What is 'failing-up' and why is it more common than we realise?
Telling stories can unlock real change Ayesha Murray runs her own coaching business aimed at helping working parents. She recently started a podcast for parents to share their experiences. When she found a slew of working dads coming forward to talk it started her thinking about the way men telling their stories can normalise difference and drive change.
This year we have all had to adjust to a lot of change. We have spent long periods inside when we might normally have been out and about. Many of us have found ourselves suddenly working from home on a full-time basis – often alongside home-schooling our children. Some of us have experienced some very difficult changes. Adapting to change can undoubtedly be challenging, so what can we do to make the process easier for ourselves? The first thing to bear in mind is that change is inevitable. It happens to all of us, all of the time. We just don't give ourselves enough credit for how much change we already deal with on a regular basis – and how we've already built up valuable experience and strategies for dealing with change when it happens.
Change can mean anything from a variation in our daily routine through to major adjustments such as moving house, getting married, getting divorced, having a family, starting a new job, retiring from work or suffering bereavement. Recently, we have all had to deal with major change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Change is often perceived as negative because it causes us to feel anxious and uncertain. We are out of our comfort zone and we don’t know what to do next. Change can also be positive, however. When faced with a new situation, we have to grow as a person and develop new skills. This means we are more likely to adapt and cope better in the future when confronted with further change. Chosen or imposed? The way in which we perceive, and respond to, change is likely to vary depending on whether we have chosen the change or had the change imposed upon us. For example, we might choose to switch jobs, move house, start a family or retire. We don’t choose to fall sick or to suffer bereavement. In a workplace context, much of the change we experience is imposed – for example, we might be asked to take on a critical new project or be selected for a redundancy programme.
In theory, we are better prepared for the changes we’ve chosen because we planned for them in advance and we prepared for what was to come. Nevertheless, we can still feel unsettled when the change actually happens because it’s impossible to fully anticipate how we will feel at that point, or perhaps we simply weren’t as prepared as we thought we were.
Dealing with enforced change, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can be more stressful because we often have very little time to prepare for it. We find ourselves suddenly going through the so-called ‘change curve’.
Coping strategies: Fortunately, there are some strategies we can follow to help us cope with change:
Give yourself permission to reflect on what’s happening. Too often people feel guilty when they focus on themselves – which is why coaching can be very useful. Coaching gives you the space to talk about yourself freely, without inviting judgement. When you reflect, be honest with yourself and be open to feeling anxious, nervous or unsure. Explore what the trigger for the change was and how it makes you feel. Have you – or someone else you know – been through something similar before, which could provide you with experiences to draw on?
Talk about your problems, and the actions you can take to address them, instead of concentrating on your emotions and feelings. Think about what matters to you going forward instead of dwelling on your fears. Accept the past because it’s gone. You can’t do anything to change it. Your focus should be on the future.
Redefine your goals and priorities to help you move forward. You can do this by understanding what your passions are and what motivates you. The process of taking action will seem more manageable if you take small steps and celebrate every time you achieve a milestone. It’s important to either write down your action plan or talk it through with someone else, such as a family member. By doing that, you will hold yourself accountable.
Change doesn’t have to invoke a sense of dread. Aim to embrace it and turn it into something positive.
Finally, remember that it is natural to have negative feelings about change. So, acknowledge that negativity and any accompanying sense of anxiety that you have. Acknowledgement will help you to deal with those feelings and work through them logically.
Through my ‘fitted-in-when-I-can’ Social Psychology course on Coursera, I’ve come across some interesting research into Thin Slice methodology (Ambady and Rosenthal, 1992).
Maybe you can judge a book by its cover. It demonstrates how, in less than 5 minutes, people can accurately come to conclusions about the emotions and attitudes of who they’re interacting with. In fact, just 5 seconds are all it takes to set someone’s perception of us and vice versa. A thin slice of their behaviour.
The same could be said for our profile on a dating site or our LinkedIn bios. A few choice words can paint a big picture.Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, also explores Thin Slicing through the work of John Gottman, a well-known marital expert.
Gladwell describes how within an hour of observing a couple, Gottman could gather, with 95% accuracy, whether the couple would still be together within 15 years. But if he watched a couple for just 15 minutes, his success rate was still 90%.
"Thin-slicing is not a unique gift, it is a central part of what it means to be human." Malcom Gladwell
So how do we make a great first impression when not face to face?
