When we see vulnerability in others, we are drawn to it… we support it and we even follow it.
Yet when we think of showing vulnerability ourselves, we shudder at the thought. We believe it makes us weak.
Being able to be vulnerable has real power… in life and leadership… here is why (inspired by Brene Brown):
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Stress – It doesn’t need an introduction.
It is spreading around the world like an epidemic… The chances are you have been affected by it in your life… Almost all of us have.
High levels of stress release a hormone called Serotonin in your body.
This hormone creates the ‘fight or flight’ sensation – It is a part of our biology, so when we are presented with real danger, our bodies and mind are ready to fight off the danger or run away from it. It was only designed to be used infrequently and in moments of life threatening danger.
This hormone, when activated, switches off all none essential functions in your body.
Here are some of the things that get switched off when you feel stressed:
Your immune system
Your digestive system
Your memory retrieval
Your physical growth
As you can clearly see, these elements are critical factors in the long-term ability to be a healthy human being.
When we understand that high stress causes high levels of Serotonin to be pumped through our bodies, all of the time, it’s easy to identify why stress is literally killing us.
“No amount of anxiety can change the future. No amount of regret can change the past.”
If you, like me, have been affected by stress, here are 4 simple ideas that can help:
Remove yourself from the situation
The power of physically removing yourself from the situation and going for a walk… in nature if possible…. cannot be underestimated. The act of getting away, even just for half an hour, acts as an emotional and intellectual reset.
Give your brain some air and some space.
The fact of the matter is your brain can answer any question you give it… what you need to do is ensure you are asking the right questions. When you are in the moment, with all the stress factors surrounding you, it is difficult to know what the right questions are… never mind try to answer them.
Go for a walk in nature. Give your mind some time, space and air. Just enjoy the experience. When you return, you will feel less stressed – therefore will have ‘switched on’ those internal systems you need, like creativity.
Here is my challenge to you – if you think this strategy is just wishful thinking or that you don’t have the time – then test it… go for a one hour walk in nature today… what have you got to lose?
If I am right… imagine what you might gain.
Focus on what is REALLY important
Stress, in the main, is caused by lots of little things that all feel very urgent.
We often mistake urgency for importance and therefore are bound to feel stressed, because pretty much everything is urgent these days!
There is a theory that 20% of the tasks you have to do in any given situation, will deliver 80% of the results you desire. So… if you have a ‘To-Do list’ of 10 actions, 2 of these will deliver 80% of the results you want… leaving the other 8 actions with only 20% of the outcome you need.
Do you know what the 20% of important actions are in your life? Because when you do, and once you take action on them, 80% of your stress will be removed.
Take some time out to figure out what is the most important 20% in your life – then start taking action towards these things first.
Take action, even when you don’t feel like it
“There is just so much to do…. I don’t know where to start.”
I hear this so often when working with people under high levels of stress. The bottom line is, this approach is not serving you.
Taking action will serve you.
If you have managed to identify the important 20%, then work on this… but even if you haven’t – start taking action… any action is better than no action at all.
When we are stressed, we don’t see the value in the small steps forward – we want a magic wand to sort it all out. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand and there is rarely a quick fix.
Think of this metaphor… The person is who wants to lose weight and get fit.
If this person goes on the scales after one gym session and a healthy breakfast, they will be disappointed… there won’t be any difference. In fact they probably still won’t notice a difference after a week of gym sessions and healthy eating either.
But those little actions DO make a difference… In fact they make ALL the difference!
Do you think that person will notice a difference after two weeks? A little maybe… how about a month? How about a year?
Of course there will be a massive difference – It is simple, but true.
This is the same with stress.
Take positive action consistently. You might not notice the difference immediately… but over time the transformation will become dramatic!
So, when you don’t know what action to take or don’t feel like taking action is worth it… do it anyway. Keep on taking positive action everyday.
Soon those small actions will build momentum – and momentum will make you unstoppable!
Create and use a support network
You are not alone.
You are not the only person to have experienced this level of stress.
Don’t face it alone. Today we are more connected than ever before, so we should use this to our advantage! Connect with other people who are facing similar struggles… or even better, connect with those that have overcome them!
Together we are stronger.
Seek out like-minded people who can support you, who can challenge you and who will need you to do the same. There are so many sources of information, inspiration, groups, coaches, networks out there – use them.
