Don’t Do a Solo

Confidence, Mental Health, Work Life Integration
10/12/16 - Nicole Wood

I used to do ballet. Like a lot. Like every day. Like I was pretty darn good. And I remember my classmates and I would all bitch and moan when we were taking a class that was too easy. It was boring. What was I going to learn doing the same steps I had done since I was three? Until I had a teacher tell me #1 to stop being a brat and #2 to recognize that  from every teacher and every class there is always something new to be learned. Could they show me how to stretch a little further or engage a new muscle or think about the same old step in a brand new way that would completely change it for me? Turned out they could, and it did. I really challenged myself to soak up every word my teachers had to say. To think of every class as an opportunity to get better, even at the things I had done a million times before. It worked. I kept getting better. And I was significantly more successful as a dancer following that revelation (that was many moons ago – now I struggle to touch my toes).

Sometimes we go through big transitions in life, and we recognize that we need additional support or preparation. Getting a promotion, becoming a parent, changing careers, getting a divorce. These things are like those really challenging ballet classes, where you’re doing very difficult moves or brand new ones. You recognize that you’re not awesome at it or you need someone to help you figure out how to do it or you have no fucking clue what you’re doing. This is certainly an optimal time to seek out coaching to provide you with that support and to help you move as gracefully as possible through those transitions. But what about the things you have done a million times? The things you have been doing since you were three years old? Setting goals. Expressing gratitude. Dealing with stress. We may not recognize that we have room to grow when it comes to these things just because we have had to do them so often. But that doesn’t make us experts, and it definitely doesn’t mean we can’t get better. Start to view your daily life as that easy ballet class. Sure the challenging move commands your attention because it comes as such a shock, but you will only do it once in a blue moon. How about getting even better at the things you do every single day? What if you have been making mistakes doing these things all along? Start investing your time and energy into constantly improving yourself. Recognize that coaches, like my dance teachers, can help you learn and grow. You too will get better and better, and you will find yourself more successful, more fulfilled and much much happier.

So why work with a coach on this and not just do it on your own? Because in all likelihood, you are not an expert in personal and professional development. That’s okay! You’re not expected to be. Maybe you’re an expert in accounting or fashion or teaching math. We suck at most of those things, but personal and professional development is our specialty. This is what we spend all day doing. This is why we can help. There is so much proof in the business world that one person or entity cannot do it all. Assembly lines. Outsourcing. Specializations. We cannot possibly be experts in everything, and so we focus on a core competency and lean on partners for support with the rest. Stop expecting yourself to be a master at all things related to your life. Stop feeling bad if you can’t handle your stress or your goals or your plans or your fears on your own. Don’t feel it is a sign of weakness to step back and ask for help. Knowing when to ask for help makes you wise, not weak.

We are shameless in asking for help when it comes to our bodies. We take fitness classes, see personal trainers, chiropractors, dietitians all the time. But when it comes to personal growth and mental health, we often sweep the problem under the rug or struggle through it in isolation. This is mind boggling to me (or as Will Ferrell would say “mind bottling“). The prioritization here seems a bit off.  I’d rather carry around 10 extra pounds for the rest of my life than not be the best professional, friend, partner, daughter and one day parent that I can be. But luckily for me and you, it’s not one or the other. Which is good – cause I really want to get rid of those extra LBs too. You are not weak for asking for help with your personal development, and you don’t need to be a certain kind of person either. You don’t need to be someone who does yoga or is super positive or is a gluten free vegan. Look at me – I drop f bombs like every other word, and my two main food groups are bacon and cheese (#murica). But I still recognize that I’m not perfect, that I have things about myself I need to work on and that I need others to support my development if I want to achieve all the things I dream of (and I dream of one day having a moat around my house that doubles as a lazy river…BIG goals). You may be a phenomenal person already; I’m not disputing that. But even the best dancers work with teachers, the best athletes work with coaches. It’s how you get from being a good you to the best you.  

I relied on my ballet teachers for so much back in the day – technical training, empowerment, accountability, a shoulder to cry on. We are surrounded by people like this when we’re young from teachers to coaches to advisors. But sometime in our late teens early twenties a switch flips, and we are expected to be 100% self reliant for all things related to our emotions, our mental health, our personal development, our professional progression. We are convinced that if we can’t manage all of that perfectly that we are flawed. We’re not. Everyone needs support with one or more of those things, but only some are brave enough to admit it. At ALV, we hope to help shape a world where you don’t need to be brave to seek help. Where a coach is just another person in your portfolio of wellness, as common as a trainer or a doctor. Where people place as much emphasis on having a happy mind as they do a sexy body.  And where every person out there knows that as they move through their life’s dance, it doesn’t have to be a solo.  

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