Business Tip – skills need to be learnt

‘But it’s so hard for me to tell people what I do and what it costs’. I hear this a lot from people starting in business. And I want to say ‘OF COURSE IT IS!!’.
In my experience that’s hard for most people. Me. Other art therapists starting out. Most of the coaches I trained with. Artists. New graphic designers. Basically most humans find it hard to say ‘hey do you want to buy my thing?’ or ‘yes I can help you, at my hourly rate’ – at least when they start out in business.
And I should know – I spent two whole decades of my working life as an employee. You do the work and you get paid. You don’t have to every day say ‘oh do you want me to go get that paper off the photocopier? That will be five bucks thanks. You want me to write this report? Ok well my hourly rate is X.’
Most of us just negotiate our salary ONCE – when we accept the position, and maybe make a pitch for a pay rise or bonus at performance review time. And even if we sell things as an employee (this project, this widget, this package) it’s not US that we are selling, or its us with a whole organisation and brand behind us.

So here’s what I have to share: of course it’s hard, you’ve never done it before, it’s unfamiliar, feels risky and you don’t know how to do it. THAT’S EXACTLY LIKE ANY IMPORTANT SKILL YOU HAVEN’T LEARNT YET.

If you wanted to learn piano you would go and get lessons, not beat yourself up because you haven’t magically woken up this morning being able to play Bach. You would work with someone who knows how to play and you would get them to show you how. You would adjust your expectations and be prepared to learn some foundational skills and practice them and build on them. You would expect to go back again and again to your classes and share what’s hard and get tips on how to make things easier.

Business skills are just the same.

Just because you don’t know how to do something yet doesn’t make you defective or somehow uniquely flawed.

It means you need to learn. You need to find someone you trust and feel safe with, who is patient and knows more than you do and is willing to teach what they know. Ideally someone who will watch and listen and teach you just what you don’t already know yet, and build on what you DO know. You need to practice. You need find a way to be forgiving and to be ok with your fumbling and bumbling and making mistakes. You need to be ok with the off notes and playing ‘beginners tunes’ and still wishing you could play something more complex. You need to celebrate the little wins and remember that last week you couldn’t even play a note.

What’s one business skill on your to-learn list? 

10 things stopping you from writing that job application

Below I’ve listed 10 of the main reasons people struggle with job applications, in my experience, and what you can do to get past them. If you’re experiencing any of these you are not alone.

Do you struggle with job applications? Or does a family member?

Maybe you’re in a job you don’t love but are too scared to leave?

I sometimes help coaching clients navigate the job application process, because if something is stopping us from writing it it’s often way way more than the process of writing the application itself. Sometimes it’s understanding the recruitment process, sometimes it brings to light the uncomfortable feelings we have about our current job, sometimes it’s a deep issue about our worth and value, sometimes the very thought of leaving raises fears about change and more. Below I’ve listed 10 of the main reasons people struggle with job applications, in my experience, and what you can do to get past them.

If you’re experiencing any of these you are not alone.

Just identifying the REAL reason you are procrastinating on the application can help you be kinder to yourself, and maybe get the help you need to get past these barriers.

You don’t understand the paperwork.

If you have never applied for a government role or addressed ‘selection criteria’ in your application you would be forgiven for having no idea whatsoever how to do it. Did anybody teach you that stuff? They didn’t teach me. I had to bumble through application after application as a fresh graduate many years ago learning as I went. Now I love helping explain it to others so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. So: phone a friend! If you are applying for a job in a new sector or industry see if you can have a look at an application someone else has written (e.g. a friend, or friend of friend) – and even better if its for a wildly different role. You absolutely don’t want to copy what they’ve written but seeing how an application is structured can be very helpful if you’ve never seen one before.

You hate showing off.

Do you hate ‘singing your praises’? Think self promotion is icky and best left to the confident and wildly extroverted? Well, I totally get that and I know how hard it can be for shy, introverted or self effacing folk to sell their skills and attributes to employers. It is MUCH easier for someone else to see where you shine, and much easier (often) for them to find ways to help you communicate all the ways you are awesome. A job application is not the time to shy away from your accomplishments, downplay or not mention them.

So if this is the area you are stuck in, try asking a few trusted colleagues if they could let you know something they think you bring to the team or have achieved in the past year. If you don’t feel comfortable telling them you are applying for another job you can always fib and tell them it’s to prepare for your next performance review or because you’re thinking of further study and want to play to your strengths.

Or find a confident friend with the gift of the gab and ask them to read your application and check that you are not accidentally coming across as apologetic, being brief to the point of obscurity, or underselling yourself.

You kinda don’t want to do well at interview because you’re scared the referee check will let you down.

Perhaps you left your last job in icky circumstances and don’t want anyone calling them for a reference. You’re scared to invest energy in the application and possible interview because that reference check is hanging over you like a black cloud. Or maybe you’re worried they will ask why you are looking for a new role, and you will have to tell them you were retrenched/ made redundant/ let go.

Fair enough, this is a tricky one.

Maybe you can’t change the outcome of that call or the facts around that question. However what you can do is explore and express the emotions before you start, to difuse the emotional charge around the topic. Journal, cry, have a temper tantrum, talk to a close trusted friend or therapist: grieve and mourn the loss, the pain or the humiliation.

You can also practice answering the question so that it doesn’t feel so awkward in an interview. Or maybe you can challenge any catastrophic thinking about what will happen. See if you can think up and imagine a range of possible outcomes that are all plausible, as well as the worst case scenario. Imagine being able to cope with any of them.

Hopefully this will help you will feel lighter and cleaner ready to approach a new job.

You feel like your CV is out of control.

You have SOOOOOOO much experience you don’t know how to handle it all. It’s bursting from the seams like stuffing on a well loved chair. Typical scanner problem, but…

This doesn’t have to trigger an existential crisis about your place in the world and the value of your work. Truly! Instead you can consider it simply an organisational challenge.

By using subheadings, looking for underlying themes, and being willing to prune or shrink things that are not relevant to the job you can work wonders to shoehorn your experience into a format that is clearly relevant to the job. Remember that recruiters don’t have time to join the dots for you – it’s your job to spell out very clearly how each piece of experience is relevant to the job at hand. A job application is not an autobiography, and as much as it may pain you to leave off some interesting project from 20 years ago that is very tangentially relevant, chances are your application will be crisper and easier to digest if you give it a healthy pruning around the edges to neaten it up.

You have so little experience you don’t know how to handle the gaps.

Feel like tumbleweeds are rolling through your CV? If you’ve done your own projects / volunteered / helped organise things outside of work you might just not be seeing your job-relevant experience. In that case you need some help in explaining your experience.

If you actually don’t have the experience, go get some! Write something. Volunteer somewhere. Fundraise. Do something in the world that shows that a) you have skills, b) you know something about the field, c) you care about the issue/ sector etc. I bet in three months of just one day a month you could get some real world experience that will set you apart and show employers you are ready to work. Get going!

You can’t see yourself.

What are my strengths? What makes you different? What are your values and the skills you have that you take to any job? If you’re not a fan of digging around and introspection you may not have an answer to these. I know this because I have helped many people mine the gems of skills and accomplishments out of the past work they have done. They are often surprised and say ‘oh I guess so’ when I say ‘so this probably means you have X and Y skill?’.

This is where getting feedback from a trusted boss, mentor or friend can help.

Or maybe life circumstances have thrown you about and you don’t know these things anymore, or you’re feeling disheartened and can’t see any strengths anymore. That’s OK – this is a great chance for you to explore these questions. A good coach can also help you figure this out.

You’re not in love with this career anymore.

The thought of changing jobs makes you feel a sinking feeling in your stomach and you think ‘a change would be good but somehow it’s not enough’. So honour that feeling.

Is a job application what you really need to be filling out? Maybe it’s a transfer form to move cities within your firm. Maybe it’s a uni application so that you can finally start studying that thing you love, even if only part time. If bigger change is calling to you, you might avoid the smaller changes because you know deep down its not what you want.

Your current job is so yucky you’re scared the next one will be too.

You’ve lost hope. You think ‘all jobs/ managers / working hours are probably as bad as this one so why bother?’. This is serious stuff. You may have internalised a hopeless or self defeating narrative that says ‘oh well, everywhere will be just as bad as here, why bother moving’. The thing is, whether you are right or wrong it is incredibly demotivating to feel like you are in an unpleasant place and there is nothing better out there. You may want to work with a therapist to fully express and perhaps examine these kinds of inner messages and see where they might be coming from, and if you can connect with a more hopeful story. That’s not because there’s anything wrong with these feelings – you are of course entitled to feel what you feel. And fear, hopelessness, despair, anger and overwhelm can all come up when we face change. But if you are looking for motivation to get moving on an application this can be a very difficult place to do it from.

