Episode 10: Overcoming anxiety and going all in – with Hannah Ciepiela

Hannah Cipiela Coaching founder Hannah Ciepiela tells us why she had to take away the safety net and go all in to start her anxiety coaching business.

Today’s guest

Hannah Ciepiela of Hannah Cipiela Coaching

Website: Hannah Ciepiela Coaching

Instagram: Hannah Ciepiela Coaching

LinkedIn: Hannah Cipiela

Contact: hannah@ehccoaching.com

Hannah is a coach and therapist who specialises in anxiety and who works in particular with parents of anxious children.  She is also author of “Kingdom of Your Mind”, which focuses on the emotional well-being of children.

Hannah spent 20 years in sales but realised that it wasn’t a career which fitted in with her values and so, whilst working part-time, she started coaching and consulting.  However, it was her voluntary work with the Samaritans that led her to specialise in anxiety coaching. 

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • What first inspired Hannah to work hard
  • How financial security and the need to survive was paramount in Hannah’s early career
  • Why “half-breaks” didn’t work for Hannah and she needed to go all in to leave her sales job
  • The value of speaking to your employer if things aren’t working out for you
  • How voluntary work can lead to a change of career path
  • The importance of creating the right working environment
  • How to break “imposter syndrome”
  • Why “build it and they will come” doesn’t work
  • Why you can’t talk to enough people when beginning a business

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 10: Overcoming anxiety and going all in - with Hannah Ciepiela

Hanna Ciepiela
It is amazing that actually - if you have these conversations with people - it's amazing the opportunities that can come up. You can feel very, very trapped - so you feel very much like I am trapped in this job. But actually, when I had the conversation, it turned out that there were other avenues that could be explored.

Jeremy Cline
Sometimes a gradual change in career will work, but other times, you've just got to let go and take the plunge. Well, that's exactly what Hanna Ciepiela did. And she's my guest this week. I'm Jeremy Cline. And this is Change Work Life.

Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating those Sunday evening blues. My guest this week is Hanna Ciepiela. And in this interview, we explore just how difficult it can be to make that shift in career especially when you've got a family to support. Hannah is now a coach who helps people through anxiety, especially children. But in this interview, we learn how it took Hannah, actually a fair bit of time and a few false starts before she finally took the plunge and started her own business. So here's the interview. Hi Hanna, welcome to the podcast.

Hanna Ciepiela
Hi, Jeremy. Hi.

Jeremy Cline
Can I just start - before we delve into your backstory and the career change that you've made - can you just describe for everyone what it is that you do?

Sure. So I work as a coach and therapist. I specialise in anxiety. I cover a range of areas, but anxiety is the sort of main area that I focus in. And I also work with parents of anxious children - so helping them to manage their children's anxieties. And I've also written a book recently, which is being published next month.

Oh right, what's the book?

Hanna Ciepiela
The book's called Kingdom of your Mind. And that's a book that's focusing on children's emotional wellbeing and teaching them ownership of their mind.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. Now, I'm right in saying that you actually started out in sales, is that right?

Hanna Ciepiela
I did. I started out as an Account Manager many, many years ago. So I got pregnant with my daughter - bit of serendipity - when I was very young, I was too young, I was 18 - and I didn't really know what to do. I knew I wanted to work and I didn't know what direction to go in. So I knew that I needed a car. And there used to be a car - I lived near a station - and there was a car parked outside the house every day - it was a really, really nice car - and I thought, I want a car like that. And then I realised that every morning when I got up, that car was parked there. So it was there early, they were working really hard. And I was like right, if I need a car like that, or I want a car like that, I'm gonna have to work really hard to get that car - it's not just gonna fall into my lap. And of all the ways to get into a career, that's actually how I got into sales - because they gave me the car! And so I got a sales job and started quite low down but I was actually really good at it, so I worked my way up and became quite successful in sales, and then got a bit stuck there.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so tell me a bit about that. What led you to your feelings that you'd got stuck?

