Snap:Connect:Inspire

Think Feel ACT…"Write your own story"

Using fear to guide you forwards

I was asked by a new friend in Canada (a whole world away) how to use fear to guide you rather than paralyse…so here are my thoughts in blog form…

F-E-A-R

Fear seems to be dogging me lately. As I transition my career (yet again) fear sits with me on a daily, and even hourly, basis. As I go about expanding my skills and experiences it is all accompanied by fear.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of fear. Bone numbing, head to toe, white cold fear. And it is really very tempting to let fear hold me back – and truthfully sometimes it does – at least sometimes it slows me down. But I try to let fear guide me forwards instead of holding me back. But it is not easy – but it is a pathway to personal growth.

I take comfort from the fact that it’s not just me that’s dealing with fear. All of the clients I have worked with so far as a coach admit to dealing with fear. Some more and some less – but fear nevertheless. On the range of business and professional Facebook groups I belong to, dealing with fear is a common discussion. Even super slick highly trained professionals earning a gazillion dollars an hour admit to facing fear.

Some call it lack of self-confidence or anxiety or nervousness. Some even call it excitement. But whatever the name, it all boils down to feeling fear of some description.

So it’s not just me – and it’s not just you.

Fear, as unpleasant as it is, is just part of the human condition – particularly associated with growth and change.

Why is this?

Fear keeps us safe

Fear, on a simple level, is a self-protective mechanism. It is useful by generally stopping us from putting our lives at risk with activities such as handling poisonous snakes or jumping out of planes (although there are of course those amongst us who thrive on that sort of challenge).

We read fear as a signal that something is wrong – and it triggers caution. All to keep us safe. This is probably fair enough for physical dangers. But the problem is fear also pops up whenever we step out of our comfort zone for any reason.

Start looking for a new job – fear.

Want to start writing a blog – fear.

Want to invite a new friend over for coffee – fear.

Want to buy a new house – fear.

Want to quit your job and follow your heart – fear.

Pretty much any new thing we want to do that pushes us out of comfort zones and encourages us to grown and expand our horizons is accompanied by…fear.

So the correct response is to do what we can to remove fear before we act right?? Nothing could be more wrong.

Let fear be your guide

Think about this: If every time an opportunity for growth brings fear – then fear must be signal you are going the right direction for your personal development.

Did you get that? Where there is fear – that is the place we are meant to go.

So when fear pops up in your life the best way to manage is to step forward in that direction – because the fear is telling you that is where you are meant to go.

Fear is not something to be afraid of…it is something to met with excitement.

When your adrenalin is flowing, your heart starts pumping faster, and you begin to sweat – use that energy to empower your steps in the direction you want to go. Without the fear you could only reach half as far.

Use fear wisely

So feel the fear and use it to reach your goals. And get used to it. As long as you are growing fear will be there.

Don’t let fear paralyse you – let it energise you instead.

It doesn’t matter so much whether you take giant leaps, baby steps or micro steps. Do one tiny thing a day in the direction you wish to go and you are winning.

Let fear bring you hope and courage and power…And then you can do more than you ever thought possible.

Please note: I am not talking about the the of fear that interferes with your life so much that you can’t get done what you need to do – if fear has reached the point that it really paralyses you, then seek professional help. That too is using fear wisely.

 

Starting from today

Starting from today you have the opportunity to plan your life in any direction you choose. You get to write your own story.

All roads from the past have made you who you are to today lead to this exact point you are standing on right now. In this moment.

No matter what the past has been you get the choice to begin again now each and every day of your life. The mistakes and misadventures of yesterday have made you who you are today – but they don’t define you either. Let them flow away from you with the river of time.

And zoom your perspective right down to the person you are in this moment. And think again about the person you really are deep inside as you are today. Think about your bigger vision – the life you really want to lead and the person you really want to be.

Many potential futures stretch out ahead. Some are the logical extension of the past – some are a massive leap away from the road you have been travelling.

Which road will bring you closer to your ultimate vision? Which will you choose? And you do get to choose. In fact you must choose which way into the future you wish to travel starting from today. Doing nothing is also a choice.

There is merit in sticking to the decisions made yesterday while they continue to serve you well. But there is also merit in assessing if yesterday’s plans continue to fit who you are today – whether they are still taking you in the direction towards your bigger goal.

Plans should not be abandoned without careful thought. But plans should not be stuck to “just because” either – that can end up trapping you into your own internal “shoulds” that can drive your further away from the life you really want.

So here you stand today and you get to choose what type of tomorrow you want to live. You get to choose what type of person you want to be.

