The following article written by Maureen appeared in the Boston Globe's LOLA Magazine:
Would a woman really seek out a life coach because she's hungry for more fun? I had a client who did just that, although when she first contacted me, she didn't realize that was her goal. This client, a 30-year-old whom I will call Jennifer, moved from Britain to the Boston area 10 years ago to complete her education. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in organizational development and considered a doctorate as the next logical step – but she couldn’t shake significant misgivings about this plan. As a life coach, I knew Jennifer's career doubts were not so unusual. We scheduled a one-hour phone appointment for the following week.
Jennifer told me she was working at a university south of Boston and involved in a serious romantic relationship. She'd been physically fit her whole life, but a recent orthopedic surgery left her temporarily dependent on others and unable to work out, a toxic combination. This was not a happy woman, despite her laundry list of reasons why she should be blissfully content.
During that first phone session, we looked at Jennifer's considerable accomplishments. She had great credentials and was respected in her field. Acknowledging her achievements, however, was a challenge. Women like Jennifer often have a tough time talking about their successes without feeling they are bragging. The so-called fraud factor may kick in – they may underestimate their accomplishments, or think they did not deserve that promotion or award, and believe they ultimately will be unmasked as unworthy.
I asked Jennifer if she was willing to look at her surgery and the recovery as a gift, an occasion to reflect on where she was and where she wanted to go. After some negotiation, she agreed to live with this perspective for one week and take the opportunity to sort through boxes of personal photographs. I requested that she pull out those that were especially meaningful from her childhood through early teen years. She was free to e-mail me with any insights. A flurry of messages ensued, concluding with a somewhat cryptic communication about salsa – did she mean the dance or the food?
During our one-hour call a week later, the energy in Jennifer's voice was quite different. What had begun as another task to complete unexpectedly reconnected her to her family and her younger self. Jennifer had selected photos of herself dancing without restraint and laughing unabashedly, and they reminded her that she once had dreamed of becoming a dancer. We talked about the ideas this stirred up, including the joy and freedom of performing and being completely engaged in a delightful activity. Where was dance in her life now? Where was joy in her life now? Her boyfriend was not interested in the arts, which he considered frivolous. Jennifer's schedule was so jammed when she was healthy that she could barely fit in a run, let alone take a dance class.
Somewhere along the way, Jennifer had adopted a very narrow definition of fun. Our goal was to inject more of it into her life by designing a plan that would integrate the fearless and exuberant dancer with the thoughtful academic. Jennifer’s next step was to select photos of herself that were an expression of the qualities she wanted to be reminded of and to display them throughout her home. In the following weeks, she not only found herself more energetic and refocused, but frequently smiling and ready to enroll in a salsa dance class – for singles.
We agreed to continue our phone coaching sessions weekly for three months, at which point we would reevaluate. In a short period of time, Jennifer had reconnected with her voice and begun to trust it. She eventually decided against pursuing a doctorate. Jennifer left the safety of academia and later relocated to Boston, ready to bring her skills to the private sector. And, yes, she continues to dance everyday.