Before becoming a life coach, I was busy marketing my family’s new-found love of the theatre. I started doing this when I was a young mum, but my fledgling career in performance was soon put on hold when my nine-year-old started secondary school.
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We tried new things, we got our bodies back and discovered what made us tick. Over time, I had an epiphany. I had been trained to be the popular child/insecurity of the family – the teenager, the stressed professional – and so it went, in a kind of predictable cycle, with me finding that constant applause felt totally out of my comfort zone.
I started to look at what role I was playing and what story I was trying to tell my clients and as I started to develop life’s stories I realised I had a far bigger story to tell. It was far more internal, far more authentic and far more real. I could always play the familiar characters but I could never ever play myself. And being able to do so was beyond invaluable to me.
A business professional reflects on her first year as a coach. Photograph: Brandon Conlin
When I began coaching business people I focused on helping them tell their stories. “How do I tell my story in a way that is authentic, brave and resonates with my clients?” I asked them. It took a while but eventually I realised I needed to create my own story. In other words, I needed to discover what makes me tick – and the process helped me to reinvent myself. I started to make a list and was amazed how quickly I realised I liked the idea of describing all the wonderful things about me, rather than trying to avoid them and looking for weaknesses in order to overcome them.
My client list includes actors, theatre companies, performers, media buyers, brand managers, accountants, executives and marketing experts. At first they were all sceptical, especially the ones who already had lots of people looking after them and I would keep trying to reassure them that I could help them to develop their own.
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I realised that for a number of them – especially the executives – identifying themselves would help them succeed in life. They felt completely unable to do so alone. Most couldn’t identify how to leverage their strengths and they often never saw themselves as having a weakness. They didn’t believe they had a story that was worth telling.
I discovered that everyone is an author, every single person has a story worth telling, even the time we spend working at our jobs. People spend most of their waking hours choosing what story to tell about themselves – by their use of language, actions and choices. So it makes sense that if you chose to reflect on your experience you could find clues to your own story and where you could locate the foundation of your life.
Once I made the decision to find myself a coach, I soon found that it freed me up to do things that I didn’t quite feel capable of before. I never left the house on a Friday night (even when I was rehearsing at the West End theatre) without looking in the mirror. I never planned a long weekend – it just happened. I love going to bed earlier. I’m not a homebody and it was exciting to find a place in my head where I could prepare for a night out or revisit the days I could enjoy my children in more family-friendly evenings.
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Being able to unwind and re-focus means I feel less stressed and worried. I finally feel I’m here to support my clients, just as I needed the support of a career coach when I was growing up. I’m here to help them live their stories and that’s a really lovely feeling.
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