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A Good Life Coach Has to LIVE

Part of becoming a good therapist or life coach is becoming the kind of person who lives what they teach about how to feel happier, have better relationships, and feel more satisfied with life. One major life-lesson for me has been around the power of risk, and how magic can happen when you are brave enough to take a chance and try something new.

Because nothing is going to change until you do.

Allow me to share a personal story, in hopes that it inspires you to look at the opportunities you may have in your own circumstances to embrace the power of risk… and let some fresh air in to your life.

The adventures of a lifetime seem insane, at first.

You would think that the moment my husband asked me if I wanted to live in an RV and be a nomad for a year would stand out in my mind as being kind of a big deal. The sort of life changing event should happen in a dramatic setting — like standing on windswept cliffs overlooking a fjord or something. But the truth is that I don’t actually remember it at all. I probably just started getting mute links to travel blogs of young families who traveled full time in my in-box, which was then fodder for dinnertime conversation. My husband Mat Bobby is subtle in his craftiness.

Under ordinary circumstances, I think my mind would have instantly shut this new idea out. My preoccupation with risk and possible consequences would have shouted down the quiet voice saying, “This could be really cool.” Ordinarily, if I had considered leaving our home in Denver and blowing around the country with our young child, it would have been like flipping channels on a TV screen and having every station broadcasting a different catastrophe. Kidnappings. Breakdowns. Murderous strangers in isolated campgrounds. Financial ruin. Or vague anxieties that whined, “But that’s just not what responsible people DO.”

But the truth is also that at the time we started talking about this, I was at a low point. I was doing my internship to finish my PhD, and working crazy hours at a community mental health center in North Denver, seeing clients who were often extremely traumatized and unwell. I became vicariously traumatized and unwell in the process. And even though I’d delayed the start of my internship by a year to be home with our new love-child, I was still up many times through the night with our toddler. Then one of my clients died of an “accidental overdose” that may or may not have been a suicide. I was devastated.

To deal entirely new levels of grinding, unstoppable exhaustion, stress, and trauma during my internship I had to find new ways to cope (learning many more valuable life-lessons in the process — stay tuned for more on that subject). But one way I dealt with it was through simple distraction.

My reading tastes shifted from my usual daily diet of scholarly articles and serious, introspective novels that tackled the human condition to reality TV shows, entertainment news, and the Twilight series. (Don’t judge me).

So when MB started sending me links to travel blogs about living full time in an RV my mind probably leapt to it as another entertaining diversion that would protect me from thinking about the horrors that would otherwise fill my mind. So I let it in.

It wasn’t scary because I didn’t take it seriously. It was kind of fun to think about — sort of like talking about what you’d do if you won a lottery ticket. The pre-travel discussions themselves brought fresh energy to our marriage. We would wander around our Capitol Hill neighborhood, rattling the stroller along the uneven sidewalks, and talk about where we would go, and what we would do if we were full-time nomads. I wanted to go to the southwest. I imagined doing yoga alone in a vast silent desert, fragrant with sage. Mat wanted to go anywhere-but-here. He was living in his own small hell at the time, driving back and forth from home to work, to sit in a cubicle and peck code into a dead screen. Our conversations about the possibilities of travel and adventure were our oasis.

Daydreams are the seeds of a new reality.

Until my sneaky husband started sending me pictures of actual Airstream travel trailers that were for sale on Craigslist. And that we did actually have enough money in the bank to buy one. Oh, and that more and more people in his industry were working remotely, so as long as we had internet access he’d still be able to do his job. I was so numb, and generally exhausted that my usual anxieties must have been throttled into unconsciousness. Because eventually I found myself in the passenger seat of our shiny new red pickup truck, speeding across Ohio with an envelope thick with cash, to purchase a thirty-foot Airstream travel trailer sight unseen.

The moment we bumped into the backyard of the farmhouse and saw our new home, shining like a silver loaf on the moist green grass, my anxiety flittered back to consciousness. Too late to halt the insanity that had possessed us both, but soon enough to purchase insurance before we rolled out of the driveway with our gleaming home in tow. Insurance that paid for the repair after one of the supposedly “new” tires blew out on the long haul back to Colorado, tearing out the entire wheel-well in the process.

So began a year that was challenging, chaotic, uncomfortable, scary, and…. Alive. We traded Saturday trips to box stores for canoeing amongst manatees in the warm clear springs of Florida. Instead of pushing our stroller up and down the same rut of blocks in Capitol Hill we pushed it around old costal towns like Savannah and St Augustine. We caught beads at Mardi Gras. We floated in hot springs under the New Mexico desert sky. We ate Dungeness crab that we caught off a dock on the cool, misty coast of Oregon.

That year is a string of shining, precious memories strung together like a necklace of priceless jewels. We had adventures together, experienced once-in-a-lifetime moments as a family, and were both ultimately pushed into greater contact with our authentic selves. I’ll tell you more of those stories sometime, too.

But today, the point is about learning how to take the kind of risks that allow you to crack your life open and let fresh, new energy come in. For me it took extreme circumstances for risk to over-ride my natural apprehensions, and let the possibilities flow in. But I don’t think it has to be that hard for you.

Here’s the punchline, the take away, the big life lesson (which corny to say but I mean it sincerely): Let yourself dream. Don’t take zany, “but that’s impossible” thoughts too seriously. Don’t listen to the little voice inside your head that has 47 reasons why everything is a terrible idea and won’t work.

Just give yourself permission to have interesting conversations about possible possibilities, and see where the winding road of your imagination takes you. Who knows — it might turn into the literal road that you drive into a new reality.

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