DO YOU DO THIS FUNNY THING, TOO​?

“Thank you, Annie, I'll try to deserve your belief in me”, is what a dear friend said to me yesterday on Facebook.

The back story, in brief, is that – out of the blue – she made a glowing reference to my new book (and warmed the cockles of my heart, in the process). I replied, perfectly honestly, by thanking her and reminding her that it's about time she started to prize her own gifts. Hundreds and hundreds of other people already prize her gifts, after all. Who is she to be an exception?

Seriously though, she's a delightful woman, who has helped many people to live happier lives. And she knows it.

Yet she struggles to own it.

What is that about?

Well, you could call it a Woman Thing, and you wouldn't be far wrong: we women have been trained to Terminal Modesty from the time we could FIRST put our own socks on – or possibly even before.

We were also trained to believe in the tooth fairy ( I LIKE the tooth fairy) and Father Christmas, and Prince Charming ( I DON'T like Prince Charming) and a World Where Everyone Is Nice.... Some of those beliefs we have jettisoned along the way...

And some, regrettably, we have NOT. (The number of women I speak with who know better, but still have Prince Charming yearnings is alarmingly high.)

You get the point...

You learned a lot of beliefs in your early life that are no longer relevant.  They’ve long since bitten the dust.

So, how come that belief about Self-Worth Ground Hog Day, about having to earn your value, over and over again, is so firmly with you?

One of the most deep-rooted and damaging beliefs that most women have is that they have to keep earning the thing that they already have earned, many times over.

My lovely friend is still trying to earn her status as a beacon of love and hope, when everybody who knows her knows that that is who she is. She's 'earned' that status many, many times over.

Let's transpose this kind of block to another scenario. Suppose my lovely friend was a doctor and every day she went to work feeling she had to prove her clinical acumen – although she'd already done so time and time again. In fact, for precisely that reason 'people' kept referring the seriously difficult cases to her.

Would that mean she spent a fair bit of her energy driving herself mad and tiring herself out for nothing?

Absolutely.

“Would it impair her efficiency?”

Given the kind of commitment to service that she has, she would not let it impair her efficiency. However, it would mean that she had to work an awful lot harder to achieve what she was more than capable of achieving.

And in case, as a Founder Member of the Terminally Modest Sorority, you're telling yourself: but if she wasn't always questioning her worth she'd become complacent, and let her standards slip...

No, no, NO, NOOOO!

That's another – unfounded - limiting belief: it goes with ‘being too big for your boots’.  

All that owning her own deservingness would really mean is that she would have more time and energy to do what she does best without having to answer to the negative 'noise' in her head.

The point of this story is this: you don't have to prove your own worth anew every day. You already have. You don't throw away the possessions you've acquired with your hard earned cash every day, and then set about accumulating them all over again, every day, do you?

It makes no more sense to do that with your sense of being deserving of the very best.

Own it. Use it. Enjoy it. And instead of indulging in Terminally Modest Angst allow yourself time to P-L-A-Y.

“AREN’T BAD FEELINGS NORMAL?”

“Aren’t bad feelings normal?” an audience member asked when I was speaking recently. What a great question. Provided you’re prepared to dig a little deeper. For a lot of people, what they’re really saying is: “But experiencing icky feelings is the way I spend a lot of my life.  Isn’t that what most people do?  Isn’t that the way it’s meant to be?” Do a lot of people spend a lot of their lives ‘housing’ unpleasant feelings – mostly about themselves?  You bet they do. But is that the way it’s meant to be? Well, it certainly was in the home I grew up in.  The covert belief was: “spare the bad feelings, and spoil the child”.  Now, I’m not sure how conscious the strategy of not spoiling the child was.  I suspect it had been passed down through the generations.  In our family, it was absolutely normal. Most families start from the premise that they’re normal, and what they think, say and do, is normal. That’s debatable. Common, or usual though something may be, that doesn’t necessarily make it normal. See, the person who asked me about bad feelings was a lovely, sweet lady.  And she had two rules of thumb: one for her; and one for other people.  Having bad feelings was, she honestly believed, perfectly normal… for her.  That’s how she expected to live her life: carrying a heavy burden of bad-feeling beliefs on her back. But would she want her own children to do the same? Absolutely not. In fact, she didn’t tell herself that story about bad feelings being normal for the people she loved most in the world.  As she saw it, although she’d never been aware of it – before - her loved ones lived, and were entitled to live, by a different rule of thumb. Isn’t that interesting? Most of us have two rules of thumb: the positive one for other people, and the negative one for ourselves. If we truly believed the negative one was the right one we wouldn’t have any problems visiting it even on the people we love.  If we truly believed the positive one was rubbish we’d have stopped pouring so much energy into it and ditched it years ago. What it comes down to is emotional confusion: living in an emotional fog where your own feelings are concerned. Is that normal? No, but it’s common, and usual. Which doesn’t make it right, does it? It’s a tough way to live, isn’t it?  Life really is too short to stay stuck in icky feelings. What do you think really stops you letting go of them?

