Research Paper By Agatha Hughes
(Life & Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES)
What role do your spiritual beliefs and religion play in finding meaning? Are fate and destiny real? Can you have a soul and purpose if you don’t believe in religion? What is the significance of spirituality in finding your life purpose? As coaches, we need to recognize the presence and impact such questions may have on our clients. We also should consider how defining our own purpose as coaches will impact our clients, especially if such questions arise for us as well. I invite you to read my story and journey around this topic.
When I first began feeling trapped and unhappy in my career, it was a scary time. The fact that my career path was not right for me had been evident for some time, but admitting it would have meant uncertainty and the idea that I wasted time and money. Eventually, this was a fact I had to accept, and doing so ultimately gave me hope.
In the beginning, I was just looking for something different; I was desperate for any change at all. I thought about various career options that would not require much financial sacrifice. But soon after this search begun, I decided to flip the idea around: what if instead of finding something tolerable that already exists or shows up in a job search, I started from within and let that lead me to the right answer? Then I would not just be making a change for the sake of change; I would likely be making a decision that would be long lasting and fulfilling. That’s when I began feeling drawn to seek something greater and higher for myself, and at that point, I didn’t know it meant something so grand. I also didn’t know it had anything to do with spirituality.
Last year I read a book called Reinventing You by Dorie Clark, which my husband gave me as a gesture of support after he responded skeptically to my interest in life coaching. It was the best gift he could have given me at that time, because it provided logic in exploring new territory, doing research about a new field, evaluating my strengths and interests as perceived by myself and others, and how to introduce myself to others in a new role. I interviewed coaches I found online, researched programs, found out salary outlooks, and more. The book facilitated my inward search and confirmed my beliefs that life coaching was for me.
So far, this transition may appear maybe a step beyond mechanical and superficial. I saw a need for change, completed some research, did some self-reflection, and made a decision that, while still somewhat a leap of faith, was justifiable. Though at this point my journey was not illuminated by purpose and meaning, it was in the elementary stages towards that.
What came next was immersion in change and learning: I signed up for ICA. I found more and more how much I loved the material and concepts I was learning and the way they impacted my own life just knowing about them. I learned more about myself. My intuition and “reading” of others’ beliefs and emotions (which I thought were already advanced) became more accurate and judiciously used. This stuff was so valuable and I was bursting with excitement and nervousness to begin practicing coaching and to launch my own coaching business.
I started feeling more as though this was where I belonged and what I should be doing. Here comes the good part, and it occurred when I started interacting with others as their coach.
When I reached out to a networking group by sending out a mass email offering a few pro bono sessions, the response was overwhelming. Not only was the number of emails I received overwhelming, the honest and vulnerable stories people were sharing with me blew me away- I couldn’t believe how eager and hopeful people were for more out of life. I went to church that week and was brought nearly to tears when the people on stage started singing a song about awakening, and I was reminded of the touching words in these emails which were just for my eyes to see. At that moment, I felt a deep connection to coaching and my purpose as a facilitator for people to gain “more.” I felt that now, “more” was what I had through coaching- I knew this was exactly what I should be contributing to the world in my own small way, and that this was my gift to others.
The revelation I had was a feeling of connection and pull towards what I felt was God, whom I had not understood nor felt particularly close to or interested in for a very long time. I also felt very conflicted with ideas of organized religion and practices that I had been taught as a child, so what could this mean? Could this connection mean something unique to me, or did it mean that I now had to adopt all of the ideas represented by this church? How can I be close with God, who has led me along this path, when I don’t accept all of the beliefs held by most of the people here?
My husband and I started going to this church occasionally because we felt comfortable attending. I believe that spirituality is personal and that it is an individual decision to share it openly with others. I was not sure, and still am not, how I can claim to have faith and servitude to a higher power without accepting all of a church’s stated beliefs and rules. So when I detected this link between coaching, my purpose, and God, I was a little confused to say the least.
Finally, I had another interesting and new experience: I went to a tarot card reading. My new interest and commitment to spirituality through investigating my thoughts around church, meditating, and writing a gratitude journal led me to an interest in this woman, with faith that her reading would be authentic (another conflict some religious people might see). She shared with me that my drive and passion in this new direction was fueled by the support of numerous angels that surrounded me, and that my actions had God’s approval. Somehow, I really believed that and felt encouraged by it.
This investigation of spirituality for me enhanced my experience later in my journey rather than in the beginning, and it is still very much a learning process. Yesterday, I was nervous about a first session with a new client so I prayed that God’s presence would allow me to be present and in my best state for this client whom I am meant to help. I had a fantastic session, and she thanked me for it afterwards.
I don’t fully understand the link between religion, spirituality, and individual beliefs. The lesson I learned is that it doesn’t mean what I thought it had to mean. It doesn’t have to mean what anyone else thinks it means. But for some and probably most, it can be very valuable to explore, because without it, I would be in the same position but somehow somewhere completely different. I’d be excited and happy with my decision to coach, but I would not feel that it was my deeply engrained purpose to help people find their meaning the way I have found mine.
What does this mean for coaching? For coaches it means that to be the best coaches, we have to be grounded in our purpose. What are we really here to do for our clients? How will our clients’ experiences with us be different from another coach, whose purpose may be slightly different? Think of ways to explore these ideas. When you feel inspirational, just write even if you don’t know what it will be about, or find another expressive outlet for the same purpose. It will give you clarity by taking these great ideas out of your mind and onto something tangible. Meditate after sessions to create reflective space. Seriously consider connecting and learning with people who live in this higher space- you will find yourself naturally drawn to them. I certainly have met and connected with people I probably would not have before this journey, because I can sense their groundedness. I would like to be more intentional about spending time with these people so I can continue to grow, since I have also found that interaction with my old connections are not as meaningful as they once were.
For our clients, this means that we have to be receptive to inklings towards something “more.” If our clients are feeling a desire to do some deep reflection, and are really asking something that means, “Who am I/What am I here for?” we need to create some space for that. It may not always be attacking them with “powerful” questions. I’ve found that the first step toward finding a new direction for people is often something simple and superficial. For example, a client is not happy with her current career and is unsure how to find the right direction, but we can’t even think about another role because she needs financial security. So the first step is planning a financial cushion that will support her during a time of exploration. At the same time, she will spend some time weekly thinking about her strengths and interests. If a calling is expressed for deeper searching when there is space to do so, I will be prepared to investigate it, but will not force it too early. I know that spiritual support for a choice is not always present, and it does not occur at any certain stage if it does present itself.
Spiritual and religious exploration can be a confusing stage during the process of finding purpose and meaning. As coaches, we need to be aware and foster awareness in others, so that these reflections can occur naturally in a calm, non-judgmental space. A coach who is unreceptive to a client’s desire to redefine spiritual and religious concepts can inhibit the client’s growth and cause feelings of uncertainty, discomfort, or frustration. We must teach willing clients how to be comfortable with discomfort, how to grow at a comfortable pace, and how to implement exercises or thoughts that facilitate transformation.