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written by Brianna Bemel
Forbes Coaches Council Members on What Led Them Into Coaching
Forbes Coaches Council members share their candid stories with you.
Coaches have a lot in common with each other, and surprisingly, many can recall the exact moment when they knew they had to make a life change. Below, you can read eloquent stories from three community members on just why they got into coaching. All stories are from individual members’ blogs.
1. Elizabeth Saunders
As you may or may not know, I am an “accidental” entrepreneur, meaning that I never actually intended to start a business. It just spontaneously emerged from the perfect storm of resigning from my job, getting none of the seven jobs that I interviewed for and having a large network of journalism contacts eager to take advantage of my writing, editing and photo styling skills. Before I knew it, my work was featured in about 50 publications around the country, including Real+Life Decorating, Do It Yourself and Home Depot Designs for Living.
My life was full of describing the glories of inset sinks in marble countertops, scouring the city for just the right flowers (do you know how hard it can be to find pink ginger stalks?) and making sure that readers knew about gooseneck and bridge faucets and could pick which one would be right for their perfect kitchen.
I guess you could say my life was dreamy, but it definitely wasn’t balanced. I enjoyed my work and was grateful to be keeping busy, but it started to bother me that anytime I wasn’t out at an event, I felt like I should be working. I would come home sometimes around 10 p.m. and think I should still answer work emails, and I rarely had a weekend where I was completely “off.”
It seems obvious now that no one should have to just settle for a life overwhelmed by work, but at the time, it was a bit hard to take that kind of stand because so many entrepreneurs tell you that feeling crazy busy is “just part of the game.” Despite the chorus of warnings and doubts ringing in my head, I finally came to terms with the fact that I would never feel successful if I didn’t have time to invest in what mattered to me outside of work — without guilt.
The moment when I decided to really make a change happen I was taking a walk on a temperate July evening. There were some Canadian geese squawking and some people lazily casting their fishing lines into the river that flowed beside the trail, but I didn’t really notice much of what was happening around me. I was in one of those mental states where you lose sight of what’s around you and don’t even quite remember that you’re walking, and your mind just wanders about, trying to make sense of what’s happening to you. Something in me clicked, and I decided: Enough is enough! I don’t care what other people say! I don’t feel like a success when I’m working all of the time, when I don’t have time for the people and activities I love, and when the work that used to give me so much joy kind of fills me with dread and a weighty sense of tiredness.
I started keeping track of my hours and stopping when I hit my self-imposed limit for the week. I hated it. It felt awful to stop working when I “could do more.” But I told myself to step away from the computer and purposefully scheduled activities after work that would force me to stop.
In time, taking evenings and weekends off went from being a HUGE struggle to being a natural part of my lifestyle. I learned to say “No,” to ask for more time when I needed it (instead of being too proud to let people know I wasn’t perfect), and to value the quality of my life as much as I valued the quality of my work.
The surprising thing I discovered is that people actually respected me more. Not only did I have better relationships with my friends and family and a whole lot less guilt, but also my business did better.
Soon other people started to get curious. How was it that I was continuing to build a successful business where I could support myself, have time and money to travel, and not be “crazy busy” all the time?
My approach to life and work mystified people — especially others with flexible schedules who thought that a total lack of balance was something that they had to settle for in life, or that being perpetually sleep-deprived was a natural rite of passage to success.
Around the same time, I realized that I wanted to make more of a positive impact in people’s lives in a way that went below the surface, that I didn’t want to just be the interior designer of people’s homes (though I still appreciate great design!), but to be the interior designer of their minds, hearts and lives — to help them make something beautiful and life-giving out of chaos.
2. Christine Meyer
I’ve had a strong innate desire of independence since the beginning of time, as in — nobody’s going-to-tell-me-what-to-do entrepreneurial spirit, according to my father. Living with an entrepreneurial father made it more palpable. I had jobs and would quit them when I was asked to do things that I thought were unreasonable. I’m not commitment phobic; I’m just more committed to my personal freedom.
I took psychology throughout high school and attended University in Canada. After a while, I didn’t see the point of it, so I quit. I sold real estate. Then I dove into the banking industry, the insurance industry, had my own interior decorating business on the side while being employed in other jobs, and I was also a personal trainer. I quit all of those.
