When you’re born, no one hands you a toolbox with everything you need to win at life. The age-old saying that babies don’t come with manuals also applies to the baby. In fact, the tool box comes empty. As we grow, we fill it with skills, experiences, rationale and logic.
The experiences that life lays before us each day mold us into our future selves. Each person is unique in that way and no one toolbox is the same as another.
This year, I found myself relying on my personal and professional network to get the tools I needed to grow, while also sharing as many of my tools with others to help them overcome their own challenges in any way I could. My toolbox was missing critical skills to tackle caregiver trauma, balance, and the confidence to make a lasting impact in the lives of others through my coaching practice.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken with many primary caregivers. We all had similar stories and experiences once our loved ones have passed. I am left convinced that being a primary caregiver carries with it not only the responsibility of another human’s life as they come to the end of it, but also the heavy mental load where self-awareness typically ends in self-diagnosis and despair. I have come to learn that this spiral is life-altering.
Every caregiver knows what this is and the profound impact it has for the rest of your life. Much like grief, you don’t get over trauma. You accept it and try to figure out a way where it can live with you, but not allow it to overwhelm you.
Accepting trauma is a continuous struggle. Sometimes certain strategies work better than others. Sometimes, nothing works and I have to figure out how to tackle it. Part of my trauma, for example, is constant health anxiety. I’m aware that this takes a toll on my medical care team, my mental health and most of all, my family. But every day, I do my best to find a way to accept and manage it.
If there are things I could say to people just like me, it’s that you’re not alone no matter how lonely and isolating it can feel. And please don’t give up!
We spend so much time talking about work-life balance… not noticing that “work” always comes first in that equation. When life shook up my life, and work had to take a back seat, I struggled to find a version for what my life in the next chapter would look like that would make me happy. Finding a new balance in my personal life proved difficult because it’s a muscle I almost never use.
I looked at my life and noted what I loved about it, what I’ve always wanted to do and what I had a passion for. Everything that brought me joy, everyone who brought me safety and every single possession that carried a memory was prioritized over everything else. I needed to fill my cup in whatever way presented itself to me.
The outcome? A place in the country for serenity and introspection of self. A place in the city for my need for social interaction, business conversations and accessibility. In the end, I needed the integrate moments of self-reflection into my day-to-day life to process my grief and trauma away from the bustling sounds of the city. I craved silence so I could find my resilience. Though the city can also offer that, I found it hard to focus without being distracted by all of the wonderful social opportunities the city has to offer.
In the end, making decisions in service of my myself has never been a poor investment. It made implementing massive changes completely doable this year. It’s a tough road, but I recommend it.
This was my first full year of operating my life coaching practice. I call it a practice because there’s always an opportunity for learning, growth and improvement. However, I did come to one very important conclusion:
A lot of people joke about fresh MBA graduates joining the work force to save all business from imminent demise. I admit that I felt a similar responsibility. I believe that if someone reaches out for help, I must help them in every way I can. What I learned this year is that it’s not up to me.
Life coaching is a collaborative process where my desire to help someone needs to be met by my client’s willingness to do the work. Maybe this is a perception problem where mental work is not given the same respect and attention as physical work. Clearly, this is wrong. Mental work is taxing. It invades and permeates every aspect of your life because your brain is constantly working through themes and deliberately making different choices.
If you ask anyone who has seen a life coach, psychologist or therapist (more people have than you think), they will tell you that what makes this journey worth it is the work you put into it. That’s when you see life-changing results.
I can give tools and support and guidance, but clients do have to do the work. Not everyone is up to it once they find themselves in the deep end. And that’s ok. We’re not all created equal. Some can take on a heavier mental load than others. For those who can’t, give yourself the time to work through it at your own pace.
I accept that part of life’s toolbox is that it’s not complete. This can be a source of frustration or opportunity. For 2022, I’m looking at it as an opportunity to further build my tool box to continue my own journey of growth. If you’re ready to start yours and see tools here that you may need to add to your tool box, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and… be ready to do the work.