People are curious about what I do. "What's an executive coach?" they want to know, often giving me quizzical looks. A coach, whether executive, life, career, or any other stream, helps his/her clients to effect change, to see life and/or work through a different, more productive, lens and, really, to take the status quo and concretely make it better. Here's a secret -- everyone's unhappy about something or another. I've made it my life's work to change this as much as I can.
I love what I do, and it gives me no greater professional satisfaction than to see people go from sort of, "Eh, things are okay," to "I am so happy because I _____!" You fill in the blank. Whatever the blank is, whether a professional uptick or a personal epiphany, I am thrilled to be a part of it. I've witnessed significant transformations in many individuals, executive and non-executive alike.
But my work and the inspiration behind my book, Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence, are much more personal than that.
My quest to find my own sweet spot was a long and winding road. Since I can remember, perfection was the fix, but because it was such an elusive standard, I always seemed to fall short. So I held myself back from opportunity, chose the safe option, and stopped well shy of my full potential.
I also started my career as an unhappy lawyer. And no wonder: the requirements of being a lawyer didn't jive with what I liked to do, or what I was good at. I like people -- working with them, helping them, figuring out how to put them together. I dislike conflict and negotiation. For me, being a lawyer consisted of very little of the former and a whole lot of the latter.
More importantly, underlying my seemingly put together demeanor, I was downright mean to myself. I had a constant negative tape running through my head. I mean, really negative! You know, of the "I'm not smart enough. I'm not good enough to be here. I'm not skinny enough. I'm not pretty enough. I'm not engaging enough," variety. Sound familiar?
Given all of that, you can imagine my outlook was pretty bleak, and it affected me in so many ways. Like so many career women, I was brutally tough on myself. I called myself names and believed all the reasons why not. And as so many of us do, I compared myself with others, to my great detriment. In my mind, other women were smarter than me, funnier, more skilled. I didn't like myself enough, I was unbalanced with food and exercise, and I shopped compulsively, creating for myself some financial stress. Imagine what all of that did to my approach to life, whether personal or professional.
But here's the thing... My life was and always had been pretty damn good. I just couldn't see the goodness. The negativity obscured any rosy view and prevented me from having a remotely positive outlook on life. Through this lens, my life was just okay. Eh.
Then I just reached a point of: Enough! All of the energy and brain space that these negative thoughts and feelings took up became wholly unwelcome. None of it served me; in fact, all of it sabotaged all the good work I was doing for myself, in spite of myself and for those around me. All of it robbed me of my ability to be happy and grateful for what I had and what I'd achieved. Enough!
So I embarked on an adventure of self-improvement. I went to seminars. I read books. I worked with a coach. I envisioned and believed in a different approach to my life. To my great relief, I ditched perfection. I took action to make change, in the same way I encourage my own clients to do. And through that effort, I found my sweet spot -- that special place where you enjoy peace, confidence, energy, love for yourself and what you do, and gratitude for everyday, that place where life seems to operate like a well-oiled machine.
This shift in attitude changed everything for me. Until then, this sweet spot was beyond my reach. My clients and friends think my confidence and my general optimism about and gratitude for life came naturally. Au contraire! It was hard-earned.
But because of my circuitous journey, I get it. I get the struggle because I've been there, too. I want others to experience the same discovery, like my clients, like me -- to live from the strength of their sweet spots and to love themselves, their lives and those around them. The internal dialogs that run through all of our heads must be kind, generous and productive so that we feel that joy, peace, confidence, love, inner strength and gratitude everyday! If there's one thing you do differently today, change the dialog -- trust me, it will change your life.
Join me on the journey as I coach you here on The Huffington Post -- stay with me and take the requisite action to get to your Sweet Spot and use my strategies to stay on track for when you get derailed. I'll be posting here. Feel free to send me your questions, too. Life is a fun ride -- are you with me? Let's go!
Karen Elizaga is a top executive coach, founder of Forward Options, and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence.