In terms of mastering your mind

I’m all about how our thoughts are the only thing we can control in life.

We have the ability to decide what meaning we’ll attribute to any given thing, which then dictates its impact on us – how we feel about and respond to it.

For example

As I write this I’m facing my first ever Christmas alone. As in, completely alone. On an island. No children, no grandchildren, no Carver Boy, no siblings cousins nieces nephews.

And I gotta tell you, I’m FINE with that.

I plan to go fishing. And nap. And whatever else the fuck I feel like doing. I’m good with this because I choose to be.

But,

I remember 13 years ago, going through court for parenting arrangements with my second ex-husband (aka “custody”), being told by my lawyer that I’d need to let my ex have the kids every second Christmas.

THAT MEANT EVERY SECOND CHRISTMAS ALONE. WITHOUT MY BABIES.

And I thought I would break.

I thought it was the end of the world.

I brought these babies into the world, and waking up to them on Christmas morning and seeing the joy on their faces as they opened presents and ate junk food for breakfast and just basked in the holiday bliss, felt like the meaning of life.

Surely I wouldn’t survive it.

Until, at some stage, probably with the help of a good psychologist, I chose to survive it.

I chose to remove the “meaning of life” bit of Christmas morning as a mother, and pick another day to be our Christmas. And make that day whatever I wanted it to be – particularly a sleep in, given that I had been sleep-deprived for about 11 years at that stage.

It was a huge lesson. 

Yes, Christmas without my babies could feel like the end of the world. IF I chose that. Or it could feel completely doable if I chose THAT.

It was a lesson I was able to start transferring to many other areas of my life. And that has been POWERFUL.

And you know I’m ALL about people finding power in their world.

Is there something you can reframe? Can you change the meaning you’re giving to it? And by doing so, reclaim some power in your world?

Stop shoulding on yourself

The whole day lay ahead of me.

I’d had an early meeting planned that fell through.

So instead, I mowed lawns for over an hour until I had blisters on my fingers that were threatening to pop.

Shelly mowing the lawns on Great Barrier Island

I sat down on the couch for a well-deserved cold drink and put on Netflix.

It was at that moment the little voice in my head started saying, you should…

You should do some work.

You should be productive.

You should get off your ass.

You should do the dishes. Cook. Clean windows. Drive to that place and do that thing.

You should go for a walk.

You should do those exercises the physio gave you.

What the actual fuck?

What is it that fills our heads with SHOULDs when we have the opportunity to rest, relax, recharge, have a break, take time out, practise some self-care,  or just fucking STOP for a few hours if we want to?

I don’t know about you but there’s a voice in my head, OFTEN.

Shoulding all over me.

How do I deal?

So if I have the presence of mind, I go through a set of questions:

  1. Why should I?
  2. Who says?
  3. And if I do?
  4. And if I don’t?

And after I’ve had that conversation with myself, I tell myself something like:

Now that I’ve followed those thought processes through, I choose to do X. It’s an informed decision, and I choose to do X because it’s going to get me: (now list 3 benefits of your choice).

For example:

  1. Why should I get off this couch and DO something? Because you’re wasting time.
  2. Who says I should get up off the couch? Well… No one. Someone. THEM. Ummm, people.
  3. And if I do get up off the couch and do something? I’ll be tired. My hands will be more sore and maybe get worse. I might find something enjoyable to do, but there’s nothing I HAVE to do right now.
  4. And if I don’t get up off the couch and do something?  I’ll be relaxed and rested. I’ll have an enjoyable afternoon. Because I’m on freaking holiday, and I deserve a break. It’s perfectly ok to stay here on the couch. Plus there are no people around, PLUS IDGAF what THEY think.

So, now that I’ve followed those thought processes through, I choose to stay on the couch.

It’s an informed decision.

And I choose to stay on the couch because it’s going to get me downtime, a nap, and a big finger to that little voice that keeps shoulding on me!

That’s loosely how it goes, maybe with some alterations depending on context and depending on the answers.

It’s entirely possible that conversation will end up in me realising there IS a reason that little voice is talking to me. There IS a valid reason I should do a particular thing. Either way, the conversation helps me figure it out.

And in the case of the mowed lawns and the blistered hands and the Netflix?

I’m pleased to report I wiled away the rest of that sunny day right there, on that couch, with an old woollen blanket. And there were naps involved. And tequila.

And not a fucking should in sight.

_____________________

As a rockstar business writer, trainer, and keynote speaker, I show people how to feel more powerful in their own universe, so they can have joy.

