Self-Coaching for Your Dream Work

Above all, one thing is clear to me in my mid-life career reinvention:  I want and need to work from home. My desired career in high school was to be a photojournalist for National Geographic, because I wanted to have transcendent mountaintop experiences and write about them, and that's still true today, but in those 30+ years I never made any cohesive movement in that direction. Why?

I believe there lots of factors to consider about one's career or work:  temperament, individual design and makeup, circadian tendencies, interests, callings, skills, self-limiting beliefs, circumstances, and more. Society was operating on the Industrial model (cog-in-a-wheel) when I was in school, and we were advised to pick an occupation, go to college for it, and then settle down and make a career out of it. This worked for tons of people, and I always compare myself to their "success". I, on the other hand, operated out of feelings, seasons, spirituality, solitude, my introverted nature, reading books like Siddhartha and Jonathon Livingston Seagull, seeking wisdom and learning, and following my interests. This has led me to a life of career invention which was somewhat limiting, and my two biggest work factors always were:  what work was going to give me freedom? (I'd move toward it) and what work can't I stand? (I'd run away from it). Not surprising for a writer in a cog-in-a-wheel model. In other words, I spent a lot of my time in restaurants and the trades, and moving around to different jobs.

So since I'm transitioning into my dream career, and I'm deep in the matrix of exploring contributing factors, I'd thought I'd share my self-coaching process. It's about getting super-clear on what you want, outlining some goals, breaking them down into steps, and getting started. That's the key- getting started. Once you start forward movement, you will quickly see where you're blocked and then you can decide what you want to do about that.

For me, I tried and tried and TRIED to create my work-from-home writer's life, but it wasn't until I took a week off from work and actually stayed home and DID IT that things began to move. I guess I technically had enough hours in the day before, but because of the way I perceive the world I was always feeling time scarcity and that would shut me down, then I'd make no progress. Also I was super frustrated at never getting to do my own work and that was depressing me.

I realized I have/had a ton of self-limiting beliefs, including low self-value, and as soon as I wanted something (like writing, like working from home), then in my mind that thing elevated to mythic and celestial proportions and was for "other people", the good and deserving people (who, ironically, probably didn't even want to be writers). Also, low self-value translates directly into low income. But I now know that nobody gives a shit what anybody else does, and all these beliefs I concocted were just bullshit stories I made up to explain to myself why I felt like a freak all the time. We all make up these stories in varying ways.

It's clear to me now that we all have our Work to do in the world, and to not do it is a disservice. At the very least, in my own experience, not doing it is tantamount to the slow and painful death of unexpressed creativity. Maybe not everyone feels this, but I bet a lot of artists, writers, creatives, and makers do. Unexpressed creativity literally hurts. It's psychological and spiritual pain. Also, I theorize that people of my age group (around 50), who were raised in the Industrial model might have more trouble moving into their perfect careers than younger, Information age people. (By the way, I LOVE that the Information age caught up with me. It's perfect ground for a writer).

Now that I finally believe I'm smart and deserving enough (which has taken YEARS and is still touch-and-go) to create exactly the career I want, then what is that career, what does it look like, and how do I get there?

Answer: I fully support myself through writing books, a blog, and articles (not freelance per-project work). I work from home or anywhere wearing my normal favorite clothes and my schedule is flexible. I believe in my work and it feeds my soul. I get outside and hike, bike, camp, and snowboard all the time and travel regularly. I want to start working from anywhere ASAP, so I will need to do either freelance writing projects or remote bookkeeping until my writing takes off.

Here are the steps I'm working with:

1.  Define exactly WHAT KIND OF WORK you want. Write it down.

What work/art/craft do you want to do? Where do you want to work? How many hours a week? How much money do you want/need to make? Do you want to work with others or alone? Do you have a skill or trade or are you an artist-type? What's your temperament? How do you operate? Do you get fired up and inspired by others, or are you sensitive and get overwhelmed? Are you happy and satisfied with your work accomplishments thus far, or do you have a vision, desires, wishes, or longings to bring forth into the world? Do you need to make money off your passions, or can you find a way to do them on the side and be happy? Do you need a transition plan? What do you want your work day to look like- what are you wearing, when do you eat and what, what's out your window, who's there? (Trees and nature out my window, my dogs are in my office, and my kitty, Jupiter, is on the window sill right beside me).

2.  What are the OBSTACLES that you perceive prohibit you from doing this dream job you've described? Some blocks are logistical and some are mental/emotional/spiritual. Write them down.

