I was well prepared, my ‘speech’ had great information, it was well structured, I was really pleased with it. I practiced it a few times and felt comfortable with the flow. I was presenting to camera, which was new to me, but my notes were ready and I was ready to rock.
I have no trouble presenting in public. I might get a few nervous jitters just before I step up to the mic, but they disappear after the first few words and I get into a flow and thoroughly enjoy it. THAT was the experience I was prepared for today, and the experience I was expecting, and it was NOT what happened.
My brief inquiries before the session clarified that there was no teleprompter available, so I prepared cue cards. Big, easy to read print, laminated to make them easier to hold etc. I like using notes. All was good, I felt confident and a little bit excited by it all.
When I arrived I was told that it wasn’t going to be that kind of video. It was more of an informal chat to the camera, with the points rolling off in a conversational manner. No need for notes, and in fact, with the tight framing of the camera, looking down at notes or at cue cards will end up being a distraction from the conversational tone of the video. Don’t use them.
Oh! No notes!
This new information threw me for a loop. I panicked. My brain shut down and I was suddenly unable to remember anything about the topic that I had researched so thoroughly and knew so well. Forming a coherent sentence of any sort became almost impossible.
My friend Kirsty was going first, and as I waited for my turn, I felt my flight or flight response starting to kick in. I became hyperaware of my surroundings, and then my focus narrowed. My heartbeat raced, my muscles quivered and I became like a spring getting wound tighter and tighter.
I utilised every calming and centering technique I knew. I stood in my power pose. I tried to walk it out. I did deep breathing and stretching. I reviewed the notes I’d prepared so thoroughly. Did more deep breathing. It didn’t work. My anxiety levels continued to rise. I coach people around these fears. I am a confident, intelligent woman. I can do this. I tried to talk myself down off the cliff.
As I sat down in front of the camera the sentences were still not flowing. The information on the topic had burrowed into some inaccessible crevasse in my brain. But, I gave it a go. It’s not in my nature to give up. Liz who was working with me tried all sorts of techniques to get me comfortable yet my anxiety levels grew with every ‘take’ I fluffed. My adrenaline levels were so high; I reckon I would have broken speed records had I run out that door. I realized I was having a panic attack.
I’ve never experienced that before. It was surreal. I was inundated with an overwhelming combination of physiological and psychological responses. I was gasping for breath and tears started running down my cheeks. All my brain was telling me do to was RUN. Get out of here immediately. Seek safety now. Protect yourself.
Luckily there was a tiny part of my brain that was still functioning and I managed to say the words… “I need to stop. I think I’m having a panic attack.”
An interesting thing happened when I spoke those words out loud. I immediately started to become a little calmer. Acknowledging what I was experiencing flipped a switch and the rational part of my brain started to power up. My breathing started to regulate, the adrenaline started to subside and my focus broadened. I started to think in full sentences again, although speaking a coherent sentence was still beyond me.
Another interesting thing happened. Liz, who had been doing her very best to guide and support me down the casual-chat-to-camera-without-notes-route changed tack. If this video was going to get shot, I needed to feel comfortable. So we compromised. I used my notes. My well organized, full-to-the-brim-with-great-information notes that I had worked so hard on.
On Liz’ suggestion I acknowledged them in my introduction. I didn’t apologize for them, but incorporated them. As the camera started rolling again (for take #10??), I looked down the barrel of the cameral, smiled and spoke. It was good. I was warm, authentic and tried my best to connect with the audience that would be viewing the video. I stumbled a few times, but it didn’t faze me. I enjoyed it! I went from a full-blown panic attack to enjoyment in about 10 mins. It was fun, and I wouldn’t mind doing it again.
It’s now a couple of hours later and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience and identify what I’ve been able to learn from it.
• Panic attacks are real. They are debilitating and scary. They can happen to the most confident, self-assured people.
• Acknowledging that I was having one helped. It allowed the rational part of my brain to come back to life, or step up, or get switched back on.. or whatever … I’ll look up the technical neuroscience terms for it later. Whatever the speaking about it did, the feeling of overwhelm lessened.
• I don’t feel comfortable with ‘off the cuff’ speaking, especially if it’s about a topic I don’t know inside out and back to front. I need to be well prepared and well rehearsed.
• Being prepared means getting as much information about the; who, what, how,& why beforehand as I can and not making ANY assumptions.
