane and I talked on the phone every other week. I hoped she would be like a sports coach, calling the plays and preparing me to win. The reality was very different.
I Call Bullsh*t.
I didn’t have a box of lists. I had one list—a long list of obstacles, excuses, and items I had to complete before I could even think about embarking on a new career.
“How can I attend that networking event when my LinkedIn profile doesn’t reflect my future professional self?” I had to figure that out before I could do anything else.
“Bullshit.” While Diane paused for effect, chills rippled around the base of my skull, briefly standing each hair on end like they were doing the wave.
“That’s not what’s holding you back.”
Write your next chapter confidently.
Ice crystals collected in the corners of the wavy glass window in my office. “You could have called any number of consultants to help write a new LinkedIn bio, but how can you expect to write the next chapter of your story when you don’t know what it is?”
I scratched a question mark on one of the frosty panes with a fingernail.
Stop steamrolling your life.
On the job, time-bound and measurable objectives rule what gets done when—unless there’s a fire drill, and there’s always a fire drill.
“For God’s sake, stop steamrolling your life!” This time, I’d called Diane from a San Francisco hotel room. I tied the sash on the leopard-print robe I’d found in the closet next to a yoga mat with a sticker that read, “Welcome to Zen.”
We were midway through our coaching sessions. I’d written letters to myself from the future, talked to my inner seven-year-old child, and drawn sketches of my saboteur (the stick figure looked a lot like me in three-inch heels).
I wanted a goddamn plan. My coach told me to go to yoga.
It’s bubble time.
“What is it with yoga?”
“During Savasana, picture yourself inside a giant pink bubble,” Diane said. “Whatever you think you should be or need to do, is locked outside the bubble. What would it feel like just to be you?”
Savasana, also known as corpse pose, is the last ten minutes of yoga class when I typically make shopping lists and rehash stupid things I might have said or done at work.
“Let your mind float freely without thinking ahead,” Diane persisted.
Ha, that never happens. Until one day, not long after I’d jumped off the steamroller, I imagined a balloonist tossing weight out of the basket and felt myself getting lighter.
Give yourself a break.
“I still haven’t updated my LinkedIn bio,” I told Diane on our last phone call late in spring. Crocuses were feeling their way out of the mud and melting snow, and so was I.
I knew the reason I’d called a life coach was about more than a career change, but I didn’t know what to call it or where to begin.
“You’ve put all of your energy into shaping your job story. It will take time to find your natural form,” Diane assured me.
After thirty years in one career, all I could see was this big white space ahead of me. “I’m unsure if I’m excited or terrified,” I said.
“Give yourself a break,” Diane said with a sigh that implied her work was done. Or was she only reading from the couch cushions?
Prompts to reinspire your next chapter
Drop a few lines of writing in the comments. There is only one rule. Be kind to yourself as you write and to others as they trust us with their words.
Reflection: Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself floating in a pink bubble. Make a list of things, beliefs, and expectations you want to lock outside the bubble.
Inspiration: Imagine yourself floating freely in the bubble, without any external pressures or influence to determine your course. Where does the bubble take you? Write about what you see.
Work hard. Be Brave. Believe.