'Hang on, but you are a coach. Isn’t it your job to help clients set up effective goals?
Should you not walk your talk?’ - I hear you say.
And that's a fair reflection. But making a change is not always about setting firm goals.
Here is why.
Don’t you sometimes feel this pressure of having to set goals just because it is the beginning of the year and it has to be a ‘now or never’ kind of situation? I certainly did and for many years. Sometimes it can feel absolutely timely- and you know you are on track to take on the new year with bold and meaningful goals. And other times, you're just not there. The social construct of ‘New Year = new beginnings’ can be a breath of fresh air for some, but equally it can become an overwhelming feeling of dread for others.
For those of you who have had a tough year, have spent a Christmas holiday that was not what you expected or on the contrary, a break that was so lovely that it felt like it ended too soon… for those of you who don’t feel quite rested yet or not as energised as you would like to be- does it then mean you can’t do anything to improve your life or career?
Don’t worry- that’s not what it means at all. What it does mean though is that you can do things slightly differently so that it is more aligned with where you are at right now. Effective but not forceful. Have you ever used positive quotes over and over again to build confidence when you were not in the right mindset? Did you experience this sense of resistance and almost exhaustion in trying to do so? That’s because your body and mind needed something else at the time. Maybe more acceptance, possibly more compassion and certainly more headspace than adding counter intuitive information on top of what was going for you in that specific moment.
I have had a difficult year health wise and not being able to see my family in France as much as I would have needed to over the past two years didn’t make things any easier. But my motivation and drive came from wanting to develop my business, make meaningful connections with kind and purposeful people, while supporting more clients in their career transition because this felt deeply important. However my business development goal was not set as a long-term one and was not rigid, simply because I would just not have been able to handle it this way. Instead, it was softer, value-based, with small (and sometimes bigger) steps that I was implementing every day. This doesn’t imply that I was not proactive- I have run several events, launched podcast episodes, worked with new clients, posted more regularly on LinkedIn, designed a group coaching programme and learnt a lot about sharing authentically (including making videos!). So 2020 was certainly a stretch for me, being so much out of my comfort zone but it was gentle, in alignment with what I could physically and psychologically manage.
This is how I am approaching this new year and what I encourage my clients to do if they feel depleted during a month that promotes change, novelty, new horizons and goal setting. Set value-driven milestones that feel right to you at this point in time (they can always change later), that are energising but not overwhelming. Who doesn’t break their new year's resolutions after a few weeks, if the only strategy is to initiate them on a good day? Take the time to listen to your body and mind. Give them space.
You are not missing out on making year-long plans because you can start working towards change every day, one step at a time, without experiencing stress or guilt.
If career change is at the back of your mind but you are not ready to crack on straight away for whatever reason, it may be worth focusing on self-care because my guess is that there might be other things you need to look after right now- and that's ok. This way, you still take action, but it is on your own terms. And who knows, this may just be what you need to give you the energy to take on your next professional or personal change… when the time is right.
Here are some examples of self-care steps I take. It is is by no means a 'one size fits all' but it may give you some ideas as some of them only came up for me very recently:
Start the day with a 5min mindfulness session and read something entertaining or nurturing
Make a coffee from a french cafetiere (this is so soothing!)
Listen to the French radio (the funny station!) while I have breakfast and review my tasks for the day
Say good morning to someone- a collaborator, a friend, a colleague or even sometimes a client!
During the day
Go for a short walk (regardless of whether it is sunny or not)
Do some stretching exercises
Lie down for 5min and do nothing but breathe mindfully
Go to the gym for 30min/45min or longer when I can
Later in the day
Compose songs if I need a break and do something completely different in my week
Listen to audiobooks (the one I am listening to at the moment is 'Daring Greatly' by Brene Brown) especially at bedtime
Reading about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and do some exercises that I apply to myself
Binge-watch series: Ted Lasso is a great one to spend your evening with!
==> Let's be honest here- I never do all of them, everyday :) I simply pick and choose what feels right, when I know I need self-care. Your would be surprised how these readily available options can make a positive difference to your life, and the process of finding out what works/doesn't work for you is equally interesting!
This article is for personal development and learning purposes and does not replace professional medical advice. So please do seek guidance from your doctor if in doubt.