My career coaching practice is anchored by the careful, thoughtful work of my clients. That work comes often in person as we sit together discussing the issues of the day. But I’ve come to learn that, more often than not, true introspection and discernment comes in the in-between times between appointments, and it almost always is born of the written word.
Talking and listening to each other can bring great insight, certainly. But there’s something powerful about the act of writing in solitude that can break things open in surprising ways.
Many of us are good at telling stories. Perhaps you’ve held party guests spellbound with your anecdotes. Maybe you love to spin a good joke to keep the family laughing around the dinner table. But have you ever tried to tell your own story — the victories, the struggles, the doubts and fears and the beautiful moments, too?
This kind of storytelling is personal, quiet and meant to be savoured — probably alone or with a trusted ally. If you keep a journal, you know what I mean. In the quiet moments, when it’s just you and your pen and notepad, insights bubble and percolate closer to the surface than usual.
In career coaching, we encourage storytelling that’s a bit more focused than your typical journal. The questions that we delve into target specific areas in your life that may be holding you back, keeping you stuck, limiting your growth.
We ask you to visit the pain and disappointment in your work life, spend some time there, put it down on paper before moving on to how to “fix” things. Sometimes this is a very uncomfortable place to hang out, especially for those more accustomed to distracting themselves from life’s dark times than sitting smack in the middle of them.
But the more you put your story to paper, the more you find that the act of writing it all down can take away the power of those dark times, or at least put some distance there. And with distance comes the ability to see things more clearly.
You begin to see patterns in your life, in the jobs you’ve taken and decisions you’ve made, in the thoughts and actions and beliefs about yourself that led you to those jobs and those decisions. You begin to see where you could make changes, the things that matter most to you take shape from the mist and, over time, your story emerges as something malleable, something that’s in your hands to redirect when you’re ready to.
If you’ve never tried journaling, and you’re going through a challenging career transition, it’s a great time to start. It’s even better if you can find someone you trust to ask you the right questions that help focus your story.
Why not try making the commitment to write your life like a great story?