by Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, a writer, pediatrician, podcaster and child health advocate.
For the last few years or so, there’s been a voice growing louder in my head telling me, “You’re not doing what you’re meant to do.” I’ve ignored it because I felt that it was too late to change, I had too many responsibilities, and I was thinking about what others would say. I had a lot of excuses not to live my best life.
By most measures, I’m viewed as a someone successful, but for me it felt disingenuous. Imposter syndrome is described as doubting yourself and feeling like a fraud. That’s how I felt most of my life. I’d been living someone else’s dreams. When I came to the realization that I deserved to live my own dreams, I had to figure out how – how to make a career pivot and overcome my fears.
To help me get out of my own way and follow my inner voice, I sought out coaching. But seeking out coaching at first felt a little odd. If I’m being real – I didn’t know if it was right for me. I’d never really understood what coaching was or could do. I’d heard of mentoring, and had even been a mentor myself, but never coaching. But I thought I’d give it a try because I was ready to make some changes in my life.
I’d read the book, Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, on my journey to help determine the true path that I should follow. One day, I saw a blog article on the Designing Your Life site about Jacqueline Kennedy, the founder of Strategy & Grace, a leadership and coaching consultancy. Among her services was a one-on-one intensive coaching program. When I read about the what the intensive offered, it was as if the universe was speaking to me. I knew what happened when I ignored the universe, or my internal voice, in the past – years of deferring my purpose.
I signed up for Aligned Ambitions, an intensive coaching program. Six weeks sounded like enough time to try out coaching and see if it was the right fit for me. As part of the program, I received an introductory session to learn about the coach-client relationship, clarify my goals, determine my motivations and establish agreements.
Time to Work!
Yes, I had to work. That was an “Aha” and when I fully understood why Jacqueline is called a coach and strategic partner. If you want to win, you’ve got to show up and put in the time, discipline and work.
Each session built on the work completed in previous sessions; requiring deeper contemplation and digging deeper. The hardest part of the intensive program was being exposed. It’s easy to say why you want to change, but even harder to say why you haven’t made the changes. It requires vulnerability and trust to reveal why I hadn’t made the changes necessary to live my dreams. My underlying personal struggles all came down to self-doubt and fear.
Throughout the program, Jacqueline provided motivation, encouragement and feedback between sessions that always seemed to arrive at the right time to remind me of my personal strength and power. She created a space for me to uncover what was standing in my way, and then helped me to develop a plan to work through it. Her questions and approach helped me to challenge my beliefs, cultivate my purpose, reframe my thoughts, and take intentional actions. She even customized exercises, including journal prompts, daily challenges, and affirmations for days when I slipped back into my old habits.
Once the foundation was laid, I could focus on what I ultimately wanted to accomplish – discovering what I was meant to do and how to do it. The action planning started with setting realistic, clear, attainable and measurable goals. During this stage, I tapped into my strengths, skills and talents, and identified the behaviors that would help move me closer towards achieving my goals. I also established ways to stay accountable and motivated. The process was flexible and provided opportunities to discover why my goals were important to me, anticipate obstacles, and determine intentional next steps.
Six months later
It’s been about six months since I enrolled in the intensive coaching program. When I reflect on the decision to enroll, I still can’t believe that I actually did it! I’m happy that I took the leap to free myself of the, “what ifs” and inaction. I can say that my coaching experience has made me a better person, because I took action despite my own hesitations. I’d be lying if I said that I no longer have those fears, but it’s easier to ignore them. My inner gremlins were tamed by thoughts of possibility and hope, and I continue to work on following my purpose one day at a time.
The first few weeks after coaching, I had a honeymoon period where I was working hard on my goals. During that time, I faced some challenges, failures and setbacks. And while I allowed myself to feel the pain of the disappointment by crying, feeling down and eating junk food, I didn’t quit! The old me would have said that it was life telling me that I wasn’t meant to do it. The new me kept going despite the disappointment, or as Brene Brown would say, “the suck.” The tools and strategies I learned through coaching helped me change my perspective about difficult situations and practice my new strategies and tools.
I’m continuing the journey to achieve my goals. I’m so glad that I said yes to myself and finally listened to my inner voice! Despite the setbacks, I’ve received more opportunities and validation that I’m on the right path. It was through my coaching experience that I learned to love and trust myself again. I took a chance on me, because I’m worth it. I’m still a work in progress, but I reminded myself that I have gifts to offer the world. I want to make a difference and help others, but I couldn’t do that if I didn’t stop to recognize my strengths and talents and invest in myself.