Year in Review – Prompt #1 Books

Through the last two months of 2018 I’m sharing some end of year reflection prompts to help you integrate the experiences of this year and finish up feeling good about yourself, your journey, the year that was and the year that’s coming up.

Here is the first Year in Review reflection and journaling prompt….
—–
What books/ articles/ blogs did you read this year?
Take an hour this week to sit down with pen and paper (or laptop and coffee) and jot down all the books you can remember that you read this year.
1. What themes interested you most?
2. What kinds of characters inspired you?
3. What kinds of feelings/ experiences were you looking for in your reading?
Write for 10 minutes about each of these questions (or another question that feels like it needs answering).
4. Wrap up: what have you learnt about yourself and your year based on what you read? Write freehand for 10 minutes on this, without editing or judgement. Put whatever comes to mind.
5. Wish for next year: What would you like to read more of next year? Write for 5 minutes about this, let it be impulsive, free and creative, steer clear of guilt or shoulds.

That’s it!

Enjoy.

And remember to be kind to yourself as you reflect and write – accept and be kind to yourself about whatever you read, whatever you felt, whatever you were drawn to.

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.

How Creative Art Helps Me

The following post is a beautiful guest piece by a coaching client who wishes to remain anonymous. She describers how art making is part of her self care and self soothing toolkit and how engaging in art making can shift her focus and mood. I’m pleased to share this piece that speaks in a moment to moment way about how creative expression can be a ‘go to’ in times of pain and how it can provide solace.

While making art at home is not technically art therapy (art therapy happens while a client is working with an art therapist), I encourage all the clients I work with to explore journal writing and expressive art making both between sessions and in an ongoing way after our therapy or coaching relationship has ended, because of the wonderful lifelong benefits that creative expression offers us. 

I am an incredibly selfish person*.

I say that because when I feel deep emotional pain, there is nothing else that exists. Pain takes over completely. I can’t hear the thoughts that could remind me of my fortunes. I have a gorgeous, healthy child who loves me to the moon and back. I have a warm home, delicious food on my table, amazing friends who surround me and work that makes my heart sing.

But when I feel pain, nothing else matters. Pain’s mission is to swallow me. To isolate me from the world. To convince me that I am worthless of even existing. To reassure me that feeling strong and capable was just an illusion.

There’s nothing else but me and my pain in the whole of universe. Me. Me. Me.

But then I remember I have watercolour pencils and a gorgeous watercolour paper block.

It all starts slowly. I scribble around a bit with my favourite colour of the moment. I put it back in its place carefully and take another one in my hand. Reverently. My focus is entirely on the beauty that emerges on its own.

Slowly my entire focus is on the sound of the colour pencil gently scratching the surface of the rough paper.

There is no right or wrong. There is no mind involved to be passing such a judgement.

I just doodle around with pretty colours. From time to time, I take a black pencil to make a contour and then go back to the colours.

The pain eases away. Just a bit, yet enough to remember a friend who is going through a very difficult life event. Her mourning must be a hundred times deeper than my current pain.

I keep on scribbling as I observe the compassion rising from the depths of my chest. And yet I feel only an echo of her pain! How lonely, how devastated she must be feeling in this moment!

When I fill a plastic cup with water and pick a soft paintbrush, I start dissolving some of my beautiful colour clouds into pools of imaginary tears. The soul is screaming in its whispering way. Yellows merge with magenta pinks, the petrol blue collides with the sunset purple-orange.

I start feeling one with her. The more I get lost in the surprising emerging shapes on the paper, the more I feel the rightness of everything that exists. She is where she is right now and she is there for a reason. This world needs her wisdom. She needs her devastating experience to open the doorway to that wisdom.

All of a sudden it dawns on me! I outsmarted that pain. My story is no longer just about me and my isolation. It is not about hopelessness and worthlessness. It is about beauty. It is about oneness. It is about higher lessons of our existence.

It is a vital shift of perception.

It is a victory.

And it took as little as a box of watercolour pencils and the roughness of the white watercolour paper.

 

Image: Thanks to Martin Jelovsek (http://www.tone-sound.eu), shared with permission.

*Also, I note that I feel uncomfortable at her assessment of selfishness. It jars with me and what I observe of her. “After all doesn’t pain often contract our view of ourselves and our world? Aren’t we all selfish in this same way when we feel pain? Aren’t we allowed to go inward and be preoccupied by our pain at these times?” I wonder.  Then again, as I think some more, I feel a sting of recognition – don’t we often berate ourselves for all the things we perceive as character flaws in ourselves much more when we are feeling pain? Don’t we tell ourselves we are terrible people, and selfish and uncaring precisely in those moments when we are most in pain? And I try to bring myself back to noticing with curiosity how she speaks about herself, not making my interpretation more central to our work than her own. 

Love letter to a New Year

 

Dear New Year,

 

May you be fresh and fun.

 

May you have ups and downs, sunny days and storms.

 

May we walk together with mutual respect.

 

May you surprise us all.

 

May you remind us of our shared humanity and of our care for each other.

 

May you take us places we weren’t expecting and couldn’t have imagined.

 

May there be laughter, tears, hands held and hugs.

 

May there be plenty of space within you for sitting under trees and having bare feet on earth, bare legs in cool water.

 

May you shift and change us in ways we weren’t expecting and might not have been brave enough to do alone.

 

May you challenge us so that we find our core values over and over again and so that we finish you feeling brave and resolute and strong.

 

May you cradle us when we feel tired and gentle and soft so that we finish you feeling loved and held and safe.

 

Dear year, may you offer us many moments of curiosity, joy, reflection, peace, adventure and hope.

And may I remember that whatever you are, however you unfold, I have choices in how I respond, that my inner world is a space I can shape through learning, healing and mindfulness.

Thankyou for sharing your wonderful self with me new year.

 


 

Letter writing is a format we can use to process and capture our hopes and wishes for the year. Why not give it a go yourself? 

And once you’ve reconnected with what matters most to you this year, see if you would like some company, support and input while you take practical steps towards your dreams. I have openings for 2 new coaching clients to work with me this half of the year. See my Coaching page for package details and get in touch. 

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