In private, they would share with me their fears and concerns. Business owners, afraid of losing clients if they raised their fees, would let their own well-being suffer instead. Corporate employees, needing to support their families, struggled with how to handle political issues at work or the insensitivity of bosses.
Together we found solutions to the problems that were causing them stress. Sometimes, simply hearing an objective perspective would make all the difference in the world. Other times, finding the right language to communicate their needs allowed them to get unstuck and take action. Most important, knowing that they were not alone and that others grappled with the same kind of issues provided them with comfort and much needed support.
Over time I became less interested in preparing people's tax returns and more interested in helping them prioritize their lives to spend more time with their families or fulfill a secret dream, like starting a business or having a child. I decided to stop providing my tax consulting services and start responding full-time to the greater concerns of my clients. I began to do this by holding workshops called "Secrets of Success" and speaking to groups about everything from goal setting to relationship-building strategies. People were relieved to find someone who could help them overcome obstacles to better their lives. One thing was clear--there was a need for "life planning" but there was no one to turn to. This need for objective guidance and support has spawned the profession of coaching.
Many people from all walks of life are turning to coaches to help them build better lives. The reasons may vary, but the bottom line is always the same--they want to improve the quality of their lives in some way. My client Shirley is a good example.
Shirley is the vice president of sales for a fast-growing biotech company. By most standards, she has reached a considerable level of success--she earns six figures, shares a beautiful lakeside home with her husband, and is a recognized leader in her field. But Shirley doesn't feel successful; she feels exhausted. Her day begins at 6 A.M. with a trip to the gym and continues nonstop until 8 or 9 at night. Most days--among the endless meetings, phone calls, and social engagements--she finds herself dreaming of a different life, a life that includes more time for herself, less stress, and a chance to express her creativity. Shirley's tired of living her best life in her head.
My client Joseph is a corporate employee who's already been the victim of downsizing and is afraid that he's headed in the same direction again. Joseph goes to work every day filled with anxiety, fearful that each day may be his last. After giving ten good years to his employer, an architectural firm, he knows that the marketplace has changed, and the company is now involved in restructuring. With mounting debt and one child headed for college, Joseph can't afford to miss a day of work, let alone lose his job.
And then there's my client Norman, the owner of a successful financial investment firm. Norman travels at least twice a month to visit clients scattered throughout the country. He has eight sales associates who call him at all hours of the day and night and a fiancée who complains that they never spend quality time together. Norman feels like life is rushing by at lightning speed, and he's starting to get nervous. He jokingly admits that he needs to stop and get a life, but he can't seem to slow down.
Joseph, Shirley, and Norman are caught in a trap. Each has come up against the kind of obstacles that prevent most people from taking control of their lives. For example, Shirley has no time for her life and feels frustrated by all the demands placed on her. She struggles to carve out time for the things she really wants to do--like taking a class and working in her garden. What's stopping her is an inability to put herself first. Shirley needs permission to make her self-care a top priority over anything else.
Excerpted from Take Time For Your Life by Cheryl Richardson Copyright© 1998 by Cheryl Richardson. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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