Do you believe you can have your dream work? Do you think you're too old or young? (you're not) Are you qualified- do you need training, school, or certification? Do you need tools or equipment? Do you need financial aid? Do you have loose ends to tie up first? Do you need more free time? Do you need to adjust your schedule? Do you need to move, change relationship status, or wait til the kids are in school or bed? Do you feel deserving? Are you procrastinating? Do you need accountability? (try a coach) Do you have support? (try a Meetup or a professional group) Are you judging yourself? Are you scared? Do you waste time? Are you stuck in your story, shame, or a victim/blame cycle? If you have deep wounding from abuse, neglect, or grief, find a professional to talk to. Clear that stuff out, heal it. Work through your emotional obstacles using the tools of books, articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, and therapy. You can get most questions answered online, you can find somebody who feels like you feel, you can find inspiration and support. Talk with people. Find a tribe of like-minded people who share your interests or passions.

3.  Outline the STEPS that will take you to your Dream Job. Set a time schedule for when you will do these steps. Write it all down. Remember, progress is progress, no matter how slow. Stick with it. Don't give up.

Be specific. Start at the beginning, with the very first steps you can do. Do them. Then write and do the next ones. Ask for help. Be creative and think hard: example- you want to move out of your office job and be a consultant. . . remember that guy at the conference who was working on a project, gave you his card, and asked if you'd help him out? You could call him and ask if he has anything going. Start small- but START- because that's where you'll get clarity around your blocks. If you're resisting a step, lean into it, examine it. What is it telling you? Why are you stuck? Listen to your inner voice- there's information there, use it. Chances are it will speak to an obstacle from Step 2. Go back and do your clearing work.

This coaching model is complex work. It requires time, energy, focus, discipline, and a constant attention to your life, your progress, and your thinking and reactions. Sometimes you have to really stretch to see the possibilities. After all, we only know what we know. But if you start moving forward, the path before you will continue to light up and draw you. You will get what you need when you need it. And if you want to do something, any reason you come up with not to do it is BS, truly. Barring extreme circumstances, I guarantee that the only limitations are in your mind and the way you see yourself and the world. It's never going to be the "right time", you will always be a work-in-progress, and the journey will always be winding. But I've heard many people say that the creation process is where the magic and satisfaction are, it's the communion between inspiration and you, and it feels like that, communion.

And anyways, for those of you who feel a calling to do something, that is not to be ignored. It is your sacred responsibility as a human on this planet to bring forth your gifts. That voice in your mind and your heart is divine and it's asking you to show up in the way you know you are meant to. I know for me, I have to answer that call, because I might as well be dead if I don't, even if I only ever write for myself and because the words need to come out. Writing is life-juice for me, it's sunshine. If you feel like this about something, then I don't need to explain it, and I'm telling you now, it is your given right to feel as if your life has purpose and meaning. In fact, Tony Robbins says it is a basic human need. I promise you, there is always, always a way to get where you want to go, and you can find it.




Blackberry Spring

Some mornings are barefoot jeans and flannel, slow and easy, sleepy feeling. This is how I want to live and this is how it is this morning. I haven't had this feeling in a long time, and I only get it when I am free to stay home, which I want to do every day. A cardinal sang at first light, then a Carolina chickadee did its mating call. The air through my open windows had grown cold in the night, as it will in early spring. But I leave them open anyway. Going up to 78 degrees today. Perfect.

Lauren's out on the deck gardening, looking into her planting table and squatting and peering into her pots. Tiny green sprigs are in there, and she watches them grow. She's out there first thing, last thing, and tens of times throughout the day. She shows me the progress, and I scrutinize the miraculous growth with her. She describes each and every shoot, knows precisely what each one is and when it broke ground, still bearing the seed shell, and when each got its first true leaves. I love that about her.

This morning I am straining last year's blackberries, which we picked together from the edge of the yard and up at Mill Ridge. I blend them a little and then run the deep red pulp through a mesh strainer, tamping through the wires, watching the puree spool into the bowl, thinking about seasons past. Lauren and I got together this time of year, when mornings were cold and the leaves were small and delicate, just a light green wash on the hillsides. We lived in a mountain cabin in Waynesville, and every morning the sun would come up blaze orange on the far east mountain, shine across the valley, through those baby leaves, and into the glass doors of the cabin, where Lauren was working out and I was writing. We stopped what we were doing and watched, arms around each other. It happened every day. After work we'd walk the dogs down the path, watching the plants fill out and naming what we could, and in the evening we'd sit on the high deck and look out, talking. It was our greatest wish to share seasons together.

In the summer we picked the berries from along the path as a holy experience, as everything is when you combine nature and love, and we'd strain them and put them in our smoothies. We made a few muffins. The days were long and warm, the air fragrant with plants, and berry season lasted a long time. That was going on two years ago now.

We moved at the end of that summer and got busy, so busy, and life got redundant and grinding, living only to pay bills. The American machine tried to chew us up and spit us out, and we talked constantly about creating work that we loved and making more money. We melted down and cried a lot. We gave up over and over, then started again. We stayed close.

And now here I am, standing barefoot in the kitchen, straining blackberries full of last summer's sunshine, listening to the seeds click against the mesh, feeling the viscosity and tension of the pulp with my chef's hands, so familiar and automatic. Outside the leaves are small and delicate on the trees, the berry vines are green and bushy with new growth. Lauren's off hiking at Mill Ridge, and I'm thinking about things cycling around again. Thinking about staying home, barefoot jeans and flannel, writing. How easy it seems today, and what made it so, and how this needs to be my life or I will die. Thinking about Magic Lessons, Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast, and how I wish she'd call me up and talk to me about it. But absent that, how I can do it myself. If there is magic, I need it. I call on it.


My Grandparents' Farmhouse, Guyanoga, NY

The farmhouse; Lunch is ready; Lynn, Tom, Chief; North kitchen window

“Purity. Serenity. Simplicity. Seclusion. All one’s concentration and flamboyance and originality reserved for the grueling, exalted, transcendent calling. I looked around and thought, This is how I will live."

John Knowles


My grandparents' 1849 Greek Revival farmhouse sits on the hill in Guyanoga, NY, which is just a country crossroads with a few houses and the Valley Inn, home to the best Friday night fish fry around, with a squeeze bottle of tartar sauce right on the table. The farmhouse is full of well-loved antiques and is surrounded by fields and woods. It's the kind of place that sets me back a century, recalls big family meals, good smells, nature, and the autumn deer hunters coming in for lunch, full of stories, ready for hot soup and sandwiches, shucking their hunting clothes and guns on the porch and eating in their long johns. The house is peaceful, solid, beautiful, and cozy. It's the kind of place I could live in forever, with my boots on the porch and the seasons coming and going. My grandfather, Huck, passed in 2003 at 89 and my gran, Peg, passed in 2015 at 98, but the house is still in the family.

Night Sledding

Night sledding and snow fire. 19 degrees, wind pushing from the north, lucent sky, blue-shadowed deep snow hanging on high pine boughs, every limb, mound, and curve of land, soft, clean. Full moon in Leo, signifying releasing and clearing the old and bringing forth our deep gifts. Did a letting go/calling-in fire ceremony with Lauren, Sara, and Anahata. Laughed and shivered and spoke aloud our true wishes for self-expression: writer, daughter, artist, model, food artist, craftswoman. First ever full moon snow fire, once-a-winter North Carolina mountain storm, night elements, magic rising in the chest, alive, drawn.

Sunday Night Feeling


Lauren and I took a sunset walk with the dogs at the French Broad River near our house, then came back for more night sledding. Our backyard run had sun-warmed and then cooled again, making for ice-slick speed. The storm had cleared, the stars were close and clear, the snow glinted diamonds. We laughed and hooted into the quiet trees. Yet all day I was beset by some unnamed melancholy, a kind of Sunday night feeling. The cozy snowed-in weekend was over, but it was more than that. Though all is peaceful in my life, and I am well-loved, sometimes I feel time all around me, I feel other times and those people, now gone, and others I fear to lose, and long seasons turning, one into the other, this same earth, sky, trees, moon. Snow falling, then melting, flowers blooming and trees leafing, then falling into orange and brown. Sometimes I wish for summer when it's winter, the sticky cloying heat, full green woods, earth scents, farmers' markets, and long bright days. Sometimes I curse summer heat and wish for snow-thick skies, freezing north wind, short dark nights, cozy clothes, and pots of soup. I seek to relieve this melancholy, escape this small heavy thing in my heart, then I wonder, do other people feel like this? Is this the pain of being human, aware of mortality, of loss? Why am I not fully present, right here, right now, having fun? Humans have both memory and imagination, allowing us to slide through time in our minds. We have hearts that ache. We are clan beings who easily feel lonely and alone. We seek to mask and relieve these uncomfortable feelings. We employ all manner of techniques to that purpose. Yet in the end, seasons and lifetimes do slide by, and periodically I feel the eternity of that. And maybe that's okay, being human, on a dark winter's mountain night, trudging up the hill in my snow boots, pulling a sled, looking at the stars.