You may also need to give yourself permission to change jobs again – quickly – if the next one is not for you. This might challenge your perception of yourself as a ‘stayer’ or someone who ‘follows through’, ‘always does what she says’ or a similar closely held story about who you want to be in the world. Can you accept that sometimes it is OK to move jobs a few times in search of one you really like? In that case you don’t need to be 100% sure that the next one is great, because you know you have your own back and will air lift yourself out of there if needed.

You’re scared you wont get the conditions you want.

‘But they pay really well here for my sector’ I hear you say. ‘I need to pay my mortgage, if I leave I’ll never be able to afford paying the rent/ my expensive hobby/ my next trip away’. Absolutely – this might be true. But do you know for sure? It might be that your story is keeping you stuck and stopping you from even looking around for what is out there. Some research could be helpful here, to reality check these assumptions. It might be that there are roles in sectors you hadn’t thought of that do remunerate as well, and you have the skills to do.

And it might also be worth reconnecting with your values: is wage the only thing that matters to you? Can you live on less? Would you be spending less if you lived closer to home, were less stressed? Again working with someone to explore this feeling of hopelessness could be of benefit, as could checking in with a Financial Advisor to do some sums and figure out how much wiggle room you really have.

You actually don’t think you’re good enough.

This one can be hard to admit but a lot of people experience this. You think you’re probably actually crap at what you do and you think it’s a fluke that you’ve found the job you’re in and if you risk going someone else they might find out you’re a fraud. So you feel stuck there because the only other option risks exposure and humiliation.

Now, in my experience, the people self aware enough to reflect on their work and have doubts are often high performers. But even if there is a kernel of truth in this fear, you are not helpless. Sign up for a part time coding course, go do a few one day courses to freshen up your core communications skills, go do that graduate certificate in some work related topic you always dreamt of. Doing something about a perceived area of weakness feels much better than being passive and fearing ‘being found out’.

The great thing about this is it’s also a good way to benchmark what you already know. Studying a topic through formal education can sometimes reveal areas that you have already acquired many of these skills on the job – good for you! This can be especially helpful if feedback is in short supply in your job or you are the only one with your skill set or technical knowledge in your firm.

And again, checking in with someone impartial about whether or not these beliefs are backed up with evidence might reveal that in fact they are fears not facts, and that you absolutely have what it takes to get another job: exactly as you are.

Not every day is sunny

I have thought of giving up more than once, probably more than 30 (million) times on my ‘entrepreneurial journey’. The last time was briefly just last month. When I feel like that here are some variations of is what might go through my head to trigger or compound the thought – one of these is usually really loud when I fall into feeling hopeless:

  • ‘I’ve taken on way too much, I’ll never get it all done, this feels awful, run away!’
  • ‘I obviously have deep mindset issues that are holding me back, I’ll never get rid of them, there’s no point trying’.
  • ‘It’s not fair, look at them, they’re doing so well and I’m not’
  • ‘Oh my gosh I’ve squandered all my talents and experience and managed to make nothing out of it’
  • ‘I am overwhelmed by all the courses and coaches and training and I don’t trust that any of them will actually help me, I feel overwhelmed by all I need to learn and resistant to get started’.

Had any of those? Or similar ones? Yes me too.

I’m sick of ‘successful’ people who sell a carefully constructed two dimensional version of ‘success’ – some fantasy land where self doubt is entirely banished, every day is sparkles and rainbows and life looks like an instagrammed smoothie. I’m sick of it because in many cases it is just a calculating move to sell more things (I want what she’s having!) but worse than that, because it contributes to an expectation that this is how life ‘should’ feel (or look).

This expectation is suffocating.

I mean, seriously, it’s the human condition people. There will be laughter and tears, snot and baby poo, death, illness, dirt under the fingers. There will be wrinkles. There will be crumbs. There will be things that become tattered and frayed and some days we will feel a bit like that too. There will be ugly crying and hard things. No matter how gorgeous your bronzed bod looks twisting in its white one piece swimsuit at the beach at dawn one day (if you are lucky enough to live that long) you will get old and wrinkly. Lots more stuff than your snapchat filter can rub away.

Some days you might feel lazy, or grumpy, or catty, or incompetant, or just plain old scared. Yup. That’s going to happen. You might not like what comes out of your mouth or the thoughts you’re having. You might wonder ‘who is this angry b*tch who’s taken up residence in my head?’

