It is disorienting to realize that the thing you were working so hard for was actually just something to keep you busy until your “real” thing came into being. That’s what appears to have happened to me. This is all particularly amusing because as a life coach, it is among my most important duties to support others at times just like this. You know, the times when your dreams eat your plans for lunch.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher more than anything in the world and when there was no money for college, I packed up the teacher dream. (That’s the short version.) I also loved to write but, to be honest, I never even unpacked that dream. In my world, nobody had a job like that. You just didn’t get paid to write, especially not without formal training and an editor. I had neither of those things.
My dreams were packed up so tightly and for so long, that when I started my life coaching business three years ago, it didn’t even occur to me to to try to be a teacher or a writer.
Basically, I started writing as an afterthought. I did it to raise awareness (or increase visibility as the marketing experts call it) about the coaching services I offered. Eventually, I realized that public speaking would help too but it was always my plan for the main thing to be life coaching. It never really took off, not as powerfully as I thought it could. The simplest description of my reaction to the “not taking off” that I might offer you is that I nearly lost my mind from trying to get people to hire me as their life coach.
Don’t me wrong, I’ve worked with some remarkable people. And the more I did it, the better I got at it. I always had some clients, just not enough to qualify this as a financially sustainable business venture. I could feel that I was “close” to doing what I was supposed to be doing but something was off. I knew this because when things are on, people thrive. At least financially speaking, I was not thriving.
I’ve considered closing the business every few months during the last year and a half but while one part of me was ready to walk away (my logical, reasoning, number-crunching self), there was another part that demanded I stay (my feeling, intuitive, passionate self). It didn’t make sense on paper but people’s lives were changing dramatically as a result of our work together.
I just couldn’t make myself walk away. The comments and letters readers offered in response to my articles here moved me beyond words. The response to my Hail Mary Pass last September was stunning, and the healing that the Sick of Being Stuck (SOBS) program has since cultivated is immeasurable. I didn’t know how to walk away from that, even if I wasn’t making “enough” money. So, I stayed. I kept asking questions, listening for intuitive guidance, looking for open doors, and taking action when it seemed right.
I stayed because I was looking for the missing link.
There were a dozen or so signs that I missed before I finally figured it out last week. Probably the most embarrassing one is the first conversation I had with my marketing strategist about this business. She started our meeting by asking me to tell her what I do. I told her about the different ways I’d been trying to show up in the world professionally–life coaching, writing, and public speaking.
She explained that for marketing purposes, I would be well-served to pick a noun and two verbs–either a coach who writes and speaks, a speaker who coaches and writes, or a writer who coaches and speaks. She said something like, “With that in mind, what is the thing that you do… what is your main thing?”
I am a teacher.
I promise that actually happened. She put on the table the three exact things I’d just explained to her that I was doing with this business, and asked me to prioritize them, and I said, “I am a teacher.” She paused just long enough for me to see the writing on the wall (which I did not), and then said, “Well… I sort of thought you’d pick one of the three things we were just talking about.”
Continued: Personal evolution means releasing what no longer serves us to make space for what’s true.
I didn’t see the window of opportunity in that moment. I wish I had but I just didn’t, or perhaps couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. Through a series of very dirty, hands-on, real life experiences, I’ve discovered that this is exactly what personal evolution looks like. We grow, or awaken, through the journey itself… not before it begins!
There have been so many things that I got wrong before I got them right. (I’m using “right” and “wrong” in the “it works” or “it doesn’t work” way, not as moral judgments.) Not the least of which was my sexual orientation. It was a long, and at times painful, unfolding but when I figured it out, I moved into alignment with my truth. It didn’t happen overnight but I got there.
Personal evolution is about allowing ourselves to be molded–crafted into newer, more true versions of ourselves–by our everyday experiences. It may not always be pretty but it is always true, and I’m not sure there is another way to do it.
Oh wait, there is one other way. I almost forgot because it sucks so much to do it that way.
The other way is the one where we commit to something because it feels true to us at the time, allowing us to move forward in our experience to the point at which we find an even more true thing but our lives may begin to suck because we’re too afraid to let go of the first thing. It no longer serves us but we since we already chose that course of study or partner or hairstyle, we get stuck instead of moving on to the next thing on our journey.