THERE’S ALWAYS AN EASY WAY

Have you come across the kind of people who sigh and say: “Life’s hard!”  Maybe you were brought up around someone like that, someone who kept their own small, dark, portable cloud with them most of the time.  These people are always thoughtful enough to hold it over your head, too, to protect you from the sun, lest its rays burn you. What effect do the Dark Clouders have on you? Do they pull you down?  Annoy you?  Make you wish you were somewhere else?  Make you doubt yourself because doom and gloom is the way things really are? There’s no denying it: Life is hard – for the Life-Is-Hard  Brigade. For those who resolutely refuse to join the Life-Is-Hard Brigade, it’s simply the case that tough things happen, sometimes. One of the things my lovely partner and I share is a talent for moving heavy objects.  It’s not that we’re physically strong; quite the reverse, actually.  We’re both a tad on the small and delicately built side. So, when faced with heavy objects, the shoulder-to-the-plough and apply-brute-force technique is not an option.  The idea of ending up with a hernia, curiously, does not appeal.  Instead, individually and collectively, we both take a step back, and ask ourselves: “How do I do this the easy way?  What won’t work for me, and what will?” Doing things the easy way may take a little bit of figuring out.  Often it’s a question of rummaging around in your mental resources toolkit, until you find something that can be tweaked, or tailored, so that it applies perfectly to the situation – or object – in hand.   It may take a little trial and error.  But that’s okay, too. Your remit is simply to complete the task in hand successfully. Sometimes that means finding the smart way of doing it yourself.  At other times, it means enlisting the appropriate help for the task. The point is, when you bear in mind that there is always an easy way to do whatever it is that needs doing, you’re already ahead of the game. Why? Because once you have that belief, you enlist your unconscious mind to work on your behalf – which means your unconscious mindwill always find a way, or two,… or even three. The Life-Is-Hard Brigade only ever see one way to do things: the Blood, Sweat, Toil and Misery Way.  If they’re happy with that, so to speak, you should be happy for them. But that’s no reason to emulate them. There is always an easy way – and when you apply that easy way, it frees up so much more energy and ability for what you really want to do. So, in future, when you’re faced with a challenge, let it exercise your mind.   Let it get you asking yourself: “where’s the easy way?” Because there always is one. Isn’t that your preferred way?

WHY OSCAR WILDE WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ABOUT SELFISHNESS

oscarwildesmallHe got a lot wrong in his own life, did Oscar Wilde, despite his dazzling genius.  But when he said: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live" he couldn’t have been more right. 

Selfishness is open to a LOT of misinterpretation.  Mostly, it’s used by people as a shorthand reproach.  What they’re really saying is: “How dare you want to do something that affects you in your own way?  Instead of putting my needs, wants, and desires above your own.”

You see, they know something really important.  Heart-centred people dread being labelled selfish.  They really do.  I’ve conducted a few straw polls that suggest that a lot of women would cheerfully have a finger chopped off; if it meant they’d never be called selfish again. 

Question: if they really were selfish – if  they lived by the It’s All About Me credo – do you think they would really care about someone trying to pin the Selfish label on them? 

It’s not that likely, is it?

They’d be more inclined to launch a counter-accusation along the lines of, “I can’t believe you could be so selfish as to say that about me.  After all I’ve done for you.”  Even if that “all”was only taking out the garbage once a decade…

What makes the Selfish label so awful for those of us who are not selfish?

It’s so awful because we’ve been taught that to be selfish is to be unlovable… We accept that as gospel.  Despite managing to love - deeply and desperately -  people who can be gob-smackingly, unrepentantly, selfish. 

And we’ve been taught that selflessness is the opposite of selfishness.  We’ve been taught, quite literally, to be self-less: to factor ourselves out of the equation. 

How well does that work? 

It works exceedingly well for those significant others who ask you to live your life their way.  But when it comes to you…  Well, unless you like ‘running on empty’ – and most people don’t – let’s say it lacks charm.

