The autumn equinox is a time when the light and the dark are in equal measure; some refer to this time as a balancing of the light and the dark, the night and the day.
However, balance is a fragile and precarious place. Any person who has ever attempted Vrksasana, or ‘Tree Pose’ in yoga will be able to tell you that ‘balance’ is only the result of perpetual adjustments- the continual micro movements necessary to make to maintain the one-legged balance. The ‘balance’ is in the way the inhale and the exhale exchange, it is in the shifting of weight in the standing leg to account for this upper body movement and it is in the counterweighting of the hips to accommodate the natural fluctuations of energetic pulses up the spine. To be in balance is to be in constant adjustment.
And yet, ‘work-life balance’ has been projected on society as an achievable goal, and individuals tend to admonish themselves if they are unable to reach it. They are not able to reach it because it does not exist.
So, what if, instead of aiming for balance, we aim for equanimity. This is a place of composure, stability, and spaciousness in times of flux.
Below I am sharing two practices for equanimity. The first is a physical practice related to the breath, and the second is a journaling practice to deepen the learnings. It is best if the practices are done in order- the physical preceding the written.
1) Take a few moments of pause, sitting comfortably. As you sit, begin to bring some awareness to your breath. Trace your breath for a few rounds, observing the natural flow of the inhale and the exhale.
2) Once you have tuned into this pace of breath, invite the qualities of equanimity into your breath. Can your breath be more composed? Can your breath be steadier? How about more spacious? Notice how your breath alters when you invite in these equalising questions.
3) With your next few breaths begin to bring a steady and equal exchange of breath between the inhale and the exhale. You can introduce a count of breath to support you- inhaling for the count of 3, then exhaling for the count of 3. Slowly extend this count, increasing the length of the inhale and the exhale until you reach the count of 6. Continue this steady, balanced and spacious breath for a few minutes.
4) After a few minutes release the count of breath and allow your breathing to fall back to its regular rhythm. Notice the feelings and sensations within the body.
5) Within this quiet space of contemplation, journal your responses to the following questions:
What does equanimity feel like for me?
Where do I need to create more space in my life?
What parts of my life are seeking composure?
What one thing can I do today to honour this desire for composure, space and stability?
What parts of my life are seeking stability?
What small adjustments can I make to my day or week to create equanimity within all elements of my life?
Residing in the Celtic heritage (and thus imagination) there are emblems of feminine power, resilience and guardianship. I met these figures of Sile NaGig in the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork last week, and once again was struck by the strength of the symbolism. The female, open vulva, open breasted, were placed on sacred ground, perhaps representing portals to the otherworld—fertile thresholds into creativity and receptivity, or as empowered emblems of the Goddess. No shame, no guilt, no corporeal covering or body blaming. Here, the feminine as sacred ground too– wedded to the land and wedded to the Gods, — the feminine of intuition, protection, fecundity, and power.
We see the feminine voice rising again, claiming back it’s power through referendum and marches, movements and turning points in our collective history, and now too, I think, a time to deeply reclaim the feminine in not only our institutions and laws but also how we create each day we have been gifted and how we use our gifts. Whether male or female, we can honour the feminine (the intuition and power) by noticing all the ways we are giving it away. The ‘always on’, ‘badge of busy’, is based on linear models of growth and productivity. It comes from the industrial era, where to be productive was to been deemed efficient and thus worthy. But it’s not efficient. It’s eating our land’s resources, it’s constantly selling us things we don’t need, it’s advertising subverts the feminine form and feminine spirit in so many ways.
When we are in our creative bodies, tapped into deep core needs of belonging and ‘aliveness’; when we are writing or painting or creating organisations, businesses, or projects which honour cycles of time, and cycles of growth; when we refuse to define our worth by how busy we are or how much we can produce, this is the reclamation. And that’s a radical thing, because it can topple these linear growth models. A woman in her full power, is not a full-on capitalist consumer- instead she is creating, sharing, connecting, yeilding, resting, opening her body and breast to the land and to the sky, realising her body is enough, and her creativity is her birthright. And as men, in their feminine, their emotions are their path and power, their worth too is not defined by how much they can earn or produce or contribute to the economy, but by their wholeness and their beauty too.
We all have so much to (re)learn. For me; it means creating the ‘things’ even when it doesn’t make ‘rational sense’, for the sake of it. Does it make me come alive? Does it connect me to a deeper power and a deeper voice.
Then that, follow that…. this is my own personal revolution. And yours?
Hello all, and hope the summer has been unfolding well for you.
Time for some updates and stories. So, grab yourself a cuppa, make yourself comfortable, as I invite you to dive in. You can listen to this post below (10 min listen)
The Immram and the Aisling.