Hanna Ciepiela
Well, I'd always had a real interest in psychology. When I was younger, I wanted to study psychology, and I was also very interested in journalism. But due to having my daughter quite young, my life took a slightly different survival path because I needed to earn money. So the sales route was there, but it just never felt congruent with my values and where I wanted to be and really my skillset. But the good thing was that because I was very interested in psychology and people, you can apply an awful lot of that in a sales role, because you're working with people, and it's about understanding people and their needs. So I just tried to make the best of it. And yeah, these were the things I was interested in.

Jeremy Cline
Okay. How long were you in sales for?

Hanna Ciepiela
I was in sales for over 20 years.

Jeremy Cline
And this feeling of it not quite being for you - is that something that you experienced from the outset, or was this something that evolved over time?

Hanna Ciepiela
I think it evolved. I think initially, the need to survive and earn an income and support my family was primary. And I think that the inner dissatisfaction kind of crept up and up over the years, but it was always a bit of a niggle that was in the background.

Jeremy Cline
At what point did it become an unbearable niggle that made you think I need to change this?

Hanna Ciepiela
So I think I had about I think I had about four years of unbearable niggling, which is quite a long time to feel that way! And I did try a number of times - I went part-time, and then I did leave, and then I went back. So it was during those four or five years, there was quite a lot of sort of trying to make the break, but not quite managing it for various reasons.

Jeremy Cline
And what was your sort of thought process at the time? I mean, were you just trying different things? So when you went part time, and when you left, and when you back went back again - sort of what was going through your mind at the time?

Hanna Ciepiela
So when I went part time, I think the plan was partly just to give myself the space to work out what to do next. And I think it was also to sort of start studying, start developing in a different area. But sales - for anyone that works in sales would know - it's very consuming. I did solution sales so you're really constantly on call even when you're part time - if you're going to do it well, you need to be available. And so I never really managed to make the break property - I was always half still in the job. So that was tricky really, it didn't really provide the solution that I was after.

Jeremy Cline
Was this a case of being told yes, yes part time's absolutely fine - but actually, in reality you're still expected to do the same amount of work?

Hanna Ciepiela
Yeah, it did feel like that. So in the end, it was almost a case of if I'm going to do the work I might as well go full time and get paid for the work! So yeah, going back - I had some changes in my own personal circumstances as well, which meant that going back full time, made more sense financially. And so yeah, so I did that. That's when I went back full time again.

Jeremy Cline
And how did that make you feel at the time when you went back full time? Was it reluctance? Or was something else?

Hanna Ciepiela
I think at the time, the financial security very initially overrode the reluctance. But it was within a very short period that I felt, oh, my goodness, I can't believe I've put myself back in this situation again! I was so close to breaking free, and then here I am again, consumed by this job that just doesn't flow with where I need to be or want to be in life.

Jeremy Cline
So what happened next then?

Hanna Ciepiela
What did happen next... Well, actually, it became so consuming and my dissatisfaction got to a level whereby it became unsustainable - it was actually affecting my mental health. And I genuinely couldn't carry on pretending to myself that this was going to be okay, I could just keep pushing through and just do another year. So in the end, I took a very brave and bold leap and I just said, right, this is it, I've got to get out. So I was very, very lucky that the company that I worked for, accepted that and they were really understanding and actually gave me some consultancy work to do for a period of time. So that was fantastic. And it is amazing that actually if you have these conversations with people, it's amazing opportunities that can come up. You can feel very, very trapped. So you feel very much like I am trapped in this job. But actually, when I had the conversation, it turned out that there were other avenues that could be explored. So I was very fortunate.

Jeremy Cline
That's really interesting, because I think a lot of people think that - they just think that they can't have the conversation. It's you're either in it or you're not in it and you've got to go from one or the other, and there's not necessarily a halfway point.

Hanna Ciepiela
Absolutely. And I mean, I felt - my goodness - I felt so trapped, like beyond... I just could not see a way out. And yeah, actually, when the conversation happened, I think that if you're, you know, if you can do your job and you're skilled at your job, and you've got something to offer, I think there are often ways - it's always important to remember that you're actually offering something to the company, as well as the company's offering you something, and that there are often ways of working around that to find a solution that works for both.

