Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nudging your fear

Saturday morning I woke up ay 3.30am, my head like a whirlwind. Just hours away I was running my first workshop of one of my programs - the first time I was putting 'me' out into the world. Nervous doesn't cut it.

This is the third program I've designed over the past year but none of them had yet seen the light of public day. I made a million excuses as to why I wasn't ready, but the truth is fear was getting in the way.

Fear of it not being good enough.

Fear that I was not good enough.

I knew I had to launch these programs to make the shift in my career that I so badly wanted to make. But the fear was strong, it had its tendrils wrapped tightly around my wrists. So powerful, it was easier to remain in my mediocre little world feeling increasingly frustrated and 'meh' than it was to fight it and put myself out there.

Here's where three beautiful women come in.

I met these three a couple of years ago through work that linked up and we became friends. We all come from different places and have very different lives, yet our like minds, like outlooks, like ideas have overtime meant this gorgeous set of women have become like a little tribe.

One of the things I love about this group is that we hold ourselves accountable for our ideas. If you say you're going to do something, you do it or the tribe will be asking you some very probing questions as to why you didn't act. But in loving, supportive way. And if there's a block, we'll help each other through it.

How lucky am I?

So it was I said I wanted to run this workshop. In saying it to these girls I was going to be accountable. Fear would not win this time. So at a quarter to twelve yesterday with my heart racing I was still making last minute adjustments to materials. It was all a bit rough, but 80% is a good enough place to start right?

The premise of this workshop is career transition, getting to the depths of what you really want to do for work and getting clarity about what you don't want. The process helps identify your skillset that makes you unique and how to present that in a way that reflects you. I'm taking a different approach - trained in psychology I'm coming from an angle of psychotherapy and schema therapy to take a deep dive into motivations and blocks.

As so the afternoon flew and I loved every moment of doing the workshop. It didn't all flow as planned, we took some twists and turns but its all part of iteration and refinement. It was not only an enlightening process for the participants but for me. I found that just running this one workshop has smashed my fear to pieces. In in that fear being smashed I have more clarity about how I can shape my offering and career than I have had in years.

Its not easy to tackle what we fear most, to acknowledge but push on anyway. Our deepest fears about ourselves are often the ones we had the longest. Many of us have been feeding them since our childhood and let them hold us back from being the best person we can be. That the world needs us to be.

But its not impossible, and being surrounded by a group of people who will nudge and support you along the journey is key. And I think nudge is a great word when we talk about breaking through fear as a huge leap is not always necessary. Nudging your way through means fear can be trick, it won't notice those tiny incremental changes you make behind it's back.

So think about what's holding you back, acknowledge it, and if a leap seems to much start nudging away at pushing past it.

What's one fear you have that could be nudged away?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Give yourself a break

I have felt it coming on for a few days. The lethargy, the fuzzy head and loss of appetite. A niggling cough. Sometime overnight last night it hit, a full blown flu complete with aching limbs and inability to do pretty much anything.

When 6am finally came I felt a familiar battle of thoughts that's hit me every time I've been in this situation my entire working career.
"Oh god, I feel awful. I can't go in. I need to stay in bed. I need to take care of myself."
"Get up! You can't stay in bed. People are relying on you. You have meetings to run and work due. You can't let people down."
Round and round this battle goes, til I eventually the later wins and I drag myself out of bed and into work.

Last year when I took Holly Becker's Blogging Your Way course, one Friday instead of a lesson we got a message that the poor girl was actually feeling pretty sick, that she was going to take the day off and if we didn't mind she would get us our next lesson after the weekend.

Of course I didn't mind. Actually I was not only in awe of this woman for taking the day off when she was feeling under the weather even though she knew hundreds of people were expecting something from her, I was envious. Why? The fact is in the past I had to be on my deathbed to take a day off. It's also been the culture of the businesses I have worked for. Once when I had to be in hospital for a day to get treatment my boss at the time offered to bring my laptop in so I could work while receiving treatment. I kid you not. 'Work comes first' is a mentality I've had drummed into me from a very young age.

But lately I've been feeling differently about this. I've started to treat myself like I would treat others instead of putting myself last in the chain. I've been kinder to myself. In doing this, a whole raft of beliefs about who and what I should be and do have been shed.

And one of these is 'if I'm really sick, I'm going to stay home and take care of me'. The world will go on, things will get done, or they will not and they will wait. Most importantly I will look after myself, and if I'm ill I'm useless to anyone.

On that note, I'm going to leave you now and get back to my boxes of tissues and tea.

What about you? Do you feel guilty about staying home in bed when you're ill, knowing there's things to be done?

Image source: 1

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Feeling the chill?

