Testing, Testing, One, Two

I never said that drawing was one of my gifts....and now you know why :- )

I never said that drawing was one of my gifts….and now you know why :- )

I’ve written before about the things we say to ourselves that are very bad for our confidence: “Good things never happen to me”, “I’m not good/young/old/clever/whatever enough”, “I can’t do that”, “I always fail” etc.

And I’ve told you that these things are a load of rubbish, not even true. Good things do and will happen to you, you are good/young/old/clever/everything enough to achieve the things you want in some way or another, you can do it and you wont always fail…

…but some of you wont have believed me.

You may have thought “That’s all very well and very nice of her to say this and everything, but she doesn’t know me. I know that these dreadful things about me are true…I have PROOF!”

So today I want to talk to you about this “proof” of the crappy things you believe about yourself.

So I’m just going to come right out and say it. You do not have proof.

What you have is a load of things that you have noticed that you have decided to accept as proof. If you hold these horrible rubbish beliefs about yourself you are expecting things to not work out, so when they don’t work out (and sometimes even when they just go a little bit off track), you notice and say to yourself “There, I knew that would happen, that always happens.” but that’s not a fair test, because you haven’t taken into account all the things that are going quite well or where things are going ok. And the reason you haven’t taken them into account is because you haven’t noticed them. The reason you haven’t noticed them is because you’re not looking out for them. All these things that go right haven’t crossed your mind.

It’s a bit like when you decide to buy a certain model of car and then suddenly you notice them everywhere, are there any more of these types of cars around compared to before you considered buying them? No, probably not, you’re just noticing them because you’ve tuned in to them.

So it’s not a fair test to only look at the failures you’re tuned into and ignore the successes and therefore it’s not proof.

Thinking about fair tests brings me around to the other thing I wanted to say, and something that occurred to me the other day at work. You see, I work in IT, and working in IT you find yourself involved in lots and lots of testing and what you’re trying to do is to prove that your new piece of software works.

That involves knowing how it should work and then trying it out to make sure it does. If it doesn’t work then you fix it and then try again.

What it does not involve is deciding something doesn’t work, giving it a go, finding that indeed it doesn’t work and then doing nothing about it apart from maybe trying it again a bit later to find it still doesn’t work…and then saying “That never works”.

No, no, no!

The only point in re-testing things which you already know haven’t worked for you before is to find out where the problem is AND THEN TO FIX IT!

Then when you think you’ve fixed it, you test it again, this time to prove that it DOES work (sometimes it’ll take you a few goes to get your changes just right…I work with some pretty kick ass people and it even takes them a few tries sometimes).

So try to stop noticing things which only prove that the negative little voice in your head is correct, things aren’t working out. Don’t use it as proof things always go wrong. That you’ve done the same thing a few times and it hasn’t worked out yet means just that, it hasn’t worked out YET. Probably BECAUSE you’ve done the SAME thing a few times without any changes.

So, take some time, have a think about what you could do differently next time and give it another go. This time try to prove that you CAN do it.

Natalie

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Where I Have Been

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Those who were kind enough to sign up to receive my posts by mail might have thought “I’ve not seen anything from this mad woman in a while” when this one hit their inbox.

They’d be right. I can’t help but feel that I might have left you hanging there.

My most humble apologies, that was a bit naughty of me. I can just imagine what my mother would say “You don’t call, you don’t write, nobody had any idea what you’ve been up to!”

Well, what I’ve been up to is this:

It started off when out of curiosity I went to a free 2 Day Coaching Certificate. It was an extremely good couple of days, the whole thing was very well done and positive. I met loads of nice people all doing a range of interesting things. But, for me, the BEST BIT was when they started talking about limiting beliefs and mind chat.

“THIS! This is the stuff I’ve been writing about!” I thought to myself “If coaching teaches you how to help people with this, then I want in!”

So, I signed up and that’s what I’ve been doing since.

I’m still not an “expert” but I have learnt some great stuff so far. Not just about confidence and being kind to yourself instead of treating yourself like a punching bag, but also about working out what you want and strategies that will help in going out to get it, even if it seems like a squillion miles away from where you are at the moment.

Seriously, it’s one of the best things I ever did and well worth the time I’ve put in (tonnes of it, hours and hours, but I’ll not get into that now) and I think it might be time I started sharing again.

Natalie

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Jedi Mind Tricks

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Ok, so last time (too long ago, sorry everyone!) I spoke about ways you can feel more confident using your body and I promised a follow up on things that you can do to feel more confident using your mind, pretty much instantly.

Now I say these are quick fixes, but it’s worth pointing out that just because they’re quick that does not mean the effects are not long lasting…because once you know them you can repeat them whenever you like. In that sense, this stuff can pretty much last you forever…yippee!