The strength of knowing that you are not alone, the power you gain from knowing that it can be overcome is immeasurable. You have access to this at your finger-tips:
Watch inspirational videos
Join discussion groups
Meet with follow professionals in your sector
Get a coach
Get a mentor
The list goes on…. just get some support!
Putting it all together:
Stress stops everything. It stops important internal processes and it stops you making good decisions and taking positive action.
Don’t let it. You can take control… Remove yourself from the situation, get some fresh air and fresh perspective. Work out what 20% of tasks you need to do to remove 80% of the stress levels.
TAKE ACTION and build momentum… And finally don’t forget to get some support – You are better working with others, allow yourself to be the best version of you.
“He has asked me for a pay rise and I just don’t know how to say no.”
This was what I was asked in a coaching session earlier today. The person I was coaching is an established, credible and senior leader within her company.
The fact is, no matter what leadership level you sit on, difficult conversations are… difficult.
We will all encounter difficult conversations within our lifetimes, whether we are in a leadership role or not. So it is best to be prepared when they ultimately arrive in your life!
Here are four simple ideas, that if implemented successfully, will improve the output of any difficult conversation you have to orchestrate:
The number one factor of why difficult conversations turn into a verbal car-crash is… Being emotionally driven.
By definition, a challenging conversation will be emotive for at least one person (probably both people). As the instigator of the conversation, you will have adrenaline coursing through your veins. Your emotions will feel like they have just stepped up a gear, as your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This is not helpful.
What is helpful is to, in a calm and mindful manner, focus on the facts. Rather than focusing our energy into how we feel. By doing this, the conversation has a good chance of remaining factual and real.
Reality is vital if you want a positive outcome to the discussion!
The single best way to lower your emotional levels before a difficult conversation – Preparation.
Understand the facts and rehearse the conversation. Physically practise saying what you want to say. The more you practise, the better you will get and the less emotional you will feel! Therefore, even if you have adrenaline pumping through your veins at the moment of truth, you will still be able to deliver the facts in a calm manner… because you have rehearsed it perfectly.
Also, it is powerful to rehearse the conversation with a focus on service.
When the conversation priority is a positive outcome for all concerned (not just a positive outcome for you!), you will have to alter your style and become less defensive. This approach has great benefits – it will lower the defences of the person you are talking to, thus lowering their emotional levels and it will enable you to talk in a frank and factual way, without it appearing as an attack.
A good strategy for a difficult conversation!
Understand you don’t know everything
You only know your facts… that is all.
When you understand this, it will allow you to focus on conclusions rather than delivery.
What I mean by this is that it is far better to be focused on a positive outcome, rather than being singularly focused on getting your side of the story heard.
So many people go into difficult conversations, bursting to say their piece. Bursting so much that it gets fired out like a machine gun… a surefire way to ruin the rest of the conversation.
If you enter the conversation with your main priority as a positive action resulting from it… then you will be more likely to listen… you will be more likely to understand… and you will be more receptive to the right course of action.
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
Make sure your facts are facts
This is the oldest advice in the book of giving feedback, but there is a very good reason for this… because it is true!
The bottom line – Your facts have to have been observed and checked by you, if not you are setting yourself up to fail. The moment you rely on second hand information, the conversation will spiral out of control.
Again this is why preparation is so important. If you don’t do your homework properly, you are asking for trouble.
Give time and space
I have seen people utilse all the advice above, but then all that great work is destroyed with this common mistake… a tight time limit on the conversation.
You can make great strides, but if you have to cut the meeting off because of something else you have booked in to do, then you may as well not have bothered starting the discussion.
To rectify this you should plan and prepare for the discussion to go twice as long as you anticipate. If it is difficult for you, then it is difficult for them. Show them respect by giving them the time and space they need. They probably haven’t done all the preparation you have, so give them the opportunity to work through it properly.
If you do this, you automatically get two benefits:
- Shows that you are interested in them and a positive outcome, which will reduce their emotional levels.
- Allows autonomy – You give the person the time to come up with the right response, through their own judgement rather than emotion – 99.9% of the time they will develop a brilliant solution.
Putting it all together
We will all have to face difficult conversations in our lives… and they are going to be difficult!
You can make them much easier if you plan and prepare –
- Remove the emotion, rehearse and aim to serve.
- You don’t know everything, so focus on outcome rather than saying your bit.
