HOW WILL YOU MAKE 2018 COUNT?

Ok, let’s get this bit out of the way. Resolutions – do they work? Sorry to disappoint, but not usually.

Chances are you’re probably too busy wrapping up work projects before the end of the year and trying to get your X-mas shopping done to be really giving this much by way of any in-depth thought. Or maybe, like me, you might be casting forward to the things you’d like to change in your life in 2018. It might be a wee germ of an idea or it may be something specific you have in mind that needs to change.

What is it about the end of a year that makes us so focused on making changes to our lives? New year’s resolutions seem to tick a bunch of boxes. But I often wonder if fulfilling them is a bit like finding the perfect work-life balance. The prospect of both is so tantalising but the reality so much harder to pull off. No matter how strong our intentions are. And intentions don’t often get us over the line.

The end of each year is often a time when we reflect on what was - for better or worse. We often spend the lead up to NYE running through our mental catalogue of significant things that happened (or didn’t), ranking years like we rate our favourite seasons of Sex in the City. It was a good year. It was a crap year, a year to remember or a year to forget. Sometimes we write them off altogether. This process becomes part ritual, part celebration, part mourning. Sometimes the year ending brings with it sheer relief.

But, if we’re lucky, another one rolls around. A new year is symbolic because it offers the promise of fresh starts and new horizons to conquer. They are brimming with possibility. We survived another year. Now let’s make plans as to how we’ll survive the next one! So, on Jan 1st we charge forward with ‘resolutions’, some of them completely over the top, many verbalised to friends and others kept in the private vault. But, as I know from experience, anyone can make a New Year’s resolution. Not everyone can keep them.

So, I’ve ditched resolutions in favour of small goals.

How we do make those goals stick?

-For starters, big sweeping goals are often so daunting they’re overwhelming. So, start small.

-Try for one change at a time – as opposed to the ‘I’m gonna lose weight, get fit, be more creative, spend more time with family, stop drinking / smoking / XXX’ing’ model of change.

-Don’t be vague with your wording. Statements such as ‘I’m gonna get fit’ is open ended and not very specific. But by re-wording that goal to ‘From January the XXX, I will go to the gym 3 x days per week before work for a one-hour session’ you’re starting to get more specific.

-Measure your progress (in a healthy way). Is it really the end of the world if you slip up one day? Look at your progress on balance or enlist a friend who can give you objective feedback.

-Get someone on board to help with accountability.

A really important thing is to focus on the WHY as this identifies what your motivation is to set the goal and make the change. Is your goal something you really WANT to change or something you feel you SHOULD change. There's a big difference.

You can also try and apply the GROW model, which is a simple way of getting things clear in your mind. When you have your goal in mind, go through this exercise.

Goal – what is your goal exactly? (be as specific as possible)

Reality – is this goal steeped in reality?

Options – what is the full range of options available to you right now?

Will - finally, how strong is your Will to achieve your goal? It won’t happen on its own so what is your level of commitment to making it happen?

By making your goals realistic, there is a greater chance that you’ll stick with them throughout the year.

If you'd like some help getting clear on changes you'd like to make for 2018, you're in luck!

Download my free ‘Get Clear in the New Year’ workbook where you can reflect on 2017 and set your goals for next year.

https://issuu.com/viv-fantin/docs/getclear2018_wrkbk_interactive_lowr

Coach Viv XO

WORKING IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES. ARE WE HAVING FUN YET??

I work with plenty of people on both sides of the creative industries and many of them are not having fun. There is a general flatness or lack of joy and its pretty widespread* From the creators to the people that help the creators, the excitement that lured us in in the first instance has long diminished. Obviously, everything new gets old, so unless you’re in a work situation that allows for personal and creative growth and change opportunities you can find yourself on the hamster wheel doing the same shit for different clients / artists etc. week in week out. But these are coveted jobs in creative professions. It’s meant to be fun, right? Otherwise we could be working anywhere. 

Based on my own experience and those of my clients, the usual reasons cited for this lack of fun are:

-I’m seriously overworked and overwhelmed. I have no time in my life for me, friends and family. Not to mention basic self-care.

-I can’t seem to switch off. My work comes home with me and I’m always ‘on’. Even at the weekends.

-I struggle with setting boundaries. I fall victim to 'Scope Creep'**

-There is conflict in my workplace with colleagues. Too much drama.

-I’m trapped in a grind. I do the same thing week in week out. I’m fricken bored.

-I work my butt off but my pay is not commensurate with effort and energy.

-I want ‘MORE’ from my working life.