With the arrival of the winter solstice it's really turned grey here, and though Sydney's not the coldest of places the weeks of incessant rain and chill can see even the chirpiest amongst us feeling a bit low. We can start to feel tired and lethargic, our mood can take a swing downwards, and our immune system takes a dip making us more prone to picking up those wintery bugs.

So at this time of the year it's even more important than ever to take care of ourselves. Tune into how you're feeling in your mind and body, and respond accordingly. Little things can go a long way to improve your state of mind and energy levels.

Each day take moments to tune with how you're faring, to feed and nurture yourself with the good things in life. Simple is good - a bowl of home-made soup, some reading time, a hot bath before bed.
On rainy weekend mornings before the world stirs I like to make tea, light some candles and just enjoy the peace and the sound of the rain while I contemplate my day ahead.

Simple pleasures. But so good for you. What could you do to perk yourself up a little at this time?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Some things have changed around here

My goodness, that's been some hiatus. Not a peep from me on the 'lil old blog for a full three whole months. I was getting messages in my box: are you ever coming back? I knew I eventually would, I just needed a break. Some space. Spaaace.

You see things in my life got a bit crazy around March and I felt myself drowning under the pressure. My day job was even more intense than usual, with lots of change going on I felt like I was holding it together for everyone. At the same time I was coming home late only to work on my freelance projects and in all that I was trying make time to work on the programs I so dearly wanted to birth into the world. 

I wanted to do it all, but something in my body was starting to scream no. I was stressed, exhausted, and depleted of any creative energy. I was starting to feel resentful every time someone asked me to do something, no matter how tiny. It just felt like another thing to get done for someone else, yet what was I doing for me? 

Worst of all I realised I had slipped back to my 'running' mode of 18 months ago, a way of being I'd so desperately wanted to leave behind. But what I was starting to understand was that a lifetime of habit was going to take more than some sporadic attempts to change. I was going to have to commit to changing some fundamentals about the way I operated. But where was the space in my life to so that?

At the beginning of April I went to see my lovely mentor and over a box of tissues wailed that I just wanted a month off it all - the projects, the freelance, the blog, the must-dos and the have-tos.

"Why don't you take it?" she said.

"Oh, but I can't because of A, B, X, Y" and a million other reasons. I was needed afterall, I couldn't just bow out of the world. I was the one holding it up.

She gave me that look, told me to get back to writing for fun not for outcome, then sent me on my way.

But my body latched onto the idea of a break like a child to a fluffy bunny, and was not going to let go.

"We could make this work. Sure we can't give up everything, but we could treat this as an exercise you would give one of your coaching clients and see how it goes, have fun with it. Try some things out. As a start we'll give up the blog, the book, designing, the program planning, we'll practice saying no. We'll even try and create space at work".

Yes. Yes! I was going to do it. No must-do. No have-tos. One month of space.

I know many of you are probably hyperventilating at the very thought of this, but like me also secretly desiring it too. We are experts at always taking on more without having the capacity to actually do so. I've written before about being an overfunctioner and the dangers of not asking for help when you need it. The result is usually you as a puddle of mess that's of little use to yourself, let alone others.

I know you all want to know what I did in my month of and how it panned out? On a very basic level treated myself well for the full 30 days. I can tell you, at first it wasn't easy listening to what my body needed and saying no does not come naturally to me at all. But I persisted and I can tell you confidently...

I started to like this new way of being alot. I got very used to it. So used to it in fact that though my month off ended in May, it's the end of June and I'm still going. I acted in a way I had probably not acted ever in my life. I sat with the uncomfortable feelings that came up when I said "No. I don't have capacity for that right now. I don't want to do that. I dont feel able to take that on." I lived through the feelings of guilt, the feelings that I should be doing something when actually all I wanted to do was nothing

And not only did I survive, I thrived. I started to feel revived. I could not only feel the transformation but I could witness it in the small ways. My journal transformed from black words down a page to pages of creative sketches with colour. My home had paintings on the wall for the first time since I bought my apartment. I had read four new novels - yes novels, not non-fiction. I had gaps in my weeks with nothing scheduled. I found time to change the look of my blog four times - just for fun, just to play with colour and type and code. I got my hair chopped off without fear. Small things, but major steps for me.

"How did I do it? I'm going to let you in what it takes to create space in your life to revive and thrive."

Yes, with all this talk of how wonderful and life-changing the process was for me and what a positive impact it's made to all areas of my life I hope you're now wanting to get some details about how I actually managed to make such a change. The good news is, I'm going to share it all with you. For what was born of this was a brand new program I'm just about to bring to you all. I'll have more details there here soon - so stay tuned. You'll love it - it's all about being good to yourself.

I'm so excited about sharing this program as I know this really works. I know change is possible. 