Now, I’m not suggesting that releasing the old to make space for the new is easy. I wouldn’t dare… since I’m typing these exact words with the discomfort about a professional transition churning in my belly.
The short version for me is this: In January, most of of the money I made came from writing and teaching. And still at the beginning of last week, I was banging my head against the metaphorical wall trying to figure out how to bring in more coaching clients. Finally, it hit me that life coaching was my plan. Teaching and writing are my dreams.
I refuse to continue to be frustrated because I’m living my dream instead of my plan. The universe is guiding me to what I’m supposed to be doing more of by bringing me new readers and students every week. In fact, I have a small group of women who want me to start a Sick of Being Stuck Course for those without clutter to work on life purpose, passions, balance, relationship stuff, etc. Yes, that’s right. I have students for my regular classes plus one class I haven’t even created yet.
I am a teacher. I can not believe it took me this long to figure it out.
It would be easy to have abusive thoughts about how slowly I uncovered this one but why? What would that help? I’d rather just be grateful I know now and spend all of my energy moving into alignment with my new truth. That’s way more fun than kicking my own butt for just being me.
Finally, I can see that it is time to create space in my schedule, and also in my mind, for more writing and teaching. Today, I am beginning the process of releasing my identity as a life coach and transitioning into a more organic model for my one on one experiences with students who want more support than the classroom offers. (My students, by the way, are the ones who want more support than the articles offer. It’s charming how easily that flows now that I pulled out of the sand and figured all of this out, don’t you think?)
I’m letting go of the long-term weekly commitment of coaching contracts to make space for single sessions with wild ones when their need for guidance and support arises. I’m releasing frameworks and coaching models to make space for intuition and the magic that happens when I’m just doing the thing I do with another human being, the transformative power of healing by my student’s own hand. I want to release the paperwork and structure of the label that no longer serves me (life coach), so that I may simply be me.
No more hiding behind the mask of a label that isn’t true for me. No more baggage.
Continued: What do we do when our dreams mess with our plans?
What do we do when our dreams mess with our plans?
Here are a few truths that I’ve learned about how to transition out of plans and into dreams:
Be open – Don’t wait until you’ve driven your life, or your career, off the tracks to look for new possibilities. They never wait until we’re knocking on disaster’s door to appear but it’s easy to miss the invitations if we’re not open.
Know yourself – Self-discovery is necessary for self-acceptance, which along with integrity… makes freedom. Take time to explore what lives inside of you, to heal what pains you, to embrace what is wild about you. You can really only journey on your true path if you are awake to yourself.
Trust yourself - Intuition is the greatest compass for our journey through this life… if we use it. This means asking for guidance in all types of situations, pausing to listen for clarity, and actually doing what we hear to do. When we don’t ask, don’t pause, or don’t act on our intuition, it’s like asking a friend for help and then refusing the help. Eventually we create space between our thinking and knowing selves, and that is the space where chaos lives.
Act when you’re ready – Sometimes we can see where we need to go a bit before we can actually get there. It’s okay to allow these situations to unfold naturally, we don’t have to push it. There isn’t really room for hysteria in the natural flow of things. If you feel hysterical, take time to get calm and clear before taking action.
Cultivate support – Moving forward on your path may scare people who are used to your old way of being. Make sure you have people you can lean on who believe in your truth, those who want to see you move forward into your dream life. I particularly appreciate the support of those who’ve been through what I’m moving into at these tender times. That may include professional support, so don’t be alarmed by the invitation to invest in yourself. You are worth it.
Write – Journal. Always. It matters. Period.
Be as honest as you can bear to be - Living in alignment with our integrity will carry us through even the most difficult transitions. It keeps us real and on the path that’s true for us. If you’re invited to compromise your integrity to get ahead, to make yourself feel better, or to try to make someone else feel better, don’t do it. That always makes it worse.
This is the thing we all long for, you know? This opportunity to grow and change, to welcome a better life with each passing day. I’m sharing my story with the hope that you’ll see your truth in it. I can feel my entire professional experience swirling around within me right now and that can be disorienting, but a very wise woman recently told me that I don’t have to stay out in the middle where all of the chaos is. She said I can hang on to the wall any time I want for as long as I’d like. These truths are my wall. They ground me in the sea of extraordinary shifts that are happening all around me, and I’m guessing all around you too. That’s how this usually works out. I hope they serve you as well.