After six months of group and individual therapy for my sex and love addiction issues, I felt like a “Girl on Fire!” My counselor actually kicked me out of her office in 1996, saying, “Okay, enough. You’re healed. Now go share what you’ve learned with other women.”
At first I thought, Whoa, I didn’t sign up for that! But I soon realized that it would be a crying shame to waste my experience on just myself. I began searching for universities where I could study counseling.
One advisor asked, “What type of counseling interests you?”
“I want to help women overcome sexual compulsions,” I said.
Silence. Then … a chuckle. He was laughing at my career goal. “If you limit your counseling to that degree,” he stated bluntly, “you’ll starve.”
I considered broadening my scope but found such ponderings useless. If I wasn’t helping women or couples overcome sexual or relational challenges, I just didn’t feel any passion for it. To think of talking with a client for an entire hour about anything else felt like a huge hole in my bucket.
Trust your gut, Shannon. These are the words I heard God speaking as I continued praying and exploring my options. There are lots of other women like you out there. No temptation seizes you but what is common. Follow your passion.
I began working on a master’s degree in counseling at Liberty University and soon developed my first manuscript on this topic I was so passionate about. I submitted it to thirteen publishers and received thirteen rejection letters. “Sexual integrity is a man’s issue,” they claimed. “Such a book for women will never sell.”
Fortunately, Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker knew better. After the Every Man’s Battle series hit the top of the bestseller list, they began searching for someone to write a female companion series. My manuscript just happened to be sitting on their agent’s desk already. It was a match made in heaven.
I was so thankful I had trusted my gut or, rather, trusted the God within my gut. After the series sold more than one million copies, I was tempted to call that college advisor and declare, “I’m not starving.” (But I resisted.)
The success of the Every Woman’s Battle series brought both blessings and challenges. I began speaking much more frequently. After events, people would email me, asking to talk with me personally. I was afraid that if I gave them an ounce of my time, they’d take a pound. My personal life coach, Dwight Bain, advised, “Folks are always going to line up for free fish and chips when they are hungry. You need to establish a system for making it a win-win relationship or else you’ll burn out.”
By becoming a certified life coach myself, I was able to weed out those who just wanted free advice and would drain me dry if I let them. I focused my time and energy on those who are truly dedicated to their own recovery process and are willing to invest in a professional relationship where we work together to overcome their dysfunctional relational patterns. In exchange, they compensate me appropriately for my investment of time and expertise into their lives. Win-win.
Rather than having a hole in my bucket, my cup overflows. Whether it’s a single woman trying to prepare for a healthier relationship next time around, or a married couple trying to figure out how to get back on the same sexual page, or parents trying to help their teenager navigate the waters toward sexual maturity, focusing my writing, speaking, and coaching efforts exclusively on healthy sexuality is the best career decision I ever made.
Specializing in one area of coaching rather than being a generic coach can make all the difference in how much energy you bring to the table, and how much response you receive in the way of clients. Specializing allows you to be seen as an expert in your field (or in my case, a “sexpert”). It allows you to collect specific types of fodder, which can prove quite fruitful in your speaking and writing. For example, my most recent book, The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts, is jam-packed with case studies supporting my theory that sexual fantasies are often the brain’s way of trying to heal itself from past trauma. Had I not been coaching so many clients who were bewildered by their own sexual fantasies, I’m not sure I’d have caught the vision to write that book.
Maybe you’re passionate about more than one type of coaching and don’t want to limit yourself to one area or another. Consider how your passions might fit together, and perhaps offer both, either collectively or separately.
For example, as I travel and speak, I repeatedly get the same two types of questions. People ask a sexual question, or they ask, “How can I do what you do?” They don’t always mean becoming a “sexpert.” Rather, they mean creating a writing or speaking platform such that they can effectively share whatever special message God has laid on their hearts.
For years, I merely replied, “Keep plugging away,” and said a prayer for God to open doors. I eventually realized there was so much more I could offer. God had allowed me some incredibly blessed opportunities, and again, it would be a shame to waste all of those experiences on just me. I’d worked closely with multiple marketing geniuses. I’d been personally coached by professional media trainers in Hollywood and New York. I’d been interviewed by just about every Christian television or radio program in existence and contributed to hundreds of magazines. Because God had been so good to me, I wanted to pay it forward.
So in 2009, we launched a one-year online mentorship program called B.L.A.S.T. (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers) and began offering small groups and one-on-one coaching to aspiring writers and speakers from all over the world. Once again, because this is an exciting, challenging road that I’ve personally traveled, cheering others on as they travel a similar path isn’t draining at all. It’s actually become one of my greatest joys.
Following a God-given passion is always energizing, eternally rewarding, and incredibly fulfilling. So if you’re looking for direction, look no further than your own gut.
Coaching the Coach Tip
List your top five passions, things that really energize you as you talk about them. Perhaps it’s nutrition or exercise, financial management, relationships, leadership, or success strategies, and so forth.
Now ask yourself these questions:
- Are any of these passions such a felt need in others that many would seek professional coaching to accomplish such goals?
- Would I have more or less energy for my coaching practice if I focused exclusively on one or more of these passions?
- How would it benefit my clients for me to specialize in such a way?
- How would it benefit me personally?
Note: This article was adapted from the Coaching the Coach: Life Coaching Stories & Tips for Transforming Lives. Forty-nine coaches, including Dr. Henry Cloud, Dr. John
Townsend, Dr. Tim Clinton, Dwight Bain, Christopher McCluskey, Dr. Linda Mintle, Shannon Ethridge and over 40 other top coaches; share their wisdom and expertise. Click here to order Coaching the Coach
About the Author:
Shannon is a million-copy best-selling author, international speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She is the author of 19 books selling over 1 million copies. Shannon has been featured on The Today Show (MSNBC), appeared on the cover of Today’s Christian Woman Magazine, and is a frequent guest on international radio & television shows such as The 700 Club, Life Today with James & Betty Robison, FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey, and New Life Live! with Stephen Arterburn. She has also been published in numerous magazines such as Focus on the Family, Brio, and LifeWay and is the winner of a Gold Medallion Award for Excellence in Publishing. For more information on Shannon visit: http://www.ShannonEthridge.com
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