Creative professions, certainly those in the music industry (unless you’re really lucky), are not typically a 9 – 5 proposition for most of us.  And that is not for everyone. Lots of the work done by creative industry workers is project-based and deadline-driven. Timeframes are usually tight and as a result, working hours can be ridiculously longer than your average 8 hour-day office job, especially as your project deadline looms. You may also find yourself working anti-social hours, such as evenings, late at night and on weekends.  If you’re someone who wants to work regular hours and have your weekends free to do what you enjoy away from work, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

So be prepared to work your butt off and get ready for SCOPE CREEP**. For those unfamiliar with this expression, ‘scope creep’ is an insidious phenomenon (not limited to the creative industries but widely experienced) where you have committed your time and energy to a project only to discover your responsibilities have magically grown beyond the original brief. “Hang on, this isn’t what I signed up for,” you think to yourself. It’s often a great source of stress for those who haven’t been able to set clear and firm boundaries.

Even so, it's not always easy to say ‘no’ to your boss or client when they expect you to work late, especially if you’re a freelancer, worried you won’t be hired the next time around. Many people manage their lives very happily in this uncertain world of projects and short-term contracts. However, others find it challenging, stressful or even demoralising. And not much fun. So, consider your own case - how important do you think it will be to you to have a more stable job, with a regular pay check, 'normal' working hours and super paid to you? Such roles do exist in the Creative Industries, but they’re not the norm.

Sound like fun? By making some adjustments, it can be!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be focusing on the things stopping us from enjoying our work. Tools, tips and resources to hopefully help you get your mojo back or at least to help you make changes that will bring back some of that joy. Check here for updates: https://www.facebook.com/nextactcoaching/

*If you are experiencing ongoing sadness and feelings of despair, please contact your GP or reach out to:

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14 (24hrs a day)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636  

 

THE REAL REASON YOU’RE NOT CHANGING (Part 1)

Have you noticed how often ‘knowing’ and ‘logic’ doesn't apply when it comes to making changes in our life?

You KNOW you have to stop working until midnight 5 nights a week.

You KNOW you have to put firm boundaries in place with a tricky work colleague or friend.

You KNOW you have to give up smoking / drinking / chugging 8 cups of coffee a day (insert habit).

You KNOW you have to leave an unhealthy relationship or a job that doesn’t align with your values.

But will you follow through with the change? Maybe. Sometimes there’s a distinct gap between knowing and doing. Evidence has shown that even when we know we need to make meaningful changes we still resist them. Or we change our ways for a while but then revert back to pre-change behaviour.

It’s not that we necessarily lack the will or motivation to change. It’s that knowledge (plus will and motivation) doesn’t necessarily translate into lasting action.

Two Harvard researchers, Robert Kegan, PhD, and Lisa Laskow Lahey, EdD have named this ‘Immunity to Change’ and it’s really fascinating! They believe that ‘Immunity to Change’ exists to protect us from the perceived threats that change can put in our way. So, while this resistance is there to subconsciously protect us, it also enables us to self-sabotage because we believe the assumptions we have about the change (and its impacts on us) are all true. Even though we’ve never taken the time to examine and test them.

Kegan and Lahey developed a 4-step process to try and figure this all out (I’ll share in more detail next month) but here’s a simple snapshot. We set out a clear goal (one that we've been trying to achieve but finding tricky). We list the actions we're taking to either achieve or not achieve the goal. Then we figure out what the 'competing' goals or commitments are. And finally, we think about the assumptions we have

Let’s take working back late into night as an example. It’s taking its toll on you physically and mentally and something’s gotta give. What are the assumptions you have around changing the behaviour? Maybe it’s because you feel you have to be seen as being across everything at all times. Perhaps you don’t trust others to help you or perhaps you’re a perfectionist and you fear that anything less than perfect work will not cut it. Another assumption might be something like: “If my colleagues didn’t admire me and see me as an essential part of the work place, then I’d just be average. I would no longer be considered special.”

The competing commitments that hold us back are usually the result of some big, untested assumptions. These are ideas we hold to be true even though, until we challenge them (more on that, below), we have no way of knowing for sure.

You’ll know you’ve hit on a big assumption, say Kegan and Lahey, when you feel a sense of “oh, this is why I’m stuck” — even if part of you can see the assumption as flawed or at least questionable. It’s tempting to simply say, “Aha, well I’ll just alter those behaviours, and voilà, I’m done!”.  Noticing it is huge but not the final smack down. Kegan and Lahey believe that a technical change — simply changing the behaviour — won’t really get to the root of the problem; it won’t change your mindset and calm down those subconscious fears. Only an adaptive change, will do that.