The weather is on a cusp between summer and autumn here in West Cork. Outside the coffee shop window the harbour is still cast with sails and the voyagers are off to seek their pleasure. The sails are bobbing and dancing on the dancing water, letting the wind take them further out. There is so much power in this unseen force.
The sailboats shrink as they get closer to the horizon, leaving my sight as dots, then vanishing across a thin line. What must it have taken back in the day, I wonder, to journey across this line, into what was unknown, uncharted lands. What quest was strong enough to carry these men into the dark sea?
The power of dreaming, and the power of quest, is a power, it would seem bequeathed to men back then, but I can’t help thinking of the women. How did they voyage? How did they quest? So I am searching for the stories.
I turn first to the immrama. In ancient Irish mythology there are tales of men who embarked on heroic sea quests —an immram. They’d set sail on pilgrimages which had no end. It’s wasn’t about reaching a holy place, a Mecca, but the journey itself which held the gold. They didn’t know where they were going but trusted that wherever they landed would offer them clues and some unusual gifts. St. Brendan’s immram, for instance, was an epic sea voyage which took him and his monastic crew into islands of the otherworld, of the mystical and the fanciful, the magical or the surreal — each landing was an island of story and experience. There was the island of sheep and the island paradise of birds. There was an island of grapes- on which they dined for 40 days. Then there was the island on which they lit a fire, only realising it wasn’t an island at all, but a whale. Imaginal or real, the immram was always a creative, almost mystical adventure, the force of which had the power to transform those who dared to journey. One could only return a changed man. Still I wonder of the women.
So, I turn to the Aisling, in search of clues. The Aisling is a poetic form which appeared much later, around the 17th Century, in which a dream or a vision was presented to a bard. The dream was to stir up nationalist or political sentiment, and incite feelings of love and loyalty towards Ireland. The ‘Aisling’, was always in the shape of a female figure who came as spéirbhean, or sky-woman, a heavenly creature who was the carrier of the dream. So, why was it always the men to have the big dreams and the license to sea-quest? So, once again I wonder—What of the women? How did they find their quest? What vision was presented to them? And to what were they called?
I took a boat to an island a couple of weeks, not to quest, but to be in conversation and friendship. It was a Tuesday. The sky was tussled but the sun was promised. So I packed a picnic, rain-gear and my swimming togs, popped Milly on her lead, and then collected my friend Jennifer from the next village over. It’s only a five minute ferry journey to Heir Island from Cunnamore Pier, and by the time we got there, we were already in a different world.
In the two years I have known her, Jennifer has become a dear and trusted friend. She wraps me in listening and helps me see the truth of myself, and the truth of my future-self too. You see, Jennifer is a film-maker. She is one of those people who has a beautiful blend of talent and humility, so when she speaks of her craft and her creative process, she speaks as a learner and a fellow seeker too. She does not proclaim to have the answers. And so we read poems, and talk of open hearts and broken hearts. She tells me of the films she is working on. I tell her of the books I am working on. In between we laugh at silly jokes, drink another cup of tea, then jump into the sea. I am aware that it is a Tuesday, mid-week. I am aware this is another form of wealth. I am aware that this is not considered ‘work’, but I feel alive, and I feel clear, and I feel like I can, in fact, accomplish anything, if only I keep listening to the conversations which are alive in me, then following the conversation into my heart where I will be shown how to keep responding creatively, shown what to do next.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because, I think it has to do with women, and their immram and their Aisling, how we journey, and how we vision. I think it is about how we make our way over the horizon to that place beyond our current sightline, a place we know our hearts are longing to be.
A couple of nights ago I finished the final chapter of a memoir I am working. It is still very much in draft form. There is lots and lots more work to do, but I have made it to a point in the process where I sense there is light. A couple of months ago I wanted to pack it all in. It had been taking so much longer than I thought it would. The timeline of any of our lives is never linear and definitely not straightforward and I was still trying to find the core themes from which I could weave a stronger story. I had hit a part of the process where it all felt chaotic, unruly, even impenetrable. Here was a warren of stories which were not falling into a neat narrative arc, a thing I could easily call ‘a book’, and I was beginning to question the whole venture. ‘Who am I to call myself a writer?’, a little voice nagged, and ‘who was I ever to even begin?’
But that day on the island, something clicked. My journey, my immram suddenly came into focus. I was aware, yes, that it was a Tuesday mid-week, but I was also aware of the choices which had led me to this point, sitting on an island, feeling alive, feeling completely at sea. I have been led to voyage in new ways. It has meant listing to a voice which encouraged me to write, despite myself. It meant leaving my home in Dublin and moving to an entire new place. It meant asking questions of myself, my mother and my lineage which I have never dared ask before, and it has taken me into a whole new orbit of friendships and connections, on a Tuesday, on an island, speaking of stories.