- Ensure your facts have been observed by you.
- Give time and space to work it through properly.
It is at this time of year that I tend to reflect on my life more than usual – I think deeply about who I have been, who I am now and why.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a very different person than I am now – In fact, almost three years to the day I was lost… lost in the fog and mist of depression.
You might know about my story, I have mentioned it in other posts… how I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day, 50lbs overweight and utterly miserable – these were just the outward signals of the dark disease which was growing inside me.
I cannot accurately describe how I felt during this time… it was as though a cruel, oppressive and hurtful entity had been absorbed in every pore of my body and mind.
It felt separate from the “real” me, yet it was all consuming. I felt like I was drowning. It was scary and there didn’t seem like there was anyway out.
However there was a way out. I did escape, I haven’t fallen back, I never will – and I learnt some important lessons:
- Depression is very real and has to be taken very seriously. It is a disease and we should treat anyone caught in the midst of it with the same compassion and care as we would with any other physical disease.
- It is possible to recover from this disease.
If you have been caught by depression, please get some professional help – I can offer my advice on how I recovered and hopefully it can help – however, nothing can beat professional support, especially if depression’s claws are in deep.
The way I managed to free myself will sound simple – I decided I had to change and I started taking positive actions everyday.
I realise this will sound over simplistic and unrealistic, but it is true – I was in a desperate situation – I had to change, otherwise the consequences would have been the darkest possible.
When I made the decision it felt impossible. I had no idea what to do or where to start – what possible action could solve something as big as depression?
The thing is that is what depression wants you to think – depression wants to grow – and the perfect conditions to grow are in a static, absorbed and defeated individual..
On the contrary… I found that depression cannot grow when positive action is consistently taking place.
Success is “consistency”
It is not about one grand action that will rid you of depression forever. That is unrealistic and will make you give up when it doesn’t happen immediately.
Instead it is about momentum – lots and lots of small but positive actions to improve your situation. They can be tiny steps, but when you keep on adding more and more, the momentum becomes unstoppable.
Going for a walk in nature, writing down some goals, making the call, reading the chapter of a book, meeting with friends, seeking professional help and applying for a job… keep taking small actions.
None are the antidote to depression on its own, but together they will slowly remove the conditions for depression to grow.
As the momentum builds, so will you and so will your mind – The fog will start to lift and the oppression will be defeated.
Take positive action – any action, no matter how small… just do it consistently, don’t expect immediate results and you can change your life… I did.
Almost everyone has, at some point, been hurt, rejected, dismissed and treated badly. When this happens many of us then find it hard to believe and trust in people again.
If you have ever felt like this, then here are 4 strategies that will allow you to stay positive and get the best out of all of your relationships... Even if it seems as though you are surrounded by people who have hurt you, let you down or broken your heart.
Trust is a biological need
The science is clear… Trust and connection are critical factors in human existence. This is not my opinion, this is proven scientific fact. We are literally biologically forced to connect with others, because we are stronger together.
If you allow a few people to make you lose faith in that, then you are only hurting yourself.
Branding the entire human race as cruel and nasty because of a few people is ridiculous. Think about it… there are 7 billion people on this planet – all of which have a biological need to connect with others. Don’t let a couple of idiots ruin your perception of how many great people there are in the world.
Acknowledge people are just like you
We only ever get to see our perspective of life and it is easy to think we are alone in our struggle. The truth is everyone struggles.
Some find it hard just to get through the day, others are frustrated because they can’t chase their dreams, many are worried about how they can support their families, scared of what others think about them. The lists are endless, but the ultimate truth is that everybody is struggling somehow.
It is so important that you understand this. If you ever get to a place where you think your situation is so special and unique that nobody can ever understand you – You are in a bad place and, more importantly, you are wrong. You have more in common with others than you realise.
By saying that nobody could ever understand you, all you are doing is freezing yourself out of relationships.
If you freeze yourself out, then nobody will understand you because you won’t let them, NOT because they can’t. That is your doing… not theirs.
Stop building walls
Once you have been hurt, it is tempting to create emotional barriers and walls to stop you getting hurt again.
Been hurt in love? Create barriers that make it difficult for you to fall in love again… so in theory, you won’t get hurt again.
Hopefully you can see the problem with this tactic. Barriers and walls stop you feeling positive and wonderful emotions. Emotions you need and desire.
