We’re taking another break this week from our series on Optimal Wellness to introduce you to Amy Haas, the newest addition to the LifeTrek Coaching staff. In the weeks ahead, you will be reading Amy’s thoughts on the Life-Work Equation as she shares her wisdom on what it takes to juggle the demands of career, children, and all that goes with them. We trust that you will appreciate Amy as much as we do and that you will look forward to incorporating her voice on the trek of life. Enjoy!
If you have contacted LifeTrek for coaching at any point during the past six months, then you may have already met Amy Haas, our Client Placement Coach. Amy is the newest member of the LifeTrek Coaching staff and, starting next week, she will begin contributing a series of Parenting Pathways on the Life-Work Equation to our weekly newsletter. We thought it was time, therefore, to introduce you to Amy and to bring her profile into view on our Website.
Q: So tell us a little about yourself and how you found LifeTrek Coaching?
A: Well, like Erika, I met and got to know you (Bob) long before there even was a LifeTrek Coaching. You hired me, back in 1994, to handle the accounting at First Congregational Church in Columbus, Ohio. That was during your former life, as a pastor, and the experience at First Church proved to be transformational.
Before that time, I had been on a career-track in business. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from Gwynedd Mercy College, near Philadelphia where I grew up, in 1986. I had started college as a Chemical Engineering major at the University of Pittsburgh thinking I would follow in my father’s footsteps. I tried to make that work for two years but accounting and finance was a much better fit. I did meet the love of my life at Pitt and although neither of us stayed there to graduate, we stayed together and have been married for 18 years.
While at Gwynedd Mercy, I had a professor who both taught at the school and had his own accounting practice. The combination and flexibility of his professional pursuits was very appealing to me and he persuaded me • by teaching and example — that I could do something similar. The accounting profession was a great fit for me to put my analytical and people skills to their best use. And, although I never added the role of professor to my resume, the role of teacher has been a passion of mine that I have indulged and fostered since college. That’s part of what makes LifeTrek so appealing to me.
I married my husband, Dan Haas, in 1988 and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he was working as a resident and Masters candidate in the Hospital Pharmacy Administration program at The Ohio State University. Since they hired him upon graduation, we stayed on in Columbus. I went to work for one of the Big 8 Accounting Firms (today that firm is one of the Big 4) and became a CPA. My colleagues and I worked all the time • 60 hours a week was the standard, and it was often more.
Ironically, without kids in the picture, I thrived in that environment. I loved working toward a deadline, the press to get things done, and I was good at it. I also found the time to exercise and volunteer for organizations that I cared passionately about. But it quickly became clear that that lifestyle was not going to work if I wanted to have a family. So I made the first of many decisions based upon my calculation of what it would take to work and have a life too: I decided to leave public accounting.
Interestingly, I left my next position for the same reason albeit around different dynamics. I went to work for a client where I had a much less demanding and a much more flexible work schedule. I became pregnant within a year and was in the best physical shape of my life. That part was great, but my supervisor was incompetent and that made my life miserable (as well as the lives of many others). When the company refused to make any personnel changes, I again made a decision based upon my calculation of what it would take to have a better life: I decided to leave.
That was a big deal since now I had the first of my two children and we suddenly lost a big chunk of income. But I knew I had to leave, and I took action trusting that things would work out.
I tried the stay-at-home-mom thing for about three months. It only took that long to realize I needed something more. I did a little work for a friend of mine who was starting his own practice, but that still wasn’t enough. I started seriously looking for work just when First Church started advertising for a bookkeeper. That position, which combined the bookkeeping and controller functions, was way below the level at which I was used to functioning. But I made an immediate connection with the staff and I was intrigued by the work environment. It was different than anything I had ever done before, with lots of opportunities to get involved in the life of the organization beyond the scope of my job description. So I decided to take the job.
Q. What were some of those opportunities and did they make the job worthwhile?
A. If it weren’t for those other opportunities I would not have stayed for 4 years. Where else could you come to work and take breaks in a beautiful Gothic cathedral while listening to live music by artists who some would call local icons! Where else could you come to work as an accountant and get involved with teaching Sunday school, planning Vacation Bible School, sharing input on artwork and music and how best to assist those in need! Where else could you bring your baby to work, nurse her at your desk and set up nap time inches from your feet, without getting in trouble! Where else could you come to work with people who truly loved you! As Tom Rath would say, my bucket was very full indeed.
