“Well…this is what I have to work with,” I’d think, followed by a heavy sigh. Money, friends, jobs, time–not enough, it doesn’t feel quite right, but…this is what I have to work with. Whaddyagonnado? This is…it. Another heavy sigh.
Life had a lot heavy sighs, delivered daily.
Now, from a purely pragmatic perspective, we need to find ways to work with what we’ve got, and still be happy, because life does dish up some dozers and losers. Our grandparents are on to something when they shake their heads at us crazy kids (!), endlessly unsatisfied with our hungry ghosts and search for meaning. Keeping yourself from being happy until all of the pieces are perfectly in place is just perfectionism.
But there’s a difference between deciding, “I’m going to work with what I’ve got” and…settling.
How do you know the difference?
First: “I’m going to work with what I’ve got” and “Well, this is what I have to work with” carry completely different energies. The former reflects a choice, the latter a heavy sigh and throwing up one’s hands in futility.
Second: Settling carries with it the implicit assumption that better options don’t exist, and you can’t create them. It’s a scarcity mindset of epic proportions, and when it infuses your life, you start seeing everything through dull, settling-tinted glasses.
Why We Settle
We settle because we’re afraid. When you’re settling, you’re afraid of being left with nothing. Faced with the possibility of having nothing, the voice in your head goes: Maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. Maybe this isn’t a big deal. I can figure this out. I’ll try harder. I could be wrong, I could be missing something. Maybe if I rework this in my head, I’ll find another option.
We’d rather stay with what we know and convince ourselves that we must have it all wrong, than step out and take a massive risk–the risk of doing everything, differently.
I’ve done this with jobs I hated, friendships that weren’t working, and assuming that the numbers in my bank account couldn’t go any higher than Just Getting By.
I can’t quit the job–what if I’m left with nothing?
I can’t quit that friendship–what if I’m left with nothing?
I can’t take that financial risk–what if I’m left with nothing?
Being “left with nothing” creates a temporary empty space. You leave that relationship? Empty house at night; no one to call if the shit hits the fan. You leave that job? Empty bank account. You stop doing things according to habit and routine? Well, then, what would you fill the hours with?
We’re afraid to clear that empty space because we don’t know what is on the other side of that wide expanse.
Most of us use pain as a motivator. We put up with the stuff that sucks, until it gets bad enough to reach a breaking point, at which time the empty space seems like a respite. When the relationship sucks enough, an empty house feels like a respite from being on the Crazy Train with your paramour. When the job sucks enough, you’ll quit and live off of a severely reduced budget or credit cards if you have to, and the interest will feel worth it until you find something that is your true calling.
The most successful people, however? They’re the people who are willing to step out into that wide expanse, and they don’t wait for things to get intolerable before they do. Yes, they’re afraid–we’re not talking that bullshit fearless stuff–but they know that settling is a self-imposed punishment.
They also understand something else: no one gets to circumvent the growing pains of change. The thing is, the people who wait until life gets intolerable before they take a risk aren’t coming out ahead.
Waiting until the shit hits the fan before you’ll take action is like putting yourself in front of a firing squad before you’ll decide to really, value your life. You have a lot less time.
You don’t have the time that you think you do. None of us do.
Every day, someone is waking up to a life that they regard as totally ordinary–leaving pajamas on the floor, grabbing a cup of coffee, heading out the door–and not all of them are coming home. And chances are good that not many of them are thinking, “If I knew today was my last day, I’d pay a helluva lot more attention.”
I’m going to hazard a guess that you woke up this morning without that thought crossing your mind, either.
The awareness of our limited time can cause us to shrink in fear, or cause us to expand with courage.
When you expand with courage, you step into creation: you create the escape plan, you create the new blueprint for where you’re headed next, you make the amends, you stop telling yourself that what you want isn’t possible.
You’ll still be scared shitless. Absolutely. But life will feel radiant, awake, and full of possibility.
Here is the truth about life coaching : Great coaching is art. It’s like painting, writing, dance. It’s intuitive, fluid, creative, adhering to a structure, yet leaving room for the un-contained. The boundaries of it are difficult to articulate; when I’m in session with a client I feel into the edges on a somatic level, knowing that they are there yet not there.
Good coaching feels alive, because it is alive.
Good coaching is about the art of being human and being in a support role with other humans–emphasis on the word “being.” We’re talking about truly being. Truly meeting. Truly listening. Truly breathing with. Truly walking with and through someone in the experience of being human.
For all the problems that yes, do arise in any industry where there’s a lack of formal certification, I’m glad that there is no strict standardization. I spent a semester in graduate school to become a therapist, and it was the longest six months of my life. Lifeless. Dead. I asked the students who were a year ahead of me in the program if it got better. Not one person I spoke with felt lit up about working with people, and all of my classes seemed to keep coming back to the relentless topic of adhering to state and BBS guidelines.
I meet coaches who tell me that they want strict standardization in the industry, so that they can have “credibility.”
I think that the highest form of credibility is not found in pieces of paper but in clients who tell you, straight up, “Working with you made my life better. Thank you.”
