I was reading the website of a prominent life coach the other day, and was feeling myself getting seduced by the promise of change. For me, this feeling is a little tug in my chest, accompanied by a little voice that says, "You could be like her! Why don't you just try harder? You could be successful like that! You can have everything you want in your life! Just try harder!"
I was getting pulled in by her clarity, and her certainty, and her artfully written course descriptions and "How I Work With You" page. I was dreaming of what my life would like if only I were “as on top of things as she was”. I was reading through her punchy blog posts, which boiled everything down into three simple categories, a numerical scale, and a "toolkit" for achieving the state of bliss that she has apparently created for herself.
In her "About" page, where she introduces herself and tells her story of why she became a coach, she talks about "having been there". Having been broke, miserable, in a rocky marriage, and not living her best life.
Later, she talks about how she finally hit "rock bottom" in her life and made a slow, messy climb out to attain her current dream life that includes financial freedom, working in her pajamas, and answering to no one except her fabulous, perfectly-happy-to-pay clients who just blow her away on a daily basis.
She says that the reason she's put together her current offerings is to "save us the trip" to our own rock bottom, a place she's sure we'd rather skip over and prevent from happening to us. So, sign up before the early bird registration deadline of TONIGHT at midnight, or stay stuck on your path toward rock bottom!
OK, so that last sentence wasn't actually on her website. But this is at least the second time that I've read the words "rock bottom" in a coach's story, and heard a similar sales pitch saying, "The reason I'm offering this program to clients like you is so you don't have to go through the hell I went through! You can just shift right into your own fabulousness without all the hassle!"
I fell for that pitch once.
Twice, actually. I was wholeheartedly seduced into paying thousands of dollars for a program that promised I would "triple my income" and "quadruple my happiness" if I enrolled. It was an “upsell”, meaning I had purchased a lower-priced program from this coach and then was offered a free informational call about the next level program. There was such power, such clarity, and such a personal success story wrapped into the pitch that I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker.
I actually dropped out of the program five weeks into the ten week curriculum.
The allure of having a weekly set of assignments, worksheets to fill out, boxes to check (literally), and papers to print out and put in a binder (I was obsessed with binders! I was a Staples and OfficeMax junkie!) lasted about three weeks. Then I started to realize that all this work and structure was speaking to the A-plus student in me, the one who for 21 straight years of my life (from kindergarten through medical school) sat in some sort of classroom environment, where there were grades, tests, papers, projects, reports, and things to finish on time and turn in. Her approach (at that particular time in my life, and given my particular history) fed into the part of me that wanted someone to tell me what to do, when in fact what I needed to practice was my self-trust and intuition.
Having her move from one to-do list to another each week gave me the illusion of control, but what I really needed for me to grow was to trust more in letting go and allowing.
And that program - with all of its promises and success stories (as defined by multiples of income achieved within months of completing the program) - was exactly what I did NOT need at this point in my life. I did not need an authority figure (this coach who, I believed, had everything I did not have, including the answers) to tell me "how to" achieve an assumed outcome of "more money” as the route to greater worthiness, peace, and happiness.
I realized that what I needed was real-life experience in the process of seeing that worthiness, peace, and happiness come from inner work, expression, and practice, which may or may not result in "more money", but will lead to the feeling of having a life of everything I've always wanted. No matter what it is I actually have.
So I learned a HUGELY valuable lesson from the experience, it just wasn't what I thought I had been investing in.
My journey right now is all about recovery. Recovery of a sense of peace. Recovery of creativity. Recovery of my self-trust. Recovery of my self-love. Recovery of a sense of acceptance. Recovery of my voice. Recovery of worthiness. Recovery of my sense of possibilities. Recovery of my ability to play.
What I’ve learned is that recovery happens gradually. At its own pace.
No one can “save you the trip” of walking on the path of your own recovery.
So what would I like to tell people about the kind of coach I am, the kind of coach I would like to be?
I'm not trying to save anyone from hitting their rock bottom.
I'm not even sure if I've hit my own rock bottom! That's not for me to say. I don't get to decide how long I'm here on earth, or what I get the chance to do, or whom I get to influence. I only get to decide how I show up for myself in this moment. And then the next. And then the next. And if I'm lucky, there's a next. And another, and so on.
After everything I have been through so far - in my 35 short years of living on this planet - I would not trade any of it for anything. It is mine. It is perhaps the only thing I truly have - my own experiences of this miracle and mystery called life. I'm sitting here on a warm, sunny day in March, typing on my own computer, using my own wireless connection, and that is no small miracle. I'm not attached to it, I just notice and acknowledge it for the brief time that these circumstances will be true. In another moment, the sun will change position, the light will change, and I may not be able to continue typing here.
So I keep typing, from a place of gratitude.
I have learned, in my zealous love affair with the idea of "changing my life", that the only effective way to truly change anything is to become more fully present, more fully aware, and more deeply accepting of exactly how things are right now. In this particular moment. Which is gone in an instant, replaced by another.
Once you fully accept, everything begins to change automatically.
This may sound trivial if you haven't tried it. But it's no small task at all to practice being with all aspects of your own life, exactly as they are in this moment. It also doesn’t mean “resigning yourself to the way things are”.
Acceptance is about full acknowledgment. Without the editing and rehearsing that typically goes on in our minds, as we disconnect from our bodies in the present moment.
We all have these escape modes, when we’re not fully accepting our experience.
I myself have found that I spend inordinate amounts of time looking around and noticing what's missing, what I've done wrong, what I should do differently in the future, or what I could be doing instead of what I'm actually doing right now.
Knowing this about myself is no longer a harsh criticism or indictment of my character, but is beginning to take on the lightness of simply being "good to know". That has taken practice.
Which brings me back to that seductive website I was reading the other day. When I caught myself seizing up in the chest, being drawn in, almost clicking on the "Buy Now" button on one of those products, I was able to breathe and watch myself.
I didn't say, "There you go again, Lisa! Falling for the old lines. Won't you ever get over your approval issues??"
I also didn't say, "A lot of nerve that person has for selling those promises! How dare she collect money for the illusion of a temporary fix!"
(Both of these would have been playing the blame game – one of my old favorites.)
Instead, I realized this was a chance to give a voice to what I am about, what is true for me (and perhaps ONLY for me...I'm prepared for that too, though I suspect this will resonate with some).
I realized that the truth is, I would never deprive anyone of their own journey in life, whether it takes them to "rock bottom" or the moon.
What I've found so helpful - and what I hope to put back into the world - is just witnessing, and creating safe space for myself and others to just be.
I don't need to tell anyone what to do, or how to do it. It's enough for me to pay attention to my own openness, my own self-compassion (so that I can truly say that I feel compassion for others), my own softness, and my own inner freedom.
It’s enough for me to offer myself in this way to whomever I encounter, whether they are a client or not, and whatever I do, whether it is work or not.
It’s enough for me to watch my experience of life completely change when I pay attention to these things.
These, in and of themselves, are precious gifts. They have worked magic in my own life and process, and I remember each and every one of the people who showed these qualities to me when I had forgotten how to recognize them in myself.
Change can be hard. But acceptance may be even harder.
Change can be easy to sell, because we all think we want it. But acceptance - the necessary ingredient for all change - is what we really need.
And that's what I'm here to sell, all day long.