On Climbing Life’s “2nd Mountain”

Many of my life coaching clients lead lives that have the “two-mountain shape” described by David Brooks in his recent New York Times Op Ed (April 6, 2019). He describes the first part of our adult lives as doing what society encourages us to do: make a mark, become successful, buy a home, raise a family and pursue happiness.

People on the first mountain are managing their lives and building on their reputation and their motivation to reach the top of the mountain. But in the lives of many of my life coaching clients, once they reach the top of the first mountain they find little there that is satisfying. While some dreams may be in place, often their biggest, most passionate dream eludes them. And time has marched on. That is when clients look at a second mountain to climb. Another quest, this time for personal fulfillment and purpose.

  • Loss, health scares, relocating, being laid off, political changes, and feeling “stuck” all contribute to a new view of life from that first mountain.
  • Climbing a second mountain is a big task. You have to focus on what you really want, notice what is standing in the way of getting there and work to make the changes you need to reach the point of self-understanding. As Brooks puts it, “the desires of the heart (to live in loving connection with others) and the desires of the soul (the yearning to serve some transcendent ideal and to be sanctified by that service)” is what spurs people on to climb a second mountain. Supporting those people is what I do in life coaching.

Read the experiences of three women in their fifties who recently came to me for life coaching. See if there’s one you relate to.

Life Coaching Case Studies

Amy* was 54 years old when she came to me for life coaching. She was in the process of a divorce and wanted to put anger and disappointment aside to build on her strengths with a new career and independent living. Her perspective on life had changed with her marital status, and now she was looking for more control over her life. She did not want to “drift” anymore. On the other hand, the fear of change and moving as well as financial upheaval worried her. Amy had family obligations and responsibilities yet was not spending her time doing something fulfilling and important to her. This was not where she wanted to be in the years ahead. Together, we identified some of her strengths and bit by bit found ways to put them to use. By leaving her old job and looking for a totally different one she created a new identity, that of a strong, directed single woman who has learned from past experiences and now really knows what she wants and will fight for it. “For once,” she told me, “I am doing something to please myself, not others.”

At 57, Beth* had had many part time volunteer and paid jobs over the years, but what she really loved, her art, was side-lined. She felt as though it didn’t fit in with her current lifestyle. Her young adult children were challenging, and single parenting was hard work. Beth had not worked in several years and questioned her ability to push the boundaries and explore opportunities outside the home. Her confidence was gone and she needed “a good push” to rediscover the younger, vibrant self she used to be. As Beth saw the empty nest years looming ahead, she decided to take action and follow through with doing what she really loved. Beth came to life coaching for support as she began to take some personal and professional risks to put herself “out there” and do the creative work she so loved.

Camille* came to me for life coaching at 59, ready for a grand adventure. After years of climbing the first mountain and doing everything that was expected of her, her roles as wife, mother, grandmother, and volunteer had lost their luster. “I feel as if I am running on fumes,” she said early on. She felt dull, used and unsatisfied. Camille wanted to feel “worthy,” not held back by what people thought of her. It was time to take a new direction and climb a second mountain. She had a specific cause that energized and excited her. The challenge was actually doing it and coping with the anxiety of what would happen if she failed. The saboteur voice within kept saying, “what if this happened, what if that went wrong, what will your family say?”

The Life Coaching Process

For all three women, life coaching involved working together to chart the processes they needed to tune into the still, small voice of their true values and intuition.

The second mountain climb needs to be timely, or time will run out. In life coaching, my clients commit to the process for a set amount of time. We don’t work indefinitely or have an open-ended relationship. Life coaching with me begins with a three month commitment, and usually focuses on accountability for a very discrete goal or set of goals. We typically include a planned end date, within six months to a year of the initial session. Learn more about the difference between therapy and life coaching.

The Life Coaching Results

Amy is now seriously job hunting and reworking her priorities in life. She created a weekly chart for herself  following the Co-Active model, one of the tools I provide clients from my CTI Institute toolbox (read more about my life coaching credentials here). Her first priority is finding a job. For years she stayed in the old one for lack of motivation and confidence. That has now changed. Amy recently said, “at long last I am finally networking. Thanks, Catharine.”

Beth has made physical changes in her house to give her the space for her creative work as an artist. While she feels “terrified” about stepping out of her comfort zone and doing something for herself for first time in many years, she desperately wants to do the creative work she loves. Beth and I are still working together. She is working towards meeting her primary goal of being paid to do what she loves by hiring someone to help her design marketing materials for her art. She has also recently been brave enough to tell her friends about the new direction she is taking, which provides additional support and accountability. “Thanks for your encouragement Catharine,” she recently said.

Camille is on the brink of making a commitment to a grand new adventure that aligns with her personal values and dreams. Her values of community action, service and personal freedom has led her to weigh several options involving her cause: working with women in developing countries. She has focused on the pros and cons of spending several weeks on her own overseas working with a community in need. There is still coaching work ahead, but Camille is gaining confidence in her ability to manage this dream. She has created an action map for herself and is noticing how awareness leads to results. Her self-exploration has brought new insights:

If I follow my dream, “I will feel better about myself all around.”

Over the years, I have worked with many life coaching clients like Amy, Beth and Camille. Many of them have gotten great results, but you don’t have to take my word for it! Read their life coaching testimonials here.

Get Life Coaching

Need an ally in this work? Living an authentic life means being clear on who we are: our values, intentions, objectives and commitments. It’s having the courage to be imperfect. Learning to be more authentic can lead to increased happiness and feelings of self-worth, but it can be difficult if you go it alone. I help my life coaching clients get clear on how they want to show up in life, and keep them accountable so they can execute on creating the life they’ve always wanted. If you’d like to work on living a more authentic life, I am accepting a short list of new clients now. We’ll chart the processes you need to tune into that still, small voice of your values and intuition, and approach authenticity with intention. Let’s explore how you can have what you want and live with more ease, freedom, joy and meaningful connection to those around you.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.

*Stories are real, but names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of my life coaching clients.

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