So think about the things you have read and learnt until now. Do you want to go deeper into familiar ground? Or is branching out into something different sounding exciting?

Are the friendships and relationships you have healthy and sustaining? Do they need revitalising and refreshing? Are there some relationships it’s time to let go of? What other types of people would you like to bring into your life? How will you go about connecting with the people you want and need in your life?

What about your work? How long have you been doing your current role for? Is it still serving you well? Is it energising and fulfilling and meaningful? Or are you trapped and craving change?

Are you living your values? Are you finding opportunities to use your strengths every day in creative ways in order to grow?

Are you living comfortably in your own skin? Or are you living in a facade of expectations and should you have inherited from the past.

So honour yesterday’s plans for bringing you to this exact moment and helping you grow into the marvellously unique person you are right now, in this moment. But also hold them lightly while you take the time to reassess if they are still taking you to where you want to go.

Think about who you really are today. Feel what it would be like to live in your imagined future. Then ACT with insight and passion to create the tomorrow you really want.

And then, when you are ready, spread your wings and let yourself fly.

 

 

 

Why my affair with LinkedIn Pulse is over

I confess – I’ve neglected my WordPress blog and been flirting with LinkedIn Pulse. It’s been seductive but unsatisfying and I’m drawing the experiment to a close.

I’ve written a bunch of blogs on LinkedIn because  I felt I’d outgrown this blog as my personal and professional goals  have evolved. I got sucked into the marketing and wanted to explore the new next best thing. I thought it would be a good transition from personal blogging to building a blog for my coaching business – Think Feel ACT. [Please note my website isn’t live yet but watch this space]. But I was wrong and I realise now that this is not the right pathway for me.

LinkedIn vs WordPress

Blogging on LinkedIn feels like an exercise in grabbing attention wherever and however you can. There are too many voices competing for attention. There are too many wildly over-the-top and too-good-to-be-true claims for how to solve the problems of “Life, The Universe and Everything”. It’s over-sensational, over-hyped and overwhelming. Everything feels like a sales pitch. Somehow or other it ends up feeling like I’m endlessly pumping for clients and work – and that feels soul destroying.

So I’ve been spiralling back towards SnapConnectInspire – my old and trusted WordPress blog. Writing to you right now feels like having a thoughtful conversation with friends over a quiet drink. There’s not so much fanfare but I can be honest, thoughtful, authentic and vulnerable – without also having to be sensational – and without a hidden agenda of converting you to become a client. It means we can connect without the pressure. I like that.

Blogging is not only about selling

I have nothing against raising my profile through blogging. After all I do need to market my blog or I won’t have any readers (something writers hate). But the harder sell atmosphere of LinkedIn somehow unintentionally affects the conversation I want to have. On LinkedIn the unwritten assumption is each blog is touting for clients and attention. But that is not what I’m about – or why I write.

I write and I blog because I love words. I love sharing my ideas through writing. I love the idea of having a conversation about the things that matter to me – and the things that matter to you. I love playing with language – and how to use it to inspire and motivate you (and me) to become better – and do better. I love the process of writing and seeing how ideas evolve and change. It’s about taking pleasure with the art and craft of words. I write because I love the process of creating – not because I want to sell you anything.

If people are inspired by words and want to connect with me professionally on that basis – all good. I’m happy to chat about how I can help you grow. But that is not my primary intent when I write. And that’s a subtle – but critically important difference. So I will still post my blog to LinkedIn in an effort to expand my readership and invite new people to the conversation. But writing it here allows me to connect with my primary purpose- and that feels much more authentically aligned with my values.

Spiralling forwards

So whilst I have spiralled towards the personal approach of WordPress – I don’t really like the idea of going backwards at all. So I may be back in WordPress territory – but this time around I have a different vantage point and a different approach. So I prefer to say I have spiralled forwards and now have a fresh idea for the future.

So here’s the new idea – bring this whole blog over and incorporate it into a new blog that I will start once my website is live (aiming for mid-late Jan 2016). This feels right for me – after all my whole business direction has grown out of the nights and personal development that I’ve shared a lot of in this blog.

I’m working out with my web designer exactly how to do that in an authentic way – so I can keep the flavour of what I have built here – and expand it in an authentic way in line with own personal and professional growth. I don’t know yet exactly how it will look – but I invite you all to join me on this new journey.

Over to you

So I want to say thank you to you – my readers. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my words.

And as always I’m eager to hear your side of the conversation – so please let me know your thoughts about the type of blogging  you prefer to write or read and why.