Personally when I feel like giving up I need to stamp my feet and howl and write in my journal and cry real tears. I need to make big cranky art. I need to feel despair, real despair, and I need to cradle it like a precious thing. I need to complain to a friend or a coach or a mentor, someone kind who will listen while the storm rolls itself through.

I need to be petty and voice my crotchety annoyances. I need to imagine stepping away, imagine a big fat NO to all my projects.

And then gently I return to hope.

(And when I’m back to hope everything feels possible, doable, sparkly and fun.)

And despite all this, in and amongst it, I can still get things done.

If you wait until that perfect day when you are the thin, groomed, sunny, effortless, confident, multitasking, knowledgeable, wholly in your power version of you before you do anything you may never move.

Maybe we are actually birthing that version of ourselves, all of us, in every day that we cradle ourselves with kindness and allow the feelings out. Maybe the imperfect actions and acting without knowing all of what we are doing is what shapes and creates us.

If you want to work with someone who can help you get started on your dream project NOW – with all your wonderful flaws and quirks and inexperience and bad moods and self doubt, then look me up. We might just get along like a house on fire. And I promise I’ll forgive you your flaws if you forgive me mine.

I got to my dream, now what?

Sometimes we engage with a dream so deeply, that it guides us for months or even years. We make a change, we commit to some healing, or we set off on an adventure.

And then. Then we get there.

Maybe course is over now, or the draft is written or the trip is finished. Maybe the house is bought or the business launched or the big move made.

And then – what next?

We might have grown and tapped into deep reserves to get here – overcoming adversity, finding our courage, practicing perseverance. And in arriving we enjoy a rest, some peace.

But then, we get the itch. What is the next stage?

What does the next chapter look like?

Maybe we need some quiet space to hear the stirrings of our hearts.

Maybe from here we notice that we can see the view and ourselves a little more clearly than from where we started out.

We know that the culmination of the next dream wont be the end point either, just a new point, where the view is a little different, the tools in our toolkit a bit better honed, and our own character is a letter better known, worn and accepted.

 Have you ever felt yourself in a lull between dreams? What did it feel like? how did you make space for the new dream to emerge?

What to do when you have too many ideas

Recently I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with business ideas. There were just too many! Different services, different people I might work with, different resources I could share.

It felt a bit overwhelming and if I’m honest a bit like a traffic jam in my mind. So many ideas that together they couldn’t get through and sat side by side stuck in gridlock, honking their horns at me. I felt cranky and like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I felt even cross with myself and the ideas – why are you coming to me and just sitting here and not convincing me to take action?

Eventually a few things fell into place and now I finally feel as if the traffic lights have turned green, they are merging into one lane, and I know what order they will pull off in.

Here are five things that helped me, and might help you (especially if you are a big picture creative or busy scanner), when you have too many ideas:

 

  1. Write them down somewhere where you can find them

If you are anything like me you might have notebooks for everything. Lists, ideas, journaling, affirmations, drawings, outpourings of the heart, business ideas, the works. However those half pages lost in various notebooks you will rarely reread is not super helpful. It can add to the feeling that you are frittering away your ideas and that nothing is building. It’s easy to feel lost when your ideas are actually lost in a notebook.

Some things I have found helps for finding the ideas again is:

  • Using dedicated notebooks for different things and different notebook sizes or colours so I can find the right one quickly (my gratitude and celebration journal is bright yellow, my dream and wishes journal is hot pink, my regular daily journals are black)
  • Having a ‘scanner daybook’ as recommended by Barbara Sher for capturing those thoughts on big wild inventions, projects or life ideas (mine is a huge weighty tome with the very best paper and cover that I could afford at the time)
  • If you do keep your ideas in the one notebook or journal all mushed up, you might like to try what I have started doing, which is writing ‘IDEA:’ as a large header in capitals before I write or draw out business ideas. That way when you run your eye down the last few pages or few weeks of pages you can easily spot the bits that were to do with ideas, and you wont have to read all of your emotional outpourings, other lists etc.
  • Go digital and use a program like Evernote so you can access your notebooks from your mobile device as well as your work or home computer (I’ve just started using it, I’ll let you know how I go).
  • You could also create private Pinterest boards for yourself and save photos or articles that relate to your project or idea

OK… so that is all about how to write them down and where, but maybe you are a visual person and finding the connection between ideas is important rather than just a list, which brings us to the next suggestion: map them.