Before we get going, I should just mention that the brain is a weird old bit of kit. It’s weird how little things can make such a big difference. It’s weird how the rubbish that you’ve been telling yourself for years can be turned into something much more positive over the course of just a few minutes and some of the ways of making these changes are in themselves quite weird.

Because of this it may sound a bit like I’m selling you a load of voodoo, but give it a go and see for yourself…as I’ve said before I’m not an expert so all I’ve got to go on is whether it works for me. This stuff works for me…even if I feel like I must be out of my tiny mind whilst I’m actually doing it. If you give some of these tricks a go and take control of your mind, you’ll be feeling like a jedi master in no time.

Tuning into your good experiences

It might be a good idea to read this through before you give it a go.

Take a breath, close your eyes and relax.

Oh, that’s nice isn’t it?

Now think of a specific time when you felt really confident, it must be a specific time. Trying to remember a general feeling of confidence wont cut it for this.

Imagine that it’s happening to you RIGHT NOW!

Add a load of details, where were you? what could you hear? what could you see? what could you smell? how did it feel, to be so confident?

spend a good 20 -30 seconds enjoying that memory, run through it a few times, at least 3.

Great, you should be feeling pretty nice already…

…Now, bring to mind a situation that you are likely to face in the future where you are bound to be in need of a bit of extra confidence. Imagine yourself dealing with it beautifully, what will you say? how will it feel? what will you do? again add in a load of detail, detail is important for this

Spend some time enjoying how great it will feel to deal with that situation confidently and beautifully.

Now, open your eyes and notice how much more confident you feel.

Go on, give it a go.

Wanna know how it works? It’s an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique. Apparently it has something to do with one of the ways in which your brain is not as clever as people will have you believe…your brain cannot tell the difference between what you imagine experiencing and what you are really experiencing, that’s why the detail is important, you’ve got to make it as real as possible. You can make your brain think that something great and confidence boosting is happening to you right now.

…silly brain!

or you could try this, bit new age weirdy for me this one…

Sharing Someone Else’s Limelight

Imagine someone else who is really confident, imagine them walking into a room full of people and picture the reaction they get. People love them, Princess Leia in her gold bikini and Luke Skywalker with his light saber (not a euphemism people!) are drinking in every word.

Now imagine that person is surrounded by light and that light is their confidence.

Now imagine that light coming from them and surrounding you as well (it doesn’t have to leave them, it’s not a finite resource, there’s plenty to go round) and settling on you and sinking in.

Feel it sinking in.

Now open your eyes and try to feel that confidence still bubbling away under your skin. You should be feeling a bit more confident now, having “felt” that confidence sinking in and therefore knowing it’s there.

You could also try this, which I’ve borrowed from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:

Think “as if”

Ask yourself these things: If you were confident how would YOU be acting? How would YOU be speaking? How would YOU be feeling?

The important thing is to think about what this means for you. Your brain, in it’s keen to please way will push you towards feeling more confident, to make it easier for it to answer your questions.

It’ll make you act as if you are confident, after a while you’ll forget that you’re acting…the brain isn’t always brilliant at knowing when you’re acting either. It’s all about visualisation.

As a sort of “offshoot” of this you can also try giving yourself evidence that you are good at something, even when you’re not feeling particularly confident about it.

Write down ” I AM good at xxx because…” for example “I AM good at fighting with a light saber, I know this because I’m just learning and I’ve already kicked Obi Wan’s butt!” (you know, if you HAD actually kicked Obi Wan’s butt in a fight featuring light sabers).

This type of thing will help you, because we look for evidence of things in our reasoning and when forming our beliefs. If something bad happens to us, we believe that it will happen again because we have evidence that it has happened before etc.

Sometimes this evidence isn’t particularly helpful because it can hold us back, but in this instance we can use it to our advantage.

Let me know what you think.

Natalie

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Quick Fixes

Behold my "super" friend Liz, demonstrating excellent confidence boosting body language. Note the confident stance, eye contact and wide smile...or if you prefer you can just have a chortle at her in her Batman onesie and Santa hat!

Behold my “super” friend Liz, demonstrating excellent confidence boosting body language. Note the confident stance, eye contact and wide smile…or if you prefer you can just have a chortle at her in her Batman onesie and Santa hat!

So far I can see in my posts, that I’ve concentrated on things which might take a bit of time: changes to mindset, thinking about your thinking (if you follow me) and even having a think about who your friends are…all these things take a little while to work through.

I honestly think that a longer term approach to boosting your confidence is the way to go, but I understand that it’s no good to you if you’re feeling nervous about something and need to boost your confidence now, as in today, right now!

So, I also wanted to give you some quick fixes that will help you to feel confident instantly. Today I’ve focused on little tricks you can play on yourself using your own physiology. I’m planning a follow up of very quick in-your-head exercises that you can try, but today it’s all about how to use your body to trick yourself into feeling a little more in control. Some of them you’ll probably have heard before, but a little reminder never hurt anyone.

