Year in Review – Prompt #2 Peaks and troughs

Sometimes we are encouraged to dive into a vision for the new year without processing the year that has been. Have you ever experienced that?
As an art therapist and coach I know that feeling, accepting and integrating our feelings, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is an important part of good health, and an important part of feeling authentically energised for the future.
Through the last two months of 2018 each week I’ll be sharing some end of year reflection and journaling prompts I have developed to help you integrate the experiences of this year and finish up feeling clearer and more accepting of yourself and the year that was.
Here is the second Year in Review prompt….
—–
Peaks and troughs
Take an hour and some pen and paper (or laptop and coffee) and consider the following prompts:
– What were the highlights of this year in terms of events or peak experiences? The things that felt most fun, energising, connecting, satisfying etc. Take 10 minutes and and make this a list or write a few sentences about each if you like.
– What were the hardest moments of this year in terms of events or experiences? The things that felt sad, disappointing, frustrating etc. Take 10 minutes and and make this a list or write a few sentences about each if you like.
Try to give each of these lists the same amount of time, use a timer if you like.
Take a few deep breaths and sit with any feelings that arise, knowing that whatever you have experienced you have made it through to the here and now, showing strength, flexibility and perseverance. Reread the highlights list before you move on to the next part.
Now take 10 minutes for each of these questions:
1. Looking at these two lists, what do they tell you about what you care about; that is what you hold dear, what is important to you, what you value?
2. Looking at these two lists, what do they tell you about your strengths and resources as a person? What personal qualities, support networks and resources helped you navigate all these experiences?
2. Based on that information, what are some things you would like to include in your life next year? What strengths and resources will you draw on to make that happen?
—–
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 experienced, whatever you did or didn’t do, 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.

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

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!

Saturated with details

Sometimes I find that the world feels saturated with details. Fine grain tiny details, a flood of information.

Each tiny thing is full of complexity.

Each eye view of world is a cacophony of sound and colour, movement, light and texture.

Each object has a hundred possible pathways and uses and histories.

Each human interaction full of said and unsaid, felt and not said, said and not felt – a rich tapestry, a complex exchange with echoes of feeling and meaning that lingers long after the exchange.

Each moment is laden with sensation.

Each possibility is supported by whirling cosmos of reactions and predassessors.

No wonder I like quiet time, my mind and body is often full of sensation and thoughts from the days before. A day with no plans and no people is not ‘boring’ to me – left with my inspirations, impressions and ideas I am swimming around happily between them, and processing, processing, processing.

I could happily chew all this over for a thousand lifetimes.

 


A note to you dear reader…

What is my point in this blog? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have one. It’s just a glimpse into how life feels for me. As well as being a ‘professional’ offering services I am a human being trying to make sense of existence; what is feels like to be alive, what it feels like to be in a body, what it feels like to have frustrations and pain and inspiration and joy.

I could say that I share this with you because it helps show that I’m not perfect, or that self reflection and acceptance is part of my professional practice, or that bringing our awareness to our minds and bodies is part of what art therapy seeks to do so I’m showing you that I do this too.

But really I share this with you because I felt it and just wanted to share.

And because writing and reflecting is part of my creative practice and you are kind enough to read it.

I offer you these crumbs and hope together we can enjoy them.

I offer you these crumbs and hope one or two of them might nourish you.

I offer you these crumbs and hope that you might feel braver to leave your own small gifts around.

Here’s to crumbs. Here’s to noticing. Here’s to sharing.

Press pause and make version 1.0

When we are creative it can feel like we have never ‘arrived’ at the structure of the thing we want to work on. The big picture decisions keep shifting and changing – so how are we ever meant to knuckle down and make the thing when we haven’t landed on the design yet?

This happened to me recently when I was working on a complex report. I kept coming up with new ideas for how to structure the report, new content, the headings and lay out and structure of the document kept changing. I knew if I continued I would have a half done outline and nothing written, all my hours of thinking invisible in the previous versions of the structure I had worked on and discarded as my thinking had evolved. At one point I had to say to myself ‘just stick with this structure, even if it’s not the best, just stick with it and write a draft of every section’.

It can be painful to press pause on the creative process and knuckle down to start making within a defined structure. What helps me is to think of these stages as different types of work.

I think ‘hmm, ok I’m getting carried away with design right now, when what I need is content. I need to flip into making content, and later and can revise the big picture again’.

My creative brain needs to be acknowledged, and to know it’s not getting sidelined on the project, even if I am pressing pause on that kind of big picture thinking. I know that I can layer the approach so that sometimes I am assessing big picture, and sometimes I am working to that vision and filling in the details.

I think this can happen in our lives as well. We get paralysed or lost in the depths of dreaming up possibilities for our lives, but sometimes forget to press pause on the idea generating and actually fill in the details to bring one vision to life. And that’s shame, because bringing one vision to life doesn’t mean we can’t rearrange it later, can’t redesign, restructure. Only this time we have some juicy content to move around as well, and sometimes in the doing it helps highlight new things that we want to consider in the design or big picture.

So whether it’s writing a document or thinking about your next career or life move, remember to pair thinking with action. At some stage press pause and make version 1.0, you can always rearrange things later.

Need help getting started? Get in touch and book a free QandA to see whether coaching might be a good fit for you. 

Making: letters to strangers

Have I told you about how I write letters to strangers?

No not in a weird stalkery way, but as part of a US based project called ‘More Love Letters‘.

Not romantic love letters, but letters written from a place of loving kindness, a human-to-human-full-of-care way. Each month they post a few fresh letter requests for people who are having a hard time and could do with some encouragement.

A friend or relative or coworker has usually has made the request and the More Love Letters team chooses 3 or 4 to publish each month.

I like it.

No scrap that, I love it.

A few years ago when I was really struggling with work and feeling disheartened about ‘what next?’, I found them and started writing letters almost weekly for this project. It was that kind of beatifully selfish altruism that made me feel great. Every time I popped a nicely written, colourful card into the letterbox I think I got a hit of some kind of home-made happy drugs and walked away with more bounce in my step.

Now I’ve worried about this (of course I have! I get anxious, worry is my special superpower), and wondered things like:

– what if the person getting them hates it and is really embarassed that somone shared their misfortune with the world?

– what if I write the wrong thing? Maybe I will make them feel worse or they’ll think it’s mawkish or boring?

– what if I’m actually being really selfish because shouldn’t I be writing to my actual friends and family* who need my support, not random strangers?

– isn’t this the kind of stoopid tokenistic gesture that just assuages the guilt of the middle class and does nothing to address entrenched structural disadvantage? **

So if you think those things too I won’t blame you. But meanwhile I’m happy that I’ve got on with doing it despite the doubts, because it’s a small gesture of kindness that I can easily weave into my day and do while sitting and waiting for someone or while I drink my morning coffee. Is cheap – a $2.95 stamp will wing it across the world for me, and plays to my strengths – oh hello I love writing and snail mail.

So there you have it. An easy fun way to get a feel good buzz in less than half and hour and change from a $5 note.

Give it a go! See if you want to add it to your basket of self-care activities! Let me know below if you are a fan of snail mail too, or if you have ever sent a letter to someone you don’t know as part of your own creative adventures. 

* which is funny, because I write to friends and family too.

** probably. Somewhat. But I’ve also done my fair change of trying to change policy and stuff I promise. (I’m reminding my self this).

It’s the Little Things

I was working with a coaching client recently who wanted to do some regular writing for creative expression, and she reflected ‘I realise now how it’s so hard to do it alone, and really it’s the little things that make a big difference’.

The little things like where you will work, how long you will do it for, what ‘rules’ you’ll have for yourself, how flexible you will be, what motivates you, what success will look like.

I agree with her. When it’s our own dreams we can expect ourselves to jump from here to there with nothing in between. But figuring out those little things demystifies the process and helps build the bridge that we will follow to get there.

Every big grand dream is made up of tiny, detailed, boring, humble, prosaic, unglamorous steps.

