Gary Gowers guide to getting past the 6-month wall

A guest blog on getting past the 6-month wall, by Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier that likes to be heard.

A long time has passed since I wrote my first ever blog – my guide to life in lockdown. When I wrote it I didn’t realise that the corona virus would impact us all so significantly or for so long. Last week we hit a 6-month wall.

I’m Gary Gower, a wire fox terrier and I live with my PA Lucy Gower.

At the start of lockdown we were optimistic. I was delighted that I got better walks and the long evenings and the light mornings meant I got the best sniffs of the day. My PA got really busy providing more support and connection for her membership community, the Lucidity Network. We even had Zoom lunches where I got to wear a cravat and cheer people up just by being me! But then we got Zoom fatigue from looking at people and pets on a screen all day and we went into a decline.

That’s when my PA had a panic as her work is mostly training and conference speaking in rooms with lots of people. They stopped happening. She wasn’t going away at all. We were stuck at home alone and I missed seeing my friends at doggy day-care. We both got a bit grumpy and anxious.

I think this was when my PA started baking cakes. She made a different one every week to practice new recipes’, and feel she was learning new things. But that stopped in June when she said the cakes were making her clothes shrink.

Then we worked hard at optimism. My PA appreciated that she wasn’t spending much on petrol. We got lost on the common a lot as (my PA said she had to do 10,000 steps a day) and we appreciated discovering new tracks and bogs. I appreciated the volumes of stinky mud I got to roll about in.

We’ve definitely got to know each other better, and we have adjusted to a different life. My PA always has an online delivery booked in, and the cupboards are better stocked in case we get locked down. We do good walks and don’t get lost as much as before, although there has been less mud. We moved to a smaller house that apparently costs less and I have new neighbours to bark at.

But last week I’ve noticed my PA is back in a slump. I think she hit a 6-month wall. She’s got a kind of disinterested boredom. She said she has brain fog and is finding it difficult to concentrate. She’s talking about wading in treacle. She’s struggling to be motivated to do anything; work, relax, watch TV, read or do the washing up. At least she still gives me dinner and takes me for walks, but even that feels like an effort. I think her mood affects me. I sit on the top of the stairs with a sad face. Even my favourite toy, Christmas Pig doesn’t cheer me up.

I was listening to the radio and apparently there’s a thing called surge capacity.

According to Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota; Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems – mental and physical – that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.

However, she says that natural disasters usually occur over a short period and are visible. If there’s a hurricane or a flood you can look outside and see the damage. And according to my PA (dogs don’t have great sense of time passing) we passed the 6-month wall last week and there’s nothing visible – just an uncomfortable feeling of indefinite uncertainty.

Masten says. ‘It’s important to recognise that it’s normal in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress to get exhausted and to feel ups and downs, to feel like you’re depleted or experience periods of burnout.’

Basically we run out of steam. No wonder my PA is feeling it. Maybe you are too? Me, not so much as I’m a dog and I just roll with the punches, but my PA talks about a feeling of loss; loss of ‘normal’ life.

Gary Gowers tips to get past the 6-month wall

The ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty. All the tips to help you adjust to life in lockdown in my last blog still apply. In addition, here’s some things that I’m working on with my PA to help her keep going for however long it takes.

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel

If you feel rubbish, disconnected and disinterested then that’s OK. You don’t have to be brave if you’re just not feeling it. Work on just accepting that’s how you feel. Give yourself permission to expect less. It’s OK if you feel like sitting on the sofa. It’s OK not to feel great. Accept that it is what it is for now. I just go and sit in my bed with Christmas Pig.

You can’t change the situation but you can change how you approach it

My PA said that 2020 had been a ‘sh*t show’. Acknowledge that and then find a ‘yes and’ to go with it. For example, ‘this year has been really tough but me and my PA have got to hang out a lot and go on some great walks with some brilliant mud which has been really great’. Don’t deny how you feel, and in addition to the gloom, see if you can find a positive ‘yes and’.

Make plans

We all need to have something to look forward to. And lots of us have had big plans curtailed by the pandemic. (I was supposed to go and stay with my grandparents, who give me lots of treats and I was super disappointed). Don’t stop making plans for the things you enjoy doing. It helps to have something to look forward to. Even planning a walk with a friend can make a positive impact on your day. Recently my PA and me went canoeing to the pub with some friends. We looked forward to it, and it was a really super afternoon.

What things do you miss – and how can you recreate them?

We’re all missing things, holidays, coffee with friends, playing at doggy daycare. Jot them down. Are there things that you can adapt? For example, many people have told my PA that they miss the informal chats at work while making tea because all they do now are proper meetings. Can you start the meeting 10 mins early and everyone in the meeting make tea first to still have those chats? I miss when my PA used to leave me on my own when she had meetings, so I go and hide on my PAs bed and pretend she’s gone out.

