My story has three parts. Part One describes my journey from college to becoming a professional coach. It illustrates the themes of having a divine curriculum, finding your right-livelihood and the Dark Night of the Soul. Part Two describes my experience of being supported by Divine Guidance through a very challenging life transition while Part Three describes my discovery, and personal success, using the "inside-out" approach to draw to me those things (people, and experiences) that I most wanted.
Please choose as a starting point whatever section of the story seems to intrigue you or where you might expect to see parallels between your life and mine. Part One (this page) will mostly be of interest to coaches, healers and other people who find themselves drawn towards a particular field of work as their dharma or right-livelihood. If you are currently moving through a transition phase, Part Two might bring you some personal insights (after all our personal stories do echo the same fundamental truths) while if you are feeling a time constraint there is nothing wrong with moving directly to the most fascinating part...
My story: A brief history of my life up to this point...
My intellectual tribe: I was born into a family of school teachers on both sides. My parents are highly intelligent and academic-credentials-oriented individuals who, despite greater potential, both chose to take civil service posts to insure long-term job security. They fully expected their two children to go on for post-graduate education in highly acclaimed universities thus ensuring our future material success.
My original plan: I was indeed headed in this direction. Mom and dad were proud (well, at least satisfied.) By senior year of college I had the highest GPA of any Psychology major in a rigorous, research-oriented undergraduate Psychology program. My professors had wanted me to pursue a PhD in an academic branch of psychology but I had my heart set on working directly with people to unravel the emotional blocks that were barring them from living high quality lives. I had sent my applications off to five well-respected Psychology Doctoral programs when I underwent my first significant psycho-spiritual crisis.
The Dark Night of the Soul: It wasn't until many years later, when I read Caroline Myss, that I understood the nature and complexity of my senior year ascent into darkness and confusion. In Anatomy of the Spirit, Myss describes the key elements of a spiritual crisis: absence of meaning and purpose, loss of self-identity, and the need to experience devotion to something greater than oneself. This spiritual crisis can be distinguished from a psychological crisis as the individual has clarity that the motivation for the crisis comes from within. As she explains, "The inadequacy of the external component of the person's life is a consequence of the spiritual crisis, not the cause." One day I went to sleep confident of my direction and the next day it seemed I simply knew -- to the depth of my being (and the to the great distress of my relatives) -- that pursuing a Doctorate degree straight out of college was not my appropriate path.
When one door closes...I was granted admission to three of the five graduate programs and I used the fact that I wasn't accepted by my first two choices as the rationale for "taking a year or two off before reapplying." Although I was still lost and confused on another level I felt more liberated than I had at any time in my life. Despite internal and external resistance I made a commitment to get to know myself for the first time and to forge a new path.
What Color is Your Parachute? After faithfully completing all the exercises in Richard Bolle's marvelous inner-guide to job seeking, What Color is Your Parachute?, I finally had a sense of moving in the right direction. Once the exercises were completed I had the blueprint of my ideal job:
Setting off on my path: Now, granted this is a wonderful, appealing description (and it can be used as a powerful argument for the soul's ability to tap into one's true right-livelihood) but this job description did not fit any available position of which I was aware. As the exercise results did not send me in a clear direction, I tried everything that seemed to come close. I tried social work but found that the high responsibility/low control and pay did not suit me. I tried the life of a public school teacher but I became frustrated with the bureaucracy. My next idea was to leave public service and go for the rewards of private industry. After feeling that this was an even poorer match than all that had come before, I decided that, with my set of gifts, talents and tendency to frustrate/get frustrated when working within traditional systems, it would probably be best for me to work for myself.
Right-livelihood: So I began a home-based SAT coaching business which led me, indirectly, to the field of coaching and Coach U where I recognized that I had finally found my home. Here was the ideal work that I had been looking for -- it suited me to a "t". It began to seem as if every job that I had previously labeled a "wrong turn' had provided me with a "piece of the puzzle" which I was now able to use in the design of my ideal career. My first social work job brought me into contact with a wide variety of people and I became proficient in developing brochures and marketing materials there. As a teacher I honed my skills of teaching, facilitation, and synthesizing materials to present to groups. My time laying the foundation for a new division of a small business provided me with an expanded perspective of business and my time running my own work-at-home business gave me fabulous insight into the challenges of being an entrepreneur. Had I been consciously seeking the ideal background to bring to my new career I could not have come up with a more perfect learning path. It was indeed as if I was following a Divine curriculum and I thought (I was rather naive at the time) that I had finally reached my final destination.
Note to reader: Obviously there is much more to the story of how my coaching career evolved. If you are interested, you will find an in-depth account of my first years in my featured chapter of the book, Intentional Change: Personal and Professional Coaches Describe their Work and their Lives. (This book is available through most online booksellers as well as our bookstore.)
For part two, where the story really gets juicy, click here...