Coaching Chronicles: Caterina

I was at my local farmers market when I met Caterina for the first time.  She stood next to me, slowly turning over a purple onion to look at every part of it.  Noticing her methodical process, I turned and smiled at her.  I have genuine appreciation for someone who takes the time to choose their food mindfully.  We struck up a short conversation about soaking onions to mellow their taste, and she revealed that she knew me from social media and several friends.

“I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while to get some support but always found an excuse.  I guess this was meant to be.”

This is how my life is, so it was no shock to me.  I love how the Universe delivers people to me at exactly the right moment.  It’s become a fun little game for me, like always getting the best parking space.

Caterina and I set an appointment for the following Saturday.  Prior to that, she agreed to track her food and exercise.  Recording her food and exercise for a week would allow both of us to see her starting point.  It would also bring some accountability since she knew herself to often skip meals.

Records equal results. And Caterina found this out that very first week.  What follows is our first coaching hour together.  We’re using her middle name because she wanted to share her journey but decided to keep it anonymous.


Jen:  Hi Caterina!  It’s great to talk to you!  Are you as excited as I am?  Or maybe nervous?  Maybe a little of both?

Caterina:  Um, mostly nervous but I guess excited too.  My food journal was embarrassing.  I guess I feel like I’m in trouble.

Jen:  Nope, never.  I found so many great choices in your meals this week, but we will get to that. First let’s talk about your week and settle on some short and long term goals.

Caterina:  Work is stressful.  I like working for the woman’s shelter but it can be soul crushing to see endless need.  But I find myself wanting to feel the pain so I don’t become cold.  I know that doesn’t make any sense.

Jen:  It makes perfect sense.  Staying in touch with how things make you feel is a strength.  And being sad about other people’s struggles is human. And I have a few strategies that we can talk through to help.  Anything else about work?

Caterina:  Well, I’d like to make more money but I feel guilty about that because it’s a woman’s shelter.  (Laughing.)  I’m a hot mess!

Jen:  You are a compassionate person who wants to do good in this world.  That can be messy!  Feeling the need for your income to increase shows that you know your own worth.  That’s powerful! I definitely see your income increasing in the next few months.  That’ll be fun!

Caterina:  Do you have a magic wand or something?

Jen:  I wish!  But no. You are the magic.  Your perspective is the magic trick.

Caterina: (Laughing.) I’ll believe it when I see it!

Jen:  Then hold on tight!  It’s already happening!  You’ve become lighter about a heavy topic, work, in only a few minutes.  Finding the joy in all situations is powerful and life-changing.  Give it time. Let’s talk about a career or work goal. Can you paint me a picture of how you want your work life to look on a daily basis?

Caterina:  I want more time to create systems that will make a bigger impact on more people while reducing the workload of the staff.  Now I put fires out all day long.  But I try not to take my work home with me, so I don’t want to spend my off time creating those systems.

Jen:  Let’s reframe it a bit.  How many uninterrupted hours a day would you like to spend creating systems?

Caterina:  Wow.  I can pick any amount?

Jen:  This is your ideal situation.  Design it exactly how you want it. 

Caterina:  In that case, I would have an assistant to handle the emails and social media, my calendar and any emergencies.  And I would check in with him or her once a day for 30 minutes.  The rest of the day would be mine to create new relationships with donors and improve the systems.

Jen:  That shifted quite a bit when you made it more concrete.

Caterina:  It did.  I didn’t expect that.

Jen:  When we take our current situation and create specific goals to improve them, it brings clarity.

Caterina:  I’ll say! 

Jen:  How can you break your goal down into action steps? What’s possible today, this week, this month?

Caterina:  I’m able to hire a part-time person now. I need to rewrite the job description to include these tasks, but I can complete that before I go back to work on Monday.

Jen:  Hmm, what happened to leave work at work?  Can it wait until Monday morning?

Caterina:  That’s the thing.  I have all these great ideas but when I get to work, what everyone else needs immediately takes over.

Jen:  So in the short term, are you willing to do what it takes to accomplish that first step?

Caterina: Absolutely.  It seems so simple now.  Why didn’t I do this two years ago?

