This is probably not the question on the tip of your tongue as you read this column. If I know you, you are thinking, I like the idea of having a great career and a good life, but no perfect stranger is going to be able to help me with that.
When you get right down to it, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. And I like to tell real life stories. The Scots, Italians, Danes, and Sacramentans who regularly told their tales around the breakfast, lunch and dinner tables of my youth are at cause.
I was a person who grew up thinking I was going to have a great career and life and that nobody needed to help me with that. I continued to think that way until everything began falling apart just as I was about to turn thirty. It seemed like it was the end of the world. It was only the end of my life – as I knew it.
Pain, as you may have heard, can be The Great Teacher. This is something we especially hate hearing, especially when we are in pain. One of the reasons pain is a great teacher is that it has a way of humbling proud humans, like me, and getting us to grudgingly ask for help. And sometimes, when we seek help, we actually find it – beyond our wildest dreams.
Much later I learned that Joy can be a teacher too. Oh, my God, I LOVE this. I want more of this. I want to get better at this. I want to learn more, earn more. Pain and/or joy and getting good coaching are why you know the names of people like Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods or Meryl Streep or Yo Yo Ma. Along side the weak and weepy you may imagine are the people who ask for help, are the gifted, talented, high-performing people who seek and find good help in order to keep getting better.
Martin, a business owner I did some coaching with five years ago returned recently in a mood of angst. He was frustrated, distracted, restless, flooded with perturbing questions he could not answer alone or with friends or family. (Coaching Tip#1: Friends and family love you but usually can’t help you with serious career/life issues because they don’t know how.)
We begin our series of sessions over the next couple of months and revisited the questions that that tend to reveal important answers in a way that asking the big existential questions don’t. The big, Who am I? And the gigantic, Why am I here? are just a little too overwhelming to deal with and don’t seem to yield everyday, tangible results Addressing much more accessible questions in a coaching conversation with a professional can lead to a grounded direction, philosophy, strategy, and plan of action to produce results that are in synch with who you are and why you are here.
Picture a track coach on the sidelines keenly observing your performance, cheering you on, talking in depth with you following your race about what worked, what didn’t, what could help your future performance, making sure you’re preparing for what’s next, getting constant feedback from you, helping you to manage your stress, to build your confidence, to put you in touch with all sorts of resources to help you move forward… You get the picture.
In Martin’s case, as is most often the case, the outcome of the work was in many ways very surprising. Yet at the same time, the outcome made perfect sense, was clear, familiar, grounded in his real life experience, actionable, exciting – not a fearful jump off a cliff.
Not only did he not sell the store he owned in order to go to graduate school and completely change direction, as he was afraid might happen, he fully claimed the career he was already in – for the very first time. With the deep realization that he was already doing what he was actually most well-suited to do, an opportunity came his way to expand his business in the very neighborhood he had had his eye on for years – and he took advantage of it. He is at peace with his career choice and life and is moving forward with renewed energy toward the future he wants – angst and confusion in his wake.
What is your life story? Is it working out? Maybe – believe it or not – a coach can help!
Bonnie Bell, with husband Jim Bell, CFP®, owns and manages Bell Investment Advisors, Inc., 1111 Broadway, 16th Floor, in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management, and career and life coaching services since 1991. www.bellinvest.com, 510-433-1066.
Published in Piedmont Post on September 8 , 2010