I have a client I just gave some pretty radical advice to, and it changed everything.
In one call she went from forcing, resisting, feeling like a failure, and constantly beating up on herself for not devoting enough time and energy to the building of her life coaching business, to feeling relief, hope, clarity, and greater self-acceptance right where she is––business or no business.
Whenever these big breakthroughs happen, I either write a blog post about them or infuse the aha’s into my programs so that more people can get free.
Here goes with the blog post about my client (and YOU, and ME, and well… all of us that give a shit about this topic):
Girl experiences life, and life stimulates girl to birth a powerful desire for sustainable joy and freedom in her work, relationships, schedule, and finances.
Girl meets yoga and all kinds of other philosophies, tools, and outlets for personal development and starts living her life as positively as she can. So far so good.
Girl starts teaching yoga, then her whole life begins to wrap itself around the consumption, implementation and teaching of empowering messages and techniques. Without meaning to, girl takes some of the self-help teachings to the extreme and puts a ton of pressure on herself to always be positive and always be striving to live up to her full potential.
Girl makes a lot of meaning about what her ‘full potential’ should look like, part of which includes becoming a massively successful entrepreneur who can call her own shots, career and schedule-wise, while enhancing lives all over the planet doing work that lights her up.
Girl becomes a chronic student of conscious business, lifestyle design, and all the things that she believes will help her reach her goals and find fulfillment.Girl believes in the law of attraction and has interpreted it in such a way that she cannot acknowledge and feel (and therefore broadcast and multiply) her feelings of sadness and discouragement.
Working on herself to become happier, more successful, more productive, and fulfilled has become an addiction––she literally can’t stop.
If she stops, she fears she’ll get lazy, become a victim, probably get FAT. She won’t be attractive or lovable. She’ll never find her soulmate. Her life coaching business will never get off the ground and she’ll be doomed for mediocrity… and that is something she just can’t bear. She’d never forgive herself.
Not when she had the power to make her life EXTRAORDINARY!!
Can you see how dangerous this way of thinking is? It’s so much PRESSURE.
I think we all kinda do this to ourselves in one form or another. We mean well, but we’re ridiculously hard on ourselves and we make things way harder than they have to be.
I definitely thought this way not that long ago. Honestly, I thought you weren’t living unless you were an entrepreneur, creating your life by design. (God, how comically egotistical!)
There was a part of me that quietly looked down on the chosen lifestyle, habits, and values of stability and certainty-loving, employee-minded 9-5’ers, seeing it all as a somewhat sad display of commonness––lacking creativity, drive and bravery.
But then (talk about CONFLICTED!) I’d also secretly envy these same people for their seeming contentment, ease, simplicity, and ability to settle for whatever hand they’re dealt in life.
They’d go to work and then come home and that’s it––work stayed at work. They get home, they’re free to really be at home chilling out. Make some food. Watch some TV. Call and chat with a friend. Relax and do it all again the next day.
As an entrepreneur, I eat, drink and sleep my work. I’m a little obsessive about it.
Less so since I’ve become a mom, but still, the tendency is there.
Because my work is my passion. I turned my passion INTO my work.
While I’m really proud of that and I wouldn’t change it for the world, the danger with that is that, you’re never off work. You take your passion (your WORK) with you everywhere you go. Even to bed.
Which is why entrepreneurs have to work 10 times harder at maintaining self-care and getting in that time to just do nothing.
Otherwise, we literally lose ourselves in our work.
Thankfully, this inner conflict of mine (yes, the hypocritical judging of all the 9-5’ers on the planet) turned out to be a huge blessing––for me AND for my clients. It was this conflict that lead me to several ‘dark nights of the soul’ where I was forced to do exactly what I just told my client (aka “girl”) to do, more or less:
- Look at the lies you’re telling yourself. Look at where you’re comparing yourself to others––making some “better” than you and making you “better” than others. Examine all the hierarchy, all the “should’s”, all the assumptions, all the things you’re telling yourself you’re “supposed” to be doing differently. All the things that you believe “should” be different about you and your life. Especially notice the “should’s” that feel scary to let go of––like you’d literally DIE (or at least your ego would) if you stopped believing them.
- Every one of these lies defies reality as it currently is. And that means what? That they’re all fucking bullshit. Indulging and believing them just makes you suffer. And you’re the author of that suffering, no one else. So see what happens if you just stop indulging them, just for a second. Pretend, just pretend, that you could let go of them. Do you feel relief?
- If so, don’t pick them up again. They’re not even TRUE. They’re not your truth. You picked them up somewhere, but they’re not yours, not right now. Shake ‘em off. Shake the dust.
- Take it a step further. Just for a minute, stop trying to measure up, fix yourself, better yourself, or live up to any of your self-imposed expectations and ideals. Observe what changes. How are you different? How does your life look differently? Lean into whatever takes the pressure off and gives you room to fully accept yourself and your life situation as it is now.
- It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s when you take this step that the REAL magic in your life that really DOES make you special and uniquely valuable jumps out at you––and you can do something meaningful with it that doesn’t make you feel icky, inauthentic, or bad about yourself.
Case in point:
I told “Girl”, my client, to give up on trying to be the shining life coach entrepreneur extraordinaire.
