I found my happy place in Life Coaching. When I started my training I immediately knew that this is what I was meant to do. I have never felt before this feeling of constantly riding a big wave, excited, happy, that feeling of achievement.
I moved to Life Coaching from a successful, award winning career in User Experience Design, a profession I choose because I wanted to make the world better one experience at a time. My world was not always a happy place. I fought with mild depression, anxiety, obesity, toxic people. I lacked confidence, I felt was not enough, there was always something missing. I have been there, I know how tough it can be. As I also know that there is a way forward.
I grew up in the beautiful suburbs of Holargos in Athens, Greece, which used to be a holiday destination in the 50s, imagine that! I spent my childhood learning every kind of ‘No’. No to socializing: other kids only want to hurt me. Kids lie and want to succeed over my dead body. No to having too much fun: fun is for reckless people who end up in jail or homeless or drug addicts or all of the above. No to creativity: art will make me an artist who will be selling paintings on the street, cold and hungry. No to being myself: the family, the neighbours, the world is constantly watching me, judging me and that would reflect badly. When years later Dawn Penn releases ‘No, no, no’ , I could not relate more.
Some basic ‘Yes’s are also to be learned. Yes to studying: doctors, lawyers, some engineers are well respected and that’s the kind of life I deserve. Everything else is, you know, for dumb people. Yes to eating: food is good, food is great, food is love, the centre of every festivity, celebration, the expression of every emotion. Yes to flight: in the suspicion of a remotely unsafe situation, from a yell to a boys’ fight, I should run away. If I get involved in any way, it is always my fault, fight is never an option.
Depression and obesity were already knocking at my door at the age of 14, as if puberty is not enough on its own. I am making sure I am surrounded by people with serious issues, broken one might call them, to make sure my issues seem smaller. In line with that, I am thinking of getting a job that would help people get healthier. I will feel needed.
I was in my early 20s with a BSc Biomedical Engineering at hand. My true self is looking for ways to make the world better around me. While I am doing my MSc in Data Communications, I am also working for the Uni that was offering it. There I focused on research for usability of websites and that’s how I discovered User Experience. I am thinking, ‘I will make the world better, one experience at a time’.
Through work, I became an expert in User Experience, rose from junior in Greece to Manager in the UK in the course of 15 years. Imagine Rambo but for career progression. I set impossible, fast track goals which I am shedding blood and tears to achieve and still am deeply unhappy. 2014 was the year I moved from Athens, Greece to London, UK, one of my best moves so far. One year before that, I had to deal with the passing of my father to cancer. Although I left toxic people and situations behind me, I never managed to escape the toxic behaviours I developed over the course of 37 years. I am feeding them for so long, they are my best friends. It’s my Titanic and I am not letting go.
I am fully embracing the London fast train. I am looking for and demanding recognition everywhere I can, including my romantic life. I did not have a significant other for years, enjoying the instant reward of fast love. I can genuinely cannot tell anymore if I am unhappy or sick. That’s when I decide I need to have some blood tests before I look into my mental health. When my GP got the results back, he called me to his practice in panic mode, squeezed me between 2 regular appointments. “Harry, I have bad news for you, you have a brain tumour, it is cancer“, he said as he is already pushing me out the door. You know that movie moment, where the lead role sees flashes of his life passing by? That was the turning point for me, the first ‘AHA’ moment. Not to be confused with the band A-HA.
From that moment on I decide that I will change my priorities. I will put myself on the top of the list, and that was a loooong list full of first world problems. I am blessed with good friends who stand by, nurture and love me, I am very grateful for that. I have the support network, I have the will, but still not seeking professional help for my well-being. My self-pity monster is still hungry. I move along on my own. The first step to my well-being is getting my medication to deal with my benign adenoma. No, it is not cancer, thanks doctor for the wild ride.
User Experience has already offered me data and a deeper look on neuroscience and human behaviour. I have all this knowledge but I cannot put it altogether. I keep reading and researching. I further my education on CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This looks like an intervention, I like it. I am practicing CBT to myself with the support of my hormones coming to regular levels due to medication. I am now looking into Life Coaching.
One year on and I can see results. Small results yet powerful motivators. This is actually working, it is not just theory. I can understand the world a little better and see things through a different perspective. I open up socially and random people are approaching me, sharing their deepest thoughts. I am chatting away at a coffee place, a pub or bus station and people will thank me later for the big help I offered to them. Meanwhile, I am just doing what I always do: being empathetic, listening actively and offering my support. I am thinking ‘If I can have this impact on random people on a short street talk, while enjoying it myself immensely, how can I offer my support in a structured way that has the maximum effect?’. I am rubbing the Life Coaching lamp, and the Genie slowly appears.
Putting my knowledge of human behaviour together with CBT and neuroscience I am now rewiring my life one aspect at a time. I am teaching myself to eat healthy and control my cravings, start loving regular exercise, gain confidence. I am building the power to effectively manage my anxious nature, dealing with persisting thoughts and fears, clearing my, usually cloudy, mind. I am now able to focus more, thus able to learn even faster, speeding up the process.
Then COVID arrives. Everyone is panicking around me, I see it as an opportunity to maximise my personal development. My daily routine now includes meditation, physical exercise, rewiring. I am getting fitter with visible results, I am more focused, I am reading even more books. Life Coaching was just an inception in my head. I had several work and life plans hanging around as ideas. I was moving forward with none. It was then when I decided to get myself a Life Coach. We worked with my Coach on untangling my priorities, set them straight, create steps to achieve them. One of my top priorities was to become a Life Coach. Fast forward 3 months and everything is in place, like the Tetris pieces that fall in line:
Most importantly, I found myself. We started dating early this year, 2020 and started living together since March. I said ‘I love you’ to myself for the first time ever on August 2020, a humongous milestone for us. Can you believe I love me ever since? We are at this stage where we are completing each other’s sentences and soon we will be one. This is the real change. This is what makes me ecstatic, fills my soul, makes me wake each morning with anticipation and energy to deal with anything. I am past the Happy Gate moving onwards. I am HAPPY and I want to scream that to the whole world. Now it’s time to help other people find their HAPPY as this happens to make me happy 🙂 .