I remind big companies and government agencies drowning in corporate jargon, that plain language will get you better results – every, single, time.

I un-train!  Because it turns out that business writing is more about being courageously transparent than it is about having an impressive vocab or where the f*ck to put a semi-colon.

When we choose to operate with authenticity, integrity, and courage, both our business writing and our lives achieve the outcomes we’re craving.

Know yourself.  Love yourself.  Have power.  Find joy

How to power

A while ago I was at a client’s premises and found myself locked in.

I’d finished my training a little later than their usual work day’s end, and then took my time packing up my things.  By the time I went to leave, the building was deserted.

I had a visitor’s swipe card but it wouldn’t unlock the door to exit the building. There was no press to exit button, just an emergency break-the-glass type deal.

Yeah, nah.

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How’s your power?

A cleaner had been in the training room a few minutes earlier, so I went to find him.

Can you let me out? I asked. The door’s locked.

He looked around, alarmed, shrugged, and pointed down the other end of the building.

I walked in that direction and found another cleaner – a woman, his wife, I later concluded – in the kitchen.

When I asked her to let me out, she gave me a flat-out No.

<img src="no response.jpg" alt=sorry I can't I have to walk my unicorn"/>

Eventually, I found a lone staff member in one of the offices, and he let me out.

I was pretty amused and dumbfounded, and then as I drove back to my hotel it dawned on me:

I live in a world where I am free to choose.

The power of choice

I am free to choose EVERYTHING.

Whether I work or don’t work. Whether I eat or don’t eat. Whether I sleep or don’t sleep. Who I talk to. What work to accept and decline. What terms I’m willing to work under.

I am free to choose. Every minute of every day.

That is a level of privilege I take for granted.

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The limitations of power

That husband and wife, those cleaners working in the evening, did not feel that they had any right to make a decision to give me access OUT of the building.

They had access cards, to be used for their job, and nothing else.

Their world is such that they didn’t feel able to use their own judgement to make what seemed like such a straightforward decision.

I thought about what must be on the line for them – the fear of losing their job, I assume – their ability to provide for their family.

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What’s on the line for me when I make my choices?

Usually not much more than whether someone is happy with me or not.

And when I think about it that clearly, there are very few people whose opinions I give a fuck about.

I committed that day to two things:

1. Be braver.

I am privileged to have very little at risk.

2. Be more aware of my privilege.

It’s power, and I need to use it, with joy, and badassery!

________________________

Looking for a 2020 keynote? 

I show people how to feel more powerful in their own universe, so they can have joy!

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A rant about spam

I’m really intrigued by spam.

It’s a spectrum of boredom to intrigue to eye-rolling to sheer offense, wanting to track people down and do… I dunno. Something.

Today I got a spam email offering me funeral insurance PLUS A BONUS GIFT.

A bonus gift? To go with my funeral? Clearly I’m not the target market for this particular offer. Or if I am, as a woman in my 40s, they must know something I don’t.

I probably don’t really get it

Spam cracks me up.

I admit I don’t completely understand what’s in it for the spammers – how the ROI works. I mean, how many My dearest in the Lords do you have to write to get someone to actually give you money?

I get the hey big boys spam.

I get the URGENT, we need your help to get our money and we’ll pay you for it spam.

I get the I’m a lawyer and some relative you couldn’t possibly have has died and left you millions spam.

I’ve even had the We’ve been recording you through your webcam and if you don’t pay us we’re releasing the footage spam. Yuck.

Or my most favourite recent trend – the spam emails that have Hello in the subject line, like some angsty Valley Girl looking down on me and all my life choices:

Do you not want your free car, Hello?

Did you not get my last email, Hello?

Who (from a non-English speaking country, I’m guessing) has decided that adding the word HELLO to the end of an email subject line was going to be helpful?

They’re not the worst though

But my most offensive spammers?

  • The ones who pretend they know me.
  • The ones who write their email campaigns to look like a person email, and hide any branding etc, and make me think there’s a possibility this is a person I’ve actually dealt with and should reply to.

They say things like:

I’m just running out the door but I’ve been thinking about that thing we talked about. Can you give me a quick call on 021 SPAMMER?

I was thinking about you after we met and I think we should talk more. Click here and make an appointment for a call?

As a trainer I meet and connect with (as in, on a first-name basis) about 1000 people each year. There’s no way I can remember them all.

There’s always a chance someone could email me exactly like that, so it always makes me hesitate. I think that’s what pisses me off the most.

