I Signed Up for Career Coaching. What I Got Helped Me Find My Professional Purpose
Generally, I turn up my nose when people turn nouns into verbs, like sunsetting, friending, or, for that matter, verbing. But I make an exception for visioning, as in, figuring out your future, because of Priya Parker.
Priya’s probably best known for her book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. But, in addition to being a writer and researcher, Priya’s a conflict resolution facilitator. She coaches people to calmly lead their organization, political party, or country, through a tough transition. Years ago, she helped regular people, like me, figure out what the heck to do with their lives, through a process she called a “Visioning Lab.”
My second child was out of diapers and I was trying to figure out what to do next with my journalism career. Was it possible to put myself on a professional path to being both well paid and morally satisfying? In addition to being a mother of two, what was “the purpose of my human,” as Hannah Gadsby asks in her excellent TED talk?
I found Priya through an acquaintance who, after listening to me describe my state of mind over coffee, said, “I know just the person you need to see.” Priya was winding down this part of her business, but agreed to take me on as one of her last individual clients. I paid for a series of three-hour sessions, hoping they’d be worth the hours away from my kids (and the freelance work I needed to cover the cost). They were. I’d describe our encounters as career coaching meets a (positive) acid trip. She’d asked me rather intimidating and nebulous questions, like: What is it that I know how to do? How do I want to spend my time? What is the biggest need in the world that I might have the passion and capacity to address? Just typing those existential questions right now is enough to give me a panic attack. But Priya broke down the thought process so that the answers bubbled to the surface of my churning mind. How? She made me see my future with intense specificity.
For example, in one session, she instructed me to lie on the ground, close my eyes, and envision myself at my 80th birthday party. She had me describe…