Breathe

When we’re stressed or nervous our breathing becomes shallower and faster. Our state of mind affects our breathing. Sounds like simple cause and effect but, happily, it works the other way too. We can control our breathing and have an effect on our state of mind. If you concentrate on breathing more slowly, deeply, regularly and start to control your breathing you will start to feel calmer, more in control and more confident.

Watch Your Posture

When we’re not feeling confident we tend to go a bit hunched up and adopt a defensive stance. My Dad always says that he can tell when I’m feeling threatened by something as I tend to go all fetal and small, he doesn’t even ask if I’m okay, instead he asks “Feeling small?”

Just like the breathing we can (to some extent) trick ourselves into feeling better and more confident by doing what our bodies do when we are feeling that way. So stand or sit up straight but relaxed (you will not look comfortable and confident if you’re standing as if you’ve just shoved a broomstick down the back of your shirt). Don’t hunch, instead stand tall and strong. Adopting a strong stance has been shown to cause the stress hormone cortisol to drop significantly.

Also, as an interesting aside, did you know that a strong posture has also been shown to make people feel physically taller and stronger than they really are? Sometimes useful if you’re feeling small (or in the case of short-arses like myself, even shorter than usual) and a bit overwhelmed!

Speak slowly

When we’re feeling nervous some of us tend to babble. This makes things worse as we then know that we’re babbling and not making sense to whoever is listening to us.

By making a conscious effort to slow down we’re starting to take control of the situation again. We give ourselves time to think about what we’re saying. It makes us sound more considered. If you slow down it helps with the impression that you’ve thought about what you’re going to say. It also means that your audience has a chance to consider what you’re saying. You are showing them that you are confident enough to take your time to say something worthwhile and by slowing down you’ll have stopped your babble making you feel like you’re not getting your point across.

Make eye contact

If you’re feeling all defensive you’ll have a tendency to avoid eye contact. You’ll be aware that you’re doing it too and know that you’re “hiding” from whoever you’re talking too.

Mostly we’re nervous because what we’re doing feels out of control or is unknown to us. So take a look at your audience, see them for just what they are, people who are listening to what you have to say. If you can make eye contact it will help people to be engaged with what you have to say and it will help you get a grip on the reality that awful things are not happening to you here.

A little while ago I found myself in the situation of having to give a presentation at work in front of a room of about thirty people including some senior managers. Public speaking is not my thing at all and I was struggling a little bit and found myself wanting to start rushing through to get it over with, but I happened to look around and catch the eye of one of my friends who sits a few desks away from me and she gave me a little smile. I realised that I speak to nearly all of the people present every day for one reason or another, no one here would be waiting for me to fail or mess up. I relaxed a bit, was able to slow down and get across all the great things that the team had achieved, which is what I was there to talk about. True story.

Smile

There are loads of reasons why smiling is a good thing to do when you’re feeling under pressure. You normally smile because you’re happy, just as slowing down breathing can make you feel calmer, smiling can make you feel happier. Smiling is so tied up with positive feelings that even just forcing a little smile out will make it a lot harder for you to feel bad.

If you can manage a smile you will also appear to be more confident to others, and you look like you’re willing to engage with them.

If you can smile as you’re making eye contact with someone, you’re fairly likely to get a smile back (people are generally built that way I find) and that will help take the edge off of any nervousness.

These are just a few ideas that I know work for me. Though I am never going to be at my most comfortable giving a presentation or a speech, these things can help me through it and leave me feeling good about myself.

You can’t be good at everything, you cannot be confident all of the time. But what you have to say is valuable, please do not hide yourself away, if you do we will all miss out. If any of my little tricks will make it a little easier for you to share your thoughts and ideas then I am delighted…even more so if you would like to drop me a line to tell me about it.

Natalie

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Too Risky?

Somehow "deadly predator" doesn't come to mind here...he kind of reminds me of myself on ice here though

Somehow “deadly predator” doesn’t come to mind here…he kind of reminds me of myself on ice here though

Like a lot of people, I have been known to get held back from doing very exciting and worthwhile things by the thought that something might go wrong and horribly so.

If that’s happening to you, then you might be having thoughts along the lines of “I would love to sign up for one of those fundraising hikes up Kilimanjaro for charity,it would be so exciting and for a brilliant cause…but i might not be able to get the funding and I’d have let everybody down, I’d be very disappointed and it would be awful” or “You know, I would really love to write a book, that would be a real achievement, but it could be completely awful, people could really lay into me about how lame it is and that would be so disheartening” or “I would love to (insert great idea here), it would give me (insert amazing benefit here) but (insert worst possible case scenario here) could happen and that would make me feel (insert horrifically awful emotion here)”

You end up thinking that your fantastically exciting idea is just too damned risky…so you don’t do anything about it. Instead you stay where you are, doing what you’re doing because it feels very nice and safe when compared to that horrible risk you just dreamed up. Problem is that doing nothing about your exciting idea, as well as feeling safe and cosy, is also just not as exciting, in fact it’s very dull indeed in comparison to the hoped for goal at the end of your exciting idea.

