Being a coach has been such a gift in my life. I get to be an attendant and helper and a witness to people who are wanting to make changes in their lives. Having had to make many major changes in my life has given me a sense of empathy with what my clients are going through. Ultimately, being a coach is a selfish profession – I get to feel good about myself when my clients succeed and I can revel in the reflected glory of their greatness.
When you want to change your life it can feel like you don’t know where to start. Depending on how stressed you are by the circumstances that are telling you that changes must be made, the first step may be to build your level of resilience. That can be done through a variety of means and are very specific to each person. I found my way to horses at a time of enormous change and they helped me to find an inner strength I didn’t know I had. Finding your own source of inner strength and renewable energy is an important part of the journey. Sometimes it takes time to encounter your own personal wellspring. Be patient. The wait is worth it.
The most effective beginning in the journey of transforming your life has to do with having a vision, knowing your purpose or mission, and getting intimate with your top 5 to 7 values. These things become your compass – a map if you will that will guide you on the path to your new ideal life.
Alignment – The First Step on the 8 Fold Path
When the stars align magic happens, doors open, wishes are fulfilled, and the promise of happily-ever-after seems within our grasp. Alignment is possible when we have a vision, understand our mission, and know our values. Without knowing these things, decision-making is a lot more hit-and-miss. Making decisions in the absence of these important guides can take us down empty roads that lead nowhere.
I was in my 40s before I started to get serious about having a vision for my future life. Prior to that I had a long list of experiences I wanted to have and making decisions was difficult; life decisions seemed to be more about ruling things out than leaving doors open. I wanted my cake and eat it too! At some point I reluctantly realized I had to prioritize my dreams, setting some aside for later while making practical decisions about the here and now. I went through some very tough times and some of those decisions became very hard to make in the absence of a clear vision. I began to realize that I had no magnetic north to guide me through the complicated choices I needed to make. Career choices, financial choices, relationship choices, and even choices about where to live. All these things seemed to be so intertwined and I found it hard to know where to start. I came to a point where my life seemed like a pile of pick-up sticks. I had to choose carefully which stick to pick up first because the wrong choice would disturb the pile and everything would collapse.
My reading and personal research helped me to understand that I was at a crossroads and needed to find a path. I needed a compass. That compass turned out to be a process of learning about my values, my deepest dreams and wishes, and imagining and visualizing how I wanted my life to unfold. It was very hard at first. I came across many limiting beliefs that I held about my self-worth, my talents and capabilities. As I began to dissect them, I was surprised often at what I discovered about these old beliefs. It was like going through an old trunk, finding old moth-eaten clothes, faded pictures, letters from strangers, and crumbling memorabilia from a long ago past, and realizing that there was little left that was worth holding onto. I realized I needed to change and that I was the only one who could make those changes, and somehow, I got up the courage to challenge those limiting beliefs and start to adopt some new ones that would serve me.
It must be said that challenging limiting beliefs and crushing them to dust are two different things. I still have days where I question my worth, but I seem to know better about not believing everything I hear inside my own head. The brain’s default mode network, that part of our brains that plays the old DVDs and tries to keep one from stretching and growing oneself, will likely always be there replaying original programs. Those old programs may never go away but I know I can learn to limit their ability to affect how I think and feel about myself.