Archive for June, 2016

Let’s face it, we’ll never get this right!

819535My daughter lives with Anxiety and exam week was particularly rough. She had the worst panic attack she’d experienced during one of her exams. While shaking and having nausea, feeling hot and prickly and distressed, she put her hand up and let the teacher know.

The teacher gave her permission to go to sick bay, but she chose to stay and get it done. She remembered advice from her psychologist: “You can be having a panic attack and also doing something else, like an exam.” She continued on and completed the test, all while experiencing a sub-optimal mindset, and I couldn’t have been more proud.

Even those of us who don’t experience Anxiety have a raft of mindset gremlins running riot through our thought-processes — urging us to procrastinate, or feel overwhelmed, or attempt perfection, or hold back entirely through fear of failure, or even fear of success. We can fall into a trap of thinking we must learn how to rid ourselves of these thoughts or this self-talk. It doesn’t go away, so we make decisions to let it win. We delay action until we ‘sort out our thinking’ or ‘get our act together’, instead of just getting on with it while the gremlins scurry around, doing their best to bring us down.

When Audrey and I started planning our forthcoming book, we met in Melbourne to plan how it would look. While we were there, we visited Dymocks and perused competing titles.

Big. Mistake.

Huge.

Our embryonic little book comprised a jumbled set of ideas on Post It notes stuck on the wall in our hotel. Everyone else’s books were so finessed and best-seller worthy. The ‘comparison’ gremlin was having a field day!

So we decided we could feel inferior AND we could get on and write the book. We could feel like procrastinating AND do the work. We could be overwhelmed AND draft a few paragraphs.

As soon as we gave ourselves permission to continue experiencing our natural self-doubt, but not to let it stop us, we made huge progress. Now it’s in the publisher’s hands, we think our book will measure up just fine alongside the others on that shelf in the bookstore next year.

Achieving things is never about being ready. It’s never about having the right mindset. It’s never about banishing the negativity entirely. It’s about learning to co-exist with those permanent mindset gremlins. It’s about giving yourself permission to feel these ways, but to get on with your activity regardless — like my daughter with her exam.

We’ll be going into a whole lot of interesting detail about how we can manage our response to self-doubt at our upcoming public workshop, The 7 Mindset Gremlins That Mess With You Most (and how to get your stuff done anyway). Tickets are selling fast, and if you’re looking for fresh ways to get a lot more done, you’ll love it!

In the aftermath of a meltdown …

shutterstock_60166111A couple of weeks ago, I fell over the finish line of six intense months of creativity and work and landed in a very messy and emotional heap on Facebook. It was one of those times when you allow yourself to push through to a deadline, after which you subconsciously give yourself permission to collapse.

The intensity of 2016 so far hasn’t been about the work stuff. Not really. It’s been all the carrying. Carrying my 15-year-old through her battle with anxiety. Carrying one of my parents through the gradual unraveling of dementia. Carrying my 17-year-old through the on-again, off-again barrages of stress that can feel so overwhelming when you’re in your final year of school. Carrying other close people through deeply troubling experiences. Carrying, carrying, carrying.

Of course there comes a time when you can’t carry another thing. There comes a time when other people carry you. When we reach that point of officially becoming overburdened, it’s time to call out and say, ‘Hello, friends! I need you for a bit!’

So I did that, and was inundated with emotional support. Messages, lunches, gifts, coffees, words that I’ll remember always. It soothed the soul. A day or so of this, and I got up and felt better, had a massage, watched some TV, read some books, took a few days of ‘go slow’ and felt like a new woman.

Fast forward a few days and some of the people who’d been instrumental in this ‘love bomb’ from friends then found themselves in very hot water in their own lives. A mix of injury + cancer + added injury and worse. It was their turn to be helped.

I put out a call on Facebook for any friends who might be able to bake some meals. The result was that my kids and I spent four hours on the Queen’s birthday Monday driving to the four corners of Canberra and Queanbeyan to collect meals from ten people, who had given up their time and money on a public holiday to help complete strangers in need. Each of the two families ended up with a month’s worth of meals.

One of these helpers revealed that she’d been looking for an opportunity to be involved in a food drive like this for strangers ever since her parents lost their home in a fire, two years ago. Everyone had helped then. They’d been wanting to ‘pay it forward’ since. The recipient families both mentioned ‘paying it forward’ later on, and I know they will.

We weave our way through the twists and turns of our lives in communities, like we’re all in a conga line dance. Sometimes we’re in the lead. Sometimes we’re at the back. Sometimes we fall away and someone extends their hand and drags us back into the fold. Sometimes we know that person and sometimes they’re a stranger.

In the aftermath of my meltdown, and during others’ meltdowns that followed, I was reminded just how beautiful communities can be if we let people in. Sprawled unexpectedly on the ground we can try to stagger back without anyone seeing us, or we can wave over some assistance. People love to help. They want to help.

Let them help.

When you can’t do the thing you just did

1068459Today, my co-author Audrey Thomas and I are submitting our 55,000-word manuscript to our publisher. It will be my third book, and it’s one I think you’ll love, particularly if you enjoy these Monday posts.

When we met our publisher a few weeks ago, he asked us what else we had up our sleeves in terms of future titles. We had a couple of ideas, which he liked, but what struck me was my initial ‘self talk’: “I couldn’t possibly write another book!”

Having poured everything I know into this one — all our best stories and our deepest personal experiences, along with our top practical suggestions — I felt like there was nothing more I could possibly say. How could we ever string together another 50,000 words? Birthing this book I experienced the opposite of that feeling women often report after childbirth, when — dosed up on pain relief and nursing fresh stitches and having yelled during labour about never doing this again — they turn around and say, “I can’t wait to do this again”.

Now we are standing at the plateau after a big achievement. It’s the place that feels immensely rewarding after so much effort except, when we look up, there’s another huge learning cliff facing us. Just as we thought we’d made it through, there’s another challenge ahead, like this is one of the penultimate survival scenes in a Bond flick.

From here, there’s a choice. We could stop now. Or we could have a breather, then throw ourselves into another idea and scale it from the very beginning, with nothing but blank pages in front of us? Can we?

Of course we can. We probably will. Not now and not soon, and let’s get this one to you in February first and see what you think, but there’s going to come a time when this small voice of doubt is overtaken by the common sense of experience, and by the scent of a fresh idea. That’s when our inner talk will shift. You can do this. You’ve already done it. You know it. Do it.

Until then, we’re going to savour the feeling of relief having come this far. And wait nervously for our editor’s comments…