Barriers and walls keep the bad guys out, but they also fend off the good guys too.
Walls solve nothing, they just deny you what you want most and they also hurt other people… good people.
The brave thing to do is to brake down your walls and allow yourself to live. I can’t promise you that you will never get hurt again, but by allowing those positive emotions in, it does mean you will experience 10x the love, joy, happiness and trust than you would if you lock everything out.
Most people have walls… break down yours, break down theirs… with love, with joy, with trust and your life will become abundant.
Birds of a feather
This last strategy is so simple, but also the most effective – Remove negative people from your life and increase the amount of positive people.
Positive people are supportive, caring and helpful… There are billions of these types of people across the world, literally billions!
They will help you grow, develop and become the best version of you, so seek them out.
Yes there are mean people in the world, but they are not the majority… You don’t have to have them in your life. It is a choice, make one that improves the quality of your life.
Putting it all together
There are mean people and when you get hurt, it is tempting to turn your back on the world and lose trust in people.
Don’t, mean people are in the minority.
You have a biological need to connect with others – If you deny yourself this, you are only hurting yourself.
You are not the only person who is struggling. Understanding this truth will allow you to have more empathy for those around you.
Stop building walls – You deny yourself the emotions you most desire when you create barriers – don’t deny yourself love, joy, happiness and trust.
Choose to build relationships with positive people. There are loads of them out there!
Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther-King – They are great people who have etched their names in history books for standing up for what they believed in and they helped change the world in the process.
We are told powerful stories about special individuals who changed the course of the world by standing against status quo – sometimes facing unsurmountable odds, yet ultimately winning though.
We are told everyone has this power. We are told we too can change the world if our resolve is strong enough… but can we?
I mean these stories sound compelling, yet in your life right now, can you make a stand? Let’s start small… can you go up against the boss at work and not damage your career?
Going a bit bigger… Can you legitimately challenge those in positions of authority, such as politicians, without being removed or arrested?
I think we can, but not in the way the stories would lead you to believe.
Standing up for what you believe in is not a single event, it’s a way of living – It would be impossible to make a huge stand for what you believe to be right in one moment, if your actions in the past didn’t back you up.
Standing up for what is right, is living what is right. It is in your everyday behaviours and actions.
1. Clearly understand what you believe in
2. Share this with everyone
3. Make sure everything you do is linked to this
So if you passionately believe in ‘being honest’ … then communicate this value simply and with clarity… then follow it up by making sure you always tell the truth!
It is a simple example, but hopefully it demonstrates the power of being able to stand up for what you believe in – because if this is how you live your life, then it is easy to challenge the status quo when needed, because everyone will expect it!
This of course has it’s challenges, but what it allows you to be is authentic, strong and value led.
If you don’t live your life by these rules, then you will end up living your life by someone else’s. That is the opposite of standing up for what is right.
Be the best version of you – stand up for you believe in… stand up for what is right.
Stress is known to be a major contributor to many terminal illnesses – Stress is literally killing us.
In the video, I share my ideas on how to deal with stress and improve the quality of your life:
No matter who you are FEAR is going to play a part in your life.
How we interpret the fear we feel will determine the action we take… and ultimately the success we achieve in our lives.
In this video I share how we can effectively and powerfully understand what fear is, how to use it to serve you and eventually overcome it!
I have recently been badly let down…
The person in question was in a situation which was difficult for her, she was highly stressed and appeared to be making herself ill.
So I listened, I supported, I trusted, I guided. I even went above the call of duty and threw myself in the firing line for her.
My action worked – her stressful situation dissipated and, in the moments when I took the heat away, she turned on me – blaming me for it all and informing everyone that would listen, that she was faultless. She quickly distanced myself from her and then she attempted to muscle in on the good work I created for her company!
How would you respond if this was you?
The probability is you will have experienced a similar situation like this in your life. Where someone you trust, fails to reciprocate that trust and lets you down. When this happens it is understandable that your response would be emotional and negative.
The unfortunate truth is that responding this way rarely helps anyone. Especially you.
The reaction that will serve you best will help you move on and be able to trust again quickly and wholeheartedly. Here is how:
“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.”
Holding resentment inside only hurts one person – you. The last person who needs to be hurt by you is you, so you have to rid yourself of resentment.
Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die. The poison will do nothing to your enemy, but will kill you!