Build your resilience bucket

Humans are resilient. You all have a full bucket and every knock back spills some resilience out of it. So its important to do things to keep the resilience bucket topped up and not let it get empty, because that’s when you burn out. Thankfully I’m one of the things that keeps my PA’s bucket topped up. She feels better after going for a walk or when she fluffs my beard up into funny shapes, or boops my nose. What’s your thing or things that help to build your resilience? And can you do them regularly so your bucket doesn’t get empty?

Stay connected

According to Masten, ‘The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social support and remaining connected to people. That includes helping others, even when we’re feeling depleted ourselves.’ 

I know that when I’m feeling grumpy I just want to sit on the top of the stairs on my own, but I know if I go for a walk, chase a ball, chew a stick and sniff other dogs that I feel much better.

Humans need to stay connected too and make a deliberate choice to do it. It can be easy when you have disinterested boredom to just go inside your own head. Be deliberate about stepping out of your own head and connect with others on a regular basis.

If you’d like help, support and connection to get past your 6-month wall, check out the Lucidity Network. My PA runs it. It’s a mix of training, learning and connection to a network of brilliant people to help you keep your resilience bucket full during the new normal uncertainty. You get to have the occasional lunch with me too. For more information and to join us click here.

Why does coaching work? So you’ve set some goals…..what next?

A guest blog by Jennifer McCanna.

Why does coaching work? This is something I often explore when running coaching skills courses for managers. There are lots of answers: it provides a non-judgmental space for you to come up with your own ideas, solutions and priorities. When you strip back the noise of the emails, the WhatsApp’s and the back-to-back Zooming, it’s amazing how swiftly you can access a way forward.

A great coach will also give you the right level of challenge and support to try the tricky stuff, to make difficult decisions, to stretch and grow. It’s hard to consistently stretch ourselves on our own.

A key part of helping you stretch is holding you accountable for the actions you commit to. You’re much more likely to commit to having that difficult conversation if you know you’re reporting back to your coach about it in a month’s time. That’s another reason why coaching works.

Accountability is crucial to how successful you will be achieving any goal. How often have you set some goals, and how often have they been drowned out by the noise of everyday life and not been achieved? We create accountability in many ways, not just working with a coach or mentor. For example, when we set up a fundraising page for that charity run and send it to our friends, we are creating accountability. We have to do the run now, because our friends have each donated a hard earned tenner to see us do it.

I’ve seen how setting goals and being held accountable to them really helps people make progress.

That’s why I’ve created a goal setting webinar especially for Lucidity Network members. These might be work goals or goals relating to a next career move. It’s a 90 minute webinar that incorporates both space for reflection and some accountability both to fellow participants and to me as a leadership coach.

Thinking about what matters to ambitious managers, I know you want to learn, grow, stretch and make the most of your talents. That’s why we’ll be spending 90 minutes really getting under the skin of what the next 6 months looks like, using some creative exercises and then turning those into really practical actions.

Crucially this goal setting webinar includes a follow up a month later so we can all be accountable to each other and I’ll be setting myself some goals too around helping you to achieve yours. Through this group approach we can all move our work and our careers, forward.

This year has been, let’s be honest, totally weird. But it’s not over yet. If you want to focus on making the most of 2020, and if you want to start 2021 really knowing where you’re going, join us!

To get access to this goal setting webinar as well as training materials, group coaching, a business book club, networking events and connected to an excellent group of people who will help you be accountable to reach your work life goals, join the Lucidity Network today. 

Jennifer McCanna is a leadership coach working with leaders & managers to develop the strategies, confidence and resilience to create a fulfilling and balanced work life, through 1-1 coaching and group programmes.

Follow Jen in her supportive corner of Instagram for coaching tools, models and powerful questions to help build your confidence, skills and influence. 

https://instagram.com/jen_the_leadership_coach?igshid=1exq4de5s5whz

www.mccannacoaching.co.uk

7 tips to gain confidence and boost your self esteem

Have you ever been making great progress only to get stuck and find your confidence disappears? Or perhaps you’ve achieved a big success that’s been quickly followed by a crash of confidence? Or maybe your confidence just evaporates away slowly over time?

Regardless of how robust we might appear on the outside, we are all vulnerable. We can be especially vulnerable when there is uncertainty.

Our confidence can easily be knocked by a passing comment from a friend or colleague. Or when we’re working hard to deliver a project quickly or make a change happen and are faced with blockers and negativity. I’ve also known confidence to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s why knowing practical tips for how to gain confidence is a crucial skill.

Then there’s the critical voice in your head that tells you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you’re going to get found out’. The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent and more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know, and stop pushing forward and getting things done fast because it feels safer to stand still. Only when you stand still does the nagging voice stop chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem.

It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance, and Suzanne Imes. It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterized by intense feelings of not being good enough, negativity, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise.

