Have you ever gone on a date and wondered why the other person hasn’t contacted you? Or been in a relationship and wondered why your partner would be so hurtful?

These sorts of scenarios fascinate Carol Yan, the 283rd person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers.

Carol is a relationship coach – she helps people manage relationship problems and breakups.

As Carol stresses, she’s not just a counsellor – i.e. someone who merely discusses problems and suggests solutions. She also actively coaches her clients, to provide strategies and support to make sure the clients achieve the results they want.

Carol is fascinated by the way our experiences shape the stories we tell ourselves, and how our body’s biochemicals affect our decision-making and behaviours. That explains why we may inadvertently send unclear messages to our partners or completely misread their intentions.

Carol’s knowledge and personality make her perfectly suited to the role of a relationship coach – but it did take her a while to get there.

Carol moved from China to Australia to study accounting, but sensed from the start of her university degree that the profession was not for her. When she began her career, the feeling grew even stronger: sitting in front of a computer all day did not align with her personality.

So Carol studied psychology, something that had long fascinated her, and took a job helping participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which was much more to her liking.

But, still, Carol felt there was something missing – which became clear when she suffered a painful breakup that prompted her to take stock of her life and actively search for happiness. Through her work, Carol had met many people who were unhappy but had refused to change; that made her realise how personal responsibility plays a crucial role in obtaining happiness. Carol realised she needed to do what made her truly happy; she also needed to take more control over her life and have the courage to chase scary dreams.

That prompted Carol to make her final career shift.

Ironically, even though we can struggle to communicate with others, often the person we most struggle to understand is ourselves. Fear and insecurity can cloud our judgement, and cause us to follow the wrong life paths.

Carol has learned a lot about others, and herself at the same time, and is now definitely on the right path.