So, I think I am beginning to see; our dreams, our Aislings, happen through the Immram, the journey. It’s how creativity works. We meet it halfway, and it takes us along for one hell of a ride. It’s not about waiting for the ‘sky-woman’ to descend and offer the dream, but the dream comes from the whispering of the unknown force. Call it a creative urge, the one deep within, which quietly keeps on tugging and says, ‘look here, this is interesting, follow me’. There is no major fanfare, there is no ecstatic cry, but following the whisperings of our creative urges is like those boats being led to the great beyond through the power of wind and the power of sail. There is a sense of heart opening, an uplift, and a pull to follow the urge out over that thin line of knowing and not knowing.
But here comes the challenge: the whisper- it’s so easy to silence. ‘Oh, that’s just a silly idea’, ‘Oh, that will never work’, ‘Who am I to write, or tell that story, or create that business, or start that thing’. So we sit in the coffeeshop, still waiting for the descent of the Aisling, while looking at others set sail, and we slowly begin to shut down our vital life-force, our creative power, the little voice knocking on the doors of our heart and saying, ‘follow me’. Little do we realise that beside us in the coffeeshop is a Jennifer, a woman who knows that the Aisling is in the immran, and if you tap on her on the shoulder, and ask her to tell you a story about her journey and her questions, soon you’ll find yourself jumping into the sea of yours. Our guides are always closer than we think.
After the island that day, with laughter lines still salty, and my hair knotted with sand, I realised the only way to get through the chaos was to face the chaos. So I got out my yoga mat, I put on some music, I danced until the sand fell out of my hair, and then I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote, until I got to the end of what I needed to get to, enough to know I was on the other side of the horizon. I came up for air, to say that yes, this journey, this life, this immram, the feeling, this is the dream that has been seeking me. Yes, it’s always closer than we think.
So I want to tell you, reader, that urge inside, that voice which says, ‘follow me’, no matter how quiet, no matter how silly, this is our gold. Our creativity has a gift of aliveness, a gift of both the immram and the Aisling. We can not return, but changed. So, yes, as those ancient voyagers knew, it’s not about the mecca, but it is about the pilgrimage —the ultimate journey home. No matter who you are, your creativity is ready to take you on the ride of your life. The way is in the whisper. Listen, then listen deeper, then tap the shoulder of the woman next to you, and start the conversation. That may be just enough to begin.
Feeling creatively stuck? Here’s 55 quick things you can do to unstick! All in less than 5 mins. GO.
Write a note to your inner artist.
Write a haiku.
Mimic a bird.
Draw a self portrait in 60 seconds.
Take a photo of an item that inspires you.
Find a new recipe and commit to making it this week.
Write a Limerick.
Tie your shoelaces with your non-dominant hand.
Make a paper airplane.
Dance on the spot to silence for 60 seconds.
Hand write a letter to someone who you admire. Post it.
Describe your favourite colour without using that colour’s name.
Write down a word that you really like the sound of. Sing it.
Rub your head and belly in opposite directions.
Draw the letter ‘A’ in 10 different ways.
If you could circumnavigate the globe, what route would you take?
Sit in silence for 2 minutes and listen to the music of your breath.
Close your eyes. Place your hand on your head and feel the texture of your scalp.
What colour would you be if you were a colour?
Draw your favourite childhood toy.
List 20 uses of a tea pot, other than for tea
Set a timer for 5 minute. Keep writing without stopping until the buzzer sounds.
Write your name with your non-dominant hand.
Take a picture of your feet- what surfaces do they touch?
Sing out loud for 3 minutes. Don’t stop.
Take a picture of the ‘essence’ of something in front of you. What is its real beauty?
Memorise a poem you love.
Draw a picture of snakes and ladders.
Look up: take a picture. What do you notice?
Shake your body for 2 mins. Yes, shake it.
Drink a glass of water from the opposite side.
List your top 5 of your favourite things. Now list them backwards. Now alphabetically. Now backwards alphabetically.
If you could be an animal, what would you be? Make that sound.
Pretend to be rain falling.
Think of the word ‘black’. Now dance the opposite.
Conduct an imaginary orchestra.
Bark like a cow. Moo like a dog.
Draw somebody standing on their head.
Set a timer for 5 min. Invent a board game. Go.
Spell your full name backwards.
Make up an alphabet.
Draw the best slide you could ever imagine sliding down.
Draw a pattern with circles and triangles.
Write down 10 things you used to love to do when you were 10. Do one of those.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Invent a robot. Go.
Mimic a dawn chorus.
List 5 textures you really like.
Think of the word ‘good’. Now sing the opposite.
