Don’t sweat the small stuff

As the festive season gets closer, the Christmas trees start popping up and the buzz of excitement starts to build, so too does the level of stress.  It seems to ooze from the pores of passers-by as they go about their day, hustling, tutting and bustling around the busy shops and markets.  The never ending ‘to do’ list, battle for the last car-parking space and hunt for this year’s ‘must have’ children’s toy seems to create a sense of frenzy that leaves many of us feeling frazzled.

Yesterday I found myself in a state of flux as I tried in vein to articulate the department I required on one of those voice activated call direction services.  Oh my goodness, how difficult can it be to say the words ‘refunds and exchanges’. I’m from Bolton, and whilst this makes my accent slightly more difficult to detect, I’m not from Timbuktu.  I recorded my own audio book so it really can’t be that bad can it? According to the phone system, yes it is!  Try as I might, no amount of repetition was going to make me understood.

I found myself having an argument with my mobile phone and could almost see the steam coming out from my ears!  Have you ever been there?  I caught myself doing it and then on realising how completely ridiculous it was, I proceeded to laugh at myself.

Being a person who likes everything done at record pace and with as little pain as possible, an automated phone system is never going to fill me with joy.  My lovely husband usually takes on this type of task for me as he knows how frustrated I become.

And herein lies the lesson.  Stop sweating the small stuff.  When we have a lot on our plates it’s often the small frustrations or interruptions to the flow that can send us over the edge.  In the grand scheme of things though, is it really worth the energy that we gift to it? We have to do it and so why wrap it up in so much negativity?  This only serves to make us feel worse.

How are we able to tackle the big tasks, the ones that take thought, consideration, planning, effort and graft and do them well and yet something like smashing a glass or pouring milk all over the counter can lead to us berating ourselves and/or others (or in my case a ROBOT).

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Whilst the small things cause us inconvenience, it’s not life or death and we won’t give it a second thought tomorrow and so ask yourself,  is your reaction justified?  Is it really worth getting worked up over little things that don’t matter? The logical answer is most definitely not.

Next time you find your blood starting to boil over something insignificant, STOP.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself why you are getting so mad.  Take another deep breath, and laugh, and then deal with the problem to solve, getting on with putting it right calmly.

One of the ways to put small stresses into perspective is to practice daily gratitude.  Every day focus on one or two things that you are grateful for and write these down.  You could even write them in the Self-Love-Ninja Journal which is available Here

Keep on keeping on, be calm, be in control and don’t let your blood boil over things that aren’t worthy.

Suck it up, Buttercup

Suck it up isn’t a term you expect to find on a self-love blog and to be fair it’s not a term I use regularly but right now it’s relevant both to me and to my clients. The reason I say this is because I have a goal.  What I refer to as a MAD (Mammoth And Demanding) goal. Many of my clients have MAD goals too.

The thing I have discovered about MAD goals, particularly personal ones as opposed to those we set at work, is they take a LOT of effort, like a lotta lot of effort.  There’s no magic fairy dust when it comes to MAD goals.  Well, maybe there’s a sprinkling from the Universe but aside from that, we’re on our own.  MAD goals take relentless consistency, focus and passion and they often mean we need to do things we just don’t like doing.  And that right there is where we run into trouble.

At work we get paid to hit targets, deliver objectives and achieve the mission.  There’s a reward, a pot of gold and maybe even a thank you from the boss (maybe) and so we get on with things we don’t like doing because it’s our job and we get paid for it.  I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than crunch data, yet in my previous role as a business consultant, crunch data I did, because it was part of the job and I couldn’t let my clients down.

In contrast when we set personal MAD goals, there’s no monthly pay packet, no thank yous and no appraisals with the boss.  We have to do it because we WANT to do it, because we know that when we achieve it, it will feel better than any monetary reward.  The difficulty is, convincing ourselves that the reward will be sweet when we’re faced with the tasks we truly dislike.  In this instance, we can be brilliant at letting ourselves down, throwing in the towel and blaming the fact that it’s just too hard.