Jen:  Because you weren’t ready.  And it wasn’t time.  I bet that if you would’ve hired someone two years ago, you wouldn’t have truly known what was needed.

Caterina.  True.  But what if it takes a long time to hire someone?

Jen:  Just a minute ago you agreed to do what it takes to accomplish the first step.  Do you still agree?

Caterina:  Well, yes.  But I don’t know how long it will take.

Jen:  Even if it takes two weeks, will it be worth it? 

Caterina:  It won’t take that long!  But yes.

Jen:  What was the problem?

Caterina: (Laughs.) Okay, okay. 

Jen:  So your first goal before I see you next is what?

Caterina:  Before I see you in one week, I will write the job description and post it to several job sites.  I will also look at existing staff to see I already have someone that would be a good fit.

Jen:  What happens when you begin to get applicants? 

Caterina:  I think what I need to do is make a list of the times when I am out of the office this week or have meetings that cannot be changed. Once I have that list, I can use the rest of the time to interview potential candidates.

Jen:  Sounds like this is your top priority.

Caterina:  Just imagining the freedom of having someone handle those tasks is exciting.

Jen:  How are you feeling about work now?

Caterina: Hopeful.  And goal-oriented.

Jen:  Excellent.  Would you like to go through this process with another area in your life?  We can talk about sleep, food, exercise, relationships, whatever you like.

Caterina:  Wait, we don’t have to only focus on work?  Can I have goals in more than one area of my life?

Jen:  Absolutely!  Or, you can focus on just one at a time.  If this feels like enough, then we pause here.  If you want to talk about another area, then we add that.  How are you feeling?

Caterina:  I’m pretty energized.  The possibilities are enticing.  But is this one of those things that you feel super excited and then in a day or two you lose steam?  I’ve read so many books that made me feel excited and then I never followed through. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true.  I guess I just don’t have the discipline.  Or I’m just lazy.

Jen:  No to both of those statements.  You aren’t lazy, and you have plenty of discipline.  The trick is to get motivated AND put a new practice in place.  We began with designing an ideal work environment and followed that up with a specific goal.  Your motivation will help you get started, and once you complete tasks, you text me and let me know.  The accountability will help you develop the habit of creating a goal and then taking steps to make it happen.

Caterina:  I’m not so sure but I want to try.

Jen:  That’s all we need.  Just an open mind and a willingness to try.  After all, nothing else has worked to this point so you have nothing to lose!  Am I right?

Caterina:  Honestly, I never even thought about an ideal work situation.  I only imagined a raise to help me deal with it.

Jen:  We’ll get to the raise as well.  For now, let’s focus on that first step.

Caterina:  Deal.  Can we talk about food too?  I’m nervous but I know I need to make some changes.

Jen:  Yes.  Tell me about the changes that you think you need.

Caterina:  I drink so much coffee.  And I know I should eat breakfast.  Oh, and there may or may not be a drawer filled with mini chocolate bars in my desk. 

Jen:  What do you want to be different?

Caterina:  I want to lose weight and I think that the food I eat is kind of healthy but I’m not sure.  I also think that the coffee is bad for me.  Is it bad for me?  Is coffee bad?

Jen:  For most people, drinking a few cups of coffee each day is fine. Why do you drink coffee?

Caterina:  Because I need the caffeine to function. 

Jen:  Do you like the taste?

Caterina: (Laughing) I use lots of the flavored creamer to make it taste better, so I guess not?

Jen:  Either way, it’s okay.  Sometimes a cup of coffee in the morning, especially when enjoyed slowly and mindfully, can be a perfect start to the day.  When it becomes a crutch, that’s when we make adjustments.

Caterina:  Are you saying I have to give it up?  I don’t know how I could survive without it.

Jen:  No.  You don’t ever have to give up things that you don’t want to. 

Caterina:  Really? Nothing?

Jen:  Instead of focusing on the things that you think are wrong with your diet, let’s add things that will help you feel even energy though out the day. 

Caterina:  I don’t think any food will take the place of the coffee.

Jen:  It doesn’t have to.  You don’t need to give it up.  If you are open to it, I’d like to add a few things throughout your day to help you have that energy whether you drink the coffee or not.