Selflessness will drain you dry.  There are plenty of times in a life when you have to make the care of another person a priority.  Does that mean you shouldn’t take time to care for yourself, also, a priority? 

It really shouldn’t, should it?

When you do the best you possibly can for other people, aren’t you entitled to do the best for yourself, also? 

Selfishness is about focusing on yourself to the exclusion of all others.  Selflessness is about focusing on other people to the exclusion of yourself. 

The happy way lies somewhere in between the two.

Don’t you think you deserve to live that happy middle way?

WHAT ARE YOU FOCUSING ON?

It’s no secret that the people who are clear about what they want and steer their course through life in an appropriate and consistent fashion tend to see great results.  Yet not everybody seems able to do that. Why not? The answer may not be quite what you think. Sure, we’ve all heard about the twin vampires of Self-sabotage, and Fear of Success that can suck motivation dry leaving the empty husk of a person on the cutting-room floor of Life…  But is that true?  Or is there something else going on?  (Apart from the hail-storm of metaphors:-) Let’s put aside for a moment the venomous vampires and look, instead, at what’s really going on? In fact, before we even turn our gaze onto What’s Really Happening, let’s listen - closely -to what’s happening inside our heads: that thing grandly called your “Internal Dialogue”. That’s the stuff people tell themselves when they think nobody is listening. noisepollutionsmallActually, it’s much more deserving of the name “Noise Pollution” (NP). However you cut it, the bottom line, NP is all about not being good enough.  Simple fact: you cannot run the Self-Sabotage and Fear of Success program without believing at some deep - possibly unconscious - level that when you get right down to it you’re just not good enough. Of course, there tend to be a few unspoken questions that you’re just not hearing like:
  • Not good enough for what?
  • Not good enough for whom?
  • How good is good?
  • How good do I have to be and how good do Other People need to be? 
You see, there’s just too much noise going on to hear those questions. But you’re reading this now, which means you’ve caught yourself in a responsive frame of mind.  Hooray!  So, let’s make the most of it.  Let’s get the old pitchfork out, so to speak, and make some hay while this sun is shining. Somewhere along the line, you absolutely must have learned this story of being not quite fit for some kind of aspirational purpose.  That story has stayed with you.     (Perhaps nobody ever told you that story had a sell-by date.  In reality, all the negative stuff people ever say to you has a sell-by date, and a very short shelf-life.  The problem is that nobody told you that.  Still, if you don’t make it your job to inspect the sell-by dates regularly and discard the outdated stuff, it’s not going to jump off the shelf all on its ownsome.  You don’t see turkeys voting for Christmas, and you certainly don’t see the ancient, mystery contents of your fridge making a nose-dive for the bin.  Right? It’s the same kind of thing.)  So, why are you still giving asylum to this… stuff that is richly deserving of being trashed right this minute? Are you ready for  the answer? You’re doing it because you are so focused on what matters. That’s right.  How can that be?  You thought you weren’t focused, and now I’m telling you that you are. Once again, it’s because you’ve not been exercising your question muscle.  You’ve been focused alright. But you’ve been focused on someone else’s agenda. You’ve been focused on what matters - or what once mattered - to someone else. In fact, you’ve been SO focused on what matters - or mattered - to them that you’ve not had the time and space to consider what really matters to you. If you did, it might take you a little while to formulate an answer.  Because thinking about what truly matters to you could be such an alien activity.  That doesn’t mean you can’t.  It just means it’s a new skill you have to get a handle on. Can you do it? Of course you can.  It’s as simple as accepting that you’re part of the equation.  You matter.  Therefore what matters only really matters when you relate it back to you.  If it doesn’t relate to your well-being also, then it may well matter rather less than you believed it did. When you’re not able to focus on what truly matters, that only happens because you’re feeling uncomfortable about putting yourself at the heart of your own world. Isn’t it time for you to get over it?

HOW TO MOVE BEYOND BEING STUCK

How do you move beyond stuck, exhaustion, a bad case of the Blahs, mammoth stress, and much else besides? That's something I've been asking myself over the past little while – and why I've been silent. It's been a challenging time, every which way: I've moved house and moved city, been through mammoth family conflict, and watched my mother die that slow death of extreme old age that you would not put a loved pet through. Has it knocked me for six? It's certainly knocked me. My energy levels are low, my temper frayed, my nerves shot, and my brain is mushy and recalcitrant. In fact, it's both amazing that it can dredge up a word that long, and symptomatic that it refuses to look further afield for another word. I face a daily temptation to crawl off and hide under the duvet until I feel more energetic – although, of course, there is no saying when that will be. And I have my mother's words echoing in my ears: “Why don't you just go, and lay?” And, finally, I see very exactly why that temptation is such a bad idea. When a lot of tough stuff happens – as it does to my clients, also – there is a massive temptation to do the wounded animal routine, and crawl off into a hiding place until healing takes place. With a bit of luck, in the fullness of time, that will happen – although there are no guarantees, and the fullness of time can be very... well FULL, indeed. Just today I was speaking with someone who was using exactly that strategy – and hating herself for being so STUCK. So,here's the thing: just ”LAYING” , to use my mother's expression – whether you're doing it physically, or emotionally – doesn't get you any further forward. Worse, it's a strategy that STOPS you taking charge of your own life. Major life crises of any kind already get in the way of you feeling in charge of your own life. It's not a good feeling. Allowing that feeling to overwhelm your reality makes things worse rather than better. So what to do instead? Deconstructing my mother's method, I suspect the answer goes rather like this:
  1. be accepting of yourself. YOU feel as you feel. You might not like it, but fighting it isn't going to get you much more than a bloodied psyche. You can berate and bully yourself as much as you like and, at the end of it, you'll only feel worse. Accepting what is is, actually, more honest and a lot kinder.
  2. Do something. So, you're not firing on all cylinders. Well, there you go! Do whatever you can. Refer back to the master plan – you do have one, don't you? - and tackle whatever you can manage on it, no matter how small that may be, day by day? Don't give yourself a hard time for what you can't do: praise yourself for what you can do. At least, you're feeding your motivation and your energy with some forward movement.
  3. Know that this, too, will pass, and you will come through it spiritually richer and wiser – provided you only take charge of what you can, as much as you can.
When you’re struggling with the stuckness generated by overwhelm – and we all do, at some time – the most important thing you can do is ditch the yardstick you habitually use.  Accept that you cannot fire on all cylinders, cut yourself some slack, do your best to be kind to yourself, and do what you little you can, when you can.  Often, the healing process goes quietly, imperceptibly, on when all you register is being at rock bottom. While that is happening, taking even tiny steps forward is enough to keep you connected to your inner strength. Rock bottom is only ever a passing phase.  Hold that thought:-)

Top 10 Ways To Know You’re NOT Living In Your Inner Wisdom

You’re a savvy woman.  You’re spiritual, intelligent, caring, and bright.  You can see where you want to be.  But you’re not there, yet.  How do you know you’re not there yet? 

  1. You don’t really feel good enough.  When you ‘kind of do’ and ‘kind of don’t’ what that really means is that you have moments of enlightenment, but a lot of the time you feel heavy-hearted, and weighed down by Life – your life.
  2. You worry a lot.  What is the point of worrying?  You’d be better eating chocolate.    At least that tastes nice.  Worrying serves no useful purpose. It will take you no closer to where you want to be no matter how much you do it.
  3. You doubt yourself.  You can doubt yourself, or you can live in the certainty of your inner wisdom.  But you can’t do both.  Doubting yourself  means that you are focusing on what you fear you might not be.  When you’re in your inner wisdom, you know that you will always be enough.
  4. You’re fearful.  You don’t feel as if you are living in the safe, supportive world that you’d like.  It doesn’t feel safe to be you.  That’s understandable since you are actually not living your life as the powerful  person you truly are. 
  5. You revisit past disappointments.  In fact, you do it so well that they feel like present disappointments.  There is no wisdom in doing that.  Wisdom lies in taking the useful learnings from all your experiences and integrating them into the way you do Life.   And forgiving yourself for whatever you did that didn’t work.
  6. 6.       You’re dissatisfied and frustrated with your lot.  That voice telling you that you can do, have, and be more is absolutely right.  That’s your inner wisdom.  So, why are you letting the negative voice of your inner snit [no typo] drown it out?  Find one good reason for being self-critical – if you can.  I’ll be waiting to hear it.
  7. 7.       You ‘settle’.  Not for what you truly want, but what you think you can have.  
  8. 8.       You don’t really dare to dream.  It’s that Kinda-Kinda thing again.  You kind of have some big dreams, and you kind of don’t really believe that you can turn them into reality.
  9. 9.       You’re still hiding your light under that bushel.  You’re not telling the world what you have to offer.  Instead, you’re locked in some kind of “Do I-Don’t I Dare to Put Myself Out There?” dialogue, inside your own head.  The negative part says “No”, and t the positive part says “Yes”.  But the negative part is making more noise.  So, you assume it must be right… and you must be wrong.
  10. You’re not laughing enough.  Truly.  The more serious, earnest, or conflicted you feel, the further away you are from your inner wisdom.  Since your inner wisdom comes from your higher self, it doesn’t need you to agonise over it, or check it out.  Left to its own devices it would just flow.  And it would flow happily.   Your inner wisdom feeds on all that is good and joyful – even in tough situations.

