When Coaches, David and Shanta got in touch with Carrie to find out if she was willing to share her coaching experience with others in order to benefit those in a similar position, she was pleasantly surprised. It had not occurred to her that she may be able to motivate or inspire someone with her personal journey. Being the generous young lady, she was, whose very nature was to reach out a helping hand to others, she jumped at the idea.
Carrie, the girl next door
Carrie Lim originates from Klang and she studied Food Science nutrition at Taylor’s University on a scholarship. At the point of our interview, she was in the final leg of her qualification, doing an internship program. It was also one year since she completed her pro-bono coaching session with her coach, Foo Chuen Yong, from the International Coach Federation Malaysian Chapter. Carrie was the regular student, chasing her passion to develop herself by participating in a lot of university activities such as being a Student Ambassador, Shine Ambassador, Orientation Leader and getting involved in other club activities such as Nature’s Club. Behind all these activities was a need to break away from her school days typecast of a “bookworm”. And hidden behind these activities was a shy, young girl who did not easily open up to people. All these student activities opened up a world of adventure and friends – and she did make plenty of new friends – but she felt that she had lost her sense of direction. She felt lost. She had no time for herself. And she had slowly neglected her course mates – friends with whom she studied the same subjects – as she pursued friendship with people from different streams. Suddenly she did not fit in with her course mates anymore. She felt isolated during class and lunch breaks were lonely affairs.
Could coaching help Carrie?
It was during this period when Carrie was feeling emotionally low and taking stock of what she really wanted in life that she heard about coaching. The International Coach Federation, Malaysian Chapter (ICFM) worked in partnership with Taylor’s University SHINE Award Programme on various areas and was having weekend workshops at the University on coaching. Being naturally inquisitive she registered for a program. What she heard during the two-and-a-half-hour session was enough to awaken her interest in coaching. So when ICFM offered 10 slots to Shine ambassadors to experience 6 hours of pro-bono coaching, she jumped at the opportunity. She was at that point feeling lost, feeling emotionally unstable and did not know what direction to take in life. Coaching she thought was the life net that could save her. At the same time, she was afraid. Could coaching really help with such a complex issue?
When Carrie signed up for the pro-bono coaching her objective was to get a clear direction on life, to build her confidence level to handle herself and to gain emotional stability. She realised that her emotional state was leading her to make illogical decisions, all based on her negative self-talk such as she was useless, not lovable as her classmates did not include her in their activities, she was not capable of handling things and so on. This led her to close up, which worsened her relationship with her classmates. It also impacted her relationship with her family as she shut them out from the emotional trauma she was going through. She hoped that coaching will bring about that catalyst of change that she so wanted!
When Carrie met Yong
In June 2017, Carrie met her coach, Foo Chuen Yong. She had 6 pro-bono coaching sessions with him on a monthly basis, ending in November 2017. She still vividly recalls her coaching sessions with him. When her coach, Yong asked her what topic she wanted to focus on for the coaching sessions, she did not know. Should she focus on her emotions? Perhaps on her personal life? Or should it be time management? Yong was open and approachable. She found herself pouring her heart to him. She felt that he was really listening to her, that he really cared. That sense of relief she felt to finally be able to confide in someone, to unburden her raw emotions was elating.
She however quickly realised that her coach was not going to hand her all the answers on a silver platter. Oh no! He went beyond that. He believed in her. He knew she had all the answers she needed deep within her. She may not realise her full potential but he did. And he was there to help her discover that, to create that awareness within her. At the end, she was accountable for herself and the actions were all hers to take. He was her partner in the coaching journey she would take, and he will walk with her down the rocky path, providing her support.
Yong asked her open questions on all the issues she raised to him, challenged her on some and got her thinking. Those were powerful questions. Going through each of her issues with her coach, Carrie quickly realised that her confidence and emotions were the root cause of all the trauma she was experiencing in her life. Those will be the first areas to tackle. She also realised that by trying to address all her issues at one go only led to her losing her sense of direction. She was overwhelmed. Yong helped her realise that taking a step at a time will help her resolve her issues. It will take time but clearly identifying the little steps and taking action on them will eventually lead her to her coaching objective to have a clear direction in life and to become more confident.
The first session was focussed on her confidence level. She sometimes found it hard to approach strangers as she felt people were judging her even before she started socialising with them, especially in big groups. Yong guided her to observe her inner critic in action, recognise and acknowledge her inner voice. He guided her to question the validity of her inner voice, to ask herself questions such as “Is that true?” “How do I know that is true?” “What would be the worse-case scenario if I did that? What is the best case?” With these questions, she was able to clearly visualise the worst possible outcome if she opted to take an action – and in most cases they were not really all that bad! – and the missed opportunities if she did not. This technique motivated her to reframe negative thoughts to positive.
Following on from this session, Yong helped her handle her emotions. He got her to reflect on herself, her actions, her emotions. She was frustrated and angry, which made her bad tempered as she could not focus. With Yong’s coaching she realised that when she was in such a state, she had to take a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, calm down and reflect: what triggered her anger? How does the anger serve her?
These realisations were like a spark, a burst of light! She had the choice. She could choose her thoughts which ultimately impacted her emotions. So why think negatively? She could choose to think positively. It was indeed a “aha” moment for her.