Are you ready?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Find your why

I've been struggling with something lately. It's a project I've had in my head for a while that's refusing to be birthed. I thought perhaps it's that the gestation period had not been long enough, but I know from experience that if an idea is solid in my mind I can get it out in an afternoon. Maybe it was me that wasn't ready to put myself out there. But the first release would be to a trusted circle of friends who's feedback I was eager to get.

No, it was something else. Something I couldn't put my finger on.

After weeks of being frustrated beyond belief I decided that there was no use forcing the issue, I had to let this block dissolve when it was ready. I just had to trust that whatever was holding this project back come in it's own time. It just so happened that my decision to give up the mental fight coincided with the Easter weekend and as I closed my front door I consciously left my spinning mind at home.

The power of distraction. It took just one day of being away for the 'why' of the block to rear it's head. So what was it?

Ironically, it was the WHY itself. I don't have clarity in myself as to the WHY of my project.

WHY am I compelled to create it? 
WHY do I believe in it?
WHY will it make a difference to people?

It's that simple. I have to work out the why, without which my project will not see daylight. The why is the emotion behind the idea, it's the power that will compel the idea forward.

Why is so important to discover your why?

Simon Sinek puts this into a simple circle diagram.
The WHAT is your idea. It's your offering, what you're bringing to the table. The HOW is the execution of this idea. But it's the WHY that's most important. The WHY is the how your offering will make people feel. People's WHY is deeply personal, tied into a core belief. People connect with the passion and the feeling the product/company gives them. They don't just connect the product itself.

So how do you find the why?

It can be difficult to articulate our WHY as to do so we need to connect deep down with our feelings, but there are a couple of techniques you can try.
  1. Think about all the things you love to do. The things what make you lose the sense of time. The things you could do all day if you were given the chance. What are the things you used to love doing as a child? What do all these things have in common? What is the motivation behind doing these things?
  2. Think about the people who you love, and who love you. Ask these people "Why are you friends with me? What is it about me that you love? What makes me special to you? What's my 'sweet spot'".
Your why is what value you offer to the world, and what people value about you.

I love the way people feel when they are seen, really seen, and heard by another human being. I love the smile they get on their face when they realise that someone has got them, understands them, accepts them for who they are and actually celebrates them.

I love that. It makes me gooey inside.

So that's my why. What's yours?

Image source  1

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to calm a messy mind

Four whole weeks. Where did it go? When I looked back at my last posting date I couldn't believe it. In that post I made a commitment to actually scheduling my first Illumination Project workshop. So did it happen? No. Why?

It's simple really. Lack of clarity, lack of focus and a very messy mind. Too much buzzing going on upstairs. Boy it's frustrating. All I want to do is give birth to an idea that planted it's seed, but I end up struggling with the enormity of the task and in a total spin. In addition, I'm not just working on one idea - throw a few projects into the mix and my mind's bubbling like a stew that you could stand your spoon up in. I'd love to see a snapshot of what my neurons have been up to over the past four weeks.

Does this sound familiar? I bet it does.

The great news is all is not lost. While we can't force our ideas to birth themselves calmly, we can do something that can help bring calm to the calamity on a daily basis.

My friend Miranti recently wrote how creating space in your life, just stopping really, can give much needed room for ideas to grow in their own time. Another technique I find works well is to just get it all out on paper as a big dump - write down every single one of your ideas and to-dos into a notebook. Don't worry about the order or the grouping, the important thing here is to get it all out of your head.
But today I'd like to talk about a third method. Yes, I'm going to spill beans on meditation and me. I hear you sigh heavily and say it's impossible to 'shut off your thoughts', but please bare with me a little further.

Before sharing this story I want to say three things:
  1. Meditation is not about shutting off your thoughts (I think that's impossible, for me it is anyway)
  2. It takes practice
  3. It works
Without knowing it, I started my foray into meditation-type practices way way back when I was in my first year at university. Dr. Brian Thomson (Swami Vivekananda Saraswati to those that know him well), a visionary Australian psychiatrist was doing some teaching at the University of Newcastle on yogic techniques for treating mental illness. In his lunch hour he would run Yoga Nidra sessions for students. I can't say I was particularly stressed back then, but I did find the sessions amazing in bringing me back to my body and calming my mind. I still use his practices to this day.

Skip forward to 2011 - my year from hell. Stress now fueled my life. I was doing a marathon of sorts everyday with fulltime job, part-time study and running a freelance design business. I wasn't sleeping right, I couldn't focus. My brain was always on the buzz. A friend of mine suggested I try meditation. 'Are you kidding? I haven't got time for that!' But very soon afterwards a meditation course came my way, and in need of something, I went.

It was awful. For four hours I fidgeted and wriggled. I went into battle with the million thoughts and kept ruminating on all the things I had to do when I got home. It felt like a total waste of time. I couldn't 'do it', stop the thoughts. But the problem was not that I couldn't do it, it was I didn't 'get it'. It's not about stopping the thoughts, it's about just noticing them without engaging with them. And when I got that meditation and I became very, very good friends.