If that sounds like you, do NOT worry.  Your inner wisdom is not about what you know.  It’s not about intellectual awareness.  It’s about shedding all the negative stuff so that you can get back to the source of happiness and spontaneity.   All that you have to do to get back to your inner wisdom is just ditch the negative beliefs.

Your negative beliefs will tell you that’s a big thing to do (because they like to feel important) but it really doesn’t have to be.

As Tinkerbell might have said: “Every time you have a good laugh about it,  a negative belief curls up and starts to die, because it knows you don’t believe in it.” 

How Do You Do Life?

How do you do it? Life, that is?

Are you a barnstormer, or a softly-softly person? Are you a driver, or a passenger? Do you choose, or are you chosen?

Before we go any further, I've two related confessions to make:

  1. There’s been silence from me over the past couple of months because I've been slaving away frantically on my book (“Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?”)  Over the last three months, I’ve written some 160,000 words. (That's nearly 25% more than my PH.D in a fraction of the time.
  2. I was programmed to be a passenger in my life: there was always something driving that bus – just not me.

Can you see how those confessions are related?

Not because I'm asking you to understand me, but because they might relate either to you, or someone you love. I have a natural talent for letting 'Things', or Projects, or People take over my life. Not good.

It's hard work being a passenger in your own life. Although the reason why we do it is because we think it has to be easier than sitting in the driver's seat and taking the flak.

That's not actually the way it works, is it?

Where flak is concerned, what really counts is NOT whether you're sitting in the driving seat or the passenger seat, it's the environment inside the vehicle.

What makes it a less than ideal environment?

The flak that is flying around.

That flak could be coming from another person or from you.

I'm always amazed what a bad time most women give themselves. (There speaks the voice of experience:-)

There are so many lovely, bright, heart-centred women out there who are on a constant journey of self-improvement. Heaven knows, they don't even need much improvement. But they are constantly improving themselves, learning more and thinking deeply...

And still giving themselves a hard time.

Still reminding themselves of what - about them – is not good enough, and deserving enough, in one way or another.

And still being passengers in their own life.

 

Because you can't be the driver when you're still waiting for someone to tell you – or show you – that you are good enough to...

Well, to be you, in the end...

It just doesn't make sense.

You see, you are already you.

Just not fully you.

You could be the seed of you, or the tender shoot of you...

But you're not the full grown tree of you, with roots reaching right down into the earth, and branches reaching up to the sky.

Why not?

I could ask you what are you waiting for... but I'm not sure it's the best question.

Why are you waiting?

Waiting can easily become a life strategy.

Not a good one but, still, a life strategy. One of those “busy-work” strategies. Just like self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is a hideous life-strategy. But Heaven knows it keeps people busy.

The good news is that you never signed a lifetime contract to keep doing what you've always done. You can change it at any time. So, if you were playing Being A Passenger In Your Own Life, you're always free to change that strategy, and that contract.

How do you want to do your life?

If you could take just one small step today to start the ball rolling, what step will that be? 

Why not take one teeny step, and drop me a word to let me know what that step will be?

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make 2014 Your Best Year Yet!

It’s the second week in January, and everyone is getting back to life as normal.  This is when resolutions start to falter, and plans and dreams for upgrading your world in 2014 can start to wobble.  So, what can you do to make sure that 2014 is your best year yet?

  1.  Create win-win situations for yourself.  Break things down into small doable pieces, so that you collect a few wins at each stage along the way.  That works wonders for your motivation.
  2. Focus on getting happy, and staying happy.  Happiness is the best – and cheapest – source of renewable energy you’re likely to find.
  3. Do what you do wholeheartedly.  When you work, work wholeheartedly, and when you don’t, make sure you play.  Focus on getting the most pleasure out of your down time. 
  4. Don’t waste time worrying about what you should, or should not, be doing.  JDI.
  5. Never delay spending quality time with loved ones.  That’s the most important thing.
  6. Read, or listen to, something that inspires you every day.  It’s time well spent.
  7. Listen to your own internal dialogue, so you know what you’re actually feeding yourself.  Listen – but don’t believe it.  It’s just noise between your ears.
  8. Grow your comfort zone.  Keeps pushing yourself slightly beyond what feels comfortable, and your comfort zone  - and you – will keep expanding.
  9. Get comfortable with asking.   Asking is best done as a two-step process: first, ask yourself who is the best person to ask in a situation, then ask them.
  10. Laugh.  It’s good for your health and good for your life.  

