My priorities for 2020, as they have been for the last couple years, were to focus on my family, and to grow my coaching business. Having those priorities clear for myself made it easier to navigate the volatile year of 2020. Family came first, then my clients and coaching business, and everything else got dropped to focus on those two areas once the pandemic hit.
For instance, when the shelter in place orders went into effect in March, I just closed my calendar in the afternoons so I could take care of my toddler son. That decision meant I was working half time for most of the year, but it also meant I spent more time with my kid, exploring our neighborhood and playing together.
Having such family time enforced by the pandemic also reminded me to practice gratitude, particularly for our privilege and economic security when the world shut down. My wife and I both have jobs where we can work from home, and with flexible schedules so we could split child care. It was hard, but we didn’t have to deal with becoming home-school teachers, or losing jobs, or getting sick. Our friends and family are healthy so far, and since we live in California, we regularly get to see them in socially-distanced outdoor hangouts. So even though we weren’t able to get on a plane to travel, and the California wildfires were scary (we were on vacation in Guerneville when the fires started, and had to evacuate), we are very thankful this year for the basics of health, family, food, and security.
My coaching business felt a little dicey in March and April as nobody was interested in personal development as they were figuring out how to survive the new reality. But I focused on what I could control, which was delivering great value to my existing clients, and new clients started finding their way to me in Q3 and Q4 as they realized that they still wanted help to find their next steps forward. It also helped that I tried many things this year to increase my profile as a coach:
- I started a newsletter which is the easiest way to keep up with what I’m reading and writing. I publish every couple weeks, and share what’s on my mind and what I’ve been learning.
- I posted 100+ times to LinkedIn to share thoughts and learnings that helped my clients.
- I gave a webinar for the MIT Alumni Association to share what I learned about Resilience and Mindset in Challenging Times.
- A client recorded one of our coaching sessions and shared it as a podcast.
- I earned the Professional Certified Coach accreditation from the International Coach Federation.
Growing a business from scratch is a tough endeavor, and I am particularly thankful to have many sources of support, including:
- Masa Gong, my supervisor coach, who keeps me focused on how to best serve my clients.
- Steve March, who created the Aletheia coaching method. I took level 2 of the Aletheia Coach training this year, and learned more of how the physical and mental and emotional are all tangled together in humans. My individual coaching sessions with Steve illuminated some of my unconscious patterns that have been running my life.
- Kristin Cobble, my mentor coach from New Ventures West, who continues to find time to mentor me as I encounter new situations.
- My amazing clients, who put in the work to find new and powerful ways to show up day to day to create new possibilities for themselves and their teams.
- My coaching peers and fellow students, including friends from New Ventures West and from Aletheia, who listened to me and provided me support when I needed it.
2020 was a tough year for my personal development. I put my family and my coaching clients first, which left me little capacity to take care of myself, and so my self-care activities of meditation and exercise evaporated, which made me less capable of serving my family and clients. Ironic, right?
And because my lack of self-care left me ungrounded, I fell back into old stories of feeling worthless. So I put more pressure on myself to do everything on my to-do list so I could “earn” my value, which made each task feel like a burden and an obligation, which made part of me resent doing it, so I would procrastinate by playing games or reading crap on my phone, which made me feel even more worthless, so I would put more pressure on myself to get things done, and downward I would spiral. It was really frustrating to watch as a trained coach, because I could see what I was doing to myself, and yet found myself unwilling to change the pattern – a classic case of Immunity to Change, as some part of me is addicted to the guilt and shame of not doing “enough”.
So as I reflected on 2020, and looked ahead to 2021, I came up with a simple mantra for myself: Enjoy the moment.
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the only thing I really control is my next action. When I notice myself feeling that grinding sense of obligation, I have a choice:
- I can stop what I’m doing. One of my mantras for 2020 was “What happens if I stop?” and I want to keep reminding myself that stopping is an option if I don’t want to do something. There may be consequences for stopping, but I don’t “have to” keep going if I’m willing to accept those consequences.
- I can keep doing what I’m doing. If I do so, though, I want to remind myself that I am choosing to keep going, and do so from a place of clear purpose and joy, rather than because I “must”.
Either way, I want to start the habit of doing things because I consciously choose to do them, rather than because I feel like I “have to”. This even applies to self-care – I’ve now got so much shame and guilt wrapped up around not meditating and exercising, because a coach “should” be doing those activities, that the part of me that resents obligation is unconsciously steering me away from them, even though I know those activities bring me peace and joy. When I am watching my toddler son, if I come from a place of “I have to watch my son”, it can feel a torment where I want to escape into my phone, but if I come from a place of joy and choice, I can be present to his delight as he discovers and explores the world.
So that’s my intention for 2021: Enjoy the moment (aka let go of the Hero mindset, and instead embody a Buddha mindset). It sounds simple, but it is a complete flip from the way I have previously found success in life, which has been all about sacrificing myself in the present for a future goal. That future orientation has worked for me, but it also takes a toll, and I think it is time to experiment with a different approach (which will probably get me better results anyway).
Stay safe out there, as we enter another challenging year. I’m here to support you – feel free to drop me a line, or set up time for a chat. Thank you for reading my thoughts, and I’d love to hear any responses you have!