|Posted on 15 August, 2019 at 6:15||comments (0)|
Follow effective action with quiet reflection.
From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
When was the last time you were truly quiet?
Most of us will probably not remember the last time we were 'actively' quiet. By that, I don't mean the time just before we go to sleep when we are still thinking about the last email we looked at 2 seconds ago on our phone, or worrying about waking up in time for a breakfast meeting tomorrow.
We are in the constant hullabaloo of actual and virtual noise, being pulled by other people's agendas or impossible to complete to do lists. There is a constant call on our attention from emails, phone calls, podcasts, social media. Even if you aren't tied to your own mobile devices, you are assailed in the street by other people's music and phone calls, plus traffic noise and all the visual clutter such as adverts and shop windows.
We can let ourselves be carried on this tide of frenetic activity for many reasons. Perhaps it comes from mistaking activity of any kind for constructive work; but being busy isn't always being productive. I know for myself that when I went freelance after decades in 9 to 5 employment, I felt I wasn't working unless I was busy typing away at my computer. This came out of an expectation from previous employers who thought that if I was staring out of the window, I was obviously wasting company time rather than taking a moment to refocus and gather my thoughts. (As my own boss now, I know that many of my best ideas come after staring out of the window and letting thoughts drift.)
It can be because we feel that in order to prove we exist, we have to be connected to the rest of the world at all times via the umbilical cord of wifi, ready to answer that phone call, retweet that article, update our status. (This is a major problem for most of us in this technological age and one which is insightfully written about by Frances Booth in her excellent book, The Distraction Trap.)
Looking back over the Take Five blogs which have been written by my great guests, something which features strongly is the number of times people say that when they hit a creative block, they go for a walk to get away from all the distractions. Other people meditate to get back in balance (check out the Business Yogi for some good guided meditations). Some go fishing. For me, even though I often work at full speed, I am also very good at just sitting doing nothing in a park.
How and where you find your little piece of quietness isn't important. All that matters is that you find a way to turn off from the world on a regular basis. Not only will it relax and help de-stress you, you could also find a wealth of creativity bursting forth.
|Posted on 11 July, 2019 at 3:55||comments (0)|
"One's performance is often heightened by the brilliance and generosity of other actors."
How many times have you found that your work or career has been taken to another level, or just made a little easier, by the generosity of others?
It could have been a practical act such as: giving you a piece of information; showing you how to do some technical thing in a more effective way; introducing you to a useful contact.
It could have been giving you their time to: talk through your ideas; come to see your work; read your book.
It could have been a generosity of spirit: creating an environment where anything seems possible; giving you the space in the light to shine; inviting you to collaborate and up your game to their level; making one small positive comment about your work.
The best form of generosity is that which doesn't expect a quid pro quo and has no hidden agenda. This is the act done because it is the nice thing to do, the small thing which could make a big impact or just make the recipient happy.
Through my career, I can count many occasions when someone has given me advice or an opportunity which has been welcomed at the time and in retrospect has actually given my career a huge boost or set me off in a new and exciting direction. I remember the theatre marketing people who gave up their valuable time to talk to me about how they got into their business when I was looking for a change of career; the person who gave me a large job not because I had any experience but because they saw potential; the first person who trusted me with their future when I was training as a coach.
And perhaps more importantly, I can remember the times when people have come and told me about something they were able to achieve or a new way of looking at themselves which came out of a tiny comment I made along the way that I had more or less forgotten about.
What will be your small act of generosity today?
|Posted on 5 June, 2019 at 3:20||comments (0)|
"What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette
I am always talking about having a vision and looking forward to new challenges and ideas. I am a very firm believer that if you have something to move towards, it can inspire you and make you accomplish more than you had thought possible.
However, I would put in a word of caution.
Sometimes we can be so intent on getting to the goal ahead of us that we miss out on the wonderful things along the way. These could be things which could help us achieve our goals, they could be things which we enjoy and which nourish us.
By only looking ahead, we can also lose sight of some of the best bits of ourselves. We think about how things might be better when we are more skilled, more experienced, have more time, etc., and we can often forget to acknowledge how much is right with us and our lives now.
Look at what you have to be thankful for and what is working in your life now. This is the foundation from which you can begin to build your future.
