I say officially because I have not been in the office since September 2018, when I took a month’s annual leave all in one go, before being signed off from work with stress for 6 months. (Which wasn’t the best experience of my life – but at the same time, it was probably the most important because it gave me the impetus to make all the changes I have).
Two years ago, on April 15th, I changed my LinkedIn status from lawyer to coach.
I was bricking it. I was so worried about what people would think. How they would think I had failed, couldn’t cut it.
What they would think about me being a coach – so wishy washy.
I remember I used to introduce myself as a professional coach or a career coach. Always heavily caveated so people knew how well trained and serious it was and ALWAYS making very clear that I used to be a lawyer so they had no doubt I was clever.
I knew that coaching made a difference, but I was also ashamed it was what I was doing. I came from a family that didn’t really do emotion or looking at the hard stuff (those things were to be put in a box, swept under the carpet and never mentioned again) and it felt uncomfortable to be going against the “rules” I grew up with.
I was scared of having a business that did well. I equated success with hard work and had seen first hand what that did to me – and so I played small and faffed about a bit.
I started working with my first one to one coach and generally spent every session in tears. It felt heavy and there seemed to be an insurmountable level of cr@p I needed to wade through.
Things were better than when I had been in corporate, but I was still driven by perfectionism, people pleasing, control and a desperate need to feel love and approval.
(Unsurprisingly – this didn’t create a lot of clients! But I did start working with a handful of people around this time).
This was a milestone month for 2 reasons.
First, I decided I needed to get serious about running a business and could see I couldn’t do it on my own. So I paid £8,000 to work with my first business coach.
Second, Nat had an accident and broke his collar bone and I reacted horribly to it. I was unsupportive, angry, withheld support and found the whole thing intensely stressful. It was the first and only time I have ever had a panic attack.
Nat’s accident was a wake up call. It had been a year since I left PwC, but I still had so many of the same issues I thought I was leaving behind. I had zero resilience. Things all went fine when they could be planned and organised – but outside the plan? Not so much.
Working on my need to control everything and anything was a big one for me – control had been how I managed my life and accepting it was harmful rather than helpful was pretty confronting.
As a side note (though I didn’t realise it until a year later), I did not understand what unconditional love was at this point. I never experienced it growing up and I didn’t know how to give it. So when Nat got drunk and fell off a bike, instead of loving and caring for him, I punished him – because in getting drunk and acting recklessly, he hadn’t “earned” the right to be cared for.
The truth of this still stings a bit because all he has ever done is love me.
In April 2020, one year in, things were going well with the business.
I had been delivering regular talks in London at various WeWork venues.
I had planned and organised my first retreat.
Was on the cusp of agreeing a day a week of coaching at an architect firm in central London.
Then the pandemic took hold and it all got cancelled.
Retreat places were refunded and I was back to square one.
The resilience I had built in 2019 came into play and instead of letting it defeat me, I got to work to structure my business in a way that worked for 2020.
Instead of reducing my spending, I recognised an increased need for support and doubled the life coaching I had and joined a new coaching program.
That month my focus shifted from it being about me, my needs and my desire for validation, to one of service. How could I serve and help those who needed it?
I launched my first group program (Have a job you love – which was the precursor to An Extraordinary Life) and transitioned all of my coaching to online.
At home, having Nat around 24/7 was a shock to the system and it took some adjusting to, but at the same time it was lovely to start each day with a walk together and to finish work at 5pm and be able to go straight into our evenings.
The space of lockdown also threw up lots of unresolved trauma and issues I realised needed addressing and I really started exploring the impact that some of my past had had and was continuing to have on me. Although difficult, this work was some of the most freeing I have ever done and made such a difference to how I felt about myself.
One positive was that a move working remotely let us take the steps to leave London (a decision we made back in October 2018 but had not yet implemented).
I finally understood what unconditional love was (and what it wasn’t) and how to give it. A marriage that had already improved greatly became fun, light and wonderful.
Nat started working with a one to one coach, having seen the difference in me from doing the same.
We sold our house and moved to Somerset.
I had the best ever month in my business, making considerably more than I ever had in corporate.
I also had one of the hardest months in my personal life after a pretty disastrous visit from my parents. It was clear that I still had work to do there.
We finished up the year with a fortnight off, enjoying plenty of films and walks over the Christmas period.
All things considered, it was a very good year and my relationship with myself improved exponentially.
The need to control was no longer there and the people pleasing, perfectionism and lack of boundaries took a back seat too.
I started to practice what I preached and saw first hand the benefits (to everyone) of disappointing myself last.
I also realised that success does not require hard work AND that it was possible to earn well, doing things I loved and having the life I wanted.
After being promised a start to 2021 that would be different to 2020, we faced much of the same with another protracted national lockdown.
We completed on our house purchase on 1st March and moved in later that week.
Our new home is beautiful. We have discovered loads wrong with it (standard), but it’s not caused the stress and anxiety it once would have. We have both taken it in our strides. This feels monumental as I am so aware how it would have gone down previously – and this way feels so much better!
Without the need to control, plan and organise, I have given Nat a space to thrive (and I see now how much I restricted this before) and I have never seen him happier. He is loving playing with the pond, caring for the fish, feeding the resident pheasants that visit daily and has all sorts of fun with the log burner each evening.
Of all the things I am most proud of over the last 2 years, the changes in my marriage win hands down. I now know and trust our relationship so deeply and no longer need Nat to be a certain way so that I can feel the way I want to. I can validate myself and our relationship is much healthier as a result.
It’s not all perfect (life never is) and there continues to be some unresolved issues on the family side of things. Although I now understand it all at a rational level, the impact of trauma tends to stay in our bodies and our nervous systems until we work it through and I started working with a childhood trauma coach in March to address this. Again, it’s one of those uncomfortable but rewarding experiences that is allowing me to be more of who I am and less weighed down by rules and conditioning and many of the “shoulds” I grew up believing without questioning.
The final thing I want to share is about money. That taboo and rarely spoken about subject and one that I have struggled with massively against a backdrop of being told it is vulgar to do so.
But here’s the deal. You all want more of it and many of you are afraid to go after the life you want for fear you will have to give it up. So it’s important – whether or not the topic is an uncomfortable one.
I have just finished the second year in my business. From a standing start. Working 4 days a week and having space each working day for long walks, my own coaching and down time. My sales in the last 12 months have (just) exceeded my corporate salary.
My big takeaways
– Control and perfectionism and people pleasing are not positive traits they are protective mechanisms. You can work through and stop doing all of them.
– Boundaries are everything.
– Everyone is always doing their best, but that doesn’t mean that their best didn’t harm you. Accepting and working through the harm is really important. This applies to parents, bosses, relationships and any instances of bullying or poor treatment you have experienced. Do not diminish your truth because (in your view) someone else has had it harder.
– Success does not require hard work and sacrifice. There is not a linear relationship between hours worked and money earned.
– Everyone is born worthy. It does not need to be earned and your bank balance and job title have zero impact on your worth.
– You were born worthy of unconditional love. If you grew up believing that love had to be earned, your caregivers had it wrong. Don’t apply the same conditions to your loved ones.
– The life you want is available to you. Believe that and then do the necessary to make it happen. The more support you get, the more likely you are to succeed.
Question for you:
What do you want the next 2 years to look like for you and what do you need to do to make it happen?