I don’t want to go on too much about my working life, but in my job as a Project Manager I spend HUGE amounts of time thinking about risks. And I’ve got to tell you that if you’re not ever doing greatly beneficial things because there are small chances (or even slightly larger chances) that something bad could happen, then you are doing it wrong.

Yup, ‘fraid so.

There is a lot more to dealing with risks than just avoiding them at all costs.

You cannot look just look at risks in isolation. Not if you’re ever going to get anywhere good.

At work I have lots of templates and measures and guidelines and whatnot for quantifying and dealing with risk. And in a working environment I’m sure that they’re all very valuable but what I really think might be useful in a more personal context is a good bit of thinking around the following considerations (and I think it would be a good exercise to write down the big idea and your big scary risk then read through adding your thoughts as you go) I shall help by providing a hugely practical and highly likely real life example…deciding to walk to the North Pole against the risk that I could be eaten by a polar bear:

How much do you really really WANT your idea to happen?

You need to know how much you want something and how great you think it would be if it worked out in order to know what you’re prepared to put yourself through to get there. And the stuff that you’re prepared to put yourself through might include the possibility that it might go wrong somewhere along the way.

For example, on a passing whim I might think it would be really nice to go on a trek to the North Pole, but when I think about it…..while I’m sure there would be a great sense of achievement about it am I prepared to put myself through the cold and physical exertion and risk of being eaten by a polar bear to get that sense of achievement? No, I do not want that sense of achievement quite that much, to me it is not worth it.

Other people may crave that sense of achievement and also really enjoy physical activity, they might happily accept that there is a remote chance that they will be eaten by a polar bear at some point during their expedition…good luck to them with that!

You need to work out just how much our great idea means to you, what is it worth?

If it’s worth a lot, you really want the big idea to become a reality, but the big old risk is still looming read on.

How awful would it be if you went for your idea and your worst case scenario actually happened?

You know how much you want your big idea to actually become a reality, great start, but you’ve still got that awful “I could be eaten by a polar bear” doubt nagging at the back of your mind. You need to think about how much you want to avoid your risk actually occurring. How much do you want to avoid it?

Weigh it up against how much you wanted your big idea to happen. Set them off against each other.

Now, even the most intrepid adventurer will, I’m sure, be pretty keen on not being eaten by a polar bear. If there were only two outcomes of setting out on your trek and there was an equal possibility of each and they were:

Outcome 1: safe arrival at, and return from the North Pole

and

Outcome 2: donating one’s body to the worthy cause of polar bear nourishment

then most of us (even the ones who were very keen on the North Pole trek and didn’t mind the cold too much) would almost certainly stay tucked up at home in our onesies, far away from white pointy toothed creatures.

However, although you may have blown the big scary risk up in your mind, it might not be as likely as it feels. Which is why it’s really important to ask yourself, with your rational-non-panicky-head on…

How realistic is it (really, really) that our big old risk would actually happen?

Of all the things that can happen on your trek to the North Pole, how likely is it that you will be eaten by a polar bear? How many people that go to the North Pole even SEE a polar bear? (NO, I don’t actually know, this is one of the things that you should think about if your big idea is to go to the North Pole and your biggest fear is polar bears). They’re endangered you know, I don’t think they’re frolicking around the arctic in their thousands.

Still don’t like those odds?

Anything (apart from completely dropping your idea) that you could do to make that risk a bit less likely or a bit less awful if it did occur?

You might find that given a bit of thinking your risk was knocked down to size a bit by the last question and is starting to look a bit more manageable. But there’s still no reason why you should get eaten by a polar bear on your trip when it could be easily avoided.

Just plain not going isn’t your only option, you could consider take a few precautions to knock that risk down a bit more.

You could (and I hope you would) take an experienced guide…

…with a gun suitable for shooting polar bears if required…

…and someone you don’t like much to use as a snack for the polar bear (ok, maybe not)

Once you start thinking of what could be done to reduce the risk, you might find that when weighed up against how much you want want want the desired outcome it becomes a bit more acceptable to you.

You could find that you can almost eliminate the possibility that your risk would actually happen.

What’s the risk of doing nothing here?

If you do nothing about getting your big idea into motion the risk is that you will not obtain the outcome of your big idea. It’s a big risk.

Consider this:

If you go for your big and marvellous idea, there is a risk that it will not go well and that you will not get whatever it is that you wanted out of it.

If you do not go for your big and marvellous idea, the risk that it will not go well and that you will not gt whatever it is that you wanted out of it almost becomes an absolute certainty.

