“For things to change, you have to change.”
When you see the title of this piece you will think what has this to do with grief, right? It is connected. Losing my father was like an earthquake in my otherwise smooth and successful existence. I found myself alone questioning everything that once worked for me and gave me a ‘certain’ world. I was lost and disillusioned and I questioned why I was still here.
Some of you will have followed my writing over the past seven years. Even as I look at me now and am amazed I am still standing. I was once a successful professional working full time as a law firm Partner and Solicitor in a reputable national practice. Today, I am still that only I have acquired some additional skills I never thought either I would need or indeed have. In addition to now being a law firm Partner and Solicitor, which I do part time, I am also an Executive leadership Coach. I mention this because this is not something I ever aspired to be. To be honest, I cannot even say I knew what coaching was about until I found myself at crossroads where some kind soul suggested I should try coaching.
For those who know me I am a pretty confident and self reliable person. I used to think I help. The thought that I would need help from others was an alien concept in my head. When your world falls apart you soon realise it is possible to ask for help and that does not diminish your personal power of being a strong person. In fact it is being honest with the self. Only in my case it took a big event for me to recognise the obvious.
When the pandemic arrived did we envisage what we have been through these past 18 months and what we are still going through ? I am pretty sure not even those who claim to predict the future can say with honesty that a pandemic of this scale was going to turn our lives upside down.
2020 was not the kind of year we thought it would be and to some extent the same can be said for this year and probably for next year too. The lives lost, the people for whom the world has been changed forever, and the direct and indirect impact of this episode in history will have affected us all to some degree. We either know someone who has suffered a bereavement through Covid-19 or we have suffered a personal loss in our lives. Put simply this has been too close to home.
So what has all this to do with my grief journey and my being a Coach? What happens to us in our personal life has a profound impact on our professional life. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we invest our entire being in the role we perform. The reason why I had coaching myself was because after having practiced as a lawyer for 20 years, losing my father made me question whether I still found my profession meaningful. I was for a good few years following my father’s passing in a place where I was trying to find something that still had meaning and purpose. Joy did not feature in my vocabulary as survival was the aim.
The pandemic has caused upset on a huge scale. Businesses did not have a plan B to manage this situation and neither did we as individuals. Businesses and leaders have had to struggle with many issues of uncertainty not to mention the loss of income, staff and and people issues and an uncertain road ahead. Individuals and organisations have built in resilience, sure but this pandemic has tested some more than others.
Watching Gareth Southgate whom I greatly admire not just because he has achieved something spectacular with getting us to the Euro final but also because he epitomises all the qualities of an exceptional yet humble leader, it made me stop and think. I was fortunate to work with a leader whom I have huge respect for and I recall he once said, he is a good leader because he is surrounded by good people. Leaders are generally lonely at the top, they carry more responsibility and have fewer people in their organisation they can confide to. Trust and safety does not come easily and is not something that we can take for granted either. Good decisions cannot be made by one person or isolation. The leader needs to have around them a team of people they trust as their thinking partners and sounding boards. Some leaders have that but having people outside your bubble has the added advantage of an independent as well as objective perspective. This is where having a Coach by your side can make a huge difference.
In my personal life I had coaching to help me find my reason to live again after my loss. My coaching also helped me to realise I had not lost my passion as a lawyer but it ignited a dormant passion which I have always had but did not recognise. This was my ability to help, inspire and encourage others to do well and achieve their goals. My dad in many ways was also my Coach even though he was my father. Having had coaching I decided to get my training so I did the ILM7 in Coaching & Mentoring. This was an amazing journey in itself as I learnt even though I did acquire an MBA many years back, the context of coaching and mentoring in a strategic business environment. I learnt about undertaking coaching and mentoring at a Senior and strategic level. This was incredibly enlightening because it made me reflect on my journey and how having hit the crisis iceberg I managed to keep going. I am not done yet but I have realised that my personal journey of having to dig myself out of my personal life crisis makes me well placed to help others who might be at their crossroads. Those who know us will know about the incredible bond between my father and I (I will say we still have that bond ) so the grief I felt was something I did expect but may be not the extent of it. However, finding a new part of me with a sense of purpose to keep going is a massive surprise to me. I doubt if I could have discovered this on my own.
