Coaching to Craft a Vision and Reclaim an Identity

Defining a vision didn’t extend the number of hours in Dr Helene Walisever’s day, but it made those hours count.  When coaching with Valerie taught Helene to value the time spent working towards her vision, the clinical psychologist turned education advocate, mother of five children, triathlete and soon-to-be author reclaimed her professional identity – along with one hour a day to write.

“I’d lost the ‘Dr.’ in my name,” Helene said. “I reclaimed it.”

Helene began coaching with Valerie in 2010 intending to build on the volunteer work she’d been doing during her seven years away from paid work. Her youngest child was starting first grade and her eldest son had just listed his mom’s occupation as “retired” on a school form.

“I had this defining moment,” she recalled. “I knew why he wrote that – I wasn’t giving off the confidence that what I was doing was valuable.”

Helene had spent five of those years helping families navigate the special needs education system after going through the process for one of her own children. Helene’s support, which convinced parents to negotiate with schools knowing that they were the experts on their own child, was invaluable. Yet her own lack of confidence in the worth of her expertise left her work without direction.

Valerie helped Helene to define her values and establish specific goals. Helene re-labeled the volunteer work as pro bono services. This allowed Helene – and her children, who all know she’s working now – to respect the time spent on her advocacy work. It also empowered her to decline some of her other volunteer opportunities that didn’t align with her goals, guilt free.

After an enlightening coaching session on her strengths and weaknesses, Helene learned not to see her deliberate, softly spoken nature as a weakness, but use it as an advantage to marketing her expertise.

“I’m a terrible cold-caller and won’t do P.R,” she claimed. “But I can go to a psychologists’ event or a special needs education forum and talk about what I know … and people listen. People appreciate what I have to say.”

Throughout the coaching relationship, which consists of monthly, face-to-face group coaching workshops and monthly private phone sessions in-between, Helene was held accountable for what she had been working on, which gave her more ownership over the process than she had expected. When Valerie asked her a question, her response was instinctive:

“She asked me what I’d do if I could make one bold move and I thought: I have to write a book about this.”

The idea of writing a book was daunting but Valerie worked through any doubts that arose, dismissing many of them as “saboteurs”, and ensured Helene had an answer for each one.  They strategized together and re-prioritized, as there was very little Helene was willing to give up – even triathlons found a place in the mix – and she committed to writing for one hour a day. In eight months she had a book drafted.

Helene said coaching with Valerie was an eye-opening, invigorating process that challenged her. She recommends it to anyone considering a change or simply seeking a clearer direction.

“It’s okay to go into it not knowing what you want,” she said. Coaching will end up taking you in a direction that suits you.”

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