Brankica Ljamić, PhD
Master Certified Coach, MCC (ICF)
ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON:
“The energy set in motion by the advent of hope, creation of a personal vision, and a switch to a concrete action plan is inspiring to all who witness it, and it gives full meaning to the idea of giving support to one’s community.”
By the end of spring 2014, I was feeling rather awful. I thought in fact that I had hit rock bottom, and that things could not get any worse. I was looking for a way to deal with the curves life was throwing me and wasn’t finding it. It was clear to me that, as a major player both at home, and as an entrepreneur, I had to do something myself, and fast.
I did not have the luxury to take my time feeling miserable: when I am no good, the systems I play a part in (family and business) will not be good for long either.
Time had come to look for help. I asked around for recommendations and ended up going to a much lauded psychotherapist. I returned home a little confused but feeling better.
The improvement came from realizing my need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and snap out of it. I don’t know what caused it – the methodology, therapeutic style, my expectations, or something else, but I realized in any case that I would have to look for support in finding my way forward someplace else. Simply put, the therapist and I did not click.
The next day, a circular letter appeared in my inbox. It came from my friend Sanja Grubin, then a director of the City Center for Social Entrepreneurship Belgrade, who sent it to an HR network group. In the letter, she was addressing trainers, consultants and coaches who might be interested in volunteering to train and support those using the Center’s services – people with disabilities, the unemployed, young adults fresh out of orphanages, etc. I responded in the matter of hours.
Simply put, I clicked with the idea of providing volunteer assistance and support.
A thought then came to me: as bad a state as I thought I was in at the time, perhaps there were people who felt this way more days than not. And that thought shifted my focus from my own going around in circles – which had kept me from finding a way out – to others and my interaction with them. As with all synchronicities, seemingly unrelated events that occurred close to each other in time were connected by the meaning I ascribed to them.
“Invisible” synchronicities thus become visible, and Sanja’s email had given me something I so desperately needed at the time: a sense of purpose. I spent the fall of 2014 as part of a team which worked on developing entrepreneurial skills in individuals from vulnerable groups. Of course I took care of other everyday life matters at the same time. Without mystifying the experience any, I can say that being actively engaged in transferring my skills and knowhow to those who could use it, for no other reason or profit but as an offering of support, helped me realize the healing power of contributing through effort.
I feel that I have always been in the habit of giving away things and helping people financially. This move to action was a life-changing discovery for me: volunteering my time, planning and delivering training programs – things I usually do for money – allowed me to listen in a new way, to understand client’s needs and act accordingly. I found myself outside of my usual milieu, and, in a setting where I was supposed to be the one doing the teaching, I ended up learning a lot, about others as well as myself.
I found a way out of my own predicament. The role of victim no longer suited me, I realized. It is no exaggeration to say that deciding then and there to devote a part of every year to volunteer work has made me grow into a better person, professional, and mother.
Contributing through effort balanced out my ego and a sense of respect for differences returned to me in a grand way. My subsequent professional development was marked by a new understanding of just how important changing perspective is, and how necessary other people are for us to break out of the vicious cycle of feeling bad and not knowing what to do about it.
These insights of mine were eventually built into the educational coaching program that received accreditation from the most distinguished global coaching association – the ICF (International Coach Federation). The experience of providing support while being down myself thus became a part of my “uptime” business practice. The feeling I get when those whom I support in my volunteer work switch from feeling down to feeling up is indescribable.
The energy set in motion by the advent of hope, creation of a personal vision, and a switch to a concrete action plan, is inspiring to all who witness it, and it gives full meaning to the idea of giving support to one’s community. The fact that I am doing socially responsible work is quite beside the point compared to a smiling face of an entrepreneur-in-the-making, when it clicks for them how to solve a problem that has been giving them grief. A smile will then linger on my face for days…
Synchronicities are signs of the invisible network that connects us to people, things, and ideas: thank you, Sanja!
Author: Brankica Ljamić, PhD MCC