If building a consulting business for the nonprofit sector wasn’t the right move, then what was? I already knew the answer.

It was time to launch my business as a life coach.

A life coach, really? Life coaching is a punchline, not a profession

(It takes a while to make peace with the voices trying to crush your dreams.)

And yet I knew I was prepared, and it was time. I had been working my way toward this launch for five years, or ever since I attended my first coach training workshop in Tucson.

Thanks to a little bit of luck – or serendipity – CTI, the organization with whom I knew I wanted to study, had been hired by the county government to train a group of managers in a weekend workshop. They left a few spots open for the general public, and I happened to browse the CTI website the week prior, where I discovered the workshop that was ordinarily never offered in my city, and nabbed one of the last seats.  

I remember thinking on our lunch break the first day, “I am meant to do this,” and also, “Who am I to think I can do this?”

We began to learn and practice coaching techniques that weekend. Even my novice coach — whose real job was Senior Water Resources Project Manager with Pima County — was able to help me see life in a new light and make chinks in a worldview that did not serve me anymore. It’s not hyperbole to say that the experience transformed me on several levels.

If these were my results in three days, then coaching isn't a punchline but a lifeline! I thought.

And yet I still had some growing to do before I could jump in.

My life needed a major overhaul, that was clear. But I had no idea how to start a business like this, and I didn’t know if I could (or wanted to) leave the nonprofit sector yet. I was still proving myself to myself.

I was plagued by limiting ideas about the legitimacy of coaching, too. It was the same voice that believed coaching isn’t a “respectable” career but a joke.

 Well, it turns out that voice was an equal-opportunity critic. Here’s what else it said:

  • You don’t know how to grow a business. 

  • What will your artist and academic friends think?

  • How can you coach others when you are not perfect.

In coach speak, we call these voices “saboteurs.” Saboteurs are our detractors. They have strong opinions about our abilities, desires and dreams, and they can be cautious, critical, and even plain mean. Saboteurs are well intentioned, right? They’re trying to mitigate fear and risk, to keep us safe, but most of the time their contributions are misguided. 

(Right about now, I am imagining that I sound like a crazy person with so many characters in my head, ranging from the saboteurs — who look to me like French villains with waxed mustaches — to the moles. The good news is we all have voices of intuition and doubt. This is totally normal. Trust me.)

Intuition nudges you in the direction you’re meant to go. Saboteurs pull you back. It’s not exactly like the cartoon version of the devil and angel riding on each shoulder to help navigate the moral path, but it’s close.

Here’s something I know to be true, and a fundamental lesson I needed to accept before launching my business without hedging or dancing around my dreams: Saboteurs aren’t going away, and there’s no point in arguing with them.

Sometimes they crank up the volume and scream in our ears, sometimes they chill, and sometimes they change shape or rebrand themselves with new, improved messages! (Yaaaaay!) The trick is to let them come along for the ride without letting them drive the car.

The lesson I had to learn (and remember once again) was this:

 You cannot argue your way out of self-doubt.

So what did I do instead?

NEXT EPISODE: My saboteurs get together for drinks to discuss how I am “so not photogenic.”