New Leaf Blog
A lot of my clients, and other people writing, speaking and asking questions on social media, ask how they will know when they have found the right kind of work for them. After all, they say, what if I make the wrong decision?
When we are asked the right questions, we do know – at least enough to get going
Some people know clearly, as soon as they are actually asked. My client, Louise, was one of these. She came on a teleseminar I ran, and immediately told me all about how she wanted to write about people, especially young people, who were excluded from society and tell their positive stories. “I don’t know where all this came from” she said, “It just popped right out of me.” Nine months later she is pursuing a career as a freelance writer, doing just that.
For others it takes ongoing contemplation, trial and adjustment – though there can be immediate satisfaction in feeling that they are moving in the right direction.
And for all of us, the first step will not the the last. My own career changes have taken me from private sector management to careers guidance, to business start-up coaching, to consultancy, back to coaching and also writing. Each step has expressed something of who I am, and each has fed my skills and self-knowledge to prepare me for the next step. There is nothing that has not been useful, though some has been difficult or painful.
I know that we all have the capability to know when we are going in the right direction, if only we trust ourselves and know what to listen for. Different writers and speakers describe it is different ways, but the feeling is the same.
‘Shackles on, shackles off’
Martha Back, one of the best known life coaches in the US, describes feeling ‘shackles on’ when she is doing something that doesn’t serve her and ‘shackles off’ when she is on the right path. Each person has their own unique version of this feeling, so she advises her readers to test out what the feeling is for themselves with things they know they love or hate.
For me ‘shackles on’ comes up when I am cleaning the house, doing my accounts or not taking care of myself. It is not about ability – I am capable of doing all these things. But it generates a deep dread in the pit of my stomach, a heaviness and it makes me tired. ‘Shackles off’ comes when I am coaching, writing, or playing outdoors with my children. It feels energetic, light and alive. My body and soul are saying a big ‘Yes’.
The Coaches Training Institute, where I trained as a coach, teaches us to look for resonance. Resonance is not the same as happiness or what we might think of as ‘positive’ emotions. Resonance can be found in joy, grief, anger, love, jealousy and inspiration – any emotion in fact. Whatever we are feeling we are really feeling, and our whole body responds by coming alive.
Without resonance there is flatness, a lack of energy and a dullness in us, even if we are talking about a supposedly happy occasion. It is boring to listen to someone who is dissonant, but inspiring and energising to listen to a resonant person, even if they are talking about sadness.
It feels like coming home
As well as coaching, I love training. I love to be in a room with people and to take them on a journey where they discover their own answers. As well as energising them, it brings me to life. And I feel that I have found my way home.
I am writing this article on my way to the third day on a training course where I am assisting some powerful leaders training new coaches. I was inspired to write it on the first day, because of the feeling it generated in me – the feeling of coming home. I started writing the article on my way to the second day of the course, but wavered in my resolve to use this feeling as a descriptor.
Then, that same day, one of the participants on the course, close to tears, said ‘being here feels like coming home,’ – and I knew it wasn’t just me.
Coming ‘home’ to our true selves, to our true work, to a way of expressing ourselves in the world is deeply moving. We know when we have found it. We change and everyone around can see it.
We don’t always listen to ourselves. Fears, negative self-talk or old habits can hold us back and make us squash the truth back into a box. Sometimes people around us will try, consciously or unconsciously, to keep us the same as we were.
But some part of us always knows. Learn to listen. Choose to listen. Look for resonance, shackles off, a sense of coming home. It will bring you to life like nothing else.