Working as a Life Coach – My Journey
by Susan Watson
Life Coaching has changed my life and I know that it can do the same for others. It gets you back on track, offers you that chance in life to achieve your dreams and ambitions and give you that opportunity to set yourself ‘personal goals’ to keep you motivated and excited about the new and changing chapters in your life. It helped me find contentment and happiness and it can do the same for anyone who is willing to put in the work to reach out and grab opportunities. Yes, there will be challenges and barriers but look hard enough and make the effort and you will do it! How did I get here and achieve this wonderful new insight? Here is part of my story.
I started my own personal journey several years ago when I made the decision to make some changes for the better in my life. I found myself twice divorced, homeless with 3 kids, no money, debt and no job, I was carrying the experiences of a troubled childhood along with me. I wanted change, I wanted more….
I read as many self-helps books as possible ( from Relaxation and Meditation techniques right through to Psychology books) and without being aware of what I was doing, I was completing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach on myself, exploring my reactions and increasing my exposure to situations that caused me to be fearful. I recognised that to move on and make successful changes in my life, I had to change. My biggest challenge was improving my social interactions and communication. It was fight or flight and I had to stay and fight it.
I set myself small goals to achieve and situations that I had to step up to with the hope that the panic feeling would pass the more often I pushed myself and it did work. I kept written goals and a detailed diary so I could see what was working and I could follow my own development towards my goal. I knew I had to take responsibility for my life if I wanted to achieve and experience the life I hoped for. I introduced positive self-talk and reinforced an I-CAN-DO attitude into my vocabulary. I changed my self-talk to positive language, reiterating to myself that I can do anything I want to achieve. My personal mantra which I carried with me and would read and repeat was ‘I am a strong woman and loving mother and I can be successful at anything I desire’.
This was me starting to change the way I viewed myself and I was retraining my own thought process to see the positives and build self-belief. I used this many times over until it wasn’t just something I was saying. I believed this phrase was true and I changed my behaviours to demonstrate to myself and others, what a strong woman I was. My first goal was to get a job. I wanted a good job with a future, one that I could call a career and earn enough salary to be self-sufficient and look after my children.
I passed my first competency based interview, in group discussions and completed a presentation. Not bad for someone who not long before, found walking into a room of people the most anxious and stressful experience. I was delighted! This was my first ever office job and, after a couple of months I was offered an opportunity to take a position in work place coaching. I would be supporting colleagues on their behaviours and performance (under the guidance and coaching of an experienced coach). I completed coaching learning sessions and observations and then used my new skills supporting others and I got great results. Job satisfaction was high, my confidence was increasing and so I got a lot from seeing people achieve with my help. I discovered that I could help others feel good about themselves, I could build a natural rapport (through really listening and showing a genuine interest and discreetly mirroring the same body and verbal language) and I was trusted. I was developing in others an increased awareness of their thoughts, emotions and feelings. I could relate to people and understand the challenges they faced and encourage and help them to achieve their goals.
At this time my coaching was around career and performance, I would set up personal coaching plans, stating the desired goals and actions taken, results and consideration of the next steps. At all times, the individual I coached was the responsible decision maker. I was the facilitator who listened, questioned, challenged and stretched them to aim for new experiences and successes. I watched others transform into successful individuals and my own confidence soared with them.
After a few years of continuing working in this way, I found myself in a role where I was completing workplace Stress assessments and I was looking for ways to offer support to others at a time when they faced personal challenges and were struggling with coping with life for a variety of reasons. Here was my introduction to stress management and a greater understanding of people and the challenges they faced. I continued to develop my own skills. The coaching I had been doing over the last few years now merged with the stress management. I was offering confidential listening, helping others manage their stress and offering support while they identified changes that could be made, even the smallest of changes to enhance how they were coping. At the initial meeting, we discussed the current situation and the individual would list the areas they believed caused them stress and would prioritise them. I would then ask what changes they felt would relieve their stress. This way they were always in control. They were the responsible decision maker and I found that even the very smallest of changes could make a huge difference.
During this period, I worked with work place stress, bereavement and several people with mental health problems and depression. Although I was there as a point of contact and a support when needed, I ensured that the appropriate professional was involved in their care, such as Doctor, Psychologist or Counsellor.
Moving on a couple of years I started a course as a Mental Health first aider. This gave me a greater understanding of a variety of conditions such as psychosis, depressions, anxiety and how to identify the support required for those who had thoughts of ending their life. This also ensured I could intervene and recommend medical assistance sooner rather than later as I was more aware of the symptoms and behaviours of mental health disorders.
I wanted to set new challenges for myself and develop skills that could be of further help to others. I signed up for a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course and passed my practitioner level diploma, since then have never looked back. I have now also achieved my NLP Practitioner Diploma, Stress Management, EFT (emotional freedom technique) and Mindfulness Diplomas as well as Life Coaching and Advanced Life Coaching. I also studied and completed a teacher’s certificate for supporting children with autism. All of those skills and techniques cross over and can interlink to be used with an individual. I tailor my approach, language and skills to suit the person I am working with, to get the best results for them, my years as working as a people manger and work place coach are a strong foundation for me and I can “read” people very quickly now and adjust my approach to help them relax and talk openly and honestly very quickly.
The way I see the world has changed greatly. I am no longer the poor girl with 3 kids and no money, feeling sorry for the rough deal life had played. I set myself goals, looked for change and solutions and if I came across any obstacle then I found my way around it. I have remarried, have a job I enjoy, happy children and grandchildren, debt free and life is good! I continue to review where life is taking me and what I want to achieve. I work with the view that I can’t change the past, why waste energy on what you can’t change? I can make a difference to the future, a bright future, filled with joy and contentment and I am always the person in control of my own life.
I use my skills on a daily basis in the work place. I use a variety of ‘Coaching models’. However the GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) is the one I find the most adaptable. I listen, question and challenge, help others see a brighter future and importantly the one they are looking and wishing for. Through regular coaching sessions and honest conversations, reviewing goal plans and amending them if required. SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a valuable tool for this. It is a great tool for reviewing what you do well; Areas of learning and what your challenges and opportunities are likely to be. I have helped others with their fight or flight moments, over-coming their own personal fears and recognising every achievement with them, I have made a difference! It is a wonderful moment witnessing someone make lifelong changes and achieve what they hoped for, knowing that you helped. I believe this is my goal in life, to help others find a new road to an improved life satisfaction.
As human beings, we all have moments of self-doubt or concern about how capable we are at particular tasks. I have a box that I can visit when I need that little reminder of what I have I achieved through my journey. This box is full of cards with messages of thanks from people that I have helped over the years and reading the messages brings me joy and confidence that I can help others to a more joyful and satisfying life.
I am now running my own business! My areas of expertise are a strong understanding of the challenges others can face in their life. My desire is to share this gift, this wonderful experience of fresh starts and how anyone can make the changes they wish for. All they need is the desire to really do it and the good thing is that it is never too late! I am going to focus on specific areas of coaching which are confidence building. Career advice, stress management and relationship coaching. I believe that my own life experiences and what I have learned on my own journey have gifted me with the skills to help others succeed in their own personal journey. I am very excited and motivated by seeing the experiences this new adventure is bringing me.
My story is my beginning, my journey, which led me to where I am today, a Life Coach, with my own business! You can do this too!
Susan Watson: SNHS Higher International Dip. (Life Coaching), SNHS Dip. (Life Coaching), SNHS Dip. (Advanced Life Coaching), SNHS Dip. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), SHNS Dip. (Stress Management).
Professional body Membership: The international College of Holistic Medicine (ICHM)