• And finally, that when I’m not feeling comfortable with a situation, I can say so and offer an alternative that I do feel comfortable with. That’s OK, and FAR preferable to a full-blown panic attack!
Have you ever had an new experience which was as good as it was bad? How did you handle it?
When was the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone? How did it feel?
Do you have an accountability partner? Mine is my friend and fellow coach Kirsty at Seed Coaching. Every Monday we email each other our highest priority action items for the week with the day we are committing to do them. We also review what we did – or didn’t do – from our previous week’s list. Why do we do this? We are both solopreneurs with kids and busy lives and we treat it a bit like a Monday ‘team meeting’ that helps us plan and prioritise our week. We recognise that these key actions are much more likely to be completed if we:
a) write them down and schedule them into our week; and
b) make a verbal commitment to complete them with a second party.
It can be a lonely work day as a solopreneur, and having someone who is genuinely interested in you achieving your goals for the week is a great motivator. We acknowledge and cheer each other on, give each other pep talks when needed, and ask the tough questions around the stuff that isn’t getting done if those patterns start emerging. This all only takes 5-10 minutes a week. That’s a tiny investment of time and energy for some truly great benefits.
An accountability partner can be a colleague, a friend, a family member or a coach. They can support you via email, phone, an app, or over coffee – whatever works best for you. While Kirsty and I always email, we also meet for regular f2f catch ups over coffee and it’s great being able to celebrate our successes and achievements in person.
Do you have an accountability partner for your work/business, or perhaps your fitness?
Do you find it keeps you focussed on your priorities (or turning up to the gym!)?
How do you check-in with each other?
This week has been one of those weeks where unexpected events take place that smack you in the face and knock you off centre. A vibrant teenage boy is struck by lightening and killed on a beach. A vivacious and determined young woman chooses to die with dignity. A fit and healthy grandmother’s unexpected death takes everyone by surprise.
I didn’t know any of these people personally. They were people who were close to people who are close to me… or in the case of Brittany Maynard, someone well known through her public profile as an advocate. Their premature deaths all affected me however. The pointlessness of their dying ‘before their time’ saddened, angered and frustrated me.
And as I struggled to process the feelings I was having and while I was trying to work out what their passing meant to me (someone who didn’t even know these three beautiful strangers!), Brittany Maynard’s comments from her final weeks hit home:
“The reason to consider life and what’s of value is to make sure you’re not missing out. Seize the day. Find what’s important to you, what do you care about, what matters – pursue that, forget the rest.”
A wake up call! We may have all the time in the world on this planet, or we may not. Lets take Brittany’s advice and not waste a second of it working in jobs we hate, putting up with friendships that make us unhappy, persisting with activities that we don’t enjoy…. Let’s live lives that fill us with joy and that we are proud of.
It’s my birthday today. I’m 47, and as one of my good friends pointed out in a Facebook post last night, 47 is officially ‘middle aged’. Jeez… today I am middle aged! How on earth did that happen??? I don’t feel middle aged. Actually I don’t feel any different than I did at about 28!
When I turned 40 (and a the time, that was the biggest, scariest milestone birthday I could conceive of), I decided that I was going to set myself an annual physical goal on my birthday. That year, I was determined to be able to do 10 full push-ups on my birthday (no knees!!). I was reasonably fit, and with a bit of training in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I blitzed it, doing 15 before my arms and shoulders gave way. Pretty pleased with myself, I decided that I’d match that figure every year on the 27th of August. It was my way of checking in on myself, and ensuring that I was keeping fit and strong.
A couple of years after that, I was at the gym on my birthday and getting ready to do my 15 push ups and realized that I could do better than that. Why do just 15? Why not set myself a more ambitious goal? Sure I was a year older, but I certainly wasn’t decrepit! So that year I set myself the goal of matching the number of push-ups to the age I was turning. 15 push-ups suddenly became 43!
I love this goal. More than 40 full push-ups is a really big number. It’s a challenge. It can’t be done without maintaining my strength training and fitness. It’s an achievement that I can be proud of.
So today after I smashed a spin class, I got down and did 47 push-ups. All on my toes, in sets of 10, with a 5 second break between sets. It wasn’t easy, and I admit that those last 2 push-ups were a struggle, but I did it! Yay me!!!!