Retraining your psychological immune system can take time and persistence. Once you’ve got a new behaviour in place it takes more time for that behaviour to bed down.

More on this coming soon!

 

 

THE BUSY OLYMPICS!

Clipboard at the ready. Check. Arms crossed in a do-not-approach manner. Check. Face stony, set in a slightly annoyed arrangement (oh, seriously people, that's just how I look when I'm busy!). Welcome to The Busy Olympics.

Busyness has become a measure of success in our society and many of us like to ‘humblebrag’ about how busy we are. Kind of like a boast and an apology at the same time. And of course, this has become the everyday. Our collective busyness has become normalised. Shit, even our children are busy with their over scheduled after-school activities.

WHY SO BUSY?

There are many theories around why we’re all so damn busy. That we jam pack our schedules to avoid an empty life. That we have insecurity about down time and are afraid of the silence. That we feel the need to be busy to prove our self-worth to others. To simply to fit in and be like the friends and colleagues around us. Or that busyness is the only option and that our success hangs in the balance if we don’t get on board the busy bus.

In Tim Kreider's landmark 2012 New York Times piece "The 'Busy' Trap" he wrote that "Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

We’re busy, but are we happy? And are we truly getting more things done?

Busyness doesn't always equal productivity. Or fulfilment. Everyone (and not just those of us in the creative industries) usually has a bucket-load going on. This is often because we’re doing the work of more than one person, our human resources have been stripped and our work is often deadline driven. And we have children and partners and families and friends and pets to

In a work context of course there are times when things genuinely are busy, especially in the lead up to an event, a deadline or a launch. I know from experience that it’s not always possible to leave early.

But it’s fair to say that some of us seem to ‘do' busy better than others. 

While some of our busy-ness is unavoidable, my personal experience is that much of it can be self-imposed. And you can kind of understand why as we live in in a culture with no “off” button. There are plenty of distractions to take us away from the task at hand if we allow them to. I could literally be ‘busy’ all day long on social media and have accomplished nothing.

WEARING THE BUSY-BADGE

When I worked on music festivals, it was like an unspoken competition, the constant pressure to prove who was the busiest. If you weren’t rushing around looking as though you were about to blow a gasket, you couldn’t possibly be doing your job. And of course, busyness is contagious!

Conversations with co-workers would go like this: ‘How are you? Ah so frickin busy, you?’ Well, I’m actually too busy to answer that question so you know, crazy busy’ and so on and so on. Or just the silent hand. I felt like someone needed to pin a medal on me. But of course, there was never a medal at the end. Just the metaphorical badge because for many of us being ‘busy’ is actually worn like a badge of honour, particularly, in a work context.

During this period of my life, I was always in the grip of some version of my “I’m so busy” story. I was busy from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I fell asleep at night. I had guilt associated with being BUSY and I had guilt associated with NOT being busy. I look back now and honestly cannot believe just how much energy I expended trying to rationalise all of this.

I remember my husband Mat asking me one night, as I crawled through the door at 10:00pm for the umpteenth night in a row, why I couldn’t get done what I needed to within reasonable working hours. That was a more than fair question and I couldn’t answer it. That was a pretty sharp reality check.  I didn’t have children at the time but I did have a long-term relationship that I was effectively neglecting.

No-one had told me to be at work long into the evenings.  I was doing that voluntarily. I was trying to prove, possibly to others, but mainly to myself, that I was on top of everything and had all the answers. I wanted to be perfect at my job. But this endless quest for perfection was taking its toll.

My reality was that my busyness covered up a whole lot of stuff in my life that I didn’t want to face. I didn’t want to admit that I was uncertain of what I was doing professionally. I was unsure that I was good at my job and truly felt like an imposter at time. I was generally feeling insecure even though all the evidence pointed to the fact that I was actually doing a really great job. I used busyness as a way to receive external validation because I wasn’t able to feel secure within myself. Well, she must be doing a great job. Look at her, working around the clock. Wow.

It was around the early 2000’s, after my husband asked me that question, that I had the ah-ha moment. Being ‘busy’ had officially defined me.

Do we have an accurate perception of our busyness?  How often do we stop to reflect on how we’re actually using our time? If we don’t stop to think about what we’re doing, whether it’s a priority or not, and when the best time is to do it, our default can be to rush into the reactive mode that the drives busyness frenzy. 

PRO COACHING TIPS FOR THE BUSY MINDSET

-Consider that the busy ‘mindset’ is a choice. 

Sometimes busyness is NOT a choice. It’s a reality. But a busy mindset is a decision we make. The first, and most important, is to simply realise that we largely determine our schedules. Look closely at how you’re spending your time, how much time are spending on news sites and social media for example? 