 

  1. Map them

I find drawing out or mind-mapping parts of the ideas really helps. For example are three of your ideas related to one core topic and the other three are on a different topic? Are there flows of information, materials or learning that would take place between these projects if they were happening side by side? Do some of your ideas support others, and of you were to do them first would help support subsequent projects? Pulling out these different ideas (that you may have written down in various locations at different times) and putting them together into a diagram can help you visualize connections, and make sense of what might at times feel like unconnected ideas. I find this ‘sense making’ helps bring a feeling of order and calm, even amongst the sometimes chaotic feeling barrage of ideas.

 

  1. Feel into them

Ideas can be persistent in our minds but when you pay attention to each one they can ‘feel’ different. In a recent podcast with Lisa Murray on the Recovering Perfectionist, she called it ‘following the energy’. I like to call it ‘feeling into them’. The way it works for me is when I visualize the idea it can either feel light, charged up, and unobstructed, or it can feel heavy, cloudy and like it is sitting behind a pane of glass some distance away. When it feels cloudy I often have my mind being indignant and saying things like ‘but it’s a very good idea! It makes sense’ – kind of defending it if you like. That tells me that my conscious mind likes the idea, but that another part of me isn’t so sure.

The way I think about it is this: our conscious minds are not the sum total of our wisdom. I believe our subconscious is the vast databank that integrates more information – contextual, historical, emotional, futures focused – than our day to day conscious minds can handle. I think that it can give us valuable additional info to what our conscious mind can, but that it doesn’t ‘speak’ in a linear, language based, logical way. So when I get that heavy or obstructed feeling about an idea I am learning to trust that it might be that there is a good reason that it might not be the right time, or that the idea might not yet be in a form that will work best in the world, and that I need to give it some more time to mature.

 

  1. Give them time – but not too much time

As long as you are not forgetting your ideas then thinking them over for a while before you start is a very reasonable proposition. For me, for big complex ideas, a few months of mulling it over feels about right. If it is a small idea that feels 100% doable right now the lag between thought and action can be quite brief (hours or days). If you leave it too long (years) you may be in danger of putting it in the ‘too hard basket’ and making the idea seem like an idealized fantasy far removed from your everyday life. That’s not to say that the whole idea needs to be implemented and completed in those timelines, but that you commit to it and start taking some kind of action. It may be that it gets harder and harder to take action. The exact nature of these timelines is probably different for everyone, but it might be worth considering the right amount of time you plan to give your ideas to mature before you get started.

 

  1. Expand your time horizon for implementation

Barbara Sher talks so beautifully about the way that scanners have a skewed sense of time, and often forget that they have a tomorrow and a next year to do things, not just a today. With these recent ideas I was having I kind of forgot that maybe my timeline was bigger than just the next few months. I realize now that maybe they will unfold over 5 years, and that is OK. It takes the pressure off and reminds me that I can start on them all now, but the preparations for some might run in parallel with the launch of others.

As Elizabeth Gilbert* says, “Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.” So don’t let a traffic jam stop you from bringing some of those ideas into the world.

Do you have lots of ideas too? how do you manage them so they feel like an asset rather than a burden? Did anything resonate from my list above? Please let me know!

 

*Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do need to start

I started my business with a small amount of savings that had to be my actual pay (think coffee money) and cover all business costs until the business started providing for itself. My partner took on the heavy lifting of household finances and I was free to work on my business. That first year I needed every cent to pay for room hire, art materials, insurance, coaching and all the other bare basic start up costs for an art therapist.

At the start it felt like EVERYTHING cost money, money I didn’t have.

I wanted to start getting clients, but I didn’t have business cards or brochures, and I didn’t have fancy professional photos, or a logo or designer so how would I get started?

Bottom line – I just did.

A few hours with a graphics software and some photos I’d taken myself, a small black and white print I’d made a few months earlier and I had a logo and brochure designed. Less than $200 with a cheap online printer and a week later I had my first actual ‘collateral’* for my business.

(It wasn’t easy. Well tbh making it once I started was actually easy but GETTING STARTED was excruciating. I procrastinated like anything for months before I finally jumped right in.)

So then the brochures arrived.

I wish I could tell you I was highly systematic and confident in handing those bad boys out. But I wasn’t. I gave some to friends and asked if they could put them in their favourite cafes (because I was too shy). Within a few weeks had my first paying client (that was like magic – I couldn’t believe it actually worked! I almost fell off my chair when she called asking about an appointment).

