Four Steps to the Good Life

tattooed woman evensmaller
tattooed woman evensmaller

I’m a good coach. Actually, I’m a really good coach. I can skillfully guide my clients in time management, organizing, prioritizing, and decision-making, helping to hold them accountable as they make difficult and brave choices in their personal and professional lives. Here's why: because until relatively recently, I was terrible at those things.

In college, I would just keep all my papers and textbooks on my bed and push a little spot to crawl into to go to sleep. I figured, why put everything away when I would just need it again in the morning. Growing up, I could not make sense of why my mother would get so upset at what a mess my room was. I finally found a postcard that said, "How can I clean my room when the world is such a mess?" I sent it to her. I was the one who always had a bunch of plates (and cups and saucers) in the air at any one time. And since I don’t know how to juggle, this often resulted in chaos.

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Striving to continually improve seems to me to be a relatively universal phenomenon. And, although I know there are many explanations and theories on this—like our avid consumerism pushing us to our brinks, the media blasting us with images of all that we still ‘need’, and an often-missing foothold in spiritually grounding concepts like simplicity and happiness -- maybe it isn’t just about greed, and gluttony, or about any inherent lack in our lives.

Maybe we really do desire to be better—to offer to others the very best of us.

Step 1: Don’t be afraid to try a brand new path.

Take one small concrete step in that direction, and see how it feels. For me, seminary changed everything. When I entered, I had no clue what I would do with it, only that I wanted to serve people in a new way. Through spiritual education, I began to learn my triggers, and to recognize my ‘stuff’. I thought I was just going to learn about religion and serving others, but the biggest lesson of the journey was figuring out how much I needed to work on of my own hang-ups and insecurities and ineffective patterns before I could do much for anyone else. On ordination day, the music minister told us something to the effect of, “It is forever that you will be called ‘Reverend’”. And in that moment, I realized I had never had any job title that had ‘stuck’ before.

And.. you know how it goes… “with great power comes great responsibility”.

I learned to tune in to the still small voice and make decisions more wisely. I learned that voice actually became more clear with practice. I officiated my first ceremony, and knew, for the first time in my life, I was truly home. I married an expert organizer who believes and lives by everything having its place. He introduced me to my first Covey planner and it helped me exponentially prioritize my day. He believes everything has a purpose and a place- otherwise you give it away or throw it away. The Container Store is his “Cheers”; where everyone knows his name. And I began to feel something foreign-- waking up every day grateful to be able to do what I loved, to be doing meaningful work, and to be good at it. I decided I wanted to offer career coaching, with a goal of helping others feel that way too. Which brings me to…

Step Two: Find a mentor. Get Support. Preferably someone who recently stumbled down a similar path.

I began reading books on coaching. I went to a seminar and learned exactly how I would NOT market and promote my business. And then I began working with a coach who specializes in ADD and helped me see myself. I learned how to work with all the ideas I had swimming around, how to recognize and appease my anxiety at always running late and of trying to control outcomes that were mot my responsibility. I began to schedule my time in way that would allow me to be early or on time but still feel productive, and I practiced and practiced until it became my new normal.

One thing I have learned along the way is this—It is better to learn anything new from someone who is a relative beginner his/herself. I read a study some time ago that failing students had improved more significantly when tutored by B and C average students then by A students. I’ve found I always learn more readily from someone who has just figured it out and knows how to relate to my challenges. Please remember this as you embark on your journey of awesomeness. The greatness is already in you- it’s not a destination, it’s a process. Have some idea of the life you intend to create- but you don’t have to know how to get there.

And if you start feeling discouraged that you’re not where you want to be, remember that you are further along the path than someone else- someone who you may not have even yet met- someone for whom you can be a role model, a mentor, a coach.

Step Three: Honor your milestones.

Know what it means to you to “make it”. Define your success. I’m never too advanced to reward myself for a job well done. (Note: not “greatly” done). I’m a firm believer in still earning my little gold stars and gaining enough to get myself an ice cream cone- especially when pushing myself in a new direction. Too often, I see clients get discouraged when, from my perspective, they’ve made leaps and bounds in a few short months, jumping over one hurdle after another- but they are so focused on the finish line, they don’t stop to honor the benchmarks along the way as they hurtle past them. Honor your milestones. It reinforces the positive neurological connections your new patterns are making. In This Year I Will, M.J. Ryan writes, “…it’s crucially important that you stop, acknowledge your progress, and celebrate your success. … Behavior we celebrate grows even stronger.” This is not a selfish break—it’s a vital and necessary part of a new journey.

Step Four: Do it. And keep doing it. Block off five minutes in your schedule right now for the next baby step.

Right now, think about one thing you love to do and that you do well. Not great. Just well.

And then begin.

Bio:Dawn Camacho is a coach for professionals at a turning point, an interfaith minister, and a couples counselor. She’s honored to walk the path with folks serious about creating lives filled with meaning, balance, and fulfillment. She’s probably off somewhere right now, eating an ice cream cone.

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