 -Stop the glorification of ‘busy’

As I’ve mentioned Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honour. In fact, directed at the wrong pursuits, it can be a limiting factor to our full potential. It is okay to not be busy. Repeat this with me: It is okay to not be busy.

 -Value and schedule downtime. 

One of the reasons many of us keep busy schedules is that we sometimes fail to recognise the value of downtime. But this time is essential for our bodies and our minds. Set aside dedicated downtime for rest and family and friends. Intentionally schedule it on your calendar. Then, guard that time at all costs.

-Revisit your priorities. 

Become more clear and intentional with your priorities in life. And schedule your time around those first.

-Find more ‘space’ in your daily routine. 

It doesn’t have to be an hour-long meditation. Take time for lunch away from your desk. Eat with colleagues or go for a walk outside even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Find opportunity for breaks at work in between projects. Begin right away cultivating little moments of space in your otherwise busy day and notice the difference.

 -Give yourself permission to use the word, “NO.” 

Find freedom in the word NO. Learning to say “no” to less important commitments opens up your life to pursue those that are most important.

If you’re still certain you’re short on time, download a time log app and literally track your time, which will either confirm or disprove your busyness narrative.

FINAL WORDS ON BUSY-NESS

Finally, check yourself. Are you truly busy or are you operating in a busyness default position? Are you picking up on the busyness contagion of those around you?

-If you were to keep a blow by blow busyness journal over a week or a month, what would it reveal? Would you have a different perspective on your busy-ness?

-What is the smallest thing you can take away from your day that will have the biggest impact on your perception of time?

-Would you be less busy if you didn’t log onto social media, two and three times a day?

-Have you considered that if you're NOT busy, perhaps it's because all your planning has paid off and you have things under control?

 -Accept that sometimes life and work is hectic and understand that it’s temporary.

Finally, if you’re constantly busy, ask yourself, ‘Am I happy?” Ironically, sometimes we talk ourselves into the notion that our busy-ness is temporary and that we’re somehow building a foundation for that elusive day somewhere off in the future when we will be free of our busy-ness.

Share with a friend who is not too busy to read :)

Coach Viv XO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUIETLY HAPPY IN A NOISY INDUSTRY

The results are in. I’m an introvert and work in the creative industries. Not only that, but one that works closely in the music industry, a community filled to the brim with super-big personalities. How have I survived all these years swimming in a sea of extroverts?

Like many people, I thought being an introvert equalled being shy. But I don’t need to ‘come out of my shell’. Shy I’m definitely not so, in my ignorant state, I had ruled out introversion long ago. There must be another problem with me, something more sinister, a darkness in my psyche, I thought. But no. Just a garden-variety case of introversion.

I can hold my own. I’m not the loudest person in the room but I’m no shrinking violet either. I’m usually not awkward. I just feel totally bombarded when I’m in a party situation or a group of loud talkers.

DIAGNOSIS

I have diagnosed myself. Not via Dr Google but by reading Susan Cain’s brilliant book, ‘Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’.

I nearly shrieked aloud when I read passages of this brilliant book. Finally, an explanation!  I’ve often wondered why I couldn’t get amongst it at the after-party. Maybe I was too tired, bored (or boring). Was I depressed (at one time, yes) or just plain anti-social? All of these things have crossed my mind time and time again.

So, this self-diagnosis has come as a huge relief because over the years I thought there was something properly wrong with me. I couldn’t figure out why being around large groups of people left me feeling so utterly depleted. And more than a little flat. And after the sensory assault that is a music festival, instead of cutting loose like my colleagues, I craved a far less stimulating environment. Usually a hotel room with a small group of people. Or the quietest corner of the bar.

Reading this book has been nothing short of a revelation. I realised I AM NOT ALONE! All those times I felt like an outsider in social settings, I realised that I’m in the ‘quiet’ camp, not someone who needs to be fixed.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Psychologist Carl Jung defined the terms introversion and extroversion as such. He said that introverts draw their energy 'from the internal world of thoughts and ideas, preferring depth and pausing for thought'.

Privacy is crucial for introverts. On the work front, they often like to fly solo, developing their ideas through reflection. They tend to crave a quiet environment so they can focus and don't mind working on one project for a long time.  On the other hand, an extrovert 'draws energy from the world of people, things, and activities, dealing in breadth rather than depth'. So, for an extrovert, being around the energy of others is a big deal.

While both introverts and extroverts can both be outgoing, the crucial difference is the way they draw their inspiration and energy. As Susan Cain writes, “Tolerance for stimulation is one of the biggest differences between introverts and extroverts.”

