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Terp Insights: From Workaholism to Choice – A High-Achiever’s Story

Terp Insights: From Workaholism to Choice – A High-Achiever’s Story

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By Lauren Leftkowitz '98

*In this short narrative, Lauren Leftkowitz '98 recalls how she changed her life with the help of a coach. From overload and feeling burnt-out, to a life of choice and purpose.*

I’d been coaching executives and emerging leaders for fifteen years before I hired my own executive coach. Like many high-achievers—and coaches—I thought my role in life was to support others. And because I was so good at it, I assumed there was no one who could help me better than…myself.

While I spent my favorite working hours in my executive coaching side-gig, partnering with other professionals to realize their dreams, I had resigned to the fact that I would always be stuck in my eighty-plus hour workweek life as a human resources executive, being the Vice President of Whatever-You-Need at work, and giving up fun and choice in exchange for professional success and service to others.

The lesson I hadn’t learned yet was that even though I was successful, hard-working and the person-to-come-to who could troubleshoot anything, I wasn’t the best person to support me. It wasn’t until I called on a coach friend to ask about her path to full-time coaching business ownership that I realized I needed a coach of my own.

“I’d really love to go full time with this, but I already work more than eighty hours a week, and that’s not going to change,” I said, in my fixed mindset.

Photo of Lauren Lefkowitz pointing to a burnout quote

“If you say so,” she replied without judgment.

I realized in that moment that she was helping me see why my own clients hired me.

During the next several months, I learned to boundary-set and live in choice the way I encouraged my clients to do. I was, frankly, shocked that my coach was more clever about me than I was, that she saw the possibility for me that I wasn’t yet able to see or execute.

Three months later, I was learning to stop hand-raising all the time, say no when asked to do things outside my purview or interest, and build in time for focusing on my own wellness.

Within six months of this, I was working sixty-hour weeks. Though it may sound like a lot, it was twenty extra hours per week for me to muse about what my life could look like. The life I actually wanted, not just what I had fallen into.

A year after starting to work with a coach, I gave my notice at my corporate job, where I was then working forty hours per week so that I could take my executive coaching side gig to a full business endeavor.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t been a humble enough leader to reach out for, and receive, support from a coach.

What I learned is that we cannot see ourselves objectively. We are not expected to make a productive change in our own lives.

But because of my investment in my own personal and professional development, I have a life that includes a beautiful and integrated body of work and fun—executive coaching, writing a book, being a certified Laughter Yoga Leader, co-hosting a podcast, networking, speaking, quality time with friends and extra belly scratches for my dog.

It's the life I know I was meant to lead.


Lauren Lefkowitz is an Executive Coach endorsed by the University of Maryland Alumni Association's Coaches' Corner.  Find Lauren on LinkedIn or on her website and listen to the podcast "I Could Talk to You All Day" on Spotify.

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