Living Your Dream: If Not Now, Then When?

By Nancy Colasurdo, Life Coach

Sometimes it’s the seemingly innocuous invitations that turn out to be zingers.

Last weekend, I was invited to sit in on a training session for about 15 people at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. These people were well into a yearlong program to become professional coaches through a company called Accomplishment Coaching.

Those taking the program sat in a square-shaped table configuration, while those invited to witness sat around the perimeter. We were welcomed by CEO Christopher McAuliffe and then “ignored” once the training began, so as to let the classroom setting unfold and allow us to be observers.

What set the tone for the nearly two hours that followed was one student, let’s call her Carolyn, who shared that she was choosing to put aside some potentially debilitating health problems in order to be effective as a coach. Her classmates, one by one, challenged whether she was indeed putting them aside and carefully probed. At one point, McAuliffe asked Carolyn what really living life would mean to her and part of her response was “traveling around the world.” He then drew her out for specifics.

Carolyn continued to be coached by her peers and the instructors. At times it felt like we were eavesdropping rather than just observing, such was the power of the exchange taking place. As it wound down, McAuliffe asked the coach trainees what “project” Carolyn should take on. She had previously revealed ongoing projects in building her coaching practice and writing books. Two students took a crack at it and whiffed.

“Traveling around the world,” McAuliffe said.

But of course. (Did I gasp out loud?)

As a professional coach, I should not have been surprised and yet sometimes it takes someone else to say it. If a client, or in this case Carolyn, just finished saying that to her “really living life” involves traveling around the world, then setting a goal in that is part of what we do as coaches. We make real to them what they’ve only imagined might be possible.

Now of course, in a situation outside this classroom, suggesting this goal to a client would likely produce responses like, “In this economy? Yeah, right” or “When will I ever have the time to do that?”

As a coach, I say, if not now, when?

Even the most optimistic experts tell us we’re going to be dealing with this grim economy for years. Are we going to start “really living” in four, eight, 10 years? By now I’ve written a few columns talking about using this time to assess your attachments to material goods and to really examine your relationships. Here, I am suggesting a no-holds-barred answer to the question, what does really living life mean to you?

Last week a former client wrote me for advice because he doesn’t know what he wants his next career path to be. He has done assessments, introspection, networking, you name it, but he is temping at the moment. Here’s what I wrote: “I know this isn’t really an answer, but I feel you have a lot to offer. Maybe life is telling you to go out on a crazy limb right now. What might that look like?” His response included some thoughts of a geographical move.

Just days later, I was reading the Style section of The New York Times and a bit in the “Vows” column (on the wedding announcements page) caught my eye. The bride, in her 40s, was the type who lived her own life and wasn’t sitting around waiting for Mr. Right. In 2006 she decided to put 20 years of New York living behind her and move to Dublin for a job with a three-year commitment. While there, she booked a weekend getaway to Glasgow, “which is where she crossed paths with a frisky cocker spaniel dragging a buff Scottish policeman behind it.”

I think you know where the story goes. And for that matter, where this column is going. In keeping with the travel theme, I have a friend in the South of France who’s invited me to visit. Before I could even voice an objection about money or time, he said this, “All you have to pay for is the airline ticket. You have a place to stay. And you’d have to buy food whether you came to France or not.”

Sometimes really living life is that simple. Give your goals some wings.