Looking forward to hearing from you…

PS: I will addsome more posts soon republishing all the Linked In blogs here – stay tuned ;-) 

 

Canoeing on a Sunday afternoon

We went canoeing today.

It was really great. I’d forgotten how much I love being on the water.

I love the breeze on my face and the sprays of cool water on my skin.

I love the immediate feeling of peace. I love the large dose of gumtrees with their unmistakable eucalyptus scent, blue sky and sunshine.

What a treat!! What a way to enjoy a Sunday afternoon.

As I paddled my way up and down stream I couldn’t help thinking how much like life this was. Here’s some things I was thinking about out there on the water.

Pushing backwards to go forwards

In order to go forwards in a canoe (or any sort of row boat or kayak) your need to exert energy and push away from the direction you want to go. Think about it in order to go forwards you must push backwards. I know it’s physics, but still it’s counterintuitive. Life, I think, is like that too. Pushing backwards to go forwards.

And if you don’t push backwards you won’t really go anywhere except where the current takes you.

We spend so much time searching for the easy, fast and painless way to do anything. Whether it’s losing weight, setting up a business or learning to play flute (or learning anything for that matter). And people market life to us like that too. With any given product we are promised more, more, more with an investment of less, less, less.

I think we’ve forgotten that to truly own our achievements and get where we want to be we are going to have to sweat. We need to put our oars into the water and paddle. We need to build our muscles and enjoy the journey. We’ve forgotten that.

If I’d had a magic quick fix then canoeing would have been dead boring and over in an instant. I think we need to remember to cherish the challenge and the journey. We need to live our lives out there on the water. Marvelling in the beauty and, stroke by stroke, getting to where we need to be.

Keep on correcting

Canoeing is a constant effort of correcting. Correcting to the left then correcting to the right. It’s almost impossible to go in a straight line for more than stroke or two.

You can’t just set your eyes on your goal and paddle with all your might. If you didn’t correct you could end up heading for either river bank or even facing backwards. Even if you are in some super-sleek olympic standard kayak or part of an elite rowing crew – I reckon there must be some level of correcting to be done.

Because on water, where you try to go is only one part of the equation regarding where you eventually end up. Firstly the river itself tries to take you where it wants to go. Put your oars down, lie back and do nothing and you’ll end up floating downstream. That might be OK if you are happy to completely go with the flow, but it might not work if there is a waterfall ahead.

Then of course there’s the wind. Wherever it blows you go, unless you correct against it. You might enjoy a light breeze blowing through your hair, but on water it can be quite a force to reckon with.

And of course there’s random branches to avoid and the curvature of the river itself to navigate.

And life truly is like that too. We set goals, but if we just paddle full steam ahead – then we’ll hit the river bank by mistake. And we can’t just float wherever the world wants to take us because then we’ll head over a waterfall.

No. Instead living is a purposeful adventure that takes effort and correcting our as we work our way to our goals and inevitably drift off course. We have ups and downs and currents and breezes to correct for as we strive to get where we want to be.

Infinitely more beautiful

So that’s all life all right. We have to push backwards to go forwards and constantly correct ourselves to make sure we stay on course. This may be harder and more tiring than the endless quick fixes and overpromising we are bombarded with daily…

…But I think it’s an infinitely more beautiful way to live out there on the water with oars in your hands and living life in the direction you want. What about you?

 

 

 

 

In my opinion…

In my opinion we are suffering from opinion overload.

There are more and more ways you can express your opinion and have your say – on anything: email newsletters, blogs, opinion pieces in formal publications, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.

It’s just so easy to be a self-proclaimed instant expert. There is no-one to censor you, or pick out flaws in your reasoning.

If you have something to say – let it all hang out.

And if you disagree with someone, well no need to pull any punches. No “letters” editor who will cull bad language or bullying tactics. Just pop random thoughts on the bottom of someone else’s post. Opinion spread even further.

I’m not at all sure this opinionated free-for all is actually good for us in promoting critical thinking, developing ideas or finding solutions.

Frankly it’s all just noise – and many times it’s unpleasant noise at that.

These free-for all opinions are:

  • Verbalised instantly any crisis happens – time for reflection is taboo
  • Voiced with absolute authority and self-proclaimed expertise
  • Polarised in viewpoint – they are so black and white that holders of differing opinions are defective in and of themselves
  • Shouted and screamed repeatedly in attempt to bully the world into submission
  • Laden with emotional language and promote hysteria
  • Opinion stated as fact

This type of opinion-making inhibits clarity of thought and a fair assessment of the issues let alone a fair exploration of what the issues even are.

