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As I end a busy season and prepare for the next one, and sit down to write this eZine … my mind wanders over the terrain of the last while. The people I have worked with, the dilemmas they face … and my own journey in continuing to keep up with who I now am and what now wants to emerge in my work and life.

One of the consistent themes I witness is the beauty, the dogged persistence, and the stubbornness of people’s creative path. Their Authentic Self wants to come out and it plows through things that stand in its way. But the plow is not without its challenges, angst and tribulations. As old ways of being and thinking … and even people, places and things … often need to fall by the wayside in order for the next level of order to emerge.

One of the things that helps authenticity thrive is having an environment that is conducive to the creative process, with its ups, downs and all arounds. This environment is everything that surrounds us. Our home and space, our geography, our climate, the prevailing energy and atmosphere. Whether we are out and about in the real world and/or wandering around online. The same principles apply to both realms – our day-to-day environment is VERY important as it imprints us. We want to make sure it is as healthy, happy, positive and as supportive as possible, especially in consideration of what it is that we want to create in the world.

In the pursuit of actualizing ourselves and bringing our gifts, talents and aptitudes more fully out into the world … my clients (and myself) often have to take a look at what we have around us.

Is our environment supportive of who we now are? Will it assist us in going to our next level? Or will it act as an anchor or drag … resistance that interferes, clogs and slows down our journey?

I have the honour of working very deeply with my clients. Getting to know them in many aspects of their lives. Mostly they engage me to help build their creative-based careers. I help them clarify what they next want to do, provide education and training, then define and implement their next steps. Lately I have been noticing an interesting wrinkle in my work with clients — the ones who are ‘out’ about our coaching and the ones who aren’t.
When I mean ‘out’ …. I mean to their significant other or other important people in their life (business partners, collaborators, employers, employees, etc). Some partners know of my alliance with my client — I’ll even be introduced when they are in the background of our video chats or when they are in Victoria for a visit. Others don’t. It’s the latter that I find interesting. Why is coaching with me a secret? Why can’t it be shared with the partner? What would happen if it were?

I help people become their authentic selves. Help you be who you really are and develop and bring your talents out into the world in a robust way. For some clients, the exploration of authenticity and innate creativity is in baby-step stage. They need a private, safe incubator in which to explore and that is why they have engaged me. Hopefully, when their explorations are a little more definite they will share their discoveries with their partner – and they will be well received.

For other clients, our explorations are part of a much bigger exploration — an exploration that might lead to SHIFTing their lives in a BIG way. They hide our coaching alliance because for various reasons it doesn’t feel safe to share it with their partners, at least at this point in time. Maybe the investment is secret (the partner feels they have already invested too much in personal growth). Or, their partner wants things to remain in the status quo. Or, even more challenging, the partner belittles or undermines what the client wants to create and puts up blocks, challenges and ultimatums.

In my client roster there are several clients who have lovely relationships. Their partners not only know of their coaching with me but fully support and encourage it and the SHIFT we are working towards. Some of these clients came fully loaded this way … their relationships were secure, safe and supportive partnerships long before they started coaching with me. Other clients have SHIFTed their relationship over the course of our coaching alliance (either the original partnership improved or they created supportive partnerships with different people).

However they got there, these clients have the following traits in their relationships:

  • their partner fully knows about their coaching alliance with me and is supportive;
  • their partners is on point with the goals of our coaching (even if it means that the change may impact them in some ways);
  • their partner wants them to be happy, even if it means pursuing something that the partner themselves doesn’t quite understand;
  • their partner trusts them, their instincts and their judgment;
  • their partner has optimism and general good cheer in their ability as a couple to help my client get what s/he wants.

The nature of these relationships can be defined as a ‘safe haven’. Each person in the couple is valued as a unique human being with loads of intrinsic value. And the atmosphere is one of emotional safety, connection, love, support and security. These qualities and these kinds of relationships help so much when one is making a career transition or building a specialty business or practice, especially a creative or unique one. When I take on a new client I’m always curious about the state of relationship in their life. Not because I’m inherently nosy (and I am!) but because I know from decades of change management work that its easier for happily coupled people (and satisfied singles) to make SHIFTS. Things take on an added layer of complexity when an unsupportive or reluctant partner is in the mix. Its soooooooo much easier when the foundational area of relationship does not also have to be addressed.

If you are interested in learning more about safe haven relationships, I highly recommend the work of pioneering couples therapist, Dr. Sue Johnson (she’s a fellow Canadian based in Ottawa, Ontario). Dr. Johnson’s work is based on Attachment Theory … the study of what all humans inherently need to feel secure in the world (whether they are children, adolescents, or grown adults). For years she has run clinical studies on relationships in distress — and what creates relationships that meet our deepest intimacy needs.

“Hold Me Tight” is her book for the non-clinician. I also recommend her training DVDs and nuts-and-bolts academic texts for process professionals who want to learn more. I’ve been blitzing through this material the last few months and find the Emotional Focused approach utterly fascinating. And very compatible with Law of Attraction premises (what you focus on and habitually feel is the reality that you will ultimately create).

A Related P.S:
While I’m not sure if she in a Safe Haven type relationship (I suspect she is) … a recent Fundamentals of Interactive-Visuals student, Leena, has been writing a blog about her transition to a more integrated life after voluntarily leaving corporate work. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading her thoughtful reflections. You can check out her Inspiring Adventures here.
©2012 Christina L. Merkley

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Author’s Bio: Christina Merkley, “The SHIFT-IT Coach” and creator of the SHIFT-IT System®, is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Visual Thinking and Law of Attraction techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and conscious businesses to define and manifest what they truly want. And, trains other helping professionals in her innovative ways of working. For more information visit: and

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