Surprise, eh? Am I a quitter? Maybe. Or perhaps I simply value my freedom more. Maybe I value my internal compass more. Maybe I know that moving toward something can only keep life unfolding in better and better ways.
I owned a brick and mortar business with my ex-husband for several years. I got in and got out once things were running smoothly to explore other interests. So maybe I quit that too. I found things to do that I wanted to do more. In time, I exited that business, selling my half to my amazing husband and partner of 15 years to continue on an inside journey. I quit him to follow myself.
I entered a coaching program for my own personal benefit and also because I wanted to become a coach. I felt such a calling toward it. I made it through the program. Two weeks before graduation, I quit. Oh yes I did. I’d had a three-week backpacking trip through France planned, and going would mean I could not complete some of the course requirements. Given an ultimatum of sorts, I chose freedom. I decided and realized that a diploma, certificate or evidence of completion was not that important to me. I knew what I’d completed, and I didn’t need a piece of paper to prove it. I knew I was a good coach and I was already moving toward a different approach to coaching than what I’d been taught. My approach was freer (who’d have thought?), less structured and more inspired to me.
I live a life guided by what feels right for me, and if I don’t honor that guidance within, I can’t be a coach that guides you toward your knowing. I’ve been coaching now for 15 years through referrals only. I have as many clients as I choose and am blessed to find people that really want to do the work.
The reason I’m sharing most of this comes down to one point: I’ve finally found something in my life that isn’t a choice. I can’t not do this. Coaching is me and I am coaching. It breathes through me and I give it life. I cannot separate the two; they’re so intertwined. It’s easy and natural to me. I was born for this.
When I watched two towers crumble one September morning, I felt the calling of a leader within. I was only 15 years old, but watching the live images of September 11, 2001 unfold from my Rhode Island high school’s student library changed me. I felt a call within my heart that had been quietly brewing since I was a child: To lead someone. To help, somehow.
I wanted to dedicate my life to loving kindness and service in a world that appeared to so desperately need it. I began to explore my career path in the world of politics and public service from 2003 to 2009, working in five state and federal offices and eventually finding my way to Washington D.C. and The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) as a policy intern. I even interviewed for a job in the West Wing of the White House.
Months later and in the throes of a promising young career, I suddenly felt like I was crumbling on the inside. My soul was empty. My passion was extinguished. Everyday life felt completely meaningless. No one could help me. I shut out family and friend. My health suffered. Just one year out of the gates of college, I was depressed and suffering from a deep crisis of identity. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t living my purpose or my truth. Worse, I felt like a pawn in someone else’s game: the game of politics, the game of “earning your place,” the game of “you’re not enough to be able to help people.” I knew I was capable of more.
I looked around the political world and saw a graveyard of good men and women who once wished like I did: to do good, to lead by example, to serve the world. Somewhere along the line, many began to believe that they had to “earn” leadership from job title, wealth, expertise, power, fans and followers. I believed that I could start to lead without them.
I quit my job in a 100-year recession and abandoned my career path because I believed I was already capable of being a leader, with or without followers. I could do it based upon how I lived my life. And it was through writing that I discovered how to lead by example. With nothing more than words, I discovered a source within that empowered me to choose my story, and devoutly serve the world today. No waiting. No permission.
I began to pull myself out of depression through the art of writing: a hard-fought, long, uphill climb that I fought in secret, without anyone knowing (I don’t recommend this).
Looking back, I had always been an emotional guy growing up, an empath acutely attuned to feeling and compassion. I deeply, deeply cared — and still do. My emotions would always run rampant during tough times as a teenager and after, and I often felt like a slave to my thoughts, like a victim to “feeling.”
The more I expressed myself onto paper, the more I understood that I was actually choosing what thoughts, emotions and feelings I was experiencing in my head and heart. It was no different than the physical act of choosing what to write on the page. I realized that I wasn’t a victim of my thoughts; I was never a slave to my emotions. I was their owner — their creator.
By witnessing myself on paper — poured out, empty, raw and real — I outgrew anxiety, overcame depression and began to forge myself anew. I started to heal.
With writing as my source of self-awareness, power and peace, I started to write a new story: No longer one of quarter-life crisis, anxiety and depression; no longer one of being a pawn in someone else’s game, or risking becoming just one more “compromised” idealist who wanted to be a leader but became partisan, bickering and blind to what matters most in life.
Six years ago, I started to rewrite my story by living it differently.