A couple of months ago, Dave Williams interviewed me for his Google Hangout for Cancer Coaches (check him out at http://findyournewnormal.com/). The prep I did for the interview seemed appropriate to share with you, as follows.
1. Could you describe WHY you decided to work with cancer patients?
Two things happened:
• First, I had my own brain cancer experience, during which I was very much alone (despite a loving husband, family and friends), and the support group didn’t work for me. After treatments ended, there really was no support other than information on a counter about Gilda’s Club, which also seemed to focus on groups.
• Second, my younger brother’s death from pancreatic cancer had a profound effect on me. He only had a few weeks to live following diagnosis, and really LIVED those weeks, welcoming his closest friends and family to hang out with him – providing us all with the opportunity to spend quality time and support each other. This completely changed my perspective about individual vs. group support.
When I thought about these experiences, I decided I wanted to ensure others didn’t have to “go it alone” when they wanted someone to talk to who understood and was really there for them as individuals.
2) You come to a coaching client with an executive coaching background. Could you outline the assistance you provide and how it differs from the work you normally do with executives?
Often executives just want tangible outcomes/results, and some won’t do the inner work that can have such a transformative impact on whole person, and certainly on the outer work.
Those who have survived a life threatening illness tend to have a lot of raw emotions available that can provide a deeper coaching experience to make changes from the inside out, and really transform their lives. So I present this coaching as “life” coaching, which can then evolve into executive and/or career coaching to explore how to make the transition into work that is meaningful and where the client can make a significant contribution.
3) Finding “purpose” is a concept that many people often struggle with. Is the process different for survivors?
Because of the deep impact of the cancer experience on the survivor’s emotions, sometimes survivors are more inspired or driven to do something meaningful with their lives, with more urgency than the general population experiences. Going back to routine work may not seem enough now for a survivor.
The quest for meaningful work and making contributions to others becomes front and foremost as a need, yearning, or desire. Often passionate interests that may have been buried for years under “practical” career and life decisions now become the most inspiring and important.
We realize life is precious and short, and there are no guarantees of how long we have, so let’s make the most of it! No more dragging our heels!
4. How does this translate to work, re-entering the workplace, and family support?
Family: Keep in mind they are co-survivors. Even though they haven’t experienced the physical illness, they’ve been there with you on your journey. When treatments have ended, often family and friends are just grateful “it’s over” and want to go back to a sense of normalcy. But what does that look like? They may also benefit from coaching support or local support groups for caregivers. They may not realize that for you, it’s not over. It’s just the beginning of a “new normal” that can be initially confusing yet profoundly rewarding if we take charge of the things we have control over.
Re-entering the workplace: There is a non-profit here in the US called Cancer and Careers (cancerandcareers.org) that has a treasure trove of resources available. I went to the Midwest conference last spring and even with my human resources background, learned so much! As a former HR management professional, I was particularly interested in the tips for interviews and re-entering the workplace, how to handle comments and questions. One technique called the “swivel” really captured my interest because it can be useful in so many situations. See http://bit.ly/ccswivel
5) How does purpose & passion relate to your concept of developing an inner GPS?
If we are aligned with our heart’s purpose, passion and values, we feel better physically, with more joy, inspiration and engagement in life. When we move away from our values, purpose and passion, our emotions tend to shift toward resentment, sadness, fear, anxiety, or anger, while physical well-being drops and stress increases.
With that inner GPS of aligned values, purpose and passion, before taking a course of action or making a decision, we can ask ourselves:
“How does this line up with who I really am and who I want to be in the world?”
That choice point is critical. When we feel we have CHOICE, we tend to feel better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If not now, WHEN will you take inspired action and align your work and your life with what’s really important to you?