Everyone believed that Kathleen Wiltshire had a great life. She had a close and loving family, a business she loved and for which she was well-paid, and a bright and cheerful outlook on life.
Kathleen also had too much stress in her life. Both of her elderly parents were ill, her mother with advanced heart disease, and her father with Alzheimer’s. She had a consulting company in the medical field that kept her traveling 75% of the time. Being 200 pounds overweight was causing emotional and medical problems for her. She wanted to walk as part of an exercise program, but wasn’t comfortable walking in the strange towns where she traveled.
Her apartment was disorganized but she had no time to attack the piles of papers and clothing. Her biggest dream was to buy a home of her own, and she needed to save for a down payment, pay off debt and begin searching for her dream house.
The stress of searching for answers to all her problems was leading Kathleen to emotional eating. She wanted a “perfect” life, but her definition of perfect was all-or-nothing. There was no middle ground, no compromise in her idea of perfection, and trying to do it all was causing physical and emotional problems. She knew she was stuck and needed help moving forward with her goals without sabotaging her own health and welfare.
Kathleen first came to me in July 2001. In our early coaching sessions, Kathleen created a list of all the goals she wanted to attain, both long-term goals and goals for the coming 12 months. These included goals in the areas of health and fitness, money, business, relationships, and home.
Kathleen’s two big dreams, becoming physically fit and buying her own home, became the centerpieces of our initial coaching sessions. But instead of adding more tasks (and more stress) to Kathleen’s busy life, we created mini-goals that were “do-able” yet allowed her to move forward in life.
Kathleen says, “Over the past six months, personal coaching has helped me recognize that it is the little achievements over a period of time that help you reach the bigger goal.” In July 2001, Kathleen set a goal of buying her own home in 18 months. Since she was going to live in her current apartment for the next 18 months, she created a short-term goal of straightening up her apartment, storing things she chose to take to her new home, and giving away to charity items she no longer wanted. She realized that this task could take several months to accomplish because of her tight schedule. We divided the larger goal into smaller, more manageable goals, such as cleaning up one pile of clothing, or going to the storage center and renting a locker. These mini-actions fit into her schedule and her goal. The key was to create very small steps that could be taken easily without creating more stress and tension.
Over the next six months, Kathleen began to exercise more in order to lose weight. For the first time in 10 years, Kathleen put on a bathing suit and swam in her local pool. At first she was shy about it, but with encouragement, she now swims both at home and in hotel pools when she’s traveling. She’s also more careful of what she eats and writes in her journal daily to help her tame the emotional eating tiger. So far, she’s lost over 60 pounds.
“Coaching has helped me look at my perspective on perfection differently, and has helped me to change some rigid thinking into more flexible alternatives that are manageable on a daily basis,” says a happier Kathleen. Through our coaching sessions, Kathleen has come to have a more calm and centered response to life’s events. At Christmas, her mother had a heart attack. Instead of trying to be the “perfect” daughter and taking the care of her mother completely onto her own shoulders, Kathleen asked her brothers and sisters to help. She’s more rigorous in her self-care, taking mini-vacations for long weekends away from home. She realizes that taking care of herself helps her to have the energy to be more fully available for others.
Kathleen’s story isn’t unique. Many of us have too much to do and feel that our goals and lives are overwhelming us. By learning to break down large goals into small steps, and by remembering to take care of ourselves so that we are stronger for others, we can relieve some of the stress in our lives. And that is a goal worthy of pursuing.