If you take no risks and therefore no moves to whatever it is your little heart desires, you will almost certainly stay put where you are…or worse, find that you have your decisions made for you as you’ve not taken control.

You could find that not only are you not heading towards the North Pole, that the opportunity to do so in the future is also somehow lost to you, or you could just plain old find that in a few years time you’re exactly where you are now, bored and wondering what the North Pole is really like…and whether polar bears might be a bit friendlier than the nature programs would have you believe.

What about the positive risk?

You heard me! Risks are not just big horrible negative things. In fact PRINCE2 (a project management framework which covers risk, and is used by projects in big and small companies everywhere) says that a risk is:

“an event that has yet to happen, it may or may not happen at some point in the future, but if it does it will have an impact on my project”

So, as well as a risk of your big idea going wrong you should also consider that there is also a risk it could go wonderfully right and go just perfectly and all the great things it could mean for you.

You could get to the North Pole, having seen polar bears from a safe distance and it having been a wonderful moment to remember forever.

All I’m trying to say here I think (and I have taken a lot of words to say it…well done for reading this far) is do not be put off by your initial reaction to your big scary risks. If you take the time to inspect them you could find that they’re not as big, or as likely as they first feel and that you can do things to make them easier to handle. You might just find that for the right outcome, the right dream, the risk (if well managed – don’t get too close to the polar bears now) is totally worth it.

Natalie

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Let’s Get To The Point!

Yup, my pointy finger is wearing a bow tie...bow ties are cool!

Yup, my pointy finger is wearing a bow tie…bow ties are cool!

Over the last week or so, while pondering the newy newness of the year, I considered that my site is called actuallyyoucan.com which implies that there’s a particular thing that you can do but feel like you can’t. And that on my site in a number of places I talk about how great it would be for you if you could make changes in your life and not be held back.

While the actual posts on the other hand, talk about confidence. All the time, every single one: don’t let this knock your confidence, don’t let that thing that happened knock your confidence, do this and it will really boost your confidence etc

It may seem to some like I have strayed off topic and instead I should be focusing on the change that I’m telling you that you’re capable of (you totally are by the way), what change you should make and HOW you go about making it.

I just want to reiterate that the point to all of this talk about confidence is to enable you to decide what changes you want to make, how you want life to be, without feeling like your dreams are too big for you (dream big, they’re dreams, that’s what they’re for) and to feel able to go get them.

I don’t know what changes you need to make or what you really really want to be going on in your life.

But I do know this…

Lack of confidence is the number one biggest thing that stops people from having the courage to look around and see what they want, rather than just accepting what’s been handed to them. It’s also the thing that stops people going after the things what they want when they work out what they are.

Lack of confidence stops people from getting what they want, or even feeling that they deserve them. I want you to have the things you want…whatever they are. Until you get those things I want you to know that you absolutely deserve them. You are good enough. Especially if you’re working towards them and not just daydreaming about them.

…don’t stop daydreaming altogether though, that would be dreadful.

So that’s the deal.

I tell you things that I hope will boost your confidence, I will tell you that no dream is too big and no flight of fancy too random. Hopefully you will think about what it is you really want (and often).

I will tell you more things that I hope will make you feel like you really do deserve the things you want.
Hopefully you will listen and will start to think about yourself and know that you are absolutely good enough to deserve the things you want.

I will tell you the truth about all of those beliefs that knock confidence in our ideas and hold us back (no one really likes their job, change is riskier than staying the same etc) and in my own small way expose them for the rubbish that they are.
Hopefully you will have enough courage to just start, just try, to go after what you want instead of dismissing it and always having to think “If I could have done that, it would have been good”. You can do it. It will be good (and if it isn’t you can try something else, change is not a one-time thing).

So, just so we’re clear, that’s the mission.

I bring the confidence boost, you ring the changes.

In case anyone was wondering, that’s the point.

Natalie

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Happy New Year

It seems that I have allowed myself to take a blogging break throughout the whole of December…whoops!

I have had a lovely time. I have been caroling, I have visited, I have Christmas mealed and Christmas drank to my heart’s content, I have cooked a lot and over the last few days I have allowed the X-Box to take over the entire living room (I haven’t even been allowed a go on it yet!).

In terms of all the things that blogging is supposed to be about though (regular posts, a steady interaction with whoever follows you) this could most definitely be placed within the “a bad thing” category.

However, I have had a little think about this and the fact that I am here again now writing to you all puts me firmly back into the “a good thing” category.

Because, you see, it would be so much easier for me to stop. Writing a blog, especially the “at least twice a week” schedule I originally set myself, is harder than I thought it would be. I’ve had such a long break it would be easy for me to say “Oh well, that’s that then”, or worse say “I have failed! It is all ruined, there is no point in carrying on is there!” and then just stop. And all the things I have left to say would go unsaid. These things may occassionally be the whitterings of a lunatic (my fears in the odd moment when my own confidence fails me) but some of you have said you like them or have found them useful and they are absolutely all genuinely meant.

