Life coaching has changed my life. Honestly, I stumbled into it because it seemed to fit with my interests, skills, and lifestyle. I liked the idea of helping people live their best lives, being my own boss, and flexing my creative muscles to create workshops and exercises for clients. I know that some people think life coaching is a joke. One stranger on a facebook group we both belong to called life coaches "control freaks who bilk other people for money" or something along those lines. And to be honest, I don't blame him or anyone else for their skepticism. Because I once thought that life coaching seemed frivolous or even silly. Even as I signed up for classes to become one, I still found myself thinking, "Do people really need a coach to figure out their own lives?"
But I'm a believer. I've seen the power of spending time on self improvement. In my own life, I've become more compassionate and patient with myself and others, raised my awareness about my inner voice and the way I process emotions, and gotten better at setting meaningful goals and working diligently toward them. It truly works.
However, I believe another myth exists that life coaches are able to tackle all challenging circumstances full of positivity and self control, somehow immune to negative emotions. Yes, my mindset has gotten better, but I still struggle. Like last night...
My youngest was having a day. As you may know by now, she is the challenging, emotional one. I always joke that we've been dealing with the terrible twos for 5 years now. She's wonderful, but she busts my butt on the daily. Usually, she can have a melt down, stomp and slam and scream her way into her room, pet her cats to calm down, and come back downstairs with an attitude adjustment that lasts a while. Last night, however, she would reset only to come back and get all wound up again, for reasons that remain a mystery to the rest of the family. By the 3rd major fit in less than an hour, my sympathy and patience pots were nearly empty. I raised my voice, I got angry, and I told her that I was tired of her taking what should be a nice, relaxing (and rare) evening at home and creating fight after fight after fight over nothing. Now, I know that for her sensitive 7-year-old mind, it isn't "nothing," but I was done trying to understand.
Now I was stomping and sighing my way around the house. My husband came by and I started to air my grievances and worries about our youngest. She's only 7, after all, in a supportive and well resourced family. Her life isn't going to get any easier, and I want her to learn to cope and process before middle school homework, hormones and heartbreaks kick in. And as a life coach, I feel like I should be able to give her some tools. Goodness knows I'm trying. But on days like yesterday, I question my parenting, my ability to coach my daughter, and my ability to coach myself to handle it all better.
My husband is more stoic, patient and collected than I am, and he basically started coaching me about not engaging with her when she's in these moods and not letting her get to me and ruin my own good mood. Mind you, he's an ER doctor. While he was in no way attacking me and was actually accurately representing the situation, I didn't want to hear it. I was fighting to find ground to stand on that would allow me to default to my annoyance and anger. It didn't feel good, but it felt familiar and justified. And since I couldn't continue to argue with my daughter, I transferred my aggression to my husband. I tried to make my current anger my daughter's fault, and when he logically disputed that, I tried to make it his fault. Being angry was easier than admitting I was wrong.
"You're not helping," I finally said, exasperated.
He laughed it off, didn't engage, and walked away to let me process. That annoyed me too. He was handling me in the way I should've but failed to handle my daughter.
With time comes more rational thinking, and I can identify at least 5 better ways I could've handled the situation last night. My husband is right: it serves no-one when I get drawn into my 7 year old's drama. And when I let her ruin my day, I'm giving her more power than a 7 year old should have. I have coached a couple of clients to use the thought anchor "I've got the power" when they feel like their moods are easily influenced by the behaviors of others...yet there I was, giving all my power to a 2nd grader.
The point is this: Self improvement is damn hard. As I picked a fight with my husband, my rational mind was telling me, "He's right, you know." My emotional mind, however, was goading me: "You are justified. You should be mad. Show everyone how frustrated you are!"
I did reach some clarity through the process. I tend to exaggerate the importance of small moments. In the throes of my frustration and worries about my daughter, I felt like a parenting failure. Forget all the lovely moments we have, all the rave reviews from her teachers, all the growth I have seen in her...at that moment, everything was wrong.
"I hate to see you getting all mad and depressed over this," my husband said.
"I'm not depressed! This is just how I process!" (Loudly and with large gestures and tears in my eyes.)
You see, I'm coming to terms with the fact that emotions are not good or bad. They are simply emotions, and the human condition requires us to feel the full gamut. Fighting, ignoring or shaming the less pleasant ones just compounds the badness. I know myself pretty well by now, and I know that I have to let the emotions happen. My self-coaching work isn't in quashing the emotions. My work is in recognizing, feeling, and channeling the emotions into less destructive behavior. I don't need to scream and slam when I am angry. I can be angry and learn from my anger without throwing a fit. And ultimately, that's what I want to teach my daughter. Anger isn't bad. Anger is trying to tell you something. Allow the anger, but learn how to react in a less explosive way.
Finally, behavioral changes take time and practice. We come out wired a certain way, and our experiences solidify that wiring. Changing our wiring, especially if it's been there for decades, takes a lot of hard, uncomfortable work. Every time I feel angry, I have to practice feeling it without reacting to it. It is not a quick fix, but I know that it is one well worth pursuing. And fortunately, with my emotional child, I will continue to get a lot of practice.