I use my annual push-up challenge as a yardstick to gauge how I’m performing physically. This simple challenge keeps me motivated and on track with my big-picture training in a very simple way. I could of course add in a raft of additional annual physical yardsticks. Things like being able to run 5kms in under 30 minutes, or squat 100kgs – but I like that I’m keeping things simple. It works for me as this one challenge has a flow on effect into my fitness generally, and I know that I’m on track. I also like that I’m making the challenge just a little bit more of a stretch each year. I’m not matching my results from last year, but improving on them.
I do recognise that at some point my body might say enough! I may not be up to doing 70 push-ups when that time comes, and I’ll acknowledge it, and adjust my goal accordingly (70 on my knees perhaps ). But in the meantime, I’ll keep doing my birthday challenge, and enjoy feeling strong, and fit and 47 (or 48, 49, 50…) – and definitely NOT middle aged.
Does looking at your endless ‘to-do’ list make you feel overwhelmed? Often when we’re overwhelmed we get stuck. The more overwhelmed we are, the more stuck we get and the less we get done. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken as getting nothing done means that the to-do list grows even longer and we end up even more overwhelmed …..aaarrrgghhh!!!!
Below are my top 3 tips for overcoming that feeling of being overwhelmed when you look at your to to list. It’s designed to get you unstuck and moving forward. Give it a go and let me know if it works for you.
Each morning (or perhaps the night before) create a daily to-do list that only has your top 3 tasks on it. NO MORE THAN 3!
These are the tasks that will make the biggest impact to your top priorities. They could be anything from setting the alarm so you get to an early gym class, to making a work phone call you’ve been putting off, to chasing up some paperwork you need to file your tax return.
It doesn’t matter if there are things that have been on your endless to-do list longer, for this exercise focus only on those top 3 tasks.
The moment you have a choice in what you are doing with your day (e.g. after the kids are dropped off at school, or the regular 9am team meeting at work is done) start with the first thing on the list.
ONLY when that task is done, move onto the next thing… etc.
TICK THEM OFF when you finish them! The act of completion makes us feel good about what we’ve accomplished and deepens the feeling of satisfaction. It also reminds us that we are in control
When you’ve finished all three top priority tasks, THEN you can look at some of the other tasks you’ve got on your endless to-do list.
If you don’t get beyond those top 3 that day, it doesn’t matter. The point is you’ve achieved something and moved forward. Not only are you unstuck, but you’ve taken positive steps towards achieving your top priorities.
As your sense of achievement grows, your feelings of being overwhelmed will lessen, and that in turn will allow you to get more done.
And because I like to practice what I preach ….
My top 3 tasks for today are:
And now that those 3 are done (yahoo!!!), I’ll start to tackle a couple of the other 99 things on my list
Good luck![PS – Keep in mind, that we NEVER get to the end of our to-do lists. Life isn’t like that. There will always be things that crop up, tasks get created by us, or for us throughout the day. But by following the tips above, you will keep things in perspective and in control, and create a well deserved sense of achievement.]
What are your top 3 tasks for today?
Do you have any other tips for keeping sane when you look at an endless-to-do-list?
There has been a buzz of late around identifying and expressing what we are grateful for in our lives.
It’s widely acknowledged that taking the time to reflect, and to find at least one thing that you are grateful for within your day, will lead to a greater awareness of the beauty and joy in your life, of the things that make you smile, and ultimately, to a happier you.
The programs that are causing the biggest buzz run from a short, sharp, 21 days, to the very popular 100 days, and the ultimate, 365 day commitment! The combination of a consistent daily routine and ongoing commitment to these projects is key. Ultimately, the projects are about changing the way you think, of changing your mindset, and establishing new habits. These are brain-based changes and take time.
21 days is a quickie program, and while you’ll definitely notice the changes, you’ll get even better, and longer lasting results from the 100 day time frame.
100 days (or 3 months if you’d prefer) is the ideal time frame for establishing and cementing new habits and my personal favourite. It’s achievable and not overwhelming.
365 days is the ultimate format, but it’s a very long commitment for most people and can be hard to maintain. The risk of skipping a few days here or there is real when you think about the year stretching out ahead of you. It’s amazing how a few days can quickly turn into a week, then two, and suddenly you’ve got a bunch of days to catch up on, it’s all too hard and you give up altogether.