Yep! MAD goals are hard.  Achieving them is hard.  Doing things we don’t like doing is hard.  BUT, if these things help us get to the destination, surely they are worth digging deep for?  And if we already have a blueprint for doing things we dislike in a work capacity, we have proven we are capable of doing so.  So what’s the excuse for not transferring this amazing skill to suck it up and get on with to our personal endeavours too?

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Let me provide an example.  In May this year, I blew the cobwebs off my kettlebells which I had conveniently ignored for over a year and decided to give them another whirl. Kettlebell sport is tough and pretty demanding on the body.  Flinging 14kg plus lumps of iron above your head multiple times is not easy.  In my previous blog you will have read that I managed to bag a silver medal in the EKA British Open Championship Pentathlon.

Now I make no bones of the fact that I am fiercely competitive and so I came away from the championships wanting to take it further.  A few weeks later the MAD goal was set.  I will qualify for the England Kettlebell Marathon Team by lifting a 16kg bell at least 360 times in 30 minutes and then I’ll represent England at the International Kettlebell Marathon Federation European Championships which take place in Paris in May 2019.  For someone that has been overweight and unfit for most of her adult life, it’s a pretty MAD goal.

I love kettlebell lifting and whilst the training is tough, I enjoy it, it’s not something I dislike.  So what’s my point? Where’s the pain?

Well, I have to keep my cardio fitness at a decent level in order to have the stamina to keep lifting for 30 minutes.  I also need mental strength because 15 minutes into the marathon my body is willing me to drop the bell.  So how do I kill both birds with one stone? By running!

I really don’t like running.  I’ve tried it many times.  I find it mind numbingly boring and hard, even with an audio book blaring in my ears.  I have to will myself to set off and will myself even harder to keep going. And so it’s pretty crazy to decide that to achieve my MAD goal I’ll need to run 10km a week.  Decide that I have however and I’ll get it done through gritted teeth because it will help me achieve the outcome I desire.  It will help me win my place on the England team.  When it’s freezing, raining and dark outside, I will do it anyway.

The same principle applied when I was losing weight.  If I wanted to drop the pounds I needed to do things I didn’t like doing, like saying no to cake, chocolate and pizza for over a year.

Doing things we don’t like doing is par for the course and if it helps us grow, flourish and fulfil our desires it’s surely worth it?  So we’ll conclude as we started with the fabulous term that is Suck it up, Buttercup!

Check out the Mindset Mentor offering on my website here

 

 

 

Visualising success

We are highly skilled experts at focussing on the things we don’t want and our unconscious mind is trained to pick up on this, making us think of nothing else.  Try not to think of a gorilla and you’ll find it’s the first thing that pops into your head.

I recently started seriously engaging in kettlebell sport.  It’s something I have been talking about doing for over a year but kept finding excuses as to why I couldn’t do it.  Truth is I was scared.  The top kettlebell athletes in the UK were lifting weight way beyond my current capability and though my trainer insisted I could reach those dizzy heights, I was convinced I would fail and so here’s were I placed my focus and rather than get stuck into training, I procrastinated.

The fear of failing was holding me back and I couldn’t see a vision of me succeeding. I was stuck and continued to ignore the group of shiny kettlebells in my garage every time I went in there to workout.

It took a trip to a kettlebell competition to give me the courage to start training.  The atmosphere was incredible and whilst there were athletes lifting some crazy weights, there were many who were there to lift a personal best, in competition with themselves.

I wanted to give it a go and so I engaged in the training, starting at the end of May 2018.  It was gruelling but within a few months I’d progressed from lifting 12kg & 14kg bells to lifting 16k & 18kg bells for prolonged periods.

A kettlebell pentathlon competition was on the horizon in October 2018.  The pentathlon discipline incorporates five different lifts, each done for 6 minutes with five minutes of rest between each lift. There is a maximum number of reps for each type of lift and you score points based on the kilograms you lift and the number of reps completed with correct form. I signed up for the competition alongside my 8 year old daughter and my husband who were both training too.

