Untangling

I like listening to podcasts when I am out and about with my ten month old daughter. She lays in the pram having a nap or just enjoying herself and I listen to all kind of podcasts, from Corporate Finance (I got a great grade in my MBA finance final exam thanks to a wonderful podcast), to Parenting, Psychology of Eating, History of  Greek Philosophy, Coaching, Entrepreneur stories or Eastern Philosophies. It’s a great way to learn, explore topics I don’t have any prior knowledge on and, on blue days, to keep myself motivated and grateful. But, to the point: as I usually have one hand busy (carrying the baby and her stuff or pushing the pram) I never have time to store the headset properly. So every time I pull it out of the bag to connect it to my phone, the cables are more and more tangled. I do my best to put them in my ears, even if the cable is full of knots and the sounds is not great. I don’t have free hands, not even the free time, to stop and untangle it. If I stop the pram, the baby will cry, and that’s uncomfortable. For both of us. So I keep pushing it and keep using them until it is so tangled up, the ends don’t reach my ears. Then I have to stop and spend more than five minutes untangling the whole thing. The baby cries. I get nervous. Most of the time, I give up and try to remember to do it when I get home.

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This experience of mine is a good metaphor of two behaviours we engage in quite frequently: we don’t deal with something until it gets really bad and we let other people’s needs to come before ours. Both behaviours can go hand in hand or on their own. I am sure you have seen these behaviours in many forms.

With the people I work and talk, these issues keep coming up. We are busy, we have limited time outside work, family/social commitments and household chores. So the limited amount that is left to take care of the people we love and ourselves is quite small, and our loved ones tend to get the first place. So we don’t have time to deal with our own stuff. To untangle. To unpack. To reflect, to check in, to take the mind for a walk, to leave us the space to think about what we want. To enjoy our own company or to deal with something that is bothering us.

This of course also apply to business owners and entrepreneurs: how many times the operational stuff, the admin craziness, the useless meetings take valuable time to plan, to strategize, to design, to talk to your end costumer, to have a relaxing talk with your business partner or to connect with your employees?

So how to untangle a little bit every day, so you don’t find yourself with a big mess that drains your energy? This is what I try to do on ongoing basis, at personal and professional level:

  • Schedule CONNECTION time the day before: let’s be honest, you are not going to find yourself with free time if you don’t put an active effort in making it happen. Routine and status quo will take over. So before going to bed think where you can fit your CONNECTION time for the next day
  • But what CONNECTION time means? CONNECTION time for me means an opportunity to check in and think and feel something that I need. It could be a business opportunity, an uncomfortable feeling I don’t know where is coming from, or something more basic and mundane…I try to set up a space where I can feel comfortable and not being disturbed (=my en suite), and have things to support me like a note pad, a candle or a nice herbal tea. As much as I can I try to do this while walking, as the movement keeps me focused. Try not to tell yourself you need to do research about the business opportunity or you’ll be on your laptop checking FB before you know it. You can always do that later. Now, give you that space to think and be on your own. Just a quick note: connection time is not meditation. When you are connecting you are following and engaging with your thoughts and feelings. Buddhists call our mind the monkey mind. So make sure you let the monkey have a play everyday or it will keep bothering you (waking you up at night for example).flowers-photography-wallpaper-creative-commons-Favim.com-2813818.jpg
  • Start small: being with yourself and a notepad can sound too corny or too overwhelming or boring. I get it. I have been running away from myself for years, so I understand that ME time can be terrifying. I would suggest to give yourself a time frame that you feel comfortable with and take it from there.  It can be two minutes. Soft music as background noise helps to deal with the intimidation. If you need to talk to someone to think better, as the conversation helps you to organize your thoughts, you can talk to the video camera of your phone or laptop. It’s like self-Skyping without the mess of unstable internet connection.
  • Connect with yourself through others and with others: I do this with my three year old son, but it can be done with however you feel safe. When I put him to sleep we go over what we have done during the day. Not just facts, but also things we have thought and feel. I explained to him how I felt about things he did and do some reflective listening on how I think he felt. I think this is a good thing for his emotional intelligence. And then I briefly explain to him the things I am grateful for. This gives me lot of peace, grounding and perspective, and helps me to be more focused and to prioritise better. And it helps him to fall soundly asleep.

If still you don’t know where to start from, is always good to talk to someone with expertise on the matter. So as much as you can, reach out for professional help to support you in navigating any difficult issue.

 

 

How do you know what do you want?

In my coaching practice and in my private life I see lots of people (especially women) facing this situation. After taking a career break, having kids or when changing careers, they are usually told: just do what you want!!

Following your passion and your dream it’s a double edged sword: it’s a gift and a privilege if you know what you want, but it can be very disempowering and overwhelming if you are lost. 

When we have our conversations, I avoid asking about passions, dreams or call  unless they bring it forward and I can see there is a deep self understanding and a level of articulation around it.