Jeremy Cline
So can you tell me a bit about that conversation and what were you thinking when you went in? Did you go in with a plan of saying, I want to stop, or can you offer me consultancy? Or was it a case of look, this isn't working out and you just kind of then got offered the consultancy?

Hanna Ciepiela
Yeah, well when I went part time a while ago we'd already had the conversation that I was finding that the balance wasn't working for me and that I needed to step back. So I'd initially gone part time off the back of a quite light conversation about it, but then after going full time again and then really needing to step away, I was quite honest. And I just said - I mean, I was very fortunate that I get on very well with my boss, and we could have quite an honest conversation - but I just said look I can't do this, I just can't sustain it. I need to make a change. And also I was very honest with them. I said, I'm not serving you well, because you know, I feel like I'm not delivering. Because to me that's very, very important. I need to feel that I'm offering value to whoever I'm working for whether it's my own personal clients or an organisation - anyone - I have to do that within myself to feel comfy and happy. So I was very honest. And I think that honesty is a very important thing. Because at the end of the day, it's just two humans having a conversation and sometimes when you're honest, that can open up many more options, actually.

Jeremy Cline
Sure, yeah. And so when you went on to the the new consultancy arrangement, what was your plan at that point? Had you already decided that you were going to look into what you're doing now, or what were you thinking at the time?

Hanna Ciepiela
Yeah, so I'd already been doing some coaching in the background. And I'd already started writing the book as well, but again, very much in the background. So my view was that I would do the consultancy for an agreed period whilst continuing to grow the business and my own practice and developing the book in background.

Jeremy Cline
So how had you got into the consultancy aspects in the first place?

Hanna Ciepiela
So that was just taking a skillset that I already had and working for the same organisation. So I was just invoicing on a monthly basis. And using the same skill set that I'd already been using for my main job.

Jeremy Cline
Okay, so you were in sales, but then that also became a sort of coaching job internally did it?

Hanna Ciepiela
No, so I went into more of a marketing role for them. So I did marketing on a more consultative basis. And I did do a bit of coaching work for them as well. So at one point, the two roles were quite different - they were quite opposite to each other. So the coaching was one thing, and the consultancy was quite different. But the coaching work I'd been doing in the background prior to that was separate to the business, the industry that I was doing the consultancy for.

Jeremy Cline
Were you at that stage looking at focusing in particular on anxiety issues, or were you looking at career coaching? What was your plan at that point?

Hanna Ciepiela
No, when I first set out - when I initially started coaching - I was doing executive coaching. But I was also doing voluntary work for the Samaritans. So I found that for me personally working with people actually within their lives rather than within corporations felt, it just resonated with me a lot more. And so I sort of developed into that, but I hadn't really niched it when I started. So I kind of went I'm going to do coaching, and I'm going to focus in this area, but the anxiety actually developed up - not my personal anxiety, although there was some of that as well! - the anxiety and coaching, sort of naturally organically developed really, and it became an area that just became so prevalent, that it just felt right to start to really niche the business into that.

Jeremy Cline
Can you talk about some of the challenges that you faced with starting this as a business? I mean it's one thing to think, Oh, you know, I quite fancy doing some coaching and another one actually turning it into something that replaces a job?

Hanna Ciepiela
So I think probably my biggest barrier was myself and just having the self-belief in doing it. I think you can have it even when you're qualified and you're trained - because I'd done a lot of training as well prior to this - and I think even when you're fully qualified, there's still that risk of imposter syndrome and thinking am I good enough, there's a lot of people out there doing it - and you know, what can I offer? So I think overcoming that is really important. Turning it into business - for me, it felt very important to get premises and a base to operate from. Some coaches don't, they'll work either they'll go to clients or... but for me, it felt very important to have somewhere. It made me more accountable. So I go to my office every day, and I work from there. But that's a personal thing about discipline, really. But yeah, I think the development into the business was, you know, it was scary. And I think the biggest obstacle was self belief, really.