Go for your goals, but don't forget to enjoy the journey.
|Posted on 23 May, 2019 at 0:10||comments (0)|
Last week, I got stuck in a lift.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds: the outside wall of the lift was glass, overlooking a wide open expanse; the lift never moved so I was just stuck on the ground floor, not between floors; I was only in there for 5 minutes; and the alarm button was extremely loud in a crowded building. Also, I don’t have a phobia about lifts. (Actress Rebecca Front has written about her lift phobia in her book, 'Curious: True Stories and Loose Connections'.)
However, a few years ago, at a time when I was dealing with several stressful situations, I regularly had panic attacks. These were usually associated with being in large, crowded, formal spaces such as theatres, cinemas, concert halls, conference rooms, from which I perceived I wouldn’t be able to easily escape. Luckily for me, no-one ever knew about these attacks, because I got very good at keeping myself out of situations where they might occur. However, trying to deal with this on my own, secretly, over a period of 6 years was going to come to a head at some point and when it did, I went to the Doctor to ask for help. He gave me Betablockers (which in the end I never took, but it was nice to know they were in my bag if I needed them), and sent me off for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. (Interestingly, I also started learning tango at the same time and it was fascinating to see the connections between learning a positive mindset and learning the dance, but that is a whole other blog!)
Over the intervening years, gradually, my panic attacks have subsided. Admittedly, when I go to the theatre, my long suffering friends know I still need to be on the aisle and/or near a door. I have moments when I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack, but I now have the techniques to try to stop it. And on rare occasions, I might have what Rebecca Front calls in her book a panic about having a panic, but hey, it is just part of who I am.
So what is the point of all this soul bearing?
Panic attacks are not pleasant; however, they don’t have to stop you from doing what you want.
How do people cope who do have a phobia of lifts? They take the stairs, live on the lower floors of apartment blocks, specify they can’t be above the 3rd floor when they book into in hotels… How did I cope with my panic attacks? Okay, I gave up on the cinema and theatre for a while, but in my professional life, I had to find other ways around it. I found coping mechanisms.
For example, I had to go to a three day conference for my employer, at the end of which I had to give in a report on current trends, opinions, contacts made. I was anxious but, as I always did, told myself it would be fine. It wasn’t. I went into the first session (aisle seat, back row next to the door) and spent the whole 45 minutes gripping my seat to keep me from running. And I was looking at three further days of this. Something drastic had to be done.
I checked that the speaker notes from all the sessions would be made available by email after the conference. I picked up all the literature which was available. During the coffee breaks and lunch breaks, I worked the room like there was no tomorrow. I talked to as many people as I could, asked them about the sessions they had been in, their thoughts on trends in the sector, their sources of information, collected their business cards… After the breaks, I disappeared into the hotel coffee shop, typed up all my notes and made a list of next actions, things to follow up. For the three days, I didn’t go into another single formal session but still went back to my employer with a very comprehensive report. They got what they needed and I did it in a way that worked for me.
The point is, whether you have panic attacks, phobias or any kind of fear which holds you back, don’t let it stop you. I am not saying, “man up, just break through it” - I know from personal experience that is not how it works. However, again from my own experience, I know that it can be possible to have panic attacks and find ways to work around them.
There is a quote in an interview with Rebecca Front which I love and with which I totally identify: "I don't want to be defined by being scared of things. I want to be defined by all the things that I can do.”
So, what can you do?
|Posted on 14 March, 2019 at 4:25||comments (0)|
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
Re-connecting people (including myself!) with their creativity. My soap box is that we all too often out-source our creativity to others and that can be a huge detriment to our health. I love seeing the spark of joy in a customer, student or audience's eye when they get that creative muscle working - whether that be through designing something that I make for them, mastering a new stitch, or connecting with something I’ve said at a talk I’m giving. We give away so much of our agency when we delegate our creativity by blindly following trends and ideologies. Never mind missing out on all the opportunities our creativity gives us to understand who we really are and therefore uncovering the treasure that we have to offer the world.
