“One Friday lunchtime in 1998, I bought the book by Laurence G. Boldt, ‘How to Find the Work You Love’. After reading it over a weekend, I sat down and typed my resignation letter to leave a corporate Human Resources job I had begun to feel like ‘a square peg in a round hole’ in”
Let’s begin with this paragraph above. Is it the moment you read the book the turning point of your life or there was already something going on in your mind?
Looking back now, I realise that there was a growing sense of dissatisfaction around being in the job I was in (which, incidentally, was a pattern that continued to repeat many times before I finally reach this point of writing now).
I was working for a very driven manager in a ‘work-harder’ culture where expectations to give far more than 100% were the norm. We worked incredibly hard every day and either routinely took laptops home continuing into the evening or worked late at the office, day after day and all without question from the powers-that-be. It was just expected of everyone. Enough was never enough.
I remember thinking over and over again that this wasn’t the life for me and there had to be another way to feel satisfied and happy at work, whilst making a difference to people’s lives. I also had a niggling feeling that I was meant to be doing something else. I had thought about studying counselling for a number years, as many people in organisations often told me they felt better after speaking to me about their challenges at work, but until I read that book, which asked many life-changing questions, I didn’t fully appreciate how much I was in the wrong place.
Now, of course, I realise that our thoughts create our reality, so at the time, my mind was just unconsciously seeking out that ‘better way’. Finding the book was just the first step along that path.
Your website (I love the illustrations :)) says “Slow Coach Sarah”. What do you mean by “Slow Coach”? When did you come up with that?
Thank you! I’m glad you’ve asked that question, as some people assume (understandably) that I might be just slow! Or I only help people to slow down.
The image of a snail and the name ’Slow Coach’ literally dropped into my mind one day at the end of one of my own coaching sessions. When things happen like that for me now, I take note as I know they’ve been ‘given’ to me from my unconscious mind rather than me thinking them up cognitively or logically.
As I reflected on the name ‘slow coach’, I noticed that I had been busy criticising myself for not doing things quickly enough and not achieving enough and generally not feeling enough at the start of my new coaching business venture (something we all experience from time-to-time, I know!) It was through the careful mirroring and prompting from my own coach, that I discovered the huge amount I actually was achieving.
So, I began to realise that the pace I was forcing myself to move at, wasn’t ‘me’ – the real me. And what’s more, it was counter to the purpose and essence of the coaching business I wanted to create and with my energy, which I naturally use to help others. It was time to give myself a break – and permission to slow down and go at my own pace, which is really what Slow Coach also means. I help others to tune into their own rhythm and energy to see what feels right for them – across all areas of their lives. We can be so caught up in the world and what we should be doing (according to other people’s rules) but what happens when we don’t believe we fit into that model? I realised that what I wanted now was quite different to what – and how – I had been living my life up until now.
I’m also always curious about why my unconscious might give me particular images or symbols, so I started looking into the symbolism of snails. And I discovered how fascinating they are and how much I identified with the snail energy.
So, Slow Coach Sarah was a no-brainer after that really!
What is your definition of Work-life balance? Why is WLB so important nowadays?
I’m not a big fan generally, of labels like this and the word ‘balance’ always feels a bit precarious – like a see-saw, where you’re constantly having to work hard to find that one, small point of balance, which can easily tip over into instant imbalance.
The energy of the phrase ‘work-life-balance’ also feels quite two-dimensional – logical and cognitive. So generally, I find I don’t really connect with it.
However, my own ‘definition’ or relationship with the ideas around finding overall balance, sit within. I believe that when we find a grounded and centred position inside ourselves – connecting all our thoughts and feelings – to whatever we’re engaging with in the outer-world – we can easily feel calm and centered on the inside.
I also believe that key contributors to establishing this, come from attending to our unmet emotional needs and living life as authentically as we can. It can be difficult to feel calm when you’re working against an inner-truth or living a lie or working in an environment where you routinely hide much of your true-self or stifle your creativity. We can all do that for a while, but over time, our mental, emotional and eventually even our physical health can be seriously affected.
Ongoing self-awareness is also key to growth and realising where we might benefit from making more positive choices and changes in our lives. And being able to get the right support from professionals is crucial at times of loss or change in our lives. We’re always changing, letting go, dying to something, embracing something new – and external influences such as actual births or deaths, job losses, divorce and even positive changes like getting married and moving to a new house can all impact our ability to access inner-calm or balance. So, something like coaching or therapy provides a powerful, confidential space for exploration of who we are, what we want and where we’re heading. It’s tough doing it all alone.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” – Robert Byrne
Taking into consideration today’s job market and all the necessary skills, abilities ad multitasking requests that every individual must fulfil daily, how do we find out what we are meant to be? Where do we start to understand what is our purpose in life?
Those are big questions! I honestly believe that starting to understand – and even finding our purpose in life – comes more easily when we dare to follow our hearts, rather than our heads and the logical steps (or advice from other people) in life. Letting go plays its part too. When we identify our values and set our intentions about how we want to live and feel in life, we can start to let life unfold – for the opportunities to come to us – which they always do, in alignment with our thoughts, energy, feelings and beliefs. It’s just getting to know that this is how life works.
