• Having a chat with a potential coaching client this morning and one of the questions she asked me was "So what makes you qualified to give me advice?"...

    After explaining that coaching wasn't necessarily giving advice, it was more about helping her figure out her own thoughts, ideas and possibilities I asked her in what sense she meant qualified? I've been through certified training both inside and outside of work but I sensed that wasn't what she meant.

    "Well", she said "your life just seems all sorted out. How do I know you can relate to some of the crap that I'm going through just now?"

    Good question.

    So here it is. Some of the "crap" that I have dealt with personally. And as I said, coaching isn't giving advice, it's more about guiding and inspiring. And these experiences have given me some insight into how people may be feeling so that I can bring some empathy to the guiding and inspiring. As well as some practical lessons learned!

    I was homeless at 15. My parents separated and there was no provision made for me. I dodged around from my dad's new sofa to my gran's bedroom floor carrying my remaining belongings in a cardboard box. Eventually I was rehomed by the council in a dodgy flat in a dingy town. And I was very lonely. I didn't have the personal resources to live alone, I was broke and my self-esteem was at an all time low.

    I finished school somewhat unsuccessfully, my exam results going downhill after the family split up. I put myself through college working my way through National Certificate to HND to eventually making it to university in Edinburgh at the age of 23. Years after my school friends had already graduated.

    I got into the wrong relationships, my pursuit of a family and the security I thought it would bring over-riding anything else. I eventually married and was divorced just over a year later.
    I found a career that wasn't my passion but paid well and was relatively stable. Or so I thought. I was bullied by my 2 colleagues in the first office I worked in. I managed to rise above it as I knew they were uspet that I, with no experience, was being paid more than them. But I know what it feels like to be bullied.

    After 8 years I was made redundant. And my beloved granny died. She was the only person who had ever been there for me and given me any kind of support.
    At the same time I was going through a relationship with a manipulative control freak. The relationship was on and off, each time making me more anxious and stressed. But I didn't seem to be able to pull away. Until my younger brother contracted Leukaemia and died at age 9.

    My whole world fell apart and I fell into a depression that I couldn't lift myself out of it. I went to counselling, I took the tablets but nothing helped. I had no energy, no interest in anything and couldn't see how anything would ever cheer me up again. I didn't want to be alone with my thoughts as they only made me feel worse.

    I focused on my new job, moved down south, met new people. Arranged a trip to South America and for once felt like I was taking control of my life. But the loneliness was still there and I got involved with someone else who turned out to be very, very wrong for me. I knew I had to get out of the situation but only moved out once he turned violent.

    I swore off relationships then as I felt that I couldn't trust my own judgement. I moved jobs several times, trying to find my niche. I experienced some more bullying but was better able to manage it. I experienced sexual harrassment before managers knew how to manage it. I didn't settle with any of these companies. I wanted to be somewhere I could feel comfortable to spread my wings and be successful.

    But I travelled. I went off on adventures. And I shopped. I worked in London, which I found the most stressful and lonely place to work and live. But the shops were amazing. And I travelled some more. Morocco, Kenya, America, Spain, India, Dubai... but going alone was taking its toll. I wanted to find someone.

    At this point I had the amazing good fortune to find my own coach, and now one of my best friends. With her patience I was able to recognise some of the anger I had been storing up and all of the feelings of grief and regret that had overwhelmed me years before. I started to recognise what I was feeling. And what I actually liked, rather than always trying to fit in with others, or do the things I thought I should be doing. And that I was part of the problem, not necessarily the organisations and the cultures that I had railed against.

    I eventually moved back to Edinburgh and found a longer term contract job. I got on well with the people I was working with and found a degree of stability. But I knew I still wasn't happy. Only better infomred about what I wanted. So, with the help of my lovely coach, I formed a plan.

    That was around 4 years ago. Since then I have made a permanent move to Alicante in Spain, knowing no one and speaking nothing of the language. I met my husband. I now work with my husband running an estate agency business. I'm on my second dog. And I'm focused on growing my coaching business. Because I know what a difference it can make having someone who will be there for you no matter what.

    My life isn't all peachy. I've gone from earning hundreds of £s a day as a contractor to not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from. But I have the stability I craved with my husband. And the knowledge that I am living a life on my terms, not trying to fit in with society's expectations of what success looks like. I now buy my shoes in Primark rather than Selfridges. I carry a rucksack rather than a Prada handbag. I live on a farm and I drive what is essentially a puppy wagon. And I am 5 minutes drive from the beach that I love.

    I still want to change things. I'd like to live closer to the beach. And I would like to travel more. Wtih my husband this time. And I know that these things will come. For now I am focused on enjoying what I have.

    So yes, I do think I'm qualified to help guide others. And help them find their way. Because I know how bloody awful it is when you are completely lost and have no idea where you are going. Or how you are going to make yourself feel better. And I know how important it is not to tell clients what to do. Because they probably have enough people telling them that already. All I can say is that there is no right answer, you just need to follow your heart. And I'm very glad that mine led me to Spain.