5 reasons that listening should be your new superpower

I’ve just started watching Wanderlust on Netflix and I’m ever so slightly in love with the main character played by Toni Collette. I couldn’t quite work out what it was but I think it’s just the way that she interacts with the people around her. And then I recognised that look she gives when somebody tries to divulge a secret that they’re too afraid to fully admit. It’s the therapist look.

It’s not such a funny thing, because she does play a couples’ therapist in the show, so one would expect her to have a ‘look’. But I see that look and I want to just open up. And the characters around her do open up. She gets to hear EVERYTHING in the lives of her friends whether she wants to or not.

Now I do think that I’m a relatively good listener but I want to try this ‘look’ out on some of my friends, just to see what reaction I’ll get. I may get a scowl or a slap in the face, but I’m going to give it a try and see if I get people to start opening up to me a little bit more.

Most people who read my blogs, I can imagine, are the introverted type who like books and poetry and good story lines that can help you to escape from the world that we live in. So with this in mind, here are five reasons why listening should be your new superpower. These can apply to extroverts too, but I feel the introvert feels more deeply (sorry):

  1. Story lines. Most of us are writers and artists and it’s hard to come up with idea after idea. Listening to a friend for half an hour can normally provide you with about five year’s worth of writing material.
  2. Deeper relationships. I’m an INFP and I’m sure that any other feeling personalities out there will get me when I say that that is pretty much all I want in life. I want to connect with people on a spiritual level even if I can’t quite articulate what that means.
  3. You’re always at the centre of everything but never the aggressor. It’s so nice for me to know why people are feeling the way that they do, but on the other hand I hate being dragged into the gossip. If people know you as the listener they will go to you for a shoulder to cry on and some advice at the very most. If you are the gossip, you still hear everything but they go to you for a bitch ‘n moan session which is incredibly draining.
  4. People actually remember you more. I sometimes worry that because I don’t shout and make a noise like some of the stronger characters in my world, that I must just fade into the background and be totally unmemorable. But being the listener is a valuable cog in the machine and people remember the one who put them first. They remember the person who didn’t ram all their troubles right back down their throats.
  5. You learn so much about life. I wish that I had spent my twenties listening more. I would be so much more wise right now. My friend is twenty three and has a masters in all things therapy so she is well versed in the values of listening. Because she has learnt all this as part of her studies she is more aware of how humans work than I am and I have about twelve years on her. Now I’m playing catch up, but then there are people in their fifties who are still mouthing off like they know everything so it could always be worse.

Just try and think of a time you needed somebody to sit and nod. They could be thinking about what they wanted for dinner but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were there and that they made all the right sounds. I’m definitely going to try this a little more and I will report back with my findings.

Much Love

Rachel xx

How to worry less in social situations (particularly when you’re an introvert)

Because let’s face it, introverts do spend about 90% of their time worrying about stuff. It stems from the fact that being around people drains us and with lack of energy comes that nagging self doubt that tends to plague us wherever we go. Did I just say the wrong thing? Is that person looking at me funny? Does everyone in the room hate me? Did I pick the wrong colour socks to wear this morning? It goes on and on and on. BUT, there are several really easy steps you can take to help yourself calm down and remember how flipping fabulous you really are.

So here are five of the first things that I go to when I can feel the panic beginning to set in.

Breathing

Taking deep breaths seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but when you are starting to panic it is the first thing that goes out of the window. It will help to fill the body with oxygen and clear the mind of the racing thoughts that go along with being anxious.

Smokers do get most of their relief in anxiety filled situations from the nicotine in their cigarettes, but they also calm down because of the style of breathing that is involved with inhaling and exhaling the smoke. It is absolutely ideal for calming the nerves. Now I’m not telling you to run out and buy a packet of cigarettes, but try and picture the way a smoker holds in their breath when you are next feeling the nerves. A good rule of thumb is to breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Repeat this for a couple of minutes and you will normally see a difference.

It’s sometimes good to do this before you even go to an event that’s likely to stress you out. It’s like meditating in order to prevent the panic attack before it even happens. If not, it’s quite OK to just quietly excuse yourself and wander off to a quiet corner of the room, or to the bathroom to do this technique.

Removing yourself from the situation

That leads me nicely onto this point, and that is that it is perfectly OK to leave. If you are about to pass out with anxiety, nobody in their right mind would expect you to stay put. And you can either leave for a few minutes to practice that breath work, or you can disappear completely!

The ideal would be to train yourself to get to a point where you can talk yourself down and not let anxiety get you to the point where you have to leave any event, but in the meantime, leaving an event is not a crime.

