Change Doesn’t Happen How You’d Expect
If you’ve been tolerating the same work (or life) situation for months or even years, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that you’re stuck. Rest assured, you’re not alone; I know what that feels like, and so do many others. It’s depressing and demoralizing, and incongruous to what you think life should really feel like.
But there’s hope.
Change is a lot more possible than we think it is, especially if we’re approach it the right way. (I’ve already written about how problem solving is unlikely to get you where you want to go, and if you’re truly stuck, you know this already. But if you haven’t read that article, you may want to take a look.)
If you’re ready for real change, please read on. Big changes in our lives don’t require problem solving because, when it comes down to it, circumstances aren’t the real cause of our being stuck. It has to do with us, and the internal changes we need to embrace, in order to create circumstantial change.
In this article I’m going to give you three case-study examples of real client experiences of transformation. In each of these three cases, my clients began with an external goal in mind. there was something they wanted to change in their lives, and they wanted it badly.
All three got what they wanted and more by taking their eye off of the problems they were stuck on, and zooming in on their deepest hopes and dreams.
By the end of this article, if you relate to these client stories, you’ll see how the changes you’re looking for really are possible, and get a sense for how what your transformative change might look like.
We’ll start with Paul.
Paul first came to me because he’d mysteriously failed to turn several job interviews into new work, even though he was clearly highly intelligent, capable of success, and desiring of a new job. He hated his job. He felt undervalued and boxed into work with no real potential for leadership or innovation. He resented his boss, and the fact that he was stuck here.
Paul had been stuck for a while, long enough for him to settle into a permanently sour mood, and behave in ways that even he didn’t like. He was showing up differently as a husband and a father, and his closest relationships were suffering. “Is this really what life was going to be like for me?” he thought. “Am I supposed to just tolerate this?” “Was I wanting too much in the first place?”
Because his friend, my client at the time, was convinced I could help, Paul contacted me. He was ready for change- ready to find work he loved- even though he wasn’t sure it was possible when he first reached out to me.
Paul had wanted me to fix his job problem, and initially asked me for concrete advice. It took a few sessions, but he finally began to see that job search advice was not what he needed. What he needed was to see how he was, innocently and inadvertently, standing in his own way.
With some hesitation at times, Paul trusted the process of coaching, even though it seemed to take him into self-reflective territory, the purpose of which he didn’t immediately understand. But as a result, he began to see his own thinking, and how he’d been thinking of himself as a victim of circumstances.
And because he’d been approaching life with this attitude, he’d sidestepped all of his real creative potential for authentic leadership, which ironically, was the very thing he’d wanted to step into! (This is very human and so common!) Paul learned to catch himself when he was in a self-sabotaging perspective, and switch to a more empowering and creative one.
Ultimately, we never got to the action-step stage of applying for jobs again, because after Paul made some internal shifts, he spontaneously got recruited over Linkedin for his ideal job. (This is also not uncommon; circumstantial change seems to happen naturally once we create inner change.)
Here’s Paul’s story in his words:
Before coaching with Julie, I felt hopeless. I felt that I was going down a rabbit hole and the minute I made an effort to climb up, a huge spiral of negativity would start revolving in my head. I know it sounds dramatic, but I really did start sinking into a negative habit that would block my ability to move forward in my professional life.
I hit a wall when these issues started to affect my life. A friend gave me Julie’s contact info because he had a positive experience with the coaching process. That’s when I decided to talk to Julie and look for help.
As a result of coaching with Julie, I was able to look at myself with respect! I felt proud when I looked in the mirror. I felt confident enough to change the things that I could change and do something about. To help the people around me make sure they were succeeding and not letting them drag me down into their problems, but rather help them solve them. I also looked at myself with more confidence, and made sure that I knew that I was doing things right!
One of the most important things I learned was how to identify my saboteurs (sabotaging self-talk) in order to minimize their impact in my behavior. And above all, I know what they mean, and which saboteurs have a higher impact on my behavior.
The wisest advice I got from Julie was that difficult situations may arise at any given point in time, but to learn how to react to them and identify what triggers certain saboteurs is what’s important.
I was able to leave work I didn’t like and successfully land a much better job, and in that new job I still practice meditation and putting myself in “captain mode” once a week.
I have only positive things to say about working with Julie.
Not only did Paul change his situation and land his dream job, but he acquired leadership and self-management skills that he will benefit from for life. He now knows how to create his own success and happiness, whether that’s in his his work life or family life.
Next, let’s look at Jaime.
Jaime’s wife saw a flyer of mine and told him he needed to call me. As we talked that first time, I heard about how Jaime, a lawyer, was stuck in a paper-pushing job that bored him senseless, while his heart longed to make a difference in the world. Specifically, Jaime had dreams of doing activist work to protect the people of his home country, which had been overrun by a human-rights violating dictatorship.
Jaime felt stuck, and was on one level convinced that his dream was unrealistic. He’d told himself he should just stay the course, and provide stability for his family, and that should be enough. He’d tried to tell himself that he could deal with the boredom.
But when Jaime and I broke open his thinking around this and shined a light on it, he reached a much different conclusion. He saw that he’d been viewing his situation through a lens of scarcity, seeing all that could go wrong, but inadvertently overlooking all the resources he really did have, and how he could make things go right.
Once he flipped into this (much more realistic) perspective and learned to ground himself in a place of personal power, Jaime launched into action. He quit his job and launched his own firm in his fourth month of coaching, and two and half years later, he not only has a successful law firm advocating for refugees, but he has become a major spokesperson for his country, a co-founder of an activist non-profit, and travels the world to meet with world leaders in order to create change.
