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Setting a course

There are moments when our lives pivot; the seemingly tiny shift of perspective or smallest action taken that reveals a different path; alternative possibilities previously hidden or unrecognised. It can be years later that we look back and think “Ah, if I’d turned left instead of right that day”, “If I hadn’t decided, on a whim, to take the train to Derby” or, in my case, “If I hadn’t been randomly scrolling through Facebook on the way to work and seen a post that pierced my heart…”

It was a post about disordered eating – I can’t remember the actual words but the message clearly communicated to me was “It’s okay. I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there and it’s okay. You may feel shame, you may feel out of control, you may be sad, overwhelmed, despairing and it’s okay; there is a way out and I can help you”. There was no hesitation, no thought required – the call to action was so direct it bypassed all prevarication and self-doubt. I reached out to the author of that post and made an appointment to see her that same week; it was as simple as outlining my story and asking for help and in that moment, unknowingly, I set out on my quest.

The person who wrote the post is a Life Coach; this was my first encounter with the profession and it felt aligned right from the start. I’d previously been referred to a psychologist by my GP and went for about 10 sessions; they were helpful in prompting me to organise and analyse my thoughts but felt somewhat impersonal, lacking in connection and I couldn’t have told you why. Now I can see that we focused on the logical, the rational, the empirical: the reasons why, the past, the facts. Whereas what I needed to do was explore, create, imagine, believe; be present in the now with a goal, a vision to move towards. I sat on a sofa looking out the window at endless sky and sea as gently incisive questions caused cracks to appear in my carefully crafted façade and half-forgotten dreams drifted to the surface.

I did my ‘homework’, did one small thing followed by another, and began to feel the ground stabilise under me; but more than that, I fell in love with the process and the possibility. Here was something that helped me understand myself, that gave me techniques I could use to map my inner world and navigate towards a future I was excited about. Even if I spent a whole session crying, and I quite often did, I came away with a smile on my face and hope in my heart. I was no longer hostage to a mind I couldn’t understand or control: I could take a step back, observe my thoughts, choose whether to believe them. If I felt like overeating, I knew how to gently interrogate what was really going on, and sit with it until it faded away rather than stuff it down with food. That felt like liberation.

What a special thing; this ability to help people in such a deep and meaningful way; to create the environment for them to feel safe enough to drop their armour, calm their fear and start to build a brave new world. An idea began to tease at the edges of my consciousness – what if I could do that? What if I could combine my analytic tendency with my long-held desire to create special experiences for people; what if, instead of speaking to businesspeople about requirements for IT systems, I spoke to people, just as they are, about their dreams and hopes and fears and helped them find their way out of chaos into calm and focus? What if I became a coach and helped people to feel better like I’d begun to?

A shiver of anticipatory excitement at the thought; an image flashing across my internal screen of a life lived with the goal of helping people feel better about themselves; people like me who have lost their way amongst the noise, busyness, meeting others’ needs. What if I could do that? How amazing would that be? Daring to dream being like the first sign the questing hero sees before the adventure really begins.

Of course, it’s so easy in our imaginations – we look towards the horizon and see the promised land glimmering in the distance; how hard can it be to make our way there? We want it so badly and we know we can do it; it will just take hard work and surely “if we build it, they will come”? I conjure up a vision of weeks filled with coaching conversations, a waiting list of clients, a book deal, perhaps even some speaking events, money flowing in even though I’m just doing this for the personal fulfilment…

I am certain this is what I want and committed to making it happen. But, like any hero who’s been on a quest will be able to tell you, there are challenges to face along the way: not least the Valley of Despair.

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