Archive for September, 2015

The secret to doing difficult things

shutterstock_46299727When I was in Year 6, I starred as “Katisha” in our school production of “The Mikado”. In rehearsals, I’d been quite shy. I sang softly. I held back on the actions and drama. The music teacher was quite worried about how I’d go on the day, and spoke to my mum about it.

On the night of the performance, I remember standing in the wings, terrified. The idea of going out there, in front of all those people, completely freaked me out.

It wasn’t until the actual moment of stepping out onto that stage, that I realised it was going to be okay. I realised I could do this. Waiting in the wings was by far the worst part…

Last week, I had to make a difficult phone call

It was the kind of phone call you lose sleep over. The kind you rehearse in your mind. The kind you psych yourself up for. And I’d done all of that, including having an imaginary conversation out loud in the car.

Then I remembered some advice my dad gave me. He’d worked in a high-pressure political job for a long time and had a lot of difficult conversations and calls to make. Like me, he could have sat there, staring at the phone, mentally preparing. But he’d worked out that the easiest way to conquer something like this was just to pick up the receiver and dial the number. To throw yourself straight in—sink-or-swim style.

I remembered that when I was standing there, phone in hand, procrastinating. Without any further thought, I scrolled to contacts list and hit ‘call’. I’d work out what to say when we got into the conversation, rather than trying to imagine how it would go.

And, just like that, it was over. Much easier than I’d envisaged. Certainly not worth the sleepless night preceding it.

Don’t overthink the hard stuff

Waiting in the wings is almost always the hardest part. We make it worse by getting stuck in a loop of ‘what ifs’ and delay.

When you walk out on that stage, or into that meeting or job interview or when you pick up your phone and hit ‘call’ before you’re ready, or put your running shoes on and just leave the house—you do a really important thing. You move yourself out of fear and procrastination and into action.

Coming at something from a place of action is far easier than coming at it from inertia. Easier, quicker and often surprisingly less difficult than we imagine.

The woman who always got back up

My grandmother died when I was two, but she’s still teaching me lessons. Here she is with my dad (on the left) and his brother back in 1938. What I love about this photo—LOVE—is how ‘chilled’ she looks about appearances. I mean, look at my dad: sock at half mast, coat button in the wrong hole, tie askew… and my grandmother is all ‘whatevs’ about it.

Dad, Grant

I read a wonderful piece of advice on the internet last week, from a site called ‘Soul-fully Beautiful’:

When my children remember their childhood, I want only for them to remember that their mother gave it her all. She worried too much, she failed at times and she did not always get it right… but she tried her hardest to teach them about kindness, love, compassion and honesty. Even if she had to learn it from her own mistakes, she loved them enough to keep going—even when things seemed hopeless. Even when life knocked her down. I want them to remember me as the woman who always got back up.

The woman who always got back up.

That line really got to me, because that’s who I am. It’s who every single one of us is—because we’re all still here: living proof that we’ve survived every challenge we’ve ever faced. Every fall. Every knock down. Every knock back.

Life isn’t about having perfectly-hoisted socks and always buttoning your jacket properly. It’s not about curating a version of your world on social media that’s impossible to live up to. It’s not about putting things off until you know more or you’ve done more or you’ve lost weight or tidied the house any of the other caveats that we place on truly living.

It’s about showing up as we are, before we’re ready, with what we have. It’s about owning our quirks and imperfections because, at the risk of quoting One Direction—they’re what make us beautiful. Warped jackets, odd socks, messy houses, yo-yo weight, not getting the job, losing our patience… and getting back up.

It’s in the tiny choices

mmLast week I gave a ‘crash course’ in work-life balance. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Probably the most powerful—and challenging—paragraph in that newsletter was this one:

This frantic life we’re leading is full of choices. The job that sucks every ounce of energy is a job we applied for. The raft of activities our kids are enrolled in outside school are activities we signed up to. The committees, the sports coaching, the extra housework, the constant helping of our colleagues and friends to the exclusion of our own priorities—it’s all stuff we said YES to.

This week, I want to give you a new, free resource from My 15 Minutes which Audrey and I developed during a recent four-day meeting in Melbourne. We’re calling it a ‘Momentum Map’ and the idea is that you print it off and use it each Monday to plan room for the things that tend not to make it into our diaries and schedules normally.

These are the important actions that are pushed off our list because of the aforementioned ‘yes’ habit. That habit that’s so easy for us to fall into, and that can lead to a rut.

We’ve both been there, and we’ve each experienced the ‘wake up calls’ that poor attention to our well-being can bring. Our hope is that this tool will make it easier to take the steps that keep us safer. It can help pull us further from that brink over which it’s so easy to tumble.

Click here to download your free Momentum Map.

As I write this, my husband is on a plane flying home from work in Italy. His time away has meant I’ve been less able to tap into ‘me time’ outside of the house, which has meant getting creative within my four walls. It’s the simple things that can make a big difference to how we feel. So I:

  • Drove the kids to a gift shop I only ever go to when buying things for others and bought the kind of soap I’d ‘never buy for myself’
  • Dug around in the bathroom vanity for creams and lotions I hadn’t used (and feel so re-hydrated because of it)
  • Lit candles and essential oils
  • Drank smoothies out of the good glasses
  • Went to bed an hour or more earlier each night

Do I feel like a new person? Certainly on the way to it.

So, this is going to be a week of saying more YES’s to the little things that make a difference. Sometimes it’s the ‘tiny choices’ add up to a fresh lease on life.

A crash course in work-life ‘balance’

Last week, I was tasked with giving a 5-minute speech on work-life balance. Cramming the most important points into five minutes was an interesting exercise. Here’s what I said:

A few months ago, I spent five hours in the arrivals hall at Canberra airport with my fourteen-year-old and her best friend, awaiting the arrival of an obscure American YouTuber. We knew that Miranda Sings had performed the night before at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and we knew she was performing that night in Canberra. What we didn’t know was which flight she’d be on.

That’s how we found ourselves at the airport at 7.30am, with the girls in costume, waiting. Two hours later, we were approached by the police, who had never heard of Miranda Sings but wished the girls luck.

At the four-hour mark, I posted about it on Facebook, and that’s when I started receiving calls and texts from my friends. I’d like to say they were supportive messages, but they were more along the lines of, ’Are you crazy? Who has time to do this on a Sunday?’

In the early afternoon, we glanced up the arrivals escalator for the umpteenth time, and there she was! She came through the double glass doors and straight over to the two girls, hugged them, posed for photos and promised to follow them both on Instagram. It was a highlight of their year.

A couple of months later, the two girls came home from school upset. Their friends’ mum had been diagnosed with dementia. She’s in her 40s.

In that moment, I knew I wanted to spend more time hanging around at airports on weekends with teenage fangirls. Not less…

Brian Andreas said: “Everything changed the day she realised there was exactly enough time for all the important things in her life.”

I get this wrong sometimes. The day I dropped my daughter at her first day of pre-school when she was three was a complete debacle. (The low points were ripping the bumper bar off my car at work and then accidentally consuming an Army Officer’s salad.)

  • When you find that you’re so thinly stretched that you can no longer recognise your own Tupperware…
  • When you’re eating other people’s salads and running over things…
  • And when you have that alarming sense that there’s nothing left in reserve – that it would take only one relatively minor thing to go wrong and you would drop all the plates that you’re spinning…

That’s when you need to pull back.

Because this frantic life we’re leading is full of choices. The job that sucks every ounce of energy is a job we applied for. The raft of activities our kids are enrolled in outside school are activities we signed up to. The committees, the sports coaching, the extra housework, the constant helping of our colleagues and friends to the exclusion of our own priorities—it’s all stuff we said YES to.

And that’s great, if it’s working.

But if it’s not, nobody’s going to fix things for us, so do this:

And remember: Weekends are for hanging around at airports for endless hours staking out internet celebrities. Or for doing whatever it is that you love…