It is about connection. It is about creating. It is about following those lines or curiosity until they take you to the next path, then the next.
The things that makes your heart beat faster? Well, they are the things that bring a sparkle to your eye, make you want to keep going, make you feel alive at a soul level, that essential level, that place that you know is home.
I want more of these moments in my life because it’s the moments that make a life. So I ask myself, what am I willing to let go of in order to allow them to enter. What can I re-shuffle? What edge can I step towards? And where is my deep yes.
Making a list of the things, those heart beating moments, brings me closer. The list helps to take us to them because writing them down makes them visible, and where it’s visible we can focus.
So here are some of mine… the deep yes, the beat enduring moments:
It’s those times when I’m listening to someone share their honest, open, brave, raw, indomitable truth – the kind that not only makes my heart beat faster but rips it open too.
It is those moments when I’m painting, about to do the final flick or make brave stroke that will either make it or break it.
It’s when I’m writing and I feel that the words are flowing through me, as if gifted from another.
It is when I reach out to someone I admire and get a loving response.
It is those times on the yoga mat, especially when I have resisted being there, when my body and bones come to a place of surrender and release, clicking itself back into alignment
It’s in the meeting of a stranger, when in a look, an instant, you know you have a friend – that look offers a safe passage to a knowing which time and distance bear no consequence.
It’s with camera in hand, when light is *just perfect* and with a timely click, the elegant and mystical can creep through the lens.
It is those racing moments before I launch- a project, a website, a new offering- when ALL the fear and vulnerability is shouting into the inner chambers of my being while simultaneously waving the red button before my fingertips. Click.
It is sitting in stillness, in silence, until I can hear the sound of my own beat.
It is that second when driving across the Irish landscape an opening occurs- a parting of clouds or the way the light gathers on the green and heather, setting it aglow.
It is just before I’m about to speak in front of a group, especially when I know what I’m about to say is not necessarily the easiest, or most popular, but wants to be said.
It is travelling to a new place, knowing no one, but trusting I soon will.
It is pressing publish.
Go ahead, give yourself a few minutes with your journal to remind yourself what your heart is calling for. What will make you feel alive? You are already close to it. The list will help to take closer. And remember: in the writing it become visible, and where it is visible we can focus.
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What does it mean to really Thrive? How does it feel in the body? And how can we thrive in both business and life?
We were huddled around the table at the last Thrive School gathering when the idea of collectively creating an ‘Anatomy of Thriving’ came to us. It was a way of opening up the conversation about what it means to really thrive as we create our own ventures.
So often on the entrepreneurial journey personal wellbeing is sacrificed in the face of financial or social goals. We can drive projects onwards to the point that we may have a thriving business but we are left depleted. Or we may be so cautious about expending our own energy or stepping out of our comfort zone that we don’t manage to build the momentum needed to carry our creative energy and momentum forward. So where’s the balance? And what are the ingredients to that sweet spot of thriving?
I rolled out a long piece of paper and drew the outline of a body (which we reckoned looked more like a flat Morph than anything human, but none the less…. )
Here’s some of the thriving elements we came up with. It’s a collective work in progress, a Thrive School prototype. As it stands, a helpful guide. I’d love to hear what you’d add too….
Stay earthed: It’s that ground beneath your feet. It’s your community. It’s your sense of place. It’s your values. It’s your gravity and your gravitas. To rise one must first root.
Take the first step: You may not know the final form, but your first step will help determine it. The first step can be tiny. Take it. Reach out to another. Send that email. Ask that question.
Create boundaries: Boundaries may be conversations you need to have with potential partners, or the way you structure your time. They may be decisions about who you share your dreams with. It may even be how much sleep you get. Your boundaries, like the banks in a river, help to give you momentum and direction. Build some. Let them guide you.
Follow your Gut:More often than not your gut is right. It’s the primary and visceral response. Does it feel right in your gut- then it probably is. Does it feel wrong or wary? Then it probably is too…
Be young at heart: Play. Prototype. Experiment. Where’s the fun in it? Fun is a signpost too. It’s there to be followed.
