Perspective: you rock.

A few months ago, I did a Powerlifting Competition. 

Not because I have aspirations to be a competitive lifter; moreso to give myself a goal, work consistently towards it and to achieve something new. It was motivating slowly making gains every week and I was getting good at it.

When I was training, I felt like the most powerful version of myself. If I could lift many many kilos, I thought, there was nothing I couldn't handle at work or at home. It trained my physical and mental strength.

The day after the competition, I thought I’d take a few days off. Then, after that, I thought 'I’ll take a week off'. And the next week, I did exactly the same. 

And so it went for the next three months. I didn’t go to the gym at all. 

After training consistently and eating pretty much the same thing everyday for six months, all of a sudden I didn’t have a goal to work towards anymore. I just didn't have the mental capacity.

When I did return to the gym, I was weaker and I was bummed.

Experience had taught me prior if you take time off training, you can’t dip back into it straight away and expect to be in peak performance, so not being able to lift the weights I used to was a bit depressing at first, but nothing I hadn’t anticipated.

But, despite logically knowing it was sensible to avoid injury to move slowly back into it, and understanding from experience taking a break means your body needs time to get back to where it as, returning to somewhere where I used to slay and then feeling rusty was a bit of a downer.

It’s like when you leave a job where you are the big fish and then you start a new one and all of a sudden you need to learn all these new systems. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and all of a sudden you start to doubt whether you should have gotten this new fancy job in the first place. You know you'll get the hang of it eventually, but for the first few months, you feel unqualified and unproductive

Despite me routinely telling myself it would take time, using logic not emotion to get back into lifting, there were a number of times I felt like giving up because it felt like I wasn’t good at it. 

But to be good at something shouldn’t be the reason you do it (although it is a lovely side effect to doing something consistently). 

As a number of flexible types have told me, leaning into an uncomfortable yoga pose actually paves the way for you next time. Feeling uncomfortable - and being ok in that uncomfortable space - tells you you're improving your physical and mental resilience.

In his book The Way We're Working Isn't Working, Tony Schwartz suggests that if the definition of physical fitness is how long you take to recover, perhaps the definition of mental resilience is how swiftly you can perform after an emotional setback. 

Schwartz suggests the ability to think rationally and clearly under stress relies on the individual being able to regularly recover, rest and rejuvenate their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves. Without rest and rejuvenation, the individual can't perform in a way that is constructive, insightful or helpful to others. Individuals under stress, without rest and perspective, are more likely to act out of line in other words.

It made so much sense. Coaches had sent me home before if I turned up without eating or sleeping enough prior to training. One coach had ordered me to sit in the corner and stretch because I was too tired and was going to injure myself. I could only get stronger, if I ate enough and slept enough, they had all said. Without rest or food, I might as well be throwing the money I was paying them down the treadmill.

So when I stopped training, instead of mentally resting, I filled in my space time with all things not rest. Work, writing, speaking, socialising, eating (lots), and well, mainly more work.

I did it because that's what I knew.

For so many years work (or feeling "busy" or "productive") defined me. Performing at work became so ingrained in my identity I lost perspective and ultimately burned myself out three times. So let's just say flicking the switch from training for a competition or nailing a work presentation to popping along to an art gallery hardly came naturally to me.

Operation Fun.

Operation Fun.

So, over the last few weeks, I've been testing out ways to rest my mind and find pleasure outside of work. I bought an alarm clock to (attempt to) ban my phone from my room. I asked friends for book recommendations and took those to dinner instead of checking my emails over a curry after work. I took myself on dates to the movies.

I felt the impact of all this when I went back to the gym just recently.

With rest, sleep and perspective on my side from the New Years break, lifting those smaller weights didn't bother me so much. In fact, I felt kind of thrilled to be able to just want to go to the gym again and to enjoy the feeling of not staring at a screen or checking my emails.

And I thought of something a trainer had told me last year, after coming into the gym mentally exhausted from a massive week.

"I don't care how you perform when you're feeling good, Rach. I want to know how you respond when you're having a bad day. All you need to do is pick that weight up and put it down."

"All I need to do is pick it up", I smiled to myself this time. "All I need to do is pick it up."

What do you want?

Every year I give myself a theme.

In 2015 it was Listen (to myself, to others, learn how to be a good listener. Listening has never come naturally to me - I had to learn it and still am!).

In 2016: Joy (do things that make me feel joy like public speaking, making time for excellent friends and family, try and inject joy into other people's lives).

This year is all about pleasure.

For so many years work (or feeling "busy" or "productive") defined me, so it's going to take some practice to attune my thinking to "what will make me feel fab right now?"

