Winging it: my new-found philosophy (and a bit of a book review)
I’ve just finished reading Winging It by Emma Isaacs. The title alone was alluring, because I feel like lately I’m always just “winging it”. The new business I’m building? Winging it. My other job? Usually winging it. Motherhood? I’m totally winging it (and often flapping around out of control and running into glass windows, just quietly).
I’m not going to summarise the book for you, because sometimes when I read book reviews, I decide I no longer need to read the book. And I feel like that would be an injustice.
But Emma Isaacs made me feel like it’s totally okay to wing it in most circumstances. You don’t have to be an expert on something before giving it a go. In fact, you’ll never become an expert on something unless you give it a go. Failures will happen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
At first I thought ‘Winging It’ would be primarily focused on business, but I was glad to discover it was applicable to many areas of life. The book did cover topics such as business and leadership, but it was also fabulous for personal growth and improving your mindset.
We get ‘stuck’ in life so often. Sometimes it’s because we feel like we don’t know enough to make a change. Other times it’s because we don’t want to fail. Or we don’t want to look like a fool. But so many success stories began with someone who took the plunge and had a go, even though they might not have felt 100% ready. I know most of the good turning points in my life were a result of me saying “ah, stuff it – I’ll give it a whirl and see what happens”.
In saying that, taking a leap of faith, or ‘winging it’ is actually very uncomfortable for me! I do like to have a good plan before doing anything. But every now and then, you have to give yourself a little nudge and just take flight. Life is too short to be constantly stuck in the planning or dreaming phase.
If you’re seeking some inspiration in life and trying to build up the nerve to give something a go, I recommend reading ‘Winging It’ by Emma Isaacs.
I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, or if there are other books that you can recommend that have changed your thinking.
Some people have dreams of being a leader or being the boss of something. Maybe that’s you, and maybe not. But I bet you don’t dream about other people bossing you around for your entire life. You want to make your own choices, create your own path, be your own person, live your own life… right? You want to be the boss of yourself. You need to lead yourself. So what kind of boss are you?
Managers vs. Leaders
Think back to all the managers, bosses, teachers, and coaches you’ve known. Which ones have been the most influential to you? The ones who instilled fear and drove you to work by yelling about expectations and deadlines? Or was it the ones who took the time to know you, encouraged you to know yourself better, and inspired you to want to work harder?
Managers use their authority to tell others what to do and demand outcomes. They might use fear, and blame, and subtle threats to get those outcomes. Leaders use their relationships and goodwill to help their employees figure out the end goal. Then they inspire the employees to want to achieve the outcomes. They might use questioning, coaching, encouraging, and inspiration to get their employees to do what’s needed.
Have you been trying to manage yourself?
I pride myself on being a pretty good leader of other people. It’s important to me to know about my team members individually. I like to know what makes them tick. What do they dream of? Why do they work here? What do they hope to achieve each day? And most importantly, how can I help them feel fulfilled? Once we build that relationship, rapport, and understanding, it’s so much easier for us all to be on the same page and achieve great results at work.
But when it comes to getting outcomes from myself, I can be a pretty mean boss. I speak to myself in ways that I would never dream of speaking to an employee! In fact, some of the ways I’ve spoken to myself would probably land me in court if I spoke that way to a team member. My expectations are very high, and when I don’t meet them, I’m really hard on myself. I’ve been trying to “manage” myself rather than “lead” myself.
Signs that you’re trying to “manage” yourself:
You give yourself a list of tasks and deadlines. But you don’t consider why those tasks are important to you, or whether the deadlines are reasonable.
Your to-do list leaves you feeling overwhelmed and like a failure.
You talk down to yourself, punish yourself, or feel self-anger when you don’t achieve something.
Your priority is meeting others’ expectations rather than thinking about what you want to achieve.
How to “lead” yourself:
Spend some time getting to know yourself. What has shaped who you are today? Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your future dreams? What is important to you?
Inspire yourself. Dream big and think about the possibilities. What can you contribute to the world? Imagine your best self, and then think about how you can be that person.
Connect to the bigger picture. When creating a task list for yourself, be sure to think about why each task is important and how it’s contributing to your bigger picture.
Encourage yourself. Rather than putting yourself down, encourage yourself to keep trying and to do better each day.
Be kind to yourself. Showing yourself some compassion and kindness will go a long way in changing your attitude and inspiring growth. Being mean to yourself only makes you feel bad – it doesn’t make you want to do better.
Have regular check-ins. When leading other people I like to check in with them every now and then to see how things are going. Are they closer to their goals than last time we met? What’s gone well? What hasn’t gone so well? Is there anything I can do to help them? Check in with yourself and ask some similar questions. Make sure you’re on track and gently re-direct yourself if needed.