Try your hand: Give it a go. If it fails you can give something else a go. There is learning in that, and where there is learning there is growth.
Amplify your voice: Your story is your gold. You’re worth the weight of it. Get to know the nuances of your own story and then let your voice carry you onwards. Always.
Open your Eyes: There are opportunities everywhere. See patterns. See connections. Join the dots. Make the connections. Observe, then act.
Allow trust to infiltrate everywhere: Trust is the weave of connection between it all. Trust your gut, trust your instinct. Trust that there will be people to guide you and support you. Trust will lead you in the right direction. Trust is the currency of action. Believe in goodness.
Now over to you? What would you add? Dissect away..
Interested in Thrive School? Applications are now open for new cohorts on Cork and Dublin. Apply online here. We start in Cork on Oct 15th and Dublin on Nov 6th
We all have them- those days we’d rather not. The day the internal weather turns on us and we’d rather hide.
I had one last week. It had started with big intentions- to get up early, to do yoga, to dive into work and turn up my energy and productivity. It didn’t happen. I fell back asleep. I did a very brief bit of yoga. I felt resistance to being at my laptop. I ate cake.
Working for myself I try to put best habits in place, be consistent and show up to my work with gratitude for the opportunity and the freedom. But that day, quite simply, I didn’t want to. I wanted to hide. I wanted companionship and I started to question it ALL.
What does it matter in the bigger scheme of things? And I doing the real and important work? Does what I do make any difference at all? Who am I kidding?
The latter question in particular is an open door to my inner critic. For me it’s the ‘your so lazy you’ll never get there’ voice. And when that voice starts it gives rise to lots of others. There is the ‘imposter voice’- this is the ‘who do you think you are’ voice. Then there is the voice which is constantly worrying about building my business and finance- this is the voice which says ‘here you go again, it will never work’. Then there is the more personal one that thinks I’ll be single and alone for the rest of my life- the ‘you’re not good enough voice’. Pretty soon there is a party in my head and the chatter so deafening it is no wonder I want to hide.
It turns out though that most of us have parties in our head. I know of no person who doesn’t experience it from time to time; and of course, I know for some people, the conversation is so loud it challenges longer term function.
What I say now is directed towards the days when you do feel in a slump, and need to find ways to quite the critic. That voice is so sabotaging, and learning to manage it and speak calmly to it is one of the most valuable learning adventures we can go on.
Here are a some of the few ways I find useful. It’s not a definitive list and quite personal to me, so I’d love to hear yours too…
Go for a walk
Nature has so many answers for us. The rhythm of the day, the pattern of the seasons, the crest of a wave reminds us that everything passes. The voice will pass too. When I put my ear up against a gush of wind or the whirl of the sea, the inner voice softens and I hear a deeper wisdom, ‘this too shall pass’.
Open the ‘cheerleading folder’
I have a folder in in email account called ‘cheerleaders’. These are emails I have kept on file from friends, readers and clients who say the good things. They are reminders of the small or big ways my work has reached and influenced them. They are like electronic bouncing castles for the spirit. Everyone should have a cheerleading folder!
Name the inner critic
Give that voice a name, an actual name, like Betty or Bob, or Hilda. When the voice arrives, welcome it and say, ’Here’s Hilda again, I wonder what’s up with her today’, then thank her and ask her to leave now because you are busy and have work to do. Naming the voice does’t deny it but does help to put it in its place. It helps to separate yourself from it too and opens some space from a more positive reaction and response.
Do a job on your list that you enjoy
So maybe the day that your inner critic is speaking loudly is a day you have all the nasty jobs on your list. Scrap that. Instead, do a job that brings you joy, or if it’s not a job, ring a person that brings you joy. Or if not a person, dance in the kitchen, sing in the bath, jump up and down, shake something out. Some action is important. Physical activity really helps. Chats with good friends can work wonders too. Share it, shake it!
