Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Making the leap

In 2009, Kathryn White embarked on a journey that would take her from the “safety” of a salaried job to the rollercoaster world of freelancing. 
Kathryn describes how the power of life-coaching helped her to make the

My journey began in late summer 2009. I was enjoying my role as a medical writer with a large pharmaceutical company, where I had worked for over 8 years. I had
considered going freelance a few years ago, but the business aspect hadn’t
appealed at the time. After 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry, being my
own boss and being able to work at home became too appealing to ignore.  I relished the challenge of developing my business acumen. When I look at the path I have taken through life, it is not really surprising that writing has become my way of living because it has always played a significant role since I was a child. In recent years I have gained immense satisfaction from equestrian journalism, which I originally pursued as a hobby.

Although it felt the right thing to do, making the leap from regular salary to the “feast or famine” world of freelancing was too big a decision to make alone.  I felt I would benefit from support from someone who was neither colleague, friend nor family; someone who was independent.  I had just finished reading an inspirational
book called "The Blue Skies of Autumn", by Elizabeth Turner who was widowed following the 9/11 attacks. She had been pregnant with her first child at the time and the book described how she had raised her son and got back on her feet following the tragic loss of her husband. Her journey took her from being a corporate human resources (HR) executive to life-coach and she set up her own life-coaching consultancy. Having been widowed myself, the book and Elizabeth’s story immediately struck a chord.  If anyone knew how to help me realise my dreams, then Elizabeth would. I contacted her company and was put in touch with her associate and life-coach, Kevin Watson who now owns and directs his own life-coaching consultancy(http://myown-coach.co.uk/).

Over the subsequent coaching sessions, Kevin and I built a good rapport –despite the fact that our sessions were over the phone. It was fantastic to have someone to
whom I could pour my heart out about the past and describe my hopes and dreams
for the future. He listened – I mean, really listened - and took on board what
I had said without judgement.  At this point, I will handover to Kevin to let him tell you what his thoughts were as a coach and how he feels that coaching has helped.

As I listened to Kathryn at our first session, I began to be curious as to what was getting in the way of her achieving the life she wanted. Together we explored what her passions were, what she valued most in her life and what limitations she was placing on herself. It emerged that Kathryn was an ultimate planner and, despite everything that had happened in her life, she still felt a need to control her future. It was almost as if this strength was closing down her imagination, the ability to dream of what could be...without limits! So, recognising her love of writing, I invited her to dream of her ultimate future, the life she would love to live, and write it down anytime the urge took hold: the sights, the sounds, the feelings and even the smells.

At the heart of life-coaching is the belief that the coachee has the answer - but may just be stuck right now! So the coach helps to provide an understanding of what the answers are by asking questions – non-leading, non-judgemental open questions. By asking these, listening deeply to the response and offering insights as appropriate, a coach is able to provide different perspectives, revealing the coachee's answers to themselves.”

To say I was “bouncing off the walls” following that first session would have been an
understatement. The confidence that life-coaching gave me to move forward with my life and plans was quite incredible. I went to bed the night of the first session and couldn’t sleep. Words were tumbling from my head and I had to capture them on paper - to describe the life I wanted to lead as if I was actually there. Despite the lack of sleep, I awoke the next morning feeling more refreshed than I had felt for a long time.

Through my continuing sessions with Kevin I learned to trust my gut instinct and to “go with the flow”. I absolutely knew that starting my own business as a freelance
writer was what I wanted to do. Not only did it enable me to pursue something I
was passionate about for a living, it opened up the possibilities of me working
from home, re-locating to Norfolk to be with my partner Henry, and to realise a
long-held ambition of having my horses at home. I even had a mug printed with “What Plan?” emblazoned on the side alongside a poignant photograph of my horse.

My dream began in July 2012 when I left employment to become a freelancer. I haven’t looked back since, although it has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride.
Life-coaching continues to play an important part in my personal development.
Indeed, only a few weeks into my life as a freelancer, I suffered a really low
point - I started to doubt my ability to make it work. I rang Kevin, and as
always, the life-coaching session rejuvenated my enthusiasm, motivation and
optimism. It reminded me to listen to and trust my instinct; to realise that I
was investing rather than spending my savings to give me the life I wanted and
to recognise that the positive feedback and repeat business was confirmation
that I was good at what I did!  Since then, business has continued to grow. Not only that, but I’ve expanded my equestrian journalism to include top national, equestrian publications. My advice is not to under-estimate the power of life-coaching.  It can be a very effective tool to help you realise your potential and is something I would highly recommend as part of your continuing personal and professional development. A version of this article was published in The Write Stuff, journal of the European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) in 2011 (Vol 20 (no 4)).