My trainer, Del Wilson was amazing and devised a programme that would accelerate my lifting capability.  I, on the other hand, had other ideas.  Del suggested I was capable of lifting heavier weights because I was achieving maximum reps well before the final whistle in all of my training sets.  I’d created a mental block which told me that if I increased my weights and didn’t achieve max reps that wasn’t a good idea.  Each time I attempted this and failed to reach the max reps I would feel like I hadn’t succeeded and it would set me back. I couldn’t grasp the fact the maximum repetition number wasn’t necessarily the target.  Too many years in a corporate environment played a role in this I’m sure.

Two things happened to bring about change..

I’d completed a full pentathlon in a training setting and scored 1019 points, a great score overall. The weights I’d used in the training set were comfortable and I was able to max out in terms of reps.  This gave me confidence to keep going and yet I knew it wasn’t a medal winning performance. To get one, I’d need to break out of the comfort zone and increase the kilograms I was lifting.  It took some good old ‘management information’ or ‘data’ to help me break out.  A pentathlon scoring calculator allowed me to see how many points I would score if I increased the weights but dropped several reps.  I could score more points that I did with the lesser weights.  It was my ‘a ha’ moment and I realised I could do it.

The next thing was a photo on Del Wilson’s Instagram (@kettlebelldel) of the medals for the competition.  I suddenly had my eyes on the prize and my competitive side kicked in. I wanted a medal and I started to visualise myself wearing one.  I was focussing on succeeding, visualising it with emotional intensity and there was no doubt in my mind that I would gain one of those medals.

These two incidents happened in the week before the competition and so I decided to increase my weight for cleans from 18kg to 20kg and my weight for jerks from 16kg to 18kg. I went into the competition having not completed a full 6 minute set with the new weights but I believed I could do it.

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I did it with ease and finished each set ahead of time and with MAX REPS which of course tells me I could have pushed even harder.  I bagged a silver medal, scoring a PB of 1119, a full 100 points increase on my previous PB.  I was graciously beaten by a seasoned kettlebell lifter and former champ who has inspired me to carry on.

One of the best moments of the day was watching my eight year old daughter, Coral gain a gold medal.  Whilst she was the only junior female, she had said in advance she wanted to ‘win’ a medal rather than get one by proxy for being the only competitor.  She submitted her targets in advance and asked that she only be awarded a medal if she exceeding them.  She smashed it and I am so immensely proud of her. My husband gained a bronze medal in his category so it was a real family affair, supported by our friends, Kate, Kathy and Andy who provided some amazing cheer-leading.

I am now so inspired, I have set some new sights.  This time on qualifying for the England team in a new discipline of Kettlebell Marathon.  30 minutes of continuous lifting with a 16kg bell.  I am learning from my experience and fully focussing on what I want to achieve rather than worrying about what I might not.

There’s a lesson for us all in that. x

I offer mindset coaching for those wanting to connect with their best-selves.. Find out more her

Have you heard yourself?

The voice of self-doubt; The inner-critic; The nagging voice inside my head. Call it what you will, the key thing is that everybody has one, even those who appear to ooze confidence and poise.

I like to refer to my own inner-critic as Miss. Meddler, largely because she’s an expert at meddling in my affairs. I can guarantee that just as I am about the step out of my comfort zone, take a risk, wear a new dress or say something in a meeting, she is there, ready and willing to stop me in my tracks and pull me right back into the safety zone.

If you take a moment to tune into your own Miss. Meddler you may hear her saying anything from ‘you look fat today’ to ‘your colleagues think you’re useless.’ The words are usually incredibly hurtful, and it is easy to accept them as truths, after all the words are coming from you, aren’t they? But, you wouldn’t tell a friend she is ugly or tell your boss he’s useless, would you? So maybe this voice isn’t yours after all.

And herein lies the opportunity. You can decide to ignore what you hear. Yes, it really is that simple. The inner-critic resides in the conscious mind, it’s an anti-self that aims to stop you from acting in your best-interest. Armed with this knowledge, you can treat your Miss. Meddler like an annoying Aunt who constantly tells you what you should and shouldn’t do. You can respect that Miss. Meddler has an opinion, and then dismiss it as ‘unhelpful and not required’.