Celebrate your wins. Even if it’s something tiny, acknowledge and celebrate all the good things you achieve. Success builds on success, and celebrating these wins creates motivation to keep going.
Once you start leading yourself rather than ‘managing’ yourself, you will begin to make better progress toward your goals. Just as we grow more and learn more when we have a great leader at work or school, we will grow and learn more if we are a good leader to ourselves.
Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.
Your alarm went off this morning and you cursed yourself. The abuse was endless: you stayed up too late, had that extra glass of wine, hit snooze six times already. Fool, fool, fool.
Then that jerk in the parking lot really set your day off. Of course he had to take the spot you were heading for. Bloody Katie on reception gave you her stupid bubbly “Good Morning Sunshine” greeting, which really pissed you off because it’s NOT a good morning, and “don’t call me bloody Sunshine”.
The day ain’t gonna get better from here… you end up feeling cranky and depressed all day. You stay up late watching Netflix and drinking one too many wines, because you need it after the day you’ve had.
And here we go again…
What’s compassion got to do with it?
One thing that really stuck with me when I read The Art of Happinessby the Dalai Lama, was that compassion is a major component of living a happy and peaceful life.
At the time, this took me by surprise. I had never really thought much about compassion. I guess I could be compassionate if someone was sick, or if a dog got hit by a car… but I don’t think compassion was really a key part of my life.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines compassion as, “a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others, and a wish to help them”.
I started to try being more compassionate when things were making me cranky. I was amazed… the anger that had been building would just disappear. It takes practice to make compassion your first stop, but it does become easier. And it truly makes a difference to how you approach things.
Applying compassion in different scenarios
Compassion for yourself
Firstly, self-compassion is not the same as self-indulgence. Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean you make excuses or let yourself off the hook every time. You can be gentle and kind while still acknowledging that you can do better. Look back at the Cambridge definition of compassion and take note of the last bit: compassion involves having a wish to help the person. Having compassion for yourself might mean acknowledging that you’ve had a rough day, thinking some kind and loving thoughts for yourself, and then gently encouraging yourself to make some better choices tonight which will hopefully give you a better start tomorrow. Studies have shown that people who have self-compassion also have better self-discipline.
Compassion for your family
We tend to take out our bad moods on those who are closest to us (just ask my poor husband). We spend a lot of time with our families, and sometimes they can irritate us the most.
Maybe as you’re getting older you’ve realised your parents are not the all-knowing, all-fixing, always-loving super-humans you once thought they were. Perhaps your siblings are making bad choices and you just want to smack some sense into them. It seems like your husband or partner is just trying to piss you off. And why won’t your bloody kids just stop nagging you for five freakin’ minutes?
Rather than letting your frustration build to the point that you snap at your family or distance yourself from them, try a little compassion. Consider what they’ve been through in the past that has shaped them and their current behaviour. Think about what they might be going through right now that could be tough for them. Remember all the reasons you love them, and think about how much they love you as well. Speak gently and lovingly to them. Life is short, and these are the people we would miss most if they were gone. Don’t waste precious time with them by being irritable and mean.
Compassion for the people who annoy you
There are other people in our lives who may not be family but we have to deal with them regularly. And we wish we didn’t. For example, a horrible neighbour, a drama queen workmate, or that person on your course who won’t shut up and is destroying every little hope that class might end early.
You don’t have to become friends with these people. But having compassion for them can help reduce the negative impact they have on you. Remind yourself that you don’t know this person very well, and therefore you don’t know what has shaped their personality or behaviour. Try to think some kind thoughts about them, silently wish them well, then let their annoying behaviour go.
Compassion for random strangers
It is SO easy to say or think horrible things about people we don’t know. Whether it’s someone on TV you disagree with, or an inconsiderate driver on the road, or that jerk who didn’t say thanks when you held the door open for him. I bet you’ve had moments where you’ve muttered something mean that you would never say to someone’s face.
Sure, it’s disappointing when people are inconsiderate or rude or do something careless that might put others in danger. But by losing your shit over it, you’re actually just intensifying the negative impact they’ve had on you, and possibly adding to their already-crappy day too.
I used to get really bad road rage and could end up in a horrible mood by the time I got to my destination. I’d be holding on to so much anger about the idiots on the road. Now, I try to consider that the woman who pulled out in front of me might have a screaming baby in the back and she’s desperate to get home and genuinely didn’t see me. The guy who didn’t indicate might have just suddenly realised he was about to miss his turn and probably felt bad about his moment of bad driving. The woman who is driving too slowly might be terrified of driving and is outside of her comfort zone in this suburb but is trying to be brave and help a friend out. Even if you’re making up scenarios about people, it can help you to feel more kindness toward them.