“What’s possible for you?”

What’s possible for you?

Why not take a moment, close your eyes, and listen in to yourself?  What do you hear?

I’m guessing there’s a dream… And a dialogue.  The dialogue goes something like this:

“I really want it.”

“Yes, but what makes you so special?  What makes you special enough to deserve it?”

That’s the bare bones of an unworthiness script.  Most people have one.  Mostly, they’re not as simple and elegant as that one.

The average Unworthiness Script is repetitive, badly written, and badly researched.   But you know what?

Most people believe that repetitive, badly written, badly researched Unworthiness Script for years, and years…. And years.

How sad is that?

The fun of doing what I do, and being in the Wonderful Life Business, is that I get to help people to change their script; and change their results.  Like my wonderful client O.

O. didn’t know she was wonderful, at all.  As she saw it, she was nothing special.

O. didn’t know it, but she was violating Annie’s first rule:

#1 You can’t be on this Earth without being really special.

Now, you have a couple of choices at this point:

a)      You can carry on fighting yourself about whether or not you are special – but there’s a problem with doing that.  When you fight yourself, someone has to love.  Either way, that someone can only be you.

b)       You can take a risk.  You can say to yourself: maybe I don’t quite believe it, yet.  I don’t know how to do it.  But I’m up for it.  I’m prepared to own my own specialness.  I’m actually prepared to make my specialness about me.”

Is that a big step?

Maybe.  But you know what?  When you take it, when you fully own what’s special and unique about you, extraordinary things start happening.  Just like they have for O.  O. has gone, in a matter of months, from having a very conflicted relationship with her family to being the happiest she’s ever been, around them.   DHe’s gone from having an unsatisfying job, where she was underpaid, to a great new one – where she is already letting the boss know how good she is.  That’s been a first for her.  (He believes it 100%.)  She’s gone from collecting horrible men to finding a wonderful, supportive partner who adores her – and rightly so.  And last, but not least, O hs not only discovered her entrepreneurial streak, she’s setting up a brand new business that a potential business partner is already biting her hand off for. 

That’s massive transformation.

It all came about because O. was prepared to won her own specialness.  She was prepared to own what she is – as opposed to fighting what she isn’t.

That’s opened the way to so many possibilities, in short order.

How about you?  When, now, will you JDI, and open the door to your infinite possibilities?

If you’re still hesitating, don’t.   “Business Success for Heart-Centred, Healers, Therapists, and Best Kept Secrets”  will show you how you can, too, can reap the rewards you deserve in 2014.

Do you have this ‘small issue’?

Today, one of my lovely clients said she wanted to work on something that was just “a small issue”.

That took me back to my very steps in the world of counselling and personal development.    I  volunteered with the Alcohol Advisory Service.  (As someone who had never touched a drop, and came from a family who never drank, I suspect I lacked a certain insight.  But I did my best.)

As part of the training, trainees had to role play with each other.  Then, and many times since, I heard the trainer say: “Pick a small issue to work with.”

I was puzzled then and, to a degree, I still am.  I’m not entirely sure what these ‘small issues’ are. 

I’m guessing these are the behaviours  that don’t wreak major havoc in our lives.  Nevertheless they affect the way we show up in the world, the way we are perceived by other people, and the way we feel about ourselves.   Because, however ‘small’ they – allegedly – are, they have to have deep roots.  How can they not be rooted in our mind-set?  How can they not be another  manifestation of the limiting beliefs that stymie us in so many ways?

My lovely client’s ‘small issue’ was being late.  She’s not too good at getting places on time.

“How does that happen?  How do you ‘do’ late?” I asked.

She didn’t seem to know.  She just always “ended up leaving the house late”.  It wasn’t a major thing, she said.  It wasn’t as if she turned up for work 4o minutes late every day.  But she did turn up to work a few minutes late most days, and arrived at a Register Office wedding on the weekend, just moments after the bride.

But she didn’t know what that was all about. 

Lateness could have been my family’s coat of arms. Unlike heavy drinking, it’s something I know a lot about.  So, I know, it’s not something that just happens day in, day out.  Lateness is something that happens as a result of certain beliefs that we hold. 

