It’s mindfulness week at the coworking space I use. Every day a coach is holding short sessions on meditation, nutrition and time management amongst other things. Yesterday I went to the first session, where the coach asked us to do a simple thing: breathe.
A small group of us sat there in a circle, a little awkward, expectant.
After explaining to us what our brains are up to when we feel stressed, the coach put on some calming music and asked us to close our eyes.
She told us to breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, breathe out for a count of 6.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath in and a deep breath out.
I realised how tense my back and neck felt. How my mind had been buzzing. It felt as though I’d been holding my breathe. I felt anything but calm and relaxed.
I also realised that I was on the verge of tears.
Gradually I relaxed into it, and it felt so calming to listen the music, quietly sit and concentrate on something as simple as breathing.
Looking back over the morning, I saw that I’d been running on auto-pilot.
I’d been in a state of high-alert, rushing to write an email before the session, and stressed by all things Monday. I’d been off to the gym first thing, rushing back to shower and change, then rushing to work. All the emails and work for the week crashing down on top of me.
I’d even had a brief chat about the busyness of Monday mornings to a friend in the kitchen about an hour beforehand – but hadn’t thought to step back and actually take a break, sit for a few minutes and breath and close my eyes.
As the coach said, we feel as though we need to be go go go to be productive, but it’s not the case. The more breaks we take the more productive we can be.
I know this. I know that I need breaks. But I’m aware that my breaks usually consist of ‘doing’. Switching to read an interesting article, or something in Spanish, or to check messages. Once in a while listening to a podcast or walking round the block.
But sometimes what I really need is to find a quiet space, close my eyes, breath in and out. Really switch off.
It’s fine and even great to have periods of hyper-productivity, firing on all cylinders, getting stuff done. But when you’ve had a whole day of buzzing – that sounds a little like living off stress to me. When you can’t slow done, you jump from one thing to another, the adrenalin’s pumping. Frantic.
It’s not sustainable and at some point you’re probably going to crash. And that’s really not productive.
So if you’re reading this, do yourself a favour. Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly for a count of 4, hold for a count of 2, breath out for a count of 6. Repeat. Notice how your body feels. Notice how your mind feels. Better?
To book a coaching session with me, focusing on mindset and making positive changes in your life or career, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I recently spoke to a friend of a friend, M, about her work. She finds her current job stressful and she can’t see herself carrying on all the way through to retirement. We got talking about what she’d always dreamed of doing – working in interiors and decoration. And seeing the way she lit up talking about it…I asked her if she’d ever consider trying to move into it. But as we talked it was obvious there were a few barriers stopping her from thinking it could ever be possible.
The barriers M put in her way are really common. I don’t have the time. Other people are already doing the work. I’d need a qualification. The courses I’ve seen are far away and too expensive.
What’s it worth?
M was interested in taking a course to learn more and had looked into a couple. But the fact that they were pricey and bit of a distance away was an obstacle. I asked if the prospect of learning more, of enjoying exploring the world of design, of meeting like minded people, could be worth it. M admitted she’d love to give it a try.
So is it worth saving up or cutting back to afford it? Is it a potentially worthy investment? Could she find a way of prioritising the time she’d need to travel there and back?
The qualification issue
Another of the most common barriers, M felt she would need a qualification in order to set up and be taken seriously. I asked her – if someone could teach you how to do something, or could do it for you (with amazing results), would you care if they had a qualification or not?
I know some careers do require rigorous training and it may be the case that a certain level of education is required to be an interior designer. But in so many careers knowledge and experience count for a lot. And there’s always the possibility of studying for a qualification alongside getting work experience or during the very early stages of starting a business. I started coaching while studying for my coaching qualification. This doesn’t have to be a barrier.
For example, say I want to decorate my house. Imagine I have a bit of a budget, but zero interest in actually doing the research and searching for items or considering aesthetics. I would totally want to pay for the services of someone with amazing taste, whose own house is beautifully decorated, and who can make the transformation easy for me.
And get this – M mentioned that a few friends had commented on her style, or hinted that they’d love her to makeover their houses. I got excited hearing this! Proof there’s a market for her and proof she doesn’t necessarily need a qualification to get started. She could get started working with friends, and see what happens with word-of-mouth.
In her free time M’s pinning decoration images on Pinterest and obsessively scanning Instagram. We agreed that dedicating even 30 minutes a week would be time well spent on exploring this potential new career. She can put that research to good use! And use the time to set up working for a friend for free, or calling to find out more about the course and enrolling, or working out what niche she’d focus on. Maybe seeing if she can interview or shadow someone local working as a interior designer. Step-by-step.
