I recently went through a great disappointment in my career. The kind of disappointment that should really bum a person out for a few weeks, maybe even a month, but not to such a degree that I questioned the entire direction of my career.
Maybe you’re no good at this. You clearly don’t have the talents you thought you did. You should quit now before it gets embarrassing.
These thoughts ran through my mind, and suddenly my dream career lay hemorrhaging on the table; I was ready to call time of death in order to save just a modicum of dignity and self-respect.
I phoned a trusted friend. In the supportive and non-judgmental tone that only good friends can provide, he asked, “Why don’t you try a life coach?”
Get this straight, never – I mean, jamais – in a million years did I think I would be signing up for a life coach. Years ago, I had gone on a few dates with a self-described Life Coach/Personal Trainer and nothing sounded more like the sale of snake oil to rich Toronto housewives. Not for me! I’m too critical for that Dr.Phil-Oprah-eat-a-handful-of-goji-berries-every-day-bull!
But I was in pain. Overwhelmed with a sense of loss. Clearly my way of doing things wasn’t working. So I gave a call to recommended life coach Sarah Amelia Lang.
Previously when I was in a rut I could call my friends or my dear sweet mum and hear the gamut of supportive cheery anecdotes: You’ll be fine; you worry too much. But as Sarah describes, the premise of coaching is to release the constraints of how we see our lives. Just because one always worries, can’t be happy, and all the other descriptions our nearest and dearest use to assess, it doesn’t mean we are that way or have to be forever. As I hear it, the purpose of life coaching is a co-active identifying and shifting of our own limited view of self.
In my first session with Sarah, I bemoaned my career, my recent disappointment, my decent but not great apartment, and trotted out the old logic of Life would be happier if I had/did/changed x, y, and z. Sarah listened patiently but began to ask about the other facets of my life: my hobbies, what I did in my spare time, if I gave myself free time. “Well no, not really.” I continued my defense, “It just doesn’t feel productive. I’d rather achieve something.”
Sarah thought about this. “But in this whole picture of your life, you know what I don’t see a lot of?” she took pause to continue, “Joy.”
A heavy mix of pain and shame struck my core. The beginnings of tears rimmed my lower lashes. I couldn’t speak for the tidal wave of emotion that I was trying desperately to suppress. “I am not happy,” I eventually admitted through pursed lips.
As anyone may say, there are events and people in my life that I recognize as sources of happiness. If someone threw me a surprise party, I’d recognize that as happiness. But it never lasts. Within myself, I have no baseline for cultivating happiness.
With each session, Sarah assigns some homework – tasks that I can do to notice patterns of behaviour. After one session, Sarah prescribed a gratitude journal, which I’m sure I rolled my eyes about, but also felt so raw I knew I would do the homework.
And I did. And it has changed my life.
Each morning I record three things that I am grateful for and one moment of joy. It takes me about three minutes and I have to say, that those three minutes each day have significantly changed me.
Up until my work with Sarah, I had always thought that I just wasn’t one of those people that could be very happy. I (with shameful hubris) felt that I was too smart to be swindled by the fool’s gold of so-called happiness. But through the practice of noticing and noting gratitude, I have discovered that happiness is the through-line of the things I am grateful for: lunches, sunny afternoons, talks with friends. Happiness comes from my search for gratitude. Not waiting for wonderful things to happen to me but rather noticing what is already happening as having its own quiet wonder.
The search for this appreciation has lifted my spirit and quite simply, I feel happier because of it. I feel more joyful. I am more present for those small everyday moments, which, strung together, make a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime. Happiness is a practice I am learning.
My life isn’t perfect. In fact, no major shifts have occurred with regards to romantic status or career promotion. Yet, while a month ago, I was wrought with pain, I now feel I have a practice in which I can empower myself in a real, lasting way.
While my overall happiness is a true work in progress, I know in my heart that gratitude is integral. If all my stars aligned for the rest of my life and I received everything desired, could I really feel happiness without learning to be grateful for what I have? Where I once saw wantonness, I now practice to see abundance.
If you’re interested in this kind of work, I happily offer up my truly wonderful, insightful, and supportive life coach Sarah Amelia Lang.