I was born in a small town outside Moscow in a traditional Russian-Armenian family. As a child I was talented in a little bit of everything – dancing, piano, singing, poetry – but my curiosity and patience never lasted long enough to master any of these properly. As I was growing up I kept changing my mind as to what I wanted to become – a doctor, ballerina, singer, producer, etc. I could see myself being anything I wanted because I had no self-doubt and was a very courageous girl.

However, grown-ups who “knew life better” soon told me I was wrong.

“Be realistic Sofiya,” they would say. “You cannot always do what you love, especially if you want to earn a living. Those people who have made it happen are one-in-a-million. Are you sure you can do that?”

I was a good girl and obediently decided that I was not one to follow my heart. So I did my best to be practical in my life choices (or at least to look like I was).

When it was time to pick a university I really wanted to take a philosophy or psychology degree because the human mind fascinated me and I felt I could contribute to other people’s lives if I pursued a career in those fields. However, neither course fitted into the “practical” category. I remember having a long conversation with my parents – with tears and pleas – but in the end I had to give in to them. I was a good, traditional girl after all.

God knows how I persuaded them to allow me to apply for an art history course (honestly, the queen of unpractical degrees). 

I spend four years learning about the Renaissance, the history of Russian ballet and Greek theatre, while all at the same time compromising, shutting down my inner voice and agreeing with others when I wanted to disagree.

I graduated with good marks in all subjects.

However, the courageous girl inside of me woke soon after graduation. And after months of strategic negotiations, my family finally approved my wish to study abroad.

Four years ago I moved from Moscow to London.

London was the city of my dreams – a place that promised endless opportunities and where I could fulfil my potential. This girl from a small Russian town landed at Heathrow Terminal 4 with two big suitcases full of hopes.

After completing my master’s degree I was determined to find a job and settle in London, but everyone kept saying it was nearly impossible for a non-EU citizen. I had to find a company that would agree to sponsor my visa first. For the next few months I was running from one interview to another, getting rejection after rejection. The expiry date on my student visa was getting closer, but I never lost hope (remember my two suitcases). I really wanted to stay in London and if I failed I would consider it a personal defeat.

I was hard-working and finally got a job offer at one of the leading auction houses. “I did it!” I said to myself. It was my first big victory and I felt invincible. Eye of the Tiger played in my headphones as I gloriously crossed Millennium Bridge.

However, things changed over the following years. The glow of sweet victory faded and routine hit me – and hard. One morning I was running across that same bridge to work and got irritated by every sound I heard around.

I was completely dissatisfied and stressed about my life.

Work drained my energy instead of nurturing me. I returned home feeling empty and prayed for the weekend to come. I was also constantly worrying about my visa status because I was once told that I would be sent back to Moscow. The constant stress and pressure caused me to develop eczema and an allergy I’d never had before.

My romantic life was far from being fulfilling either. London turned out to be a lonely place when you’re single, so I was looking for the “one and only” more actively than I was looking for a job after graduation. I thought that a relationship would give me comfort and support to survive through these stressful weekdays. Finally, I met a man who I thought was the one. It felt like an ideal match on every level. But one day he told me that we had no future together because his family would only accept a girl from his culture. I was ruined.

Young, heartbroken, chronically tired and looking forward to the weekend. That’s not how I imagined my life in London.

If I could choose one word to describe myself at that time it would be unfulfilled. My life lacked passion but was full of fear. Fear of disapproval, fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of losing my job and the fear of losing my right to be in the UK.

But the biggest fear was not living the life I really wanted.

I started therapy sessions to deal with my breakup and work issues. It took me six months to completely recover and re-wire my brain.

When toddlers are learning to walk on two feet, they try to stand up, but then fall, then start all over again and repeat this process until they can finally walk without any support. That was me learning how to be more assertive with what I want and how to say “no” even when I feel uncomfortable doing so. I was learning how to live a more authentic life.

Therapy gave me more than peace of mind; it gave me a hobby. I became absorbed by psychology and personal development. My omnivorous brain would consume information from books, online courses, lectures and documentaries. Knowledge excited me. For the first time since early childhood I remembered how courageous I could be. And for the first time in a long time I could see myself being anything I wanted.

Those feelings were so liberating and I felt happier. I even started a blog in Russian where I shared my thoughts on a fulfilling career and relationships. It became quite popular. But I still hesitated to make dramatic changes in my life. I found my passion, but so what? Carry on with my life as it was and keep reading books? Any big changes would throw me into the unknown and that scared me.

Or it did… until one day.

I was browsing around Borough Market to get some fresh groceries. As I walked by the stalls, I noticed people standing in front of a large wall completely covered by handwriting. Some people were reading, while others were noting things down. I went closer. At the top it said: “Before I die I want to…” and after that there were dozens of sentences people had written. “Write a book”, “Give a TED talk”, “Visit Alaska” and many more anonymous aspirations, dreams and goals. I later learned that the wall was part of a global art project by Candy Chang, who wanted to remind people that time is limited and to really reflect on what matters the most.

The message of the wall was so powerful, motivating and genuine. It was a catalyst for me to consider what I wanted. Then I came up with my response.

“I want to turn my passion into a fulfilling career path and make a positive impact on others.”

I froze in front of the wall for a moment. “What the hell I am waiting for if I am so hungry for change?” I asked myself. “The best time is now!”

I ran back home, switched on my laptop and searched “University Coaching Programme UK”. I was looking for the most rigorous and high quality coaching course in Europe and one month later I enrolled at Cambridge University.

The Cambridge programme exceeded my expectations. In my group there were executives from all over the world and one guy flew all the way from Singapore to attend lectures. The coaching practice was so intense that my head ached at the end of the first day. But it felt wonderful. I called my dad to share my thoughts on the course and he said: “I haven’t heard such a happy voice from you for a while.”

He was right. I finally felt happy and fulfilled with my life because I was following my heart and creating life I truly wanted.

Coaching changed my life completely. A few years before I could not imagine my passion would grow into a purposeful career path and that my story would inspire others to be authentic, brave and determined to create a life they truly want and deserve.

Fulfillment Coaching

Today I’m coaching young professionals who feel stuck, lost and who are afraid of change (even when they desperately want to). My work is very rewarding because I see how lives can be transformed with the right mindset, determination and action plan. After one session, a client called me and said: “Sofiya, for the first time I stopped thinking of excuses and started taking action. It’s real freedom.”

I strongly believe that human potential is endless, passions can turn into fulfilling jobs and our happiness is in our hands. I experienced it myself and so can you.

Big achievements start with small steps and in every moment you have an opportunity to take your first step.

How many have you taken today that will send towards the life you truly want?

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