SYMPTOMS: SMALL TALK IS TRICKY FOR STARTERS

Here are some indicators that you may be an introvert:

 -You find small talk tricky, sometimes painful

-You find show-offy people a bit off-putting

-When someone calls to invite you out to a gathering, you’re excited. Until it’s time to go.

-You often these gatherings leave early

-You always want to drive so you can leave when you need to.

-You need an escape plan

-You love time spent alone.

-When you reach out, it’s with a small group or close friends rather than big scale action.

-You find being in a group of loud people difficult

-You love working alone or in small groups

-You listen more than you speak

-Find multi-tasking draining

-You find yourself over-stimulated easily

-You think before you speak

-You dislike conflict (even healthy conflict)

You already probably have a pretty strong inkling which camp you’re in (maybe you’re an ambivert?). If you’re still unsure, check out this quiz that Susan Cain has put together.

INTROVERSION IN A TYPE-A WORLD

Introversion in the creative fields seems like an oxymoron. Yet we’re out there in bigger numbers than you might imagine doing all sorts of interesting things. There are untold numbers of us working across the arts and creative industries in roles that people would usually associate with extroverts. And many in leadership roles.

So why do many of us introverts feel like we’re on the outside? There are creative giants like PJ Harvey, Thom Yorke, Meryl Streep and J.K Rowling (among others) who have at one point or another have been described or have described themselves as introverts. It's hard to argue that their introversion has limited their success. You could look at it the other way and believe that their introversion is a defining factor in their success.

FAKE IT ‘TIL IT’S TIME TO GO HOME

Is there a time and place to act more extroverted that you really are? And if there is, how easy is it to fake it?  Many introverts, including myself, are able to do this. I used to think I was a great pretender. But being able to adapt is a real ‘thing’ which is described in ‘Quiet’ as being either a high or low self-monitor. A high self-monitor is sensitive to social cues and what any given situation is demanding of them and can adapt accordingly. A low self-monitor has fewer tricks up her sleeve and is less sensitive to social cues. So, for some people, it is possible to fake it depending on the circumstances. Then once we’re out of that situation, we can retreat back to our introverted world.

So, you’re an introvert. How do you manage yourself in a noisy world?

REFRAME YOUR MINDSET ON INTROVERSION

If you have a mindset that introversion is a negative trait, try and flip that right on its head. Instead of thinking of introversion as problem that needs to be fixed, can you think of all the positives that come from being an introvert.

SET AND PROTECT BOUNDARIES. 

This is a big one. I used to feel guilty about turning down invitations. But then I’d go and feel worse because I was so uncomfortable and probably appeared to be aloof or anti-social. So now I have a balance. I’ve figured out what my limits are and I stick to them as much as possible. My nearest and dearest understand. And that’s all that matters to me.

BE PREPARED TO COMPROMISE

That said, sometimes work and life requires us to compromise. So, what if your other half is an extrovert that thrives on social encounters? Or if your boss expects you to be at every function or networking event? You might need to figure out ways to compromise so that the needs of both parties are being met.  If your partner is an extrovert, allow he or she the freedom to socialise without getting cranky when they’re not ready to leave when you are. On the flipside, introverts need the space to be alone without being made to feel guilty for not being more social.

STOP WORRYING…AND MAKING EXCUSES

So, you’re leaving another function early, again. Do other people really care? Probably not because they’re too busy worrying about themselves! If pressed for an excuse, instead of saying you’ve got to be up early for work or have an urgent deadline, try radical honesty. “Thanks for having me. I love you but I’m leaving because I’m an introvert and being here is seriously exhausting me.” The truth will set you free.

BE WISE WITH YOUR ENERGY BUDGET

It’s been called an ‘introvert hangover’, a reaction to spending too much time in big groups or at large parties. Many introverts have limited rations of energy compared with some of our extroverted counterparts. So, manage your social energy budget accordingly and don’t say yes when you really mean NO.

ENJOY THE DIFFERENCES

Introverts need extroverts and vice-versa.  We can learn from each other’s qualities and strengths. We can fill the space in each other’s knowledge gap. We can learn from the different styles of emotional intelligence on offer. We can appreciate our extroverted friends and work mates when they think out loud and build on their off-the-cuff ideas. We can do what we’re good at – listening. 

AVOID TOXIC VAMPIRES AT ALL COSTS

You know who they are. And they will suck you dry. 

ENJOY THE SILENCE. 

When you can, take time for yourself to be alone and have some quiet time. 