That proved to be a big deal for me, because I started having a variety of serious health problems while working at First Church. In retrospect, I think my body was trying to tell me, even back then, that the stress of super-mom was not part of the life-work equation. I developed a seizure disorder and several other neurological challenges that I continue to live with to this day (although I now manage them more successfully, through active stress management). The people at First Church were more than just supportive and understanding; my condition became part of the community experience that we worked and lived with as a team. I was never made to feel bad or judged for my condition; I was accepted and loved through it all.
Q. That’s because you are so loveable! As someone who was never a member of the church, and who didn’t even come from the same faith tradition, I remember being struck by how much you gave of yourself beyond the limits of your job description.
A. There was no other way for me to be happy in that job • like I said, I wouldn’t have stayed otherwise. I could have done the “limits of the job description” in my sleep. It was the other things that made the job worthwhile. I came to recognize it as a place where I could use all my gifts, not just those required by my job. By expanding my horizons to other people and opportunities in my environment, by paying attention to the things that interested and energized me, by extending myself in a wide variety of areas I filled myself with life. It was a lesson that is part of the calculus in the life-work equation, and I feel grateful for having learned it when I did.
Q. So how does that factor into your work now, with LifeTrek Coaching?
A. I left First Church not long after Bob did, back in 1998. Since that time, we have stayed in touch and I have taken more than a casual interest in what has been happening with LifeTrek Coaching. Not only do I respect what LifeTrek stands for and does in the world, I also see a connection between coaching and my work as a public accountant. And, like I mentioned before about my passion for the role of teacher, coaching seems like a natural progression.
Public accountants are in the business of helping our clients be successful. We come into organizations not to run them but to make sure they handle the financial piece correctly. So many companies get in trouble because they drop this ball. They may have a great product or service, but if they don’t manage their money properly, they will be out of business in no time.
So I think many public accountants • and this has certainly been true for me • are in the same business as coaches only with a more narrow focus. We help people to be successful. I have enjoyed my role as teacher / trainer / mentor in my various positions probably more than any other aspect of the job. LifeTrek Coaching gives me an opportunity to further that role on an expanded stage.
I could not have been more thrilled when Bob called me about six months ago to handle some of the initial intake interviews with people who contact us for coaching. I don’t know if Bob realized it at the time, but the prospect of working with LifeTrek Coaching filled me great joy. Not only would it give me a new way to serve and to develop myself professionally, it would also get us working together again. I was ecstatic to become part of the LifeTrek Coaching team.
Q. Beyond LifeTrek having a need, our successful past collaborations were certainly part of what made us think to offer you the position of Client Placement Coach. Tell us how things are going.
A. It’s very cool. To be contacted by total strangers from all around the world and to connect with them about how LifeTrek Coaching could add value to their lives • what could be better than that? When the connection works, and when I have great conversations with people about how LifeTrek could assist them, it just makes me feel great.
Q. Six months into your position with LifeTrek Coaching, you now plan to write a series of Parenting Pathways on the life-work equation and to start coach training in the New Year. Tell us more about where those interests come from and what’s stirring inside you.
A. Well, first I want to acknowledge the empowering environment within LifeTrek Coaching. Bob may be the President with clear standards for LifeTrek, but each of us is encouraged to pursue our own interests and to offer whatever we can to the organization. That’s a big part of what kept me at First Church and I’m sure it’s a big part of why LifeTrek has been successful.
In my case, I have always loved writing. In fact, I am working on a novel right now. So writing for LifeTrek Provisions is a natural. It will assist me to find my voice and to share with others what I have learned about the life-work equation.
The notion of writing Parenting Pathways is also a natural. As I have already said, it wasn’t until I had kids that the life-work equation became an issue for me. Let’s just say that kids add many variables to the equation which we often can’t control. By learning to more effectively manage the variables we can control, we can better keep our balance when life deals out a wild card.
In my case, life has dished out some pretty tough lessons when it comes to the life-work equation. With my physical problems at times landing me in the hospital for weeks at a time and often putting me on strong medication, my body has gotten my attention by literally stopping me in my tracks. As someone who once thought she could do it all, I now see that “all” does not mean running myself ragged in order to get things done.
If I don’t manage my stress and my schedule properly, my body will respond in very unpleasant ways. I’ve had to learn the hard way how to do things differently.