“Winners take Imperfect Action while others are perfecting their plans.” – Kevin Nations

The moral of the story is that even if you are a cheapass, oh I mean frugal, oh I mean skint, first business owner or stepping out into a brand new creative project you need to START. NOW. With what you have. Without putting yourself into financial ruin.

You can work on the packaging as you go, you can rebrand later when you are making a profit. Sure your materials might not win any awards for prettiest graphics, but here is what I know for sure**: if you don’t put yourself out there and tell the world you are open for business you will not have a business.

  • Having 100 business cards out in the world, even if you think the graphics are less than superb, will build your business faster than a very good intention to one day have the perfect business card designed and made.
  • A business Facebook page that you use once a week and are still figuring out how to use has more chance of helping clients find you than the strongly held wish that someone else would come and save you from all things social media.
  • Five posters up in cafes will get more attention for your workshop than 100 in your bottom desk draw.
  • A simple web page even if it’s just ONE page with your name, one paragraph about what you do, photo and contact details is better than no online presence at all while you secretly hope you will one day wake up as a confident web designer and all your problems will be solved.

Now I’m not talking about skimping on the core stuff, the things that create your service and provide a reliable experience for customers. Your training. Your insurance. Your legals and professional memberships. Your supervision. Anything where there is a set quality expected by your customers or law. But there are certainly other areas of your business where ‘some’ is better than ‘none’. In my experience these include marketing, an online presence, getting the equipment you need to do your job, providing yourself with mentoring or coaching support, putting time aside for self care.

In these areas I encourage you to embrace the idea that it absolutely doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do need to get started. 

 

*Fancy marketing terms for branded things you use with clients like business cards, brochures, posters, ebooks, stuff like that

** Don’t you love this phrase?! My friend Karen Gunton uses this all the time. When you’re stuck or confused she suggests you ask “What do I know for sure?” and list those things.


Does this resonate? Have you started something with imperfect perfect action? What is one thing you might get started on NOW even if it’s not perfect?

 

 

 

 

Courage, self criticism and stretching ourselves

I want to reflect on my recent experience of having a podcast interview, and share these with you in case they help you to ‘step up’ and get out of your comfort zone.

Recently I was guest on the Recovering Perfectionist podcast and spoke with Claire Barton about being a scanner and not being tied to just one career, hobby or focus in our lives. I love Claire’s work, I’ve enjoyed working with her, and she is a great source of info on business systems. To be honest I’m a bit of a fan, I find her down to earth and warm manner really delightful.

We had a great chat and then earlier this week it was published both as an iTunes audio podcast and also as a YouTube video, so I listened again to remind myself of what we covered.

Just like any creative endeavour there can be mixed feelings about the ‘end product’. For example I notice that the sound is a bit iffy my end at the start of the interview (internet connectivity issues). I don’t look right into the camera because I’m looking at her face on my screen, so I look a bit shy and distracted, always looking slightly away. As I watch I cringe a bit about random things to do with how I move my hands so much, or that I’m wearing foundation when I normally don’t so my skin looks strange to me.

These are fairly normal ‘oh no look I did a bad job’ kinds of observations that come up from fear of making a fool of ourselves, fear of appearing incompetent, fear of being rejected or ridiculed. As a recovering perfectionist myself I have an eagle eye for my own flaws and am great at spotting them.

However, as I watch I am also pleasantly reminded of the genuine connection we shared that day and the interesting topics we discussed. I am pleased when the audio sorts itself out and works again. I like my earrings. I feel proud of myself for stretching my experience and saying yes to a recorded video, when in the past my interviews for radio or online have all been just audio.

So on this day of being aware of something new and of myself, being in the public domain, I gently hold these mixed feelings. I know that I have learnt things by doing this, the sky didn’t fall in, and the world is still turning. I know that I will feel more confident the next one I do. I am aware and pleased that the inner voice of celebration and encouragement is louder than the inner voice of criticism. I know that these mixed feelings about our creative endeavours are part of the ride, and I’m glad I continue to get outside my comfort zones so I have fresh reminders of how that feels, and can walk alongside my clients who are doing it too.

I encourage my clients to start before they know every single little thing, as it’s in the doing that we actually learn. I am on the same path of exploration as they are, as we all are, and today I celebrate our small and big acts of courage.

scanner podcast

Links
iTunes Podcast – bit.ly/TheRecoveringPerfectionist
Podcast episode – Episode #30 – https://www.clairebarton.com.au/podcast-feed/30
YouTube video episode –https://youtu.be/e1-nNslnkBo

 

5 things (that might be) stopping you from success

“Don’t wait until to know who you are to get started, the way you figure it out is by making things”
– Austen Klein (who wrote Steal like an Artist)

I’ve been working with coaching clients for two years now helping people get moving towards their wishes.