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
For my personal development my current is Elizabeth Gilbert after attending her Big Magic workshop nearly a year ago. As well as 'Eat Pray Love' being a touching and inspiring read, the depth that Liz goes to in her self-exploration is really connecting. A friend and I meet once a month to practice the Big Magic writing exercise and it is so helpful in uncovering unconscious feelings and checking in with where we are and where we want to be. For more “professional” inspiration I’ve recently discovered Vanessa Barragao a textile artist based in Portugal and her coral tapestries www.vanessabarragao.com - phenomenal!
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
I was lucky to have people support me right from the beginning by encouraging me to follow my intuition. That voice told me to go slow and follow what feels good. I don’t think, for me, I’d have done it any other way. Actually I do have one thing, build your email list!
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
Step away, file the “wrong” answer away for when it is the right time, and make room for the “right” answer to take its place. Physically moving in nature is always helpful.
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
Ideally at my best an Ugg boot! Soft, cosy, casual and nurturing. But otherwise more of a supportive trainer (oh where is the glamour?!).
|Posted on 14 February, 2019 at 3:30||comments (0)|
"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world."
Wherever you look today, there are Valentine’s Day cards, chocolates, menus, flowers, champagne, meal deals, jewellery, perfume, … all the things you need to declare your love for your partner. (Although I’ve found a big hug and “I love you” works just as well as baubles, but then I’m not trying to sell a product.)
In the middle of all the proclamations of love to others, are you remembering to love yourself?
I don’t mean loving yourself once you’ve lost that weight, got that promotion, found that man, sculpted those abs. I mean loving yourself now, even with all those little flaws that probably only you see or care about. It is about treating yourself with self respect, compassion, kindness, affection, tenderness, all the qualities you would bring to your relationship with your best friend.
Sometimes people have problems with loving themselves, thinking it is selfish or arrogant. But in fact, it will make you more confident and happy and that can only impact positively on those around you. It can help you to achieve your goals and dreams.
So how do you do this? Well, better people than me have written countless books on this, but for starters, you can take a leaf out of Queen Latifah’s book: “When I was around 18, I looked in the mirror and said, 'You're either going to love yourself or hate yourself.' And I decided to love myself. That changed a lot of things.”
And yes okay, why not buy yourself some flowers to celebrate loving yourself?
|Posted on 31 January, 2019 at 5:00||comments (0)|
Who have been your major positive influences, who have helped to shape you in ways you never realised?
It is the late 1960s. I am sitting watching my paternal Grandmother, Victoria, putting on her makeup. This is the first time I have been allowed to do so. She will be dead in a few months, so unbeknownst to both of us, it will also be the last time. Grandma is the only woman in my small 8 year old world who wears makeup. She is in her late sixties, but has a timeless glamour with her brilliant red lipstick, hennaed hair, whip thin figure, style and elegance.
Her morning transformation is my first real encounter with what it is to be a ‘glamourous’ type woman. As she applies face powder and tea rose perfume (the aromas of which still conjure her up to me), I ask lots of questions, like why should women wear makeup and worry about their outfits?
“Because,” she says, “a woman should always be ‘finished’. You never know who you are going to meet during the course of a day. It could be the person who could change your life.”
"But," I ask, "why makeup, why stick paint all over your face?"
“Because to get on in this world, a girl has to be seen to be pretty or intelligent.”
Taking my chin in her hand, she looks at me intently and says, “And you, my dear, will have to be very intelligent.”
At the age of 8, none of this means a lot to me (although I know enough not to recount this episode to my mother.) For one thing, I am a tomboy whose greatest ambition is to be a cowboy, and cowboys have never struck me as needing to be either pretty or intelligent. However, as I grow up, reach my late teens and start getting interested in being female, subconsciously I start taking Grandma’s advice. I try to dress as well as my budget will allow and even when I’m being casual, always make sure that I am “finished”. This has stood me in good stead when I have been called to a job interview with 4 hours notice or have met someone at a casual event who turns into a future client. (By the way, I am not saying women 'should' wear makeup - it is about finding your own definition of what gets you ready to meet the world.)