Habitual lateness suggests that you aren’t in a rush to get wherever it is that you’re going.  And if you’re habitually not in a rush to get where you’re going, there has to be an underlying belief at work.

So, I listened to my lovely client, and gently probed.   She was. Indeed,  late because she was in no rush to get where she needed to go.  And by the time she was en route to her destination she was usually giving herself a hard time for messing up, again.

She didn’t enjoy the self-punishment, at all.  That was an old pattern that she, understandably, found very damaging.

As we talked it became clear that she was habitually late because she felt disempowered by the places she was going to. 

When we – gently – dug a little deeper, she discovered that the expectation of being disempowered sprang from a belief about being less worthy than other people.  As it played out in her mind, she expected to feel disempowered and disregarded, because her belief was that she had little to offer.

Now, is that a ‘small issue’?

Not in my book it’s not.

‘Small issues’ are the ones that allow you to hobble through your day, Walking Wounded style.  They make things harder work than they need to be.   They slow you down and tired you out prematurely.  They stop you reaching your potential. 

My lovely client and I did a little work on replacing that ‘small issue’ with a more helpful belief about the value she brings to the World, and the pleasure she can get from contributing. 

Will it make a difference?  Will that ‘small issue’ now shuffle off to the Retirement Home for Tiresome ‘Small Issues’? 

There’s always an outside chance that people will hold on to a behaviour that they perceive as giving them something - even if that something is being a self-professed victim of circumstance, or similar. 

But it’s extremely unlikely that my lovely client will keep that ‘small issue’.  She’s spent the last few weeks shedding issues – great and small – at a rate of knots.  Which is why she’ll be starting a new job, next week, that pays her much more, and gives her more responsibility, and scope to use her talents; a job which 4 weeks ago she wouldn’t even have applied for – because she didn’t feel good enough.  

Most of us are tolerating a ‘small issue’ or two.  Because we don’t think we’re that important, we tell ourselves our ‘small issue’ is not that important. 

Hmm!

Who do you think you could be if you shed your ‘small issue(s)’?

How do you deal with challenges

normanmailersmall Years and years ago, I tried to read Norman Mailer's “The Naked and The Dead” - without too much success. Blood, gore, and the Second World War don't really do it for me. But Mailer's GIs had a mantra that I still remember: “Keep a tight a**hole”! 

If you're going into a bloody, physical battle, I guess it's not a bad idea. Under more normal circumstances, there are – I fondly believe – other, more constructive strategies you could be focusing on. 

Sadly, metaphorically speaking, too many people go into – shall we call it Norman Mailer Mode? – when things get tough. They tighten every muscle, brace themselves, and wait for the tough circumstances to pass. 

Norman Mailer Mode actually gets in the way of dealing constructively with most challenges that arise in more or less normal circumstances. It closes down more possibilities than it opens up. It's all about just about getting by.  It’s about getting through the bad times, and waiting for things to get better, before you make your move. 

The problem is that it can be a long wait. Things may well not improve to the point you would like, of their own accord. Not being proactive means you will likely miss out on any number of opportunities that would be there for the taking – if only you were out there, taking. Meanwhile, because you're in Norman Mailer Mode, you can’t use that time to the full to experiment, and grow, or enlist support or expertise. 

I was talking with a woman yesterday who had a business dream. Not a plan, you understand, just a business dream. She wanted to get started with an idea we both knew had legs, but she felt too overwhelmed and frightened to do so. 

So what was she doing? 

worriedwomanShe was sitting tight, and worrying. 

(That's a strategy a LOT of people use, all the time, in every area of their lives. It's not confined just to the 'business' compartment.) 

We talked for a straight 28 minutes. 

In that time I established that her biggest block wasn't actually fear, it was not knowing where, or how, to start. (That can feel an awful lot like fear.) 

We then drew up a simple strategy that was well within her personal, technological, and professional capabilities. She liked that much better than being in Norman Mailer Mode. 

Will she implement that strategy? 

My guess is that she will.  Because now she can see exactly what she needs to do to take her business forward – and it’s much, much easier than she would have imagined it might be.

The hurdle she'd fallen at was Norman Mailer Mode. She got past that by taking on board a better strategy. 

In all my years of working with people, around happiness, success, and relationships, I've come across an awful lot of people who get stuck in Norman Mailer Mode. (I'm pretty good at recognising it because I've been there myself.  It’s NOT a nice place to be…) What determines the outcome is not circumstances, but how you deal with difficult challenges. EVERY TIME. 

So, my question to you is this: how do you deal with challenges? 

