Laurie May Coyle
Leading By Example
I’ve been a mother for just over three years now. I have written much about mothering, spoken much about mothering, discussed and discussed and discussed mothering and parenting and all its ups and downs — with friends, colleagues, family members and strangers, on my blog, in person, in my classes and in the grocery store checkout. I have parsed the words of many many authors who have written on pregnancy, birth, infancy, parenting and everything in-between, distilled down their meaning and read between the lines, and also followed some of their exact “plans” of action (for at least a week!) for everything from sleep-training to breastfeeding and everything in-between. I derive much joy from being able to tell others what to do, and show that I know what I’m talking about because-see-I-read-it-here.
As it happens, though, I am learning in my life and career, that it’s not so much about telling-what-to-do as it is about leading, showing-by-example and exploring for myself and seeing what works. That’s where the magic happens.
This is the case in parenting and in coaching, and in friendships and stranger-interactions. No one wants to be told what to do, whether from a book or a movie or an expert or a friend (or, gasp, a parent!). We all want to weigh in on what we’re being presented with, and find for ourselves what works. Especially toddlers.
I find this has been the case in my parenting and in my creativity, and in my new found career path as a life and health coach.
I can compare helping a client find her way to optimal health through eating more veggies to, well, leading my daughter to find her way to optimal health through eating more veggies. Neither of them wants me to tell them what to do. Though they do look to me for guidance, for example (I’d better be eating my veggies, too!) and for accountability. And sometimes for something to resist and argue with, but I’m ok with that. That’s my role.
I can see that my daughter would be very upset with me if I didn’t “know what’s best” for her — she even said that once, in her squeaky, adorable three year-old voice, “you’re the mama, you’re supposed to know what’s good for me!” (I’m pretty sure that was after she hadn’t taken a piece of my advice and had fallen off of something she shouldn’t have been climbing on, but who’s keeping track?)
So I don’t tell them what to do, the client or the toddler. I am charged with gently guiding, letting them discover for themselves how powerful and knowledgeable they already are. And when it comes to green veggies, if we keep mentioning them or putting them on the table and eating them ourselves, they’re both bound to take a bite. And then another and another until it becomes a habit.
And I can gaze on with satisfaction, knowing they’re doing what’s right for them and they feel like they came up with it all on their own and they figured it out themselves. And really, they did do it themselves, with a little help, a little push and a little encouragement. That is my job, now as a coach and definitely as a parent.
I think I was looking for that from all those books I read about parenting. I wanted some hand holding, some cheer leading and some instruction. I wanted to know which way was the “right” way. To feed my child, to birth my child, to toilet-train my child and so on. I found this kind of hand-holding and cheer leading in-person with the amazing team of midwives that attended our home birth — and I remember eventually putting those pregnancy and delivery books aside when I met them, because they seemed to know everything I ever needed to know and I could call them anytime I needed them, and they would answer, with a thoughtful, knowledgeable answer and then a little question about how I felt and how my body was doing — giving me the opportunity to check in with myself.
That was my first glimpse of an accountability partner. They were there for me, encouraged me and led me through a very tough time (i.e. childbirth) and knew that I would make it through and have a beautiful and healthy baby as the outcome. They held steady in their visions for my future, and it was so powerful to have them on my side. I have used that example in my parenting and now in my coaching, everyday since I met them.
I see in my parenting that leading by example is the only way to go. I know I can get a little too up-in-my-heads about the “right” way to do things (i.e. parenting, learning, healthy eating, childbirth etc.), and I want to pass on all that I know to my daughter. However, when I lean back and let her take my hand and we just sit in the present moment and I’m showing her the way by being me, that is when the whole world opens up to the possibility of an easy, joyful way.
Time slows down a little bit and I’m able to sit with myself, accept myself for my flaws and truths, and really see the person in front of me, whether it’s a client or my toddler. I’m able to hold their hand, encourage them, and cheer lead for them. Without judgment and with heaps of compassion for the reality at hand — it really is easy, and it really is joyful, even when it’s also messy and challenging.
And I believe easy and joyful is always the “right” way, no matter what any book tells you.
To your artful life,
Laurie Coyle is a Life Design Coach, Artist and Mama, melding her passions for unconventional living, mothering, nutrition, art, design and personal development. She inspires creativity, abundance and health in the lives and businesses of artful entrepreneurs (while empowering them to stop doing shit they don’t want to do!). She helps overwhelmed, multi-passionate creative women find their true path and make money from their calling, so they can live more creative, fulfilled and happy lives.
She lives with her husband and daughter among the trees on a shady hillside in South Lee, MA, along with one dog and one cat, who mostly get along. She works with entrepreneurs and wannabe-entrepreneurs through one-on-one coaching, group programs and courses, both online and in-person, to create systems and strategies for busting through fears and soaring to the heights they only dream of. She’ll help you find the most healthy, sustainable and thrilling path to the life and business of your dreams, with ease, grace and heaps of joy.