How will compassion change your life?
Trying to be more compassionate will have a positive impact on your life. It doesn’t mean that you have to take on everyone else’s problems. It’s a change in your own mindset. Sending love and kindness to people rather than anger or judgement, will help to grow positive feelings within yourself. It allows you to let go of things that annoy you.
And if you are kind, or can help someone in some way, isn’t this a positive contribution to the world? If more people were kind and compassionate, we might have less hostility, anxiety and depression. We might have better social connections and opportunities for vulnerable people. I’m not talking about world peace here… but y’know what? If everyone was more compassionate… maybe… just maybe….
I knew that going back to work, staying organised at home, building my business and sticking to my blog schedule was going to be challenging. I wasn’t wrong.
I’ve been back at work for just over a week. I’ve already missed two blogs, several networking opportunities and some business-building tasks that I had planned.
Between dealing with a family crisis, the baby being sick, and the strain that often affects a marriage during times of stress, my first week back at work was a mission of survival.
Very little sleep and lots of big emotions = irrational Emma. I started thinking it was time to throw in the towel. Building a business was a great dream, but too hard at this stage in my life. I was being unrealistic thinking I could manage it all… right?
Waaaaaiiiit a second….
Here I am, coaching other people on reaching their goals, and I’m ready to quit after one horrendous week? Wake up to yaself, boofhead!
What’s that? Another curve ball! Oh goody…
Life tends to throw us curve balls just when we think we’re going okay. Sometimes I feel like my life is one curve ball after another. You too?
Staying positive throughout the shit storm, and not giving up on your dreams and goals, leads to increased resilience and success. I’m not saying you have to be positive ALL the time.
When things really suck, you’re allowed to have a meltdown. Eat a bucket of ice cream. Stay in bed and cry all day if you need to. Rant to your husband about the fact that you didn’t ask for this shit sandwich but you’re trying your best to eat it anyway and he’s a jerk for making it harder and you know you’re a failure of a wife and mother and you may as well quit your dreams and he put the god damn butter on the wrong shelf in the fridge again. Ummm…. Where was I…?
Oh yes… have a meltdown if you need to. Feel sad or hopeless for a bit. You can even allow yourself to spiral down to the pits of despair. But don’t allow yourself to stay there. Give yourself a few days to get your head around things. And then get back to your goals.
Adjusting the goal posts
It’s great to have big ambitious goals. And you need to be clear about how you’ll measure your progress. If you’re not reaching your targets it’s time to assess why, and what needs to change. But this does NOT mean you’re a failure, or that you need to just be harder on yourself.
Sometimes it might mean you have to be gentler on yourself.
Maybe you need to tell yourself how proud you are of dealing with all the other things life is throwing at you. You might need to take some time out to recharge your batteries and take care of yourself for a bit.
But don’t allow all the other things to be your excuse for giving up. Instead, accept that your goal may take a little longer. It may not follow the exact path you planned. You may need to ease up on your expectations, at least in the short term. But keep making some progress, even if it’s slow.
Can you relate?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with staying focused on my own goals when other things in life are getting hectic. Have you been there? Are you there now? Are you thinking of giving up on something you’ve dreamed about because it’s just too hard? Tell me in the comments and let’s encourage each other to keep going.
I have another job besides my Fly Life Personal Development coaching. Today is my first day back at work after 12 months maternity leave. I know, starting back on a Friday is weird. But that’s just how it worked out with my leave dates. And I’m actually kinda glad… only one day of shock to the system, then a few days to recover. I’ll be able to do one day of work and then come home and open a bottle of wine “because it’s Friday and it’s been a big week!”
I love my job. But it’s not an easy job. It requires a lot of heart, a lot of brain power, and a lot of time. There’s always more work to do than people or hours available. You get it, right? It’s the same ol’ story everywhere.
Whenever there’s extra work to be done, or a new challenge to be taken on, it’s like my fingers are magnetised to the ceiling. My hand shoots up and I’m all, “pick me, pick me!” And then they pick me, and a little bit of me feels needed and important, but the rest of me feels like “ohhhh shit… what have I done?” I think of all my other commitments that I’ll have to neglect now… and the stress starts to build…
The spiral of doom
Have you been there? Whether you volunteer for the extra workload or just do it out of necessity, it can very quickly get out of control. You start coming in early or staying late just to try and get ahead. You bring work home, kidding yourself that you’ll spend time with your family while getting that task finished. Your conversations all start to centre on work: how busy you are, how stressed you feel, this problem you’re working on, the slackers who are dragging your team down…
You took on the extra work because it needed to be done and you knew you could do it. But you didn’t sign up to have it snowball like this. You didn’t want it to take over your whole life. And you certainly never planned to end up feeling anxious, depressed, and stuck in a job that’s sucking the life out of you. You loved it in the beginning… so how did it end up like this?
