Consistency and Change

changeDo you feel that a change is as good as a rest, or are you a creature of habit?

Many of us feel both, in confusingly equal measures. But then humans are wonderfully complicated creatures!

Autumn is the time of year when we can typically start to feel one extreme or the other. We are either in ‘harvest mode’, resting after a busy, successful summer, and feeling good about the festivities ahead. Or, we can feel bad about the shorter days, the colder weather, and the lack of daylight.

This year we are having a funny autumn too. We’ve just had a little weekend heatwave, and of course the fall out from recent hurricanes and storms have been disrupting lives all over the world.

So where are you right now? Is it harvest mode for you, or has this autumn felt more like a long, premature Halloween? And I mean in a ghoulish way – not in a free sweets and funny costumes kind of way…

If things are a bit dark and desolate for you, then let’s talk about finding your harvest. And I promise you, there is always something to harvest, or in other words, something to be grateful for. It’s often just a case of switching your focus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that shifting your focus will solve all of your problems. But what it will do is improve your mental state. When your mental state gets a lift, this has a way of reflecting in the material world too. In other words, when you start seeing the good, you start creating more opportunity.

It can even feel a little bit magical, like your luck has changed. But honestly, it’s nothing of the sort. This is a simple little scientific fact. Neuroscientists call it ‘reticular activation’.

Basically, when you expect to see something, you will see more of it. Not because more of it is there. It’s just that your brain is primed to notice that thing you are thinking about over the hundreds of other things vying for your attention at any one time.

But we can absolutely use this to our advantage – so let’s do so right now…

Grab a notepad and write down a few things that you are really grateful for; things that make you happy and satisfied with life.

Important note – These should not be things that you think you ‘should’ be grateful for. An example that comes to mind is when you were a child and your mother told you to eat your greens because there were starving kids in the world, and you should be grateful etc…

This has to really resonate deeply with you. So think again; what do you have in your world that really makes your heart sing?

That, right there, is what you need to focus on! Think about these things every day. Write them in a journal, set a reminder on your phone – do whatever you need to get it done.

This will grow that feeling of ‘harvest mode’ and shift your attention from negative to positive. I know, it sounds so simplistic, but the best plans usually are. So give it a really good go for a few weeks – this is your homework!

When we are having a hard time, we can be so focused on a change as our solution. Sometimes we forget about the consistent things in our lives. Really, we need a bit of both. The surprising thing is, that when we shift our attention to the consistently good things that we are happy about, the changes start to emerge for us in a natural way. And the ones that we don’t try to force are usually the best ones.

So try it, see for yourself, and then come back and leave me a comment. I’d love to know how you get on!


P.S. Would you like to do some deeper work on your mindset? I’m running a competition (entries open until 31st Dec) to win 6 free coaching sessions with me.

Does that sound like something that would help you? If so, click here to see my competition post and to enter.

Does Physical Clutter Affect Your State of Mind?

declutterSo here’s an idea to ponder. Do you believe that there is a direct link between physical clutter at home (or your desk at work) and your mental state?

A lot of people do ascribe to this theory, and I can see why.

Of course there are the extreme cases of hoarding that are hard to deny. But how about that little, seemingly harmless, residual layer of mess that so many of us live with.

Could it actually be affecting us negatively?

Why we have clutter

Psychology Today shared some telling research from Yale School of Medicine. Their brain imaging study showed that we genuinely do experience pain when we declutter. The theory is that letting go of stuff we don’t need requires us to, on some level, admit that we didn’t need that stuff in the first place.

Essentially, we are required to admit that we made a bad decision in purchasing that item. And on some level, that brings us a little pain.

When we hang on to stuff we are hanging onto our affirmations that ‘we will use it’ and it ‘wasn’t a bad purchase’. And then of course there is sentimental attachment too. It’s easy to see why it’s so hard to get started on decluttering.

It’s about our focus

So understanding how it happens, let’s move on to how it affects us. This seems to be mainly about our focus – something that we all struggle with from time to time.

With so much vying for our attention; kids, work, notifications on our devices – we don’t need anything else competing for a piece of the action!

Your work desk is a classic example. Sticky notes, your mobile phone, and whatever else you have on there can distract you consciously. But there is also an unconscious effect – more of a feeling.

Being sat in a mess can be a negative sensory experience. The feeling of sticky notes on your otherwise smooth desk surface. The noise of text message notifications interrupting your thoughts.

And let’s not forget the feelings of annoyance and resentment that comes from living in somebody else’s clutter. When the mess that is distracting you is not yours, but is left by your kids, partner or housemates… it just really doesn’t feel good to be in!

Set some clutter boundaries

So what can you do to overcome this?

Let me start by saying that decluttering doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing, hell-for-leather experience. If the thought of tackling all the distractions in your home is far too much, then don’t take that route!

Try setting some small boundaries at first. Perhaps set a cap on how many new books you are going to buy, when you already have piles that need to be read, packed away, or donated first.

If your worst distractions are the ‘virtual clutter’ of social media notifications, then how about a little digital detox? I know that some clients of mine have previously enjoyed going ‘off line’ for a holiday, and then upon returning to normal life they decide to minimise their social media time, or turn their notifications off for a while.

Let’s not forget the elephant in any cluttered family room – when the clutter isn’t yours, but belongs to a family member. I’m afraid that avoiding having ‘the talk’ won’t help the situation. My best tip here is this…

When you do broach the subject with them, remember not to accuse or blame. If they feel it is ‘their fault’ they are likely to be defensive. Instead, ask for their help with your decluttering project, and remember to compromise.