Gaining your confidence back once the little nagging voice takes hold is hard. I see it like this;

Every day, you have a bucket of confidence. Every time you get push back from someone, every time you get a negative comment, or even a disparaging look from the right person, a little bit of your confidence leaks away.

To gain your confidence and increase your self-esteem, you have to put habits in place to keep your confidence bucket full. Every day. I don’t believe that some people have confidence and others don’t. It’s simply that successful people are more accomplished at managing their feelings of self-doubt and silencing that little internal voice before it has a chance to jeopardise them.

‘If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ Vincent Van Gogh

Gaining confidence is about keeping your bucket topped up on a daily basis. Here are 7 tips to gain confidence and really boost your self-esteem:

  1. Log your achievements

Get yourself a physical notebook or create an online file and log your achievements. Log them all, especially the small ones because they add up.

Keep the good feedback you receive from other people; a thank you from a friend, the well done – good job email from a manager, or the time your colleagues went the extra mile for you.

Write them down. Writing them down helps you to acknowledge them, which makes you feel good.

In addition, seeing your achievements written down, helps you realise how far you’ve come, the positive impact you have every day and how much you’ve achieved overall. Instead of your ‘to do’ list – it’s your ‘I did it!’ or ‘ta da!’ list.

  1. Call out your Imposter Syndrome

It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another.

When that little nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real you and tell it to shut up.

Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. For example, if you think that you’re a failure, ask yourself, ‘What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?’ and ‘What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?’

  1. Become a mentor

Being a mentor isn’t just for very senior and experienced people, there’s always someone that you can help.

Helping someone else can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also realise how much value you can bring to others which in turn can help you to gain confidence.

Many industries have some form of mentor programme or scheme. If yours doesn’t, why not just go for it and put yourself out there? For example, you could post on your intranet or on LinkedIn that you are looking to mentor someone.

  1. Accept compliments

If someone says to you, ‘great job,’ or ‘you look wonderful’ or ‘well done excellent event,’ do you say ‘thank you’ and feel good or do you shy away and give someone else credit?

If you shy away from compliments, then stop. Own it and feel good about it. Next time someone pays you a compliment, smile, say thank you and own the good feeling that goes with that acceptance. (And note it in your achievements log!)

  1. Look after yourself

Looking after yourself helps you gain confidence. It’s fundamental to success. Make sure you get more than enough sleep, do regular exercise and eat healthy food. Make it a habit.

If you feel good, you gain confidence, which inspires you to look after yourself and you create a positive cycle.

  1. Be kind and generous

Being kind and generous to others makes us feel good; and feeling good helps us to gain confidence.

Linked to this, focus on being grateful for what you have and what has gone well that day. I’d suggest that you start by writing down the things you are grateful for every day and make a deliberate effort to be kind and generous to others at every opportunity. And again, over time this becomes a habit.

  1. Be prepared

The more you practice, the more successful you get. Funny isn’t it?

Gaining confidence is borne out of practice. Be prepared, practice the presentation, read the meeting minutes, research the person you are meeting.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the practice required to be the master of your skill being 10,000 hours. So start putting the hours in and you will gain confidence.

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’ Dale Carnegie

And finally, conquer the knowing-doing gap. You’ve now got a stack of practical tactics to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem. Every action you take will add up but it starts with you.

If you want to gain success, take action today.

If your confidence could do with a boost – check out my training webinar and workbook that gives you more tips and tools for you to work on your own confidence. For more information and buy the training go here. 

Do you have a ‘ta-da’ list?

Do you ever look at your ‘to-do’ list and think that it’s an impossible task? Are there things on it that have been transferred from week to week to week for years? (My GCSE plant project for example) Are there things on it that you secretly know you’ll never be bothered to do?

From a productivity perspective (and especially when working from home) I’m a fan of a ‘to do’ list and working through it in priority order and ticking things off it.

However sometimes when the list is too long and unmanageable it can feel overwhelming, demotivating and more of a blocker than an enabler.

To-do or ta-da?

That’s why its also important to have a ‘ta da’ list. The list of the stuff you have done – regardless how big or small. The stuff that you can give yourself a pat on the back for. Some days just getting up and dressed is a ‘ta-da’.  To acknowledge that you have achieved something despite what’s happening in the world and how that’s making you feel can be helpful. Some days a ‘ta-da’ can be about your positive approach to something (regardless of how it turned out), or making a start as well as finishing something and ticking it off the list.  Noting your ‘ta-das’ can make you feel good, appreciate that you are making progress and spur you on to keep going.