The rock concert with lights and the rush of emotions and big hair and slick dancers is preceded by years of practice and hustling and lugging guitars and meetings and hoping and cursing. It is held together by roadies in dusty jeans, and gaffa tape, and cords and bottle of water and schedules and tour buses and passports and all the tiny details that help bring a dream to life.

A dream runs the risk of seeing like a job lot – we either have the lot of it, at once, right now, or we can’t get there at all. It feels like an all or nothing affair. We are impatient, and we would rather not work towards it but rather keep the wish holy and pristine and safe and hovering just out of reach in the ‘some day’.

You can’t skip the details.
You might not want to think about the details.
A good coach can help you bring the dream into the here and now and get you moving on taking small, safe, practical steps that get you on the path to where you want to go.

Growing ideas from flower to seed

A lot of clients I work with have great ideas but these ideas don’t come to life. Why is that?
Let’s talk the Birds and the bees – remember high school biology?

When a plant makes a flower it is putting all that gorgeousness out there ready to catch the pollen from another flower. It lays there open and colourful,hoping to attract a bee, a moth, a beetle or even just the wind to bring pollen from another flower over into its deepest recesses. When the pollen is absorbed into the centre of the flower the flower is pollinated. It then starts to grow its fruit.

The plant needs to nourish that tiny fruit with its seed nestled inside and have it grow and mature. When it’s mature the seed deep inside the fruit is fertile and ready to be planted and grow. Then something needs to pick up the fruit and take it somewhere that the seed can grow. This can be gravity, the wind, an animal munching on the fleshy outside of the seed and discarding the core…etc.

That moment of pollination is just the start. The formation of the idea is not the endpoint.

Our ideas are much like this.
– We need to be open to outside influences to receive that ‘aha’ which pollinates our idea.
– We need to hang onto the idea and not throw it out into the world too soon before we’ve had a chance to let it grow
– to nourish the idea we need water, light, air and that which nourishes us
– Eventually when it’s ripe we do need to let it go
– We need to find a way to move it from ourselves to fertile ground
– to get the idea into the world we need to make our idea appeal to a particular audience who will find it delicious, they will help carry it to fertile ground
– and then we need to get on with growing the next flower
Just like a plant, not every flower needs to be pollinated, not every infant seed needs to be matured and planted.

But isn’t it enough just to have the ideas?
Yes, having ideas is beautiful. It feels good.
Or rather it can. If you are happily producing ideas and they are entertaining you keep going!
If you worry about losing them, write them down.
But if your ideas feel like possibility that you aren’t bringing into the world and that makes you sad – sad for your lost opportunities, worried that maybe you will never do what you love or take a chance on creating something – then maybe your idea’s want to be nourished and sent out into the world in mature form.

Meanwhile the plants also contribute to lush fertile soil that seeds grow well in (by dropping their leaves, by supporting tiny bacteria underground, by doing fancy things with water). Not just for their seed, but all around them.

Is there a stage of idea making that you find challenging? Do you tend to drop your ideas before they are mature and have a vehicle out into the world?

How are you making the world a safer place for other people’s ideas? How could you create a nutrient rich space for growth whether it be your idea or another’s?

 


Get moving on your ideas in 2017: If you would like help to get unstuck and get your ideas out there I am your girl! With 15 years project management experience – dreaming up projects and helping bring them to life with community groups and partner organisations locally and around the world – I thoroughly understand what it takes to make ideas ‘stick’ and grow. On top of that I have personal experience of bringing my own creative work into the world, baby step by baby step. I GET how close to our hearts our dreams are and how hard it can be to move forward on our own ‘stuff’ – the most precious but sometimes last on our lists stuff – even if we are capable and smart and competent in other areas of our life.

I love to work right along side you as a mentor, guide and sometimes even team member on your project. I will be your cheer squad, brainstorm partner, strategy whizz, accountability boss, and ally as you face the brave and courageous work of saying your dream out loud and moving towards it.  Don’t go it alone, when help is available. My coaching packages are HERE. Drop me a line today to get started or ask questions HERE.