Home is Within You
Nearly 20 years as an executive coach and leadership development specialist in the corporate world in Australia ended in 2017 when my husband died in Sydney in a horrific accident. He was a Kiwi, we had been married for 36 years. Not only did I miss him, I now felt completely disengaged from my work and indeed my life. I worried for our children and how I would ever again be able to summon the energy to be an example for them. It was as if everything had suddenly ended.
Eventually I took a deep breath and made a big decision. I moved to Auckland where his family still lived and my eldest daughter was now living.
Major Life Change
Over the following two years I transitioned not only to a beautiful new geographical home, but also to a new sense of who I was. I had changed. I moved away from my work in leadership development into career coaching, initially consulting for two large global career management firms. Eventually it was a natural progression to establish my own current life and career coaching practice working with individuals and later couples as well, as they approached me.
Working in the Arts
My first career was ballet and contemporary dancing. I left school early to attend the Australian Ballet School and later danced with Ballet Victoria and the Rambert Dance Company in London. I will be forever grateful for the discipline I learned and the connections I was privileged to make with some amazing people. I had a lot of success in this career and was privileged to have a solo in a dance piece, Promenade, by choreographer Christopher Bruce, director at the Rambert Dance Company, created for me.
However in my mid-twenties I could not resolve the sense of dislocation inside me, the result of what I then believed was the burnout that results from fighting to succeed in an inauthentic career, but later understood was the impact of unconscious distorted personality belief patterns and related reactive behaviour. These unconscious patterns drove me until I became lost to myself and knew I had get to the root cause of my troubles. So began a long exploration involving counselling, university studies and experimenting in many roles to understand myself and my place in the world.
A training consultant role with Dale Carnegie Training was a turning point. As part of that sales role I acted as a Graduate Assistant for participants in the 12 week Dale Carnegie Leadership Course.
I loved the concepts of leadership development but eventually found that the principles taught in that course, excellent as they were, were like putting on a new coat and did not fundamentally give me a stronger sense of who I was. When I left Dale Carnegie Training, I was more knowledgeable but still felt lost and inadequate.
Insight, Healing, Transformation
Clearly I had to do something radically different in my life. Personal counselling involving art therapy with a psychologist followed this realisation. In six months I produced over 100 colourful pastel drawings. These images flowed through me onto the page from a deep source of inner guidance. Each took about two hours to complete and was a meditation, closing down my thought processes and listening for guidance as to what to draw on the blank A3 page. Most days I made the time to sit down and draw. I became excited about what the next image would turn out to be. Looking at the finished drawing always gave me new insights and I came to cherish this inner guide who I could not see but who silently spoke to me.
United With Self
It was an extraordinary experience of deep inner connection, a conversation if you like, with a source of Intelligence far greater than my own accessed by being fully present in the moment free of my mind and its endless thinking. It was a beautiful experience in which the relationship with myself was healed. This unity with what I call the Self was deeply fulfilling, though it would be two decades of hard work before I completely understood the messages of each of the drawings.
From Leadership Specialist to Life and Career Coach
Back out in the world again my career now flourished. A Master of Leadership and Management degree and Integral Coach Training set me clearly on the path of executive coach and leadership development workshop facilitator. I worked as one of two senior leadership facilitators at National Australia Bank facilitating a range of their leadership programs. Then as Principal Advisor Learning and Development for BHP Billiton Iron Ore I guided the designing of a 14 month leadership development pathway for supervisors and superintendents.
Next, as an independent leadership specialist I designed and facilitated the first leadership program for station officers at the WA Department of Fire and Emergencies services. This program focused on emotional intelligence skills and I facilitated this 3 day program several times a year for the next four years. Concurrently I established my own executive coaching practice largely working with business leaders using my own 8 session coaching process which mirrored the step by step process of transformation I had experienced. This work continued until my husband's death.
My coaching practice today focuses on the deep inner work that helps people understand and free themselves of unconscious limiting thought patterns and connects them with their truth resulting in greater joy, ease and success in living their own life.
What Have I Learned?
The lesson is that home, a deep sense of self and security, and abiding meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, are not to be found in anything or anyone 'out there' in the world. Yes you can have it all, but it all starts here, inside you. Living and working effectively starts first and foremost by addressing what needs to change inside you. Once you become aware of the beliefs that are holding you back, the conditioned patterns driving your behavior, you become clear about what is happening in your life and why and can essentially get out of your own way. Making changes then happens naturally.
From this solid foundation of knowing what you want and what might be holding you back it becomes clear what skills you might need to develop in order to achieve personal and professional success, and work on that is highly effective.
This is my wish for you! :)
Sarah is supporting, clear-thinking, inspiring and deeply perceptive. I loved working with her and could not recommend her more highly to anyone at a 'crossroads' in their careers or having second thoughts on their chosen path in life.
Oliver Stones, Director, Olie's Travels