I run a membership club called The Lucidity Network. It’s for anyone who want’s to make progress towards their work goals. We’re a cheering squad, a shoulder to cry on and the friend that says ‘enough now, pull yourself together – you can do this’

Every week we encourage Lucidity Network members to share their ‘ta-das’ – the small steps, the things they did without acknowledging, the things they’ve been putting off – it’s different for everyone and there’s no judgement that one persons ‘ta-da’ is better than another persons.  It makes us feel good, it helps us focus on what’s next and it helps to inspire others too. It’s little nudges like these that contribute to us achieving our big picture goals.

Sometimes we don’t feel like sharing ‘ta-das’.

Sometimes we don’t feel we’ve done anything worth of a ‘ta-da’. Sometimes we have to dig deep – and you know what, those are the times that its even more important to share – because that’s when you need to appreciate what you’ve achieved and the progress you’ve made the most.

Sometimes we don’t feel like acknowledging other people’s ‘ta-das‘ because we’re not feeling very ‘ta-dah-ish‘ (that is now a word). I get that. Sometimes when we feel like we’re struggling and everyone around us is happy, successful and achieving a lot, we don’t want to open up. But guess what? Those are the times that it’s even more important to share, because often it helps us realise that despite what it might look like on the outside, others are struggling, and being there to support other people can make us feel more positive too.

I heard an expression recently, ‘we are all in the same storm – and we are all in different boats.’ It can be so easy to assume everyone is feeling great apart from you. It can be easy to compare ourselves to others. We’re all facing much uncertainty and it’s not easy for anyone – regardless of the boat we are navigating the storm in. That’s why ‘ta-das’ are even more important right now.

One of the values of the Lucidity Network is supporting others so that we can all make progress. If you’d like to learn more and join us, then check out the Lucidity Network here.

In the meantime, what have been your ‘ta-das’ today? Feel free to share them in the comments.

With thanks to Ellen Fineran for being an inspiration and consistently highlighting the value of ‘ta-das‘.

What do you want your new ‘normal’ to look like?

A lockdown guest blog by Caroline Holt.

As lockdown starts to ease, there’s lots of debate in the media about what the new ‘normal’ will look like. And, you may also have been reflecting on how you want your life to be going forward from here.

I thought I’d share some thoughts along with a FREE Worksheet to help you think about this.

One of the gifts for many of us in these strange lockdown times has been the opportunity to experience different ways of working and living – and some space to reflect on what really matters to us.

Sometimes, it takes a crisis to wake us up to what hasn’t been working in our lives and give us the impetus to make changes.

A question worth exploring

However, what I often see with clients is that they’re very clear about what they DON’T want – e.g. ‘I don’t want to be stressed’, ‘I don’t want to work all hours’. But they can struggle to get clarity on what they really do want.

So, the question I frequently ask is: ‘If you don’t want xxx, then, what do you want instead?’.

If you’re recognising that you want to make some changes, it’s a question worth exploring.

Instead of stressed, maybe what you really want is to be feeling calm and confident, whatever your challenges?

Instead of working all hours, is what you really want to switch off at 18.00 and have time in the evenings for other priorities outside of work?

How to stop getting more of what you DON’T want

Until you shift your focus away from what you don’t want towards what you do want, very little is likely to change. In fact, what I see, time and time again, is that focusing on what you don’t want just brings you more of that i.e. what you DON’T want. More stress, longer working hours etc.

Let’s test this out. If I ask you not to think of a pink elephant, what comes into your mind? Yes, that pesky pink elephant that I told you NOT to think of! The mind has a funny way of ignoring the negatives.

I know this from my own experience. Nine years ago, the crisis that had me questioning what I wanted was burn-out. I had what looked like the perfect life on paper – founding partner and Director of a successful consultancy, a beautiful home in London, enough money to finance an enviable lifestyle – holidays, clothes, eating out. I didn’t want for anything materially.

But, I wasn’t happy. Self doubt and my fear of being found out a fraud (the Imposter Syndrome) had me piling on the pressure to work harder, go faster, do more. I was exhausted and miserable – and, all I could think about was that I didn’t want THIS.

Shift your focus to make changes

I woke up and went to bed with that thought. It accompanied me through my day. It was only when I shifted my focus and made up my mind that I wanted to find a different way of doing success and started to explore what that would look like that things started to change.

I looked at every aspect of my life. My career, my home, my social life, my health and well-being, my relationships (with myself as well as with others), my skill set, my financial situation and more.

Working out what I wanted in each of these areas was the first step in making the changes necessary to create the richer and much more fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Focusing on what I really want has become a regular practice for me and one that I encourage with my clients.

FREE Worksheet to help you work out what you really want

So, if you know that you want to make changes after lockdown and create a different sort of ‘normal’, spend some time thinking about what is it that you really want.

Click HERE for a Worksheet to help you with that. Go ahead and download it now, put some time aside in your diary and take the first step in creating the future that you really want for yourself.

Caroline Holt is the go to person in the UK specialising in Imposter Syndrome and helping people get what they want. She is the Imposter Syndrome expert in residence at the Lucidity Network.