One powerful question did it for me.
In this particular case, it was my husband who asked the right question over a glass of wine on a Friday night, as we chatted about nothing and everything. He simply asked, 'Is there anything you would like to do for your 40th?'
I will be celebrating my 40th birthday next year, and my instant reaction was to think of a weekend away, possibly featuring something sparkly. But over the following days, as I mulled it over, I started to hear his question slightly differently.
“Is there anything you would like to do by the time you’re 40?”
In coaching, we are trained to listen and to ask the right questions so our clients can uncover the path to what they want. It’s a way of peeling back the layers in a supportive way that raises the client’s self-awareness, so that they can get not only to the heart of what they want, but also to understand their motivation for wanting it.
It’s a constant source of satisfaction to me when I can visibly see my clients come to a realisation, a new sense of where they are and where they want to be. Sometimes, this is done through what we refer to as powerful questions. When I started out in coaching, I used to think powerful questions were tough to come up with. Maybe they needed to be well articulated; maybe the coach needed a thesaurus to find the perfect phrasing. I quickly realised that powerful questions are just ones that make us think - it is no more clever than that.
I have no fear of getting older. I am happier and more content now than I have ever been, and I see no reason as to why life can’t continue to get better. But facing this milestone has made me think more about my health. As my children get older I see how much they need me, and I suppose the idea of a ‘big’ birthday has somehow crept into my subconscious.
39 years of stop-starting with exercise (mainly stopping) has been an on-going frustration for me on some level. I was never sporty; I half-heartedly attempted pregnancy yoga, as it was what people did; I did the women’s mini marathon once years ago, but loathed every minute of the training. Where were these endorphins everyone kept going on about? I guess I have never found my groove with exercise. Before now, my motivation would have been vanity-led. I could easily diet to fit into a dress in the short-term; but when it came to actually building exercise into my lifestyle, I found every excuse under the sun to avoid it - “I don’t have time/I’m too tired/It’s raining out/It’s too expensive”.
But something changed the day my husband asked that question. As a coach, I believe we all have the answers to our own questions, so I know now that on some level I had been asking that question of myself for some time.
And, finally, I was ready to face it. What I really want for my 40th is to be someone who exercises. I don’t want to be an athlete - this isn’t about losing weight; I just want to be someone who can run 5k without collapsing and without it being a big deal. Just another part of life.
So, it’s very early days for me, but here’s what I did to start what I’m calling 'Operation 40':
I got a small group of friends to get on board, and we are supporting each other to start exercising regularly. Even if we don’t actually head out together, we are inspiring and encouraging each other through the wonder of WhatsApp!
My husband is with me every step of the way. In a practical sense, that means he comes home from work in time to put the kids to bed and to clean up the house afterwards, so that I can get out while I still have the energy. He also pushes me out the door when I don’t want to go, and I am always thankful afterwards - even though he might describe it slightly differently! He is constantly telling me how proud he is of me, as he knows this is way outside my comfort zone.
I find the time in my week to exercise. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, or it’s two days back-to-back and nothing for the rest of the week, or it’s a walk rather than a jog. I know it’s better than nothing.
I keep thinking of why I am doing it. Other than it’s a personal goal of mine, I also want my daughters to grow up seeing that it’s normal to exercise. It’s OK for girls to sweat and be red-faced!
I’m planning a reward. I’m not sure what it is yet, but one can assume it will be something sparkly!
In a coaching sense, what I’ve done is to build a framework for success. I know my goal, I know my motivation, I have a support network around me and I will reward myself when I get there.
So, now it’s over to you. What question are you waiting to ask yourself? And how are you going to answer it?