Remembering that you are not bad

My problems always started with something small and by the time I reached the thought that I was evil and everything bad in my life was as a result of that, it was game over. It took a lot of therapy to understand where those feelings came from and now that I am more aware, it is far easier to stop those thoughts in their tracks. However, even if you don’t know where they come from, the chances are that they are a load of bull crap.

Repeat the mantra ‘I am a good person’ if you have to. Because you are. Even if you’ve done bad things in the past (I mean, come on, who hasn’t?) you can always turn over a new leaf and start afresh any day of your life. You deserve an amazing life and it’s awful to think that you might hold yourself back because of a lie that only you believe.

People just aren’t thinking about you all that much

One of the things that I have to regularly remind myself of when I’m anxious is the fact that everybody else has all their own crap to deal with, and actually, I don’t rate too high on their list of important things to worry about. We are each the centre of our own universe and it’s easy to think that people care but sadly (or gladly as the case may be) they don’t. In a way this is bad, because it means that we all have massive egos and a lot of people are willing to step all over you to get to where they want to go. But on the other hand, it’s very freeing to know that that stupid thing you did one Monday back in 2009 is all but forgotten about by 99.9% of people. Hooray for that!!

So really this one is all about looking at it from a different perspective. Worry can magnify everything intensely and distort the truth, so try telling yourself that a lot of it is just lies that you are telling yourself and you should start to notice that people really aren’t looking at you at all.

Stop trying to be perfect

Nobody is perfect and nobody really expects it. Not really. We may pretend that we’re perfect and that that’s what we want but none of it is real. The Instagram and Facebook accounts with thousands of perfectly filtered pictures are hiding the blazing rows with husbands and the kids that are disrespectful and throw regular tantrums. The old school friend who you recently found out has a CEO position in the city goes home to an empty flat and cries herself to sleep. Everything is an illusion to a certain extent. The trick is to focus on the good bits that you have in your life and stop trying to aim for what the next person has.

Trying to be perfect also puts a huge amount of pressure on you in your day to day life. Even if you just want to do everything in your crappy, low paid job absolutely perfectly, you are still heaping a load of unnecessary pressure onto yourself. And guess what? You’ll probably make yourself even more worried and make even more mistakes than you would if you just relaxed and accepted that sometimes you’re going to do things wrong.

If you make the teas for all the people in an office and you worry excessively about getting somebody’s order wrong, the chances are you will get an order wrong. The nerves will get the better of you and you’ll put two sugars in Gary’s coffee instead of one. But, if you relax and have a laugh with Gary he’ll remember you as the funny one who makes his tea rather than the one who got it wrong.

I hope that some of these can be of use to you. I find myself using them all of the time and although I’ve also had therapy for a couple of years, they really do help. I’d love to hear in the comments if you have any others that could be useful too.

Why numbers SHOULD mean sweet FA

I bet that as an anxious person you find the thought of hitting a certain number kind of terrifying. You may have to have achieved a certain number of sales in a month, or you may need to make a certain number of phone calls each day. Whatever it is that you need to achieve, put a number on it and it makes us nervous types a drivelling mess.

And what is worse is the fact that we live in a society that is driven by numbers. Even in a social context, we feel like we have to have more likes and Facebook friends than the next person, and if we don’t then we are just a downright failure. But should we really be putting so much emphasis on hitting high numbers? I personally don’t think it’s necessary and here’s why.

I think that the best leaders in the world are those that don’t micromanage their staff. A leader who comes down hard on every employee who doesn’t hit their target isn’t really a leader at all. They are a tyrant at best. A real leader will look at what can be improved and why something isn’t working. Instead of blaming the individual who didn’t perform they will look to see if there is something that can be changed culturally.

This is why I think that there is a lot of power in being a really sensitive manager. Somebody who is more empathetic is far more likely to focus less on the numbers and more on the people. People aren’t motivated by being shouted at and intimidated. They want to work in a place where they are appreciated and where they want their manager to be proud of them. This is achieved by giving them time and energy and building trust.

So, I would say that far more important than focusing on numbers we should be looking to build communities and relationships that are based on trust and common interest. We need to look more at the impact that we are having on people rather than the immediate numbers that are being generated by our efforts.

If we look at the greatest influencer in history, Jesus, we can see that he wasn’t all about healing as many people as possible. He could have healed far more in his life time, but instead he used his short time in ministry to have a huge impact that kept on multiplying well after he was gone. Surely this is what we should be aiming for in our work too?

So let’s start modelling our behaviour in the workplace on Jesus. You don’t even have to be a churchgoer to see the value in following his model. And next time you find yourself panicking that a blog post hasn’t hit your normal level of views or likes, remember that you are working towards a larger goal. People may quietly be devouring your work and talking about it to friends and further down the line it will pay off. Don’t sell out and do something just for the views. Be a good person and look after your people and the rest will follow, even if it is just smiles and laughter and happiness. After all, it’s not all about the money!

Bonus Poem

Look out for those within your tribe,

And don’t resort to con or bribe.

You want to build a thing that runs the race,

That doesn’t end up losing pace.

Numbers, targets, the odd sale,

Will only lead to a whopping fail.

So teach and love and make a friend or two,

And watch what happens when you do.

Focus on yourself, not others.

People, places and things. Something that you learn very early on in recovery from addiction is that you cannot control any of these things, no matter how hard you try. And this piece of advice wouldn’t go amiss in other areas of our lives.

Sometimes when you are trying to make it as a successful entrepreneur you will find that people don’t do the things that you wanted them to or expected to do. And this can throw a spanner in the works if you are trying to build something that is going to be a success and sustainable. And of course, you have to watch trends develop and understand how people tick if you are going to make something that is lasting, but you also can’t let it get to you every time something doesn’t go your way.

When I was drinking in an unhealthy way, a lot of the reasons behind it were that I just couldn’t handle people not doing the things that I wanted or needed them to do. It wasn’t because I was a bad person, or because I wanted to control them; it was because I had so little confidence in myself that I couldn’t handle it if I didn’t know, with absolute certainty, what the outcome was going to be. I would actually freak out and lose the plot which is not the ideal reaction when you are trying to lead and inspire!

As I’ve gone through my recovery, I’ve realised that people are funny and unpredictable things. There is no way that we can say, with any certainty, that they will be on board with our own ideas. The key to being successful is in being able to focus on yourself rather than everybody else around you.

You need to remember that everyone else around you has their own agendas and hopes and dreams and just because they let you down, it doesn’t mean that they no longer care about you. This can be a really hard thing for sensitive people to grasp, but it is essential if you want to make your own way in the world.

I would crumble every time that somebody so much as disagreed with my point of view, which was never going to get me very far. In fact, it only led to addiction and misery. So here are my top tips on how to stop yourself from going down that rabbit hole that I found myself in:

  • Take on board what people have to say and show respect if it differs to your own opinion. By arguing back you only make situations escalate into an emotional mess.
  • If somebody is getting a bit aggressive about a differing opinion, just back away. They are the ones that are stewing in anger and feeling uncomfortable. If you have the class and the self control to just walk away while someone is hammering you with abuse, guess what? You’re the one that comes out looking better.
  • Try to remember a time that you last had a bad day and remember how you felt. Now tell yourself that the person being horrible is having a day even worse than that. You don’t know if they’ve had an argument with their other half or scraped their car on the way to work. Anything could have riled them up and you have nothing to do with it!
  • Focus on your own goals. There are seven billion people in the world and just because one of them wants to be negative about where you are going it doesn’t mean that everyone else will be.
  • And most importantly, if someone is doing better than you, the same rules apply. Congratulate that person on their success and then focus on your own work. Never be nasty or bitter, because you’d want people to be nice about your own successes. Remember that you can learn from these people and they might end up being useful friends to have further down the line.

So, really, the point that I want to push more than anything is that I want to encourage people to be nice and lift others up if they are doing will. No more bitching and backstabbing and if someone directs that behaviour towards you, you are free to back away.

And a lot of the people that I hope are reading this are the sensitive type and I know how much of a slave we can be to our feelings. But remember that we are not a sum or our feelings. Acknowledge that a person has made you feel shitty and then move on rather than sit and stew in it. It’s not helpful for you mental health or your future success. You deserve so much more so concentrate on all the good things in your life and all the wonderful things that are going to happen. Everyone else is just running their own race and you need to do the same.

Want to work smarter? Stop asking questions…

I want to see people start to do well and one of the biggest problems that I see with people who are a little more timid is that there is a fear to take the next step, purely because you’re worried about going to go a little bit wrong. And how do we get around making a mistake? By learning from others and asking lots of questions, of course.

Now this is excellent advice, especially if you are new to a subject area and there is a lot to learn. It seems silly to make a whole load of mistakes that somebody else has already made when you could just ask the question and avoid a whole load of aggravation. But there comes a point where you are asking questions for the sake of just asking questions and this just makes no sense.

When I decided to swim the channel for the first time I had very little knowledge of how to go about it. I had been a swimmer as a kid, so I knew what I was letting myself in for physically, but I didn’t know about any of the logistics and the planning. However, I knew that I could get lost in tonnes of advice and ultimately talk myself out of the idea of doing the swim at all. So what I did was sign up for the swim and then start my research afterwards. And even then, I focused on getting myself into training above asking any questions of other people. It didn’t take a genius to work out that lots of long distance was the way to go; I didn’t need to hang around in a chat group to find that out.

However, you would be amazed how many people there are out there that do hang around in said chat rooms, asking how many lengths they should be swimming during each session and a week by week breakdown of it all. These are the people who generally do end up talking themselves out of it. Or worse still, they sign up and then fail because they’ve been procrastinating for so long.

It seems like basic common sense but sometimes we need a good shake to remind us what is sensible. I got across to France with a year of training and no faffing around with Facebook groups that just would have drained my energy. My personal opinion is that a lot of these people on there, want to find an excuse to not go ahead with the swim. And this is the case with so many things in life. There are a lot of people who want to find that one piece of information that will make it OK for them to back out. Do you want that? Are you actually hoping for a reason not to go ahead with your dream? Perhaps the thought of possibly failing is too painful to deal with so sabotage is the better option. Or perhaps you don’t want to put in the hard work?

By all means, build a supportive community of friends involved in the same thing and get yourself educated enough to decide whether or not you should spend time and energy on a project. But once you’ve made that decision, just go for it! It’s fine to be worried and anxious, but nothing great has ever been achieved without taking some risks and making a few mistakes of your own along the way.

With that in mind, here are five ways to stop yourself from getting carried away with too many questions:

  • Read one or two good books on the subject and then stop! If you pick wisely you should have a good enough outline to get started without the need to read a whole library.
  • Limit the number of support groups you join. This is particularly the case if they are on social media because you can lose days looking at every single post and not concentrating on your own task in hand.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. We all make them and as long as you learn from it, there’s no need to become over reliant on other people. Leaning on people too much after a set back only encourages us to waste more time.
  • Devote chunks of time to solely working. If it’s a clothing line that you are building then say that in a five hour day, four of those hours have to be spent creating and being a business person and only one of those hours can be spent speaking to other business owners about what they would do in any given situation.
  • Really celebrate your successes because this will make you more confident. And it is confidence that will help you to trust your own instincts. If you have this confidence then you won’t need to turn to other people.

So get your head down and go for it. It seems like such a shame that your good ideas might be put to waste because you’ve spent too much time asking questions and not getting stuff done. I want to see all of you do amazingly well and I hope that this has given you some motivation.

Do you worry that you don’t have the knowledge to get started and what would be the thing that helps you to get over it?

Have you ever given up on a dream because you’ve entered into information overload or worried that you could never have enough information?

If you could start anything tomorrow without the need to do any long and boring stretches of research, what would it be?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Don’t feel passionate about anything? Try this….

Whenever you read a self help book or watch an inspirational speaker, one of the first things that they tell you is to find something that you’re passionate about. They tell you that if you want to be REALLY successful you have to find something that sets your heart on fire and will keep you interested. But what happens if you’ve taken a few knocks in life and you don’t know where your passion lies? What happens if you feel completely lost and can’t even begin to think about what you like and what you want to do? There are so many of us out there that have this worry but there are ways to deal with it.

feeling lost? the truth is that most of us are

If you are anything like me then you will feel the panic rising in your stomach every time you hear someone tell you to do something that you feel passionate about. But instead of panicking about it and then drinking yourself into a stupor or falling into the deepest darkest depths of depression, why not try some of these exercises and see what they pull up.

  • Try reframing the question “what are you passionate about?” It’s so easy to hear the word ‘passionate’ and worry that you don’t care enough about where you are going in life. These words are highly emotive and designed to fire up certain personality types. People who are naturally a bit more introverted would probably be best asking questions like “what are your hobbies?” or “what do you find enjoyable?” This is far less in your face but also far less intimidating for us quieter types.
  • Try to keep in mind that not everyone has a cause that they would fight to the death for. It’s OK to just bob along with the flow. This is especially the case if you are recovering from addiction or mental illness. You need to be gentle with yourself and giving yourself some lofty goal isn’t always the best way forward.
  • If you do want to look more closely at what floats your boat, then write a list of all the things you enjoy and take the money making element out of it. Don’t worry if you enjoy crochet while carp fishing. Do that for fun and you never know, the better you get at it the more likely you are to find a community and that could lead to a money making enterprise further down the road.
  • Think about what you enjoyed when you were six. Often, as we get older we start to think that the things we wanted to do when we were really small are stupid. I wanted to be a clown when I was six and now people would think I was nuts if I told them that was my life goal. BUT, if you look at how much children’s entertainers charge for one hour on a Saturday afternoon you start to think that actually six year old me was probably a bit more savvy than I first thought. The things we wanted to do when we were children are normally really closely aligned with our personality types (and would therefore be something we could potentially become passionate about). So go back to that wacky list of jobs and just see if anything comes out of it.
  • Get out and try new things. When your confidence is low or your really sensitive this can be so hard but you will never get anywhere without pushing yourself. I always dread going to new social things, but people are nearly always welcoming, especially if you look a bit lost and nervous. Trying out these new things then leads to doors being opened. You never know who you’re going to be sitting next to and what they could offer you in the future. Just try chatting to these people. Let them know you’re nervous. There’s nothing shameful in letting people know that!