Because when you are so sure you are right, and prepared to shout your opinion to the four corners of the earth, then the sound of your own voice means you simply cannot hear what anyone else has to say.

So here’s the thing about opinions – they are just that. Nothing more or less than an opinion. They are not engraved in stone and do not form universal truth.

What an opinion really is, is a reflection of the world through one person’s eyes – their values, experiences, knowledge, biases, beliefs.

This doesn’t mean all opinions are to be avoided. Because, in the vast majority of decisions, opinion is all we’ve got. So if we must opine, how should we do it?

So in my opinion, what makes for a good opinion?

Here’s what I value in an opinion:

  • A demonstration of thought about the issues – not just emotion about the issues. Passion for a cause is of course important – in fact thought without passion is somehow flavourless. But I want thought and passion to be in balance – passion that clouds or leads thought I find almost scary.
  • A dash of humility. All of us are but human. We can err in our reasoning all too easily – and be lead by our passion instead of reason. A tiny flicker of “I may be wrong” or “I don’t know all the facts”. We don’t have access to absolute truth except in the realm of religion – and that folks is faith. Totally different game rules.
  • Clarity about what is being stated. If it is a fact – cite your sources. If it’s your opinion say so – please don’t present your opinion is a fact. If it’s your faith – then declare it. Nothing wrong with saying “I believe…”
  • Avoidance of global words like everybody, nobody, always, never. The real world is much greyer than that. It may not be so sexy or persuasive to say “Some people think” or “This only rarely happens” – but it’s more accurate and shows a respect for truth that I admire.
  • Argue the point not the person. Nobody is a {insert derogatory term here} because they don’t see the world the way you do. Let’s face it, people may have similar viewpoints to each other but it’s pretty unrealistic to think the whole world should have the same view as you. That’s like saying only you have access to the real truth – and that’s ridiculous.
  • A pause before posting. Sometimes situations need to be understood and processed and the formulation of an opinion takes time. Especially when its muddy and something we haven’t dealt with before. Seriously sometimes taking a breath or counting to 10 before posting would be a valuable thing to do.

 And in response

Well folks, this is my opinion as it stands today. It’s taken me a few weeks on and off to put this together – so at least I’m following some of my own rules.

I’m keen to hear your response – after all, this is just my opinion and you may see things another way altogether. And I’m curious about what that may be.

So bring on the discussion.

 

 

 

 

2014 in review: Some cool stats about my blog

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Melbourne and me: one year on

I can hardly believe it – it’s a year today since we leapt into a new life in Melbourne.

So perhaps it’s a good time to reflect and take a breath before the next year begins. So lets take a look at the year in retrospect…

On reflection

Overall it’s been a year of constant action and, of course, achievement. Just some of the big ticket things included:

  • Turning a house into a home. It took a while but now as I turn into our driveway I feel that physical relief of being home.
  • Finding our way around – relatively easy in a city based on a grid – but still new is an effort compared to automatic
  • Developing key infrastructure such a finding a GP, dentist, physio, accountant, where to shop for each of our favourite brands, finding a trainer
  • Developing new routines for getting to and from school, shopping and all the other aspects of running a family
  • Supporting hubby in a new and fabulous job (the reason why we’d moved in the first place)
  • Getting kids settled in new schools (and learning all the routines and communication procedures of said schools)
  • Helping kids develop new friendships and social arrangements
  • Finding and developing new friendships myself
  • Finding a spiritual home or homes
  • Establishing my small business and developing my Melbourne based professional network.

And of course there is the undefinable things like shedding my Sydney mindset and pace of living. Not to mention the challenge of managing complex emotions such as coping with homesickness and letting go of (or at least loosening) my self-identity as a Sydneysider and growing a new Melbourne identity.

So how do I feel?

Well honestly, the emotions are conflicting.

On the one hand I feel this enormous sense of growth. The meeting and managing all these challenges I found within myself resources of strength and creativity I didn’t know I had. I found more mental toughness, assertiveness and resilience and can more easily ride through those things life inevitably throws at you.

And so I’ve been able to rewrite my own story about myself and update more realistically my self-belief about my own ability to manage the world and life. It’s not that I feel different – more that I’ve found a stronger and more authentic version of me. It’s kind of same-but-different if you know what I mean.

And I do feel proud of that – proud in a way of wanting to acknowledge and celebrate achievements – rather than hubris.

