Last week, I asked on social media what people would most like to know about life coaching and about me as a coach (if there's anything you'd like to ask please leave your question in the comments below.) I had lots of questions and I’m going to work my way through them and this seemed like a great place to start.
What is a life coach?
A life coach is someone who comes alongside you to help close the gap between where you are right now and where you want to be in any area of life.
A coach will help you rediscover your dreams, passions, strengths and skills and help identify whatever obstacles or challenges might be holding you back and help you learn how to overcome them.
A good coach will hold a safe, non judgemental, space for you, ask questions and equip you with the tools and techniques to enable you to answer those questions.
A coach will empower and encourage you to believe in yourself and help you develop a toolkit to confidently face challenges and move forward in life.
This is why I love what I do!
This is my latest felt painting (I work as an artist as well as a coach) and it comes with a story.
I woke up a few weeks ago with a clear idea of what to felt. I thought because I had a clear end point it would be straightforward to felt.
It was really complicated and needed lots of research about how gannets dive and their physiology to make sure I got the proportions and shapes just right. .
I learnt that just because I had a clear dream I still had to work really hard to make it happen and I had to stay completely focused on my end point.
I’ve called this piece ‘Focus’ because of my experience and because every aspect of the gannet is aligned and precisely focused so that he can survive the dive and catch dinner!
These blue hospital chairs have become familiar to me. ‘Hospital blue’ is such a unique colour I’ve found.
These chairs have marked various steps in my cancer journey from the shock of the initial diagnosis, to treatment plans, to an early remission, to the news of the aggressive cancer returning, to surgery and stem cell transplant plans, to recovery and where I find myself now; 2 years and 5 months on from my transplant and cancer free.
I saw my consultant yesterday (all good news) and pondered on these chairs and the journey they have marked. My journey had fallen into three parts: fighting, surviving and overcoming and all have been necessary.
In the fight, my head was down and I was fighting with every breath in my body. My focus was the battle I was in and what I needed to do to find victory
I survived and began to recover but in that place of survival I still feared my enemy and lived in its shadow. I had to acknowledge there were injuries from the fight, both physical and emotional, and invest time and care into their healing.
Now I find myself in a place of overcoming. I have processed that fear, I can look my past events in the eye and not be scared of their hold over me. I can sit in this blue chair calmly and at peace and think ahead to how I can help others on their journeys.
As I sat here yesterday I was reminded too of the guides and companions I have had on my journey and I am profoundly grateful for them.
Fight. Survive. Overcome.
Where are you in your journey today?
The amaryllis bulb that I planted with faith and hope in memory of my grandparents has blossomed in all it's glory.
It brings me great joy every time I pass it and a deep sense of gratitude for those who have gone before.
Every year I grow an amaryllis flower in memory of my grandparents.
Every year I look at the bulb before I plant it and wonder at the fact that even though it looks dead and lifeless it is only dormant and there is a whole plant and bloom in there waiting to emerge.
In faith, I bury it in the soil, water it, position it in good light and wait for the growth and the glorious flowers.
Every year they appear.
I took my daughters to the cinema this afternoon to see Aquaman. A fun trip out together and a way to get a few hours head space and distraction, or so I thought. The story really spoke to me and it became a much bigger experience than I was expecting.
Arthur (Aquaman) is running away from his destiny, pretending he doesn’t care and trading on his strength to bring him popularity and acceptance.
The movie follows the classic hero storyline and so Arthur realises he’s the only guy that can save the day and he has a choice - will he step up to embrace his destiny?
Lots of challenges follow and ultimately he has to face the things he’s running from:
hurt, guilt, fear, vulnerability and inadequacy. He doesn’t think he’s up for the job but as a wise woman tells him - they don’t need another king they need a hero.
A hero who embraces his failings and his apparent lack of qualification but who still finds within himself what is needed for victory.
It left me with a couple of questions:
What are we running from and afraid to embrace about ourselves?
What is it we think disqualifies us from our destiny and yet is the very thing that might qualify us?
One of the lines from the closing song sums it up:
‘Everything you are is who you’re meant to be’
Go see the movie.
