Hello, hello… Is anyone out there?

on the right trackIn my NLP training one of the things I learned to do was to ask specific questions so that I could gain a better understanding of the person I was talking with. Questions that helped me to understand important things about them, like what motivated them, how they made choices and how they “saw” the world. In NLP they are called Meta Program questions-they identify the mental filters that we use to experience the world and they uncover our unconscious preferences – how we process information and how we behave.

A few days ago, when I sat down at my computer and opened up this page, I asked myself one of those questions: “How do I know when I am doing a good job?”

I am a recent blow-in to blogging. (I’ve been too busy building a business and running on the endless treadmill that a lot of us call “living” to be sitting around and doing what I love ie: writing.)

Now I have created space to write. I’m loving what I’m doing. I’m going to be writing a lot more. But… how do I know I’m doing a good job with this article writing?

For me, I have what is known as an internal frame of reference with an external check when it comes to judging how well I am doing. (ie: I write something that I think is kick *rse and I get a great feeling inside-you know, that warm inner glow you get when you just “know” you’ve done a good job? Then I do the external check to make sure that the outside world also perceives it in a positive way-that it’s had the desired effect. (ie: someone actually read it and enjoyed it or found it useful in some way).

In things that are familiar and comfortable for me, quite often the external check is not so important. If it feels all okay I’m happy to go with it, to trust my instincts and simply enjoy the personal satisfaction I get. If I get positive feedback that is a bonus but I’m not reliant on it-a little bit of feedback goes a long way.

But, when you’re starting something new (and maybe something a bit scary) the external feedback becomes a little more important so, when I don’t get feedback of any sort, my fear response kicks in and that sneaky little bastard we know as “Self Doubt” raises its ugly little mug and whispers “Hmmm, no one’s commented on your blog. Obviously it was a pile of crap…”

Then the internal dialogue starts “Maybe I’m off track? Maybe what I’m writing about is not relevant/useful/interesting? What could I do differently?…”

Now, for most of us, this is where the wheels start to fall off our little red wagons and we go traipsing off down the old path we know so well straight into the spooky forest of fear….(insert spooky music here! :) )

We start to make all sorts of assumptions (negative of course), we start to feel all naked and vulnerable and exposed and we begin to personalise it (no one likes my blog… (ie: no one likes me!)… I’m a failure… I’m useless…)

Then we begin to make excuses -to start covering up our perceived failure and to save face. (“I really wasn’t enjoying it anyway/it was taking too much time/I have a new more exciting project that I’m working on…” – all crap of course!)

And then we simply QUIT. We take the easy way out. The way of “Oh well, at least I tried… I gave it a shot…”

As for me, I gave “Self-Doubt” a brief moment of my time then decided “Stuff it-this is fun and I’m doing it anyway!”

Ironically, soon after, the phone rang and someone told me how they’d read that particular post,(Tips For Avoiding Overwhelm) burst into tears and had a life changing moment of awareness.

Later in the day another person explained how she had read the post and finally understood her father after all of these years and how her whole way of interacting with him had shifted as a consequence.

Then yet another call just this moment with someone who said they’d shared this post with six others and they’d had a group discussion about how simple it all was and to say thanks.

So, I just wanted to share that with you and to say thank you to all of those people who are taking time to check in and read my offerings (including my new readers in Bangladesh-how cool is that!?) I hope you’re enjoying reading them as much as I’m enjoying writing them.

And to remind us all that if you’re doing what you love then you’re always on the right track….

Cheers,

Telene

Tips For Avoiding Overwhelm

can't do, can do

can’t do, can do

Right, back to the topic of overwhelm and what you can do to manage it.(Coping with Overwhelm-Controlling the Uncontrollable) 

How can you care about the world around you, be involved and productive and make a difference, yet still live and function? How do you cope with dealing with the paradox of it all? Of being happy in a world where bad things happen? Of keeping moving when it all seems too much? Of feeling that what you do or say doesn’t really make a difference in the bigger scheme of things?

Well, I have a few strategies that work well for me. Hopefully there might be something here are you too…

Tips For Avoiding Overwhelm

1. Turn off the TV/Phone/Laptop

We live in a world of information-too much (negatively-biased) information. We are bombarded by it all day long. No wonder we get stressed and overloaded. Of course, when it comes to the media there is no drama in providing good news, so most of the news we see is bad. That contributes to a feeling of hopelessness. We become overloaded with bad stuff.

So, turn off the TV or, at least, turn off the news. Skip reading the papers- buy a personal interest magazine instead. Read a good book or listen to music. It’s amazing the difference it makes. Try it for a week and you’ll see what I mean…

2. Take your “Important List” and make it as tangible as possible.

E.g. it is not physically possible for me to be saving the rainforest in Borneo (after all, someone has to stay home and feed the dog!) but I can plant trees for my local Bush Care group and I can pick up rubbish off the beach each week or volunteer at the Animal Rescue Centre.

Then choose a couple of bigger picture “causes” that you feel passionate about (e.g. Save the Whales or Cancer Research-something that has meaning for you ) and support those with donations/ e-mail campaigns etc., knowing that there are other people as dedicated and passionate as you out there supporting the other things you care about. Trust that they have it covered…

3. Break it down into baby steps.

Overwhelm makes us powerless to act and keeps us stuck in our thinking. Sometimes the issue seems so big that we don’t know where to start. That’s when we need to bring our attention right in and focus on one specific thing. “My life is a mess!” So, decide to start by sweeping the kitchen floor… then do the dishes…Or write one letter, or pay one bill or clean one cupboard…Focus on the things you can do rather than on what you can’t.

Just make it one simple thing at a time, which leads us to…

4. Take Action, Keep Moving, Start!

Override your head (which is busy telling you all the reasons why it can’t happen/ won’t happen/ won’t matter if you do/ is not worth the effort) and simply stand up and do one thing! Quite often this unblocks the flow. One of the biggest problems we have is our inability to get off our bum and actually start to do something. (Knowing vs. Doing)

5. Yes or No?

Sometimes it’s the little things that tip us over the edge and into overwhelm. Say no to anything that depletes you, overloads you (or makes you silently groan inside!)

On the other hand, say yes to anything that lightens you, empowers you or allows you to grow.

6. Be realistic, gentle and focus on the good things.

Care for others starts with you. Nurture yourself and be realistic in your own expectations of yourself. It’s not your job or my job to save the world but, if we all focus on our little bit, it’s a job we can do together. Imagine what we could accomplish if each of us was willing to just do a tiny part…

Search out the good news stories of others who make a difference. There are plenty of websites/blogs/forums/facebook sites dedicated to those who make a difference, each in their own way. Join them and fill your mind with good news. It starts to change how you see the world. Read inspirational biographies or watch “feel-good” movies.

Remember to take good care of yourself- (We need people like you!) Good self-care has a huge impact on our ability to cope and to thrive.

Hope these are helpful for you and love to hear some ways that you deal with overwhelm!

Telene

Coping With Overwhelm- Controlling the Uncontrollable

journey 1000miles

In the last month or so I have repeatedly heard people speaking about being overwhelmed – (by life, the universe and everything….) Not just people in my community but people interstate and overseas – from friends and colleagues to strangers I’ve chatted to in airports and coffee shops. It’s a theme that keeps reappearing….. Possibly because I’ve been feeling a bit the same way! (Funny how that happens don’t you think….:)

Recently I wrote about putting aside the urgent things and focusing on the important things. (Urgent vs.Important) If you look at my list from then you’ll notice that all of the things on there are well within my control – I can do them all quite simply if I so choose. (Even though I may make excuses about why I “can’t”!)

Important Things: (My list)

Doing things I love like:

  • Hanging out with my family and friends
  • Spending time in my garden and growing my own food
  • Creating stuff
  • Writing every day
  • Laughing ‘til it hurts- often
  • Learning new things- investing in me
  • Being outdoors- fresh air and exercise
  • Camping and going bush

But what happens if those important things, those things that really matter to you, are big things that are out of your control?

If my list contained things like:

  • world peace
  • protecting my community from mining
  • stopping unsustainable fishing practices
  • preventing animal cruelty
  • eliminating child abuse…

Phew. Different sort of list, different sort of feeling…One list makes me feel good….and one doesn’t.

Now, all of these things on the second list are important to me but if they were the things I focused on in my personal “important things” list, then I am immediately in trouble. My feeling when looking at my list is one of overwhelm and powerlessness. These are all issues that I can definitely have an input into, but in the big scheme of things they are, in all probability, pretty much out of my personal control.

When our attention moves from those tangible things we can directly influence to the big picture issues (and there are more and more of them each day) one of the dangers for us is that we can become swamped with the crush of overwhelm and we are stopped in our tracks. Overwhelm robs us of our momentum, our motivation and our resilience. It robs us of the ability to function in a way that serves us well. Overwhelm is the lead weight that sits on your shoulders or the helpless feeling that makes you want to retreat to the Bat Cave and pull the covers over your head… Overwhelm can contribute to anxiety and depression-both of which seem to be out of control in modern society.

Two other side-effects of overwhelm are ignorance and apathy-the inability or reluctance to “see” and the unwillingness to take action-and, if you check out the world around you, you will notice that it has become an all-pervasive issue. We live in a world of “It’s all just too hard…..pass me the bottle/smoke/pills/remote/chocolate ice cream…”

Now, I’ll admit, having a global or “big picture” preference in my thinking style, overwhelm and the feeling of hopelessness that accompanies it, are something I have encountered. (The more abstract and generalised thinking becomes the harder it becomes to take action- ie: lots of “thinking” taking place and not so much “doing”! :)).

Also, if you care about people and issues, if you have compassion and empathy, a desire to do good, to save, help and assist the world and its inhabitants (and I hope that is most of us to some degree) then you’re pretty much a sitting duck when it comes to overwhelm. You look around and see so much that is broken, so much that doesn’t seem to be working effectively, so much that needs to be fixed-that you don’t know where to start, so you don’t.…

So, what can you do about it?

In my next post I will share some of the strategies that work well for me and for some of the people I have worked with.

Telene

Bushfire Update

A quick bushfire update:

The fire was declared “contained” over the weekend and some cooler weather and even a few light showers have helped to calm things down again. It has been a busy time though (well, that’s my excuse for not posting sooner!)

I noticed a lot of cars driving around all week filled to the brim with all of “the important stuff.” There were lots of conversations about what people had selected to take and why.

Some people made practical choices, including basic food supplies and clothing. Others did the sentimental thing with a car stuffed full of memories. Still others took almost nothing because they were simply unable to decide in the stress of the moment. Everyone I talked to took their pets. One friend told me she had run back to her house and grabbed the two new dresses she’d recently bought –she was damned if they were going to be burnt before she’d had a chance to wear them! Most said they’ll make some different choices next time- some quite profound, some minor.

I guess on a practical level it’s given us all yet another practice run to prepare for next time.

When I re-read my last post I realised I’d actually forgotten to include the original positive learning that had prompted me to write the post so I’ll share it now.

It came from a lovely lady who lost everything she owned in the 2005 bushfire. When I talked to her soon after she said:

“I used to have all of these nice things- things that were too special to use. Things like family heirloom crystal, expensive sheets that I used for special guests and lovely collectible things that were locked away in cupboards so that they didn’t get broken. I had art materials that were too nice to use and “good” clothes that I saved for special occasions. Now I have nothing. If I had one piece of advice it would be to use your nice things- take them out and use them every day. Wear the things that make you feel good and enjoy what you have- every single day.”

It was a great piece of advice and one that had a profound influence on the choices I make.

As for her, she has thrived and actually considers that event a major positive turning point –she is loving life!

So, break out that precious stuff and enjoy what you have.

After all, that’s what it’s for..

Bushfire-What Would You Save?

Have you ever done the hypothetical “If there was a fire, what would I save?”

Well I live in a bushfire zone and yesterday was given a “catastrophic” fire rating by the fire authorities due to high temperatures, strong winds and the possibility of lightning strikes. Unfortunately, by mid-morning, the worst happened and soon a large bushfire was raging out of control-our fifth large one within the last seven years or so.

So, there I was, following my bushfire action plan and preparing myself to evacuate. After grabbing my survival box and rounding up a bewildered dog and a very grumpy duck I stood there and asked myself the question I always ask: “What should I take with me?” I had in my hands my three standard no-brainers: my laptop, my camera and my ukulele. As I looked around I saw lots of things that are important to me-mainly family things, some favourite artworks, childhood photos, presents from friends, childhood collections… Lots of things that I love and that have great meaning to me. But it felt okay to close the door and walk away.

I used to be a person who was very attached to my “stuff”. As I sat in my car in the heat and watched the billowing clouds of smoke over the hill I had time to think about the impact that living in a bushfire zone has had on me.

Obviously a lot of the impact has been negative (and that is something I may talk about at some time) but there have also been a lot of positive things that have come from the fires. I thought I might share some of those. They are things that I have learned from my own fire experiences and from the courageous and inspirational people I have worked with. I have watched those who have coped, those who have not coped and those who have thrived.

These are some of the things I have learned:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. There’s nothing like a catastrophe to give you some perspective. How much of our time do we spend worrying about the piddly stuff? All of the unimportant, trivial things? Sometimes it is only when we get a huge fright, a wake-up call, that we remember what’s important.
  • “Stuff” and “things” are not important. So many of us seem to dedicate our lives to getting “things”. “Things” can disappear in an instant. They come and they go. People are the most important things.
  • Live every day as if it is your last. Life is unpredictable-and that is a good thing! It reminds us to be present, to live in the now, to make good use of our time and to enjoy life.
  • Each of us is stronger than we think. It is not until we are tested that we remember how courageous, how brave and how resilient we can be. It is often in adversity that we are reminded of just how amazing we actually are.
  • The majority of people are good people. It is in a crisis that we often see the best in people. It is when we pull together, when we give and when we show that we care. It is when people show a generosity of spirit and a willingness to do whatever they can. It is when people volunteer their time, their expertise, their money and their compassion.
  • Everything will be okay in the end. No matter how unlikely that seems at times there is always a way through and there is something better down the track. Trust and have faith that things will work out.
  • Take time to appreciate what you have. Be grateful every day for those around you and take care not to take things for granted. Tell those close to you that you love and appreciate them-often.
  • Remember to focus on the important things. The things that really matter. Make time and do it. Don’t wait, do it now….. don’t wait for a bushfire to remind you :)

Urgent vs. Important

In my last post I talked about urgent vs. important things.(Stop The World- I Want To Get Off!)

What’s the difference?

Well, urgent things are those things you just have to get done…and, as soon as you do, they are replaced by a huge avalanche of even more urgent things…. It’s a never-ending-story of one thing after another and then you wake up and do it all over again…The more you do the more there is to do!

But, what if you were able to put these so-called “urgent” things aside, just for a few minutes and focus instead on the important things- those things that really matter to you. What might that list look like for you?

Important Things: (My list)

Doing things I love like:

  • Hanging out with my family and friends
  • Spending time in my garden and growing my own food
  • Creating stuff
  • Writing every day
  • Laughing ‘til it hurts- often
  • Learning new things- investing in me
  • Being outdoors- fresh air and exercise
  • Camping and going bush

Now have a good hard look at what’s on your list…and be totally honest with yourself. How many of those important things, the things that really matter at the end of the day, are you actually doing?

(Hmmm, mine’s looking a bit dodgy…)

When push comes to shove, at the end of your life you’re not going to be flashing back to all of that “urgent” stuff like cleaning that bathroom/doing that paperwork/watching that TV program/worrying about your mortgage or making sure your shirt is ironed nicely.

You’re only going to remember the important stuff…the stuff that really matters…..

and all of those things you never quite got around to doing….

Life is always about the important stuff.

Write that list and get to it!

Stop The World- I Want To Get Off!

Stop the world-I want to get off!

If you’re human I’m presuming that you have, at some stage, gotten to the point where life becomes almost too much.

Where your brain overloads and begins to malfunction and there is a distinct smell of burning oil emanating from both ears.…

It’s called stress and it can be a sneaky bugger-creeping up on you even when you think you’re doing okay, that you have it all under control,  that you’ll cope because you have to really….

Stress has become such a common part of our everyday world, that we actually become oblivious to its presence. It becomes part of our definition of “normal.” Some of us actually become addicted to stress and its chemical effect on our body-the adrenaline rush and the associated buzz that brings.

Stress in small doses can be a useful thing. It is designed to move and to motivate us, to keep us safe. But, it is intended for short-term use because it puts such a huge strain on us-on our bodies, our minds, our emotional capacity and our ability to cope.

Too much stress distorts our capacity to see things clearly, to have a sense of perspective and to make wise decisions. It impacts us physically in relation to our health, our sleep patterns and our own self-care.

Eventually the cup overflows completely and we are overwhelmed so we stop, become stuck, anxious, depressed or worse.

We are stressed even when there’s nothing to stress over! Stress becomes our default setting and we have forgotten where the off button is.

But I believe that one of the biggest impacts for us that people  tend to overlook, is the fact that stress is a “joy-sucker.”

It robs us of time, energy and happiness. Stress saps our ability to enjoy and to truly live life.

Essentially, stress sucks big time.

One of the best bits of advice I ever received about stress was this:

 

Forget about the urgent things

and focus on the important things

 

Will talk more about what they are next time! :)