I love how unique each person is: there are no two exact life stories or sets of passions of strengths. However with the smart, sensitive, creative and multipassionate people I work with (and if you’re reading this you probably fall into this camp too) there are some themes I notice in what blocks they face in taking practical steps towards their long held dream.

1. Your sense of time. As a creative person you might be used to bending and stretching time, falling into pockets of time, and squeezing outrageous abundance out of a short period when you are feeling inspired.

But here’s the thing: time (and your productivity) can’t be expected to deliver such bounty every second of every day.

There will be days when you are doing tasks that are less fun and just do take way longer than you wish they would. Start noticing how long tasks take – not how long you wish they would take. For example ‘updating your finance spreadsheet’ is something you pretend will take 15 minutes but actually takes 3 hours, or ‘making a brochure’ you wish would take half an hour but might actually need to be your main focus for a couple of days. You may not want this task to take so much time, but being realistic about how much time it needs will stop you overscheduling or over committing and will help you give yourself permission to take the time the task actually needs to get done.

If you are still learning the task, or don’t actually know all the steps that it needs feel free to double the time you give yourself to do it – you might need it. Leave the warp speed productivity estimates for the work you really love, and leave plodding time for plodding tasks. Solution: give yourself chunks of time to do things, especially the hard and boring stuff.

2. Fear of being criticised. You want to hit publish on that first blog post but WHO ARE YOU TO HAVE AN OPINION?

You are acutely aware that everyone, from your grannie to that mean girl who never liked you at school, to that awkward guy on the bus will be able to read it and pass judgement on you. They will hate it! They will think you are too mean/ critical/ soppy/ whiney/ happy/ angry/ average/ boring/ spiritual/ emotional/ low-brow/ high-brow/ entitled/ egotistical… They will think you are an amateur/ sell out/ hard nosed bitch/ ruthless bastard/ band-wagonist/ dilettante/ unprofessional…. And whatever else is on your ‘secret fears about myself’ list.

This is deep and painful stuff.

This fear feels like the fear of being rejected, shamed, ostracised. It is the fear of showing our authentic selves and having it not be accepted. It is the fear that we will lose face, reputation, career opportunities, friends or loved ones. This thread usually runs very deep to childhood or whatever situation we first experienced being criticised for who we were, often because others weren’t comfortable with that aspect of themselves or because they expressed their care through criticism or a strong focus on fear and safety, rather than encouragement and love. Going after our own dreams is one sure fire way to come face to face with this stuff.

But please don’t let the fear be the reason you stop.

Get help! What you need is a cheer squad, a tribe, a little safe corner, a mentor or a coach. Speaking these fears out loud to someone who you feel safe with, feeling the pain, shedding a few tears and then taking the tentative tiny baby steps just out of the comfort zone with a trusted other by your side is deep and powerful work. You are rewriting how you see the world – from scary and unsafe and unsupportive to warm, embracing and encouraging. No wonder this is hard to do alone. Solution: feel the feelings and then take safe, baby steps.

3. Your dream has had the enthusiasm dry up and just fear and doubt remains. The dream you had has been sitting on the shelf in the back of the cupboard for so long it no longer looks sparkly and fun but feels like a giant mess of guilt and self doubt. Imagine it cobwebby and covered in dust. It kind of radiates fear when you think of it, and you feel super guilty for leaving it there for so long.

You need to dust off the cobwebs and get a burst of enthusiasm for your dream!

Find someone safe to talk to about the dream. Give yourself space to feel any sadness or guilt or self criticism or any other feelings that have come and settled on it while it was on the shelf. Now let’s get it sparkling again! You need people who see it as absolutely possible, doable and just exactly the kind of thing someone like you might do. When you light your dream up with enthusiasm and sense of possibility again it is a pleasure to be around it and start taking action towards it. Solution: do what it takes to make your dream feel like a happy place again.

4. All or nothing thinking about research or prep has hijacked you. Does this one sound familiar? ‘I can’t possibly start my book because I haven’t finished all the research and I’ll have to research everything so actually I’ll never be ready to start’ or ‘I will never be able to start a business because I would need to do elleventy billion courses first and I don’t have time’.

Do you? Do you really need to do ALL the things?

