Change is a continuous process. You cannot assess it with the static yardstick of a limited time frame. When a seed is sown into the ground, you cannot immediately see the plant. You have to be patient. With time, it grows into a large tree. And then the flowers bloom, and only then can the fruits be plucked. –Mamata Banerjee
So you’ve been planting lots of seeds.
You’ve found the best plot of land to create your garden with ample sun. You’ve tilled the best, nutrient-dense soil. You’ve watered and added compost “tea” to the mix. Most of the seedlings have sprouted in perfect little rows. You’re overjoyed that your diligent efforts are paying off and soon you’ll have adorable micro greens and delicious heirloom tomatoes to eat. The kale is beginning to grow, as is the broccoli you’re trying for the first time. Who knew you had a green thumb? It really wasn’t that difficult; it was a matter of trying.
The fruits of your labor are now ready for the picking. Do you realize what you’ve been planting is finally here?
So often we wish on stars or attempt to manifest the next best thing. Maintaining a positive attitude, saying our daily mantras, or simply hoping for the best are ways many people go about making decisions in business or love. It’s sort of a “I’m going to jump and figure it out later” attitude.
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It’s taken me a while to build a sustainable coaching practice.
It started with my therapy practice at a counseling center. I was given clients by virtue of interning at the center. Then, when I left to start my private practice, a few clients decided to join me. I had to raise my fees, which I felt very nervous about doing. Working in my internship felt exciting at the beginning. It was like having a driver’s permit. I met with my supervisor for weekly consultation, discussing the process and themes in my clients’ lives and how I was best supporting them. For a while, this process was fulfilling and exciting. Then, as the months turned to years, I noticed that I was ready for the next phase of my career.
I received feedback from my supervisor that my work was too coachy. This didn’t feel like a compliment, and I felt criticized for my way of being with clients. However, her words served as a wake up call to me. The bitter sting was really a seed being planted, and I toyed with the idea of changing my practice.
Then, I started seeing my own life coach, and she encouraged me to examine lots of different possibilities. I hadn’t been so happy as a therapist. My clients were amazing, don’t get me wrong. It was the whole picture with tons of paperwork, so many rules… I felt constricted, claustrophobic, tied in a straitjacket. There was only so much I could do because the boundaries were so strict. I remember wanting to give one client a blanket. My supervisor advised against it. The client was nearly homeless, living on a chair in someone’s living room. The rules felt unwieldy and my heart hurt seeing so many people in pain.
It was a transition, for sure, to change from being a therapist to a coach. It was also one of the best decisions of my life. I started planting seeds, rebranding myself within my community first. There were times I felt the seeds were not sprouting, and all my work was not paying off.
I know lots of people who work for themselves: freelance and creative types, entrepreneurs, people with a flexible schedule, my people. The biggest complaints I hear (and have personally experienced) in making the transition to working for one’s self is financial instability, frustration about not getting paid gigs, not getting paid what you’re worth, feeling lonely during the day when working from home, not having a team of people to delegate or even bounce ideas, long hours, fluid scheduling, and making choices to work rather than do something fun on a Thursday (Disneyland, anyone?!). All of these worries make you feel like the seeds you’re planting are for nought, like nothing is working, that it’s time to zip it up and go back to your normal job.
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Tomatoes usually take up to 65 days to grow from seed to fruit. That’s a little more than two months of waiting to taste a juicy bite. Similarly, planting seeds to get and retain clients can take even longer. Same with love: dating can feel like an eternal drought where nothing is cultivated. I believe that each time you meet someone professionally or go on a date, there’s a chance to plant seeds. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s really important to keep at it. Remember, you’re building a relationship. Each time you introduce yourself is an opportunity to meet someone new for love, for business, for friendship. The seeds might take time to grow, and it’s definitely an exercise in patience.
Lastly (and I’ll probably have to write more on this topic), when the seed has sprouted and you’re ready to pick that shiny zucchini at the end of summer, do you realize how far you’ve come? That’s what you’ve been waiting for. It’s worth it.