I think there’s something bold and beautiful behind the renegade, “fuck proving my skill-set to any authority” rise of coaching. Yes, swindlers and charlatans exist (of course, they exist in any industry). But what I see most is the rise of a tribe of people who genuinely want to make the world a better place, and they see that one way to do that is to help people heal on an individual level so that we can heal the collective.
I see a tribe of people–women, in particular–who truly do treat coaching like an art form, a craft that they are honing and co-creating with every client.
I don’t say any of this to condescend the work of therapists and social workers. I believe that there are many art and meaning makers among their ranks. I just don’t believe that the only people qualified to help someone walk through the toughest challenges of life are those who have gone through a credentialing program. I’d like to see therapists open to the work of coaches, and see coaches stop diluting the power of therapy in their marketing.
Speaking of opening doors, let me speak to the money for just a moment: people criticize how much coaches charge. Well, if the day ever comes when the many social service agencies out there are willing to open their doors to someone who is a coach, when their HR departments no longer require an MFT or MSW, I’m there. If insurance companies ever have an openness to subsidizing co-pays for clients who want to hire coaches, I’ll fill out all of that pain in the ass insurance paperwork so that I can take on clients who need insurance in order to receive personal help.
The system needs to change, removing some of the gatekeepers and coming up with other systems for evaluating whether or not someone can work with clients aside from fulfilling credentialing requirements, if coaches are to be able to take salaried positions. Until then, coaches charge roughly what therapists in private practice charge, per hour, without any possibility of utilizing insurance companies to help clients with the payments–which then pretty much pigeon-holes coaching into a higher-end category.
In other words? Most coaches I’ve met wish they could find salaried positions, where someone else brought clients in and handled marketing, admin, paperwork, billing, and the rest, and then they could simply work with clients. Those positions don’t really exist, and it’s not the fault of coaches that they don’t exist.
Coaching could be part of a revolution. It’s a revolution of people who are waking up to themselves. The best coaches know that revolution always starts with your own personal evolution. We’ve got to let go of our own limitations, to do the work of loving ourselves wholeheartedly, getting vulnerable, creating deeper connections, and all the rest of it, if we want to have a shot at helping anyone else.
I’ve seen coach trainees in the Courageous Coaching Training Program get raw n’ ruthless with their limitations, feel devastation, feel lost, feel-feel-feel and then get challenged to dig deeper…and I’ve watched as a fierceness emerged from them: I’m on this. I’m shifting. I’m digging deep. I’m transforming. There is no other path for me, because I’m choosing this one where I look at all the stuff I don’t want to look at, and then I choose to love it, and then we laugh, together.
I see them supporting clients who are finding their way through all of that, too. That’s how we wake up to ourselves: being seen, held, and cared-for as we look at all the crap we don’t want to look at, and then decide together, “I’ll choose to love it, and we’ll laugh.”
People can come to this business because they see a Facebook ad promising that they’ll easily make six figures while working from home, or they can come to this business because there is no high quite like the effervescence of having truly connected with another human being. There’s art in it, and magic, and for some that’s just way too precious of a comparison, but anyone who has experienced this level of support knows differently.
We are a world that is dying to wake up. We want to wake up, together. Coaching is one way for that to happen.
Not the best way, for all people. What arrogance, to preach coaching! It’s one path among an infinite number of paths–one that I have chosen and highly value, but it’s not for everyone.
I raise an eyebrow when coaches bemoan the tough state of trying to convince people of the value of coaching.
Convincing ain’t selling.
People are convinced of the value of coaching, when they see you living an amazing life.
Not a perfect life. Not a life devoid of problems.
But rather–an amazing life. My own amazing life includes days where I cry, say mean things to my husband, or resent the demands of parenting. Why? Because I’m human.
My own amazing life also includes an incredible amount of laughter, authentic and true apologies, and a love beyond anything I’ve ever known for my baby girl. Why? Because that’s part of being human, too.
An amazing life isn’t a perfect life. It’s a life that makes space for all of it.
This is the truth about life coaching .That’s what I think that the best coaches are trying to help their clients to find: a life where there’s room for all of…life. Space for the joy, space for the pain, and always–always–space for love.
Lots of women write love letters to their babies, each year. That’s an awesome thing to do, and I have done this in private journals at home that I’ll give to my daughter, some day. But then there’s the letter that I would have wanted to write…myself.
If I were talking to the “me” that I was before my daughter was born, what would I say? I think it would be something like this:
I’d share that I had a positive c-section birth experience, and that even with immunizations, not co-sleeping, two nights of cry it out to sleep train, and day care, my daughter is fine. In fact, she’s more than fine. My kid is healthy and happy, smart, securely attached, smiling and laughing and curious about the world and everyone else in it.
I’d share that the first six weeks were both the most joyous as well as the most awful of my life. The joy was all her; the awful was all sleep deprivation. I would tell the new soon-to-be moms that while nothing can prepare you for sleep deprivation, the important thing is really that you have someone else in your life who has done this before, who can tell you that it’s going to get better, that you’re doing okay, and that you’re going to be fine. That’s how you survive sleep deprivation.