Invent a new game using a piece of fruit.
Create on paper the best day of your life. Draw the details.
If snakes could draw, what would they draw. Draw that….
Walk backwards in a circle
Use your camera upside down.
Set a timer for 5 mins. Make up your own ‘Get unstuck list’. Go.
Need a bit of extra support?
I am currently taking creative coaching bookings. The Winter Sessions is open. 3 months to gain momentum and traction on your creative project. Time to get that book written? Time to finally launch your thing?
What’s on your mind? What keeps you up at night? What questions do you carry? What is your heart longing to say? What is it that you want to birth? What is it that you want to jettison? What is it that you plan to do with your own wild and precious life?
Why do I ask? For many reasons.
I’ve been asking these questions of myself, and I suspect I’m not the only one.
You see, I’m marking several thresholds. Firstly, it’s been six months since I made the big move out of Dublin down to the wilds of West Cork. I’ve had six month of open landscape and big skies, of wild encounters and starry nights. I’ve had six months of coastal walks and hedgerow viewing, and each time I’m out in nature it seems like I am seeing it all for the first time- it always seems like the first time, for it always is. The new is in the way the light arrives each day, or the uprising of a wave, or the tumble of cloud or the particular shade of green at that particular moment. Six months seems like nothing at all but it is enough for me to realise that the space has been releasing me from certain ideas I’ve had of myself, or even certain ambitions, and in turning inwards I am finding the energy and drive to turn outwards again, reimagined. It is exciting, and daunting, and I am so so grateful for this space, this landscape and this remarkable piece of land I get to inhabit for a while…
I’m stepping over another threshold too. It’s been 10 years since I started blogging, and 10 years since I set out on my crazy journey to write what was to become the book ‘One Wild Life’. It is so hard to believe it has been 10 years. (I have a surprise down the line for you all on that matter by the way- it is in development, so watch this space). As I cross the threshold I have been reflecting in my journal on my journey since then; what I have learned, how I have changed, and what now wants to emerge.
I realise that I must have written hundreds of thousands of words over these 10 years, many of which were discarded, many of which sit in journals, some of which wound their way into blog posts or articles- yet each word in itself, whether kept or unkept, remembered or forgotten, is somehow life-giving. I say that even though I’ve abandoned two books in the last few years, and burnt the whole manuscript of my first novel. Yes, gone.
But they are not really gone. It is just that the form I was placing upon them was forced, and the words I was choosing to share were not really the true ones. I was pushing them into a shape that they didn’t fit into. And beyond that, I was scared to let them take me to my edge, to that raw place of truth and beauty were great writing goes. Now I know that the fear is a signpost; it tells me I am on to a good thing, the honest thing, the brave thing, the uncomfortable thing, the thing that pushes as my edges and takes me outside myself to be able to go inside myself with more force, grace and determination. And so in a funny way my fear tells me to trust that more words will come, and those words will change me. What shape they land in doesn’t really matter because the words in themselves are the life-giving force. The words themselves generate. They carry new ideas, insights, possibilities, connections. It is in the writing that the magic happens.
And yet, there is power too in the witness. When we do choose to put our words into the world, we never really no where they’ll land, who they’ll touch, how they may stir things, who they could infuriate or who they will resonate with. Whatever happens afterwards is beyond us. In the space between us and the reader is another clink of magic.
So I know words matter and I sense that how they land is out of our control. But what I think really matters is that we write them in the first place; for the love of it, for the connection to our creativity and our fear, and for the fundamental need to give voice to our voice. While I have not always been entirely consistent with mine, writing has given me a channel to my voice and a place where I have full expression. It’s both liberating, and connecting, and yes, I repeat, life-giving.
And so I ask again.
What’s on your mind? What keeps you up at night? What questions do you carry? What is your heart longing to say? What is it that you want to birth? What is it that you want to jettison? What is it that you want to do with your own wild and precious life?
Write it out, my friends, write it out out out. Listen to the place where fear tells you to go. Listen to the places of solace too, for you’ll be writing your very own map to your own answers. It’s your personal guide and who knows where it will land you.
And if you need a witness, I’m also here. I’d love to read what you have to say. So, feel free to write to me my friends… What’s on your mind? What keeps you up at night? What questions do you carry? What is your heart longing to say? What is it that you want to birth? What is it that you want to jettison? What is it that you want to do with your own wild and precious life?
(And for a little musical treat, I heard Ger Wolfe perform in Levis Corner House in Ballydehob on Sunday Night, and this song, with all its magical simplicity and charm, had me in tears. So if you need some respite from all the questions, for the TV, from the radio, from the government, from the crazy times, may this be it! )
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.
Want to stay in touch?Sign up here for updates, free resources and word of happenings…
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.
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…