I have also taken the intelligence bit to heart, keeping an open mind and a willingness to learn. When I got the results of the degree I undertook in my 30s, my first thought was for Grandma. I think she realised that I was like her in many ways. She was a strong, self-reliant woman who never let circumstances beat her, who was always looking on the optimistic side and who, if something went wrong, would brush it off and move on to the next thing. Abandoned by her husband and left alone with their baby, she went from crying on finding a coin in the gutter because it meant she could buy food for that night, to owning her own house. She never saw a reason why being a woman would have to stop her doing anything she wanted (although pragmatic enough to know that sometimes, it paid to play by 'the rules' of the time, hence the pretty or intelligent comment).
I think she was aware that I would not, as an 8 year old, get upset and take to heart, negatively, what she had said.
But I do wonder if she knew exactly how much what she said would shape my life and who I am.
|Posted on 17 January, 2019 at 5:10||comments (0)|
I have a friend who screams under bridges.
This is not some kind of phobia, but something she does when needed as a stress buster. On her walk home from work, she passes under a railway bridge. If she times it right and there is no-one else about, she waits until a train goes over and screams. The noise of the train under the echo-y bridge is far louder than she could ever be, and she finds it a brilliant release of any stress she has built up during the day. Once the train has gone, she continues her walk home refreshed and ready for her family.
Another friend of mine say he gets the same release from going to football matches and shouting for his team (or at the referee!).
In both cases, it is as much about engaging the whole body as it is about the noise.
If you aren’t in a position to actually shout, but want to get the same release, an actor taught me a technique which can be used to quickly lessen tension.
Repeat if necessary.
This may sound a bit bizarre, but I have used it myself in the past and taught it to many people who have found it a very beneficial quick fix.
If you want to work on the issues which are making you scream, perhaps I can help. If so, get in touch for a chat.
|Posted on 15 November, 2018 at 4:20||comments (0)|
I have written before about creating a vision for your future and how it can motivate you.
Visualisation is also a terrific tool to use in other circumstances. When I had panic attacks in the past, a tool I used to manage them has been a visualisation process learnt from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It is a displacement activity, taking you out of the immediate panic and giving you space to calm down.
You begin the process when you are unstressed. The idea is that you spend time (maybe a few sessions of 5 or 10 minutes) building up a strong picture of your ‘safe place’ so that if/when a stressful situation occurs, you can immediately switch into your fully imagined place. (For me, it is Venice.)
To build the picture:*
It is a great and easy tool where you create your own experience of calm and which, even better, no-one can see you using. (Sometimes the fear of others seeing you having/dealing a panic attack can add to the stress, so a ‘secret’ tool is doubly beneficial.)
So, if ever you are with me in a stressful situation and I momentarily zone out, I am just taking in the Venetian air!
*(taken from http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk where you can also find many other useful CBT tools)
|Posted on 2 August, 2018 at 8:35||comments (0)|
The concept of kindness has been popping up around me in the past few days. I was introduced to a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's book, God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies, God damn it, you've got to be kind." And there is a quote (attributed to various people) going around social media, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Being kind is one of those concepts which could sound anodyne, a bit like "nice". But kindness in action is a powerful thing, for both the receiver and giver.
Many years ago, when I was very young and easily influenced, I started work in an office. On the first day, several people warned me about another member of staff. She was, they said, moody, abrupt, humourless, rude and aloof. And this seemed to be true because although I didn't have much direct contact with her, I could see she was like that with everyone. I was very intimidated - I was used to people being friendly - and being immature, when I did have to work with her, I would be abrupt first, as a defence mechanism. True to form, she was rude and snappy with me.
After a few times, and knowing I was going to have to be in a meeting with her the next day, I was feeling very anxious. Abrupt wasn't my default mode and it was very uncomfortable for me. I started thinking about how I had taken other peoples' word about her character as truth, before I had made my own decision. What would happen, I thought, if I approached her in a new way - being respectful and, yes, kind?
Initially, it didn't make much of a difference, but I persevered. Over time, her attitude towards me softened. Gradually we became, if not exactly friends, at least warm acquaintances. I treated her with kindness and surprise, surprise, she treated me the same. (She even became less frosty with other people in the office, although they were still too attached to their opinions of her to really loosen up.)
In time, she made passing mentions of a seriously ill husband and of her own tentative health. But you know what? Those hidden hard battles shouldn't matter.
We should be kind to each other just because we can.