READ SUSAN CAIN’S BOOKQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This incredible, thoughtful book will totally change the way you think about being an introvert.

According to ‘Quiet’ approximately one in every third person has some degree of introversion, so we are well and truly out there, even in the creative industries. The ones you’ll find standing quietly in a corner at an event talking to one or two people. That’s us!

I love an extrovert and some of my closest friends are the proverbial life of the party. But there can be anguish on both sides due to the lack of understanding about what it’s like to be an introvert.

An extrovert wants you to join in the party. An introvert wants you to understand that sometimes they simply can’t.

This can get tricky when you work in an industry where there’s networking and pressure to be social. Plus, an expectation that you’ll go to everything, be everywhere and love it.

Contrary to popular belief, introverts love people! We’re just operating at a different social speed and sometimes run out of puff just as all our extroverted friends are hitting their straps. Sometimes I can keep up but, more often than not I can’t, so you’ll rarely find me in the bar at a festival.

And just having the awareness that my speedometer is wired differently to others has meant being able to protect my energy and plan social encounters that are truly meaningful to me.

So, enjoy the silence and know that you’re not alone.

Share this with the person next to you. Chances are they’re probably an introvert :)

Coach Viv XO

If you’d like to check in with where you’re at, sign up to www.nextactcoaching.com.au for a copy of Your Mid-Year Reality Check.

 

 

IS IT TIME TO CHANGE THE RECORD (IN YOUR HEAD)?

What story do you tell yourself, about yourself, over and over? Maybe that other people are better than you, more clever and creative than you or that you’re no good at your job or you’re a bad friend. Chances are you’ve told yourself this story for such a long period of time that it feels like the stylus is stuck on the worst song of a really crap album.  And it’s hung around for so long, it feels like the truth.

My story is that I don’t have enough energy to try new things or to take on anything that is beyond the limited scope that’s in my head. And once upon a time that story was true. I had suffered burnout after years of flogging myself and working in really unsustainable ways (hello perfectionism!). It took years to recover and during that time I really had to scale back on everything in order to protect and conserve what little energy I had. That meant being really firm about what jobs I could take on and thinking carefully about who I chose to spend time with.

My energy levels are actually pretty good these days. I don’t exactly bounce out of bed in the morning but I can sustain myself during busy times without too much effort and drama. I have a more balanced view of stress and try not to buy into the ‘stress harms’ mindset the way I used to. I’ve come a long way from the ‘tired but wired’ exhaustion of burnout. But the story remains and I have to actively resist the critical voice in my head that keeps perpetuating the same old tale. When the inner critic has won the toss, it presents as me not wanting to accept new opportunities because I feel I won’t be able to physically cope. Or it leaves me feeling reluctant to try something new, even though I know I’ll gain something positive from the experience.

So, what shall we call that little sucker that sits on your right shoulder, tormenting and telling you you’re not good enough or smart enough? Some people call it ‘the gremlin’. I call it my ‘inner critic’. I used to believe my thoughts. After all, they were my thoughts, coming from my brain. If I couldn’t believe those thoughts, what could I believe? So, if my inner critic said something, I paid serious attention.

It was during a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (http://www.openground.com.au/individuals/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction) course I did around 10 years ago (to counter said burnout) that I learned something very profound. Our thoughts are not our reality. To me this was nothing short of a radical proposition. I had spent my entire adult life up to that point believing every single thought that popped into my head. And with this knowledge and newfound perspective, I found ways to silence the inner critic and lead a more peaceful life.

Here are a few things you can do to silence your inner critic:

Number One: Be aware of your inner critic. Don’t judge it but know that it exists and make the distinction between ‘your’ thoughts and the critical voice in your head that is constantly trying to shut things down on your behalf. Negative self-talk is our own language but it comes from the messages we were given in childhood, that have been reinforced over time (like you should always be a ‘good girl’ or say yes to every request because it’s wrong to say no).

Number Two: Understand what your inner critic is trying to do. Is it trying to stop you from getting hurt or being embarrassed in front of others? Is it protecting you from putting yourself out there so you won’t fail? Our comfort zone is comfortable for a reason. But there are lessons to be learned, even from failures. So the question to ask yourself is this. Do you want to stay stuck or move forward, even with the innate risk that things may not turn out as planned??

Number Three: Notice how much airtime your inner critic is getting. Allow positive thoughts to get a good balance of airtime and try to replace negative thoughts with more accurate ones. Which leads to…

Number Four: Finally, throw down the gauntlet and challenge your inner critic. This means looking for evidence that the voice in your head is actually right. Where is the hard proof that you can’t achieve what you want to achieve? Where is the proof that you lack talent in a particular area? Can you find the evidence to back up your inner critic?