Regain some work life balance
If you know you’re already on this path, you need to take action. Once you’re feeling cynical and resentful, you’re possibly already burnt out, and that’s hard to recover from (but can be done).
So how can you regain some work life balance? Here are some ideas:
Examine your values
Make a list of your top five values. What do you value most in life, with number one being the highest priority.
Now, list the top five things that use up your time and energy.
Do the two lists match up? If not, it’s time to start thinking about what adjustments you can make.
Create a little photo board or collage of your highest values. It might be a picture of your family, your dog, or something that symbolises health and wellbeing to you. Whatever it is that listed highest on your list of values, make sure it is visually prominent.
Now, whether it’s a digital image or a printed one, put it somewhere you’ll see it frequently throughout your day.
Every time you start to get sucked into the temptation to stay back late and get a bit more done, glance at that picture and reassess whether you really need to do the extra work today.
Let go of the perfectionism
I know… it’s easier if you just do it yourself. At least then you know it’s done right… right? But you’re trying so hard to do your work perfectly that you’re neglecting other areas of your life that are equally or more important to you. And that ain’t right!
The key here is to let go of your perfectionism. I’m not saying drop your standards completely – I’m a huge fan of maintaining a level of excellence in my work. But pick your battles. If something has been done differently to how you would do it, consider these things:
Is this a terrible outcome for the customer?
Will the business/organisation be negatively impacted by how this has been done?
Is this going to matter in a years’ time? Or even in a weeks’ time?
Does it affect you directly?
Have you got more important things to be worrying about?
Now sure, if you ask those questions and you’re still uncomfortable with how the job has been done, you might need to get involved. But wherever possible, let it go and deal with your more important priorities.
Sure, you’ve got mates at work and friendship is important. But if you’re spending half your day chatting with your work wife, and then stressing about how overloaded you are, there’s something wrong. It’s so easy to get carried away with a good convo, and before you know it, it’s lunch time and you haven’t achieved much yet. And now you’ll probably have to work late to finish everything off.
Track your time to see where you’re losing minutes. Keep a printed table on your desk and jot down what you work on in each half-hour slot. This can help keep you focused and accountable. (Contact me if you want me to email you the simple template I use for this – it’s free).
If you start to get caught up in a great conversation, ask if you can continue it over lunch later. This has the added benefit of ensuring you’ll take a proper lunch break.
Plan your day
Take 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to make a list of your priority tasks for tomorrow. Be realistic and don’t overload your day – you want to leave enough space for those extra things that pop up.
This activity has two main benefits.
It gets that item off your brain so you can leave it in the office rather than taking it home and stressing about it.
You’ll be focused right from the start of your day when you come in tomorrow.
Whether you’re at work or at home, be there. Thinking about all your home stuff while you’re meant to be working will just slow you down and lead to stress. And thinking about work stuff while you’re meant to be enjoying your family time will suck all the joy out of you.
Treat your commute to/from work as your cross-over zone. By the time you get to your destination, aim to set aside all the worries from the previous one.
It’s not always possible to completely switch off. Thoughts will pop into your head that you need to remember for when you get back to work, or for when you get home. Write them in a notebook or in the notes section of your phone. Getting it written down allows you to let go of it for now and continue being present where you are.
Chat with your boss
Does this scenario sound familiar? Home life is stressful. Work is out of control. You’re feeling like a complete failure because you can’t keep up with it all. Someone has just had a go at you, and you can’t hold back anymore. You’re ugly crying in front of your boss.
Happens to the best of us.
But it doesn’t have to get to this point before you let your boss know you need to pull back a bit. Choose a moment when you’re calm and you’ve had time to prepare your thoughts. Explain how it’s got to this point and take responsibility for taking on more than you could manage. Assure your boss that your work is important to you, and you want to maintain a high quality of work. Be assertive and set your boundaries. Make suggestions on how to resolve the workload problem. Are there processes that could be improved? Other people that could help? Your boss is probably overloaded themselves, so wherever possible, go to them with suggestions or solutions, not just the problem.
What have I missed?
I need to be honest with you: I am NOT an experienced expert on achieving a work life balance. This is something I’ve struggled with for many years. These ARE tactics that I have used and that have been effective, but I’m sure there are others that I haven’t considered. I’d love to hear how YOU achieve a work life balance. Tell me in the comments.