On the other hand, slightly more prosaically, I feel enormously tired. Every step of the way of making the achievements above has been tiring. Tiring – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s definitely time for a well-earned rest and downtime before embarking on year 2 in Melbourne.

Same-but-different

As part of my downtime strategy, we recently we spent around 10 days visiting Sydney. It was wonderful.

Wonderful to see family and friends – people I had history with, people who knew me from long ago. I enjoyed that – history gives a certain depth to relationships that can’t be replicated and is only built up through time and shared experience. And this will build up in time with my new friends in Melbourne – but I did enjoy a  dose of history in Sydney.

It was wonderful also to be in the physical space of Sydney – I enjoyed the feeling of instantly knowing where I was in place and I enjoyed the sheer beauty of Sydney – the harbour, the beach.

This connection with people and connection with place was very grounding and centring. I could feel the pull of my Sydney identity wanting to envelop me. I could feel just how easily I could slip back into the me of a year ago and resume my Sydney life. Just like that.

Only it ended up feeling unsettling. Because I was aware of the different (or the same-but-different) parts of me that had flowered and flourished in the past year. And I felt the pull of that newer and stronger part of me emerge to fight the temptation to return to the comfort of the old and pull on my Sydney hat.

It wasn’t so much a struggle between Sydney and Melbourne – as a symbolic struggle between the comfort and safety of the past vs the growth and challenge of the future.

The choice

And in the end I chose growth despite the pain such a choice involves.

Heading back to Melbourne means not living close to family, it means letting go of the groundedness of connection and place. It means continuing a journey into the unknown with all the discomfort and tension that involves.

But it also means I’m choosing the place that, for now, will give me the best place to grow, develop and flourish. On a personal level, on a family level, on a friendship level, on a professional level, and on a spiritual level.

So, for better or for worse, I’ve chosen to embrace the growth I hope I’ll find in Melbourne.

I’ve taken the doubt and fear of a year ago and turned it into a sense of hope and wonder, which is a wonderfully empowering way to begin our second year in Melbourne.

I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I will keep you posted.

 

 

Exercise and me

Exercising is a priority for me – but one that I struggle with. It has so many benefits including:

  • Strength, flexibility and fitness
  • Weight, blood pressure and cholesterol control
  • Improved resilience, stress and mood management

Even so I often have a hard time convincing myself to turn up. It’s just easier to stay sitting down in front of my computer and eating unhealthy things than it is to get up and do something positive for myself and my health. It’s easy to say exercise classes are too expensive and I don;t have the time.

So I’m in this all too common trap of knowing intellectually what is good – yet finding it difficult to actually do. And find myself in the trap of making choices that in the short term might feel good – but in the long term aren’t in my best interests.

Over the years I have found many ways to outsmart myself into exercising. Here’s some of the things I’ve done in the last decade or so to get myself moving:

The exercise bike

I bought an exercise bike with bells and whistles and planted it squarely in my bedroom where I would see it day and night. For probably two years I “rode” many kilometres to the music of my choice. The bells and whistles were great motivators. I set and met many personal bests.

I always liked seeing how many “calories” I had burnt off and how high my heart rate got.

The sign that the era of the exercise bike was over was when I realised I was dusting it more than I was riding it (and for those who know me well – dusting happens but rarely). It was time for the bike to go and for me to move on.

The gym

For a while I joined the women’s only gym – Curves. It boasted results in a short time at a relatively small cost. It was close to home and lots of people I knew went there too.

I had some fun and lost some weight. But the boredom set in quickly. Some of the machines I liked – and some I didn’t. But it soon became apparent I spent most of the session counting down until it was over – and it was only half an hour!!

In the end I wanted to enjoy the time I spent exercising – especially when it was costing me money.

Bootcamp

Around that time I saw an ad for a local women’s only bootcamp. I was nervous for sure. I turned up expecting pain – and I did get pain, but importantly I also got fun and huge sense of achievement.

I have never much liked running, I confess, but ended up being able to to run twice around our local park, do a decent plank and discovered I love boxing.

I loved that I also got variety – each session was different. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never knew what you were going to get. I enjoyed bootcamp so much I was out of the house twice a week while it was still dark – and for those who know me well, I’m more a night owl type of person so up early is a huge achievement in outsmarting myself.

Personal training 

Bootcamp eventually segued into personal training with myself and a friend and our daughters. Personal training with the lovely Dina again saw me up before light – boxing and lifting weights.

And I discovered I love weights just about as much as I love boxing. The endorphins from resistance exercise feels pretty great – a boost for the whole day and beyond. And Dina got more out of me with her gentle manner than guilt, fear or pressure.