So often we put pressure on ourselves when it comes to trying something new, putting immediate barriers in place. What if I don’t enjoy it, what if I change my mind and am no longer interested? What if it’s not for me?
Well on the other hand, what if it’s amazing – and changes everything?
The worst could be that you start taking small steps into that world, and realise you don’t enjoy it. This will help you decide that its not the path for you. You’re still a step ahead. You’re getting closer to what you want. It’s not a step back. You’ve set the gears in motion for change. You’ve shaken things up and you’re showing yourself that you’re taking yourself seriously. You can build on this.
For instance M could offer her services for free and then use the results as a portfolio/case study. Go through the process with a friend/’client’ and learn from the experience. See if she actually enjoys it and if the client is pleased with the outcome (maybe following up with a questionnaire or asking for a testimonial). Was anything tricky? What could be improved? Did anything go well? Did she feel under qualified?
This could all be done on the side of carrying on with her full time employment. I’m not suggesting quitting and starting from scratch. M can slowly build up her experience, and be sure it’s a career path that appeals.
Finally, with I visited M’s home, I was struck by the fact that she’s probably got the most stylish house I’ve seen for a couple with young kids. Her young daughters’ bedroom had simple, lovely colours, kid appropriate but not garish. In one corner of the room there was a massive leafy plant in front of a big shuttered window, with light filtering through. There was excellent storage so there weren’t toys all over the place. Somehow this all changed the room from any old kids bedroom to ‘dream’ kids bedroom.
Their home was sleek, stylish and not overrun with kids stuff. It struck me – that could be her niche. How to have a beautiful home when you’ve got kids. How to achieve the stylish, zen-like look even if your day-to-day is as chaotic as everyone else’s.
Her dream is so big and exciting, and seems so far away that she can hardly contemplate it one day being a reality. But once M can get over her mindset blocks and start believing it could one day be possible, all she needs to do is start taking small steps to make it happen. It might take a while, but it’s possible.
Want some help with
Let me know if you’d like to speak to me about moving forwards with your big dreams, and dealing with your mindset. Removing barriers. I can help! I love doing this. I’ll help you to see the possibilities, and we’ll work out a plan together. Email me at email@example.com to make a booking.
I listened to someone talking about career change yesterday and she mentioned that up until recently it was considered by some as failing.
In my own personal experience, there’s some truth there.
You got the job or started the career, it’s a good job, decent money, nice colleagues, a few benefits.
And then a few years down the line you realise it’s really not for you.
You believe you’re not good at the job. It feels as though you’re not doing well. You don’t have any passion or even any interest in it anymore. Of course that’s a failure. You’re failing. You’re no longer achieving.
I felt like that. I did feel an element of failure, wanting to leave my job of 10 years, the job I’d so loved at the start. If everyone else is happy getting on with it and doing well, why can’t I?
But the thing is of course, staying in a job you don’t like (were you do have the option of leaving) is the failing part. Failing to listen to yourself, failing to be bold enough to live the life you know you really want.
Which is most likely doing a job you enjoy, a job which means something to you.
Listening to others and sticking out a job you dislike for fear of what other people think is failing.
Letting yourself stay miserable and unfulfilled and desperate out of fear of making a change is failing.
The notion of a job for life is on its way out
Things are changing, the notion of staying in a job for life is quite rare now. Lots of people successfully change careers not just once, but two, three times or more. Some of us out there have a ‘multi-hyphenate’ career – combining a mixture of jobs/side projects/collaborations – whatever we need to do to stay fulfilled and bring in some money.
If you want to change career but you’re looking at it as a failure of some sort, I’d say rethink things. What’s the real failure. Can you imagine yourself doing your job in another 1, 5, 10 years? Would you like to do your manager’s job, or director’s job, or CEO’s job? Do you even want to stay in your industry in the future?
If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, maybe it’s time to be true to yourself, and start the process of moving on.
Start by figuring out a few areas of work that interest you, that make you come alive when you allow yourself to dream. Find out more – research, talk to people in that world.
Start making a plan to find a way to test out this new area, step-by-step. Set aside 20 minutes a week to write if you want to be a writer, to translate if you want to be a translator. Take a half-day of leave and job shadow someone. One Saturday morning a week work for free to test out another area.
Look at changing jobs as exploring, experimenting, leading an adventurous life
It doesn’t have to be drastic, it doesn’t have to put you in danger of losing your home and stability. Look at it as learning about yourself, and improving your life. About being brave and bold.