In these coaching sessions she felt that Yong was a lifesaver. She walked out of the coaching room feeling upbeat and motivated, eager to take action. She looked forward to the sessions to come.
He is vulnerable too
In subsequent coaching sessions, together with her coach she worked on her social life, on her feeling of being disconnected with her classmates. Although she wanted a closer relationship with them, she was spending too much time with another group who were involved in similar extra-curricular activities. Her classmates’ discussions were largely on fashion and make-up and she had little interest in that area. Slowly over time, she isolated herself from this group. Her coach raised the following questions: how important was this group to her? If the group was important, what steps can be taken to reconnect? Through his questions, Yong made her realise that once again she needed to take little steps to connect. She could start by joining them for lunch and listen – actually listen – to their conversation and make an effort to communicate. She also realised that conversations can be wide ranging – she could expand her area of interest – and she could discuss different topics with different groups of friends.
She experienced another spark in the coaching session on her social life. Her coach, Yong, showed his vulnerable side as he shared his own personal experience. As his work responsibilities took up more of his time, he slowly found himself getting disconnected with his cycling buddies. He felt left out. For Carrie, it was another “aha” moment. She was not alone. There were others who had similar issues. It was how she chose to handle it that counted. The choice was hers. Suddenly, she did not feel very confused anymore. There was a certain clarity. She had to take one step at a time to re-connect.
She now divides her time between her course mates and her extra-curricular mates. It is okay to have different Group of friends and be open to discuss different topics with them. Carrie now pronounces that life is fun.
Carrie was also able to cover time management within the 6 coaching sessions she had with Yong. How could she spend time with the different group of friends, have time for herself and spend quality time with family? Yong helped her prioritise and manage her time. The sessions with Yong helped her gain courage and take action. In the past she was reluctant to drive out to meet friends, wanting to just stay within her comfort zone. She is now motivated to act and to cut down on unproductive activities such as being a couch potato.
Blood is thicker than water
Coaching had helped improve Carrie’s relationship with her family. She makes it a point now to spend more time with them. After all blood is thicker than water. She opened up to her parents on the issues she faced and now gets them involved by seeking their views and advise. She feels closer to them. She also spends time listening to stories told by her 3 siblings of their day’s activity. She found that she could actually learn from their experiences.
Living in the present
Carrie advises that she still is learning to balance her life. It is a continuous journey but the progress is there. Her coaching objective was to understand herself and get clarity on what she wanted. So where was she with her objectives? She used to be confused but not so much now. She realises that she now enjoys the company of her different groups of friends. She accepts the different perspectives shared by the different groups without judging them. She focuses on living in the present moment with these group of friends and to go with the flow.
She has a better understanding of herself. She accepts herself with all her faults. She understands that she sometimes gets bad tempered. She accepts that, realises the need to calm down and choose her behaviour. She can choose to be happy or sad. Why not choose to be happy? Coaching opened that up for her. She is clear on her direction.
Carrie describes herself as having more courage now. If she wanted something she will go for it. She is now a more confident person and she has more fun. Anyone who knows her now will view her as a positive person.
Today is another day
This one year since her coaching sessions ended, Carrie has had health issues. Because of that she was unable to dance for a while, an activity she really enjoys. She, however, is not wallowing in self-pity. She is focused outwards on her health. She realises good health is a high priority and she needs that to achieve her goals. She continually tries to motivate herself through inspirational quotes and tells herself that “today is another day”. She uses open questions on herself like “what do you want to achieve today?”, “what do you want to handle first?” Based on her answers e.g “I want to be happy” she asks herself further questions:” what will make you happy?”. And she takes one little step at a time…using the skills that she learned from her coach Yong.
Then and now
Getting Carrie to reflect on where she was in May 2017, before she started on her coaching journey, and where she is today, one year after completing her coaching journey, she had this observation:
In May 2017 she had a negative mindset. She feels that everyone goes through a bad spell in their life and it is our choice on how we wish to handle it. It was a tough year and she is happy she came out of her comfort zone and cleared her fears. She likens herself to a little girl who was lost, did not want to open up and stayed entrapped within herself.
A year later, that little girl has blossomed into a young lady who is more joyful, motivated and open minded and loves hanging out with her friends. She has the confidence and courage to do what she really wants. She is now more positive and she has a clear direction. She is not lost anymore. Coaching helped her feel more empowered and it encouraged her to adopt a positive mindset. But at the end, it was her actions alone that made that difference!
The future is yours to take, Carrie
This spunky young lady now looks forward to the future in anticipation. She sees herself as a powerful lady with a clear sense of direction. She knows what she wants and will go for it. Her goal is to be a leader in an organisation handling food research and development and a protagonist for healthy lifestyle. She sees that as her Corporate Social Responsibility. In terms of relationship, she sees her close ones with happy smiles on their faces. On a scale of 1 – 10 where 10 is the perfect picture she had painted for herself and 1 the lower end, she rates herself a 5. That is because she is currently an intern and will need to get a stable job to move her to a 6 and therefrom to gain the necessary experience to move on to the next level.
We wish you all the best Carrie. Take one step at a time and remain positive! We want to thank you for taking that courageous step to join both David and Shanta in this interview. We believe your warm and honest story will help others who find themselves in your similar situation. It was sheer pleasure talking to such a genuine and positive young lady.
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Interviewed and authored by: