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. 

Get out in nature for good health and resilience

A guest blog by Ellen Fineran.

I regard spending time in nature as one of my top priorities for feeling good about myself and staying resilient. That’s been even more relevant since the COVID-19 restrictions.

I grew up as a pretty feral child of the 1970s but then a career in the motor trade with long hours and a daily commute, combined with being a single parent, left little time for nurturing my soul through nature.

It wasn’t that nature wasn’t still all around me; more that I tended to ignore it and didn’t see its importance in my daily life. Then, in my early forties, I began working for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as Head of Commercial Development. Being around so many people who were passionate about our beautiful wild spaces reawakened my need to connect with nature and I now feel the healthiest and happiest I’ve been throughout my adult life.

And don’t just take my word for it – there is plenty of evidence that the natural world is the foundation of our health, wellbeing and prosperity. So if you’d like to feel the benefits of exploring the nature that’s on your doorstep, here are my top tips:

Don’t be scared – you don’t need any PPE or specialist skills to get out into nature. Find a local park or green space near your home where you can social distance from others, take a stroll and enjoy exploring. Personally I love spotting a Public Footpath and seeing where it leads to!

Really notice – nature is everywhere, no matter where you live, and very often we just don’t see it. Listen to the blackbird singing on the neighbour’s roof or notice the wild flowers growing on the roadside verges. I love to watch the seasons change and I enjoy the different colours, textures and sounds that each season brings.

Nature can alter your mood – find a space somewhere green to stop, sit and think. Take deep, conscious breaths and use all of your senses to experience it. If you can let yourself relax into this, it really will empty your mind and give you a new perspective on things.

You don’t need to be a wildlife expert – I don’t care that I don’t know the calls of all the birds or the names of the plants, but I know that I love the sound of birdsong and I take joy in looking at lush green leaves. As humans, we have a natural curiosity to understand everything around us (which is great if that’s your thing) but needing to know can take the joy out of simply enjoying nature and wildlife and feeling connected with it. So be blissful in your ignorance and enjoy the moment.

Build being in nature into your daily routine – make daily choices which bring you closer to nature. For me, that was getting a dog and taking a morning walk before work. If that’s not for you, find your thing. For example, you might take a stroll with a friend at lunchtime or have your post-work glass of wine in the garden.

Have fun – I love taking part in The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild each year in June and it starts next week! The idea is to carry out a simple and fun Random Act of Wildness every day throughout June and share it with your friends on social media. It can be anything from spotting a bee in a flower to having a cuppa in the sunshine.

And finally, my best advice really is to just get out there and enjoy the natural world around you. Wherever you live, whether that’s in a city, the countryside or somewhere in-between, exploring the nature on your doorstep will help you stay healthy and resilient in these difficult times. I know that the days when I’ve started off with a mindful morning walk across the fields are the days where I feel energised and productive and ready to take on this crazy world.

Ellen Fineran is Head of Commercial Development at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, a member of the Lucidity Network and in her spare time she can be found baking amazing cakes and exploring the countryside with her dog Beano.

Here’s your link to take part in 30 Days Wild and get your free pack of goodies to help you to plan your wild month. We’re looking forward to seeing what you get up to.

Take one lockdown day at a time

Now I’ve experienced lockdown, I absolutely promise never to absent-mindedly muse about ‘having time to binge on box sets, or ponder how great it might be to just do nothing and stay in.’ (Has anyone else in the past ever wished for that?)

Turns out that in week 4 of lockdown, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The days have merged into one. I’m scared of my own reflection. I’ve taken lounging about to a new level and must remember that the dog licking my face does not count as ‘washing’. Groundhog day doesn’t’ even come close.

Lockdown is like we’re living the most boring movie storyline of all time where nothing happens. Or possibly we’re living amidst a conspiracy theory. Climate change activists have created a (fake or real) virus to stop all human activity until the planet is on the road to recovery. These are the things that chatter away in my fretful mind at 3am as I lie awake and wonder what will happen tomorrow (nothing), next week (probably nothing) and next month (unknown).

What would the movie be called? Stand Away From Me, Honey, We’re Home Schooling The Kids, 12 Bored Men, Nothing Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Sound of Coughing, Eternal Sunshine of the Bored Mind, or Pandemic (oh Netflix already took that).

I’ve been reflecting over the last few weeks and I’ve learned that;

We all have good days and bad days Whatever our personal situations, we’ve all got a lot going on in our brains. We’re isolated and worried about friends and family, yet crowded out from being locked in with family. We’re anxious about the uncertainty of the future. We don’t know when the situation will end or what ‘end’ looks like and our lives will never return to ‘normal’. Some of us don’t know how we’ll pay our rent, or if we’ll have a job or if our loved ones will be OK. All of us are on our own unique journey. We’re all at different places at different times. Emotions come in waves. One minute it’s fine, you’re making the most of the lockdown situation, enjoying Netflix, cleaning out that cupboard under the stairs and doing an online Pilates class, the next minute you question the point of your own existence. When you’re OK someone else is not. Sometimes (mostly) it can help to talk and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a gamble. When you’re trying to hold your shit together talking to someone who is having a super day can make you feel terrible (or good). And talking to someone who is not doing as well as you can drag you back to (or help you out of) the dark place you’ve been trying so hard to escape from.

It can feel constantly overwhelming I know that I’ve felt overwhelmed by lockdown and the big picture situation of changing our way of life entirely for an indefinite amount of time. I’ve also felt overwhelmed with the day to day, for example the panic of the supermarket cheese aisle getting too crowded and the few people who don’t get the concept of social distancing brushing past others (me) who are patiently waiting to get their cheddar supply. I’ve felt overwhelmed by so many webinars, catch up calls, check in sessions, WhatsApp groups and Zoom conferences. I feel like I’m constantly multi tasking to keep up with correspondence (which I’m failing at), then I feel bad about failing to check in with everyone and also frustrated at not getting anything else done.

I appreciate and value very much the invitations to connect, but I can only manage so much per day before feeling like crawling under the carpet until it’s all over.

Concentration seems to be a thing of the past I just can’t think straight. Part of that is due to the constant connecting. Turning off all my notifications and hiding my phone has helped so I can do some tasks without consistent anxious checking and scrolling.

In the ‘normal’ world I work really hard to break my day into chunks. I have a schedule and lists to help me be productive working from home. I’ve been doing it for years and the processes and systems I have work for me. Check out my free webinar with my tips for being happy and productive working from home here.

But something has happened.  With lockdown a brain fog has descended making it really hard to think properly about anything. Maybe its because it’s a paradox of nothing to think about combined with the immensity of what this pandemic means that my brain just kind of shuts down and can only manage one day at a time.

So I’m sticking to the tried and tested systems and processes, including writing a realistic list and plan for each day and diligently working through it. Yes, it does have things like, clean teeth, get dressed and drink coffee on it. It is helping though. This blog has still taken me about a week to write.

Busy is a construct of our own minds and time speeds up and slows down I’ve been saying this for a while. I help individuals, teams, and organisations drive change and the biggest barrier to innovation, or doing things differently is ‘too busy’. Busy is a badge of honour. We’re too busy. Now what? I know some people are busier than ever as colleagues are furloughed. However, I have a hunch that those of us who objectively have nothing that they have to do are still too busy to get the boring things that we don’t really want to do done. Like cleaning the house from top to bottom, sorting out paperwork or painting the spare room.

If your work defines you (which for many of us it’s a significant part of our lives and who we are), not to have to go to work can feel like a bereavement. We’re all experiencing a wide range of emotions and like the press keep telling us we are living through ‘unprecedented times’ so we don’t have a blueprint of how we should be feeling and how to respond to those feelings.

My lockdown learning over the last few weeks, is that to manage, you’ve got to tune into you, and what you need to keep yourself as well as you can. You have to put your oxygen mask on first in order to be able to help other people. I don’t know what the ‘right’ thing is for you to do. Take one day at a time. Listen to yourself. Accept that how you’re feeling is how you’re feeling. Acknowledge if you’re feeling dark. Think about what you might do to help yourself edge towards the light. And also trust that those feelings will pass.

This isn’t a blog about whether to get a dog

Lucy Gower and Gary Gower

Have you ever talked about doing something and just never got round to it? Do you have items on your ‘to do’ list that have been on it for years? Do you put things off and then tell yourself that you’ll start fresh from Monday?

Yes? I suspect that most of us have.

It’s so tiring talking about things again and again, putting them off and making excuses for not doing them.

It was happening to me.

For years I’d been talking about getting a dog.

I’d tell people how much I wanted one and how my life would be better with a dog in it. But there were so many reasons not to change, the responsibility of looking after another living thing, the cost of vets bills, insurance, food, doggy day care and then the limitations, not being able to go out all the time or go on holiday. People I spoke to fuelled by doubts and by the time I’d had the conversation with them I’d talked myself out of getting a dog.

But the topic kept playing in my mind. I couldn’t shut it down and I was boring myself. I decided that I either had to get a dog or shut up talking about it.

Then one day I just bloody got the dog.   Here he is. He’s called Gary. You can follow his adventures on Instagram at garygower_dog _diaries.

The doubters were right. When Gary was a puppy it was really hard. The first thing he did when he arrived aged 12 weeks was a poo under the kitchen table. I spent most of Easter 2018 standing in the garden in the rain training him to go to the toilet outside. The rest of that Easter was spent going backwards and forwards on the tube and bus so he wasn’t scared of public transport. We spent a lot of time sat on the bench opposite Wood Green bus garage getting him used to traffic noises and sirens. There was the night I slept on the kitchen floor next to his crate with a broken foot in a plaster cast (which is a different story) because he wouldn’t stop barking. There was the day he humped my arm while I tried to conduct a work Skype call. There was the day he chewed through my laptop cable which cost £80 to replace. There was the day that he ran amok on Southwold beach and it took a core group of 5 of us plus most of the population of Southwold over an hour to catch him. There was the day he rolled in a dead fish. There was the day he jumped up and took a hat out of a strangers hand, shook it to death and dropped it in a muddy puddle. It took months before he realised doing a poo in the hallway in the middle of the night was NOT OK. He’s been massively disruptive. I’ve never apologised so much since I had a dog.