Forgiveness can seem hard… Why should you forgive someone who has hurt you? The reason you should is because forgiveness isn’t just about the antagonist, it’s about allowing yourself to stop hurting… and you deserve that.
Be your best self
Sometimes when we feel we have been let down it is easy to close ourselves off to the world.
Who is this behaviour serving? Nobody, that’s who.
The past is the past. It cannot be changed, you can only learn from it. The one thing that is an absolute certainty in life is that if you want the future to be brighter, you have to bring your best self to the game.
Be bigger, be better and be bolder… be your best self and you will bring the best out of the present and the future.
Expect the best in others
Just because one person has let you down, it doesn’t mean the world is full of evil, untrustworthy people. 99.9% of people have the desire to be nice, kind and helpful individuals. Don’t close down your opportunities to connect deeply with others, just because one person has broken your trust.
If you expect the best from others, your behaviours will adapt accordingly and you will engage with the world in a positive fashion… and guess what? Engaging positively with those around you will, 99.9% of the time, result in positive outcomes!
Surround yourself with positive people
It is said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So who do you want to be and who do you want to be surrounded by?
This is a choice – seek out the people who have aspirations and goals like you. The people you admire. The people you can trust.
Don’t get sucked in by people who are self obsessed, negative or selfish… It will drain you. Instead look up at those people who soar… and choose to fly with them.
Putting it all together
The bottom line is that some people will hurt you – NEVER let that stop you being the wonderful and authentic person you are.
Be the best version of you!
Human beings need connection – It is a desire and need that is a part of our genetic make-up.
So when we feel alone or disconnected, it can be the darkest of places.
More and more people feel this way – In a world where the internet and social media provide us with more connections than ever, we feel less connected.
If you feel this way or know of someone who does – This video I offer my advice from my own personal experience with loneliness:
A friend of mine was asked to change a presentation by a senior leader within her business, because he didn’t like a particular section… It wasn’t feedback to make the presentation better, he just wanted it removed… The presentation wasn’t even for him.
What would you have done?
Even though the removal made the presentation worse and although the section she was asked to remove linked directly with her personal values – she changed the presentation.
Her desire to be liked was greater than her belief in her presentation.
She is not alone – We all have an innate desire to be liked, especially by those who appear more important. In fact some of us have such a deep need for approval, that we will act against our own self interest in the hope we will be seen in a more attractive light.
It is okay to want to be liked, it is a normal human need… but when it penetrates our values and actions in a way that doesn’t allow us to be ourselves, that is simply wrong.
What if we could live in a world where the most authentic and best version of you was all you ever needed to be?
“I will never let anyone walk though my mind with their dirty feet”
When we desperately seek approval, we are solely focused on other people’s agendas and being seen as someone whom they approve. In basic terms we try to fit in by thinking and acting like them.
However we are kidding ourselves -you are not just like them. You can only ever be just like you.
When we try to imitate and replicate others, we will end up feeling drained of energy because attempting to second guess what someone else is thinking is ridiculously hard. Not only that, but you will likely fail in your goal of being liked – rather you will be perceived as unauthentic.
We need to come to terms with the fact that the only thing in this universe we have control over is our thoughts and our actions.
Absolutely nothing else is within your control – especially the thoughts of other people! The bottom line is that you cannot force anyone to like you.
You can be authentic and they will choose to like you or not.
You can try to trick them into liking you and they will still choose to like you or not. The only difference is, if they like the false version of you, what do you think will happen when they discover you deceived them? How will you feel having to live a lie?
What to do
There is no magical formula I’m afraid.
I wish I could create five steps to be liked by everyone and anyone, but I can’t. Nobody can – it doesn’t exist.
I can offer my advice:
Aim to be the best version of you.
- Live your values in everything you do.
- Allow your voice to be heard – what you have to say is of equal value as anyone else in the world.
- Be true to who you want to be – the best you. You have access to that person right now, you just have to choose to step up, feel a bit vulnerable and show who you are.
This advice is easier said than done. It will feel scary, you will feel vulnerable and it will be challenging. But when you represent your authentic self fully, the connections and relationships you build from that will be the most magical and special of your entire life.
There will still be some people who don’t like you. Even the best version of you!
Don’t worry about these people – really don’t! Just think about these people for a moment… people who don’t like you for being you…do you really want that type of negativity in your life?
You are worth more than that – shine like the light that you are, the people that matter will be drawn to you!