Most importantly, have fun finding what your ‘passion’ is. There shouldn’t be a tonne of pressure on you to find out what you enjoy. Life is supposed to be a journey and there aren’t many journeys that go in a straight line. Enjoy the process of wandering up some dead ends, finding out that some things just don’t work for you. Nobody is laughing at you if you ‘pick wrong’ on your first go. You can always go back and pick up on the road that you left off.

How to find your passion and does it really matter?

So many people go into business or start some kind of new project solely with the aim of having big numbers. This could be numbers of views, clicks, likes or most notably, money. We live in a society where our very worth is determined by numbers and it’s so easy to slip into the mindset that it is the only thing that matters.

But if you are going to do something, day in and day out, then you’d better be sure that you really enjoy it and that you are passionate about the thing that you are filling your time with. After all, numbers will give you that initial high that comes with finding something that you are good at, but can it actually last?

There are things that we are specifically gifted with and it is so important that you really start to explore what your thing is before you commit to going into business yourself. There are so many opportunities out there in the world and so there is bound to be SOMETHING that will resonate with you. If you try and go after somebody else’s dream then it’s more than likely you will run out of steam before very long. I, for example, am bloody terrible at selling but I love to teach and to write. So what’s the point in me even trying to go into a sales position? I have been tempted with the promise of money before and gone into a sales role that was totally unsuitable for me. As could be expected, I didn’t make a single sale and I bombed out of the job after just 11 weeks. It’s funny to look back on now, but it was a horrid experience to go through and if I can save just one person from making the same mistake then I think I may have done my work in this post.

Your passion in life should not be influenced by numbers in the slightest because your passion is the thing that sets your heart on fire. You know you’ve found it if you can feel that burning desire for it every time you talk about it. And the truth is that even the most unprofitable of subject matters can become good ideas if you have drive behind it and can frame it in a way that will make others feel the same way. For example, somebody who has a passion for pole vault may not have a big captive audience but if you look at the athletics community in general and then the sporting community too, you already have a huge amount of people who could be at least open to your message about pole vault. Pretty crap example, I know, but you understand where I’m coming from.

I think that the way to find your passion is to remember what you loved as a kid. When we become adults we get bogged down with worries about how other people view us and how we are going to pay our bills. When we are kids we can really find the joy in things we like with none of these worries holding us down. Try to picture what it was that brought you to life as a kid and that’s probably a good starting place. Of course, tastes change but you will find that if you were an arty person as a kid, you’re probably still an arty person as an adult; you’ve just forgotten about it because you’re too busy working for some knob in an industry you don’t have any interest in.

You also need to start reading and watching as much material as you can about business and start getting ideas about what you could do. Also, talk to as many people as possible because you’ll be surprised by what is out there. There are probably a tonne of things that you’d enjoy doing that you didn’t even realise where profitable jobs. “What do you do for work?” is one of the first questions I ask anyone I meet and I am often surprised by their answers.

But above all, passion will give you the drive to keep going. There are so many failed ventures out there and so many dreams that are just given up on and a lot of it is because people have run out of steam. If you have a passion for something you are far more likely to find other avenues and routes to success. Not many entrepreneurs get success on their first rodeo and the reason they pick themselves up and have another go is because they really, genuinely love what they do.

And remember that business isn’t just about selling something. I would have given up a long time ago if that was the case. I’m quiet and I want to inspire other people who a bit introverted and just want to be ‘nice’. I don’t want to be the ball-breaker that everyone is scared of and is all about the sell, sell, sell! We can all club together and support each other and there are lots of ideas out there that rest on this kind of foundation. So think about what you are good at, what you enjoy and what your vision is for a world that you want to live in. That’s a great place to start and you’ll probably end up surprising yourself a bit in the process.