This is someone who completed the coach training I offer, so she was quite surprised that I’d give her this advice. But I knew from personal experience it was the only thing that would help. It was the only thing that felt “downstream”. Everything else just triggered more resistance in her.
Here’s what I told her, specifically:
All of your marketing feels to me like you’re trying to attract clients who will like you and be inspired by you because of the traction you’ve made in your life coaching business and what they’d take that to mean about how you can help them to quit their job and start their own business doing what they love.
But here’s the thing: That story doesn’t state, embrace and celebrate what IS, AS it is now. Because that’s NOT what is. What IS =
- You’re still working a full time job to pay the bills.
- You’ve suffered for a LONG TIME because you believed that until you had your own gig as a life coach, you weren’t living your best life and living up to your full potential. But that is changing.
- You’re starting to realize that your REAL work (where your TRUE sense of happiness comes from) is in making friends with your life as it is now, and pulling the best out of it as it is now––not putting your happiness off until you reach some goal that may or may not be in the cards for you.
- While you’re yet to have a paying life coach client (and you feel bad about yourself every time you compare yourself to other graduates in the coach training program who are generating clients and doing coaching), you DID successfully complete the training and you know you’re a great coach. You got, and continue to get, plenty of practice coaching friends and others in the program.
- You’re ready to coach a paying client, you just don’t feel right about coaching someone who’ll expect you to coach them out of a job they hate into a business they’ll love––because that’s not been YOUR path, not YET anyway.
For now, let’s meet you where you are. And remember, you can only teach what you’ve lived… what you know from personal experience.
Continue your efforts to love the shit out of your full time job.
Continue putting your attention on what feels genuinely true and real, i.e. you’ve told me that when you’re honest with yourself, you really DO like the security of your job and you really don’t want to spend all your free time trying to grow a business. You want to spend it with friends, taking care of yourself, and enjoying your life as it is.
AND, you’re learning that the more you learn about what it takes to run a business, the more you realize you might not be cut out for it. You might just want to REALLY learn to love your job and bring the best of who you are TO that current job until you find yourself in another job you’ll enjoy more.
You’d like to grow your coaching business, but only if it feels doable, realistic and authentic.
I do think that’s possible.
Here’s how I’d approach it if I were you:
If and when you find some free time on the weekends, you get a wild hair and want to take a step to pick up a coaching client or two (just for fun, and just for YOU), try this:
- Post an ad on craigslist that says:
Free life coaching for wannabe entrepreneurs who are done beating their head against the wall and ready to fall in love with their life as it is NOW.
- When prospects email you for more info, set up a call with them where you tell them your real story. “You too were a wannabe entrepreneur for a long time. As a result, you were always under an immense amount of self-imposed pressure to become something you weren’t (not yet anyway)… and you really weren’t nice to yourself. You’ve since learned how to take that pressure off, trust yourself and your life, take better care of yourself, and find real contentment with your life and career as it is now––business or no business. That contentment has rippled out into your being able to find creative ways to start a little something on the side, but without jeopardizing your job or missing out on much needed play time and downtime. It’s evolving into you working within this very specific niche and helping people in this very specific way. The more you coach, the more you learn, and the better you get at helping people in this situation to find the same fulfillment they THOUGHT they’d get from entrepreneurship in their CURRENT life and career. Essentially, you show them the shortcut to happiness and fulfillment, without all the risk that requires they leave the stability of their paying job behind. Whatever they do with that happiness and fulfillment, whether they stay in their job and LOVE IT or they too find creative, but pressure-free ways of starting a little something on the side, that part is up to them… but at least they won’t be suffering and feeling bad about themselves and their lives anymore.”
- If, after they hear your story, you hear theirs, and you’re both genuinely interested in working together, offer to give them 1-3 free sessions. You’ll give them so much value during those sessions (because you’re so passionate about this subject) AND you’ll extract so much learning and experience from those sessions YOURSELF, it will catapult you to a place of more clarity and confidence than you are now. More will be revealed, then you can take it and use it.
- Do this a few more times and, if you’re liking it, keep going. Gather testimonials. Document some of your coaching techniques and formulas as they show themselves to you. Let things grow organically, word of mouth, one foot in front of the other, one client, one conversation at a time. Soon enough, if you want to start offering more specific coaching packages and charging for those, by all means, do it! And if you want to start blogging about the conversations you’re having and the work you’re doing, go for it! Just don’t put the pressure back on by comparing yourself to others and what they’re doing.
After that, I could hear it in her voice. It was as though a thousand pounds had been lifted off her shoulders.
She felt met, and understood.
She could feel proud of her life exactly the way it is now. She no longer had to strive or paddle upstream.
She was free to love and be herself, wholeheartedly, and use her life experience to help others she could genuinely relate with.
The ironic part (and the moral of the story):
By letting go of her entrepreneurial dream (and the pressure she was attaching to that dream), she might’ve actually removed the only thing standing in the way of her fulfilling that dream. At the very least, she removed the only thing standing in the way of feeling the way she’d always hoped she’d feel once she achieved that dream.
This way, she gets to give herself the greatest shortcut of all––a straight shot to feeling the way she wants to feel NOW. Free from bullshit stories that made her feel bad about herself. Free to love herself, find her own way, and trust the unique and ever-unfolding adventure that is her life.
What greater freedom IS THERE than that?