If work is really sucking the life out of you though, or you’ve hit complete burnout, I can help. Sometimes it’s more than just a matter of adjusting the balance. You may need a complete change, or a reset of your values and motivations. You don’t have to stay stuck where you are, feeling out of control, unmotivated, cynical about your job, and dreading Monday mornings. Contact me today for a free chat about what’s going on, and let’s see if we can get you excited about life again.
People will often tell you: “Don’t look back,” especially when you’re about to take a big leap. When you’re unsure whether you’ve made the right choice, you’ll hear “Don’t look back”. You’ll even whisper it to yourself when you’re trying not to be scared about the decision you’ve just made.
In a previous post I mentioned the time I left my life behind. I drove for a couple of hours, chanting to myself through my sobs: “Don’t look back… don’t look back… don’t look back”.
But I’ve since realised that looking back can keep you moving forwards. Sure, if you only ever look back, you’re not going to get very far. You need to mostly look forward to see where you’re going. But I think it’s important to reflect on the past too. Here’s why:
Look back to:
Remember where you came from
Life just keeps rolling, and we often forget the detail of where we’ve been. Look back to remember where you used to be. Or what you used to be. Or how you used to be. Reflecting on this can highlight how much you’ve changed. Hopefully you’ve changed for the better, and this will be motivation to keep on moving forwards. Or maybe you’ve changed for the worse, and this will prompt you to change the path you’re on.
See how far you’ve already come
When you realise the progress you’ve already made, you’ll be inspired to continue. You’ve already passed some of the hardest bits. Sure, there might be more bumps ahead. The road might be rougher than you thought it was going to be. But you’ve come this far. Keep going.
Remind yourself why you left
Whether you’ve left a job, a partner, a habit, or a mindset behind, you left for a reason. Those reasons often become fuzzy over time and we forget how strong they were. We have a vague memory that we weren’t happy, but we forget the detail of how unhappy. Sometimes it’s good to remember.
Acknowledge that you started this process of change for a reason. Send your former self some love and compassion. She wasn’t bad or stupid. She was just different back then. Don’t look back with self-hatred or contempt. This is only about reflecting gently on what has changed.
And now look forward
If your eyes are constantly stuck on the rear vision mirror, you’re going to run into something nasty. So don’t get STUCK looking back. Keep moving forward and making progress.
After reflecting on the past, envision the future. Are you going the right way? What will it look like when you get there? How will you feel? What can you do today that will propel you forward a little more?
Get in touch
Feel free to share your reflections in the comments. I love to hear people’s stories of how far they have come.
If you do feel stuck where you are, or the past keeps calling you back, consider contacting me for a free initial chat to discuss whether coaching might benefit you.
This week I reached 100 Likes on my Facebook page. I’m so grateful to each and every one of you for liking my page so far.
Which category do you fit?
You’ve probably Liked my page for one of these reasons:
You’re totally into self-improvement and keen to keep up with my news, tips, offers, and random thoughts
You’re my family member or friend and feel obliged to Like my page so that we don’t have an awkward moment next time I see you…
You’re a friend of my mum’s and feel obliged to Like my page because she asked you to (thanks Mum!)
Don’t need improvement?
It’s very possible that you’ve totally got your shit together and don’t think you need any personal development. Here’s why I want you to stick with me anyway:
Those of us who DON’T always have all our shit together NEED people like you to tell us how you do stuff! Engage with the content on this page and tell us what YOU do to make your life happier or easier.
There are people you know who may be quietly struggling with their own motivation, self-discipline, or goals. Share the content on this page and help them find me. I stumbled across ONE blog many years ago that helped me start turning my life around. Maybe I can be that person for someone else.
I believe that no matter how great we are, or how smoothly things are running for us, we can ALL work on SOMETHING to improve our functionality and wellbeing. Whether it’s habits, kindness, self-discipline, motivation, or some aspect of your personality. Stick with me, check out my blog posts, and spend a little time reflecting on yourself.
What is the point of Fly Life Personal Development anyway?
Fly Life Personal Development is all about helping people get unstuck. We’ve all been there.
Unsure about what we’re doing with our life
Scared about what’s coming next
Bored with where we’re at but not confident enough to change it
Unmotivated to do what’s gotta be done
Motivated but lacking the self-discipline required to achieve something
Or just feeling blah about ourselves and wanting to start feeling like we’re really living.
Fly Life Personal Development will help people through the blog and through coaching services and workshops. The more you engage with my content on social media or on the website, by Liking, Commenting and Sharing, the more my business gets out there, hopefully reaching the people who are searching for someone like me to help them.
So I wanted to thank you again for already liking my Facebook page. I hope you’ll stick with me, help me help other people, and in the long run, help me support my own little family by making my small business successful!
I came across a post on a Facebook group for mums that really got me thinking… This post isn’t about having the answers. It’s just a question I think is worth thinking about.
