Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Life After Life Coaching

I did not know about life coaching until a good friend invited me to undergo it with him as he was still gaining experience in the field.  What a great blessing.

This happened on the month I finally started reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, given by another friend last year, and right before I was gifted with The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin by yet another friend.  So I must have been going through something, for the people around me to not-so-subtly give me tools towards happiness in life.

I had no idea what to do on our first session, but I gave what I thought were my best answers. My life coach started with a series of questions that were so tough that I almost wanted to quit. He refused my press-release answers to my happiness level on every aspect of life.  He knew I was holding back, although I was not aware of it. He was very gentle, yet very firm. I actually wanted to hate him if he were not a very likable person.

He explained to me that simply put, he was there to help me identify my goals in life, work on the perceived obstacles, and achieve said goals. I thought it was going to be easy-peasy.  I had been writing my goals since childhood! But I was wrong.  I did not know how life-changing and perilous the road I had started was going to be.

We met regularly, and it helped give me a sense of accountability.  It was like having a personal trainer, a spiritual director, and a career mentor all in one package.  I have had all three before, so I thought I was the expert in submitting to authority.  But life-coaching was much more than the sum of its parts.  And the greatest thing was that I only had to pay for dinner!  Once I started Googling about life coaching, I realized I could never afford it, so I knew I was being given a gift.

Still, I was not sure if it was effective.  I went through the motions.  A lot of times I thought I got things wrong.  I learned to trust him more each session. He taught me exercises to blast away my overstaying beliefs about my skills and overall worth.  He made me write down my goals and then to rewrite them (and I hated repetition).  He made me see the distance between my perceptions about the things and people around me and what was reality (This.was.hard!).  He taught me to be detached from my emotions during stressful situations so I could focus on the tasks and hand, and not be pushed down into distress.  He said his goal was to make himself irrelevant.

The timing was impeccable.  Just when I had a life coach to lean to, two things happened to me that previous subscribers to my dramas could tell were my oldest stories - a complicated childhood relationship gone sour, and a professional insecurity brought about by a major setback when I was starting out my legal career. Probably, my life coach dealt me the truths that my friends had been saying all along, but it took this person who did not know me so well to show me the way out of the prisons in my mind.

And then I was free.  I saw how far I had moved on from that painful friendship I had carried with me for decades, and how I had so many friends who treated me better that more than made up for the damage to my self-image wrought by my personal Voldemort.

I also finally let go of The Bar Card, my failure story that I loved to use against other people, whether in my head or out loud, whenever they whined about their respective careers.  I thought I was the winner in the loser category.  My life coach helped me to see how much this was hindering me from becoming the best lawyer I was meant to be. I did not even realize how I had been using this Bar Card as a crutch when I was no longer injured.  I was, in fact, healed.

Life coaching in general is a secular concept, but I was doubly blessed because my life coach was a man of deep faith.  He understood my worldview since he had a similar one.  He seamlessly integrated my relationship with God into our sessions, so that my goals, dreams, fears, and perceptions were seen in the light of faith.

Each life coach has a different approach.  I am grateful that my life coach was perfectly suited to my background, personality, and vision. He has left the country now and so I am on my own. He may, as he is wont to do, follow me up once in a while, but our sessions have equipped me to change my views enough and step out in greater faith. 

You might see results of the more amazing in me in the posts to come. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Facing Failure 101

I just had coffee with a good friend, one of those blessed creatures who had it all - looks, brains, and talents. He told me how his past week had been difficult because he felt that he was last at everything and that was why he threw himself a pity party. He said he had low moments and expressed this to God in prayer.

I had to ask him if he was serious in thinking that he was inferior in any way, because from my vantage point he had no right to complain. At all. But he was genuinely insecure; worse, he wanted to be perfect. He could not live with failure, however insignificant it seemed. He wanted it all.

Who was I to criticize him, when I myself had bouts of insecurity especially the past few weeks when my worth was tested in various ways? In fact I had been feeding off my friends' encouragements just so I could keep going. I had failed to see my own brilliance and awesomeness, as one friend put it. Instead, I focused on my weaknesses (for there were many).

