As we sat down for our first coaching session, Stacia, a striking 33-year old woman, asked me, “We can talk about anything, right?” “Yes, absolutely,” I replied. Our plan had been to discuss pricing for her personal training business, but she had heavier matters on her mind.
Disappointment All Around
A few years ago, Stacia had returned to her father’s town after he died, moving into the home that she inherited. She hoped to connect with her father’s siblings who were local, and have an extended support system for her and her young child. As the sole survivor, her father named Stacia the heir of his estate, but a poorly written will was making the process slow and uncertain. And her dreams to reconnect with her aunts and uncles quickly dissolved as they challenged the will and dragged out the litigation process through multiple years and lawyers.
If Stacia were to receive this inheritance, it would solve many problems. As a single mom, this income would afford her the opportunity to attend graduate school and pursue her dream of becoming a healthcare professional.
The final court date is still two months away and she was very stressed, worrying about which direction her life would take. She was making plans with the assumption that the judgment would go her way, but she didn’t know what she would do if it didn’t. After empathizing with her about this frustrating state of affairs, I asked her, “What would it feel like to let go of planning your life based on receiving this inheritance?”
She got quiet, paused and said, “It would be freeing.” I could see her relax as she contemplated letting it go. “I make do without the money now, so my life won’t change that much if I don’t get it. It will still be hard. Getting the money would make everything easier. I would not have to worry about money. Still, I can’t do anything except hope that my lawyer does the best he can to advocate for me."
Stacia shifted into a new mindset of envisioning her life without the inheritance, a place that she understandably hadn’t wanted to step into. She might have no choice but to accept that she inherits nothing from her father. Or she could continue fighting with more lawsuits. Whatever the outcome, by moving on with plans for her life and not letting the estate take over, she could gain control of the worry.
“Tell me more about the healthcare dream," I inquired. She began with a description her mother, a kindred spirit who has multiple chronic diseases. Stacia’s vision is to help people in similar circumstances manage their pain in a natural way. She had started to research graduate schools and planned to stay in town another year before enrolling elsewhere. The best program would require her to move, but it would serendipitously be where her mother lives, a prospect that made her smile.
“In what way does it serve you to stay here for another year?” I questioned.
She suddenly teared up and had an epiphany. “I don’t need to stay here and put my life on hold for another year.” Then more emotions came up. “I feel guilty about that.”
“What part feels guilty?”
“Well, I’ve committed to volunteering at some organizations.” Then, with a sob, she declared “I just feel guilty about the possibility that I could be happy.”
She can be happy! That realization moved her to tears. Being near her mom and moving forward with her life would make her happy.
However, moving presented a few problems too. There was the logistical problem of how she would afford to move, start a graduate program and pay for housing. Plan B needed some research. We agreed to have Stacia look into prerequisites for graduate school, application deadlines, costs, and grant opportunities, to be discussed at our next session. More information was necessary and she needed time to process her new insights.
We then came up with a few pricing strategies for her personal training business.
What to do when you are stuck?
Everyone has been in a place where you know things aren’t quite right, but you might not know why. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday life, doing what’s in front of you to get through the day, not focusing on what isn’t working. Things that don’t work need solutions and when those solutions aren’t obvious, or are hard to fathom or face, the path of least resistance is to move on with the status quo. Being caught up in a court case or any similar situation where you don’t feel in control can be emotionally draining, making it even harder to assess your situation.
Life coaching guides you to honestly look at your life and examine where you are stuck. When you have clarity about what isn’t working, you can then start to envision what you do want and identify small steps to move towards that happier place.
If Stacia doesn’t get her inheritance, she will have to mourn the loss of the life that her dad wanted her to have. She will need to let go of the anger with her relatives. This process isn’t simple or easy. But starting now to shift her thinking away from external circumstances, towards the things she can control, will allow Stacia to feel more confident about whatever comes her way. If she does get the estate, she will be ready with a plan to get rolling with graduate school and to enjoy sharing her life on a daily basis with her mom. As her coach, I will support Stacia through the process regardless of how the court case resolves.
The name of my client has been changed as well as some of the details about her life. She granted permission for me to write about our session.