Not being able to answer the question usually triggers lots of negative feelings: people think they are lazy, they don’t know themselves, they don’t have a call, they are not special or particularly good at anything…all these feelings go against their own ability to be introspective and to internally motivate themselves, both elements key to understand what you want and be able to pursue it. 

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So, what to do instead? what to ask to help someone to find their path if they haven’t tapped yet in their true motivation? The following steps are suitable both for entrepreneurs that are unsure about whether to take the leap or not and for career and/ personal changes:

  • Give yourself time: change is messy and has lots of consequences for you personally and the people around you. it brings a range of emotions, from discomfort, to worry, euphoria, excitement…one day you believe you can conquer the world, one day you don’t trust yourself. It is the nature of change to be very unsettling, so if you are deciding to launch a venture or to change jobs,  try to persevere regardless of the initial second guessing and mood swings. Anxiety Slayers have a beautiful podcast about the four stations of change: discomfort, introspection, exploration and celebration.
  • Show compassion for yourself and your context: your situation NOW is unique. Try to avoid as much as you can to compare with other people’s journeys and successes. When I was doing my MBA it was very hard for me not to compare with other students’ performance and career movements. But I had a toddler, a baby, I was moving inter-estate and was working part time. My situation was unique and based on what I had going on I did the best I can. Support yourself with kindness and compassion and if you start beating yourself up, don’t engage and stop that voice. It takes practise, but it is easier than you think. Just don’t allow your mind to be a bully to yourself. After all, you don’t do it with anyone else, so just include you in the list of people you treat nicely and with respect.
  • Don’t buy the idea that we all have just one dream or job we are born for:  Emily Wapnick talks beautifully about the idea of having different calls, passions and dreams and to follow all of them. She calls us multipotentialities. Check her website out to get a better understanding of what she means and most importantly, to shake off the guilt of not knowing what you want to be since you were 5.
  • Brainstorm with yourself and hold the judgement: brainstorming is a well known process to generate ideas, in business and in your personal life. So follow the rules to make sure you have a productive session and come up with wild ideas. And as the Greek Epicurean and Stoic Philosophers recommended, try hold your judgement. Focus on letting the process flow without discarding ideas too early. Allow yourself to think it through without telling yourself “this is stupid/silly/impossible to monetize/what my mum would think” or sorts.eb9a2921f8b5df36e09f30e15519c0e1
  • Share it slowly and safely: as much as you want to shout out your new truth, I always recommend it to tip toe a little first. Either with a new venture, project or career move, it is safer to get exposed gradually, when you are vulnerable and quite green. In business, we have incubators to support early stage ventures. A safe space when they can grow before facing the wild world. Apply the incubator metaphor: share your change with people you feel safe with first, get their feedback, go inwards, pivot, digest, evolve and go out again to tell more people. 
  • You will never be 100% sure, so give it a go: but I have so many questions/doubts/uncertainty!! that means you are in the right place to start. No one knows 100% if  their change will work out...the only way to guarantee 100% failure is by letting those questions and fears to stop you rather than help you to move forward. After all, you want to know the answers to those questions right? A tip to navigate this step better is to not engage in what if? thoughts.
  • Prioritize: starting a venture or changing career, requires lots of emotional and physical energy, as well as tangible resources. So if you are facing an important transition put it on top of your list and if possible delay other big personal and professional changes such as getting pregnant, moving country or house, taking on other big project at work, getting too active in your social life. Sounds obvious, but our mind will try to get out of the discomfort of having to deal with the change by immersing itself in other business to avoid the work. That’s completely normal, we humans avoid suffering and seek pleasure, so nothing wrong with it.  Just be aware of it and gently bring yourself back to work. If you feel stuck, take care of your mind and body with meditation, journaling, mindful walks or enjoyable exercise. As much as you can try to avoid entertaining yourself with other projects unrelated with what you have at hand.

This process is hard and can be overwhelming. Coaching and mentoring can make a difference to hold you accountable, helping you to identify the next right thing and supporting you along the way. As much as you can, try to invest in this type of help to guide you and walk with you through your transition.

Honesty

This is what I promised myself when I though about sharing my journey and my experiences on parenting, womanhood, business ventures, feminism, self care, entrepreneurship and whatever comes next. I wanted to create a space for me and hopefully for others to share our thoughts with honesty, with no shame nor guilt. I don’t want to put any pressure on this project to become anything else than MY project. A place for me to express myself freely, without having to be productive, profitable or scalable. Just a blog for me to share and listen to other people. 

This is me for the first time with no plans, no lunching strategy, no business model, no financial forecast, no marketing strategy. That’s what I teach at University, that is what I coach entrepreneurs to do. I decided to do something different, to see where it leads me. (I won’t dare to quote Einstein’s famous say AGAIN, but oh boy he was right. Why though, is it so hard to change?)

This is just me sharing my path to living a more comfortable life in my own skin, based on  awareness, appreciation, compassion and gratitude. A journey were I let go perfectionism, control and obsessions. A journey that it hasn’t finished yet and that is worth everyday.