It’s been almost 5 years since I quit being a technology professional. I moved out at a time when I was drawing a handsome salary and fab benefits that put me in the top 0.03% of my demography. I let go of my safe career because I realized that I was only doing it for social acceptance and financial security – yes that monthly ‘Salary credited’ message on my mobile. It was probably the best message I’d receive every month when my mobile beeped that my salary has been credited. And, it was easy for society to understand that I was a software professional. It was accepted with grace. Apart from that, my days, weeks, months, and years were filled with frustration because I wasn’t able to find significance and motivation in my work.
When I decided to be a life coach, little did I know that I was in for a complete overhaul. Soon after I took this leap, I realized that I was swimming way outside of my comfort zone. I was generally a shy and introverted person, and life coaching came with the requirement of connecting with people. The intention to help and facilitate change was there, but I was allergic to using the key ingredient in the process – people. For fourteen months into the journey, I did not have a single paying client. I was just too scared to reach out and connect. I followed the advice of people who suggested ‘overnight’ methods to success – they made it look so easy. I published two books, called myself an author, and somehow even appeared on the TEDx stage. I built a fancy website, an emailing list, created business pages on Facebook, and even listed my business on Google. None of these ever got me any clients, in my initial years.
When something like this happens you find yourself spinning your wheels without getting much done and it’s super frustrating because you see the path to success right in front of your eyes, at least on paper. I would see all these successful coaches around and it irritates you that these people seem to know something you don’t.
Basically, I realized that I was just stuck in the difficult position of being a beginner. At the bottom of all this was my reluctance to connect and engage with people. No matter how confident I appeared on the outside, the deepest truth is that I lived most of my life feeling conscious and powerless. And the more I hesitated, the further away I seemed to feel from my goals.
The moment I began to accept myself as a beginner and release any judgments I held, I started to strip myself of my ego and see things through. The more I began to cultivate and strengthen my self-compassion, the more I began to foster a sense of self-acceptance. I realized that over this entire time of having no paying clients, I was discovering my strengths in having the tenacity and resolve and a commitment to achieving a breakthrough in the results I was seeking. As I made myself more receptive to this perspective, teachers, mentors, opportunities, and experiences began appearing in my life.
Starting At Zero Gives You Freedom But You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Contributing Past
When I siloed out my professional title, Leap Ahead & Human Potential Coach, I felt like a beginner. I felt I wasn’t ready to enroll clients and coach people. I felt I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t worthy enough. Why would people pay me to coach them? I would put myself out there only to be embarrassed and feel foolish about starting something like this in the first place. My inner voice was full of all these defeating thoughts.
Being a beginner and starting at zero does give you the freedom to start afresh. It gives you a brand new playground where you get to play by your rules – challenge the status quo, question the rules, break a few, and even create new ones. It gives you opportunities to learn, grow, fail and recover.
But you don’t have to start as an amateur, an inexperienced professional. This is what one of my mentors, Rich Litvin, taught me. When I look at my professional life in totality, I have been a high-level, high-performing executive all along. I had a successful background in the corporate world. And I don’t leave that behind when I move into coaching. I bring that along with me. My brand encompasses my contributing past and all the stories it contains – the stories that I am secretly proud of, the stories that would impress other people, the stories that reveal my deepest held beliefs, and the stories of my clients’ successes. What Rich made me realize that coaching is not a title or designation, it’s simply a tool in my tool belt. I am there to remind my clients of their hidden power, their strengths and to help them focus on creating, not reacting. I am there to remind them what they actually want, not what they say they want.
My coaching clients constantly come to me with what I call ‘problem-focused’ symptoms. They unconsciously run their stories underlined with only problems. They want exponential growth in their career, yet they see their current situation as a problem. They land themselves in an executive leadership position and conveniently forget their professional successes. And, I coach them from the inside-out. I help them see what they cannot see and dare to speak to them about the things they don’t want to hear. I go deeper than their surface challenges. I am not their family member or a friend. I am willing to be disliked.
The Belief That Keeps You From Changing
Society conditions us to keep adding something to feel better about ourselves. And this conditioning causes us to hesitate and second guess ourselves. It keeps you thinking that you are not worth it, and something is wrong with you. And paradoxically, it nurtures a belief in you that keeps you from changing.
When I became a student of human behavior and potential, another mentor appeared in my life. His name is John Assaraf, and he has done decades of research in studying the power of mindset. He introduced me to Dr. Carol Dweck’s work around mindset psychology, more specifically to the idea of fixed mindset and growth mindset, and helped challenge my long-held notion of “This is just who I am.”
We all invariably operate from a fixed mindset that makes us believe that we either have it or don’t. We build this perception and self-image slowly through our experiences. One of my coaching clients had this fixed belief that he is always second-in-line when it comes to a professional opportunity. This fixed mindset had kept him unconsciously stuck in… …in the second position for all these years. Another client believed that spirituality means leaving everything else and living a hermit-like life. This fixed notion kept her from connecting to her own deeper self. I was always operating from a fixed identity of a shy, reserved and introverted individual all my life. This fixed mindset held me back from connecting with people and growing my coaching business.
People with a fixed mindset, those who believe that abilities are fixed and unchanging, are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset, those who believe that abilities can be developed. This was a big shift that John Assaraf brought in me. I began to embrace the growth mindset.
Later on, I stumbled upon another mentor, Steve Chandler. Steve once made an unusually blunt statement of fact, “Personalities are not fun, vibrant things; they are what we crawl inside of to die.” It hit me hard. Our personalities freeze us into a stagnant pattern of being, and the moment we start relaxing the grip on this label, we can begin to see that we can become anyone we want to be.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just snap your fingers and de-install limiting beliefs and fixed mindset. You’ll need to create the necessary awareness of your default mode of operation and consciously create actions and habits that confirm your new identity – the one with a growth mindset. This is how the process of reinvention works!
You Can Ask Anything from Anyone
The real fear I always had (and I still have it sometimes) when it comes to connecting with people is to ask them questions, or to be more specific, ask them for what I want from them. Whether it came from a sense of low self-worthiness or my inability to take a ‘No’ for an answer didn’t really matter, because the resistance was there.
The revelation came when I met another mentor, Michael Neill. I realized that my inability to take a ‘No’ stemmed from putting my self-image and self-esteem on the line. I was taking a ‘No’ so personally that I always made it about me, my existence, and my need for approval and acceptance. The premise Michael makes is that a ‘No’ is never about you, even if the other person thinks it is and the moment you make it okay for the other person to say ‘No,’ you can pretty much ask anything from anyone. Just think about it for a moment. In a world where Nos surround us, it’s easy to feel that it’s our fault. But when it comes to my world of coaching, the moment I shift my focus from myself to the person I’m asking and turn my full light on how what I’m asking will benefit that person, it becomes easy to ask for what I want. Yes lives in the land of Nos. A ‘No’ from someone simply means ‘Next One.’ For me, this has helped me to make an offer to my clients and charge them for what feels good to me.
In summary, when the student is ready the teacher appears. Take a look back at your lives and acknowledge the moments when a teacher or a mentor appeared in your life when you most needed. Reflect on the lesson or insight you got from them. Continue to stay ready for growth and change. A teacher will again appear.