I’d recommend starting at 100 days and then extending if you really love the process, are totally committed and are keen to continue.
There are many formats for undertaking a grateful project.
I’m about to embark upon a 100 day ‘What I love’ program (this title resonates more than ‘grateful’ for me!). I’m going to use Tumblr as it’s an easy platform to manage the project on my iPhone. The easier and quicker it is for me to do each day, the more likely I am to succeed.
To be honest, I’ve actually started these projects a few times before (the evidence is still up on my tumblr blog), but was inconsistent and gave up after a few weeks. Consistency, Commitment and Accountability are KEY to making any goal a reality, so here I go… I’m committing to posting EVERY day for 100 days, and I’ll check back with you all during the 100 days via my coaching page to keep myself accountable.
If you’d like to see how I’m going (and help keep me accountable), I’d love to share my journey with you http://davinapark.tumblr.com/
Have you ever done a grateful project? How did it work for you?
What are you grateful for today?
I love a TED Talk! I try to find the time and space to watch a couple a week and I’m rarely disappointed in the insights I get from them. Today I squeezed in 20 minutes of ‘TED Time’ before picking the kids up from school, and WOW, what a potentially life changing 20 mins it was!
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist whose research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions – and even our own body chemistry – simply by changing body positions.
She talks about how those those who stand (or sit) with a posture of confidence, even if they don’t feel confident, can affect cortisol levels and testosterone levels. As cortisol, which is the ‘fight or flight’ chemical produced during stressful situations, goes up, testosterone levels go down. Given that testosterone is a hormone which plays an important part in dominant and competitive behaviours, it stands to reason that it’s good to have that hormone in our systems when we are wanting to get control of, or influence a situation.
The good news is that we can trick our bodies into dampening the cortisol levels and boosting the testosterone levels before we go into situations that might be stressful! Her studies have shown that simply by standing confidently, with an open, erect stance for just 2 minutes, will significantly reduce cortisol levels in the brain – cortisol which could potentially result in us not performing at our best. Think about going into a job interview, or having to give a talk on stage… two situations that are often stressful, but for which we need to perform at our best! How great would it be if we could manage the ‘flight’ response by reducing the cortisol simply by ‘striking a pose’ for a couple of minutes beforehand, and instead head into the interview, or onto the stage, feeling confident and perhaps dominant!
I’ve included my favourite ‘power pose’ to get you thinking…..
Enjoy Amy’s talk!
At midnight on 31 Dec a flurry of resolutions are made… Resolutions to get fit, stop smoking, start meditating, change jobs, buy the dream home, learn a language, take a trip, clean out the linen cupboard… People determined to make some change or establish a new habit that will improve life for the year ahead.
There’s no doubt about it, New Year’s Eve resolutions are inspiring. They are full of promise of a better life, and are made with the passion and commitment that only fireworks, friends and too much champagne can inspire… They also very rarely get off the ground, let alone accomplished. Passion and enthusiasm for change needs to be supported by a good dose of systematic planning, and let’s face it, when you’re in the middle of the Christmas holidays, methodical planning is the last thing you want to do! By the time January draws to a close and routines return to normal, the passion for the resolution has passed, enthusiasm waned, and that inspiring New Year’s Eve resolution has been lost in the bottom of the sock draw.
So, if New Year’s Eve isn’t the best time to make a resolution and get moving on it, when is? NOW! 10 weeks BEFORE the new year begins.
10 weeks is a good amount of time to write a clear statement of your goal, identify the key steps you need to do to make your goal a reality, and work systematically through the actions required.
For example, if learning meditation is on your resolution wish-list, download an app to your phone and start practicing your meditation this week. By Christmas you’ll have established the new habit and be floating blissfully through the stress of the silly season with a new skill under your belt and a great sense of accomplishment.
Want to loose a few kilos and improve your fitness? If you spend this week putting an exercise and nutrition plan in place (joining a gym, buying a new pair of joggers, cleaning the crap out of your pantry, writing a meal plan) and start your program next Monday, in 10 weeks time, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals and be (much more) trim, taut and terrific for the start of 2014.
So, if you have a project, a change, or new skill you’ve been considering taking up, don’t wait until January… make a commitment to start it today, and by the time New Year’s Eve comes around, you’ll be able to raise a glass of champagne at midnight and celebrate what you’ve achieved on your goal as well as the exciting opportunities a new year brings!
