I'd like to tell you a story about a courageous coaching client of mine (thankfully she's given me full permission to share all the deets). She's long been a favorite story of mine because of how much she dared to see and change about herself and her life. But she shared something recently that blew my heart wide open. Maybe because I'm a mom. And also because it points to the potential power of a coaching relationship -- the power of what can come if you show up with courage to break through your sh*t.
When I first started working with Quillin, she was in the thick of intensely hard work in an intensely emotional line of work and in a lot of conflict with the job and herself. She was extremely dedicated to the important mission of the work (in a nonprofit that provides services and advocates for victims of sexual and domestic violence), but also was recognizing how incredibly unhappy she was not just at work but at home (and everywhere else).
So we dug right in. We dug into her relationship to her job, we examined how she approached things - often being hyper-critical of herself (not doing enough, not passionate enough, not hardcore enough) and then working herself to the bone (both by the level of work she put in and by the negligent approach to her own self-care). What we also quickly uncovered was that although she came to me initially about her work and the resulting negative self care habits, her bigger and deeper concern was her relationship with her (at the time) 4-year old daughter. She just wasn't being the mom she wanted to be and she also didn't think she was capable of anything else. She fully believed that she wasn't cut out for parenthood and that she'd already failed her in a way that was irreversible.
We met for several sessions and took a break. We met again for a few more sessions and took another break. She dared to look closely at herself and her ways of approaching things, she sat down courageously to question herself time and time again, to bring to the light patterns and behaviors that she felt ashamed of. She showed up. Time and time again. For herself and for her daughter. No matter how hard or uncomfortable it was, no matter how much she doubted, she SHOWED UP. We developed "turtle steps" (Martha Beck's perfect term for incredibly small and slow steps that will inevitably lead you toward your best life) and she held herself to the fire (in a very kind and compassionate way) to take those steps. And this is what happened:
She learned to listen to her self (not the conditioned self she'd been so used to listening to) and to trust in what she knew to be true
She honed in on what it is she values in life and why
She found courage to stand up for herself
She quit her job
She trusted that it would all work out
She stopped drinking and started including daily self-care habits that were unique to her
She forced her Old Self to step out of the way of her True Self, time and time again
She filled up
She made time and prioritized showing up for her daughter in the best way she could
And just the other day, she posted this on Facebook:
Ellie, I thought you'd like this... it's been a full quarter since I left my old job. I asked [my daughter] if she thought things were different since I left. This was her response: "I think you're happier now. I think things are better here now. I think you love me more now. I think I love you more now. I know I love you more now." They know, don't they!
And that, my friends, is it. That's what courage can get you -- your heart's desire. Whatever your heart's desire is, the only thing standing in your way from getting it is a boatload of stories that you hold about yourself that keep you from being who you wish to be. It's not easy work to unload that boat, it's not necessarily "feel-good" work all the time. It requires hard work, courage, compassion and (seriously important) a willingness to have a sense of humor with and for yourself.
And the beauty of true inner work is that it ripples out in the most magical and amazing of ways. When we dare to dive in, we can change the world - one moment, one interaction, one person at a time.