Introduce yourself with authenticity – in the current situation, empathy and solidarity will go a long way to creating a lasting first impression.
Actively listen - give your undivided attention to whoever's speaking
Create space for others to speak. Even more important to master when working remotely.
Be aware of body language - yours and others. The perceived safety of a screen means we can forget that people are watching!
Final thought. Stay optimistic - it won't be long before a virtual handshake becomes a real one again!
Today, I wanted to share a few of my personal thoughts as we see off the end of a very tumultuous year.
I wanted to start with a quote, written by Eric Roth, from the film Benjamin Button: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
During the last 9 months, every one of us has had to find our courage to, in some cases, start all over again, or in others, build our resilience and adapt in unprecedented ways.
And as we go into 2021, it looks as though we’re going to need to keep our courage close, as we’re still on a rocky road. We’ll need to be kind to ourselves, seek help from others if we need it and have empathy and strength for those around us.
Dr Kristin Neff has spent years researching Self-Compassion and I wanted to share a few of her findings with you.
Firstly, self compassion doesn’t mean self-pity, self-indulgent or being self-centered. It does mean, however, learning to accept that we’re not perfect and that it’s OK to make mistakes, it does mean that we shouldn’t assume that everyone else has it better, is doing things better or is happier than us, and it does mean remembering that we’re not alone and that hardship and struggle are deeply embedded in the human condition.
So I’d like to share a personal story…
I’ve felt bombarded recently with ads on social media from fellow Coaches promising to show me how to make hundreds of thousands of pounds from my coaching business, Coaches who are telling me that they’ve done it, they have six figure salaries, as they smile out of the screen.
I started engaging with these ads initially out of curiosity, wondering whether there was any truth in what they were promising. And I’m from a marketing background so should have known better!
And then I found myself becoming more and more anxious, wondering why I wasn’t earning six figures, questioning my business and my career choices. The path of self-pity was suddenly on the horizon.
So I had to take a deep breath, acknowledge the anxiety and understand why those feelings were coming about.
Firstly, I’d assumed that these coaches were actually living the life they were advertising. I’d taken that at face value not actually knowing a thing about them. For all I knew, they could be struggling, and just trying to find new ways of expanding their business. I know how hard it can be to market yourself, so found myself empathising with them instead of fearing them.
Secondly, my personal goal has never been to earn six figures, my goal has been to have a fulfilling, sustainable business that is flexible enough to allow me to spend more time with my family. And that’s fine, it’s my choice to make and one that I stand by.
And finally, my journey is my own, I’m doing fine and I’m doing it my way. Yes I have ups and downs like everyone, but I’m passionate about it and I’m doing my best.
The next finding from Dr Neff is that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience available to us.
We are all facing an immense challenge and our ability to cope has never been more important. This ability is determined by how we relate to ourselves when it gets tough, how we support ourselves, praise ourselves, forgive ourselves. It’s easy to be our own worst enemy, harder to be our own best friend.
So to end on the same quote with which I started: "We can make the best or the worst of it. I really hope you find the courage and self-compassion to make the best of it." Happy new year and let’s all be kinder to ourselves in 2021!
Inspired by Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Charles Poliquin, there are now three questions I ask my kids at bedtime:
1. What have you done today to make someone else happy?
2. What has somebody else done today to make your happy?
3. What have you learned today?
The first and obvious benefit is giving them space to reflect on their day, process everything they've been through and allow them to focus on the positives. It also removes the inevitable, shoulder-shrug, “good” response to my question, “How was school today?”.
And for me, for a precious moment, it’s an insight into their world and who they’re becoming. Especially when I get a gem from my 5 year old like, “I learnt that there are 140 stars in the Milky Way, which is also a chocolate bar." The Ripple EffectSomething else Dr Chatterjee talks about, and something which, coincidentally, my eldest daughter is learning about at school, is the Ripple Effect, and how 5 minutes of kindness a day can begin to change everything. A bold claim indeed.
We all know that making a positive change can often affect more than just the thing you're changing. So, in the same way, the positive effects of kindness could ripple out and improve the lives of others around you.
So for me, I'm going to start asking my coaching clients those first three questions. And I'm going to embrace the Ripple Effect, as making a positive change professionally will inevitably have a positive impact on their personal lives and relationships. And I'll sprinkle it all with 5 minutes of daily kindness. Inspired byCan you spare just five minutes today to be kind, by Dr Chatterjee