He’s also been brilliant. I’ve learned a lot from Gary. Patience, that the simple things in life can bring great joy, to live more in the moment, not to take things too seriously and be grateful that all I have. He looks after me. Because I have to walk him every day, I have to switch off from work (and when you work for yourself and love what you do that can be hard). I get more regular exercise. People talk to us on the tube, and if people don’t like him they move and we get a seat! I’ve met new friends, discovered new places to walk and can now throw a ball really far.

Do you know what? It is a big responsibility looking after another living thing, he does cost me money and when I go on holiday either he comes too or someone else looks after him. The logistics of who looks after Gary and when causes me headaches. And the joy of Gary far outweighs all the negatives.

Do you put things off and then tell yourself that you’ll start fresh from Monday?

So my point?

This isn’t a blog about whether to get a dog. This is a blog about genuinely thinking about what you want and deciding to commit (do you want a new job, to move house, a different relationship, learn a new skill, lose weight, a different lifestyle…?) The context doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you make a choice whether to do the thing or not. The talking about the thing and not taking steps to achieve it is a tedious and tiring place to be. You deserve more than that.

Making any sort of change is hard. Do you put things off? Friends and family won’t necessarily give you the best advice either. You have to get brave and focus on what you want.

So, those things on your list; tackle them or scrub them off forever and free up your brain to focus on the things you really want to do. Ask yourself what would happen if you don’t do the thing? I didn’t want to be the person that always wished they followed their heart and got a dog. I wanted to be the person walking on the beach with my dog. What’s your thing on your list that you’d regret not doing?

Go on, channel your inner Yoda. ‘Do or do not, there is no try’

I set up the Lucidity Network to help people push forward and do the things they want to do. It’s a community of generous people who help each other get the important work done. It’s facilitated via a Facebook Community with meet-ups and online content to help members tackle the complexities of working life that didn’t come with the management handbook. You can find out more and sign up here. And if you join, you might even get to meet Gary.

Three public speaking tips from an expert panel

Tips for public speaking

I was recently approached by energy giants, Gazprom, to share tips for public speakers. Here are the top three takeaways from me and the other members of the panel. You can read the full piece here.

Speaking in front of a room full of strangers can be one of the more daunting aspects of your career, whatever your level of seniority. With all eyes on you, your inner critic can have a field day, making you worry you’ll ‘mess up’ or make a fool of yourself. Do you know what? – often, when I ‘mess up’, or go off script it’s the best bit! Here are three tips for public speakers to worry less about messing up and enjoy your next presentation.

Treat it like a performance

Approach your presentation as if it is a performance. People want to learn, and they also want to be entertained. A ‘do your best performance’ mindset can help to put you at ease and your delivery will be more fluid. Grab your audience’s attention by just being your best and real you up on that stage. Ditch your notes and if you use presentation slides, go light on text and big on images that enhance your core messages. People are there to listen to you – not see some big slides on a screen.

Get the audience involved

Get your audience involved as soon as possible. It takes the pressure off you, gives you a sense of the mood of the room and gives you a moment to regroup. Ask them a question that people can put their hands up to. Ask a question that will have a lot of ‘yes’ answers, giving the audience an opportunity to participate and agree, for example, a lot of people fell into the profession of fundraising. Asking people who else is an accidental fundraiser (at a presentation to fundraisers) gets hands raising and builds rapport because they know you are one too. Obviously adapt this to your audience! Take people on an emotional journey during your presentation by telling stories. People learn and remember more through story and they also remember how you made them feel. Having a variety of stories, data, diagrams and models helps to change pace and keep your audience’s interest. It can also offer a chance for your audience to engage emotionally with your topic.

Do your last minute prep

The last of the tips for public speakers is the few bits of on-the-day prep that will ensure you’re ready and raring to go. In case you’re running short on time, map out where you’ll be at specific points in your presentation and make a note of the things that could be left out if things get delayed. Arrive early and double check the equipment you’ll be using. Is there a mic? Where’s the clicker to move the slides along? Do a sound check (especially if you have video content), Where will you stand – or depending on your style – where will you pace about? Is the laptop fully charged? Is your calendar auto reminder turned off?  Think about what you are going to wear – both in practical terms, for example, is there a place to put the battery pack for the microphone and does it fit you properly?  If you are distracted because you’re uncomfortable in what you’re wearing it will impact on you delivering your best performance. And finally make sure that what you’re wearing makes you feel good, feel confident and ready to take on the world.

If you found this blog useful you might also like the Lucidity Network – a place for people pushing to make change happen, a place to learn, a place to share and a place to connect. Check it out and join us here.