My career began when I qualified as a doctor in 1995. I had always had a strong sense of wanting to make a difference in the lives of others, and general practice seemed to be the right vehicle for achieving this aspiration.
Having made it through medical school and GP training, I was delighted when I was handpicked to join a partnership in my home town in Warwickshire. I was excited about the challenges ahead, but little did I realise how many there would be.
Various work-related crises and challenges in my personal life tested me to my limits and beyond. I realised I had to find another way of working or I was going to burn out.
Having become a fan of self-help, I decided to find myself a life coach. Just as a sports coach can help even top sports stars to raise their game, my life coach immediately saw my blind spots and helped me to see what needed to change.
After only a two-hour session together, I had a much clearer perspective about what I wanted from my life and career and where the pressure points were. I realised that I needed to reduce my working hours.
Looking back, this was the obvious solution but, in my overwhelmed state, I had not been able to see it.
Having seen the power of coaching in my own life, I used my part-time hours as an opportunity to train as a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) coach.
Initially, I used my new NLP skills in the consultation room and in my role as a GP trainer. Soon I realised that I wanted to work with a wider range of people at a deeper level than the length of a consultation allows for.
Over the past couple of years, I have made a lot of changes in my own life. I left my GP partnership. I also expanded my GP training and appraising roles and spent time learning business-building strategies to prepare for setting up my own coaching business.
Having seen coaching from the perspective of both coach and client, I am convinced of its value and its power to facilitate transformation.
Ever since that first meeting with my coach, I have continued to use the services of various coaches to push me on towards living the life I really want, and towards being able to use my skills to their fullest.
Rather than focusing on problems, life coaching is solution-based. It creates a space for us to examine our lives and get clarity about our goals and priorities.
Where we continually fail to change in spite of saying we want to, it probes into our 'self-sabotage' patterns and how to change them.
Coaching helps us to understand both where we are now, and what we really want from our lives. Once clear about our location and desired destination, a coach can help us to create the roadmap for how we are going to get there, and hold us to account along the way.
Unrestricted by geography
NLP is also a process not dependent on geography. Some people like to meet the coach face to face, but coaching can be done equally well over the phone or online via a Skype (internet call) connection. Some people find it better not to let any visual distraction to get in the way of their thoughts during the coaching conversation.
I firmly believe that UK GPs do a great job and most became doctors out of a genuine desire to help others. However, pressures from patients, medical politics, colleagues and uncertainty about how the government is moving the profession forward, all create huge amounts of stress and strain.
Add to that the pressures of family and other outside commitments, is it any wonder that so many of our colleagues find the shine has gone from their caring role?
Hitting rock bottom
Doctors often find it hard to ask for help, and often leave it until things have hit rock bottom before seeking assistance. As a coach, I want to reach people before that point.
Coaching can help us all to escape the stress trap and design life on our own terms as doctors: in this way we better serve our patients, our families and ourselves.
A life coach does not need to be someone in the medical profession. Coaching does not provide the answers for you, but helps you to find them for yourself.
However, many doctors will feel happier working with someone who has been in their shoes. Fortunately, there are a growing band of medics around offering life coaching.
1995 Qualified, University of Wales College of Medicine.
2000 to 2008 GP principal, Warwickshire.
2003 to 2010 GP trainer.
2006 to date GP appraiser.
2006 to date NLP master practitioner.
2007 to date NLP coach.
2009 to 2010 Salaried GP, Warwickshire.
2010 to date Training programme director, Coventry and Warwickshire GP vocational training scheme.
2011 to date Locum GP, west Midlands.
- Dr Libby Hodges, a GP locum in Coventry. www.libbyhodges.com