Even we Christians do not find it easy to face failure. We may succeed at it some of the time, but there are always areas which cause us to become human, and so we suffer from the pains of rejection and look at ourselves as the sorriest of God's creatures. We pray for the day when we can win that game, or get that award, or succeed at that venture that we think would really make us happy and contented for the rest of our lives. We compare ourselves to our friends and think of how much more blessed they are. Pride and envy are so deeply entrenched in our hearts that it is so hard to live by faith. We are shackled by these fears and feelings.

I do not have a concrete answer to this; nor do I want to put a spiritual band-aid to what my friend and I are suffering from. We obviously both need to work on our faith and to focus on the Lord's strength rather than at our personal weaknesses.

I did try to look for a verse from Scripture that could address the topic of failure. And it led me to this:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. (Romans 8:31)
It is a daily struggle to let my hope be bigger than my fears. It is something I want to grow more into this week.

I am comforted by this, one of my most favorite verses:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
I will face this challenge with confidence, hope, assurance, and faith in a God whom I know is for me. He knows me. He has my best interests at heart. He has my future in His hands.

As for my friend, I know he will have better days ahead. He is a saintly man, actually, and this episode is but a part of his journey.

Facing failure or any difficulty becomes a whole lot easier with a good friend who is able to see the best version of me, in a fraction of the way God sees me. And I do the same for my friend. I can see now that God will graciously give my friend and me all the things that we need. We just have to put our faith in that.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Opening the Eyes of My Heart

As a young Christian, I somehow subconsciously believed that I was meant to underachieve, that it was my way of taking the focus away from myself and glorifying God. Hence, I failed to see myself as God created me. I saw as in a mirror: not clearly.

I was happy in my self-imposed ride with false humility. I genuinely believed that I was serving my fellowmen better by ignoring my personal issues, pushing them down until they could not be visible to the naked, unknowing eyes of the people around me.

It had been a long and arduous journey but here I am, more self-aware and also, more cognizant of the vast opportunities waiting for me, and more convinced that God wanted fullness of life for me.

I had leaders and mentors in my Christian walk who varied in their approach.  I did not blame them for they tried to teach me well.  It was my personal response that was blinded.  I saw only what I could see at that time, for my eyes had scales then.

I have become joyful again because I have discovered that it is possible to be healed, and that forgotten dreams are kept in storage in my Lord's heart, so that at the right time, He would show me how to realize them.

My cup overflows.  Hurts from ages past have made me stronger.

God wants me to be happy. What a strange concept that has been to me. I walk on with freedom and hope.

At the right time, I will blog about this in greater detail. Things are falling into place but are not yet final.

How about you, dear reader? Have you experienced brushing aside your issues and dreams as "costs of discipleship?"

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Joyous July

Hi. Welcome back to my blog.  You may have noticed that I have not been regularly blogging in a verrry long time. The list of reasons for this is quite long but I won't bore you with it. :)

This time, I'm back for good.

I'm loving the new Blogger layout and Google+ connection. Reminds me that it's no longer 2003, the year I started this blog. Next year is my 10th anniversary, and I hope to have a vibrant online presence (again) by then. So I have to start posting again!

I've changed my title because, well, the old one needed to retire. This is my version 2.0 and my way of writing about the new chapter in my life.

This blog resurrection was inspired by two things: my life-coaching sessions and the book, "The Happiness Project."  I highly recommend the  book and the sessions. They are both life-changing.

My birth month v. 2012 started today and brought with it a heavy downpour, as always.  That's swell.  During mass this morning, the deacon, one of my very good friends, blessed all the July birthday and anniversary celebrators.  When he saw me, he showered me with holy water.

I didn't mind looking drenched for the rest of the morning. I embraced the blessing. For God has given me so many reasons to be joyful this July.

Coming up this month are a Jane Austen book club meeting, a friend's piano concert, a Rock of Ages evening, a despedida and bienvenida dinner, and a trip to Bangkok with two of my best friends.

Along with work, teaching, and the rest of my colorful life, I am almost where my life coach said I could be: leading a balanced life.

Am I the only one struggling to juggle different things? What do you do to achieve work-life balance? Please feel free to post in the Comments section below.