How To Lead The Life You Want

April 14, 2020

I'm Natalie
Natalie is certified by the International Coaching Federation through Collective Change Institute's Professional Coaching and Advanced Coaching Programs. She’s also a coach at Google, where she leads workshops and is on the internal coaching panel for her colleagues. 

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No idea what you are doing with your life? Feeling that everyone has got it figured out but you? Here’s one word for you: Clarity

What Is Clarity and Why Is It Important?

Clarity means clearness. The most effective way of living your best life is to find clarity in your life. And the trick to gaining clarity lies in the power of asking the right questions. This can come in the form of you asking yourself the questions or someone professional helping you to navigate through them e.g a Certified Coach.

From what I have read and watched, I learnt that successful and high performing people become who they are because they are clear about where they currently are and where they want to be. After gaining clarity, they obsessively work hard and smart to bridge that gap.

I decided to share this because I have officially kick-started my journey to be a professionally certified coach and the program has reinforced my realisation that clarity is the best way to supercharge your life. If you’re interested in how my coaching journey began, read on. If not, skip ahead to the next section.

How My Coaching Journey Started

Coaching was seeded in my mind sometime last year when a few friends asked me if I ever considered coaching since I loved helping people. I started researching on coaching programs but was daunted by (1) its cost (Average of $10-20K). Another apprehension I had was (2) age. I doubted that people would hire a young coach when there are so many others in the market with a wealth of experience. As I got really busy at work as well, I left it as that.

However, that changed this year at one of the NeverDrift sessions where we had Rameez (Co-founder of CirclesLife) as our speaker. In this session, he challenged all of us to share our craziest dream with everyone present.

I realised I get really energized by helping people to be better versions of themselves. Those who know me well would know that I always push my friends to constantly improve themselves. With like-minded friends, we get lost in conversations discussing personal growth and leadership topics (you know who you are). If you checked out my reading list, you can also tell that it’s one of my favorite kind of books. I get thrilled when I see people living a life that is congruent with their strengths and values. That comes from being clear about what they want and how to achieve it. Which is also why I love reading about high performing people in business and sports like Bob Iger, Ray Dalio, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan etc.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

When Rameez asked what my obstacles were, I shared the 2 reasons above and realized that it sounded really stupid. Firstly, money should be used as a tool, as a means to an end. Secondly on the age aspect, Rameez emphasized that it was essential to take baby steps towards our dreams earlier as the compounding effect is incredible. Everyone starts somewhere.

I decided there and then that one of my goals this year was to start on my coach training so I can gain a better toolkit to help others more effectively. Fast forward to today, here we are!

The Power Of Asking The Right Questions

I was reminded during the coaching class of the importance of asking the right questions. In the Coaching demos during class, I witnessed the a-ha moment of the coachees when their coaches uncovered what was truly impeding them in work/life. The topics ranged from dealing with stress, improving communication skills e.g. negotiations, finding a job that you love etc. The key issue is often not what the coachee started off with as that was merely a symptom of the issue. The power of coaching lies in the power of creating a safe space to ask the right questions.

I have read and heard how the best leaders are the ones who can ask the right questions because they get to the heart of what really matters. As I thought about it more, I also see how it surfaces in other professions such as Consultants and Doctors.

In Consulting interviews, to test the candidate’s ability to ask the right questions, the candidate is given a broad problem to solve. E.g. “Company A’s profits has been decreasing in the past 3 years. Figure out why and solve it”. The Candidate has to ask the interviewer the right questions to unlock more relevant information that can help them (1) figure out the root problem and then (2) come up with recommendations to solve it. Decreasing profits is not the real problem, it’s a symptom of the real problem. It is key to uncover what that is. Similarly when you are unwell and visit the doctor, he/she has to also ask you a series of questions to uncover what’s really causing you to be sick before he/she administers the right medicine to cure you.

Many times we rush in to solve the problem because we think we know what it is. Many times we keep ourselves busy rushing from activity to activity. Taking a pause to ask the right questions is important in keeping us from unnecessarily spinning our wheels. The first step in living your best life lies is to ask yourself clarifying questions. When you ask better questions, you get better answers.

