Have you ever noticed how there sometimes seems to be a running theme during certain periods of your life? For me, things seem to happen in 3’s like a cascading thump to the head, as if to say, “Just in case you weren’t aware of this…pay attention!” My running theme the past couple weeks has been largely consumed by a mix of new opportunities presenting themselves, with the challenge of only being able to pursue them through a beginning phase of intensive introspection, followed by public sharing with strangers, ending with having to write personal vision and mission statements. Insert the “gulp” emoticon here!
I’ve gotten really good at compartmentalizing my life. Putting all the various parts of my life into chic, beautiful little boxes that I bring out and put to use when it fits best, instead of just letting them run a muck all over the place like little chickens with their heads cut off. Childhood traumas in the black box with studs. Past relationships in the suede box. Strengths in the colorful ribbon box. Weaknesses in the dark leather box. You get the idea. I found, through lessons learned, that without compartmentalizing all these parts of life that I would bring too much personal stuff into the workplace, for instance. I wasn’t able to separate and adapt when the moment needed it. With business especially, working in the Mad Men industry predominantly of men, being “that” emotionally girl wasn’t going to get my career to where it is today or where it’s going in the future. It also allowed me to not become my childhood story and to connect with someone over it when it fits or to work on bits and pieces of it, to further my personal growth. What this doesn’t set me up well for is a situation where I have to get super personal, and I mean digging deep into that black studded box, and then share that with strangers in the context of a business setting. I never actually thought about that scenario until I was faced with it dead on, twice in the past two weeks at my church and EMBA program.
I love my church and have felt so blessed to finally find one that “gets” me and speaks to me about gospel in a real life application way that is free of judgement and manipulation. Gospel that is filled with love, perspective and an openness – really a willingness to be challenged with hard questions. Lately, I’d been feeling a strong desire to get more involved with the church to give back to them after giving so much to me. I wanted to do this in a way that felt meaningful and genuine and decided that I’d feel ultimately fulfilled if I could mentor, coach and/or help out on mission trips in some way. So I reached out. Serendipitously, a couple hours later my favorite pastor-ette emails me back saying there was a first-ever training seminar for coaches, starting that very evening. Some would call that chance, coincidence, good timing, irony or craziness. I call it meant to be.
I canceled my plans, grabbed my stuff and headed over completely uninformed of what exactly this training would entail. I found out upon arrival that we were going to go through Life Compass training, the first step of coaching training, that starts with identifying things within yourself, so that you can be a better coach by asking the right questions, not giving them solutions, so they can find the answers to their tough questions within themselves and take the next steps in their lives.
We were given a huge sheet of paper, sticky notes of multiple colors, a pen and told to create a lifeline of our life; basically a timeline of us: the good, the bad and the insightful. It organizes all the events, people, achievements, failures and places in our lives chronologically within chapter headings of our design, noting in blue events that contained negative emotion at the time and major life changing moments with a red dot.
As the music came on in the background to help us focus, I went into hyper focus mode, a skill I’ve learned through competitive sports, where I hone in on what I’m doing and block out all external factors completely. It was a Lifetime movie of my life inside my head. Events, people, places and things swirling and bouncing around. I compartmentalized by chapters first: young years, elementary, junior high, high school, San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles and Long Beach. Then I started unpacking. Trips, relationships, sports, mentors, bad choices, good choices, family members and more. The whole kit and caboodle came out in waves. You could hear sighs, groans, uneasy laughter and lots of, “Oh boy, here we go!” One of the women at my table said, “So when do we start the crying portion of the evening?” Everyone laughed nervously because it was bound to happen at some point. There were people there that I knew were going through major life challenges at the time and were going to have a hard time with this. Others breezed right through it. Some had 100 stickies of life events and others 30. I eventually ran out of blue stickies, denoting events surrounded with negative emotion at the time, and asked for more from someone, who answered with much needed sarcastic, light-heartedness, “It’s been rough huh?!” I cracked up and thanked her for breaking up this ultra-serious moment with some laughter. At times, it was really scary to write down a skeleton or two on a sticky note. Other times, it was eye-opening to see how many events happen in your life overall and as you keep drilling down, you remember all these details that you’d forgotten. It’s a surreal experience seeing your entire life laid out before you on paper in a color coded system. An emotionally and mentally draining exercise that needless to say, kept me from sleep that night with lots of restless tossing as I went over events and dug deeper into memories I’d forgotten or minimized.
The next day was an all day, 8-hour intensive session chock full of analysis, strategies and next steps. The most enlightening thing that came from day two, after processing and sharing everything with the group out loud, was our task to write a personal vision statement centered around what we felt God was driving us to do. I had no idea where to start with this, so I started brainstorming all the passions I have, things and people that I value and cherish. Very quickly, a theme began developing of being a facilitator and connector of people in specific scenarios that ultimately, helped people in a multitude of ways. It just flowed out of me with vigor and ease. Reading it out loud to the team, I smiled and sighed with contentment because it just felt right. The only way I was able to describe the feeling was, “A feeling of home.” It just fit. Ironically, it encompassed so many things that I already do in my personal life and want to do as an entrepreneur in the future.
It never ceases to amaze me at life’s sense of humor. The ah-ha moments, coincidences, ironies, and moments that you feel 100% in the right place, all to expose, confirm and challenge things about ourselves and our paths. I got quite a few signs and confirmations that weekend and a ton more the following week that left my head spinning.