The main work here, is to grow in self-awareness – to become aware enough to notice what we are thinking about, because these thoughts create ‘things’ in our lives! And when we’re not creating the life we want, we must go inside and work to understand what it is we are habitually thinking [and feeling] so that we might break free from any limitations which may be holding us back.
This is exactly where something like coaching or therapeutic work really helps. It can truly be transformative.
An increasing number of individuals decide to approach a life or career coach when they feel like they are getting stuck. What is it that moves the new generations to this turning point?
There is no denying that many, many more of us are now ‘waking up’ and I believe new generations are just part of that amazing evolution. Gradually, more and more people are realising that materialism, capitalism and consumerism do not make us happy. And neither do the ‘old’ ways of viewing career and work.
New generations are going inwards and challenging both their individual and collective identities – embracing technology to explore who they are, what they can be and how they can contribute to the world. More and more young people are disillusioned with how they’ve seen older generations living their lives; how it hasn’t always worked in bringing them happiness or a life-well-lived.
So, instead, they are questioning more – as indeed every new generation does and should. They are valuing greater flexibility and the possibility of integrating work into their lives, over building rigid career paths which later require a ‘work-life-balance’ fix. They bring with them the expansion of new possibilities; of living more mindfully, caring more deeply for each other and our planet, appreciating connection, freedom and relationship over shiny objects, money or the acquisition of more ‘stuff’.
From your decennary experience, and taking into consideration that every individual is unique, have you found any major and common breaking points among all the individuals who approached you to change their life?
I’m not sure about ‘breaking points’ but time and time again I meet people who have remained stuck in jobs, relationships, lifestyles or habitually negative thought patterns far longer than they wanted to or realised they needed to. Many people struggle day after day, not realising there is help readily available.
Prior to meeting me, many clients have routinely prioritised others ahead of themselves. They struggle with permission to take care of their own needs, wants and desires in life, even once they have identified or acknowledged their existence. Others ignore their whispering passions, denying them or pushing them away and into the ‘Impossible’ box – until a crisis or some kind of external event forces them to make life changes or embrace the thing they really want for their lives – or know they have to do.
Some have been shocked to find that they’ve lived much of their life focused on other people’s needs rather than their own. People often create a ‘story’ or narrative which tricks them into believing that this is just ‘life’ and how it is or ‘this is my lot’ when all the while, what they’re really doing is distracting themselves from their true path or purpose due to fear.
It can be frightening to step into our own power as individuals. We’re all told so many lies growing up – and again later in society – about how we must, should or ought to live. When in reality, life is itself a discovery. Our own discovery. And each of us is unique, bringing unique gifts, which are designed to be present, while too being part of the collective.
As the famous Socrates quote reminds us,
“an unexamined life is not worth living”
Interestingly, Socrates said this after he chose death instead of being exiled from Athens or committing to silence.
It seems that most of the time, people decide to quit their corporation job (this was also your experience) to discover their inner selves. Why does corporations’ environment fail individuals? What would you advise corporations to improve their environments?
I think corporations really just model big families, which we as individuals are drawn towards in order to heal our childhood patterns. We are often repeating our childhood patterns in all areas of our lives as well as in any organisation we work in. However, this is mostly an unconscious process. Our manager reminds of our mother/father’s behaviour, we react or avoid certain colleagues because they are just like a brother or stepfather. When we all have the capacity to look at those reactions and responses in ourselves and heal, positive changes can take place.
I too repeated an old, childhood pattern of leaving [my job] abruptly when I felt that the organisation [family]
could no longer meet my needs. This was a move towards my true Self and away from an adapted self, which I needed to let go of in order to grow. Alice Miller writes a lot (somewhat controversially) about how children adapt in unhealthy environments.
Corporations need to become mentally and emotionally healthier, cultivating self-awareness, positive mental and emotional wellbeing for all through their policies, procedures and everyday practices. This can create a kinder, more compassionate, authentic culture. which establishes the foundations for trust, personal growth and development to take place ‘on-the-job’. Happier individuals make for happier teams and a more prosperous and productive environment overall, which in a wider sense, makes a huge difference to humanity as a whole.
Sarah is a Transformational Coach and developing Writer who helps individuals and organisations to slow down, transform past patterns and to live more authentically in life, in business, and in all their relationships. After an early career in Human Resources and prior to establishing www.slowcoachsarah.co.uk Sarah was inspired to train as a counsellor; working with both adults and young people in a range of settings while continuing her personal and professional development in areas such as, NLP, TimeLine Therapy™ Hypnosis, her own personal therapy journey, Reiki and now Coaching. Sarah lives in the world heritage city of Bath, in the UK, however, she works with individuals and organisations across Europe and Worldwide. You can contact Sarah for a free, initial coaching consultation via
Contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org