Life can be hard sometimes and we shouldn’t be afraid to get some help if we need it. Caroline Phillips tells us what happened when she decided to see a life coach to help her with a goal to write a book
Midgie Thompson ran her first marathon eleven months after being hit by glandular fever — call it mind over matter. And I entered my first triathlon, then age 48 and unfit, under her tutelage — and still made the finishing line. But she also helps everyone from students to perform well in exams to clients who need support in completing, say, a business project or healthy work/life balance. Or people who want to change job.
She helps clients from an AS-level student, age 17, to a septuagenarian granny. ‘The older lady wanted,’ says Midgie, 51, ‘to take part in her first marathon. She completed it.’
This is why I turned to Midgie when I needed help to reinvent myself. Aged 55, I wanted a new career — in my case to write a book. But it could just as easily have been to become an art consultant or an athlete. After all, Midgie is a performance coach.
We meet first one-to-one in my London home. Thereafter we do six weekly 45-minute Skype sessions. (In person, she sees clients everywhere from the South of France to Brighton.) Midgie has been working for 12 years as a coach. Her background is in life coaching with a special expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Aged 55, I wanted a new career — in my case to write a book. But it could just as easily have been to become an art consultant or anathlete. After all, Midgie is a performance coach.
She uses an eclectic mix of life and performance coaching, NLP, sports psychology and hypnosis techniques. Her primary focus for many years was on athletes’ performance.
She believes that success in anything is over 80 per cent mental. I was flagging in running up what felt like a 90 degree vertical hill during my triathlon training: ‘Imagine yourself with wings on. Where are they taking you?’ panted Midige doing creative visualisations as she ran beside me. ‘To hell,’ I replied.
She believes that success in anything is over 80 per cent mental.
I’d confide in Midgie during our phone conversations in the lead-up to my triathlon that I was too fat/nearly 50/that everyone else would be faster/that I hadn’t done enough training/lacked motivation. Midgie helped me turn the internal dialogues into positives: what a fantastic achievement/many younger people couldn’t do this/I’ve done ample given my other commitments.
‘Imagine yourself with wings on. Where are they taking you?’ panted Midige doing creative visualisations as she ran beside me. ‘To hell,’ I replied.
But back to changing career. She started our first session thus:
Her: ‘What goal do you want to achieve? State it in positive terms,’
Me: ‘To reinvent myself and become an author … (but it could equally have been to become a lawyer/clown/social worker) …’
Her: ‘How will you know when you’ve got it?’
Me: ‘I’ll have a book deal.’
Her: ‘State that in sensory specific terms. What will you see hear and feel? What will happen when you get it? How will getting it benefit you?’
Me: I explain the above.
Her: ‘What steps could you take to get you there?’
Me: ‘I need to research the Faber & Faber writing classes with authors as mentors/get a writers’ group together as I hate the loneliness of working totally on my own without any structure.
Her: ‘What are the challenges you might anticipate along the way?
Me: ‘I don’t know whether I have the stamina for writing a book, it’ll take a year or more.
Her: What would have to happen for you to have the stamina?
Me: I would have to make it a priority above other work commitments. And, I would have to work at it each day without fail.
Her: How might your day look like when you do the work related to the book each day?
Me: When I start my day’s work, it would be the first thing I do above anything else.
Her: What would you need to put in place to ensure that happens?
Me: I would allocate the morning to focus on the book and then the afternoon to do other work stuff.
Her: So, coming back to the stamina concern, what could you use to keep yourself motivated and continuing until the completion of the book.
Me: I could set myself regular milestones and reward myself!
Her: So now, how does that feel when you think about writing that book?
Midgie draws on her experience of coaching athletes — helping world champs and amateurs keep calm before events and upbeat whilst competing—encouraging me to apply similar approaches. I find there’s not much difference between visualizing completing a triathlon and dealing positively with the fear of deciding to make a career change in middle age.
I find there’s not much difference between visualizing completing a triathlon and dealing positively with the fear of deciding to make a career change in middle age.
‘The primary motivator to keep on going is the difference completing the goal will mean to your life,’ explains Midgie. ‘So what will it mean to you?’
‘It’ll give me freedom to be paid to write when I want, where I want and on the subject I want.’
Midgie then helps me explore ways to overcome any anticipated challenges.
Me: ‘I struggle with being alone so much.’
Her: ‘What could you build into your day to deal with that?’
Me: ‘I can make sure I meet with at least one person every day.’
On a week-by-week basis, Midgie also holds me accountable for achieving things I’ve said I will do. Over the course of appointments, Midgie gets me to reflect on my past experiences and draws out the things I like and do not like about writing. (For others changing job, she’ll help you consider your ideal lifestyle, values and what type of job or responsibilities would fit that lifestyle. If you could create the perfect job, she will ask, what skills would you use, what environment would you be working in, what company culture do you want to work for, and how would that fit with your personal lifestyle?)
she’ll help you consider your ideal lifestyle, values and what type of job or responsibilities would fit that lifestyle.
She gets me to draw a pie chart – cutting it up into different areas like “family”, “career” and “friends” and indicating my current level of satisfaction in each area. I find I’m happy with my relationships with friends; time with family needs addressing. Some people changing job may want to work long hours; others might prioritise family time. ‘Family time is important to me. It’s very easy to get carried away and work all hours,’ I say.
I’m not going to give away all her tricks. Suffice to say, she’s good at helping her clients with brainstorming. (She helps me to explore my interests and identifies the skills I like using to help me change job. Changing jobs can mean anything from a complete change of direction or using similar skills in a different type of work environment.) We work through aspects of what I like/dislike concerning work, my environment, responsibilities, even culture.
Changing jobs can mean anything from a complete change of direction or using similar skills in a different type of work environment.
She also helps to see things I might not have previously seen simply by asking questions. (Her: ‘What’s your personal measure of success? Is it a bigger salary, job satisfaction, making a contribution?’ Me: ‘I want job satisfaction and a bigger salary.’ Her: ‘Be specific, how much do you want?’) Midgie is great at helping me to strengthen my motivation and confidence and that creates a positive ripple effect. She also helps me to reduce my stress levels simply by using breathing techniques. ‘Close your eyes. Now I want you to visualize a scene that you find calming. It might be by the sea or in the countryside or….’
She’s big on creative visualizations. ‘Imagine yourself finishing the book. What can you see and feel? Imagine what difference it will make to you life when you do complete that book.’ I also make my personal ‘vision board’ with cut-outs and photos of what I want in my life including a country cottage, a place by a window overlooking a garden to write etc. There’s a power in creative visualisation and using a vision board strengthens the motivation to do whatever is necessary to get what is there.
Midgie knows a thing or two about career changes — having worked for 20 years in the corporate world before becoming a coach.
Midgie knows a thing or two about career changes — having worked for 20 years in the corporate world before becoming a coach. As for you, good luck with your change of job. And me? Keep your eye open on those book review pages. …
Questions she might ask: have you researched the requirements of a new job/ researched whether you need additional training or qualifications/looked into opportunities for working with others/made contact with your network and reached out to seek the job.
If you don’t know exactly what job you want to do she might ask whether you’ll have the time to complete a training or get qualifications /whether you know anyone in the area you’re interested in/how to approach people for a job.
A ‘performance’ might be a job interview, a presentation even a big discussion. Personal success can be anything you define as such.