Ken is a Chief Scientific Officer for a startup Biotech company in the Northeast. When he worked for a major pharmaceutical company for 15 years he had opportunities to benefit from Executive Coaching which helped him to strategize, stay focused on goals, navigate through obstacles, be accountable and achieve at a high level. He has internalized these practices and uses the habits he’s learned to stay focused now in a much less structured environment. Well into mid-career, he sees his challenges now as more varied. He still loves the work, but has a growing sense that he has neglected and has been missing out on aspects of his life that he always wanted to give more attention to – relationships, his health, activities he loves and perhaps most importantly – his sense of purpose! His work does give him some sense of purpose, but it’s not the “be all and end all”. He believes in what the startup is working toward but also understands the limitations – understands them perhaps better than anyone. This growing sense that he has seems to call from some inner voice.
Occasionally, over a drink with a close friend or in an intimate moment with his wife, he will confess that “time is passing” and he still hasn’t given the proper attention to these parts of him that keep bubbling up. He’s not sure where to start or how to make the desired changes. Work is as demanding as ever. In the few spare moments he has while working he mostly thinks about all the loose ends that need to be addressed to keep on track with the company’s objectives. It’s hard, if not impossible, to give the time and attention to figuring out how he can make his life more how he’d like it to be. He vacillates between feeling at times that maybe that will never happen – and at other times still badly wanting to make changes.
Ken is caught in a trap which he has created in his mind. He’s worried that if he were to make even some of the changes he’d like, that his reputation and/or career would suffer. Maybe it would – maybe it wouldn’t, but he can’t tell for sure and is afraid to take the risk. If there is a “trade off” that would be necessary to have a better “quality of life” as he calls it, he’s not sure how to measure it or even how to calculate potential risks.
Ken saw a therapist for a time when he was in his 20’s and he senses that what he needs to sort through now is not about therapy. But he is isolated in his thoughts about what to do. His wife and close friend are alternately understanding and puzzled by his dilemma when he mentions it. He talks to a former Executive Coach from his old company who tells him, “It sounds like you’re talking about Life Coaching”. Ken says, “Oh, C’mon! That’s for people who are trying to lose weight or who are trying to find a potential spouse!” “No” says the Executive Coach. “With the right Life Coach, one who understands your business sense and who understands where you are and where you want to be, that’s just another way of putting together an Action Plan to achieve your objectives”. For Ken to chart and navigate his course, the variables are quite different than what he’s been used to in his career and the guidance and accountability needs to be from someone who is adept at clarifying and processing options that have to do with purpose and deeper meaning. So Ken makes a call and explores it.
Life Coaching in situations such as this can turn out to be beneficial to the individual and his/her company because it leads to frank conversations and helps avoid unnecessary surprises. Executive and Career Coaches with the right background and approach can also be helpful in a scenario such as this, but working on such deep themes as “Purpose”, “Family”, “Wellness”, all of which were at work for Ken, are generally more within the scope and expertise of Life Coaching.
Ken has a plan now. He will be with his company for two more years. He now feels free, not afraid, to tell his colleagues that he will then be making some changes that may mean him staying or may mean him moving on to something else. This is liberating because he is empowered to already start giving attention some of the parts of his life he feels he’s been neglecting. There is now a course charted. There may still be course changes along the way, but he’s already starting to feel more in balance, more that he’s paying attention to his inner voice. He’s on his way, his own way.