Write it out
Journal. Journal. Journal. Scribble. Getting the voice on paper is another way of distancing it. If it is on paper it’s not in your head- or at least not in your head as much.
Shake up your environment, shake up your routine
Walk to work the same route every morning? Change your direction.
Sit at the same place in your house if you are working from home? Move. Work in the garden, or in the bathtub, or on the floor. Changing your external perspective can help to shift your internal perspective. I love to go to a coffee shop and work there too, depending on my mood.
Get off your screens
Turn off your phone, laptop, tv and social media. There are so many messages swarming at us that on days when we are not in great headspace they are amplified and can be so utterly tormenting. Reducing tech stimulation helps to quiet the mind. When it’s not possible to entirely switch off, can you become more aware of your reading and viewing patterns, and limit the time you are using?
Get dressed up
Even if you are working from home, get dressed as if you are going to a really important meeting, or date! Put on the good clothes, put on the red lipstick (or whatever your equivalent is!) , brush your hair. Showing up to yourself, especially on the days when you couldn’t be bothered, helps you to see yourself differently. The inner critic hates that…
Give in (for a day… )
Somedays it just doesn’t budge or you don’t have the energy. Let the day slide. Stay in bed. Go to the cinema. Give yourself permission to have a slow day… the inner critic loves to chime in when you are tired but feeling obliged to be full of energy. Giving ourselves permission is one of the biggest game changers, and one of the hardest to implement… so before you go to bed that night, set some intentions for the following day. Plan your schedule. Set your outfit out and pre-empt some of the critic thoughts. Tomorrow is always another day.
And when all else fails, find a puppy!
It’s hard to be down when there is a little playful animal around! For me, it’s Milly. On days when I just don’t feel up for anything, she still demands love, attention, cuddles and walks. In giving them I receive then all too… and somehow the slump is de-slumped!
Over to you.. any thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?
Thrive School is soon coming to Cork and Dublin. It’s a 5 month programme to build momentum, learn strategies to design your life and business and take your elegant next steps with grit and grace… Find out more over here.
Thrive School has been running now for 5 months, and I have been learning so much. I am encouraged and inspired by the participants. Each have a spark of an idea, want a better life for themselves, and others. There is so much talent, so much potential.
Part of my learning is this:
Universally, I see that keeping momentum going is so hard. Universally, the inner critic chimes in and sets the internal sabotaging demons on the loose. To have a dream, to believe in it, and then to get up and do something about it- well that takes guts. No one said it was going to be easy. But necessary, yes…
I don’t use ‘necessarily’ lightly here. I am a big dreamer. I am always always thinking of the next thing, the next solution. What I have learned is that those dreams are like fuel for my soul and my sanity. The dream is momentum. The dream is my gold. The dream helps me to stay connected to my essence, divinity, power, energy.
And when we are each connected to our dreams and our vision? Well, we have collective rocket fuel. We have a world which is evolving.
You see, I think we need it all now- the talent, ideas and creativity. We need people who are awake, on fire, in love, devoted. The world is going through complex change. It’s easy to loose hope, and the alternative of despair will only set us in circles. We need those dreams; we desperately need new creative solutions.
But we don’t have to do it alone. When we share our dreams, we find allies and supporters, collaborators, clients, funders, beneficiaries, customers, partners and people who we be there for us just at that critical moment when we may be running out of fuel…
Evolve your dream and in doing so you’ll serve others.
In a way you could also call Thrive School a dream factory- a space where people have a chance to share theirs, work on theirs, prototype parts of it, ditch parts of it, discuss and learn tools to build it. Some dreams may take wings, others may pivot into something else… but at a minimum it will have been listened to, given voice and given space to express itself.
Want to be a writer? Great- let’s looks at the support you need to make that happen, the ways you can bring in income to fund it and the ways you are going to get your voice out into the world?