Have you been known to get stuck in Norman Mailer Mode? And if you have, what will you do differently, now, to make sure you stay out of it?

Are You Curious, Too?

poorpaulsmall

What makes you sit through talent shows? 

For me, it's curiosity. No doubt about it. I'm curious. Are you curious, too? These days, I am at least as curious about the contestants'– and judges'– mind-sets, as I am about their abilities. I'm curious about what it is that gets in the way of people living their dream? 

Last week's X Factor was a splendid case in point. Louis Walsh carted off th 6 'boy' contestants to his St Tropez Judge's House. There were a couple of cute, barely pubescent, kids, who cry engagingly, and two boys who look the part. Of these two, one is more talented, the other is a tad weak, vocally, but he is A1 eye candy; he already has the gym-honed body, the artfully tousled hair, and a luscious smile. 

Then there were the two who surely can sing, but never stood a serous chance of winning the X Factor. One is red-haired, built like the proverbial outhouse, with the face of a young, Laughing Policeman, and has a haircut that Time forgot! The other is, dark, says he has body image issues – in medical terms he's probably clinically obese – and totally lacks confidence. Paul has a great voice, no doubt about it. But he's way too caught up in his own story of what's wrong with him, to be able to connect with an audience. Let alone win The X Factor. 

Louis tell him: “I'm worried about your confidence.” As the poor lad falls apart before his very eyes, Louis adds: “You're going home. Don't give up.” 

Will this kid give up? 

It's what commonly happens when people who lack confidence experience - another - rejection. Or, if they don't actually give up, it sets them back years. Because they use the rejection as PROOF – incontrovertible proof - of the story they tell themselves about what's wrong with them, why they're not good enough, and why they're bound to fail. 

Louis Walsh's few ill-chosen, but well intentioned words to Paul, perpetuate all the most toxic confidence myths. 

Louis reinforces the notions that: 

  • confidence is something you have to go out and get – although where and how it can be found he doesn't say, and doesn't know
  • to those who don't already have onfidence not much good will ever be given
  • outstanding natural ability isn't actually worth much
  • confidence is the hardest thing in the world to come by 

Now, I agree that confidence is the hardest thing in the world to come by. But there's a seriously good reason for that: 

lackofconfidencesmall

It's a fabulous label.  And a pointless one, for one simple reason:

Confidence does NOT exist. 

Confidence is like unicorns, and phoenixes, and fairies at the bottom of the garden: they just don't exist.Confidence is The Problem That Isn't There. 

If you go out looking for something that doesn't exist, you can't be blamed for not finding it. In fact, that's, actually, good news: it proves you're not psychotic. At least, you're not seeing things that aren't there. 

In which case, what does Poor Paul really need - just like everybody who 'lacks confidence'? 

What he really needs to start to believe in his own gifts and talents. He is a great singer. He needs to be out there connecting with an audience – and getting the positive feedback he deserves - rather than being stuck inside his own head, in thrall to his demons. 

How possible is that? 

Very possible. 

I call it 'living wholeheartedly'; being at peace in your own skin. 

That's the real game-changer: when you start to live wholeheartedly, and feel at peace in your own skin, then people really warm to you, and intuitively understand what is so amazing about you. 

When you stop comparing yourself unfavourably to other people on the basis of weight, looks, qualifications, income, partner, age, talents, relationship history, or anything else, you bring a unique gift to the world: the gift of who you are. It's time you truly believed that. (And if you're saying to yourself: “Yes, but I don't see who I am as much of a gift”, then you – and the world – are missing out: you haven't got a clue, yet, how delightful you are.) 

The X Factor suggests it is family entertainment to expose people's frailties to the world, and then say: “Because of these frailties, you can't get any further.” What a wrong-headed message! What a tragic waste of talent, and the opportunity to change lives, and the public perception! 

Could Poor Paul's mind-set have been transformed? With the right kind of help,you bet it could. Don't forget how brave and motivated he has to be to get so far outside his comfort zone, in the first place. The only problem is that nobody was showing him how to move forward – from the inside out – by transforming his thoughts and feelings. Or, if you prefer, nobody has taught him how to get his demons to take a hike. 

Ah but”, you may be wondering, “how easy is that to do?” 

Truth is, it's surprisingly easy. It's simply a question of going about it the right way, and not trying to focus on The Problem That Isn't There. As I understand it, the motivation is always there, it's just that the pain gets in the way. When you understand how pain can be used as rocket-fuel, then anyone can fly. To the moon and back, if you so desire.