Can you cheat? Can you just ask three people who know a lot about that thing and see what they say? Can you find one good article that reviews a bunch of stuff and just decide from that? Can you do three hours of research and then start? Sometimes we set up an imaginary perfect scenario as an excuse for why we can’t start – because no busy human has the time or energy to follow our imaginary regime we then have a great excuse to never start.

Imagine you HAD to start tomorrow. What is the bare minimum research or preparation or whatever it is that you could do today? If you reaallly had to? Do that! Then start. And do more along the way as you need it. You’ll have better questions to ask once you get some hands on experience and real life under your belt anyway, so your learning will be richer and more targeted. Solution: don’t believe your hype, you know enough already, just start.

5. Your old mask doesn’t have room for the new you. If you want to BE something but you don’t see yourself ever doing that thing it can be hard to make the shift to owning that part of yourself.

You want to write / sing/ paint/ design/ build / connect but you don’t see yourself as ‘the type of person who…’ (does that thing). Your old identity doesn’t have room in it for this new part of yourself and it resists the introduction of the new.

Try doing a bunch of things that will help you believe that you are the kind of person that does (your thing).

Painting? Go to classes, go to galleries, read books about painting, share your work, tell people you paint. Before long you will believe it. Running marathons? Get outside in your running gear, read fitness magazines, listen to podcasts about running, run around the block. Eventually you will own this thing ‘running’ and see yourself as some one who runs. You can be a beginner, be still learning, be a dabbler but you need to find a way to glue this thing to your sense of YOU. Doing the thing is easier when we don’t have internal resistance because it doesn’t align with our self image. Solution: do all the things you think a writer / painter/ rock climber / business person does, it will help you absorb the new identity with more ease.

These are some of the most common blocks I see stopping people from taking action towards their most heart felt dreams. What else? What do you notice stops you? And more importantly how do you overcome it?

I’d love to hear what resonates most with you from this blog. Comment below or send me an email!

Reader question: help! I can’t slow down.

Q. I run my own business and find I just always want to be working on it. Even when I stop and try to spend time with my family I have ideas and think ‘I could be doing just one more thing’. It’s like in addicted to productivity and can’t stop. It probably doesn’t help that I have a few businesses on the go and true is a lot to do. Have you ever experienced this? What do you do?

 

A. One thing I learnt about a few years ago as part of my art therapy studies that I hadn’t realised before is that the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response activated) doesn’t turn itself off automatically. There are lots of things that trigger it to fire up (eg. Sitting at a computer raises cortisol levels over time, rushing around, stories about what we find stressful, sense of urgency etc), and so unless we actively do things to ‘swap over’ to our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and recover) it just stays switched on!

Combine that with the feel good hit we get when we tick tasks off the list and the sense of virtue from being productive, ‘getting ahead’ etc and it’s easy to understand why working on our biz can be very alluring and hard to stop indeed! Slowing down can feel boring at first, while we are still ‘wired’. To help to move into the rest state, try a progressive muscle relaxation (squeeze and release all your muscles down the body), a hot shower, a slow -eyes wide open looking around as you walk – walk around the block, or something that focuses the mind on the here and now but feels calming (maybe do something with your hands). Stretching, yawning, releasing through tapping or journalling, these are all great too. This will help the stress hormones lower and it will be easier then to change pace.
Longer term you might find it helpful to look at your stories too (this is not always easy or comfortable and can be usefully explored with a counsellor, therapist, coach or healer). Put on your detective hat and see what stories are underneath your actions. Do you believe that down time is wasted time? Are you telling yourself that you can’t afford down time until you hit X income target? Maybe you think resting is lazy and morally bad, and that someone will come and tell you off if you stop working. Maybe you feel like you’re not a good person and only by staying active you prove you are ok and loveable. Or maybe you’re terrified the business will ‘fail’ and you’ll have to go back to that cleaning/ office/ executive /whatever job you don’t want to do anymore. And so when you stop working the ‘bad feelings’ come, and the quickest way you know to avoid them is to keep working.

Sometimes deep under those ‘bad feelings’ is pain. That pain needs to be heard and felt and honoured. That clears the decks ready for us to have a bit more choice and voice in making our own decisions.

Can you introduce some new stories about self care, quiet time, being present for your family etc? Eg ‘rest is when I recharge’, ‘I deserve time to rest and play’, ‘self care is at the heart of my life’, or ‘slow is when my ideas grow’? Play with something that works for you.