Claudia Beck is a life coach, who recently started her coaching business after decades of experience as an executive in the retail and finance industries. Originally from Austria, Claudia has lived in the US, UK, China and Japan in the past twenty years. I met her in New York last autumn when she was switching careers to be a full-time coach.

In our interview she shared with me what she considers the vicious circle in Western societies that makes people suffer at work. As she is relocating to California, we also talked about how San Francisco – the dream city for many – changed over the past 8 years.

Claudia, what is your experience in coaching on work topics?

I have a fair amount of working moms as coaching clients, who have up to five-year old children. All of them are inspired to continue their career and to grow. However, the current model of being at work for many hours, picking up their kids from day care and rushing home creates pressure and stress for them.

What is most challenging for this particular group?

The problem is that we want to have it all. We want to have a career, a big house, two cars, etc. There is a certain income level required to fund this. Many compare themselves to others, which creates a non-ending competition.

The problem is that we want to have it all.

It is much more than consumerism. With social media comparison is now much easier and beyond our near environment.

What is your coaching approach to help your clients?

I work with them to figure out which values they are respecting most and which values they do not. It is about finding out what needs to be honored for them in their lives in order to feel fulfilled. But as a coach we do not offer solutions, we help them to realize what they want for themselves.

Can you see a pattern of common values that make people fulfilled?

I definitely see a pattern that we all aim to feel more connected, to find peace within and to experience growth within. At an individual level, what people value depends very much on where they currently are on their life journey. For working moms it is about having time for themselves. For graduates it is about becoming independent. For experienced professionals it is about how they can be in service to others.

What do your clients tell about what they want in their work environments?

A common theme is the desire to feel appreciated at work.

Another one is to get more responsibility while keeping their flexible working hours. 

What needs to change for Western industrialized workplaces in the next 5 to 10 years to have more fulfilled people? I appreciate that there are coaches to help, but not everyone can go to a coach. Which changes can we pursue for the system?

This starts very early with the value system with which we raise the next generation. In the current generation everything is offered to everybody and everybody is rewarded. Also parents changed the reward system by giving their children anything they wanted at any time they wanted. Children can demand and desire anything from their hard-working parents. I think we all together created a society, which is not fulfilled.

We want everything now. We do not want to wait. This results in a demand on society that is difficult to fulfill.

There is a gift in patience. There is a gift in anticipating. There is a gift in looking forward to something. We all have lost this gift. I do not know when was the last time you had the anticipation of saving a thousand dollars to be able to do something. We all can do it at any time because there are so many resources around us.

What I have seen so far from my coaching experience is that the more social interaction a person has with family and friends, the more quality time he or she gets and the more fulfilled he or she is. A lot of my clients do not have quality time with their partners or spouses. Children do not get quality time with their parents. So a vicious circle starts.

We fill the void with materialistic things,…but they can only fill the void for an hour or a day.

Long-lasting happiness, however, comes from fulfilling relationships, an environment of support and from sharing time, which is the biggest gift we can give someone.

The workplace therefore needs to create a value space.

In order to keep people engaged, you need to give them the feeling that they belong to a community or tribe.

The moment people feel that, they are willing to go the extra mile and support a cause they believe in.

The young generation today grew up getting whatever they wanted. If you give them more flexible working hours and other things, it will not interest them if you cannot connect all these things to why they do what they do. They need to believe in what they are doing. Companies have to explain why they exist. Companies, which are able to explain, are going to be successful and companies, which cannot, will become meaningless.

Claudia, you have lived in several places, one of them being California. You are currently relocating after many years. What changes can you see there?

I lived in California from 1998 until 2011 mainly in Menlo Park/Palo Alto and in the city San Francisco. I have recently revisited these places and it is apparent that a lot of wealth has accumulated there in the meantime. A lot companies went public. A lot of young people became very rich. San Francisco’s population grew only by 5% but the number of people commuting into the city increased by 20%, because many companies opened their head offices there. The lack of space and the rise in rent prices pushed a lot of people out of the city. For me, the beauty of a city is linked to the variety of its people. I enjoy what artistic and spiritual people bring into the mix. The price increases have pushed out those people and people who make less income.

For me, the beauty of a city is linked to the variety of its people.

The traffic situation has been impacted with 50,000 people commuting daily. There is also less patience. When I lived in San Francisco, there was rarely honking. The last time when I was in SoMa (South of Market), which is the financial district of San Francisco, it felt like “Little Manhattan”. The energy has obviously changed.

What are the topics people currently talk most about in public?

A lot of people say that everything is more expensive and money has become more important. Some people also left because they did not want to live in a Manhattan-like environment. There is a reduction to a smaller number of professions and it gets one-sided. Some people are excited to be surrounded by brilliant minds and others feel poor when they cannot afford the average price of three million dollars for a house in Menlo Park. It has resulted in an unreal environment. I think we miss the opportunity of balance, the yin and yang. The city has become more masculine and driven. The feminine and nurturing side has suffered.

In order to be balanced in any aspect of life, we need both, the yin and the yang.

Interview by ASLI TOKSAL. 


Food for Reflection

When was the last time you spent quality time with family and friends?

Have you discovered this as a source of fulfillment for yourself?

How has the city you live in changed in the past 5 years?