Coaching Case Study By Sarah Creek
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Anne and I met after she had inherited her Grandmother’s house. It was a beautiful character home, with fine furnishings and lush draperies and located in her city’s finest neighborhood sitting on a over sized piece of land surrounded by English gardens and majestic Garry oaks. Anne loved the home, but she mostly loved the memories that the home held, along with the many stories its walls protected. She had realized that to live there, she would have to make changes to the space in order to make it her own.
Anne was an elegant, tall woman who dressed in fine clothes and who exuded much flair, confidence and elegance. Each time we met she would serve us tea in fancy teacups. Anne had come to me for some interior decorating services after the wet coastal winter had finally turned to spring, and she had decided it was time to “clean house”. She was determined to get the old house in order.
Anne really wanted some support in the process of organizing and updating the home. She wanted to clear out some of her Grandmother’s belongings to make room for hers. She wanted to freshen up the house’s dated look in order to personalize it.
She had mentioned in passing that she and the old house had many things in common. She too had some of her “rooms” cluttered. Her heart and soul were full of closets with events from the past and cloaked with too many cobwebs. Her mind felt clouded with too much “stuff”, she would say. But the pressing task at hand was to address the house’s decluttering, remodelling and painting needs.
The turn of the century home, complete with leaded windows and intricate crown mouldings had seen many celebrations over the years. Anne’s Grandmother, a very well respected English woman, had hosted many dinner parties in the west facing living room, where dignitaries dined and drank. The space was still full of old antiques, pictures, dusty memorabilia and crystal goblets. I felt it a privilege to be entrusted with such a project. As a designer, I would be challenged to create a balance between honouring the house’s character and history and yet satisfying my client’s request for upgrading, modernizing and decluttering the space -to make room for her.
Anne spent many long hours sorting and boxing up items in an effort to declutter. Surprisingly, although her usable space had opened up, she felt more and more closed in. This process had left her feeling less than satisfied with the result. She had become aware that although she worked tirelessly, she felt like she was going in circles.
Things had been moved around, removed, replaced, repainted, updated and yet she still felt lost, overwhelmed and empty. Anne became puzzled and yet very curious about how it was, that although she had achieved her goal of removing her Grandmother’s items and replacing them with hers, she still felt stuck, cluttered, overwhelmed, and very dissatisfied. She had assumed that once her physical space was in order, her inside spaces – her heart, her mind & soul would also come into order. She became more determined than ever to find out the truth about what was really going on within her.
After my design work on the house had ended, she requested my support as her life coach. A very different, yet similar process thus began.
Anne would smile to herself as she would ponder how searching for truth sure felt like “cleaning house”. This process seemed too much for her to tackle on her own and therefore she approached me to coach her. Our time spent previously working together had laid the foundation to build a trusting relationship which provided Anne the confidence to start cleaning “her house”. Anne knew me, and knew that my intent was to support her and create a space for her to be heard, without judgement. She wanted to clear her cobwebs, find out who she was and what her purpose was. She also wanted to discover how she could express herself, and leave a mark in the lives of others the way her Grandmother’s life had left its mark on her.
Anne’s coaching journey began with her taking inventory of the contents of her “closets” -the closets of her mind, heart & soul – which were full of all sorts of “garments”. Garments of false beliefs, fear, shame, self doubt, disempowering thoughts, comparison, judgements etc. She was saddened by what she discovered but it helped her understand why she felt lifeless, uninspired, unproductive and uncertain of where she was going.
Through this process of self-discovery, she finally admitted that the contents of her “closets” were no longer working for her. She had yet to discover her truths, but what she knew was that those garments were no longer the right “fit” for her. Some were too small, some too big. Some needed to be discarded, some needed to be replaced, others were stained and some were damaged.
It took time for Anne to accept this realization and to decide what she wanted to do about it. Just like the valuable antiques, some items in her closets had been there for as long as she could remember. Garments like hurts, disappointments, failures and limiting beliefs.
She had to be creative to imagine a future without their presence. Being an artist, Anne gained much clarity, vision, and excitement when she created a colorful vision board for her office. This allowed her to stay focused on what she would gain by letting go of her old garments.
However, just like the antiques, those old garments took up space in her heart, mind & soul. In order to make room for new items of truth, she needed to let go of her old “garments”. Some garments had prevented her from saying yes to exciting possibilities that had previously come her way. Others had caused her to put limits on herself which cost her lost opportunities.
Anne had come to realize that her commitment to change had to come from the inside out. Marshall & Kelly Goldsmith explain this here. www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/coaching-clients-give/
She had tried it the other way around – outside in- by decluttering her home and this approach had not been successful.