At the start of the last quarter of 2018 I was feeling pretty happy that I was on track with my goals for the year, apart from one. I’d challenged myself to hold a solo exhibition of my felt art and I was ready to bail on it. I had made all of the artwork but the thought of actually exhibiting it felt too big, too hard and was making me feel too vulnerable.
After a bit of internal wrestling I decided to see it through because I saw the incongruity of working as a coach to help other people push through the challenges and achieve their goals yet not pushing through on my own goal.
This is what I learnt in the process:
The bigger the goal, the bigger the departure from your comfort zone.
I was happy tucked away in my studio creating art for my theoretical exhibition. The thought of actually exhibiting this art was a bit terrifying. It wasn’t feeling any more comfortable the more I thought about it. The only way to achieve the goal was to leave the comfort and security of my studio and do it. I couldn’t achieve the goal and stay in my comfort zone. It was one or the other.
You never feel completely ready.
I had lots of reasons why it just wasn’t the right time and I wasn’t prepared enough. There was too much to do and too much I didn’t know (turns out there was actually a ton more stuff I didn’t know but at least I only discovered that once I’d started!) I took the first step of seeing if my dream venue was available and it was! From that first step the momentum started to build and it was a steep climb but I learnt what I needed on the way. Its the first step that takes the most courage.
Telling someone it was happening meant it had to happen!
I started talking about my goal to trusted friends and family. Once I had spoken it out I had to see it through!
Achieving a goal is a team endeavour so find the people who are cheering you on.
I couldn’t have done this on my own! My husband and daughters were total rock stars and totally got behind what I was trying to achieve and pitched in to help make it happen. They kept me going when my confidence would falter and they completely believed in me and my ability to do this thing.
It was really hard work.
I’m not going to lie, it was harder than I thought it would be! From the learning, to the prepping, to the actual exhibition, it was a marathon. I slept for 12 hours straight once it was done.
It was totally worth it.
I am so proud that we pulled it off. There were moments that I thought we’d bitten off way more than we could chew but we pushed through and that feeling of accomplishment is pretty heady stuff.
Next year’s exhibition is already booked!
We put our Christmas tree up at the weekend and it comes with a bit of a story.
My husband has a long held hope of a potted tree that lives in the garden and comes in every year to be decorated for Christmas. It will grow and mature and become a family legacy.
We started this plan a couple of years ago but we didn’t tend the tree properly throughout the year and it started to look a bit forlorn.
This year we had a choice. Keep going with our beleaguered tree because we’d made a start and pride said we had to stick with it, give up entirely or use what we’d learnt from our first attempt and begin again with a new tree, tend it well and keep the hope alive.
We went with the new tree.
So that’s the story of our Christmas tree. Perhaps it’s about something more too.
It’s okay to start again.
Transitions can be hard.
I’m working with some amazing and brave people who are deeply grateful for their life so far but they don’t want to settle for comfort when there is more to do and become.
The morning of our lives is when we learn and discover more of who we are and why we’re here.
Our afternoon is about having the courage to put that knowledge into action and become more of who were created to be.
The great news is that you don’t have to be who you once were.
You are allowed to change.
This transition to a second journey is often called a midlife crisis. Perhaps, instead, it is a midlife opportunity.
I re-read this book recently which is full of letters from brilliant women to their younger selves. The letters are inspiring, encouraging, heartbreaking, funny and so very wise. I found myself crying and laughing in equal measure and was left with the conviction that our capacity to overcome and to really live is quite amazing.
I started to think what I would write to my younger self.
Would I document all the highs and lows that were going to come or would that take away the sense of adventure and discovery?
Would giving too much away about the life that was to come detract from the learning in the hard places and the joy of the mountain tops?
Forewarned is forearmed as they say and perhaps I would rob myself of the lessons I needed to learn when I found myself challenged beyond what I thought possible and I had to dig deep to find treasure I hadn't know was there.
After much thought and re-writes, I think this is what mine would say:
“Dear younger Jo,
Life isn’t going to turn out how you thought -and that’s okay. It’s going to be so much better, so much harder and so much more worth it than you can imagine right now. Your heart is going to break and expand in ways you didn’t think possible.
You can do it and you are enough.
It’s going to hurt at times but trust the process, let people in and always, always look for the joy.
You’ve totally got this.”
What letter would you write to your younger self?