I was raised by a strong, independent mother. One of my most memorable recollections of her was the time she jumped ship, literally, in La Paz, Mexico. I was seven and my brother was a year old. My mother hailed a local shrimp boat, threw our luggage into the waiting Captain’s arms, and informed us she was leaving my father. My mother hitchhiked, used local buses, and eventually got us back to civilization by flying out of Mexico and home to Carmichael, CA.
As an adult looking back, I can’t imagine how she had endured the several months on a 24-foot sailboat from Sausalito to La Paz, serving as sailing crew, mother, chief cook and bottle washer. I do know that she washed dirty diapers in the ocean and would tie my brother to the mast with a tether so he wouldn’t fall overboard.
My mother’s motto stemmed from her belief in being the strong, silent type. You didn’t share with others, other than immediate family and very close friends, what was happening in your life. You were independent, stood on your own two feet, and didn’t need support from anybody. Even when I was care giving for her the last 10 years of her life she had troubles letting anyone outside of the family know of her struggles.
Needless to say, my mother would have been a little perplexed learning that I am building a coaching business working with accomplished women navigating significant changes in their work and personal lives. Her comment would have sounded something like this, “Dear, I know you can do whatever you put your mind to, but why would women buy your services?” She just couldn’t fathom asking for any kind of support or help.
Today, I can’t imagine not asking for help. From personal experience I know there is a better way for handling significant life changes, and it doesn’t involve going it alone. Rather, the focus needs to be on building a support network and aligning your resources to buoy you up during these changing times. I have used a combination of paid coaches, long-term mentors, and supportive colleagues and friends to help me start several businesses, run my business after breaking both ankles, handling the multiple demands of care giving, and dealing with the death of close family and friends.
Reaching out for support during highly chaotic and changing times is not a sign of weakness, just the opposite. It’s a way to say I have choices, and I choose to be the best I can be at all times. Being the best means surrounding yourself with the best people who provide you guidance, support and help to continually grow and develop. And wouldn’t it be great if, during these changing times, you were also able to get clear on what you really wanted your new life to look like?
I was eight when my mom returned from the divorce court, shared with me the state of our finances and asked the question, “How were we going to survive?” Of course we survived. And those valuable lessons from childhood have served me to become a successful businesswoman in my own right. Today I would share that this is a question you ask of a financial planner or coach, not an eight year-old child.
That being said, I believe life should not be about just surviving. It should be about thriving and living an abundance-filled life. This has nothing to do with money, though having a financial person you can work with is most helpful. Rather, it’s about living a life that taps into your strengths, builds on your dreams and visions for a future you want to live, and taking steps to thrive and flourish.
Too often as women we get so focused on meeting our people’s expectations (i.e., parents, friends, spouses, children, etc) that we forget to examine our own needs and wants. Some of us took this time when we were young women beginning our careers, but forgot to re-examine how we have changed over time. I believe all of us have seminal shifts in our lives, changes that we don’t plan for, but are inevitable with living.
Changing relationships, care giving, work transformations, death of a significant loved one, these are all pivotal moments when we have choices. We can go it alone; stew in our own juices of self-absorption. Better yet, we can reach out to family and friends, which is so helpful and supportive. The problem there is the associated comments of “I told you so” and “I didn’t do that when I was your age” become really old and tiring.
While a coach is not for everyone, you would be surprised how many people have reached out for one. During these pivotal times in your life they can feel sent by a Higher Power. It took me years and a few therapists later to realize that being independent doesn’t mean having to go it alone. In fact, independence means recognizing when you need help and support, and reaching out to take care of yourself.
Kathy Hart, Ed.D. has a driving passion for human change and transformation. She has witnessed too many people silenced and leading lives of quiet despair. Her goal is to provide everyone with the support and resources needed to re-imagine and lead a more abundant, joy-filled and purpose-driven life. If you are struggling to reclaim your voice and live your life to the fullest, take concrete action by contacting Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org. The choice is yours!