It felt most helpful to support Anne in exploring which intent she wanted to create for herself, and therefore which new items she wanted to add to her closet. Discovering what she was committed to also allowed her to position herself to make a change.
As a result of our coaching time, Anne was able to identify garments of truth like trust, responsibility, choices, hope, honesty, confidence, wholeness, abundance and peace.
These new beliefs gave Anne the courage to not only get rid of the old ones but to also be very intentional about the new items she now chose to select and bring into her closets. Items that would allow her to get way more out of life! My intentional acknowledgement of Anne also cheered her on!
As I look back on each residence I had the privilege to design, there was always one item that stuck with me. I may not have been able to recall, without looking at my notes, which paint color I had chosen for a certain space, but there was always one item that I remembered the house by. In Anne’s case, it was an old blue velvet armed chair.
In the layout of Anne’s oversized living room, this chair took the least amount of space. It was covered in fancy blue velvet and had cabriole legs. Tucked away in the corner by the French doors that lead onto the flagstone patio, one could easily have missed it, as it almost blended into the décor.
Anne had explained that for as long as she could remember, the chair had sat in the exact same spot in her Grandmothers’ house. It had come from England, from her Great-Grandfather’s estate. Even though Anne quite disliked the chair, she enjoyed the familiarity of it. It took up the most coveted corner of the living room by the fireplace, and in front of the bright French doors. The placement of the blue chair truly offered the best spot in the house to enjoy looking at the rhododendron gardens outside.
Strangely enough even though Anne disliked it she could not part with it during the redesign of the living room. In her heart, she really wanted on oversized stuffed chair to sit in and read but she was unwilling to let go of the small blue chair. I had come to accept that the old blue chair would stay in Anne’s space until she was ready to part with it, and it would remain the item that stood out like a sore thumb in her newly designed room.
One day I received a phone call from Anne nearing the end of our remodelling project. She had been out and about and had come across this most gorgeous grey tufted oversized chair. She had absolutely fallen in love with it and wanted to have it in her space. In the showroom, she had sat in it and found it to be just the right size for her to tuck her long legs up, just the way she liked to do when she read. It was the right color to complement the soft tones found in the curtains we had chosen for her freshly decorated living room. The fabric of the chair was just the right weight, not too heavy and masculine, not too formal. It was the perfect piece for Anne’s space. When I met Anne at the furniture showroom, she displayed some anxious hesitation. She had been trying out the chair and imagining it in her space and had decided that the perfect spot for this beloved chair would be the space where the old blue velvet one was. To get the new chair, she would need to part with the old one. She felt torn. The blue one had never really fit her space, but she had been accustomed to seeing it for so long that it had become part of the living room space she recognized.
Faced with this dilemma, she weighed her options and courageously bought the grey chair, committing to parting with the old blue one. I think that the blue chair had stuck with me because of what it represented for Anne. It wasn’t until she found the new grey one that she could part with the old blue one that had never served her properly.
This way of operating was not new to me, as it reminded me of Lion Goodman’s inspirational work on the “Belief Closet” stating that “in order to let go of one belief, a person needs a new belief to hold on to. And when we transform our beliefs, we transform our life, one step at a time, one belief at a time.” Lion Goodman, The Belief Closet; www.clearbeliefs.com; www.beliefcloset.com
I had noticed the same to be true when Anne had carefully chosen new “garments” – beliefs – for her closets (heart/soul/mind). Anne had to discover the truth of who she was created to be (new beliefs) in order to discard old beliefs (disempowering, limiting ones). In doing so, she had unearthed what was important to her as well as to identify what no longer served her. She had explored her strengths, passions and abilities and had become awakened to a new purpose and a desire to express herself in her work -as an artist!
When Anne had chosen to “clean house”, she had chosen to pursue truth. Her truth. She had responded to my invitation to expand her vision. That was such a powerful process as it led her to an inner transformation! In the past, she had searched for truth it in all the wrong places. All along, what Anne was looking for was right there inside of HER– inside her heart, mind & soul. Anne had pursued truth and authenticity. This pursuit of truth required Anne to be curious, willing to change and determined to live a life of simplicity and beauty from the inside out, a life aligned with who she is and what she is created for.
Through interior decorating services, Anne made herself at home in the old character house. Through life coaching, Anne found the space she needed to make a Pure Simple Change. Anne found her unique self, experienced empowerment and continues to share her passions with all of us as an artist. She expresses such gratitude when she reflects on this process! Anne frequently checks in with me and welcomes the support of friends in her life to maintain her progress and stay focused on her goals! This simple commitment continues to position Anne for her success!