Jaime wrote his story for me early on, which I’ll share with you here:
Going to work every day was an effort. I did not hate it, nor was it a bad job. It was all it was, though. Promotions seemed unlikely, and even the potential ones did not promise much. I was good at it, but I wanted so much more…
Fixing my broken career path seemed so distant…It seemed like an utopic and naïve dream: opening my own business, dedicating time to write about things that would be related to my business and my life goals…
I think it took about three or four coaching sessions before that path started to look not only less scary but mostly necessary. It was an opportunity to become the professional I wanted to be, not the one I stumbled upon, and I could link that to my deepest values and life goals. Every call with Julie allowed me to connect with what I really wanted, and the homework led me to dig through areas that I generally felt uncomfortable with. At last I made up my mind. Using tools given to me I planned everything with detail: how and when to break it to people at work, what steps needed to be taken, the areas where I needed help or further studying. The transition out of work was extraordinary. I gave a truthful and heartfelt explanation of why my career path laid elsewhere, to which I received mostly support and words of encouragement. The tools I was introduced to made it happen with an efficiency I could have never replicated out of simple intuition.
It has not been a year since I started with coaching and I have been able to cover far more distance in my professional path than in the previous five years. Yes, there is an [seemingly] insurmountable road ahead of me, but I am in it now…there is no comparison to where I am now and where I was before I started with the coaching sessions.
I share Jaime story with you because I know- I just know- there are many, many more people like him out there, who feel morally compelled to make a difference in the world, and want to do it in a sustainable way. You may be one of them.
When you have a dream like this that won’t go away, it’s a good idea to find a way to follow it. It’s not selfish to go after what you want. You’re never the only one who will benefit.
Even though many of my clients come to me for help finding clarity on their career direction, or to work through blocks like Paul and Jaime did, some clients are on fulfilling their potential as leaders, no matter what position they hold.
These clients want to make a difference, and they know this involves changing and developing how they show up in the world. For these clients, staying stuck would mean allowing external circumstances to define them.
Freedom, for them, is liking who they are and acting in ways that make them feel proud. Freedom is knowing they can create the experience they want- and make a positive impact- in almost any situation.
Let’s look at Elsbeth, who is a great example of this kind of client.
Elsbeth came to me via referral, and she was most concerned about being able to land a position doing meaningful change-based work. She’d just completed a post-graduate degree, and because she’d expanded her skill base, she knew she’d ether need to leave her company for work that reflected her real capacity, or, she’d have to somehow create a new position for herself in her current organization that did.
Elsbeth didn’t know what was the right course for her, and in the process of coaching, it turned out that she did both. She first owned the changes inside her and her new leadership capacity and potential, and changed her position at her then-current job. In a remarkable feat of persona leadership, she managed to convey her vision for herself to her superiors and collaborate with them to create a new position, one that reflected the abilities she was cultivating in her degree program.
Later, when it was clear to Elsbeth that she’d outgrown her current position, and that the company culture wasn’t on board for the kind of changes she wanted to lead, she quit, with no other job secured. Because of the growth she’d done, this didn’t worry her; she fully trusted in herself to be able to manifest work she wanted. Two weeks later, she had a new and exciting job creating team effectiveness at one of the world’s largest companies.
Elsbeth is someone with a deep sense of personal integrity, and who remains committed to her life purpose regardless of her job title. This may be true for you, too. You may not be as concerned about your job title as you are about making a positive impact and leaving a legacy.
And yet even with this flexibility, we all experience repetitive barriers to achieving our vision. All kinds of uncomfortable emotions can come up when we give ourselves permission to be all that we want to be.
We can find ourselves fearing success and change, fearing our own power (afraid to make a negative impact), fearing being judged or laughed at, and fearing failure. Through coaching, Elsbeth worked through blocks that snagged her by bravely stepping into discomfort, for the sake of change.
She let go of what she didn’t need anymore, and embraced all the new ways of being, thinking, and relating to others that she’d dreamed of, thereby making them her new normal.
Now, Elsbeth experiences freedom, integrity and personal authority on a fundamental level. She knows that when she finds herself in a job that’s not right, she’ll simply change her situation and create something that is. She trusts her own authority, and enjoys true confidence: knowing she can handle whatever comes her way.
Elsbeth enjoys the same confidence with her relationships. It’s part of her life’s purpose to lead with kindness, compassion and transparency, and she loves to champion others’ growth. Because of the experience and confidence she’d developed in this area, she’s able to lead change in her personal relationships, not just her professional ones.
Here’s Elsbeth’s short synopsis of her coaching experience:
Julie was an incredible mirror – she helped me to see where my thinking, beliefs, and feelings were leading me and how they limited what was possible for my future. Before I started coaching, I was blaming my partner, my boss, and past experiences for why my life wasn’t what I wanted. But I learned to surrender control, step into my power, own my role in my life and start creating the life I wanted. I changed my perspective, and as a result, everything else changed… coaching changed my life!
Every client I’ve worked with has experienced some change she didn’t think was possible in the beginning. That’s what change, and the creative process, is all about. It takes hope and a clear vision of a desired future, and it takes trust, because it involves stepping into the unknown.
It helps to have an experienced coach who understands how change works and who can hold you as your strongest self, giving you the space to transform in ways you’ve been longing for.
If you see yourself in any of these client stories, have more questions about the coaching process and would like to talk more with me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll set up a time to talk.