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Friday, 02 January 2009 11:16

Our Businesses, Our Selves - Page 9

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"And besides, " Clara said forlornly, "I feel lonely. I don't know any nearby therapists in my situation that I can talk to for support. All the professional clinicians I know imagine I couldn't possibly have any complaints or needs. It sounds like a joke, but I'm a case study of 'lonely at the top.'"

Sometimes, in the midst of material success, we forget that even though we've "made it," we're still evolving. The pendulum doesn't stop swinging just because we now command a six-figure income and a staff of subordinates. Since the classic signals of a business owner who's entering the green stage are concerns about isolation and lack of meaning, the objectives of that stage usually include building a deeper community, relaxing boss-employee hierarchies by sharing more power, and taking steps to renew old passions and explore the spiritual dimensions of life.

For clinicians in this stage, I've created a checklist of 60 evocative words that elicit core values--including, for example, "creativity," "learning," "enlightenment," "sacredness," "compassion," "adventure," "inspiration," "accomplishment," "understanding," "wholeness," "connection," "fairness," and the like. I ask therapists to pick their top four that they feel define them and their work at some fundamental level. Which words, I inquire, draw from them an almost automatic sense that "this is really me?" Next, we look at whether those values are now reflected in their practice. What would bring more passion into their work lives? How can they make their professional lives more deeply congruent with their deepest values? Because the hallmark of coaching is to help people take action--not just speculate about personal philosophies--we then work on concrete steps to bring their practices more in line with their ideals.

Since one of Clara's core values was "healing," she began to realize that she missed the hands-on experience of doing therapy. So she hired a part-time operations manager to take on some administrative tasks, freeing her to see a few clients every week. At the end of the year, she reported feeling exhilarated again about her work, having rediscovered her fascination and passion for doing therapy itself. During this time, she also created a professional network of about a dozen business leaders who met regularly to talk about their concerns, and a smaller, more intimate, circle of entrepreneurs who became friends as well as associates. She now felt the "connecting" instincts that drew her to the field in the first place had been reborn.

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