Two months ago I was sitting in my office designing business cards wondering what I was getting myself into. I was beginning a practice as a personal development coach again, but this time on my own and independent of a company or organization. I’m already employed so I knew I wasn’t doing it to “make a living”. Then, a story came to mind which made it all seem worth while.
It happened early on in my first life coaching internship that I found myself having dinner in one of those Florida country club neighborhoods with a Proctor & Gamble retiree and his wife. A sip of Cabernet, we pronged our filet, and my 78-year-old host recounted how he just went to his high school reunion the week before.
“Everyone was just the same as I’d left them,” he said with an I-totally-regret-I-went tone. “We all pretty much picked up where we left off.”
I tried to imagine a table of wrinkled jocks showing off their pecks and raving about last Friday night’s party. Maybe they still tried to bully the class nerd who was now the one driving an R8.
As disappointed as my friend was with the reunion, he also said it with a nonchalant matter-of-factness that made it seem like the norm now for people to go from prom night to pension and remain, well, exactly the same people. Again, I tried to imagine six decades of jobs, careers, family, and dreams scrolling by and at the end being just where I was at the beginning. It was hard to do, maybe I just needed another sip of Cabernet. It did, however, make me think of “persona”.
Persona is the part of me that makes a hundred decisions each day on whether to be generous or tight, congenial or reserved, empathetic or self absorbed; to be committed, loyal, and faithful. It’s also who I am when I’ve lost my job, my retirement, my house, and maybe my friends too. It’s what people first notice when they haven’t seen me for ten years. Have I changed? Yes, I no longer lose my temper on the court and now I even have the grace to complement my competitors. As important as persona is the reality is that absolutely nothing happens to it if I don’t do anything to improve it. It just stays the same. That can be hard to believe, but it’s harder for me to accept the idea that the majority of people in the world would not like to take steps to improve their own persona. I saw then the value of personal coaching and now I think that’s why I’m punching my name and number into a business card.
After that memorable Florida dinner I spent the next decade and a half under the guidance of a life coach. All I looked for was someone to help me take steps to change. In the words of Tolstoy, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Now, in two weeks, I’ll be going to a reunion of my own. Life has changed since we’ve broken up and I hope we have too. Maybe after five minutes of cocktails they will say, “You’re still the John we knew”, but I can be almost certain that it’s not because I come across as being 17.
Submitted by chapter member and coach, John Antonio
John is a coach member of the International Coach Federation with a lifelong interest in personal development coaching. He received his training, mentorship, and coaching experience through Mission Network programs in Atlanta GA, Sacramento CA, and Rome, Italy. He now resides in Lafayette IN where he teaches for Purdue University and dedicates time to his personal coaching practice. John enjoys competitive boxing through Boxing USA and is an active member of the Purdue Salsa Dance Club. You can read more about John at http://www.personapersonalcoaching.com/.