Seriously…I do a “do you really mean this” check on every single post and I can hand on heart say that so far, yes I do.

Anyway, as I have said before. If just one person finds what I have to say useful then the only way I fail is if I just stop saying it.

With all of the Christmas mayhem, or for whatever reason, your dream may have stopped in it’s tracks. Perhaps your diet has all gone to pot when you were doing so well, or you haven’t spent as much time as you like on a project (business or personal), or you haven’t given a friend as much of your time over the last couple of months as you really wanted to.

It is not too late to pick up where you left off and get going again. If the goal or intention is still good and you still want it, then why would you stop just because you’ve allowed a brief (or even not so brief) interlude?

It’s harder to get going again than to be bombing along in a nice little flow that you’ve built for yourself, but the time you’ve had to take stock (and if you really care then these things will have been tugging gently at your sleeve even though you’ve not actively been engaged so you will have been taking stock) can be incredibly valuable.

Why did you stop or slow down?

If it was because you were busier than you thought you’d be, or because what you were aiming for is a bit harder than you thought then just get going again (no-one ever said worthwhile things were always easy).

If it was because you started putting off what you had to do because you weren’t enjoying it as much as you thought you would then take a look at that. Is the end goal still the same? Is there something that you can tweak to make things a bit more enjoyable for yourself?

For instance, if your goal was a personal weight loss target and you’ve hated it so far, could you sign up for more group classes or try a lunchtime walk with a friend rather than putting in time at the gym?

If your goal was to move into a new field and you’ve been doing some training and you’ve despised every minute, then what is it that you don’t like? Have you been spending hours pouring over the books when really you’re more of a hands-on-talk-it-through-with-another-student type of person? Or maybe you’ve found that you don’t enjoy the subject, you’ve decided that this path is not for you. Which brings me onto the next thing.

If you’ve given something a try and then stopped because you genuinely hated everything about it….good! Do not waste your life on things that you hate. That doesn’t mean that you get to give up on something because you’ve had a bad day or something is harder than you thought, everything worth going after is difficult at times, but if you’ve given something you’re best shot and work through more than your share of bad days and have hated every single minute, let it go!

Otherwise, if you get something out of what you’re doing and the end goal is still the same, make whatever tweaks are necessary and get yourself going again. Do not beat yourself up for taking a break. No one’s perfect, everyone needs a little breather sometimes or to let their hair down a bit.

Try to think of your “blip” or period of inactivity as a bit of downtime to think about whether you still want what you thought you did. Let it be a pause, it doesn’t have to be an ending (not if you don’t want it to) let it be a semi-colon rather than a full stop.

I always say if you want something, just start going after it. Do not wait. Whether that be for the New Year or after your holiday or when you’ve got x amount of money in the bank, just start. Even if it has to be in a small way to be going on with.

If you’ve waited until New Year to get started, then for heaven’s sake don’t waste another minute, it’s time to get cracking.

While I don’t think you should wait for landmark dates to get started, you might find it’s a good time to check if you’ve kept going, and if you haven’t, to give yourself a kickstart.

Kickstart your 2014. Get cracking. Do not sweat what’s in the past. Do your best today.

Natalie

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P.S. This post is dedicated to my very brilliant friend Liz. Who has recently taken on more freelance work that she loves and has this week handed in her notice on a job that just was not for her. Liz, you are far too precious for anything less than you truly love. Good things are coming for you. Love you x

Behind Closed Doors

A lot of us, myself included, can sometimes find ourselves paralysed at the thought of looking stupid.

So we play it safe, in front of people we put our proper-sensible-not-likely-to-be-ridiculous selves on…and it’s y’know, alright. But it’s a bit dull and the person we’re hiding our silliness from might actually like to see a bit of personality.

They might even be silly in the same way as you. HURRAH!

Of course, they might not, they might think that you’re a bit of a wally.

Doesn’t matter, the point is that we won’t know unless we let ourselves be seen, give people a bit of a taste of what we’re really like when we’re being our “self” selves instead of our proper-sensible-not-likely-to-be-ridiculous selves.

If your audience is not silly in the same way as you, most likely they’ll just think that what you did/said/whatever is a bit odd, shrug it off and carry on with whatever is going on. Most likely they will not run around telling people you are a total oddball, why would they? Do you run around obsessing over every time you see someone do something you find a bit strange? If people did that they’d never find time for anything else.

Which brings me on to my next point…

…people are really odd!

ALL people, you are not alone in this.