When should we mind our own business and when should we have the courage to step in?
The poster was asking for advice. She had witnessed an older woman in a store being really angry, harsh, and aggressive with the three children that were with her. The poster’s own child had become unsettled and frightened by the woman’s behaviour. She felt uneasy about what she had witnessed, but didn’t know what she could do. So she just looked away and went home. But hours later the experience was still nagging at her. She was wondering what other mums would have done in this situation.
The response she got from so many other mums, in this supposedly “supportive and non-judgmental” group, was that she was being incredibly judgmental and she should mind her own business.
Many people commented that she had only seen one part of this woman’s day and didn’t know what else she was dealing with. Others said that if the kids looked physically okay (well dressed, not bruised etc) then she should mind her own business.
Would people still say she was being overly judgmental if:
The older woman was in fact a paid family day care provider and not a family member?
The adult with the children was a man instead of a woman?
The woman was in her late teens and dressed poorly?
Now don’t get me wrong. I can’t stand how judgmental some people can be. And I’ve noticed it more than ever since becoming a mum. So I’m all for telling people not to judge too quickly.
I’m dead certain that one day I will lose my shit at my kid in a shopping centre. It’ll be a long day, he will have asked me for something one too many times. I will be so tired of him giving me attitude when all I’m trying to do is be a good mum. I’ll yell at him and grab his hand a little more firmly than necessary. He will look like a sad and scared kid because he didn’t get his way and he’s realised he pushed mum too far and now she’s cranky. And when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
But this kind of parent-child interaction is pretty common and generally doesn’t send people home feeling sick to their stomach. The situation this Facebook poster described was far more than a frazzled mum or grandmother trying to control her unruly kids.
So what’s the answer?
When is it okay to dismiss poor treatment of other humans because we don’t want to appear judgmental? Is it okay to ignore abuse and not get involved because it’s not our business? When is it time to have the courage to step in? And how can this be done in a way that is sensitive and careful?
There are too many stories in the world of unthinkable child abuse. But most of these stories don’t come out until the children are grown and the damage is done. Or worse, we only hear about it after the child has been killed. And then everyone cries, “why didn’t anyone do anything?”
I am by no means suggesting the woman in the store was definitely a child abuser. I was not there to witness the interaction, and even if I had been, I still probably wouldn’t have enough information to make that definitive judgment. But I do know that it was enough to disturb one woman for hours, to the point that she put herself out there on social media, only to be shot down for being judgmental.
What would you do?
I think it’s worth considering whether you would have the character to step in if you truly felt someone was being mistreated. And how would you go about it?
I like to think I would be able to remain calm, kind, and compassionate. Perhaps I would approach the woman and comment that it looks like she’s having a hard time. Maybe I’d be able to offer some assistance and get a better feel for what was really happening. It’s possible that a simple kind gesture from a stranger was all this woman needed to reset her day. Or perhaps her reaction would give me a clearer idea of whether I thought these kids were in any danger.
Until we’re in the situation it’s hard to know how we would react. Have you ever gone to someone’s aid when you thought they were being mistreated? How did you handle it?
Six years ago, I set myself a goal of completing a university degree. Six thousand times since then, I thought about quitting. And this week I graduated.
I want to share with you some of the obstacles I faced, and why I did not quit my goal.
He told me I was useless
My ex-boyfriend, who I was with when I started this degree, was not supportive of my studying. He told me I was wasting my time and money. According to him I was useless and I would probably fail or quit anyway. He repeatedly accused me of thinking I was better than everyone because I was studying. But he generously brought me down to earth by reminding me that everyone in town thought I was just a stuck up city girl who thought I was something special.
There were times that I started to believe him. And I thought about quitting.
But then I thought of my family, my friends, and my colleagues who were all so excited about my goal. They didn’t seem to think I was useless. In fact, they encouraged me and cheered every time I got my results back. They rolled their eyes every time I got a high distinction. Because they expected the high distinction. They had no doubt in me whatsoever. And so, I continued.
Remember the people who have your back. Surround yourself with those people.
I left everything and started over
As you can see from the previous section, my relationship wasn’t happy or healthy. So, one day I left. I had a bag of clothes in my car and left town. Leaving behind my job that I loved, my friends who I adored and had been my support network, and my house that I had put all my money into building.
I was back living with my parents. I had no job, not much money, and no energy. Having quit everything else, I also thought about quitting my degree. It was just too hard to focus on it now. And what was the point?
But then I thought about the fact that one day I would be able to help other people. One day I’d have the knowledge and the qualifications to help people believe in themselves and set their own direction. But only if I continued. And so, I continued.
Always remember the big picture.