If you asked me what makes me feel fill up my tank and feel goooood - apart from watching Netflix eating a Magnum, which as we all know is awesome - I'd struggle to tell you what (aside from work) feels insanely good.

So, this year I've decided I want to feel more pleasure and my baby step towards that is making the time to discover what exactly, that is.

There ain't no wrong way to explore, folks - the important part is that we all just try. 

Eating a Magnum in Bali by the pool. #goals

Eating a Magnum in Bali by the pool. #goals

So my challenge to you this new year isn't what goal you want to achieve this year but instead, ask yourself: what do you want to feel this year? What do you want to have? What would you like to achieve?

And if you could put one word on that which could help guide your thinking - what might that word, or phrase, be?

Navigating change in a relationship

 

"You have all this energy for work - but none left for me", a loved one said to me once.

That always stuck with me, because it was true. I showed up for her - but I was a total zombie, having maxxed my charming hours out with clients.

My acupuncturist told me when you ‘expand’, when you're learning new things, meeting new people and doing things that ‘stretch’ you - you physically and mentally need more space to process it. 

‘How is it that any relationships survive this’, I thought, reflecting on my own experiences and marvelling at friends who's partnerships had endured (and thrived) throughout change and challenging circumstances.

Not only is it a miracle two people (or more depending on your preference) manage to get along in the first place, I thought, but how do they survive when people find their jobs loathsome, when they don't feel fulfilled by the work they're doing, when they even question what they should even be doing with their life.

Feeling genuinely happy for someone as they stretch themselves - it doesn't always come easy, does it. While you want to feel like someone who is comfortable with change - let's face it, no one likes feeling uncomfortable and no one likes conflict. Conflict is bred from feeling uncomfortable.

I wondered whether it is possible for a partnership to be equally supportive, when one person is going through a massive mental shift and needs more space and time to process it. I also wondered what it’s like being the support crew, watching someone you love feel so unhappy and wanting to help them, only to have them somewhat deaf to your suggestions.

I think about this a lot because until recently, I was the unhappy jerk needing space to figure my shit out, pushing others away who had loving intentions.

They say you love the way you want to be loved.

And doesn't always make you compatible to the person you're attracted to.

I'm an 'away' person, I learnt in therapy. Someone who needs space and solo time to think. I feel claustrophobic if I'm around people all the time. I hide in the loos at events between conversations. My dream night includes not seeing anyone but Morrissey D Woofington and the guy at the 7/11 who smiles politely as I buy a Magnum.

I learnt I'd long been attracted to 'towards 'people. People who had a routine. People who were emotionally consistent. It had balanced out my highs and lows, having someone who was consistently calm and measured. When I was exerting myself and exposing myself to the world in new, uncomfortable and exciting ways - they were always there to reassure me I was on the right track.

The problems always came when I needed alone time to think, to work on a new idea, or to just not be around them for a few hours, like any normal human being.

Back then, I didn't have the skills to know how to articulate I needed down time. And so, to our demise, it came out as me distancing myself from them. It was hurtful to them. It wasn't personal - I needed space to regenerate, like many introverted people do.

But, back then, I didn't have the language for it to come out like it needed to. They didn't feel like they were coming along for the ride with me - so they held on tighter.

I wonder whether the behaviours we find challenging in others are the ones that tell us something about ourselves.

Do they trigger a memory, an experience. Do they remind us of something that feels uncomfortable. Do they remind us of the values we’ve been taught not to celebrate, explore, validate. 

Maybe there’s a common thread for all of us in believing, to some degree, what other people say about us.

Change can be confronting and scary. It can reveal something about yourself you didn't know mattered to you.

When one person is doing something different - that can be jarring, challenging, frightening for both parties, just as much as the person instigating the changing.

When you change your job, your lifestyle, your way of doing things - you're not the only person it affects. It can alter other peoples access to you, how much time you have for them and what mood you're in when you do see them.

Change can also piss people off.  What feels exciting and stimulating to you can make someone feel left behind. Because maybe it means you have less time to see them, or your energy reserves are lucked out having given them away to your new, exciting thing.

 

To those people considering making changes in your lives:

You might feel like your closest humans don’t understand what you’re going through. You might feel isolated and not sure if it’s a sensible decision.

If your closest humans freaking love you and want you to be happy - they’ll help you create that space so you can meet people who are going to help you grow, or at least be open to learning to how they can help you do it. Be mindful, it might not come naturally to them. It might be a new feeling to them. It might be confronting at first.

Friends, family, loved ones - the are capable of surprising you. When you grow, evolve, try something new, it also gives them an opportunity to go on a new ride with you. 