This time we trained at my house – I figured having a friend and a trainer turning up to my house was a pretty big incentive to be up and ready in time. I really recommend this as a strategy for people struggling with motivation.

Sadly training with Dina had to end as we were moving to Melbourne – but I had a lot of fun…thanks my friend.

Pilates

Once in Melbourne getting myself into an exercise routine has taken some time. A friend recommend a local women’s only Pilates class and I have now been doing this mostly regularly for most of the year a couple of times a week.

I’d never done Pilates before and it took some time to grow on me – learning to slow down and strengthen more mindfully was a change from the weights and boxing I was used to.

Nevertheless I can now certainly see improvements in my core strength and more than anything I feel a sense of peace and relaxation afterwards. This is definitely good for my sense of wellbeing – and keeps me going back.

Training Mark II

It has been a challenge to find a personal trainer that matches my style, budget and available times. I did try one trainer initially – but personal style match was not a good fit. I realised how important it is to feel fully comfortable with your trainer. They need to read your moods and pick the right motivator to get you moving.

Enter the lovely Liz. I was introduced to Liz by a new acquaintance and she is proving to be a good personality fit for me and brings the right balance of variety and fun. Once again, gentle in manner, Liz help me find my own space to work in to reach my own goals – no matter who else is in the class.

Due the inconstant nature of my exercise routine this year I am out of shape – and the all the chocolaty comfort that eased the moving stress is showing. This is making it harder to find the mindset to turn up. A bit heavier and out of shape makes it harder to move, and it’s uncomfortable being out breath more easily than I’m used to.

But I’m getting there – step, by skip, by squat.

So my recipe for motivation

Looking at all of this, I can see certain patterns of motivation for me that will help me keep on outsmarting myself and turing up:

  • Fun and friends
  • Variety that includes weights, boxing and other resistance exercise
  • A trainer who brings a gentle style and works with me for my goals
  • A place and space for mindful exercise that brings a feeling of peace
  • Adding in to mix is taking walks with friends, family and even alone. I haven’t written about walking – but I walk as well and it’s important.
  • Reminding myself that the time and money spent on exercising is worth the health and wellbeing it brings. It pays itself off – because it’s my life I’m investing in and I like to think I’m worth it.

So these are the motivators I’ve discovered. I’m curious what works for you? How do you outsmart yourself? Let me know – I’m listening and willing to try new ideas.

 

 

 

Taming nature

Weeding the garden:

I spent the morning sitting outside weeding the garden. Enjoying the sun on my back (in fleeting bursts ala Melbourne style), and not caring about the grit chipping my nail polish or the dirt embedding itself under my fingernails.

And more than anything, feeling grateful we live in a house with greenery – with trees and leaves and grass and weeds.

In many ways this greenery has been my compensation for water.

A soothing space:

Water I find soothing for the mind and the soul. In the area of Sydney I lived I had water at every turn – the beach, the harbour. I didn’t have to seek out water – it was just there.

I felt the loss of the sounds, the smell, and the colours of water very deeply at the beginning. But as the year has progressed I have found myself more and more often in the garden. Finding peace and stillness with greenery ….and weeding.

I have found weeding to be enormously therapeutic – as calming and soothing as being near water. I’m finding I can get into the same thoughtful and meditative space where I can work through issues and find clarity. Oh yes I’m grateful for that.

Taming nature:

And this morning as I wrestled stubborn roots that had buried themselves deep just how alike the exercise of weeding, of taming nature, is to the work we need to do in taming our own natures.

A weed, I once heard, is a rose bush in a cow paddock. In other words the wrong plant in the wrong place. Grass in the garden is great – we want it lush and thick and embedded strongly in the soil. The same grass creeping its way between tiles of the foot path has declared itself weed.

So we cut it back, and pull up the roots if we can get them to give way, and try to tame nature. Knowing all the while it will grow back. This is not a one time exercise. There are roots that remain hidden underground that will resprout. And the weeds will once again spread requiring taming once more.

Taming our own nature:

And personal development and character refinement is just like that. We have roses in our character, and thorns, and weeds. We all do. So how do we weed our character garden and tame our own natures? Here’s what I think we need to do?

