How coaching changed the record in my head

Helen Perry Blogger

This is not a sad story. I have a lucky, happy life. Yet for more years that I care to admit, I have been going around in circles wondering what to do next. I’ve been asking myself what I wanted, what I had to offer, and what was wrong with me? Without being able to find an answer. So a few months ago, to try and finally get myself out of this rut, I signed up for a course of coaching sessions. You can call it ‘life’ or ‘career’ coaching, it doesn’t really matter, and it’s pretty difficult to separate the two anyway. These few hours seem to have unblocked whatever was holding me back. I have started something new (voila, my blog!), and have turned down the volume on the negative conversation inside my head. I thought it would be good to write about the experience, in case anyone else thinks ‘I could do with a bit of that’.

Where do I start?

Nearly ten years ago, I (very voluntarily) went from being a full time journalist, to a full time mum. My children came close together and I had a fairly impractical job with a commute and shift work. My husband was able to cover the mortgage, and me being at home allowed him to focus completely on his career. It all worked really well from a practical point of view, but for me personally, things have not been so clever.

As soon as the baby-fog cleared I started to spend a lot of time worrying about my next move. I wanted to be around for the kids, but struggled to see that as the beginning and end of it. People often ask you what you do, and when you are planning to go back to work? I never had a decent answer. So this is how the record would play….

‘There is something wrong with me, and I’m lazy. I have a fundamental weakness and failing, that other people can’t really see, but it stops me from achieving anything new. I don’t contribute financially to the household, but spend plenty of money. I have nothing to offer in conversation with people who have proper jobs’.

Every time I came up with a career plan, I would talk myself out of it. Alongside this was a rising panic that I was running out of time. Sooner or later the children were going to move on and I’d be old grey, miserable and redundant.

You can see that this was a pretty tragic chat that I was having with myself and that it needed to stop!

What is coaching?

My friend Sarah retrained to become a coach during this time. I wouldn’t have known much about it otherwise. I saw Sarah make big changes in her life, and help other friends do the same along the way, so it had been in the back of my mind that it might be an option for me at some point. She’s kindly helped me out a bit with this post, just to help explain what coaching is all about.

Sarah says that when people come to her with they tend to have reached a “compelling sense of being at a crossroads” in their life, maybe they’ve been dissatisfied for ages (me), or something forces change, like redundancy. The way she puts it is that they often have a head full of thoughts like a “bowl of spaghetti”, and it’s her job to help untangle it.

Sarah Leach of Stride Coaching

Sarah Leach, Life and Career Coach

It all boils down to getting clear about what you want in life. As Sarah says “most of us don’t know what we want, because we don’t stop and think about it”. So the first step is to try and understand what you really, honestly want in you gut. What are your true values and priorities? What drives and motivates you? This is a powerful and revealing process that comes through talking about why you have come to coaching, and what you hope to achieve.

Making change

Once you have established where you would like to go, the next step is to work out what it is that is stopping you. Sarah calls this part “taking down the brick wall”. You sit and identify the barriers that are standing in your way. This is often really practical stuff like childcare, money, location, and qualifications. Sarah says “you take the wall down brick by brick until you can see a way to your goal on the other side”.

The first big barrier I took down, was inside my head. My coach and I looked at all of the skills I had gained during my time off work, and it completely changed my perception of my role as a full time mum. It has been such a relief. Why do we put so little value on domestic work? Another post for another day!

What coaching isn’t

Sarah says there is no point in holding back during coaching, you have to be prepared to “give everything”.  For me, I suppose this was talking about all the “I’m a rubbish idiot” stuff.  Equally, coaching is not councelling for deep routed psychological problems. It’s not about dissecting the past, it is about shaping your future. Any decent coach would identify problems that need a different sort of councillor, and suggest you go there to address them.

Once you get off the coach

It’s funny, during my five sessions we never once discussed blogging, or social media management or content creation or anything remotely in that area. In fact, I initially wondered if the whole thing had really worked for me. Then, a couple of months down the line I started to seriously look in to these options and did a tiny bit of training. Then I decided that starting a blog would be a good jumping off point. It’s so obvious that I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me sooner. Sarah thinks that the coaching process has helped me filter out a lot of pointless, unproductive thinking, and finally helped me to find a way a workable way forward.

Me, blogging at the Thames Lido in Reading

What about the old record?

