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Second Acts: The Fine Art of Getting Unstuck

I recently had the most enlightening conversation with a fellow Baby Boomer who has launched a new career as a life and family coach. Susan Holt is an inspiration. Her words made me think and adjust my perspective, which is exactly what a coach should do. A lot of Boomers are looking to launch into the next phase, maybe different work, maybe retirement, maybe starting a business. It is very easy to become confused into indecisiveness. The good news is that Susan has something to say about the fine art of getting “unstuck.”

While we usually describe these transitions as second acts, Susan is actually into Act Four. Trained as a classical vocalist, she switched gears right out of college for a successful run as an advertising executive. However, she remembers the stress of this experience, how unfulfilled she was. She worked long hours and had little time for family and the spiritual life that has always meant a lot to her. She had the courage to leave this lucrative career at 30 years old, and returned to school to earn her Masters of Education. This allowed her to segue into Act II, a teaching career while she and her husband raised two talented girls, now successfully launched into their own careers.  Act III began when the girls went to college.  She was invited to develop the social/emotional program at The Steward School, and began coaching parents and children through difficulties.  Coaching became so fulfilling that she kept training and growing until she could form her own company to go deeper and reach more people.   Now as a Board-Certified Coach, Susan has found that Act IV is her “sweet spot.” This is where she can bring all of her skills and interests together to the work she loves most: helping people find more fulfilling lives.

Susan HoltCounseling vs. Coaching

Counselors and psychologists typically begin treatment by discussing where a patient came from, how they got “stuck” — how barriers and emotional issues arose around them. Counseling can be a long, ongoing process of self-discovery. Susan describes coaching as a much shorter process. A coach gives a client specific tools, goals, homework, and practical applications, and provides the critical element of accountability. Susan feels coaching inspires positive forward motion, a mindset of “I can do this.”

“If we can change our mindset we can change our life,” says Susan. “Coaching is about asking the right questions, which fosters self-awareness, then making choices and setting boundaries that lead to self-empowerment.” Susan has seen the world open up for her clients when they start to think this way.

Taking the Leap

So what advice does Susan have for others hoping to change course? How did she go about it? She describes a distinct, step-by-step process. Susan had the benefit of influence from an illustrious person close to her: Her brother is well-known psychologist and best-selling author John Townsend  ( who she credits with developing this process:

  1. Susan Holt OfficeIdentify your vision. The most successful people have a mission that drives them and often a strong spiritual direction. “It is so easy to just talk ourselves out of things,” notes Susan. “But we can make things happen when we have a clear picture of what we really want.
  2. Identify your People: You need community, where you find 1) your safety and affirmation, emotional and spiritual support and 2) your practical, technical support. Susan found she needed a business coach and a website developer, as these specialties were not her strength!
  3. Identify your resources: Do you have the time, the money and the energy to embark on a new path? When Susan made her move, she secured a financial advisor to explore how to ensure that her vision worked out financially.
  4. Identify a Plan: A business plan and marketing plan that are in writing help outline the way forward. Susan also created a distinct space in her home as an office, which precludes laying out resources for rented office space and has the added benefit of providing clients with a space that feels warm and secure.
  5. Follow up: Constantly revisit your mission and plan, allow for updating and revising. Focus on your dream and sustaining your momentum. Susan is meticulous about following up with all her clients.

Yes, changing course is a risk, but with adequate homework it is a carefully calculated risk. But even with such a plan in place and clear direction, Susan recognized the roadblocks of self-doubt. She advises that, in launching a new venture, it is valuable to speak to a counselor or to someone who knows you very well who can give you insight and perspective about what you need to work on. “You can really grow when you know who you truly are, your strengths and weaknesses,” says Susan. “Self-awareness is key.”

A Mindset of Abundance

When asked if she worried about making it what has become an increasingly popular profession, Susan’s response was wonderful: She approached her new venture with “a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity.” Her experience and her intuition told her that in this increasingly anxious world, there are plenty of people who need and can benefit from her expertise, and that became her compass.

What about Boomers?

As a Baby Boomer herself, Susan has experienced the conflict that defined our generation as we sought self-fulfillment, wanted it all, and tried so hard to balance family and career. Boomers have this great life experience, but she sees so many who are simply exhausted, who are asking “When am I enough?”

“Boomers are in need of boundaries,” says Susan.  “Often people who believe that to be a good person, you have to give and give and empty yourself, when in fact to be a good steward of others, you have to be a good steward of yourself. When you take care of yourself, you can love more, you have something to give from.” This is where coaching can help, again to facilitate setting boundaries and self-awareness. “With a sense of empowerment, people can help themselves. When we get to the point when we see we are enough in our own eyes in Gods eyes, then we can feel freedom.”

Best and Final Act, a Forever Career

When asked what “retirement” looks like, Susan responds that her work will continue to be her focus, and that travel and leisure is something she plans to fit around it. Her company logo is fitting: a butterfly, a symbol of renewal and hope. “I see myself doing this forever,” she says. “This is my last act. It is my life’s purpose: to helping others define their life’s purpose.”

Like I said–an inspiration.

Susan can be contacted at

Cherie R. Blazer

Cherie is a late bloomer Boomer, born at the tail end of the Boomer generation. She was playing with Barbies while her older sisters marched on Washington and fought for equal rights, but watched and learned. Now she is an empty nester with a whole new future to explore and share at! As “Philosopher in Chief” Cherie merely wants to change the world with this blog: to encourage those of us in the midst of our “second act” to look at life with new eyes, open to a life filled with new beginnings rather than endings, and to apply all we have learned to a way of living that is more meaningful and profound. There is SO much to live for, up until the very end.

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