  1. Know yourself: Become aware of our nature and do an honest survey of our selves. What’s a rose? What’s a weed? What can be cut back and used more thoughtfully? What needs pulling out by the roots? 
  2. Be mindful: No matter what your character garden looks like, no character trait is always good or always bad. You can have too much kindness at times, or use it when strictness is called for. Good or bad depends just as much on when and how you use a certain characteristic than the characteristic itself. So are you acting or reacting in a certain way because of habit? Or have you mindfully chosen a certain action or reaction as the best option in a given circumstance? Only you will know.
  3. Keep growing: No matter how beautiful your character garden is there is always room to grow and develop. If we are alive then there’s an improvement we can make. At times pruning and cutting back will be enough. At times we need to pull things up by the roots and abolish it from our repertoire. We need to nurture, we need to water and fertilise, those things that are working well for us. We need to constantly practice being our best.
  4. Get a gardener: Sometimes its really hard to understand ourselves and we need someone we trust to hold up a mirror so we get a better view of where we are at. A mentor, a friend, a coach, close family can all help you tend your inner garden. And in return we can do the same for them.

Understanding your self and developing your character sounds easy. After all I’ve reduced it to four dot points. But in truth it takes commitment and you’ll need to get your finger dirty. You may choose to use professional help. I have found coaching brilliant for developing a much better self-awareness of my strengths and weaknesses.

And am I there yet? Well I’m just at the beginning. I have weeded along one length of the garden, my nails are dirty and my back is sore. And yes, there’s more work to do, there always will be.

Even so, the start I’ve made may not be roses, but it is beautiful in my eyes.

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Along the Yellow Brick Road: Journeys with my coach

Throughout our lives we are all making journeys. Some big, some small. Some peaceful, some scary. Some to remember, some to forget. The Wizard of Oz may be a fairytale for children yet the adventures of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion along the Yellow Brick Road have much to teach us about journeys in growth and change.

And it resonates so closely with journey I have taken along the Yellow Brick Road with my coach. Like Dorothy, at times the journey was difficult and challenging. At times it was inspiring and fun. But it’s a journey I’m drawn to write about. So I may not be wearing a blue check dress, or have Toto in my basket, but I invite you for a short while to follow the Yellow Brick Road with me.

Somewhere over the rainbow

In Kansas, before I started coaching I was living a in world of constraints. I had a lists of “shoulds” I was living by, without really questioning their validity. I was in an extremely difficult work situation –  caught up in a maelstrom of mixed messages and competing forces. I did not know what to do to solve the problem. I wanted out, but didn’t know how to get there. Somewhere over the rainbow sounded pretty good to me.

These opposing pressures became a tornado that relentlessly chipped away at my self-esteem, my self-confidence, and my belief in my own competency. And ultimately pushed me into a new paradigm of coaching.

I did not know what I was in for.

Toto I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore

It was a chance conversation with a colleague who mentioned she had done some coaching that sparked my interest. I had never really heard of coaching before – except to assume it was some sort of flaky, touchy-feely instant cure type of activity. The type of activity that I, with all my training in evidence, would automatically be skeptical about.

But I was desperate and didn’t know what else to do. So with a prayer I contacted the name of a coach I had got a strong recommendation for. I had little idea of what I wanted him to do. Other than fix everything. I just wanted it all to get better and I hoped coaching would be the panacea that would make everything all right once again.

But once the tornado had set me down in the land of coaching it was obvious I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. There were no short cuts and there was going to be a lot of learning to do.

Follow the yellow brick road

In the land of coaching the rules were different, everything was turned on its head. From the very first conversation it was obvious all my old ways of seeing and being would be challenged. Coaching was unlikely to be the panacea I was hoping for. But I was beyond the point of return – and the only way home was to follow the Yellow Brick Road.

So my coach set me on the path to the Emerald City to find my own Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy I had to travel this road myself. I had to make mistakes, fall over and find my own way through challenges. Nobody was going to do this for me.

But what was it I wanted the Wizard to do? Where did I think the Yellow Brick Road was taking me?

We’re off to see the wizard

For Dorothy, it was pretty simple. She just wanted to go home. I had much more complex set of desires. I thought getting to Wizard in the Emerald City would help me answer two broad questions? How could I best manage my career? What personal development did I need to do to achieve my career goals? In particular I wanted to know things like:

-Was I best placed to either meet, or build skills for meeting my career mission?
-When is the pain worth it, when is it time to look elsewhere?
-Would I be better off setting up a consultancy?
-How can I get to the next level in my career?
-How could I enhance my self-confidence and assertiveness? 
-How could I better manage difficult relationships 
-How could I influence and persuade the people I needed to?

But starting to work on these things straight away was like starting a journey half way through. No, my coach wanted me to start at the beginning. There was no point working on how to develop my career until I had given due consideration to who I was as a person and what I wanted out of life in the first place. And so at the very beginning of the Yellow Brick Road I stated working on my identifying my core beliefs, goals and strengths.

