Along the way Courtney Harris, Teen & Parent Life Coach
This week, as part of my Along the Way Interview Series, I’m talking to Courtney Harris. As the founder of Courtney Harris Coaching, she supports parents and teens as they find their voice and pathways to connected hearts.
She’s sharing with us what it takes to leave a job behind for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
The Along the Way Interview Series features kick-ass women who are putting their heart and soul into achieving their dreams. Rather than talking to those who have already “made it,” this series focuses on learning from those who are right next to us in the daily hustle.
If you want to follow Courtney, you can find her here:
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Without further ado, let’s chat with Courtney about how she pursues her vision.
Tell us more about your coaching business. How did you start providing guidance for parents and teenagers?
Family support has been a part of my work from a very young age. At 10 or 11, a friend and I started “Mother’s Helpers” an in-home pre-babysitting type service; the parents would be home, but we’d entertain and play with the children. Skip ahead a few decades, and I became a special education teacher working with middle school students and their families.
After 9 years of teaching and mentorship in the classroom, though, I was more fully realizing my gift for building relationships with tweens and teens and acting as a non-judgemental, supportive adult in their unique journeys. I was also getting clearer and clearer about my passion for elevating the voices and experiences of teenagers in the world at large, and this starts with family connection and communication. While talking to a friend who is a health coach, it became clear to me that partnership could be the whole of my work, not just a part of my work.
Thus, I launched my coaching business, while still teaching part-time! The insights I gained as a teacher were invaluable and helped me envision the types of services I knew families were looking—and desperate—for. I heard that teens want (and need) to be seen for who they are, understood that parents wanted to support and connect with their teens during these formative years, and knew that I could be a support for families during this interesting developmental time.
I know you work with boys and girls, but I’m curious what the biggest struggles you see teenage girls encounter? What advice do you provide them?
Many of the tweens and teens that I am working with face stories of not being “enough.” The demands of school and social life and the long-term pressures of college and career come crashing down pretty hard and pretty young. This can lead to overwhelming thoughts of not being _____ enough, and this blank is often filled in with a laundry list: smart, pretty, handsome, kind, talented, cool, relaxed, creative, etc.
I share tons of strategies and help my clients build up big, meaningful, and personalized toolboxes. This allows them to try out and choose different strategies for practicing and maintaining self-compassion and self-love through their journey. I often invite them to focus on finding their inner voice, imagining diverse possibilities and ideas for themselves and their lives, and taking concrete steps to becoming the highest version of themselves every day, little by little.
Recently, you decided to quit your part-time job to pursue your own business full time. First, talk about what it was like to work part-time and run your business. How did you make it work?
For the first year in my business, I was teaching part-time and coaching part-time. Because both careers involve working with children and families, I was able to share tools from one job to the other. I noticed the ways my coaching was helping my teaching, and as I mentioned, the teaching was giving me incredible context and case studies for my work as a coach. In this way, the sharing of my energy was easy and felt natural!
Logistically, however, things were a bit different. As a life coach, I work primarily with school-aged clients or working parents, so many of my client sessions (either online or in person) happen in the evenings. My days were pretty long because I’d start at the school at 8:00 am and finish up with clients around 7:30 or 8:00 pm. During this first year, I was also networking like crazy, and totally loving it, which surprised the true and very present introvert within me.
What helped tremendously during this first year was maintaining two days per week for self-care and time with my partner and friends. Now, I will admit, I’d often still write a blog on these days and post to my Instragram, but I did not schedule clients. I worked primarily if I felt called to do so. This time-off and time to be schedule-free was necessary for me to decompress from the tight schedule I held during the majority of my week.
Ultimately, why did you decide it was time to make the leap?
I have been so ready to take on more clients and I know there’s a need. I hear it from parents every day. The long and split days were starting to feel draining for me, and, energetically, I was at capacity for 1:1 clients. Ultimately, I realized that my client base and my business needed more space to grow, and I was ready to honor this!
I also felt the need to carve out a morning routine that serves my soul, as well as my business. When I have a strong, unrushed morning routine, I’m thriving, not just surviving. I’m super excited to have the time to meditate, read, write, and workout in the mornings. As a creative, I need this quiet, solo time to help me prepare for my work with clients and colleagues.
What is your advice for someone else that would like to start a business?
If the idea is knocking loudly at your door, listen. If you already know what you are gifted in and how you most want to serve in the world and you are not yet doing it, take a baby step today. Getting started is the hardest part, but if you are listening to your truest needs and desires, you’ll have the time, energy, and heart to make it happen. Trust yourself.
Also, create routines and practices that support and nourish you; you’ll need it because you’re about to be blown away by how much you can learn in a day, every day. My 10 minutes of meditation in the morning matter! My 2-3 fitness classes and 2-3 walks matter! My grocery shopping meal prep matters! My book club and women’s groups matter! My date nights matter! These elements of self-care help me refuel so that I can show up for my clients, for my business, and stay sustained through the learning curves.
What was the last time you dealt with self-doubt and how did you get yourself through it?
Every day?! I mean, I have tons of strong, confident, grounded moments, but I, too, am working on generating new, compassionate, nourishing stories for my brain to rest on. See, our minds always want something to do, and they may be defaulting to the stories of not being “enough.” However, we can retrain them to know the stories of truth, the stories that tell how badass, unique, and special we are.
Just the other day, for example, a client canceled his call just a few hours before our scheduled time. I was bummed because this was just our second call, and the beginning is a foundational part of the coaching relationship. At first, I allowed doubts about taking this leap to full-time coaching to come up. What if I can’t make it?! What if I don’t fill my schedule?! And then I wondering if he decided he didn’t want to do coaching and felt bummed that he didn’t give it a “solid” try.
I caught myself a few minutes in and labeled these thoughts as lack mindset. Then, I allowed myself to consider all the possibilities for why a person might have to cancel. I considered reasons why I sometimes cancel a commitment. Essentially, I practiced the second agreement: Don’t take anything personally.
Oh! I also return to evidence of my awesomeness. For this, I can review my Facebook page and read client testimonials or scan through screenshots of nice texts and emails from friends and clients. This helped bolster the true story of enoughness.
What is the last mistake you made? And what did you learn from it?
In my first year in business, I forgot to wish my mom happy birthday on her birthday (even though I had sent a card). I forgot to pay my rent one month. Basically, I dropped a few balls in my personal life, and even in my business life. This first mistake devastated me, and the second one shocked and annoyed me.
I learned that I need to slow down. There’s a lot to do, the list never ends, the business isn’t going to run without my woman power and rushing doesn’t help a thing. I’m always re-remembering that a singular, slow focus is how and when I do my best work. Reminders on my iCal and my bullet journal help, yes, but the mindset of ease and steadiest transforms everything.
When are you happiest?
When I’m in the sun, in nature or when I’m connecting with others 1:1 or in small groups. And if I can do both of these at once?! I’m in a state of bliss!
Anything else you would like to add?
One of the elements that has surprised me so much about being a new soloprenuer is the number of fantastic friends I have made. Truly, I am grateful beyond words for the new connections and true friendships I have made with other small biz owners. The generosity and kindness of my peers lifts me up and inspires me daily!