I’ve often mused that that trick is life is figuring out what you want, especially in this world that is overflowing with options and opinions.  After all, it was the Cheshire cat in the story of Alice in Wonderland who wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  It’s not enough to know what we don’t want, which is the less than powerful place we often navigate from.  The question is what do you really want?  What does your heart long for?  But cultivating a direction requires some careful thought and often some courage.  Without it, we can end up living someone else’s version of our story, rather than the one we were meant to create.

Navigate from a place of what you want, not what you don’t

I’ll share a personal example to illustrate this point.  For the last couple of years, I’ve been figuring this out for myself, as I further refine my idea of my business, my calling in life and my priorities.  I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions – What do I want my business to be?  How do I want it to grow?  Do I even want it to grow?  What do I want my life to look like?  Who is my ideal client?  How am I meant to serve? 

And the answers are not often super straightforward because life will test us on this path.  Charismatic colleagues and friends will show up with exciting business opportunities, saying things like, You need to introduce more products into your business so you can generate passive income!  Or – I’ve got an idea or dream of creating something large and scalable where we’ll hire other coaches and build a coaching powerhouse of a business.  Think big, think Lencioni and the Table Group.  Think Kornferry.  We can charge big money, travel the world, farm out the work and live high on the hog!  Or – You’re such a talented coach, you’d be crazy to define your niche so narrowly and just work with women. 

Options and possibilities are a wonderful thing indeed, but there is a dark side.  When you don’t have a clear direction for where you want to go, it’s easy to get seduced and swept away by someone else’s vision.  And I can be just that person, considering I’m a natural enabler and want to see folks that I care about be successful and achieve their goals.  Plus, sometimes it’s just easier frankly to ride someone else’s wave.  You don’t have to think too hard.  You don’t have to do your own heavy lifting and your own deep work.  And we also get seduced because you don’t have to take accountability when you’re riding someone else’s wave – if it’s not a success you can always point the finger and blame them instead.

Serve your soul, not your ego

I’m realizing there’s something so powerful in recognizing who you are and putting a stake in the ground that this is who I am, and this is how I serve.  And that vision doesn’t have to be BIG, just for the sake of being big.  To be focused on constant growth and profitability, just to serve my ego or to impress someone.  Surprisingly, the more comfortable I become in my skin and really know who I am as a coach, operating my practice with integrity and authenticity is enough.

Maybe creating products for passive income is a good idea but it’s something I don’t feel compelled to do now, because my focus is on my coaching practice.  My coaching practice is where I get my energy from.  It excites me to think about the work I do with my clients, how coaching is instrumental in changing their lives by helping them develop clarity of direction, confidence in their skills and abilities and compassion for themselves. 

Maybe creating a large-scale coaching business could be a good idea, but I love the autonomy of having my own practice, working 1:1 with others and being close to the impact.  The last thing I want is to find myself thinking about operational issues and processes, excel spreadsheets and kpi reports.  That used to be my life, and there was a reason I left it.

And regarding my niche for career coaching, working with high performing women who are hard on themselves brings me the most fulfillment and joy.  So I recently put that stake in the ground.  It’s about having the right clients that I can make a real difference with versus more clients just for the sake of more.

It’s taken me many years and many wrong turns to get to this point.  And frankly it takes courage to say no to the offer or the special opportunity, as flattering as it may be.  To know the difference between a decision that will serve your ego and one that will truly feed your soul.

Coaching Questions for Thought:

  • What does your soul ache for?  Long for? 
  • What are the things you currently do to get validation from others?  What would happen if that need wasn’t there?  What would change in your life?

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients develop clarity, confidence, and compassion for self.  She is particularly adept at working with high performing women who are hard on themselves.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

  1. Marsha Steffek November 30, 2023 at 8:52 pm


  2. Deborah Reidy December 3, 2023 at 6:28 pm

    Love it! What a great example you’re setting.