It All Starts With You

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle

  • Real well-being starts with clarity of self. You’ve got to know where you are in order to find clarity on where you’re going.
  • Personally, I have come to see how powerful that is when I began to reflect more frequently on my own since 2018. For e.g. understanding what my strengths and weaknesses are, what energises me and what drains me help me to shape my career into something where I can thrive.
  • Some questions you can ask yourself today:
  • If you want to delve deeper, engaging a trusted friend or a coach can help you to unpack your answers to these questions. This allows both of you to delve deeper into your sub-conscious mind which is 90% of who you are.

What Can I Do Today To Lead The Life I Want?

“Measure twice, cut once. Action for action’s sake is never as effective as action supported by the right questions and strategy”

(1) Start Asking The Right Questions

Most people, myself included, love to jump into advice-giving mode or action-action-action mode without pausing to ensure that we are working on the right things. We confuse movement with progress. Asking the right questions help to center you on what’s most important.

You can use this in different scenarios such as diagnosing why a particular team member is not performing at work, helping out a friend to solve his/her problems etc. But let me give you a couple examples of how you can apply powerful, high-impact questions to help you lead your best life i.e coaching yourself.

Take a pause here and ask yourself:

Personally, I identify with this a lot because I am an outcome-driven person with a sense of urgency, so I thrive on getting things done. While we often get caught up in being busy, it’s important to take a step back and ask ourselves these questions. For me, they serve as checkpoints to ensure that I am truly working on what matters.

Let me give you another example. Imagine you were given the power to craft your ideal life in 10 years. To do that, you have to answer the following questions:

What I realised doing this exercise (which is not easy I know): We either don’t know what we want or we are too generic that it doesn’t really mean anything. E.g. I want to be happy, I want to earn lots of money, I want to travel the world. Where the rubber meets the road is when you get specific about it and make it actionable for yourself.

(2) Get A Coach

If you find it difficult to answer these questions yourself or if you can relate to some of the following scenarios:

  • You feel incredibly lost and would like to seek help to navigate certain aspects of your life
  • You have a lot of inertia in asking yourself difficult questions because you get stuck
  • You want to seek a breakthrough and get catapulted into higher levels of potential and performance

I would strongly recommend you to get a coach. It fast-tracks your progress because someone else is helping you to better articulate your thoughts and point our your blind spots. It is also a dedicated safe space for you to unpack all that is bothering you, identify the real problem/barrier so that you can gain confidence and re-strategise your life.

What is Coaching? How Do I Know It’s For Me?

  • Let’s start with what is it not. Coaching is not mentoring. Mentoring is more about getting advice from someone whereas coaching is guiding you to uncover the answers yourself.
  • A coach guides his/her coachee to achieve a personal/professional goal through a conversation that provides new levels of thinking and learning.
  • Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. Coaching is similar to this external force – an intervention that helps people to change their trajectory.
  • In other words, a coach is a change intervention that helps us to bridge the gap between where we currently are and where we want to be
  • A key part of the coaching process is developing better self-awareness. This is liberating because it cuts through the fog of what’s bothering you and simplify the picture of who you are and what you are trying to achieve.
  • Having a coach takes self-reflection one step further as they help us to explore areas that we would not be able to get to ourselves. They also help us to confront realities that might be uncomfortable. (Reference Iceberg Theory above)

In Closing

If you want to lead your best life, do take the time to seek clarity for yourself by consistently asking yourself these tough but powerful questions and/or getting a trusted friend / coach to support you! The time that you spend on gaining clarity can pay you back multiple folds.

Do keep in mind that you do not have to know the answers right away. And note that these answers change as your experiences shape you and as your priorities switch. The key is to consistently check in with yourself to identify if the answers are still the same and if so, if you are on track.

I hope this has been helpful for you. As always, feel free to leave me a message or comment 🙂

P.S: Even though the concept of ‘a dream job’ may seem like such an elusive concept to many, I strongly believe that a dream job CAN be crafted. In this personalised program, we will explore aspects such as being crystal clear of your ideal job, understanding what is holding you back and crafting actionable steps to get there. Apply here.

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