Do you ever feel like a square peg in a round hole?
Alison’s big smile and infectious enthusiasm make her a fabulous addition to my Passion Projects series. Living your values, even when you are a square peg in a round hole!
Alison Muir of Square Peg Coaching
A Passion Project Interview with Alison Muir
Why did you decide to do what you’re doing? Tell your ‘Origin Story’
I “fell into” a corporate career as I had no real idea about what I wanted to do. The ideas I’d had at school, to be a teacher – I couldn’t think of a subject I wanted to teach, plus I was terrified of standing up and speaking to a group, or something in the travel industry – poorly paid, shift work, and the benefits of low-cost travel were limited to “standby” travel and didn’t suit my need to be organised, got me nowhere.
Corporate life gave me stability and the chance to develop and progress which suited my values of independence, understanding and peace (I’ve posted two blogs diving into this more). Unfortunately, it was also stressful and unfulfilling.
In 1999 I became a single mum after my marriage broke down so I switched into “keeping going” mode and getting more and more stressed and frustrated as I went.
In 2009 I remarried and the opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up so I took it and trained to be a Body Control Pilates Instructor –
a) because Pilates had “saved” my back from my desk created issues, and my sanity by giving me 75 minutes a week focussing on nothing but my body
b) because I wanted to do something that would help other people live a full life and
c) to push me to stand up in front of a group of people and teach – to see if I could.
I taught for a couple of years but wasn’t really business savvy and couldn’t earn a sustainable income from it so I returned to corporate life, but luckily for me at Innocent Drinks. Their way of working, enthusiasm, dedication, passion and clearly communicated (and lived) values took the edge off what felt like a failure.
The right fit for a square peg
Fast forward to 2015 and I had moved on from Innocent because it was on the other side of London to me, and had worked at a couple of more local firms (one of which demonstrated just how bad companies can be at valuing, respecting, and developing their staff). I ended up working for a firm which had some great ideas and invested in its people. But which also had a fairly defined idea of what an ideal employee would be like. I came in to manage a team which had a couple of “square pegs” in it.
I loved working with them and helping them progress and realised I was actually pretty good at helping people understand their strengths, behaviours, impact and choices. This was the work I enjoyed doing but it felt too limiting to only focus on “work-life”.
At the start of 2016 we discovered that my cousin, who was 6 months older than me, had terminal brain cancer. He was given 14 months to live. This diagnosis felt so unfair. He had a wife and three young girls and ran his parent’s business. He was always ready with a joke or a helping hand for anyone. Suddenly all my lack of fulfilment in my job and my complaints about the traffic made me realise that I was “wasting” my life.
What was happening to my cousin could just as easily have happened to me and I realised I had never (except for Pilates) done anything that really made a difference.
Suddenly I felt suffocated by my corporate career, the mortgage we had to pay, the money we had to earn just to escape and lie on a sunbed to recover from the stress of work.
It all seemed crazy and pointless.
So having chatted to my husband, we decided to move to Somerset. I trained as a Transformational Coach so I could expand what I had enjoyed at work (helping others move forward) to helping people create a life which they find meaningful and fulfilling – so they don’t end up where I did, feeling they’ve wasted a life.
One of my favourite things to keep me focussed is the number one regret of the dying (from the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware) which is:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
And when I get scared (which I do on a regular basis) I think of my cousin Alan which puts my fear into perspective.
What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to work?
Read and learn more, travel the world, take courses on things that interest me, walk in nature, be present to every single moment.
What really makes you smile from the inside out?
When my clients believe in themselves again.
What is your proudest achievement?
Overcoming my fear and becoming a Pilates instructor.
Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?
Settled in my business, offering coaching, meditation, and Pilates retreats, and travelling more.
Who do you serve? Be specific, think of everyone you impact (not just customers)
Anyone who feels life is passing them by, who doubts themselves and their worth. And anyone in contact with those people because guaranteed those frustrations will be taken out on the people closest to them – and they won’t be able to explain why.
How do you want the world to see your business?
Helping people to feel whole again so they can change the world.
What one thing would you do to change the world?
Create an education system that supports children to develop self-awareness, value individuality, and encourages them to focus on what’s best for the world and all its species, rather than financial gain and status. More being present, less keeping busy.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Teleportation so I could travel around the world easily and meet inspiring people.
Go to university.
And finally, is there one thing you wish someone had told you before you went into business?
I wish I’d known how important it is to ask for help/collaborate with others before I launched my Pilates business and tried to do it all on my own.
My favourite answer: “Helping people to feel whole again so they can change the world.”
Thank you to Alison for sharing her story.
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