It wasn't until the middle of 2012 that I managed to bring meditation into my daily life. After dinner, before I'm about to start work on a project I sit down and do just 10 minutes. I only do more when I can. But 10 minutes is enough to reap the benefits.

So what does it do for me exactly?
  • It CALMS the chaos. Not stopping it completely, but it's like the dust settling after a storm. I get clarity and perspective.
  • I feel more present. If I'm feeling chaotic I am not usually in the present. I'm in the past 'if only' and the future 'I must'. I'm not focused on what's happening right now. After just ten minutes I'm far more aware the space around me, the breeze, but most importantly how I'm feeling. I notice if I'm tired, or energized, upset or particularly happy. Im less and less on autopilot.
  • I feel relaxed and slow down. I find after mediation I'm more deliberate in my actions and less inclined to do the crazy multitasking. I can concentrate on one thing and see it through.
The organisation Get Some Head Space do a great little animated video that beautifully explains what meditation is and isn't.

The other interesting things about meditation is that I find it has a cumulative effect. The more regularly I meditate, the longer the benefits of a session last. It's affecting so many areas of my life in a positive way.

If you're interested in giving meditation a go, I recommend the following places to start:
  • Get Some Headspace take 10 program. Ten minutes of meditation for ten days. I mention them again, but Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk turned east London hipster, is said to have done for meditation what Jamie Oliver did for food. I love his approach and his meditations. This is a great place to start.
  • Kate James from Total Balance, a Melbourne based coach and meditation expert, has been teaching mediation for years. I use a number of her guided meditations regularly. She is currently revamping her site but assures me she will be making her meditations available via iTunes soon. She also does wonderful classes and retreats.
  • Deepak Chopra and Oprah's 21 day meditation challenge. Sounds corny but it's actually a great program. You get a meditation delivered to your inbox daily for free for 21 days. They're about 15 mins each in length - not too much to bite off. It's good if you want something to get you to the habit.
  • There's also a wealth of meditations on youtube, but you'll need to take time to try some out to find the ones you like.
Have you tried mediation? Did you struggle with it? Do you find it provides benefits? Please share your experiences and if you have any links to resources that you like, please post those too.

Image source  1  |  2

Saturday, February 23, 2013

In need of illumination?

Hello friends. I hope wherever you are you are well and happy and enjoying a weekend. I’m just home from Melbourne after the most amazing week doing some deep soul searching with a sensational group of people at the School of Life Summer School Intensive. If you don’t know about the School I highly recommend you check out the website, or visit the Bloomsbury hub if you’re ever in London. I’ll promise to write all about my week when I’ve had the time to digest all I learned.

You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet of late. I haven’t broken my arm or abandoned my writing, but been holed away stirring the pot on a project that’s been on my mind for such a long time. In the last couple of months snippets of ideas, thoughts, observations and discussions that have been tangled up in my head (sending me a bit crazy) have finally started to unravel and morph before my very eyes. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

For years I’ve dreamed of bringing together two passions, creativity and helping people, into a project of some kind. Looking for answers I paralleled a career in design and user experience with degrees in Art Therapy and Psychology, but on completion was feeling even more lost for a way I could bring these two diverse fields together. For months I stewed and wriggled uncomfortably in a fog. I impatiently watched, waited and listened. Finally, by letting the overthinking go, ever so slowly an idea appeared.

“… I feel empty inside”
“… after 15 years of marriage, I don't know who I am”
“… with my last child going to school, I just don’t know what to do”

I feel empty inside. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what to do. Over the course of time I’ve heard these and other similar words so many times from so many people. I’ve observed it in faces and in interactions. Every time I just want to reach out and hug the person and help them uncover the beauty and richness they have inside of them. If only that were possible.

Of course it is, and it's exactly what I plan to spend the next few months putting my heart into. I’ve developed a new program that will help people illuminate the darkness within, to uncover the riches that have been buried by the grinds of daily living and pushed down by internal and external pressures. The program aims to surprise and delight in the rediscovery process, to enable people to embrace their true selves and to couragously open the doors and let their light shine into the world.

The Illumination Project is born. I am excited beyond words.

So what does this mean? Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be releasing some more details about the program which will first up take the form of in-person half-day workshops. The activities I’m planning will be playful and fun, with opportunity to both reflect and create. I’m running my first workshop in Sydney just after Easter, and based on the outcome I’ll be scheduling more in Autumn. If all goes well, I’ll be taking these workshops to Melbourne and then possibly online. Weeeeee!

Doesn’t this sound like a magical thing to do?

Get ready to be illuminated.
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