One morning, Karen R., a professional life coach, found herself facing a reality she could hardly have imagined a year ago. She was in the midst of a divorce, the family dog had been put down due to an inoperable cancerous tumor and her 17 year old daughter had just been caught smoking marijuana at school. She woke up to find her basement had flooded from the storm overnight and a realtor was coming in 2 hours for a showing. Overwhelmed, Karen thought about the five clients she was scheduled to coach that day.
She wondered how she could be present for them when so much was going on in her own life. The personal demands of the crisis with her daughter were a top priority and had set her world on end. Over the past two months, her daughter had been acting out in ways that were affecting her academic standing, Karen and the other children. And, there was no end in sight. Karen considered her options and felt guilty for how her personal issues were affecting her ability to be up beat for her clients. She wondered if she should stop working for awhile but the financial implications of that would create yet another crisis.
Think this is far fetched? It’s not. Sometimes when we least expect it, life can throw us a curve ball. So what can we, as coaches, do to maintain our own emotional health while still coaching our clients?
Be Kind To Yourself
Nurture yourself. Ask yourself what you need each morning. Check in with your emotional side — does it need validation, a venting session or a good cry? What does your body need? A cup of tea and a soak in a hot tub? A walk around the block? And how about your spirit? What does it need to be front and center? How can you feed your spirit so it doesn’t become depleted? A good workout or singing at the top of your lungs, even if at first you don’t feel like it, might be the boost needed to nourish your spirit and center your heart.
Forgive Yourself. Karen realized that if she was going to continue coaching, she needed to work through the negative energy she was carrying from blaming herself and others for the situation. She made a list of all the people that had hurt her, all the people she had hurt and all the things she was beating herself up for. Slowly she worked through each list, forgiving those she was ready to forgive, asking for forgiveness from those she had hurt (some silently and others in person) and finally, forgiving herself for her role in creating her current situation.
Seek Support. If you don’t already have a support network of friends and fellow coaches who see you with “believing eyes”, now is the time to build one. Karen was fortunate to not only have a group of women friends who were going through divorce but she had a network of coaches she called on to guide her and see her for the change agent she was.
In the darkest days, Karen gave up all the rituals and self care practices that kept her balanced. She was unable to focus enough to meditate, didn’t have time for her evening walk and hadn’t been outside in nature in months. She realized that if she was going to be emotionally healthy and present, she needed to get back to the practices that turned off the churning in her mind and opened her heart.
She began to meditate again, struggling to quiet the self talk in her head. Going back to a technique when she first learned to meditate, she pictured a large blank, indigo colored movie screen in her mind. It was the size of a drive in theatre screen. She focused her minds eye on the screen and anytime a thought would enter her mind and detract from the blankness in her mind, she would observe it and release it, refocusing on the screen. Each morning she would meditate, sometimes for only 2 or 3 minutes. On days she could not focus, she would instead say a simple prayer asking to be a channel for others and that the greater good be served through her.
In the evening just before going to bed, she would give gratitude for everything she could think of from the day. Realizing she could still find things to be grateful for despite the chaos around her reminded her that life could still be good in the midst of chaos.
Close the Loops. When life is so full, the mind can get stuck in overdrive. Like a computer infected with a virus, it gets caught up in repeating the same thoughts over and over.
There are two techniques to use when you find your mind churning the same thought. The first one is ask yourself what the driving emotion is that is causing this thought. 99% of the time it is fear or anger. By being aware of the source and acknowledging this fear or anger, we can usually stop the churn.
The second technique is to do a brain dump of all the open loops in your head. When we are overwhelmed it is usually because our mind is so full we can no longer get a clear picture of all the projects, issues and actions steps that need to be taken. Start by setting up one or two lists: personal, and business, if applicable. Write down all the major issues or projects that are pending. For example, Karen put down her daughter’s school work, her daughter’s behavior issue, the basement flood, and the divorce as personal projects. On her business list she included a workshop she was developing, Google AdWords and website updating.
For each item on her project list she then identified the very next action steps. These might be as minor as getting a phone number of someone, doing online research or contacting the realtor to reschedule. By determining the very next action step we eliminate the blocks that can come around certain projects. These are the items that stay on our to do lists for months (and sometimes years) until we forget about them or finally come up with smaller tasks to get moving. Then each day Karen would identify the action steps on her agenda for the day and develop new ones to keep each project moving ahead.
Be Realistic. Acknowledge where you are at and what you are feeling. Accepting that some things won’t get done today or that your energy is not where you would like it to be is the key to continuing your coaching business. Give yourself permission to be where you are. You may be surprised once you start working with a client how your own energy shifts because you are engaging in one of your passions.
Use the Pain. Another coach was going through a personal crisis with his son, who had gotten involved with drinking and drugs. In speaking with him, he said the pain of what he was going through had actually helped him be a better coach because it made him more atuned to what his clients were going through. He used his experience as a spring board to be a better coach, while being careful not to get in the box with his clients by sharing his story unless it was helpful to the client.
Coach the Coach
Hit the Books. Going back to the basics and reviewing what we learned when we were first training as coaches can shift us prior to engaging with clients. Karen went back to her training manuals and skimmed through them. Not only did she come away with questions and techniques she had forgotten about, but she found herself applying the revisited techniques to herself.
Hire a Coach. Going back to our tools and reviewing what we know, we can coach ourselves on most issues. When that fails, consider hiring a coach. Karen found she could not move forward on one particular issue. She was torn and confused over what she wanted to do with her living arrangements. The issue was extremely emotional for her and she found herself stuck in her head.
She contacted one of the coaches she had trained under and after 40 minutes, had enough clarity to make a heart centered decision. Whether it is for one session or several, hiring a coach to get through the muck can only be positive.
By taking steps now, we can minimize the disruption to our lives and our business. When a crisis hits, worrying about lost income is the last thing that’s needed. Yet, often a crisis requires us to take time away from our work to deal with the issue. As a coach, it is important to have a variety of income streams to augment the billable hours we work. If all we have as an offering is our coaching, then our income will always be limited by the hours we can bill.
Developing a variety of income streams from products and services can help when we have to step away from our coaching business. Books, CD’s, workshops, teleclasses, paid submissions and other offerings can all help augment income and supplement when needed.
Having an emergency fund to cover six months of living expenses is another widely held recommendation. Getting started today in setting that aside can provide invaluable peace of mind and freedom to deal with whatever may come.
Being a coach doesn’t mean we are always in a place of awesome personal energy. But it does mean we have a great set of tools and the know-how to make our way through most anything life can dish out.