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My Studies Have Changed My Life – by Penny Barker

Posted 735 Days Ago in: Coaching Articles

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My self-development journey has taken me full circle through a career as a veterinary surgeon, programme manager and management consultant and back again. My first experience of coaching was on the Leadership Programme for one of the Big 4 consultancy companies. I was writing my business case for promotion and through the coaching process, I realised that whilst it was a great job that paid well, it didn’t fit in with my personal values. I wasn’t desperately unhappy, but something just wasn’t right. I ended up writing my business case to leave the firm and return to vetting, taking a considerable salary cut but doing something I loved.

I’ve been into endurance sports for many years and in 2014, I embarked on a 3 campaign to complete solo Race Across America (RAAM). At 3070 miles coast-to-coast across the USA with only 12 days to finish, it is considered one of the world’s toughest bicycle races. It crosses 2 deserts and 3 mountain ranges and with minimal sleep, it would explore the limits of my own physical and mental capability.

I started blogging about my journey through training and the qualification races on my website and Facebook. I am nothing special as an athlete, I was just following my dreams and I wanted to inspire others to do the same, however big or small those dreams may be. I hoped that through “walking my talk”, it would encourage others to challenge their own limits and fears.

I am innately curious, particularly about how our minds work and was also acutely aware that endurance events are mostly a mental challenge. I had read various books around sports psychology and had some personal experience of NLP. I’d also sat through all my husband’s NLP DVDs when he did his NLP Practitioner with the Coaching Academy! I had seen a hugely positive change in him which made me even more curious. He had also started his Personal Performance Diploma and we started to discuss coaching in more detail.

In Autumn 2016, I had a bit of a “road-to-Damascus” moment. I realised that whilst I wanted to inspire people to start their own self-development journey, it could be so much more powerful if I could empower them as well and that coaching was a way to help facilitate this. I was so excited that I enrolled on the next TCA weekend event and came back buzzing! I decided to enrol on the Protégé Programme as I also want to work in the Corporate sector doing leadership coaching and team development; helping others through the same processes that had helped me early on. There’s also the bonus of a TCA coach, which I knew would be beneficial as I tried to tackle RAAM.

I was struggling to fit training for RAAM alongside the long hours of my veterinary work so at Christmas I took a deep breath, stopped being a full-time vet and devoted myself to training and studying for both my NLP Practitioner and my PPD, aiming to qualify before I raced RAAM in June. 

Put simply, what I got out of both my PPD and NLP has changed my life! The quality of my relationships has improved, I am acutely aware of what’s important in life and I’m far more structured in my approach. NLP blew me away; I hadn’t expected it to have such a profound effect on me personally, something many of my fellow students echoed. I passed both my NLP Practitioner and PPD and have now started my Small Business and Corporate Diplomas which complement each other and also make me think hard about my own business.

It is very early days but I have a very clear vision of what I want to achieve. I don’t have a “niche”, as at the moment I want to work more broadly. My “USP” is my range of career experience across both the corporate and the veterinary sector, as well as my endurance background. I enjoy using my business background to help support small business owners as well as providing leadership and team development coaching and training. I am delighted to have the opportunity to be able to support the veterinary profession through coaching and resilience training, working alongside Carolyne Crowe from the TCA and to be able to give back to a profession that has given so much to me!

I love being a coach and being able to raise people’s self-awareness. I really believe that the more self-aware you are, the more contented and less stressed you can be because you are able to understand how you respond to situations and make better choices in all aspects of your life. My favourite coaching question is “What surprised you about what you’ve learnt?” This makes clients think and quite often they realise that they had a little lightbulb moment about themselves without realising.

For anyone looking at coaching, get on TCA’s 2-Day course; even if you decide that coaching isn’t for you, it’s an incredibly positive experience and a chance to spend a bit of time reflecting about your life. 

For those just starting out in training, get stuck into coaching and get your first practical booked. The feedback from the practical assessments was instrumental to my development. I had one assessment that didn’t go as well as the others; the feedback was fair and very constructive and although difficult to hear, when I’d taken it on board it was quite literally “the difference that made the difference” to my coaching. Use all the TCA resources and your fellow coaches. 

For those just starting out, I’d recommend “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, taking time to work out your personal “Why, How and What”. It’s often when we deviate from our Why or get buried in the intricacies of What that we lose ourselves and start to panic. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers now - as Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots forward, you can only connect them backwards”. 

If Penny's words have inspired you and you feel that Coaching could be a potential full or part time opportunity for you, or if you would just like to know a little more about what Coaching is and how it can benefit you and the lives of others, please contact our Specialist Course Advisor, Jamil on 0208 996 4830 or email: Jamil@the-coaching-academy.com

Start your own coaching journey today - book your space on our free 2-Day Life Coaching course.

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