My journey to coaching has been a meandering one. Sharing my story is not something that comes easily to me as I’ve been someone who is more comfortable playing my cards close to my chest. But that system hasn’t worked so well for me and dismantling it was an important part of becoming a coach so here’s my tale of how I got here…
Are you sitting comfortably?
In terms of my career, I had many years of doubt and confusion. After graduating from a generic management degree, I was still lacking inspiration and fell into marketing. Much as I was enjoying life, my heart was never really in the work and I was always on the lookout for something different.
Still lost at the age of 25, I decided to do the travelling I kept dreaming of. I spent a wonderful year working in Sydney and exploring Australia in a Winnebago with 6 new friends. Then I headed to New Zealand for another year of working and solo travelling before returning home via Japan and South East Asia.
As an introvert and one prone to a lack of confidence, none of this came easy. However, it was a time when I took risks, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and gained so much.
That said, I returned to the UK none the wiser about what I wanted to do. I returned to marketing and continued to wonder “what’s my thing?”. Something that sparked my interest were alternative systems of health, especially after a course in Traditional Thai massage in Chang Mai plus regular yoga practice. I had some acupuncture and discovered a college of acupuncture in the town where I was living, one of just a few in the country. After an open day, I was hooked and I signed up for a 3 year degree.
Upon qualifying, I returned to my native north east, setting up a busy acupuncture practice and establishing a complementary health clinic in Durham. I was challenging myself to put down roots. I had moved 15 times in 15 years, and was now buying my first home. In addition, I finally broke my pattern of falling for unsuitable guys and I married the lovely Rob.
I’d wandered for years and now finally had the vocation I dreamed of – meaningful and stimulating. Plus I had a wonderful partner and a permanent base. So job done? Not quite.
On many levels, the following years were great – I really enjoyed the acupuncture and loved working with people. My practice was always busy and Rob and I were having great adventures in our free time. However, I was also starting to experience some health issues and, over the years, things gradually worsened. I was constantly exhausted and in pain.
With hindsight, I can see that I was working long, late hours and dealing with increasing stress, whilst my resources were reducing due to chronic illness. I continued to push myself, expecting high standards and judging myself harshly. Working with others’ health made me feel that I had to be invincible and that I was a poor ambassador for acupuncture. The behaviours I’d put in place over the years to manage weren’t working any more and I’d lost one of my key strategies – that of being able to up sticks and leave!
At the same time, we were experiencing heart-breaking degenerative illness in the family, unexpectedly losing 3 much loved family members in less than a year. It was at this point that I hit a wall. I knew I needed proper rest and decided to take three months off. Sadly, after that time, I was no better and took the painful decision to close my practice and give myself time to recover.
This in itself pressed many of my “buttons”. I had to show weakness and ask for help. The rules I’d lived by about being independent and providing for myself had to be put to one side. I felt a failure.
After some time, I began to feel stronger and decided it was time to get some help with all of this, plus with the difficult decision of whether to return to acupuncture. I chose to work with a life coach to try and find some answers.
Through the coaching, I was able to identify what was working for me – and what wasn’t. It gave me confidence in my decision to leave acupuncture. Plus, I was able to identify the barriers that were deeply ingrained but weren’t doing me any good. With compassion, I began to unpick them and start to live a more congruent life.
Many of my skills as an acupuncturist lay in the conversations I had with my clients and this was often where they got the most benefit. This was also what I enjoyed the most. So I decided to train as a life coach, harnessing and enhancing my existing skills. I love the choice I’ve made.
I’m still a work in progress – who isn’t?! But I really enjoy the challenge of improving myself without feeling like a failure. I’m still not 100% health-wise but I continue to make gains and live alongside the limitations it places on me more harmoniously.
I like to think all of this helps to make me a great life coach – one without judgement, without assumptions and without prejudice. From experience, I know that we can learn about ourselves, at any age, and start to shift the most ingrained behaviours. I know how it feels to find a life that fits.