I’m still at the very first stage of building a new career for myself, and the old record still plays in the background. Doubts and invasive negative thoughts pop in to my head most days, but I seem to be able to identify them for what they are, and sit tight until they pass. And they do pass.

The main message that I really want to share by writing this is, don’t be reluctant to invest in yourself. I suspect that as women and mums we might find it counterintuitive to spend a few quid trying to figure out what we want. I’m absolutely sure that I will get stuck again along the way, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return for more coaching to get over the hump.

Read more about coaching at the website for Stride, Sarah’s Coaching consultancy.

I worked with Stephanie Smith Coaching. Stephanie specialises in working with people who are returning to work after having a family, or want to re-balance their work and family lives.

I’d love to know if you can relate to my experience, or have any thoughts or questions on coaching. Join in the chat below.

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What's your View?

11 comments on “How coaching changed the record in my head

  1. Ellie on

    Wow! Such a fantastic, inspiring post that is very timely for me. I need help my untangling my spaghetti and hadn’t even considered this. X

  2. Sarah Leach on

    A great read Helen, this is definitely something you have a talent for! Keep going with your blog. I’m going to be an avid reader. It’s just the start of a wonderful journey to somewhere. How exciting it’s going to be, to uncover where it might take you! Enjoy the ride!

  3. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Ellie, thank you so much for visiting my blog! If you need someone to help you with that spaghetti, my suggestion would be to talk to at least two coaches before you decide who to work with. It’s really important to find the right chemistry. They won’t mind at all, it’s common practice. As you can see, it helped me find a way through the fog. The very, very best of luck! Helen xxx

  4. Samantha Nagtegaal on

    I can totally relate to this Helen! A really interesting, and pertinent-to-me post. I started a cooking blog a few years ago, it went well so I took the plunge and invested in a website with my own domain name etc and did loads of work establishing it. Then, kind of unexpectedly, we moved house seven months ago, and all the work I’d done trying to get myself established so that when my youngest started reception in September went by the board as I became totally preoccupied with how my eldest was adapting to his new school (he started in June 2017), trying to sort out our new house, doing lots of decorating. I also went from a beautiful kitchen which we installed in our old house, to a dated, 80’s pine thing, which is not at all photogenic. My kitchen was intrinsic to my website and instagram phitos, and i didn’t know what to do. Now we finally have a study/creative room decorated, I am planning to get right back into it this year, though it will be hard until we can redo our kitchen.
    I totally empathise with the “I’m rubbish; I have nothing to offer” attitude too. I’m constantly struggling with it. You are a real inspiration though, along with a few others on Instagram, and I hope to immerse myself once again in what I love.
    xxx Sam

  5. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Samantha thank you for this thoughtful comment, it is really nice to learn a bit more about you! I do so hope that you get back in to the swing of things in 2018. I met a lovely girl called Emily at the blogging course I went to, she’s @thewrightfoodie on Instagram. She does lovely colourful photos of food without including her kitchen at all (but I do hope your dreams of a new kitchen come true too)! Have a look for more inspiration. Those thoughts are just tricking you, and they will quieten down so much if you get stuck back in to blogging. Much love and thanks for your support, H x

  6. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Thank you for the motivational message Sarah, you are a brilliant coach and a good friend. Thanks for your help with this post, I hope that I have summed up the practice of coaching well enough? Helen xxx

  7. Andrea on

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been considering coaching for a while. It feels like an indulgence but I’m getting my head around that it’s actually an investment.

  8. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Andrea, I felt so long feeling that I couldn’t justify the expense. In many ways, that’s just another way of feeling a bit down on yourself! Coaches are happy for you to call them and have a chat to see whether you might get along, then you can find someone who is the right fit and price for you. Go for it! Helen x

  9. Liz on

    This was a fantastic read! Thank you for sharing. A lot of what you said are quite similar to what I have been experiencing the past several years – very similar thoughts as well. I’m so happy to have found you on IG recently and your blog. You’ve definitely inspired me to move forward with things and sort my spaghetti out 😉

  10. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Liz, I’m so pleased that you got something out of reading this. I have really benefited from coaching, so just love to spread the word. It is amazing how long you can go around in circles in your head struggling to find a way forward (years in my case), but you will find a way to make changes when you are ready. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment, I do appreciate every single one. Helen xx

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