Even if someone catches you doing something you think is a ridiculous/embarrassing/stupid thing to be doing, the kind of thing where you feel you will be written off as a complete nutcase if you are discovered, I can pretty much guarantee that they have their own quirk which they would find embarrassing if anyone found out.

So give yourself a break, you do not need to beat yourself up over doing something a bit weird and suffering a bit of embarrassment. Showing everyone what a little loon you can be won’t always be appropriate of course, you can’t let all your crazy out at once. But if you show a little craziness, or some of it leaks, hey, that’s completely fine!

Do NOT let one little moment of being-yourself madness knock your confidence.

In the interests of full disclosure, and to demonstrate my point, I’ll share with you my own example. Now, even though I know lots of people do this, it’s mortifying to do it like this so please be nice to me!

I talk, sing and dance to myself ALL THE TIME.

Not in front of people. I can’t really inflict it on others, it’s dreadful (although I am convinced it gets better after a few glasses of wine, sadly there is no evidence of this). But I do talk to myself, dance and sing pretty much everywhere I’m sure I won’t get caught doing it.

Walks in the countryside
In the car
Sorting the washing
In the kitchen
On the landings and stairwells at work (high risk, heavily trafficked areas swarming with respectable financial services types).

I don’t mind people knowing that I do this, I bet loads of people do, but I find it horribly embarrassing when someone catches me doing it…

…because it’s something like this! (Cringe! Cringe! Cringe!)

me, being a tiny bit silly

Proof, if any were needed, that no one EVER died of embarrassment!

(oh well, at least the christmas tree is nice)

So yes, I am pretty embarrassed right now, but it’s okay. I know other people do this (alright, maybe not quite like I do it, but close enough). Some people will most certainly find it awful, some people will find it funny. But either way tomorrow I will get up and go to work, the world will keep turning. It is not worth beating myself up over, I will survive.

And so would you.

Accept your quirk, let it out to play now and then. Others have more (and worse).

Natalie

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First Pancake

Ready for those pancakes...after binning the inevitably rubbish first one!

Ready for those pancakes…after binning the inevitably rubbish first one!

One of the reasons I have picked up on (using the highly scientific method of having applied this dubious logic myself at one time or another) as to why people do not feel confident about doing the things they might love is that they have given it a go at one time or another and it did not go well for them.

In that situation we think “It sounded good but I couldn’t possibly make it happen, I even tried it once and it was a DISASTER!”

We think we KNOW it won’t work out because it went wrong the first time.

Eh Err! (that was supposed to be an incorrect buzzer type noise)

That’s just not right at all!

All that we KNOW is that it wasn’t completely successful the first time we tried it.

That is not the same thing as having proof that it will never work out.

Imagine if no one ever did anything because it went wrong first time…

…for a start no one would ever eat a second pancake. And they’d be missing out, the first one is always a bit crap, but the second one is delicious!

…no one would ever have invented anything.

…no one would ever have done anything of note.

…no one would even learn how to walk (lots of trial and error and falling over involved in learning to walk).

In short, it would be rubbish.

Nearly everything worth having has accumulated a string of wrong turns and “not quite right”s in the making.

So if my failure in the past wasn’t proof it was a rubbish idea, or something that I am completely incapable of pulling off, then what was it?

Ok, for a start it wasn’t a failure, instead try to think of it as a prototype (or first pancake, if that’s how you’d rather think of it).

It might not have been everything you’d hoped it would be but if nothing else it gave you experience. Instead of going “That’s it, I can’t do it! How stupid of me for thinking that I could” you have an opportunity to use your new experience to make things a little bit better when you try again.

Even if you think your first go was a complete disaster, I’ll bet there was something good about it.

Maybe you really enjoyed it when you got started? Or maybe you enjoyed the process even if the end result was a bit “off”? Great! Keep that bit for next time

Maybe other people have told you that they loved a certain element of your experiment? Perhaps the aplomb with which you attempted your first pancake toss even if the pancake did end up on the ceiling. Yes, keep that too (maybe clean the ceiling up a bit though).

The hardest bit of trying something new is to find the idea in the first place and the courage to give it a first try. A lot of people don’t even make it to the start line. They have the idea, think “oh no, I couldn’t possibly” and then just try to forget about it (only they probably won’t properly forget, they will have to regret not giving it a go). You, you lucky devil, by giving it one go you’ve already done the absolute hardest bit. You’ve already got a prototype to work with and to tweak AND you’ve got some experience to use in making those changes.

So sweep up the first pancake eggs you’ve managed to get all over the floor, reflect that a bowl might be just the thing for next time, and give it another go.

It’s fine not to be perfect first time (and the next, and the one after that if it comes to it), you will be getting closer and closer to what you want every time you have another try. The only way to guarantee that you will not get closer to what you want is to give up after that first knock back.

But I don’t even like pancakes!