Pose the question and give them time to digest. And if they don't, over time, you might consider editing a little further.

Regardless if you're with someone, solo, seeing a ton of people, at the end of the day, YOU decide if you want to continue feeling the way you do now.

When you articulate what you want, you are telling the world something about you. You are giving people clues to the type of person you are and what's important to you. Traits that others find attractive.

Let the world edit themselves around you - not the other way around. 

And, although tempting, not through ultimatums, screaming matches or sulk-wars, but through grown-up conversations involving actual words.

Patience is a virtue, after all. I can't say it's my fortė - but I'm definitely trying.

Experience is accumulative

"I've only got fifteen years experience, so I want to wait a few more years before I go consulting."

"I've only got twenty years experience in Finance so I can't really start my own new thing just yet."

"I've worked for five years in marketing, then three managing events and only one in my new gig managing events for creatives, so I'm not really qualified to be talking about being an expert."

And on and on it goes.

At almost every workshop I run, an overqualified woman proceeds to tell me she needs 'just a few more years', 'one more job', 'more experience', 'more education' before they give themselves permission to make steps towards the career and life they really want.

Honestly, it's upsetting.

To see high achievers who are articulate, intelligent, brave and resilient, completely undermine their own value in a professional setting - well, it pisses me off.

It upsets me to see so many articulate, brilliant women undermine themselves, every day.

And what really fires me up is this: they truly don't believe they deserve more money. A job they love. Or a life that actually suits them. 

They want all these things of course - I mean, they've paid the entry fee to my workshop - but something is still stopping them from believing it.

Believe this.

The gendered pay gap sees women in Australia earning 83 cents to their male counterparts and USA women earning 74 cents for every $1 a man earns. 

In fact, the average woman will earn approximately one million dollars less than her male counterpart in their lifetime.

ONE.

MILLION.

DOLLARS.

Why? A bunch of reasons.

Women are the only sex that can birth babies, and you have to leave the office to do that.

Birthing a small watermelon takes a toll on a body physically and mentally, so you need recovery time to feel back to yourself again. Plus you have to keep them alive.

With women leaving the workforce to birth children, men are continuing with their careers to pay the bills. With the stigma around men taking paternity leave, which a ton don't, means a ton of fathers aren't taking a pay cut to hang with their newborn.

Roles for part time workers are rarely rewarded with large salaries. Recruiters report many women even volunteer to take a pay cut to be able to work flexibly.

Women are also less likely to negotiate for salary and benefits due to what the Huffington Post lovingly describes as, 'because women are not idiots'.

You see, as the Harvard Business Review reports, "[women's] reticence is based on an accurate read of the social environment. Women get a nervous feeling about negotiating for higher pay because they are intuiting — correctly — that self-advocating for higher pay would present a socially difficult situation for them — more so than for men."

In reality that means women get called aggressive for asking for more, whereas men are more frequently rewarded for their assertiveness.

Our relationship to money affects how we see ourselves and our own value. And while it becomes expensive, earning less, it also becomes self perpetuating.

Given that women, statistically are earning less, should I therefore be at all surprised that so many women genuinely don't believe they deserve what they really want?

Not really. 

Almost every person in the professional development space I talk to says the same thing. How their clients are mind blowingly intelligent, articulate and talented - and the reason they're reaching out to professionals isn't to teach them how to suck eggs - it's to reassure them they're legit.

Accumulation of personal experiences is what makes you an expert.

Your experiences, your learnings, your highs, your lows, your insights, your research, your perspective and ultimately, believing you deserve a life you love is what makes you an expert in your field.

How to package up your accumulation of experience is what I teach at my workshops and the reason people find it so confronting is because often it's the first time they've been told they're experienced enough.

So, I'll get them to fill in a short form with these questions:

1. What are your 'qualifiers'? How will you define what makes you qualified? These can be years spent in the field + your personal experiences + mentoring your team at work + the combination of all of your different jobs in different industries and what perspective that gives you as a professional. How about the clients you've represented? The millions of dollars you've saved your organisation from being a superstar operator at work over the years?

2. What is your personal experience? What can you speak to with authority on from a place of experience? (For example, I can speak genuinely to anxiety and depression to help others as that's my personal experience. Sometimes our lowest points can be our strongest reasons to do what we do, after all).

3. What makes you memorable? What language is unique to you? Are you quirky? Bold? Nerdy? Own it - so others can love it, too. For example, I'm quirky. A bit of a wierdo. That's kind of my brand. The language I use every day is 'jam', 'mojo' and 'rockstars'. What's your version of this?