Do keep in mind the emotional pain of decluttering I mentioned at the beginning of this post – just be sensitive to their side of things and you can’t go too far wrong.

Have you ever decluttered physically and felt the difference mentally? I’d love to hear your experience of this, so please do leave me a comment.

Self-Confidence in the age of Imposter Syndrome

confidenceIf you looked up self-confidence in a dictionary, it would say something about self-assurance, trusting your own judgments, abilities and so forth.

This sounds to be like the antidote to imposter syndrome, which in our current society is somewhat of a pandemic.

So often I hear from clients, friends and colleagues that they feel as if they “don’t have it together”, or “don’t really know what they are doing”.

And it gets worse when you talk to people with high-powered jobs. That pressure seems to amplify feelings of not being worthy of their job title, or that they don’t really deserve their success.

Is this sounding familiar?

Then, just for fun, lets add on some peer pressure from social media. We see our friends with their Instagram-perfect lives, and we feel inferior to them. However, behind the filtered images of your friends’ accounts, they are most likely feeling quite similar to you.

Some people even use their social media accounts to portray the image they think they need to have, while feeling like imposters behind the scenes.

So with all the background noise of peer pressure, imposter syndrome and work-related pressures – can we claim back our self-confidence?

Well yes, I absolutely know that we can, and I have a few tips for you to try…

Tip 1 – Understand that it’s all just ‘in our heads’

That’s right – ‘our’ heads; not just your head! Many people feel this way, and we all just do our best to hide it from each other.

This is a side-effect of the illusion we all seem to be under. You know the one; the illusion that convinces us that we need to do, be and have it all.

So a bit like in the movie, The Matrix, it’s all about being able to see the illusion for what it is. When you start to feel unworthy or like an imposter, just remember that it’s not true. We are all just human beings doing the best we can.

Tip 2 – Flip the script

You know that story that’s always running in your head? Yes, that one; the gothic fairy tale full of doom and gloom. Did you know that you could re-write that into something positive and self-affirming?

The constant chattering of your mind can be consciously intercepted at any time. You can, through practice, learn to recognize when you are telling yourself a gloomy tale, and replace it with something more helpful.

So how about writing yourself a more confident role?

Tip 3 – Don’t buy into the ‘imposter syndrome’ game

When we are wrapped up in imposter syndrome, being ‘caught out’ can feel like the worst thing in the world… so don’t buy into that.

Learn to be okay with not knowing everything, and not ‘getting it right’ all the time.

When you make a mistake, own it, proudly! Admit it, learn from it, and make a plan to move forwards. This is so much more empowering than trying to hide from it, or make an excuse.

Just hold your head up and be a proud, imperfect human being.

I hope you find these tips helpful, and if you need any help implementing them, then reach out to me for a consultation.

Rainy Days, Mondays and the Magic of Perspective

rainy days get me downThe other week I was talking to a client, and I was reminded of the Carpenter’s song, Rainy Days and Mondays.  The point made in the song is that these days “always get me down”.

This was currently the case for my client. She was feeling demotivated and a little bit defeated. When it rained, or any other minor inconvenience occurred, to her it was more ‘proof’ that life is hard.

Her Monday’s were neither inspiring nor motivating, largely because her job didn’t excite her. But she didn’t hate the job either, and so she hadn’t even considered finding something new.

This is really quite a common trap of the human condition. Generally, people are more motivated by pain than by passion, because we are creatures of habit.

So to illustrate this – on the one hand I could present to you something that you are passionate about, but instead of pursuing it, you will likely feel the pull to stay where you are.  If where you are is safe, then boredom can be overlooked, and passions can be filed under ‘things I will do later’. Safe is comfortable. Ah-ha! It’s that dreaded comfort zone!

On the other hand, if where you are is painful, and I present you with a way out, you will likely take it. Pain is a huge motivator for humans. We want to get as far away from pain as we can.

So you can see the conundrum. Humans are drawn to their comfort zones. But our comfort zones quickly become boring, unfulfilling, and we can slide into negativity quite easily.

Once we have slid into negativity, we then can’t muster the motivation to climb out of our comfort zone, because we are now looking at the challenge ahead with a negative mindset.

The magic shift

So we can stay stuck, or we can choose to climb out of the hole and move on. And the game-changer is perspective.

When we are stuck in our comfort zone, down a dark hole, peering out through a lens of negativity, everything looks bleak. So what I want to suggest to you is changing your point of view.

A good way to start is to notice when you are being negative. Pay attention to what you think and say. I particularly ask my clients to notice sentences beginning with “I can’t, because…”, followed by an excuse.

Let’s take the example of looking for a new job. If Monday’s get you down, but you don’t want to look for a new job because it’s hard – then flip that lens over.

What part of the job hunting part is easy, or creative, or even exciting? Yes, sure, completing online applications is a bit of a hassle. But how about putting your attention on finding a role that inspires you, or making your LinkedIn profile stand out from the crowd?

How about the possibility of a higher income?

Think about what you could do with your new, higher pay packet. Maybe a holiday? A new wardrobe? And how about all the new friends you could meet at your new place of work?

I’m not saying the boring bits and the hard work don’t exist. I’m saying don’t make them your focus. Instead, focus on what you will enjoy, and the things you can do well. The rest of it will fall into place. And most importantly, you will get yourself mentally unstuck and climb out of that hole you’ve been in.

Life is short. It is up to you how much you enjoy each day – even the Mondays, and even if it rains.