Today’s Martha Beck Master Life Coach was Susan Hyatt. She is an amazing source of energy. It’s so exciting to experience someone’s life force through just their voice over the phone. There is some connection here with my sound and listening work…and how the sounds that come from our voice represent the energy in our bodies. I’ll have to keep that one percolating as my voice develops…

The topic was the “End Game” of coaching. We were talking about envisioning our lives as coaches one year, three years, or five years in the future, and going through the thought process of putting those specific goals on paper. The point of doing this so early in our training is to bring up all of our fears and limiting beliefs that surface when we think about our true desires. For example, we may find it difficult to say what our annual income will be. Why is that? What do we believe about what we can earn? Is it based on what we have been able to earn in the past? Does it represent what we believe we are capable of? Or does a certain number bring up beliefs that other people have told us about money? Why do we think we need or want a certain amount of money? What do we think we will feel when we have it?

One of the most valuable topics that Susan brought up – and it’s amazing to me that this topic keeps resurfacing in all of my trainings in various forms – is BOUNDARIES. She said,

It’s as important that your coaching be as spiritually energizing to you as it is to the client.”

In all of my years of interaction with medical professionals, teaching professionals, and others working in “caring” professions, I have never heard this assertion, and it feels so FREEING to hear it from a successful person who loves her work and is being rewarded for it. I feel like it is the permission I need to hear in order to set my own boundaries with every relationship in my life.

I can’t tell you how much of my medical training was spent thinking, “I could not imagine working with this kind of patient for the rest of my life.” or “I would have to shoot myself if I had to listen to this kind of complaining as my job every day.” No one ever tells doctors that they have the right to set boundaries in their practices. What would happen if we gave doctors permission to declare who they were willing to care for and treat? To admit that some patients are not ready to get well, and will not be receptive to treatment? What if we gave doctors permission to value their energy and what they give to their patients? I know that one of the effects might be a whole lot of people who would be happier to take on the work of being a doctor. It might redefine the profession as something that could be both personally rewarding and professionally fulfilling as a transfer of empathy, knowledge and expertise willingly entered into by both parties. How’s THAT for health care reform??

Much of the stress for me in thinking about medicine as a profession was a fear that I would be forced into a role of self-sacrifice that would imprison my soul. I am obviously a caring person who is in search of ways to use my gifts to enhance the lives of others. There is nothing that brings me more joy than to see others blossom into the fullness of their own potential. I am an empathetic person, willing to look struggles straight in the face. I want to help people. But that does not equate to compromising my own fullness as a person, or my right to set boundaries as a professional.

The number of people on the call today who chimed in with a similar response – Thank you, Susan! We want to hear more! – was indicative of how common this problem is. They ranged from social workers to massage therapists to acupuncturists to speech pathologists to real estate agents. All had been in situations where they had burnt themselves out by feeling too much responsibility for their clients’ stories. Yet here they all were, training to be life coaches, wanting to find a JOYFUL and EMPOWERING way back into working with people.

My immediate post-call thought today was that I could provide great, much-needed service someday by teaching a simple class on techniques for achieving CLARITY of mind among practitioners in caring or service professions – teachers, doctors, managers, even lawyers (!). Giving myself permission to set boundaries, and realizing I can’t help everyone who comes into my practice, will be a key lesson in my path forward, whatever I end up practicing. Many of us have an innate inclination to help others. We just back away when we have the unclean thought that this will mean cutting off one of our own limbs to provide for another. When we get CLEAR about what we can do to help another – by defining their problems as theirs, without taking them on as our own – we take one more step into our own power…and toward making this world a better place for us all.