I’d say: enjoy holding your baby close to your chest and listening to that soft breathing.
I’d tell you that you will survive the “witching hours” even though it might feel like you won’t. Maybe, I’d tell you about the night when Anika cried for literally an hour straight without stopping, and nothing would make her happy, and with no capacity for anything else, I rocked her and intoned, “Ommmmm” over and over. When she was finally asleep, I took a shower and bawled my eyes out.
I’d tell you that baby pro-biotics, and a chiropractor who specializes in working with babies, rock. The kiddos sleep better, eat better, poop better. Oh, and–I’d also tell you that you will start talking a LOT about poop.
Just at the point when someone might ask themselves–WHY do people have children?–I’d tell you that I am more hopelessly in love than I’ve ever felt in my life. When my daughter started smiling–OHMYGOD! Baby smiling! The joy is beyond anything and everything. The first laugh–are you kidding me? I started crying with delight. Actually, sometimes when she really gets going with the laughter, I still become an emotional goober.
I’d tell you that those inflatable exercise balls normally used for doing ab crunches are awesome at bouncing/rocking the baby to sleep.
I’d also tell you–and this one is really important–that as much as you want to say to people, “SHUT THE FUCK UP WITH TELLING ME ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE OMG,” that self-care is really fucking important. You need naps, showers, food, and sleep in the first few months, and then you need to get out of the house and wander around a bookstore for an hour while someone else handles child care, and eventually you’re going to need aimless hours to do whatever you did before you had a baby. Not every day, but at certain points, yes, you need these things.
You are not a failure for needing them.
I’d tell you that it’s okay if you put your kid in day care. I’d tell you that I still struggle with day care guilt, even though it’s crystal clear to me that she’s incredibly happy there. The first time I ever dropped her off, I bawled my eyes out in the parking lot. You are not a pathetic, overly-sensitive sap if you do the same.
I’d tell you that the book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is what helped me to stop flipping the Crazy Parenting Switch. Turns out, there are entire other countries and cultures who parent differently than mothers are often pressured to parent in this country, and their kids are turning out well, too–c-sections, formula, cry it out, day care, and all.
I might also share that I’m a life coach and have heard some pretty intimate stories of human suffering from my clients, but not one person has ever, in a decade of coaching, come to me for a session to process through her feelings about having been in day care, not co-slept, her sleep training, receiving immunizations or having had formula. Not once.
So maybe, just maybe, our kids are going to be okay, even if we don’t do everything according to the dictates of the Perfect Parenting Police.
I’d tell you to avoid judgmental mothers like they are The Plague. On a societal and energetic level, I kind of think that they are. They are suffering, but that kind of energy is parasitic and when you are a mom, you need all of your energy for raising a tiny human.
I’d tell you that as soon as you’re able, start doing power walks with baby in a jogger stroller. Sweat = your antidote to stress and the best way to normalize those post-partum hormones. Sweat, sweat, sweat, as early and often as you can. I’d also say, “Kate, get back to it with the maca powder and chaste berry supplements!” They did my body good pre-baby, and do a world of good post-baby, too.
I’d tell you that the moment babies start rolling over, shit starts to change really fast. That’s when babies can start really reaching for things and you’ll look around your house and go, “Oh, so there’s like, a lot of stuff that could seriously injure a baby around here.”
I’d tell you that trying to be productive during cold and flu season is a bust now that you have a kid who routinely touches germy things and then sucks on her own fingers. I’d tell you that things move much, much more slowly after baby. I’d tell you that the sooner you release attachment around that, the saner your world will be.
I’d tell you to take the date night, as early after baby arrives as you can. Wear lipstick and heels. Oh, and I’d tell you that this will probably feel totally weird, and you and your partner will probably just talk about the baby the entire time. Do it anyway.
I’d tell you that your heart is now no longer totally in your body; it’s running around outside of you, pulling everything out of the bag you just packed and crying out in delight because OMG, KEYS! I FOUND KEYS! AREN’T KEYS THE BEST! I’d tell you that sometimes when your kid does this kind of stuff, you’ll start crying at the sight of her, thinking, “YES, I totally get it. Keys are the fucking best! I loveyouloveyouloveyouloveyouloveyou!”
I’d share that in my experience, when people tell you over and over that your kid is really cute, it is sometimes difficult not to gasp and exclaim, “I know! You’re SO right! Isn’t she the cutest baby that ever existed in the entire history of babies?”
The only reason I can make such an intolerable admission to the world at large is in my knowing that secretly, all parents feel this way about their kids.
Finally, I’d share that it’s all…normal. Whatever experience you’re having, I’m pretty sure that it’s the right one. I trust that you’re just doing your best. You do your best, you lead with the intention of love, and then you surrender totally to spit-up and cuddles and firsts and diapers that smell fouler than foul…always, always just doing your best and trusting that your love is enough.
(Because you know? It totally is.)
So there it is. That’s the letter I would have written from this vantage point, to the woman I was then. It helps to write it now, to let that side of me that was excited and afraid in equal measure know that it all turns out okay. Hard, exciting, tough, joyful, all of the extremes and everything in between, but it still all turns out, okay.