Here are three case studies of my work with clients:
- Creating a new life after a layoff
- Managing multiple priorities
- Finding meaning and purpose after retirement
These case studies are given by permission of the clients, with names and identifying details changed for confidentiality.
Creating a new life after a layoff: Julia
Julia, a web designer, had recently been laid off, and was ready for a change anyway. She decided to start coaching with me in order to clarify her life goals and to find a way to achieve them. This included discerning whether to go freelance or to look for another job, and how to keep doing her own artistic work.
Julia was highly skilled and well connected, yet not living up to her potential. In our work together she uncovered the ways her inner critic kept her from taking advantage of her opportunities. She learned to notice when the inner critic showed up and to stop believing what it said; she was able instead to start speaking more kindly and truly to herself. She started using her values as a guide to taking action. She gradually left behind the narrow vision of her life that had limited her success; she created a new vision of what she wanted and developed creative new ways to look at her situation. She learned to recognize her own strengths and to nurture herself, which kept her spirits up as she looked for work.
These changes enabled Julia to find part-time paid work, to create a daily practice of doing her own art, and also to start taking better care of her health. She gained control over the clutter in her house. Two of the things she found most helpful about coaching were exploring different attitudes and perspectives about a situation, and keeping track of the big picture of her goals. She became “definitely stronger” and said that “I’m being given the chance to do the creative work I’ve always wanted to do.”
Postscript: After almost two years of freelance work, Julia decided to go back to full-time work and accepted an exciting position in her field.
Managing multiple priorities: Katherine
Katherine, a self-employed graphic designer and artist, was balancing her work life with raising her family. She struggled with meeting her professional goals and with parenting her child. She came to me for support in clarifying her goals and priorities, using her time better and creating a good balance between work and family life. She also wanted to model productive behavior for her daughter.
Katherine was a talented artist and also a procrastinator, great at accomplishing small concrete tasks but prone to neglect her highest priorities. Working at home, she was challenged by distractions from her family members and tasks around the house. Email was the biggest distraction of all. She needed ways to apportion her time among projects and to organize each project.
Through coaching Katherine began to set realistic goals for her work and to make specific plans for how to get it done; she set up simple ways to keep herself on track. She now has tools that help her reflect on what’s happening and get back on track—such as breathing quietly before starting work or if she needs focus.
On a deeper level, Katherine also dealt with fears and conflicts that had kept her from moving ahead. She learned to let go of regret about the past and to focus on what she wants to happen in the present and future. Working through some family issues freed up her energy. She learned to put aside the critical voice in her head and to listen to her inner wisdom—which strengthened her in taking risks and moving ahead in her life. While some days are still easier than others, she has learned to deal with setbacks without getting derailed.
Katherine created “sacred time” for her work. She made more time for herself while still responding to her family’s needs; she put more fun in her life. Katherine has now accomplished tasks that she had wanted to get done for years, and her relationship with her daughter is going well. She is moving ahead with clarity and finding success in her work.
Finding meaning and purpose after retirement: Joan
Joan had retired from a career in social work and was wondering how she wanted to shape her new life. She started coaching for several reasons: to look back at her life and see if she had really been successful in her own terms; to choose a next step and be held accountable; to be challenged; to find meaning in her life. She wondered if she had the commitment and the courage to be passionately involved in a cause.
We worked together to help Joan uncover her calling: was it to work on social justice issues, to focus on spiritual fulfillment, or something else? She reflected on her values and her gifts. She created a daily practice of yoga and meditation. This helped her to become more familiar with her inner wisdom and to pay less attention to her inner cynic. She became more aware of what her body was telling her about her state of mind—tension? relaxation? She let go of “finding something to worry about.” She practiced transforming judgment into compassion.
Joan also came to realize that due to fear, she was paying too little attention to making practical preparation for the coming phase of her life: her 70’s. She started to reflect on important questions: where to live? what if her health deteriorated? how could she avoid placing a heavy burden on her children?
Joan had the opposite problem with her current life: over-planning. We explored what was behind her constant busy-ness—and how she could allow herself “spiritual snow days.” Joan realized that a lingering lack of confidence in herself was contributing to this behavior. She explored the difference between acting out of guilt or compulsion, versus doing what truly felt right to her. She started to think and behave more confidently. She brought her new awareness into her family relationships, with good results.
All this exploration led Joan to clarity about what to do with her life in the present. She realized that the volunteer work she was already doing was in fact the occupation that was right for her; she engaged in this work with deeper commitment. There was no need to do anything grander to prove her worth; she made peace with herself and her life.