I had a pretty good idea of what success meant and how I would get there. But some of my most meaningful course-corrects have come from questioning everything I thought I knew...and being surprised with what I found in the process.
In the beginning, there was disaster
I tree planted in the summers between semesters studying marketing. Managing teams in the middle of nowhere (actually), gave me a taste of resilience and strength, and a toughened sense of pushing through any environmental, physical, mental or emotional space to show up and get work done.
After four years in the wilderness, I took all I learned about supporting others navigating extreme conditions and shifted focus: joining a team to provide relief to the communities affected by the High River Flood. A lesson in humanity, I found that I loved the work; I had discovered something I was passionate about that could make an impact. I started to envision my future and one day pictured myself working at the UN in disaster relief.
In hot pursuit of some growth and a nudge in the direction of that vision, I did what most 20-somethings would do: went to work at Lululemon.
A side shuffle from the goal? Sure. And it was also the direct trajectory needed because it was also where I met my first coach: Matt.
I showed up as a hungry kid keen to live into the idea of success that I had fairly well curated in my brain: climb some ladders; get some titles; do the 9-5 thing; grind it out.
And in my first few conversations with Matt, who happened to be my manager at the time, I already started to question what I thought I knew about work. He asked me what I wanted - not for my professional next steps...but for my life. What my goals were. Even asked me when I was going to quit (he actually asked me that in my interview 😱).
Nothing even close to what I thought a ‘corporate gig’ would look like. Because who knew you could love Mondays?
We did big, meaningful work. We solved huge problems (remember those see-through yoga pants?). And amidst all the solving, and communicating, and game-changing, my life and my happiness still mattered to Matt, big time.
So when it was time for me to action a goal of pursuing my Masters in Disaster Management — I was celebrated out the front door.
Slipping back into ‘should’
That year in Copenhagen was an eye-opener; I left my program ready to BE the Master of Disaster - yet had a pull towards my partner who was living in her hometown. Which, at the time, was a stretch from where I had planned to go.
Every assumption I had about ‘what comes next’ was quickly being called into question. And, in making the choice to move to Calgary to be with my girlfriend, it didn’t take long for the feelings of disappointment, frustration, and resentment to settle in.
I had gotten focused on the marks of success and what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing. Credentials and ‘shoulds’ were all I could focus on.
I called Matt again, and while his advice rang true, our relationship had taken a turn towards friendship. He suggested seeking another coach to help me navigate this new chapter.
Fresh coach, fresh approach
Enter: Kaitlyn. Coach number 2, and a thought partner in a pivotal part of my life.
Kaitlyn coached me to explore ‘rules’ that I had created about what possibilities lay before me, which unearthed a freedom-inducing clarity when I got the real truth. She encouraged me to look past what I thought was important to me in life, and get really honest about what did matter. She nudged me to look at jobs with institutions that I had been quick to judgment. And in the process, I found a job that I’m in love with.
Every ounce of my ego that had been screaming at me since landing in Calgary got quiet. And I was able to hear myself again. And when I started journaling to move through some deeper layers of discomfort, I started understanding more about how I felt.
And so here I am today: still working on myself, working through more assumptions that keep popping up (they’re sneaky, turns out) - yet more confidently and comfortably navigating the question marks with the support and accountability of someone I trust.
And, someone who won’t let me squirm away from the tough talks, and that helps me see and experience myself in a way I wasn’t willing to: as a feeling-fuelled human with depth, feelings, and emotions.
The way forward: overcoming your assumptions
It’s a fine balance; of knowing what you want out of life and finding the path that works best to navigate that journey.
You have expectations and paint a picture of what your future life will look like — and start drawing a detailed map to get there. I know I did when I thought of my career, Masters in hand, doing what I so intentionally studied and set out to do.
But then when reality doesn't meet that detailed map or those explicit expectations of the ‘how’ and the ‘when’, you question yourself.
PS - If you've read this piece and think coaching is something you'd like to try, sign up for an unlimited trial and book your initial sessions for free.