If you’d like some support with your goals and someone to keep you accountable and on track, give Davina a call on 0413137713 and we can talk about a coaching program tailored to you.
(Image from www.sydneynewyearseve.com)
The kids are back in school today, and I’m settling back into my term-time routine. What a fabulous 2 weeks I’ve had. For the first time in 13 years I’ve had no September work commitments and I was able to step away from my desk and email completely. Along with lots of beach time, playdates, movies and hanging out in PJs until noon, the kids and I went camping in the Glenworth Valley… it was a picture perfect spot where the kids could roam free, pat horses, climb trees and walk in clear streams. After just 4 days (and despite sleeping on an airbed!), I felt refreshed, centred and totally relaxed! The experience has reminded me how valuable stepping away from work, routines and out of your regular space is for recharging the batteries.
The pictures I’ve posted in this blog capture the tranquility and sense of peace I felt on this short camping holiday beautifully. I have a copies stuck to the wall above my desk…..and when things start getting a bit frazzled and out of whack in the lead up to Christmas (as they invariably will), I know that a quick glance at the pictures will take me to that happy place and help centre me again. It’s amazing how well it works… a little bit of magic!
You might like to find your own symbol of ‘happy’ and enjoy the magic it creates.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of hosting a 20-something couple that are travelling. They stayed with us in our home in Sydney for a week before flying onto New Zealand for the next stage of their travel adventure.
They had a very flexible itinerary, no burning ambition to see specific ‘sights’ and very little in the way of deadlines. Time is bountiful with nowhere much to be, and nothing much to do. As I lived along side them for the week I was reminded of my own 3 years of travelling around the world. I also had very little in the way of an itinerary, only bought one way tickets to countries, and mostly lived each day as it came. I explained to anyone who was interested (especially those travellers I met with 2 weeks to ‘see it all’ and a manic sense of urgency), that this allowed me to be spontaneous. To change plans at a moments notice. To take up opportunities when they presented. I declared that I relished not being tied down or restricted in any way. I was a free spirit.
While drifting along on whatever current I happened to stumble across did make for some unexpected adventures, in unplanned locations, it lead more often to blurry, unmemorable weeks spent in my hammock reading trashy novels, or playing endless games of backgammon in some beach-side cafe. Days passed slowly. And while even with hindsight, I’d be loath to say my time on the road was ‘wasted’, I certainly didn’t utilise those 3 years spent travelling as well as I could have. I wish I’d have seen the salt plains in Bolivia, and experienced the wonder of Machu Picchu… both amazing things that the ‘currents’ I was drifting on in South America, didn’t quite carry me to. I wish I’d had a bit more purpose to my travel.
Fast forward 20 years and my days are now full-to-the-brim with the mundane tasks that come with juggling kids, shopping, work, school, housework, partner, after-school-activities, exercise, paying bills, sorting out the garage… Time is scarce and suddenly the years I have ahead of me are fewer than the years that have passed. I love my life and my family, but each day has become a precious resource not to be squandered. Despite the fullness of my days, I still find myself drifting a bit. Getting done what has to be done and nothing more. But we all need a few adventures in our lives. We need to do more than just the things on our day-to-day task list. We need to do things that make us feel good/special/accomplished/energised/nourished …. and we need to work out how to make space in our full-to-the-brim lives for these things. I need to no longer drift (and perhaps end up missing fabulous experiences like Machu Picchu), but istead drive the itinerary of my life with purpose.
With this in mind, I’ve recently introduced one new habit into my routine and have discovered the amazing value I can now get out of each precious day. I start each day with a sense of purpose. This purpose isn’t around ticking off the mundane to-do-list (that gets done because I have no choice), but around one extra thing I will accomplish in the day ahead. For me, it might be to add the challenge of an extra kilometre to my run that day, or make a call to a friend I haven’t connected with for a while, or spend 30 minutes researching our next family holiday, or work on a new personal vision board.
Each morning before I get out of bed, I spend a few minutes thinking about what I want to do, and commit to making this one ‘thing’ happen. I’m discovering that by declaring my purpose, my intention, to accomplish this one thing every morning, more often than not, I get it done! And because I get it done, my life is richer, more interesting and I feel like I’ve accomplished something for me.
So, why not give it a go, and see if starting your day with a sense of purpose enhances your life.