Keep Your Eye on the Why
Three weeks ago, I committed to ONE "job" as a cancer coach: writing and posting one blog article a week, every week, for a year. With the support of business strategist, coach and "Courage & Clarity" podcast host, Steph Crowder, I accepted the challenge to step back from the overwhelming, self-imposed pressure to turn my coaching practice into a money-making business and give myself permission to take the next best step: engage with and create content for cancer survivors. That's all. For a year.
I became a certified professional coach in 2018 to serve cancer survivors like me. Almost as soon as I was certified, I got distracted by the what and the how of starting a business. What was my business's name, marketing plan, logo? How much was I going to charge? Would I offer coaching packages or charge an hourly rate or both? I printed business cards and created a website. I kept thinking back to a friend's well-intentioned warning "If it doesn't make money it's a hobby, not a business." "HOW?" I wondered. "HOW do I make MONEY as a coach so that my practice will be taken seriously as a business?"
I signed up for online business courses, invested in a vision board workshop program for coaches and read "how to turn a profit as a coach" books. Before long, I knew how to grow an audience, create a community anchor and sell out group programs. I was ready to be a money-making coach! I planned and delivered a handful of successful weekend workshops for medium to large groups of (mostly) women and landed a few coaching clients. But after a few months, I felt drained and uninspired. Meh. I didn't implement any of the community engagement and group program lessons I'd learned. Eventually, I packed all the worksheets, books, vision board and coach training materials away. Coach Eileen went dormant. My practice seemed headed for Hobbyville after all.
Then I reached out to Steph again about a month ago. After a two hour intensive coaching session, I realized why I'd felt drained and uninspired so soon after getting certified as a coach. I'd forgotten my WHY! I was leading with WHAT instead, and it showed. "Why do you want to be a coach?" my leadership coach asked me in 2017. "Because having a coach after I was diagnosed with breast cancer would have made things so much better, easier to process, less scary. Because I want to coach cancer survivors." She didn't ask me how I was going to achieve my goal or what my plan was for establishing a coaching business. The only question she asked me then was: WHY? But I'd gotten distracted by wanting to prove something to myself and others. I'd taken my eyes off of the reason I became a coach.
I have a really great day job, I love the people I get to work with and thankfully, don't need to earn extra income to help support my family. I can afford to narrow my focus as a cancer coach and concentrate on producing consistent, quality content over generating cash. I can afford to start small, take the next best baby step towards building my coaching practice in service of cancer survivors. I can take the time to engage in meaningful conversation with the cancer survivor community. I am a coach thanks to cancer and am called to serve cancer survivors like me. I had accepted Steph's invitation to make this my ONE job as a coach and to turn away from the vague, overly broad offers I'd put out before, instead returning to my original calling of coaching cancer survivors. Yay! The end. She coached happily ever after.
Week 1. The first article I wrote, "How Taking Care of Everyone and Everything but Yourself Backfires," came together easy peasy. It was, after all, about me, my cancer journey and an important lesson that I learned along the way. It was also an easy first article to write because I'd already written it out in the form of a keynote address that I'd given at several breast cancer awareness and fundraising events. After publishing that first article, I got some new "subscribers" to my blog, which inspired me to re-design my website with tips from Steph. I also posted content on Instagram every day that week, inviting my almost 1,000 followers to visit my website and read by latest blog post. Week 1, article 1: check!
Week 2. The second article was so. hard. to. WRITE. I over thought it. I agonized over the content. I wanted it to reach and help people. MY PEOPLE. Cancer survivors. "HERE I AM!" I hoped my article screamed. "I CAN HELP!" After 24 hours of writing, re-writing, editing and agonizing I finally pressed publish and put article number 2 out there: "Using Your Words: Why Choosing Your Cancer Narrative is Important." What a MISSION it was to write it. What changed? In the span of one week, I had spun myself up and jumped ahead, again. "How do I get more subscribers? How do I communicate with the few subscribers I have? How do I leverage social media to get as many eyes on my articles as possible? How do I make my website better? How do I reach more cancer survivors?" I was putting pressure on myself and losing sight of my why and of my ONE job for the next year: write and publish. As Steph says, "Clarity comes from action. You don't have to know now how it all comes together, because it will unfold!"
Week 3! You're reading article 3, of week 3 so I haven't fallen down on the job yet. But I struggled again. On Sunday, May 17th, I sat down and gave myself two hours to write a "crappy first draft" of this week's article. Then I set it aside and slept on it. On Monday morning, I re-read the draft, hated it and set it aside again. I was driving to a doctor's appointment mid-morning, again wondering why I was stuck at the crappy first draft stage, when my mind wandered and THIS article came through. I grabbed my iPhone, turned on the voice memo and recorded almost 13 minutes of content, that became "Keep Your Eye on the Why."
It's scary to put myself out here, week after week. It opens me up to criticism or, worse, indifference. It's easier to tell myself that I don't have the time or the skill to write and publish star-spangled content. No one would blame me one bit if I shut the blog down and if Cancer Coach Eileen went dormant again. But as I put the finishing touches on this week's post, as I get ready to press "publish," I also feel joy. I close my eyes and pray that this article will mean something to some one. That every article will serve its purpose, in turn allowing me to serve mine as a coach. A dear work colleague, Merredeth, congratulated me on my blog and offered me this advice, "Keep on writing and to heck with the critics. Until they are ready to put themselves out there as well, they are just making noise."