Jeremy Cline
And how did you overcome that self-belief obstacle? Because I'm sure it's something that many, if not most people face is this feeling that they might want to do something else, but just not have the self-belief that they can do it.

Hanna Ciepiela
Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, some days, it's still there. I think everyone does. Some of the most successful people in the world suffer from imposter syndrome on a regular basis. I think it's something that's quite ingrained in us. I think actually just doing it - when you sit with somebody, and you know that you're doing something that is helping that person and that you're flowing. I think when you do something that you love, that you feel passionate about, that resonates in you, and I think you can feel it. And that was for me, that was the driving force - working with people and seeing the differences that I could make in their life.

Jeremy Cline
So you decided with your experience in the Samaritans to start sort of focusing more on anxiety coaching, rather than career coaching? It's one thing, finding out that you enjoy doing something, but it's quite another actually turning it into a business because there's a demand for it. So how did you sort of assess that there was actually a demand for this, this change of focus?

Hanna Ciepiela
So I think that I mean, the demand - sadly - is huge at the moment. I think mental health resources are very, very low at the moment. It's a very, very overstretched system. And there are, unfortunately, so many people dealing with anxiety. Life's changing very, very quickly. And I think almost quicker than we can evolve emotionally, there's a significant change happening and we've evolved very rapidly in a very short space of time as a species. So I think to be able to help people through those changes - because change is very frightening and to be able to help people through those changes to be able to sit with them and actually explore what's going on for them - feels like a very valuable thing. And I had no doubt that there was enough people out there that that were in need of it, because they were coming to me saying that they were in need of it.

Jeremy Cline
That was my next question. Because I suppose there's two barriers, one is persuading people that to solve this issue they need to speak to someone because it's something that I think people are generally quite reticent about talking about at all. And then the second thing is that you're the person that they talk to. So how do you overcome those barriers?

Hanna Ciepiela
I mean some people, it's just not - I mean, you've got different approaches: you've got counselling which is a different approach to coaching, coaching is quite proactive, so it's quite a collaborative event when you work with a coach. And for some people that's not right. Some people would need more of a counselling - it depends on their circumstances. But to get people, I mean, the thing is, people will come if they need the help, if they need the support. You can't ever talk anyone into into doing it, I think it's just about putting yourself out there. And for me, it's about creating empathy with people and people feeling comfortable being open to you. And that's such a critical part of it - is that people feel that they can talk to you. But with regards to them deciding whether to come I mean that's pretty much out of my control really. But once they do come, then it is about creating that rapport with people and that empathy and just sitting with somebody and I think doing the Samaritans, doing the coaching previously - you know, having a lack of judgement - just making people feel comfortable, because it is a big thing. It's a very vulnerable position - some people have never opened up or never explored things so to do it with a stranger is a daunting thing. And I understand that very much when I work with people.

Jeremy Cline
And how do you get yourself known? And how do you put yourself about and get on people's radars when people decide that they need some help?

Hanna Ciepiela
For me, that has been the hardest part of the process. Definitely. I'm not massively good at marketing myself or putting myself in people's face - it's just not my natural state of being. Social media is really powerful. Again, sometimes it feels like a necessary evil, but it is really, really powerful with reaching people and getting the message across. And word of mouth. I think just working with people - I think the one thing that really surprised me is I think I thought that I could get an office and get some flyers and put them out there and people would just come flocking and they just don't, they just don't! It just doesn't happen! [Laughs]

Jeremy Cline
It's not 'build it and they will come' - it doesn't happen does it?

Hanna Ciepiela
[Laughs] No it doesn't. And I think that was very much my naivety, that I just thought it'll be fine. And so I've had to overcome a lot of personal battles, because I've had to network and networking isn't really my natural state of comfort. I find that quite daunting. But actually, do you know what, when you start to get out there and you start to talk to people, people are so nice and so friendly, and so supportive. So slowly, each event, I went to, each barrier I came up against, taught me that it's not quite as big and scary putting yourself out there as I thought it was. If you believe in what you're doing, I think that's where people can see it, people can tell that you're passionate about what you're doing. And I think people feel that. And hence why I had to leave the other job I was doing because I lost my passion. And I just didn't feel that I was conveying it, or doing my job as well as I could anymore.