I use this trick when the inner critic is trying to dominate my thoughts and dictate my actions. I try and imagine saying what my inner critic says to me to a really close friend. “Yeah, you’re really shit at that. Not talented at all. You’d better give it up”. I mean really! You just wouldn’t say that. Would you?

Remember, the story in your head isn’t really the full picture. If your mental chatter is causing distress and robbing you of happiness and opportunities, consider that it’s hit its expiry date. It might be time to change the record.

Coach Viv XO

 

 

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HOW I GAVE UP DRINKING IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY (AND SURVIVED). CAN YOU DO IT? (YES, YOU CAN)

A friend of mine recently said to me, ‘I don’t know how you don’t drink Viv Fantin!!!!’

It wasn’t a question. More of a plaintive statement, but the subtext was clear. How the blazes do you get through the day without a drink? Not. One. Drop.

I’m in the music industry and no longer drink alcohol. Actually, it’s not a new thing. Around 9 years ago, I made a tough personal choice and gave up drinking altogether. I have honestly never felt better. I feel clearer. I am more productive. I now know definitively that children and hangovers don’t mix.

I know many, many people in the creative industries who are in a constant state of trying to cut back, slow down or stop drinking altogether. A few have managed to pull it off, cold turkey. Many abstain during the dedicated months (Feb Fast, Dry July, Oct-sober) but find it hard to sustain. There are festivals, launches, tours, conferences, lunches, chart positions to celebrate and sorrows to drown. There’s often something in the way and plans to cut down or quit are derailed. The thinking becomes future focused, “When such and such is over, I’ll stop”. But then the next thing gets in the way.

In some creative workplaces drinking on the job is not exactly discouraged. In some offices I’ve shared, it’s actually been condoned. At 10am. So there can be a culture of enabling, often in the spirit of good fun and comraderie. And if you’re a person who seriously struggles with addiction on any scale, this can spell big trouble. For those wishing to cut back or stop altogether, inner strength, support and some very clear boundaries are in order.

It’s tough cutting back or giving up alcohol altogether, especially in a social industry where there’s a perception that alcohol greases the creative wheel. But is it possible? YES. This is not a how-to guide. It's designed to get you thinking about why drink and your return on investment.

The last thing I want is for this to come across as preachy. I’m not a wowser. I’ve done more than my share of boozing and (mostly) enjoyed it at the time. I’ve gone through phases of drinking every night of the week - cut back to just weekends and binged all over again. I’m pretty sure I’ve participated in at least one of those quit-alcohol themed months. I’ve been hung over, silly, slurry, feisty and said a few regrettable things.

But I wasn’t drinking to numb any pain. I didn’t have a problem with alcohol. I didn’t black out. I was just a run of the mill social drinker from the suburbs who happened to land in the music industry. I drank for fun and because my peers did it. It’s really important for me to make this distinction as I don’t want to compare my situation with that of a person who is really struggling with alcohol addiction. Because I know that to be brutal.

Even when I drank I didn’t ever get really smashed. Just pleasantly sloshed, sozzled enough to be able to sit around dark bars into the small hours debating the merits of Oasis versus Blur or why You Am I never cracked it in America. I was mostly in control of myself.

I was also very lucky. I don’t have an addictive personality and I didn’t feel as though I was masking any deep seated psychological problems by drinking. But I did have health issues that were being seriously compromised by drinking so the choice was simple. In the end, I just wanted to stop because my health was at stake. It was a simple equation. Drinking seriously aggravated my auto-immune condition. Not drinking made it feel better.

I stopped for good when I fell pregnant with my second child and (conveniently) totally lost my taste for alcohol. I realise not everyone reading this will find it so easy. I know there are degrees of social drinking that veer wildly from the diluted to the extreme. But having a powerful catalyst certainly helped me stop.

So I did it. And then I worried. Would I still be included in social events? If so, would I still want to go? Would I have the stamina to stay up all night that booze seems to offer? Would my friends want to hang around a non-drinker? Would they think I’m a killjoy? Would I have social anxiety without the crutch of alcohol? All these questions and more had to be asked and answered.

I’ve had to coach myself through a number of these fixed mindsets I had in place around my alcohol consumption:

-Would I become boring? HOPEFULLY NOT

-Would my friends change their behaviour around me? SOME BUT NOT MY CLOSE ONES

-Could I still have fun without booze enhancement? YES

-Would people still include me? YES

-Would I get all judgey being around others who drink to excess? I TRY VERY, VERY HARD NOT TO.