If I only had a brain/heart/courage

This was interesting and challenging exercise. I thought I knew all about myself. But clearly I had not recognised the truth about myself on many levels. As life travels on we all build up bits and pieces of information from life events and other people – we extrapolate these to form “truths” about ourself. Sometimes we yearn for things we have already got.

So with a few well thought out questions from my coach, he tugged at a few loose threads and many of my constructs and shoulds started to break down. Interestingly others became stronger. During this process I went through feelings of great emptiness. I felt like a room that had all the furniture taken out of it. Yes there was the excitement of waiting to see what new furniture would arrive – but there was a sense of loss and grief for my old self-beliefs. They might have served me well until now – but they were no longer useful.

It was time for me to develop more authentic core beliefs and realise my true strengths and talents. I always knew I had a brain – but I hadn’t really defined what type of brain I had or worked out what type of learning and working energises me.  I’d always wanted to be kind, yet hadn’t realised how kind I already was until I started looking honestly at my heart. And as for courage – well I’d doubted my courage – until I acknowledged that doing this type of personal development work and letting go of old beliefs was one of the hardest things I had voluntarily done. And that took mountains of courage.

The wizard will fix everything

As I travelled this journey my coach was with me – but I did every single piece of the work of growing myself. Slowly as we got closer to the Emerald City, I turned less and less to my coach for help finding solutions. Instead of feeling trapped by problems, ruminating endlessly about how they came about and how unjust life is, I have learned to look towards where I want to be and plan a course of action.

As I have travelled along managing the challenges of the past year or so – establishing a consultancy and moving cities and dealing with loss and change and establishing new professional and personal networks – it has become clearer and clearer that I am more than capable of fixing things all on my own. I’ve got better at recognising what resources I have and the right time to use them.

So in a weird kind of way as I got closer to the Wizard, he shrank further away. The illusion of needing a fixer in life has slowly been exposed as just that – an illusion.

She had to learn it for herself

A coach in many ways is a chameleon – a mirage. Fluidly bending and changing to the situation being everywhere and nowhere at once. Knowing everything and nothing. A coach is a paradox of a person hard to pin down to single role.

Like all worlds of the mind strange things happen. As I travelled along the Yellow Brick Road I was always alone doing the work, yet I was never alone. My coach took on different personas depending on the situation. At times like Glinda the Good Witch of the North he gave me the ruby slippers of faith in myself. Or turned up unexpectedly with almost magical words of guidance and encouragement. At other times he was like Toto providing complete and unconditional support and acceptance. And at times like the Wizard – beckoning, beckoning me forwards and onwards to the Emerald City.

But all the time, in every way, with a single goal of channeling me back to myself. Strengthening faith in myself, confidence in myself and developing my knowledge of myself.

There’s no place like home

Dorothy cries as she says goodbye forever to her new friends – Scarecrow, the Tinman and Lion. I too am crying as the end of coaching draws near. And more than cry, I’ve been travelling the stages of grief, particularly experiencing depression and anger – lots of anger. Anger because I need to return home to real life on my own and can’t take my friends, the Wizard or anyone from Oz  with me. I find myself overwhelmed by the deep sense of impending loss for a relationship that has come to mean so much to me. For a relationship that is truly irreplaceable.

Yet like Dorothy I know that home is where I belong now and where I must go. I can’t stay in Oz any longer. I’ve learned and developed so much – more than I ever imagined possible when I tumbled into the world of coaching. So on the threshold of the end, I need to acknowledge the loss, but allow space for the wonder and awe that will come with a new beginning. So soon, soon, I’ll stand up tall, wipe my eyes and turn to the future.

I’ll always carry the experience of Oz, of coaching, with me forever. A small part of me has become Oz and will always serve as a connection between “the time out of time” that was coaching and the life I’m about to step into. I’m just about ready to click my heels together three times and go home, and like Dorothy I smile through my tears.

GD – what a journey it has been with ups and downs, highs and lows, fun and frustrations – but worth every transformative minute. Thankyou for everything and every step of the Yellow Brick Road.

And to my new friends who’ve already set off with me on my next journey (you know who you are) – I didn’t recognise you in Oz – but I’ve found you miraculously here in Kansas. I can’t wait to see how travelling looks with you by my side. How much fun, laughter and love we’ll share together. 

And to my precious family and all the other fellow travellers in my life. You are all pretty wonderful. Thankyou and God bless. 

 

 

 

 

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