You’re a yoga teacher but finding it hard to find you niche in a community already flooded with yoga teachers. What a great challenge. Let’s looks at ways you can connect with others, design a new programme, and bring yoga into places where it is needed to most…
Your already an artist but find it so so so hard to promote your work and share it online? You are like so many others… let’s take it one step at a time, looking at how to get your work into the right places and the right story to accompany it…
Want to eventually leave your current job to develop a new creative business venture? Great – come and prototype your idea, learning what may work, refine your target audience and test your thinking before you make the big transition…
Thrive School opens it’s doors again in Dublin and a brand new programme in West Cork.
Topics include visioning, marketing, programme development, finance and sustaining momentum. There are 15 places on each programme.
We start on 15th Oct in Cork, and Nov 6th in Dublin
Applications now open, and come along to the open days…
Find out more here.
And if you want to discuss more, message me and we can arrange a skype call to see if you are a good fit.
It may come across as a little clinical, but being accountable is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had while running my own business. I like to think of accountability like a river: the river would be but a deluge were it not for it’s banks and it’s bed. For the river to flow fluidly and effectively, it must have some boundaries.
For me accountability is about setting myself a goal or challenges and then having some mechanisms to help me stay on track– or banks to my freedom. These boundaries can be self regulated or externally regulated- either way though they are there to support my output and momentum.
Working alone from home most of the time it can be very challenging, distracting and at times isolating. To overcome this I have tried to build in accountablity into my weekly routine. When I have let this slip I notice a huge reduction not just in my creativity and productivity, but also in morale and mood.
So, here a few ways to work with accountability- both self regulated and externally, with some tips for working with an accountability partner…
Deadlines are key. Create as many small deadlines as you can by breaking down projects into smaller chunks. As much as possible communicate those deadlines to others. And when you reach a deadline, celebrate or mark it in some way. Marking it helps you to have a feeling of momentum or achievement. Depending on the milestone, the celebration can be a simple as going for a walk or stopping for a cup of tea.
Create regular communications
A weekly blog, a monthly newsletter, a regular podcast or a consistent video release date- having an editorial calendar can help to keep you externally accountable to an readership or support base. Having to produce regular content builds in rhythm and structure to your week and keeps you connected with your clients and network.
Make your goals visible and check in with them on at least a weekly basis. I have mine written up on a A3 sheet of paper which I keep close to my current workspace, and share them with my accountability buddies…
By far one of the most powerful things I have done is work with accountability buddy. This is someone- usually a friend- who agrees to check in with me on a regular basis (generally once a week) and I with them. We share our goals, check in with our momentum and help to keep each other on track. They act as a supportive, listening ear but also someone to challenge, nudge and remind me of what I am are capable of. Importantly they help me see my blindspots and some of the things that I am are overlooking. Ideally we have a good laugh too…
It is important to choose the right person tough, as not all friends will ‘get it’. For myself, a fellow creative or social entrepreneur works best for me; someone who is on a similar path and working on their own big vision.
Here are a few tips for choosing a working with an accountability buddy..
Check in at regularly time slots
Approach it professionally. Especially if you are working with a close friend, treat your accountability arrangement like you would a regular business meeting. Arrive early. Prepare. Stick to the time allocated- this means it is more likely to continue. If you are working with a friend, for instance, but each time to meet it runs on for hours and hours, you can end up regretting the arrangement as you may feel it is distracting from family time or other work time.
You can choose to meet on Skype, in person, or a mixture of both. You may find that at the beginning of your arrangement checking in weekly works best, but then it might move to every two weeks. Keep having conversations about what is working and what is not, reviewing and adapting as you go.
Have a pilot period
Again, especially if you are working with a friend, try it out for a short time first- maybe a three month timeframe. After the agreed timeframe review and see how you are both getting on. Always prioritise friendship. If you arrangement is getting in the way of that, maybe you are not right for each other as accountably buddies but perfect for each other as friends!