In order to process the change, I had to focus on the upsides:

The Upsides

-I can still have nights out with my friends (just not as late)

-My mind is clearer

-I don’t get hangovers

-I still say what I think

-I’m a cheap date

-I’ve saved money

-I no longer care what other people think of my non-drinking

-I don't buy into peer pressure (I'm too old for that anyway)

-People don’t have to watch me dance in public :)

The Downside

Truth is, some relationships will change. Some temporarily, others might be dealt a fatal body blow. There is a period of adjustment that can be uncomfortable. Not just for the person doing away with alcohol but for the friends and loved ones who have only ever known that person as a drinker. The dynamic shifts. You will change.

If you're serious about quitting or cutting down it's worth honestly examining the motives behind your drinking.

Consider the following:

-Do you actually like drinking?

-How much time and effort goes into drinking?

-How much money goes into drinking?

-Is drinking holding you back from achieving your goals?

-Is drinking interfering with your life?

-Does drinking make you feel good about yourself?

-Do you drink to feel good about yourself?

-Do you drink for pleasure or use alcohol as a crutch for social anxiety?

-Specifically, what are the regular effects of drinking? (regular hangovers, waking up feeling you’ve said or done the wrong thing, feeling as though you have to apologise to friends the morning after)

-What’s the upside of drinking?

-What’s are the downsides?

-What is the worst thing that could happen if you cut back or stop?

-What's the worst thing that could happen if you DON'T cut back or stop?

-What are the positive outcomes?

-If you stopped drinking for one month, what do you think you would learn about yourself?

I’ve learned some interesting things about human nature since I gave up drinking alcohol. Firstly, there is an insecurity around both drinking and not drinking alcohol. In some quarters there’s a deep-seated suspicion of people who don’t drink. It’s so culturally ingrained that some folks can’t seem to wrap their heads around standing in a bar with a non-drinker. People are genuinely perplexed and curious. They want to know WHY. In fact, at times, people have demanded to know why. Sometimes in a funny way. Other times in just a gob-smackingly, painful way. That’s probably been the hardest part. Feeling as though I have to constantly justify my non drinking. For a while there the questions came thick and fast.

Do you not like the taste of it? Yes, I do actually (I quit drinking coffee too and still love the taste and smell of that.) Don’t you miss it? Truthfully, sometimes I do. Are you pregnant? Lactating? Er, no.  Will you ever drink again? Probably not. Religious? NO.

Then the silence as people start to imagine that perhaps I was an alcoholic and have entered into a 12-step rehab program. Which would be no-one’s business of course.

In a parallel universe where I’m not afraid to offend people, I fantasize that the scenario is reversed and I start asking all the hard questions. Honestly, I’m not NOT drinking to highlight how much you are! I’ve just made a personal choice. So please stop treating me as if I have a problem!

Funny things happen now. Namely I AM THE SOBER ONE. And with that comes grave responsibilities, like always being the implied, designated driver and having to remind XXX what they said to XXX at the party the night before. The sober one always has to have their shit together (even when you don’t want to). The sober one is often the only person who can remember the mostly hilarious, occasionally ridiculous, circular conversations that take place late into the night.

I recently read an article about how to ‘survive’ being a non-drinker. Included was a helpful tip which involved standing around with a decoy drink, basically a mocktail with a little colourful cocktail umbrella in it so people would be fooled. But I don’t want to trick people! It’s taken me a while but I own my sobriety and will back it every time.

I’ve stopped feeling as though I have to explain myself these days. That feels good. My close friends get it. My family gets it although I know my husband occasionally pines for the looser, drinking version of me he met all those years ago.

I still go to festivals, parties, launches and feel like I can hold my own without having to drink. I don’t feel like a social pariah, but in my more vulnerable moments, I feel like an outsider and that feels lonely. Do I miss drinking? Sometimes. But when I come close to someone with a raging hangover, muscle memory kicks in. I just don’t want to go back there. Ever.

My poison now is a strong chai (seriously). It’s a ritual and it tides me over.

I love my drinking husband and friends. If anyone around me wants to drink and dance on tables, as long as no-one is getting hurt, I’m mostly around to cheer them on. And if it’s all getting too much, I just quietly remove myself from the situation. Exit, stage left.

So now, at every event and festival, there is a growing number of us who huddle together over our sparkling mineral waters. I’m sure the irony is not lost on any of us.

Change is hard but not impossible.

Please seek professional help if you are struggling with alcohol.

Share with a friend who is keen to cut down and if any of this resonates, I'd love to hear from you :)

Coach Viv XO viv@nextactcoaching.com.au

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