Q. So what do you do now? How do you solve the life-work equation?
A. There is no solution, so to speak. It’s more about managing the variables in order to have a balanced equation. The goal is a zero net sum. Now I pay more attention to how my body feels and what my body needs in the present moment. It’s not only about mindfulness; it’s also about taking action. There are times when I change my schedule, at the last minute, in order to be less demanding, less stressful, and less rigorous.
I also make sure that I take regular time for myself. Time to sleep. Time to work out. Time to enjoy nature. Time to read books. Time to write books. Time to knit. Time to ride my bike. Time to listen to music.
One of the things that I do, for example, is that I arrive early for appointments so that I can sit in the car and listen to some of my favorite tunes for an extended period of time. I also use my kids’ scheduled activities in a similar way, always having something handy (e.g. a knitting project or a good book) to turn a one hour wait for a drama class or dentist appointment into time for me. We all need to carve out those little chunks for ourselves wherever we can find them and I hope my Parenting Pathways will enable other busy moms and dads to do that.
The key is to know what you need, and then to find an environment where it will be easy to get what you need. For years I used to fool myself, for example, that I could be in those high-pressure, corporate environments without succumbing to the rat race. My body let me know that I cannot do that. Those environments suck me right back in. I pay a lot of attention to my environments now, as well as to a good understanding of my standards and boundaries. When all those things come together, life really is perfect.
Q. Where would you like to go with LifeTrek Coaching in the years ahead?
A. I am exploring that right now. I have never been satisfied with the title of “accountant” because I bring way more to the table. I’ve been calling myself a consultant, and I see myself evolving more fully into the role of coach.
Q. One of my friends and colleagues, Jay Perry, makes a profound observation about the coaching profession. “I don’t believe coaching is a service profession,” he writes; “it is a modeling profession. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. We need to model the behavior that we want to see in our clients and our prospective clients.” I’m excited about your evolution as a coach, because it comes from that place of modeling. You have been on a very real, and at times very painful, journey; sharing that journey with others is the heart of coaching.
A. Well, I certainly haven’t figured it all out. But you’re right that I am on a journey and that I look forward to sharing that journey with others. If it can help someone else along the way, then I am twice blessed.
Five years ago, when I was at a real low point in terms of my health, my husband bought me a guitar that came with three free lessons. I still haven’t taken advantage of those lessons! My secret desire is to be a rock star at age 50. I have less than 10 years left, so perhaps my journey will take me there as well. It’s never too late to make the equation work out.
LifeTrek Coaching is part of that journey for me, as it is for many others, and I am thankful for the opportunity. When people contact us for coaching, I hope they know how much it means to connect.
Coaching Inquiries: How are you handling the life-work equation? Are your environments working for you or against you? Are you taking the time to do and to enjoy the things you love? How could you handle your life situation more successfully? Who could you take with you as a partner on the journey? What’s one thing you could do today that would make your life better?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
That was a great Provision on chocolate! My personal favorite “fix” is taking a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs and squeezing some raw, dark, amber agave nectar on top. One tablespoon of this is awesome and it is all you need. There is an awesome website that you probably are already aware of, but if not, the link is www.rawfood.com. They’ve got it all here. Nature’s First Law is one of my favorite brands.
Your last Provision included a beautiful tribute to your wife. You both are blessed to have found each other! (Ed. Note: Agreed!)
Must the nuts and seeds we eat be raw? Do they lose something by being roasted? (Ed. note: Yes and yes. Nuts and seeds are best eaten raw since roasting deteriorates their essential oils.)
There was a great essay in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine titled, “A Deeper Shade of Green” by Bill McKibben Click. It really would be wonderful if we could all eat locally grown foods, but I understand where one reader was coming from when he made the following comment:
“McKibben’s experiment with eating locally grown food over a single winter reminds me of Marie Antoinette playing peasant in the hamlet at Versailles. Applying such solutions to Los Angeles County, for example, would have 800 people surviving on each acre of land that produces fruits and vegetables. Suppose that acre be put to potatoes. Each individual would get about 30 calories a day to survive on.”
I think it would be interesting to get your take on how the world we live in today can survive if we had a paradigm shift and began eating locally. Do hundreds of people need to die (because of our current over-population) of starvation in order to better our diets through locally grown, organic foods?? (Ed. Note: I will address these planetary concerns in an upcoming Provision. It’s a tough problem. I remember reading that more than half the food in the waning days of the former Soviet Union was grown locally, even in the cities on small plots of land, because the centralized food system was so dysfunctional. More of us can live this way than we might think.)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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