How did an life accident gave meaning to my career?

by | Jan 14, 2020 | Publication

As a coach, I often ask my clients to take an overview of their past years. Often clients feel dissatisfied with their current situation, but when they look back at their life trajectory, they are much more aware of what they have achieved.

Diving into the past is therefore a powerful exercise that allows us to reconnect with our story. I have therefore decided to do this exercise myself for my past decade. Are you ready to follow me for this journey into the past ?

Review of the past decade

Let’s go back to 10 years ago, at the beginning of 2010. Who was I at 33? I was a young woman, an expat in Singapore, combining a career and a first child. I am a risk manager in private banking and my career is “exemplary”: Sciences-Po, audit, private banking…

2011. The year is punctuated by attempts to have a second child. After some difficulties that, like many young women, I did not mention, I am finally expecting a little girl born in 2012.

2012. I go back to work. One year after the birth of my daughter, to my great surprise, I am expecting a third child. This decade was the one that turned my family core of three into a tribe of five! I am feel blessed!

2013. Is the year of my third child as well as the year I laid the foundation stone that completely transformed my life. But this process started in a very painful way as I discovered, 7 months pregnant, that I had breast cancer. The predictions were not in my favour… I gave birth to my son prematurely so that I could start my treatments.

2014. This year remains a big black hole. I start a treatment journey that will end in 2017. I often had the feeling of being in a parallel universe, disconnected from “others”, i.e. the healthy. However, it was during this period that I began a profound change in my vision of the world.

2015. In between reconstructive surgeries, I return to work with a huge hope: to pick up my life where the illness had stolen it two years earlier. I still live in Singapore and I am lucky enough to work for a company with exemplary behaviour and caring managers. I am back to my responsibilities and my team with an adapted schedule. After two years with no other reference points than medical appointments, it is a real relief to find a structured time and a familiar space… The work is still intense and colleagues complain about the constant changes but I have the feeling that everything is in place, unchanging, almost reassuring… The reorganisations are only epiphenomena. The company is bought out but that doesn’t stress me out. On the other hand, I struggle with major concentration problems. Little by little, I am recovering physically but my cognitive abilities are weakened. I have the strange feeling of being present and absent at the same time. I am beginning to wonder what to do with the life I can once again look forward to: continuing to work to develop my responsibilities is no longer enough. I decide to quit my job overnight. With a personal development perspective, I decided to join a coaching school whose teaching is based on neuroscience. Little did I know at the time that I would become a coach!

2016. I am still unable to project myself into a career but I decide to give myself time and devote myself to what I love. With the help of a coach, I started to look inward. One day I told her about the small collection of antique jewellery I had started to build up years before. I started to buy new ones that I had seen my grandmother collect. Friends urged me to buy some for them and one thing led to another and I started a small business. Against all odds, I make a decent living from this business. But that’s not the most important thing… Thanks to this activity, my neurons start to work again and I discover the desire to create something beyond myself to satisfy my customers. Jewellery is no longer enough for me. I have been coaching occasionally for a year and the results obtained by the coachees give me enormous satisfaction. I am hesitant to launch myself… However, I have already decided that I will create my own coaching and consulting company and that it will be called ORISE, a contraction of the English verb “rise” and the word “horizon”.

2017. Our expatriation ends. A big step backwards with a very brief move to Switzerland and then to France. Once again, I feel like I’m just a piece of straw being tossed around by the circumstances. But my determination does not weaken. I sold my jewellery business. I continue to train and develop my coaching practice. We bought a house in France, in Alsace, my husband’s region. I decide to renovate it from top to bottom. It is my bastion, my anchor, the place where my children will build their childhood memories. I feel my energy returning.

2018. The year when everything explodes. I create ORISE Management and start a mission of accompaniment to change and coaching in a large bank. This mission will last one year. The richness of the exchanges was as good as the challenge. The individual coaching sessions followed one another. This is the year that marks my official remission: five years after my diagnosis. I wanted to share my journey and created a Facebook page called “C my NEW me : c’est mon nouveau moi avec ou après le cancer“. I tell my story of how I recovered from cancer. I get friends to testify. Very quickly, many followers joined this page dedicated to cancer patients and to all those who have revealed themselves after a life accident. 100, 500, 1000 people and today we are 3 300, more than 100 people have testified and I have gathered a team of 5 volunteers. This achievement is certainly one of the greatest achievements in my life. I created “C my NEW me” with my conviction as a coach that if you manage to project a vision of yourself, you can remove your blockages and achieve the things you wished for and even go beyond ! I’m getting back into music, learning piano and musical theatre. I am delightfully experiencing the neuroplasticity of my brain through these artistic activities.

Back to last year, 2019. Coaching occupies my life day and night. During the day, I practice my activity. My children no longer wake up in the evening but I still get little sleep because that is when I take time to read and reflect on the fundamentals of coaching. I develop my own programmes and original and impactful coaching tools such as a card game to practice in a group. It was also the year when I reconciled with my story. Still with a lot of difficulty, because to be honest, I still have this irrational feeling that cancer is a “failure”. But I am able to speak openly about this experience, including at a TED Talk in Basel. I continue to develop my business with my private and corporate clients, whom I thank for their trust.

5 lessons that these 10 years have taught me 

It is dizzy to look back on these ten years, both difficult and fantastic. But there are five lessons that I have learned from this exercise that shed light on my work as a coach.

Lesson one – First of all, I’m not the young woman I was at 33 anymore, I sometimes even find it hard to conceive that it’s me when I look at photos of myself at that the time. And it is safe to say that I’ll be a different woman again in 10 years. Our lives and careers are not linear. We all have more difficult moments, even actual ruptures. Learning to integrate these difficulties into our life trajectory to make sense of them gives us an incredible strength. In adversity, unsuspected resources can be revealed.

Lesson two – I have discovered that it can take longer to recover from a cognitive decline than it does to overcome a physical disability. I see this very clearly as a coach with burn-out clients: they often feel guilty for collapsing when ‘everything was going pretty well’. The lesson I draw from this is that you have to take the time to rebuild yourself and tell yourself that what you do will make sense later. As soon as you feel like you’re being overwhelmed, it’s time to step aside and take the time to find out what your life mission is.

Lesson three – Being able to overcome blockages is essential to becoming an actor in your own life. We are by nature resistant to change. Overcoming blockages is also about giving yourself the means to take on new challenges. It is sometimes easier to start with steps that are more accessible to us (jewellery in my case) to regain self-confidence.

Lesson four – Finding your place in the world is essential. Life’s accidents cut us off from the world. And yet, knowing how to live in a group is essential to our happiness, whether we are extraverted or whether we need to recharge our batteries alone. In the workplace, we are faced with a group that we have not necessarily chosen. Learning to exchange with this group in order to build together can be a great source of satisfaction. To do this, you have to be able to defuse group conflicts, which are often nothing more than the crystallisation of blockages experienced here and there. This is why I like to accompany teams that are not reaching their full potential, because the satisfaction of a group feeds the satisfaction of the individuals that constitute it.

Lesson five – Sharing is essential. Living without sharing your experiences, good or bad, is to deprive yourself of an incredible lever to give meaning to your life and nourish your life mission. It may sound crazy, but I’m not sure I would have made it this far if I hadn’t been ill. I am where I always wanted to be: in human accompaniment, searching for solutions. Being ill has forced me to make decisions in spite of my fears and blockages. And it is this strength that I wish to pass on to the individuals and companies that I accompany: overcome complex situations and give themselves the means to achieve their ambitions.

Thank you for taking this journey into the past with me. And you, what lessons have you learned from this little “return to the past” exercise ?