THE A-Z OF A SUCCESSFUL COACHING BUSINESS
The Best Way to Serve Others Is to Take Care of Yourself First
The first wealth is health — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had this wealth when I started my coaching business, then I lost it for a while and realised nothing was worth sacrificing it. It has taken centre stage in my life and business ever since.
Without a healthy body and mind, we cannot be there for our clients 100%. Most of us start a coaching business to make a positive impact on other people’s lives, but we also need to be mindful of the impact our work has on us.
In this article, I will share with you the health implications I experienced or witnessed while running a coaching business so you can notice the signs and avoid a health crisis.
The toxic effects of hustle culture
As a new coach, I bought into the hustle culture — working from my office, at coffee shops, in the airport, on the plane. “I am busy” became my most used words and I felt a certain pride thinking how many projects I had going on at the same time. Elon Musk was whispering in my ear: “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week” and I chose to believe him.
Taking breaks made me feel guilty for wasting precious time. As this article accurately describes:
“When you talk of hustle culture, the more you work, the more celebrated you are. Never mind that you miss meals, sleep, and other important events. In hustle culture, taking a break is for the weak.”
So I decided to take what I thought were meaningful breaks. I would exercise while listening to a business or coaching podcast and took mental notes about any ideas that I could apply in my own business. A 3-hour motorbike ride (as a pillion) was the perfect opportunity to strategise and plan.
Meaningful? What a joke! I missed out on enjoying the fresh air, acknowledging the privilege of being able to move my body, admiring the breathtaking landscapes. All I cared about was what was in it for my business. Erin Griffiths’ article for The New York Times sums up what I experienced:
“Not only does one never stop hustling — one never exits a kind of work rapture, in which the chief purpose of exercising or attending a concert is to get inspiration that leads back to the desk.”
Giving in to hustle culture meant that I worked long hours, said yes to everything, lacked work boundaries, had no time for leisure activities, neglected my loved ones and my health. The effects did not take long to appear: fatigue, irritability, weight fluctuations, back pain, frustration, and decreased quality of relationships.
Research shows that long working hours can have mental health consequences and induce increased levels of anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as sleep disturbances. My partner tells me that I used to regularly talk about business in my sleep and I remember waking up feeling more tired than before going to bed.
In hindsight, I keep telling myself that I should have known better. The reality is that, once you’re deep into hustle culture, it’s very difficult to escape it. It becomes a way of life and a badge of honour you wear with pride. Until you realise it is actually wearing you. Wearing you down, that is.
It took a lot of mindset work on what it means to be a business owner and a few heated discussions with my loved ones to start making changes. What triggered the shift was a comment my partner made: “Your gravestone will read killed by The Savvy Corner”. The Savvy Corner is my business. Ouch!
Now I manage my coaching business in less than 6 hours per day and have learned to incorporate breaks into my schedule, say no to opportunities, and not feel bad for doing so. For a detailed account of how I manage my time and workload, read this article:
The dark side of being a business owner
I love my work. The looks on my clients’ faces when they have an a-ha moment; the emails they send me to share their victories and successes; the heart-warming testimonials and recommendations — what’s not to love? Quite a bit, actually.
Being a coach and mentor has, like any other work, a side that is less positive and that not many people like to talk about. Here are some of the most common things that I or my clients have experienced as coaches. Left unresolved, these issues can negatively impact our health.
Taking on our clients’ problems. We are people working with people, building rapport with them and empathy. Even if it’s not our intention as coaches to get emotionally involved, it still happens. Clients cry during sessions, share heart-breaking stories, or they are angry and in distress. Witnessing that builds emotional baggage that we need to be aware of and find ways to unload. Coaching supervision can help.
Getting attached to clients’ results. We are taught that the client is responsible for their own outcomes and intellectually we understand and agree with the idea. In practice, however, it’s hard to detach ourselves from their results, especially if they are not making progress as quickly as they would like to. Soon we start to wonder if we can really help them, doubt our abilities as coaches, and our self-confidence takes a hit.
Online negativity. Most people are decent when interacting online and some even go the extra mile to acknowledge your efforts, cheer you on, and offer support. There are a few though who take pleasure in putting people down, making nasty comments, and harassing others. Lurking on social media is easy and safe, but having an active voice will inevitably attract some trolls.
Playing catch-up with ‘gurus’ and ‘boss babes’. Go to Instagram, search for #lifecoach and see how many posts you see from #girlbosses who are #blessed to live their #bestlife. Are you green with envy yet? Maybe not, but the more you see this false positivity portrayed as the normal way to live a life and run a business, you can’t help but wonder what you’re doing wrong. The answer is obvious: You’re not stepping into your power, Queen!
Getting to grips with being a business owner. Running a business is hard. You have to juggle many things including content creation, marketing, sales, networking, planning, onboarding, customer relationships, and more. On top of that, you need to coach. I have identified no less than 8 roles I play in my business, from expert to janitor. You can read more about them in this piece.
Being a successful coach should not be a tradeoff between your health and wealth, impact, and other goals you’ve set for your coaching business. Grinding and success are not synonyms and the first doesn't guarantee the latter. We all have our own rhythm of achieving objectives and, most importantly, we all aspire to do different things.
Take your time, take breaks, don’t believe everything social media wants you to, and learn how to build a business that meets your definition of success, not someone else’s.
You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, your clients, and your business to put your health before anything else. It’s safer and wiser to progress slower than to arrive quicker and broken.
This article is part of the A-Z of a successful coaching business series. If you’re curious what the other letters stand for, you can check out the umbrella story that groups them all below.
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