“Inspire and get inspired”:
agile coaching interviews on
Today we talk about life and work transition choices.
The courage to listen to oneself.
Three questions to Sarah Khoudja
– Life, Team and Group COACH.
In her decision of life and work transition, with family in tow, Sarah tells us:
I asked myself whether I wanted to continue like this, five or ten more years.
I felt the need to reorganise the scale of values in my daily life and to start right from me.
How to build something new?
A small journey in the name of self-listening and the art of learning to respect time:
key concepts for the Self-Leader.
Inspire and get inspired
And now it is your turn, my dear Sarah!
We met within the framework of the training in ‘Coaching for the Spiritual Life’.
From there we embarked on a fruitful mutual coaching journey: we are both coach and coachee for each other.
As you write on your website, you have been project coordinator with Médecins Sans Frontières in Brussels and around countries in conflict for more than 15 years.
Now you are life, team e group COACH, ACC-ICF certifed.
You are an entrepreneur in the making, plus mother and wife.
From Brussels you moved – with family in tow – to Cilento, in southern Italy, to devote yourself to a new project of your own.
“After putting my skills and abilities into service far away from me, I felt the need to reorganise the scale of values in my daily life and to start with me, putting my well-being and that of those around me on top.“
What led you to make such a radical change decision?
After a long period living in Rome, we returned to Brussels, two weeks before the start of the pandemic and the first lockdown. I came from a context, that of Rome, in which I felt unfulfilled professionally and where I lacked relationships with my friends.
Of course, like clockwork, life tested me through lockdown.
In Brussels I had found a fulfilling job, but without being able to take my role fully or get to know my colleagues.
I was within walking distance of my friends’ houses but we couldn’t see each other: total frustration.
In return we were full-time with the children, the four of us always.
Whereas before, Stefano, my husband, used to travel a lot.
When it was back to ‘business as usual’, back to regular work and school hours, reopening everything, I realised that I had changed.
It seemed absurd to me to go grocery shopping at the Bio shop where I was paying an exorbitant amount for fruit and vegetables, feeding a dysfunctional system.
One morning, Stefano told me “you know, I haven’t slept for two nights.
I have made a decision and now I am more serene.
I want to quit my job and go and spend a year in nature, a SABBATICAL YEAR.
I’ll quit my job in September and we’ll leave there where we built our house, in Cilento. What do you say?”
I realised that time with young children is precious because it lays the foundation for relationships.
It no longer made sense to spend only a few hours with them in the evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays.
In short, it didn’t feel like a high-quality life.
Something authentic was missing in all this.
I did not respect myself.
I didn’t respect the values I hold and so I was setting the wrong example for my children.
I asked myself if I wanted to continue like this, another five or ten years, the time for them to grow up.
Then, like a slap in the face, the answer was clear:
We need to change HERE and NOW.
We are passing through and we do not know how long our journey will last.
I wanted authenticity with myself, with my husband, with the children.
I wanted to be able to take the time to have a picnic in nature after school, to enjoy the world around us.
The choice was not easy, because rationally it had no foundation.
I looked deep in my heart, and dived into the adventure.
You say one needs to change here and now. You dive into the adventure.
What difficulties have you faced?
The first and greatest is the difficulty of standing in front of the void of DUTIES and COMMITMENTS.
I am in a place of mine, with an economic capacity for a few months.
No pressure to DO and the possibility of STAYING.
This emptiness brings out all the things that are still unresolved, confronts the masks I have used so far to get where I am and gives me the opportunity to abandon them and build something new, authentic and simply fluid for me.
It is a new attitude to life, probably
The second is cohabitation in the southern Italian society.
The way of creating relationships, the issues discussed, the approach to daily life, the role of women.
All very different from where I was before and who I am.
So, here it is about finding the right place for me.
How can I be me, here, without conflicting with what I have around me?
Nice challenge for my complexity.
The third, is the professional life to be rebuilt, because I decided to bring my skills close to me, and thus work for, with and in the region.
Starting a new business, in a place that still has so much to develop, is both beautiful and scary at the same time.
On the one hand, it’s a field to conquer, on the other, I don’t know where to start.
It’s as if I have to relearn new codes because a different professional language is spoken.
I don’t want to copy-paste previous experiences, I wouldn’t respect the place.
I want to LISTEN, FEEL and then propose paths adapted to THEIR reality.
From Brussels to southern Italy. From duties and commitments to the absence of the pressure to do.
You talk about ‘degrowth’:
what are the three pearls you have found in this new path of yours?
…immense, beautiful and unspoilt because it is devoid of large industries and convenient road networks to access it.
2. “RARECHE” (meaning roots in Cilento dialect).
A group of people who believe in a different future for the countryside. They have a beautiful project in mind and immediately started with the practice, creating a market of local, environmentally and human-friendly farmers. They want to restore dignity and value to the land.
3. Respect for TIME.
That of nature, following the seasons.
Respect for other people’s time.
There is no longer the concept of being fast or slow.
You experience that everything has its time.
I am learning the art of taking the right time.
Sarah, you inspire me to link three concepts that you dealt with in your story:
1. The difficulty in being faced with a void of DUTIES and COMMITMENTS. No pressure to DO and the possibility of STAYING.
2. The will to LISTEN to the reality around you and to avoid copy-pasting previous experiences.
3. Respect for TIME.
Here is the radical change, the real transition to degrowth.
In addition to doing, duties and commitments…also learn to stay,
to listen and to respect the time of change, which is not our time.
I discern the wisdom of this and also constantly experience the personal difficulty of abandoning myself to it.
I am convinced that these three concepts are key competencies for anyone who wants to be “Self-Leader”.
And you reading…what do you draw inspiration from?
Write it in the comments.
WHO I AM
I am French-Tunisian, 41 years old, married to an Italian with whom I had two children aged 7 and 5.
I love using my hands to create: sewing, cooking, and other do-it-yourself jobs.
For more than 15 years, I worked as a project manager around the world for a large humanitarian NGO and then a social organisation in Brussels. At the same time, I trained both as an ACC ICF accredited professional coach and in group analysis and group dynamics at the University of Liège.
WHAT I DO
Since this year I have been a full-time coach. I accompany people and groups during professional and personal change processes. I am also working on a project focusing on environmental and social regeneration.
WHAT INSPIRES ME
The greatness and power of nature: I marvel and feel so small that it is impossible to take myself seriously.
People’s stories, life stories, tales: I find them pearls of wisdom.