Work with your big vision
Let your buddy know your big dream or vision. Let then know what you really really want. Let them in on the secret desire… because they can help to remind you want it is your are working for, especially on days when you feel lost or lacking traction. Your buddy can raise the flag of your future and remind you it is there for the taking.
Agree parameters upfront
Agree with your accountability partner what you are seeking support on. Maybe you want advice on your business model- but maybe you don’t. Maybe you want their input on the design of your website, but maybe you don’t. Unsolicited feedback is some of the most unproductive kinds of feedback and can really deaden a relationship. Working with an accountability buddy doesn’t have to be license to critique everything. So be clear on the kind of support you are seeking on how you want that support to be given.
Avoid complaining (too much!)
We all have bad days. One of the advantages of working with an accountability partner is to have someone to travels the ups and downs with, but if it becomes a regular moan-fest, then it is a joy and momentum killer. Focus on solutions. One of the most powerful questions I know is; ‘what is your elegant next step’. It dilutes drama and shifts things into proactive and productive mode…
Ask proactive questions
Your accountability partner can help you see things you are not seeing. Here are a few questions which may come in handy:
what am I not seeing?
where are the gaps?
what are my blindspots?
are there additional opportunities you see?
who/ what else should I be consulting?
how else can my thinking be challenged on this?
So, how can you create some accountability for yourself? Think about who you may choose and what would be good parameters for your buddy arrangement…
Maybe I can help too…
If you are looking for an accountability buddy, then perhaps we are a good fit? I have a new coaching package which is designed to get you clear on your commitments and keep you on track. Check out ‘Accountability Buddy’ here, and if you are interested let me know, we can arrange a preliminary chat and take it from there…
If you are in the Dublin or Cork regions of Ireland you may also be interested in Thrive School– a 6 month training programme for creative and social entrepreneurs, freelancers, doers and trailblazers! As part off the programme we build in an accountability structure, working with two other peers over the course of the programme. Thrive School is launching again in Dublin and Cork in October. Find out more over here…
Our circadian rhythms chime at our own pace. What is morning for one, is not morning for another. What’s late to some is early to others. And yet, in the world of work, ‘time management’ is a thing and 9-5 productivity taken as a standard.
It is 22.44pm as I begin to write this blog post. It has been on my list all day to write it. But the weather was beautiful, there was music on the street this evening, and I wanted a walk with my dog. And so the writing got delayed, and delayed. But there was trust in my wandering ways too, for by now I know I am a night owl. As the evening descended and a beautiful silence with it, I knew the blog post would come. Writing has always been a night thing for me.
I’ve never been one for regular hours, which is why a regular office job hasn’t suited me. It is the same for so many of the creative and social entrepreneurs I work with- we do this work partly because it can fit in with our own clocks and pace.
Over the last few months, as I have transitioned into a new life in the South West of Ireland, I now aim for 4 hours of concentrated productive time a day; that is really focused time when I can work, move things forward, get things in motion. Whether those hours are in the morning or evening it really doesn’t matter- what matters is the quality of my output, concentration and productivity. Shifting my attention to the consistent quality of my relationship with my work has meant that I am getting more efficient, and having more beach time too.
I get as much done in 4 hours as I did when I used to spend all day at a computer. The shift has been from managing my time, to managing and boosting my energy. I am enjoying life more, work more, and my body more. I take lots of breaks and go on lots of walks. I am cooking more too- enjoying planning my meals and turning off my computer when I eat. So when I do sit back down to do the work, my attention is clearer and more concentrated.
There are days when I do spend lots more than 4 hours working, but only if I am in flow and feeling productive. If I am just staring at a blank screen or hopping from one website to the next, I turn it all off, get up from the table and go for a walk.
Like everything, learning to focus it is a practice, one which I am constantly trying to refine. I am easily distracted so I’ve needed to put some ground rules in place to help me stay on track.
So as learn this practice, here are a few things I have found helpful along the way, and offer a question to you ask yourself too….