If you’d like to try life coaching with me, to help work out your next steps and start taking action to improve your life, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wanted to write a post to help anyone out there feeling as though nothing about their situation is ever going to change. You’re wondering if this is it, if this is the best you can do. You feel as though you’re stuck in a rut. You can’t imagine achieving all those things you want to, they feel too big, too far away.
I felt like that for a long time. For years everything was ok, pretty good even overall all things considered. But there were some areas of my life I was really quite unhappy with. And the feeling of being stuck, paralysed, scared, grew and grew.
I just found a post in my journal from three years ago. Here are some of my big 5-year goals from that year.
5 -Year Goals
Publish a book about living in Spain, and do a talk/interview about it
Complete a life coaching qualification
Set up a coaching business
Meet a foreign boyfriend
Do art as a hobby, maybe illustration
Dance often – learn to salsa well
Live in a beautiful, sunny apartment
Be close to my nieces and family
Save money each month
Have a great social life – meals out, cinema, dancing
Blog about coaching related things
Blog about life in Spain
Move to Spain
Take a road trip in the US
And you know how many of those things I’ve achieved?
Well, I’ve yet to take the US road trip and it’s still very much on the list. I decided to concentrate on the coaching side of blogging rather than writing about life in Spain. I haven’t yet published a book. But everything else on that list, I achieved. There’s been a lot of change.
When I wrote this list, this was all a total dream. I was in a transition period, I’d recently left a decade long career and started a new job, and was still restless. This wasn’t where I wanted to be. Living in London, not content with my social life, my love life, my finances. I’d started wondering if living in Spain could be a reality.
Three years on I can’t believe how simple it seems, in retrospect, to get what you want. However, as you go through it it doesn’t feel simple at all. There are lots of ups and downs, lots of firsts, lots of getting out of your comfort zone and wondering what the hell you are doing.
But really, it’s a matter of writing down what you want, being honest with yourself, listening to your heart (or gut). Then doing everything you can to get there.
Once you clarify what you want – staying absolutely true to yourself and forgetting about what other people think or want for you – then it’s a matter of holding onto your dream, staying excited and taking one small step at a time.
I formulated a plan for moving to Spain – read here.
I built up to starting a coaching business – read here.
I discovered a new podcast this week which has made me very happy. Called Hurry Slowly, it’s all about ‘how you can be more productive, creative, and resilient through the simple act of slowing down.’
There’s often such a pressure to have this aggressive, ‘always on’ attitude – to be ‘killing it’, hustling. Along with all the distraction we live with – notifications, too much choice, the lure of the internet, news, Game of Thrones theories and funny videos – it’s no wonder there’s a lot of anxiety and stress around.
Just thinking about it makes me crave simplicity and calm. Cutting back on everything, slowing down. Breathing.
Back to Hurry slowly. The first episode I listened to – futurist Alex Pang on ‘Prioritizing Rest and Reflection‘ – totally backed up my philosophy of working with focus for a certain amount of time, then having a good break, rather than ploughing through for hours on end.
He also suggests walking and taking time to digest, letting your mind flow, seeing which ideas or solutions appear. Sleeping on a problem and finding that it’s magically resolved in your mind the next day. Basically – being aware of how you use your focus and energy, and figuring out what actually works for you.
“Real relaxation doesn’t come from doing nothing at all if you’re a busy person but from doing something different — an alternative outlook, a change of atmosphere, a diversion of effort is essential.” Alex Pang
Another guest, author and designer Debbie Millman, talks about how anything worthwhile takes time. There’s such pressure to succeed and to achieve things quickly. With all the social media and other content outlets it’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Seeing what other people have achieved by your age and feeling inferior. I love that the message here is to take your time and experiment.
“Most of the things that I’ve done have taken me quite a long time to realize any sense of real visibility in doing them. That’s just always been the arc of my life in anything that I was doing. I didn’t really get any traction with my career for about the first decade. I now look back and call that first decade experiments in rejection and failure.” Debbie Millman
The last episode I’ll mention is dedicated to something I’m as obsessed with as the host – walking. Sounds simple, maybe even boring to some. But I’ll never stop banging on about the virtues of walking. It really is like therapy. It’s meditative, it gets the blood and circulation flowing, it takes you out of slump or crappy mood. A good walk cheers me up no end.
So there we go, if you’re inspired to discover more there are plenty of episodes to uncover here.
Enjoy the reminder that slowing down is a good thing.
If there’s something in your life you need help with changing, feel free to contact me for a coaching session. Email me at email@example.com and we’ll find a time to speak.