Jeremy Cline
You've talked quite a lot about internal resistance. So having to put yourself out there, put yourself into uncomfortable situations, imposter syndrome, that sort of thing - what about external influences? I mean, were there people who said to you, Oh, come on, Hannah, what are you doing? You had this successful sales job, and you're starting out this new business, what are you playing at?

Hanna Ciepiela
I was actually really, really fortunate that most people were supportive. I'm trying to think whether there was... There were some people who - because in the end, I just had to let go of my old job and take a bit of a leap of faith because again, as a person, that's how I'm a bit all or nothing, so I was like, I need to let this go - and a lot of people said, No, you don't - you need to keep some security whilst you grow it. So that was one where I had to trust myself and say, No, I need to let go of that security actually - because that's what will drive me to grow the next stage. And so quite a few people were wary of that. But nobody was discouraging, because the people that know and love me know that I've got a passion for this and that I can do it. So they were very supportive.

Jeremy Cline
And what about professional support? Have you had any coaching yourself or mentoring or people to help you not just do what you do, but turn it into a business?

Hanna Ciepiela
Yeah, so I was really, really fortunate that a few years ago, when I first started going down the coaching route in my training, I worked with somebody who was an executive coach, a very successful one and very respected. And I worked almost on a sort of apprenticeship level with him. So I got to watch work alongside him, I was still working part time in the other business at the same time. So I learned an awful lot from that, that was that was hugely valuable. And from a business point of view, that's actually something that I wish I had got more mentorship with prior to taking the leap. I wish I'd got a little bit more understanding about running my own business and that side of things. That's probably something that I would have... just the marketing side because like I said, I went in quite naively, and with hindsight, it would have benefited me to go in with a bit more understanding and more of approach, a strategy, a strategy - that's what I needed - a strategy! [Laughs]

Jeremy Cline
And is this something that you've since sought out? Or have you not needed to, you've just sort of picked it up on the way?

Hanna Ciepiela
I've learned an awful lot just from talking to other people. And again, this is why networking is really good - if you can overcome the networking issue. It has been so helpful just talking, and I just don't think you can ever talk to enough people and hear their experiences and what they've gone through and how they've got to where they are. And I think certainly talking to people who you respect and value is so important.

Jeremy Cline
So having now done a lot of networking, what would you say you thought networking was? And what do you now say that it is - so that it's actually not that scary?

Hanna Ciepiela
So I think when I started, I just had visions - I think because I worked in sales, networking, and sales can be quite a schmoozy sort of environment - and see, I don't like small talk. I'm somebody who likes the real grit of life - I'm not very good at small talk! And so I think I felt that there'd be an awful lot of superficial conversation and not a lot of genuineness and actually I was so wrong, because it's not like that at all, you talk to some really lovely people who are really willing to share their experiences and that's a great gift, to learn from that. Because you can learn not only what works, but also - as you're doing with your wonderful podcast - you can learn, you know, what's helped people and what hasn't.

Jeremy Cline
You're so kind!

Hanna Ciepiela
It's true!

Jeremy Cline
So are you a member of any sort of formal networking groups, do you go down that route, or is it just people?

Hanna Ciepiela
No [laughs]. One step at a time! No, I think go to some formal networking and through quite a lot of the study that I've done, they have network evenings and stuff. So I do go to things like that. And even through study actually, there's so many people that you meet, who are either higher up in their experience or have taken a different path, so you learn an awful lot through that as well - and it's like-minded people.

Jeremy Cline
If someone was asking you to look back over the past - I don't know - five years, what's the thing that you wish that you now had told yourself five years ago, or maybe even 10 years ago?

Hanna Ciepiela
Oh, just do it! Just do it. Because I think I definitely went easily five years past where I should have done. I should have stepped away and taken a different path. I think it affected my mental health. It was just very detrimental. And now I've done it, I feel like a different person. I feel like me, rather than somebody trying to be something that they're not. Yeah, I just think it's such a valuable thing to be following a path that you believe in.