My new life was busy
I got a new job, fell in love, made new friends, joined a local Rotary club, and started experiencing a more active social life. My new relationship was the opposite of my previous one. I was previously living a relatively isolated life inside my relationship, which gave me plenty of time to study. My new partner was so adoring and wanted to spend all his time with me. While being supportive of my study and being a student himself, he had a very different approach to study and didn’t quite understand how hard I needed to work at it. Throughout the remainder of my degree (even after we got married) this caused a lot of tension.
I thought maybe he was right and I was spending too much time with my head in the books. Maybe I really was sacrificing too much social time because of my study. I knew I couldn’t do any less work and still understand the subject enough to pass. So I thought about quitting.
But then I considered how much time, effort, and money I’d already put in. I was achieving great results and I knew that I could do it. It was only a bit longer. I just had to maintain enough balance for my relationship to survive until the end of the degree. And so, I continued.
Think of what you have already invested and sacrificed. Don’t waste that.
Cancer struck my family
My grandma and my mum were both diagnosed with cancer within a couple of months. It was the year leading up to my wedding and the two women who I worshipped and adored were both sick and undergoing treatment. Between work, my community service commitments, and my study, I felt unable to support them or be there for them. So I thought about quitting my degree.
But again, I considered how far I’d already come. I remembered what I could do with the knowledge and the qualification once I had it. And I thought about how proud my grandma and my mum would be when I eventually graduated. And so, I continued.
Make them proud.
Pregnancy brought me unstuck
The following year, I fell pregnant. I had a difficult pregnancy, with a suspected miscarriage in the early days, followed by hyperemesis gravidarum for the remainder. Which basically means I constantly vomited for nine months. I would be up several times in the night to be sick, then drag myself to work where I would discretely scurry to the bathroom several times a day to throw up. I had no energy because I couldn’t keep much food down and wasn’t getting much sleep. The sickness wore me down until I was badly depressed.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get an assignment submitted on time and discovered weeks later when results came out that there had been a technical malfunction and it didn’t submit. The course convenor said I could fail the subject OR I could get medical evidence to say I couldn’t complete the assignment, and then I would have to do a completely new one to replace it. I just couldn’t face the thought of starting all over again on a different topic and going through the stress. So I thought about quitting.
But I only had a few subjects left. The end was in sight. And so, I continued.
Look to the end. Have a countdown. Keep your eye on the ball.
My tiny human didn’t care for my goals
My heart exploded with love every time I looked at my baby boy. And my head exploded with stress every time I thought about my assessments that weren’t getting done. Archie had reflux, and we had a lot of problems with feeding and sleep. He was a very unhappy baby for the first five months of his life, and he only wanted to be in my arms. I would explain to him that I was very close to finishing my degree and would have plenty of time for cuddles after that, but he was not willing to wait. And so I thought about quitting.
But I knew if I stopped now, it would only get harder and harder to get it finished some other time. I’d be back at work AND have a child to raise AND still have uni work to do. It was better just to plough through and get it finished while I was on maternity leave. And so, I continued.
Now may be the best time. Just get it done.
I got there in the end
As my name was called and I walked across the stage, I blinked back tears. I was grateful for every person who supported me and encouraged me. And I was even grateful for those who made it more challenging. It was because of them that I felt so proud of my achievement.
Get in touch
Have you fought through obstacles to reach your goal despite wanting to quit? Tell me about it in the comments.
Want more personalised and tailored support to get you through your obstacles? Please contact me to chat about how I can help.
I grew up with an extroverted and very talented older brother. Didn’t matter what he tried, he was good at it. He was popular, entertaining, and adored by his family and peers. This is not a story of jealousy. I worship my older brother and I’m so proud of his many achievements.
This is a story of the kid who was introverted, not very talented, and a bit boring. The kid who followed her brother and his mates around because she didn’t really have a tribe of her own. (She was instructed by said brother to remain at least 10 paces behind so as not to cramp his style, and she dutifully complied). This is a story of the kid who tried really hard to be as entertaining as her brother, but came off a bit weird and awkward.
Growing up, I watched how easily my brother did everything. How easily he made friends. How easily he made people laugh. How easily he just walked into a shop and bought whatever he wanted, chatting with the shopkeeper like they were old mates.
These things were not easy for me. Wherever we went all the other kids seemed much older or much younger than me. Or just much cooler. So I was too shy to approach them. I was terrified of having to go into a shop and make a purchase on my own, because I didn’t know what I should say. What if I made a fool of myself? Or what if I got confused with the money? What if the shop keeper thought I was stealing something because I was a kid and some kids steal?
I had zero confidence! Because everything that seemed so easy for my brother, seemed so very difficult for me.
