How's this new decade feeling so far?
Mine started at full speed with a few of the yearly planning workshops last week and the opening of Brand School.
For today, I have the second part of this year's kick-off interviews to build a stronger body and mind. A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Kate Barnes about wellness and health. And now it's time to dive into our mind.
As I've mentioned before, cultivating a stronger, healthier mind is one of my biggest obsessions. This is one of the biggest game-changers to really achieve our dreams.
So I had a chat with my very dear client Rachael O'byrne, a clinical psychologist running a thriving practice with a large team of professionals, supporting lots of people on the journey of getting a stronger mind.
A Q&A with Rachael O'byrne
Q1. Dear Rach, there's all this talk about mindset and tools and this and that. With your experience, tell us what you find really works to cultivate a mind that helps us achieve our goals, rather than self-sabotage us.
Yes and I’m really loving the focus on mindset because what we’re doing when we get to know and understand our mindset is following in the footsteps of Freud - we’re working to make the unconscious more conscious. And this matters because when we have insight into who we are and what we do and why we do it, we can change and we can grow. With awareness, we can prevent previously unconscious impulses including reactive, self-sabotaging behaviours and we can start to make really conscious decisions driven by our values, which means we can start to create the relationships we want and need with ourselves, others and the world - personally and professionally. Reflection: What do I really value? What’s really important to me? Am what do I need to shift in ‘love and work’ to live more in line with my values?
Q2. I find many of my clients struggle with perfectionism and lose momentum launching projects and testing ideas by polishing and revising a bit too much. Can you talk about what softens that hypercritic voice?
This is such a common issue - for all of us at one time or another - and it tends to really rear its head when we’re trying something new, putting ourselves out there, pushing to take up a bit more space in the world. Really what we’re talking about is social anxiety and its underpinned by core beliefs that we’re just not good enough and that others will be critical or shaming and reject or abandon us. It’s big stuff and it’s typically old, really old. Again change starts with insight - how do I speak to myself and where did I learn to speak to myself in this unacceptably unkind way? We then need to learn to detach ourselves from this voice by noticing it but not responding to it, not feeding it. And we can do this by cultivating a commitment to our values and to more compassionate self-talk. In the same way we do with our partners, friends and kids, we need to start responding to the frightened parts of ourselves with warmth, validation and encouragement. Reflection: What do I need to hear in this moment? What would my best friend be telling me right now?
Q3. Now the big fish. FEAR. I get asked about fear SO MANY TIMES. How to keep pushing through even when it feels terribly scary. Do you have any tricks for managing this?
Simply put we need to make fear our friend. Our instinct, because our fears can feel so real, and be so overwhelming is to try to get rid of the frightening thoughts and the uncomfortable bodily sensations that come with it by avoiding what’s making us feel frightened. And avoidance is effective - almost instantly we feel relief, but this relief reinforces the fear and gives it fuel, leading to more avoidance and taking us further away from what we want and need. Instead, we need to learn how to approach and carry the fear by acknowledging it, accepting it, allowing it a little bit of space, while we gently and firmly keep pushing ourselves forward, guided by our values and our knowledge that what we’re doing is important to us. When we keep approaching our fears, they lose their power over us, and we learn to start trusting in ourselves and what we do, trusting in the community we serve and trusting in our future together. Trust is the opposite of fear. When we trust we feel safe, and when we feel safe we feel energised and creative and excited and can become our best selves and do our best work. Practice: Grounding techniques and slow, diaphragmatic breathing. (These skills help keep us in the present (fear lives in the past and the future) and they de-activate the fear system and tell the body and the mind that we’re safe).
Q4. A big one nowadays is social media and the intense self-comparison that it creates. How can we get better at not comparing ourselves so much these days?
Firstly, I think we need to become really conscious, really clear about exactly what we’re doing in these moments and it’s this - we’re self-harming. Because comparison is the mental equivalent of intentional, repetitive self-injury. And would we be ok with doing that? We know we wouldn’t. When we compare ourselves to others we feed the internal critic because we’re looking for, highlighting, focusing on every little thing we lack or think we lack. As we all know, this leaves us feeling anxious, sad, bad and small and it just kills our creativity and our capacity to take up more space in the world. It’s really great to turn to others for inspiration but we need to keep an eye on when this energises, encourages and motivates us, and when it does the opposite. If our time on social media is harming us, we have to limit our exposure to it, take breaks, regroup, and remind ourselves - and delight in - what’s good about us, what’s good about what we’re doing. Developing some healthy narcissism and gratitude will help with this. Reflection: What am I getting right? What’s special about me and what I do? What are three things I’m really grateful for right now - about me, my life, and my work?
Q5. Lastly, what makes a focused mind?. I find for those that do my Dream | Plan Get it Done Workshop, focus to keep momentum and implementation is a huge challenge, any thoughts?
You know me Cris - this is a big challenge for me too! I think what works for everyone will be a little different and it takes time, trial and error, reflection and self-awareness to come to know exactly what you want to achieve and exactly what you need to get there. For me - external accountability trumps any other strategies I use, which is why your workshops are so important for me (Confession: I replied SIGN ME UP before your email for the next workshop had even fully downloaded!). Without this I’m likely to hit my biggest pitfall which is dropping tasks that are important to me either for easier tasks or more urgent tasks (hmmm…where is the draft of that e-book I’d nearly finished weeks ago get to…). And my other one big pitfall is not taking proper physical and mental breaks from work, which I know I absolutely need to nurture my creativity, to re-focus my mind, to re-prioritise what’s important to me, and to re-energise me to get it done (Rottnest here I come!). And then there’s the exact process of how this is done. We need to make sure the goals we set are in line with our values, and that they’re broken down into small, achievable and measurable steps. And we must take a compassionate ‘warm but firm’ approach with absolutely no shaming and blaming when we lose our way. To be honest, I don’t think a constantly focused mind is achievable for many of us with the busy lives we lead but - and it’s a big but, if we commit to starting again each time we lose focus, and if we don’t give up, I do believe each of us can achieve whatever it is we have our heart set on, and create the life we want.