Jeremy Cline
What do you hope the future holds? Some people start a business so that they can build an asset to sell on and make millions, some people do it just because it's something that brings an income and keeps the bills paying - I mean where do you sort of see you going and your business going?

Hanna Ciepiela
And so for me, my primary focus has always been because it's the only way I can really work, helping other people. The book is really important to me, I really, really hope that that benefits a lot of children, because I think that children's emotional health is critical, really. But nothing's ever altruistic, ever I don't think. And for me, personally my driving force is to provide security for my children, because I'm a single parent. And that's important. I want to be able to buy them - I mean, they have very supportive father, but you know, I'm on my own when it comes to day to day, you know, providing my home and things. And I want to be able to provide them with security and experiences as well. So that's what drives me. So yeah, I would like to build a very successful practice. That's my aim, and ideally, I suppose at the moment, I've got the clinic in Hitchin - I'd like one in London as well.

Jeremy Cline
I would imagine you can find an awful lot of business in London as well.

Hanna Ciepiela
Gosh yeah, you're not wrong there!

Jeremy Cline
Of all the learning that you've you've done, is there anything that's particularly leapt out - any particular books which have really helped you on the way, or courses or just quotes which you thought Yeah, okay, this is what I need to follow. Anything that's particularly spurred you on?

Hanna Ciepiela
So there's a book - it's called You're a Bad Arse? Ass? Ass!! Ass! It's American, is that okay to say that!? It is a book that's on the shelf, so it can't be too bad! That's by Jen Sincero.

Jeremy Cline
What was it called again?

Hanna Ciepiela
You're a Badass. Very American! And totally like the sort of thing that I'd look at and go, 'Oh'! It just put me off totally, the title. But when you actually get into the book, it is so good. It's just about learning to stop doubting yourself and actually follow what you're good at. And it's a very good book. It's, like I say, the title really put me off, but it's very witty, and it's got a lot of wisdom in it as well. And it was a real turning point for me reading that book, it really gave me a bit of a like, 'Oh, my gosh, I might actually be able to do this'. This is like, this is something I could do. Yeah, I found that very powerful. And I'm just learning - I just, I listen to podcasts constantly. I think if you're interested in something, just absorb as much of it as you can. And and the more you do, the more it'll keep driving you forward.

Jeremy Cline
Absolutely. Fantastic. This has been really interesting. I've loved hearing about what you've done, what you're doing now - where can people find out more about you if they want to make contact, or make use of what you have to offer?

Hanna Ciepiela
And so my website is www.ehccoaching.com, and the book site is www.kingdomofyourmind.co.uk. But that's not out yet, that's out at the end of the month.

Jeremy Cline
Cool. I will make sure we've got links to those in the show notes. Well Hanna best of luck with your business and it's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

Hanna Ciepiela
Thank you. Thanks for having me on, it has been a pleasure.

Jeremy Cline
Thank you, bye bye.

Hanna Ciepiela
Bye.

Jeremy Cline
So I hope you enjoyed that interview with Hanna Ciepela, of EHC coaching. There's really two things that I took out of the interview with Hannah. One is that it's hard - it can be really hard - to make fundamental changes to your life and career. And our inclination is often just to tinker, you know, make a small change here, small change there, but that tinkering just never quite does the job. And then there's the second thing is that if you do take the plunge, the reward is there and the reward is satisfaction. It's the satisfaction with what you do. You know, you can change jobs in the same area but that doesn't necessarily give you the same job satisfaction as you would get if you actually made a wholesale change. And you can really hear in Hannah's voice her passion for what she does now and you just know that she's made the right choice. I don't know about you but I was kind of almost cheering her on in her story and when you finally get to that bit where she takes the plunge and decides that she's going to set up her own - it's a great moment I think. As ever, we've got links to the resources and all of Hanna's contact details in the show notes which you'll find at changeworklife.com/10 - number 10 for Episode 10. We've got another great episode next week so hit subscribe to make sure that you get it as soon as it comes. And I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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