Caterina:  You make it sound easy.  What’s the catch?

Jen:  No catch. 

Caterina:  Hmm.  This whole things seems too easy.  How will it help me lose weight? 

Jen:  I’d like to help you choose foods to add to your day that will help your body be fueled for energy and efficiency.  By doing so, it reduces the need for caffeine and sugar, so you can drink your coffee because you like it instead of because you need the energy. Over time we will continue to add more healthy foods in different amounts and your weight will gently, naturally begin to shift.

Caterina:  So just eat more?

Jen:  More of the right things.  After seeing a week of your food, I have some thoughts on what would help the most.  Did you have any realizations from tracking your food?

Caterina:  Well, the breakfast thing.  It seems like most days I don’t even eat until lunch and then I’m starving and go for burgers, fries and milk shakes.  It’s terrible, I know.

Jen:  It’s not terrible, it’s just what you needed to do up to this point to fuel your body.  When we know better, we do better.  There’s no use in beating yourself up or judging the choices. Today is a new day.  Today we start again.

Caterina:  And all those voices in my head telling me that I’m such an idiot for not eating breakfast?

Jen:  Soothe them.  Remind them that it’s okay because it’s in the past.  Be gentle.  They didn’t show up in a day, and they won’t leave in a day.  Give your mind time to create new beliefs.

Caterina:  I’ll try.  They tend to shout.

Jen:  Whisper back.  Find a way to be gentle and compassionate.  Practice forgiveness and understanding.  Let’s make a breakfast goal.

Caterina: (Laughing) That should shut them up! 

Jen: (Laughing) Let’s give it a try.  Tell me about your ideal breakfast.  The healthy version.

Caterina:  Coffee, of course, and fruit.  Maybe oatmeal?

Jen:  Oatmeal tends to cause more sugar cravings, how about if we start with more protein and fats.  Let’s use fruit only for the carbohydrate portion of your breakfast. 

Caterina:  Eggs?  Sausage?

Jen:  Do you have time to cook each morning? 

Caterina:  No. 

Jen:  Okay, then how about making an egg and sausage casserole on Sunday with peppers, onions, and spinach and then using that as your daily breakfast.

Caterina:  I could do that.  Oh, and I can wash the fruit and get it ready as well.

Jen:  And just like that, you have a plan and a goal.

Caterina:  Can I still have my coffee and creamer?

Jen: (Laughing) Yes!

Caterina:  Okay, then I agree to the plan.

Jen: Two goals is a great place to get started.  If at anytime it feels overwhelming, it’s important to reach out for help.  It’s possible to make the goals smaller if needed. It’s also possible to change things if emergencies come up.  Your brain may find excuses to keep you from achieving these goals.  It’s normal.  Acknowledge what’s happening and then ask for support.  You’ll find that a few messages or a five minute conversation together is all that’s needed to soothe and reenergize you. 

Caterina:  I can do that.  I feel excited.  And relieved! I thought this would be more…judgmental.  Or maybe more restrictive like a diet or meal plan.  I really enjoyed it!

Jen:  Whenever we communicate, the goal is always to find relief and create energy.  Sometimes it’s just about refocusing your energy or shifting perspective, but it’s always a gentle process.

Caterina:  Thank you.  I know it’s going to be a great week!

Jen:  I can’t wait to see pictures of your incredible breakfast including coffee, and hear about the rush of new and ideal applicants!

Caterina: (Laughing) Me too!

Jen:  Have a great week.  See you next Saturday!

Sunday afternoon I received a text message from Caterina that bubbled with excitement.  She had finished her job description and already posted it.  She was anticipating some applicants already in her email when she went to work on Monday. She also sent me a picture of not one but two different breakfast casseroles.  She froze one and portioned the second one for the week.  She said the berries and peaches were washed and ready to go.  She even bought new containers and an insulated lunch bag to take her breakfast to work on busy days.  I knew her week would be productive and fun.

On Thursday, Caterina had already narrowed her search down to three possible people, and set a goal for herself to make the choice by Friday morning.  She hoped to have the new assistant start on the following Monday. She also reported feeling hungrier, which surprised her.  I told her we would talk about that when we met on Saturday.