It confuses people when they find out that I am both a software developer and a productivity coach. It seems like such an odd intersection of a career and honestly, when I think about it myself, I get a little confused myself.
Why am I doing this?
Honestly, it started out as a dare to myself.
The emotional labour required for programming is something that I love to think about. How do you work through the challenges of starting with nothing but an idea and molding that into a self-contained experience and system that other people can interact with? How do you untangle the knots of uncertainty, fear, and resistance that show up while programming? Over the years of thinking about these things, I’ve have built up a repertoire of mind tricks, perspective shifts and self-inquiry habits that are the foundation of my productivity. So which made me curious: could I do this work for other people as well?
Only now I’m finding that was the wrong question to ask. When I was starting out, I assumed that becoming a coach would take me a slow-burning amount of time, at the very least a couple of months if not longer. I imagined writing weekly blog posts, building up a reputation of trust, maybe starting a newsletter, eventually teasing out the idea of having 1:1 sessions, and finally, finally, get that first client after all those months and months of work.
In actuality, it took me only a few weeks before I had a full client roster on top of my consulting work.
So now what?
In the end, the question wasn’t if I could do it. The real question is, why is this something I want? What keeps me continuing to do this?
I feel like that’s a question that I haven’t asked myself enough. So often, I get filled with the brim with desire for accomplishment – I want to get good enough at yoga to teach it, I want to write a YA novel with a strong female protagonist, I want to star in a musical, I want to speak a second language fluently, I just want to know that I am someone who can accomplish these things. Because then, when I get those things, I’m going to be so proud of myself and confident and have such solid a foundation of being the most interesting person in the world that life will be such a relief afterwards. My head echoes so loudly with the, “Can I do this, how would I make time for this, what’s a concrete goal to me for me to measure my progress against, how can I keep myself accountable” planning questions, that I forget – the question isn’t can I.
Because when you think in terms of can, that’s a fixed mindset. That’s presenting the question like you’re either the person who will accomplish the goal or you’re not, as if you’re sitting there in the audience of an awards show, waiting for the universe to read out the card that says whether or not you were chosen to be the person you want to be.
So if can isn’t the question, if I come at this from a place of knowing I am capable, the question is why do I want to choose this? Why is this important to me? What happens when I accomplish my goal, what do I get out of it? What’s waiting for me on the other side that I don’t have right now?
Because when it comes up showing up everyday and putting in the work, that can I do this desire for validation is just not as powerful as the motivation of knowing why do I choose this.
So that’s where I’m at right now with coaching. Yes, I can help people find clarity and untangle their thought knots! What delight!
But why do I choose to do this?
I choose to do this because I like having a break from doing technical work. I’m too curious about various things to fit into a traditional career trajectory, so it’s exciting to explore a non-traditional career path with diverse sources of income and learning how to build my own business.
I choose to do this because I’ve realized that helping other people find clarity also helps me find it in myself. Often, I’ll find that days after I help a client figure out their next action steps for a issue, I’ll find myself running into the same problem and be able to resolve it easier because I had the chance to approach it objectively with someone else.
I choose to do this because I feel like there’s such a lack of awareness and kindness towards the emotional labour of programming. I want to be the person that I needed when I was experiencing my own burnout from tech, the person that says, “It’s okay if you’re uncertain while coding. It’s okay if you’re not productive every waking moment.” (That person for me was actually the coach that I worked with during that time.)
So what about you?
What do you choose for yourself?
(Shout-out to my friend Diana who goaded me well before I was anywhere close to committing to pursuing coaching by saying: “Honestly, I don’t see what’s stopping you from just starting right now. You’re ready.” She helped me move beyond can.)