I said earlier that finding a reason to live was my challenge and now I have found a reason to feel joy. Joy from helping others to thrive and see their potential. Sounds altruistic but it is not, it is as basic as being acknowledged for who we are.
I help people like me, people who are driven, successful and strong, but are either at a crossroads and are feeling ‘temporarily’ lost before they discover clarity to help them steer their journey in the direction of their choice.
As an Executive Leadership Coach I give others the safe thinking space. I offer a non-judgemental objective listening space where leaders can think and find their own solutions and strategies to deal with any crisis/ change they are going through in their own lives as well as in their business/ professional lives.
My book My Dad and Me: A journey of Love, loss and life comes from my crisis and so does my ability to coach others through change and crisis. Neither of these outcomes were ever on my list of goals 8 years ago but this is a bi-product of self discovery which I feel gives me the capacity to be of help to others. A caveat being a lawyer, I must state, I am not a therapist nor am I still, an expert on grief. However, from the lessons I learnt from my own heartache and hardship if I can be there for others than I see enormous value in the reason why I do what I do.
It was also not a strategy to have my book out then set up a coaching business. For a long time I was in survival mode. I do not know when I switched lanes. This all happened unexpectedly and organically, but what I can say hand on heart is that I am glad this happened. I am glad I acknowledged my grief. My training and experience as a lawyer helps me to offer advice to my clients, my breaking has now helped me to listen more. Pretty much the reason why we do what we do is not because of any fancy job title or letters behind our names, it is something much deeper. We want to touch lives, we want to make a difference and we want to help others. It is not a transaction nor is it complicated, it is a journey of resilience and self discovery, and whoever, I have had the privileged to help thus far, I consider it my good fortunate that they see me as their worthy travelling companion albeit, in the guise of a Coach, lawyer or friend.
I will end this post with one more thought, I enjoy my coaching and legal work, and I have gained so much from coaching. It is a little bit like my gym membership, coaching is essential for my emotional wellbeing just as running is along with my writing.
Every month I have three slots open in my diary. This is for anyone who has not tasted the magic of coaching, and is facing either some change or crisis. Change can take many forms, loss of a loved one, loss of a career, uncertainty or feeling burnt out. I have been through all this. I waive my fee for these sessions. I do not offer discovery calls I offer actual free coaching in the 3 slots I hold for anyone in need. This is my way of giving back and my way of reaching out to those who might see coaching as something invisible, fuzzy and vague. Believe me, it does work if you are open, engaged and really want to see the change you wish to see in your life. Sometimes we are stuck but we are too busy to know it or sometimes we are hesitating as we are afraid of seeking help. I run marathons, and I know I cannot do that without my running coach, my sports therapist, my training and a good game plan. This is my running strategy. The same applies to life crisis and change, we may not see the answers at first but we can have someone on our side who can help us through this. All you have to do is to find time for yourself, and you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself so you can continue to do what you must do for those you care.
I have come full circle with the title of this piece. For me the crisis, change, grief that I went through and I am still going through has been managed because I sought help. In my tool bag for my overall wellbeing, I have a number of tools. Coaching is one of those key tools. I had coaching yesterday and this morning I woke up with a renewed sense of purpose.
Finally, it seems appropriate to leave you with a couple of quotes.
“My job is to allow people to dream. Make the impossible seem possible”
This is what you probably do for all those people you lead but what do you do for yourself ?
This is my take on coaching.
“Coaching helps you to listen to your soul and it helps you live with joy”.
Be kind to you.
Daxa Patel Coaching Solutions
My Dad and Me – by Daxa Patel (daxapatelmydadandme.co.uk)