The only time I think that not keeping going is the right decision is when you can say “Honestly, I thought it was a good idea, maybe it still is, but I hated doing it. So I’m not going to do that anymore…I’m going to do this instead”.

See, not everybody likes pancakes, you might be one of those people. Perhaps you’re more of a breakfast omelette type person. You might decide that you want to make those instead.

In this instance though, it’s not really giving up, it’s letting go and moving on. You’re a winner in this situation. You have won the knowledge that something isn’t right for you and can turn your attention to the more important task of succeeding in something that you do love and can get excited about…and it being okay if that success takes some time because you enjoy the process.

So keep going after the things you want, have the sense to let go of the things that you don’t really. Keep going after the most important goal, which is to be forever learning and getting a little closer each try, to something you’re proud of and truly love.

Natalie

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What The Hell Happens To Us?

Normal Friday night attire...apparently!

Normal Friday night attire…apparently!

On Friday night, much too late as usual, we’d sent John’s youngest son upstairs to get his pyjamas on.

He came down the stairs a minute or two later wearing, not his pyjamas (of course not!) but a knight’s helmet and a shield…and only that, and carrying a sword…but of course, you’d feel quite naked without your sword!

John then had to “fight” our scantily clad hero in the hallway for a minute before he ran off again to actually put his pyjamas on…no doubt stopping to admire himself in a mirror en route if bath time is anything to go by.

Hilarious obviously, but it did also make me wonder…how do some of us go from being like John’s son, more than happy to run around naked as the day we were born until someone does something to stop us, to hiding ourselves (and not just our bodies) away from the world and feeling that we have to “dare” to be seen rather than just being happy to be seen?

I think it might be down to the experiences we collect as we get older and how we adapt to avoid anything negative happening to us again, having experienced it once.

Without saying that it’s appropriate for all of us to run around with only a plastics toy shield to protect our dignity (I hasten to add that’s not really where I’m going here) let me try to illustrate my point.

John’s youngest son (“The Monster”) is 5 years old. His world is therefore still safe and relatively small. He spends time with his family, his teacher and the other children in his class. He’s encouraged a lot, told how loved he is and how brilliant he is…long as he’s behaving and not being too much of a miniature hell raiser. He is not used to people telling him that they don’t like him, or that his ideas are stupid or that people don’t agree with them, not in a way that would hurt his little feelings…if anyone does it normally gets given the label of “being naughty”.

In the bigger, wider world we’ve probably been told any number of times that our ideas and things that make us stand out are stupid sometimes quite hurtfully and rudely, without someone being on hand to tell us that we are brilliant, the other person was just “being naughty”, and we’re unlikely to have enjoyed it. We do not want it to happen again so we find ourselves steered back towards what’s “normal” never again to do whatever our equivalent of running around starkers with a sword and shield might be (most of us anyway).

Makes sense to me that we would feel that way, we don’t want negative reactions to make us feel unhappy, but two problems:

1) Some of us over do it a bit, or a lot, we avoid doing a lot of things because we think someone will laugh at us or call us stupid, when actually they probably wouldn’t.

2) Some of us need our eccentric little moments to be really happy. Being someone that we are not because we’ve learned that it’s acceptable can be really limiting and make us unhappy.

Alright, so people laughing at us and saying our ideas are stupid makes us unhappy AND sometimes avoiding getting a negative reaction makes us unhappy too.

Are we stuck between a rock and a hard place then?

Not necessarily. You just need to keep a few things in mind.

Reality: Are people really going to give me a hard time for this?

Think about it. Does whatever oddball thing you want to do really affect anyone else? If not, they may not even notice. If they do notice, but whatever it is you’re doing doesn’t really affect them, they’re not that likely to give a strong reaction, they’re much more likely to be carrying on with their own thing.

Do you devote your time going round passing judgement on actions of other people that don’t affect you all that much? Of course not, you’re much to busy worrying about what other people think about you…other people are often the same.

There may also, of course be some people that do notice and have a strong reaction. If what you’re doing is exciting, funny or creative though…has it occurred to you that that strong reaction might be to let you know that they think your idea, your actions are in fact, totally brilliant…let that occur to you once in a while!

Yeah, okay, there might still be the odd one or two people out there that will tell you you’re being stupid, laugh at you or generally rain on your make believe medieval joust.

Does it really matter if they do?

If they do give you a hard time, it might not be pleasant, but does it really make a difference what they think? Really really?

For a start, as I touched on above, as long as you’re not doing something that’s hurting anybody (don’t do those sorts of things please) for every person that doesn’t “get” you and decides to have a little rant about it there will be another person who completely understands where you are coming from and, furthermore, thinks that you are the bee’s knees (mutts nuts/cats whiskers/whatever).

Even more importantly than that, know what you think about what you’re doing. Do you think it’s good?

Think it’s worth doing even if other people don’t agree?

Excellent! Crack on then!

Natalie

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