Go with the flow
Working in ‘peak hours’- these are the hours when your natural rhythm is heightened. On occasion when I am in ‘the zone’, and when time does not seem to matter, I just roll with this. If energy is flowing, ideas are flowing and creativity on the go, I allow the work to evolve. My peak hours are early afternoon and late evening. Knowing this, I don’t schedule meetings or skype calls before 10am.
*What are your peak hours?
Move every twenty to thirty minutes
More and more I find it increasingly difficult to sit for long periods of time. I have taken to standing when writing emails, and every 30 mins or so, I try to either do some quick chair yoga stretches while sitting, or I get up to shake my legs.
*What can you do to remind yourself to move on a regular basis?
Create blank space
So, it while may look like that I am not ‘working’ all that much at the moment, but my daily walks are essential blank spaces. They are my idea generating/ incubation spaces. My walking time is time to think, process, plan, digest, innovate. It is time to be curious. It is often when I am walking that a solution to a problem will come, or an idea will pop. I usually have a journal with me to jot down any ideas along the way, I take some phone notes, or even record a voice memo into my phone. Sometimes I choose to take a particular client on an imaginal walk with me- thinking through some of their issues or challenges, and then seeing what resources, ideas, or solutions arise when I think about them- ideas I’ll later email. So as I get to exercise, my dog gets exercise and my clients get exercise too!
*What does blank space mean to you? How can you create more of it in your daily schedule?
Schedule and structure time
While there is a lot of white and open space in my week, I am also becoming a lot more structured with how I use the remainder of my time. I have found ‘chunking’ meetings to be really helpful- scheduling them in blocks and around other meetings or appointments which I have. So when I need to go into the town or city I try to keep as many meeting together as possible. This has become even more important now that I am living in the countryside and don’t want to be spending all my time driving from one meeting to another.
*What blocks of your work can you chunk together?
Block weekly regular activities
Monday is always the day I do banking and send invoices, Tuesdays and Thursdays are Thrive School days. Wednesday has a two hour study time block and is my preference day for booking in private client calls. Having this rhythm to each week sets me up. Within each day there is a lot of flow, but each day has a weight and intention to it, which helps to keep me focused on the tasks at hand. It also helps my clients know when they may hear from me.
*How might you ‘weight’ your own week? What intention can you give to each day?
One touch method
It is a simple premise: if you touch it, finish it.
This is about linking single tasks as chunks and as much as possible following individual tasks to an end. Picked up a dirty cup? Wash it there and then. Needing to process photos? Upload, process, export and send all in one go. I’ve written more about the methodhere.
*Think through a few task which you could apply this method too. Give it a go for a week and see what you notice…
Tune into what fuels you
Naturally there are days where the slump hits (it happens to us all). So, rather than battling it, asking, ‘What will nourish me now? What will fuel me?’. Depending on the day, weather or season, this can vary greatly. Sometimes it is a conversation with a close friend, sometimes it is a walk by the sea, sometimes it is heading to a coffee shop with my journal or sometimes it is as simple as having a glass of water…
*Make a re-fueling list. What are the simple things that you can incorporate into your daily schedule which nourish and sustain you?
Have the right conversations
Carving those four hours of concentrated time can require some upfront work or conversations. I don’t have a designated office space at the moment, so I need to communicate with those around me when I don’t want to be interrupted, why, and when they can ask me any questions. Depending on the work I am doing, it often means needing to turn off the internet for a period of time so I don’t get distracted by online conversations.
*What conversations do you need to have to create focused time for yourself?
Keep the vision alive
Why do you do what you do? What it is all for? What will you use your earnings on? How is your work impacting the world? Keeping the ‘why’ alive is a motivator, and helps with focus. Pinterest is a great tool for vision boards, as too working with an accountability buddy to keep having conversations about your dreams and visions. Connecting in with a vision is like keeping the gaze directed. As such, actions can follow.
*What is your why and how can you keep is alive in your day to day activities?
So there are a few of my own tips. Got any of your own? Feel free to share in the comments below…