When it all began to change
It was only in my late twenties, when I started to consciously work on my own self-development, that I started to gain some confidence. And the results have been huge. I started getting great jobs that I loved. My salary increased. I left a terrible relationship and ended up in a loving and supportive marriage. My friendship circle increased and became more interesting.
I still feel terrified before a job interview, but then I go in there and (usually) nail it. Public speaking doesn’t frighten me like it used to. And thankfully I can now go into a shop and chat with the shopkeeper like we’re old mates.
If your lack of confidence is holding you back from living a fun and free life, I feel you! I’ve been there. I still struggle a lot with my confidence. But I’ve found many strategies that work for me, and I want to share them with you.
How to be confident
Recognise your strengths
What do other people often compliment you on? Be sure to think about all the different ways that people show admiration. Sometimes it’s a straight-out “Wow, you’re so good at _____”. Other times admiration is shown by asking for your advice or opinion. And sometimes admiration is subtly displayed by jealousy. In any case, consider all the different things that other people might admire you for and write them down.
Next, think about the things you’re proud of, and write them down too. Don’t worry, you’re not going to show anyone this list. Toot your own horn in your sound-proof bubble. Write it all down.
Now keep this list somewhere you can look at it often. The more often you remind yourself of all your great qualities, the more likely you are to start believing that you’re actually pretty great. And when we believe that we’re alright, we start to feel more confident. You might even start honing in on some of those strengths and building on them.
Use your body
This one was a game changer for me. I have always had terrible posture. I hunch my shoulders, I cross my arms and legs, and I touch my face a lot when I’m a bit nervous. All these things make us LOOK timid, but they also make us FEEL more timid. Standing tall with your shoulders back and your body open allows you to breathe easier and changes your physiology. Your body language alone can help you to feel more confident. I urge you to watch the TED Talk by Amy Cuddy “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”. Practice the Power Poses she talks about. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel like a real weirdo when you’re doing it, but it will have positive results.
Be your own bestie
If your best friend called you and said she felt like a failure, or that she was thinking of cancelling her date, or that she felt fat and ugly, would you agree with her? NO! That would make you a jerk. You’d tell her how amazing she is and remind her why you love her. You would build her up to the point that she was strutting out her front door ready to take on the world.
So be your own bestie. Have a little pep talk with yourself. Speak lovingly, encouragingly, and positively.
Celebrate your wins
No matter how big or small, when you start acknowledging your achievements you start feeling more confident. As you feel more confident you try more things and you achieve more things. It’s a positive cycle! Take five minutes each week to think of all the good things that happened through the week. Do something nice for yourself to celebrate.
Step outside your comfort zone
Push yourself to do something you normally wouldn’t do. I’m not saying it will be easy or free of anxiety. But when you realise you can do it, it’ll boost your confidence. It might be attending a networking event, putting yourself forward for a promotion, or introducing yourself to your neighbour. It might be skydiving, or going to a Zumba class, or joining the gym. Whatever makes you a little uncomfortable but could be a great experience, take a deep breath and give it a whirl.
Joining groups that have common interests can be a huge confidence booster. As a shy introvert, I find this really hard, but usually very rewarding. Once you get over the initial discomfort of putting yourself in a situation where you lack confidence, you’ll start to connect with like-minded people and feel more at home. You’ll open yourself up to new experiences, learning opportunities, and the chance to share your knowledge or interest with others. Joining my local Rotary club was the best thing I ever did.
Subtract negativity from your life
Whether it’s your own negativity or people around you, you don’t need it. Practice turning your negative thoughts into positive ones. Politely tell your negative-thinking-self to shut the hell up. If possible, avoid people who are constantly bringing you down. If avoiding them is not practical, maybe you could gently bring it to their attention that they come across very negative. Chances are they are not even aware of it.
I’ve been told before that I’m very negative, which took me by surprise because I thought I was being funny! I now try to be aware of how I’m coming across and pull myself back a bit if my dry sense of humour or my fact-stating might be coming across as overly negative.
Take on the world
All these strategies might feel very uncomfortable at first. Do them anyway. This is not about faking it or pretending to be someone you’re not. This is about celebrating who you are and genuinely increasing your level of self-confidence.
Because sure, you can “fake it till you make it”… that works for some. But for others we just come off a bit weird and awkward.
So continue to be your spectacular self. Celebrate your spectacular self. Share your spectacular self with the world. And set in motion the positive cycle of increasing your confidence and achieving great things.
How is your confidence holding you back? Do you think you’ll try any of these strategies? Do you have other strategies that you use? Tell me in the comments!
You might consider hiring a personal coach to help build your confidence and start living the life you want. Contact me for a free initial consultation and let’s chat.