My parents named me Persephone, a name that has come to bear fruit for me -- but not before I was called Per-sa-PHONE and Per-SIF-any for most of my life. When I would explain that I was named after the Greek goddess of spring, people praised it "how lovely" while subtly backing away, afraid that they might have to pronounce it again (or even worse, spell it). Those who knew the myth would excitedly ask me about its deeper meaning, hoping I might somehow shed enlightenment on the mysteries of birth, death, and rebirth for them. But I was just a child, and an extremely shy one at that. My parents were only too eager to step in -- it was their idea in the first place, and I would have to endure long discourses about the paradoxical nature of the myth. I longed for a normal name -- one that might be printed on a keychain or a mug -- like the name they gave my twin sister: Katherine. It is only now, after coaching women entrepreneurs for 20 years, that the name Persephone has turned out to be perfect. I just had to grow into it.
In the myth, Persephone lives half the year in the underworld, during which the earth is barren. When she returns to the natural world in the spring, her mother Demeter, so pleased that she has returned, allows the earth to bloom and flower, bringing spring and summer. In my work, clients come to me ready to blossom. They have a dream of starting their own business, pursuing their passion, being autonomous and making lots of money. They often believe that these achievements will hold the key to their happiness. But as an experienced trainer and counselor, I have seen time and again that their real contentment lies in imagining not only what they hope to achieve as entrepreneurs, but also by valuing who they already are and what they have now. When this happens, their business idea comes to fruition in a way that supports their whole life, and in turn, their greatest happiness. In working with people in this way, I have tapped into my own greater purpose, and -- in middle age -- discovered a connection to the myth of my namesake, Persephone.
I too had the dream of owning my own business, thinking that it held the key to my professional success. The year was 1997, and I had recently left my position as Director of Training at American Women's Economic Development Corporation, a national non-profit training organization for women entrepreneurs. I was about to have my first child, and I believed that having my own coaching business would bring me a schedule that would allow me to spend time with my family and the chance to earn money while doing the work I loved most: working with people to help them realize their goals. After a few years of having my own coaching practice, however, I came to two realizations. The first was that while I loved coaching clients, I did not like marketing myself, selling my services or handling the billing and taxes. I simply didn't have an interest in running the business and I shied away from becoming better at it. I realized that although I had built a career supporting entrepreneurs, I was not one myself.
The second and more pivotal realization came when I stopped focusing on the successful woman entrepreneur I thought I should be and began to value what truly made me happy. I joined the staff of local women's business center and with a steady flow of clients at the ready, I was able to focus on the part of the work that I love and found the energy and the ability to be present to the other things that are important to me: family, health, personal creativity and spirituality. It took a while, but I slowly gave myself permission to let go of my MBA in Entrepreneurship as the sole driver of success in life and instead gave weight to being part of a team at work, spending quality time with my children, and doing volunteer work around conscious business. This shift, though seemingly small on the outside, was the result of looking below the surface to what really had meaning for me and has in turn, created a sense of fulfillment and a quiet resonance that now ripples outward to those I work with.
It is only after Persephone spends six months of each year below the surface in the underworld that she can return to Demeter and herald spring. As a modern day Persephone, I help to ignite a shift in perspective, giving those I counsel permission to build their own personal mythology -- a vision of success that contains the seed of their wholeness, which when nourished allows their greatest happiness to blossom. It is the Third Metric in action.