I’m sooooo about authenticity, I feel personally offended by someone trying to take advantage of that and I feel resentful for the time and energy I put into filtering them out.

And then there’s these ones

Here’s maybe my least favourite spam email:

Have you got time for a new high paying client this month? I’ve got an enquiry that might be a good fit.

These are all from one particular woman, and I’m so tempted to name and shame her. I’ve “unsubscribed” from her list enough times to know she has no integrity, because the emails keep coming. I don’t know how I got on her list in the first place.

But then I think, ahh shit. 

Lately, I’ve had some technical difficulties with my email lists and a few people have tried to unsubscribe and it didn’t work and they’ve been pretty unhappy about it.

Faaark.

This running a business thing isn’t easy, you know.

But still.  I’m not lying to people.  Cos Donna, you DON’T have a high-paying client for me.  STOP LYING.

AND…I know I shouldn’t be so offended. I know I should build a bridge. I know it’s my choice to dwell on how irritating and distasteful this marketing approach is to me. In fact, it’s time for me to get over it.

Rant over.

PS: Donna Davenport from Customer.com, STOP FUCKING EMAILING ME.

Heeey superwoman! How’s your cape?

I did the best I could.

I tried my hardest.

I couldn’t have done more.

I used to feel guilty every time I thought or said any one of those statements. I thought they were lies.

The superwoman days

You see, I have these days every now and then that I call my superwoman days.

On those days, I get up ridiculously early, stay up ridiculously late, and accomplish a super-human amount of stuff. I go and go and go and push and push and push.

I produce, I meet milestones and deadlines and demands, all in between client meetings and calls, maybe travelling between cities, and all while wearing heels and makeup. And maybe cooking dinner and hugging a child or two.

Fuck. I’m tired even thinking about it.

Beware the lies we tell ourselves

But here’s where the lying comes in: Since I do have superwoman days, I saw those as me being my best, trying my hardest, and only those days.

Every other day I counted as me being less than. Less than my best. Less than trying my hardest.

So on difficult days, on days when I was feeling low or everything turned to shit, or all the cats didn’t get herded, or clients got let down or my feet were just too fucking sore for heels, and I tried to be kind to myself and say, I did the best I could, I didn’t believe it. I thought I could do better.

I mean, I can be superwoman! I have proof! And on this day I hadn’t. So I clearly hadn’t done my best.

I lived this way for a long, long time (hello, antidepressants).

Mindset makeover required

Until I realised that my superwoman days were just that: SUPERHUMAN.

More than my best. They were anomalies. Exceptions to the norm. Really fucking impressive and exciting, but exceptions nevertheless.

I had to acknowledge that no one can be superwoman every day. That’s not my best! It’s BEYOND MY BEST.

What I do every other day, every day when I get up and am kind to people and get shit done, and get dressed or don’t, and work or don’t, and cry or don’t, that is me doing my best. That is me trying my hardest.

Because we all fucking do the best we can, every fucking day.

Put the cape away.

Really.

Put it away.

Pull it out on special occasions.

But recognise that it’s not everyday-wear.

You’re NOT actually superwoman.

What can you accomplish today?

Living with depression

I’ve lived with depression officially for 15 years but in truth probably closer to 20.

I’m all good with that. It’s part of me. We manage. I know how it works and what to watch for and what to do about it.

And when I’m having a low day/week/time, everything feels like too much.

Everywhere I look, there are things. Things I need to do. That I feel like I can’t do.

It makes me want to cry, sleep, eat and or drink myself sick. None of which are helpful, but some of which I still do sometimes.

The POWER to do ONE THING!

When I have the presence of mind, what I tell myself is to pick one thing.

Just one.

I’ll shower. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll do the dishes. That’s all I need to do. Or I’ll pick up that thing off the floor that’s taunting me. Or I’ll drive to the supermarket and just get milk. Cos even though we really need a full grocery excursion, we can’t do without milk right now, so I’ll just get that. I don’t even need to put on a bra.

Just go.

Cos who the fuck cares what I look like? Only me.

These are the mind games I play with myself to survive the low times.

Pick. One. Thing.

Because one thing almost always leads to one more thing. And before you know it, you’ve adulted for a time. And the day passes. And tomorrow’s a new day.

So even if you’re not depressed, what’s one thing you can accomplish today? One simple thing? One thing you’ll be able to look back on as you go to sleep and pat yourself on the back and say, go you, you did that thing?

What can you accomplish today?