4. What pisses you off about your industry? Studies tell us women are more likely to advocate on the rights of others than themselves. So tell me, why are you considering consulting or doing your own thing? Get real with me right now. What made you buy the ticket to the workshop and step slightly closer to the career you really want?

And then I ask participants to say that to me in three sentences. The shift in self confidence I see in these individuals when they say this out loud, makes me realise I am doing Beysus' work, indeed.

HRH

HRH

There will never be a time you wake up and say 'I am ready. I'm qualified enough. I'm the best in my field'. That day will never come.

You will never be ready.

Your point of view, taste, approach, brand and insights are all the product of your experience. When you realise your experience is unique to you, you realise your own value.

And when you realise your own value, you have no competition.

If you accept your experience is accumulative, your perspective is unique to you and everything you ask for is a reflection of how you value yourself, ask yourself: do I deserve a life and career that I love?

And, am I really going to wait for someone to give me permission? Is it me who makes the decisions around here or not?

 

 

Define productive.

A few months ago, I did a Powerlifting Competition. 

Not because I have aspirations to be a competitive lifter; moreso to give myself a goal, work consistently towards it and achieve something new. It was awesome having a focus at the gym and slowly making incremental gains towards that every week.

When I was training, I felt like the most powerful version of myself. Like a fucking lioness coming out of a cave, ready to take whats rightfully hers. There was nothing and no one who could stop me from what I wanted in life. I felt unstoppable.

So, the day after the Comp, I thought I’d take a day off and sleep off the weight. Then, after that, I thought 'I’ll take a few days off'. And the next week, I did exactly the same. 

And so it went for the next three months. I didn’t go to the gym at all. 

After months of training consistently and eating pretty much the same thing everyday for six months, all of a sudden I didn’t have a goal to work towards anymore. I had all this time back in my schedule. My clothes were getting tighter for sure, but I just bought new ones and rotated the outfits that worked.

After a few expensive shopping trips, I looped back with my trainer at the gym.

My strength had split in half, and I could barely last a 45 minute session without yawning (I’d train a 2 hour session a few times a week in lead up to competition).  

Experience had taught me prior if you take time off training, you can’t dip back into it straight away and expect to be in peak performance, so it was a bit depressing, but nothing I hadn’t anticipated. Plus, I’d just come back from a three week tour around Australia; my family had been in town. I was mentally tired.

'You’ve lost a lot of your strength', my trainer told me, looking disappointed. ‘No shit’, I laughed. 

'Like, quite a lot of your strength', he repeated. 'More than I was expecting.'

'I skipped the gym for a few months', I shrugged. 'It’s going to take time to get back to where I was. Also - how good are Magnums.'

Returning to somewhere where I used to slay and then feeling rusty was a bit of a downer, though.

It’s like when you leave a job where you are slaying and then you start a new one and all of a sudden you need to learn all these new systems. You feel like you have no idea what you’re doing and all of a sudden you start to doubt whether you should have gotten this new fancy job in the first place. You feel unqualified and unproductive. 

Despite me routinely telling myself it would take time, using logic not emotion to get back into lifting, there were a number of times I felt like giving up because it felt like I wasn’t good at it. 

But to be good at something shouldn’t be the reason you do it (although it is a lovely side effect to doing something consistently). As Lani Pauli commented on Instagram, leaning into an uncomfortable yoga pose actually paves the way for you next time. Feeling uncomfortable tells you you're improving in new ways.

It’s taken me six weeks to slowly build back up the mental strength, motivation and physical mojo for lifting heavy weights again. And I certainly haven't bounced back into my old shape just because I’m doing slightly more exercise, either.

I didn't enjoy it for many sessions - until just this week. Something 'clicked' and I felt like 'I've got this. This is the old me coming back.' I felt like while the last few weeks at the gym were 'meh', it was worth it as I was getting stronger.

'Finally', my trainer and I both said to each other.

Experts say the definition of happiness is being productive.

Ultimately productivity, for me, is developing, without dependency on reward. 

What that looks like to me is working towards something that helps me be the best version of myself and enjoy the ride, regardless of what that looks like to other people. Creating workshops that help others ace their work, regardless of how many people turn up on the night. Eating the best darned Magnum I can find in my quest for the Ultimate Dessert without counting calories anymore. Writing this blog post without the hopes X amount of people read it or sharing an update on social media without caring if no one comments or likes the pic.

Not being bummed out when I can’t lift the same weights in the gym.

Crucially, not associating ‘success' with reward. 

So my challenge to you is this:

How will you define what makes you feel productive?