Once you make the decision not to listen to the negative ramblings of your inner-critic, it’s remarkable how much quieter she becomes. You can go one step further and tap into the powerhouse that is your unconscious mind. This is where the magic happens. The unconscious mind wants the absolute best for you and will encourage you to succeed at all costs. It thrives on positivity so spend time feeding it inspiring thoughts and words. The trick here is to ‘believe it until you become it.’ Even if you are doubting your ability, tell your unconscious mind that you can. If you hear Miss. Meddler say you are stupid, ignore her and say the opposite out loud. Tell yourself over and over that you are Enough, and you will become Enough.

For more tips and tricks for handling your inner-critic and developing self-compassion check out Angela’s new book, Enough.

Self-sabotage vs Self-love Superheroes. There can only be one winner!

I recently conducted a survey in my Facebook group, A Big Girl’s Journey to Lean.  I asked the group what prevented them from eating healthily on a consistent basis.  530 responses provided a interesting reading.  The obvious things such as the expense,  limited cooking expertise and lack of time accounted (combined) for less than 10% of the overall responses.  The real reasons people cited for not being able to stick with it was born out of a deeper, more emotional place.

Over 37% of respondents claimed self-sabotage was the killer culprit when it came to stalling consistency around healthy eating.  A further 24% felt it was driven by tiredness and stress.

I write extensively in my book Enough about my own relationship with food and how I believe this is strongly correlated with mindset, thoughts and feelings.  Self-sabotage is the stick we like to beat ourselves with.  It gains its strength for our inner-critic, the anti-self who will go out of its way to derail us, stop us reaching our goals and being happy.  This is the role of the inner-critic and once we recognise this we can disarm it and in doing so lessen the fuel it feeds its mate, self-sabotage.

When you know that your inner-critic doesn’t act in your best-interests you can train yourself to stop listening and dismiss the constant negative self-talk as utter nonsense.  You don’t need its advice.  It is akin to listening to a Dictator and most of us understand that is never the wisest move. Thank your inner-critic for its opinion and dismiss it as unhelpful.  Healthy eating makes you feel good and the anti-self’s attempts to lead you down junk food alley will not help you reach your destination.

Fear is another firm friend of self-sabotage.  Working out what we are afraid of is useful.  Often it’s the fear of failure and yet in fearing it we somehow wind up moving further away from our goals by doing the opposite of what we intended, which in turn makes us feel like a failure.  Talk about coming full circle!  It may be the fear is of the un-familiar.  We don’t know how we will feel when we reach our destination and so we stay safe and opt for the junk food.  Visualising our new world helps with familiarisation.  Believing we are resilient and are equipped to face our fears head on, helps enormously.

An arch enemy of self-sabotage is self-compassion which singlehandedly renders the former powerless.  Practicing self-affirmation, daily gratitude and re-framing negative thoughts will all help to work the self-compassion muscle and prepare it for the battle with self-sabotage.  Add in the superhero that is Accountability and you have yourself an army so strong, that self-sabotage wont even show it’s face.

The critical thing is that your superheroes need regular training to stay one step head of their rival self-sabotage.  You won’t win the war if you don’t change your current game plan.  The ultimate superhero trainer is Self-Love Ninja.

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Daily training is key and the perfect way to do this is through journaling.  This is the reason my colleague Kate and I designed Ninja Notes, the perfect way train those mindset superheroes, stay accountable and practice self-compassion daily.

With the mindset cracked, healthy eating and every other challenge can be tackled with ease.

Invest in yourself here by purchasing Ninja Notes

I haven’t got time to climb Everest

As a wife, mum of two and career woman, incorporating regular exercise always felt like an impossible task, or at least that is what I told myself. I was getting in my own way and using every excuse in the book. Rather than move more, I’d eat less in a bid to lose weight. Looking back, existing on fewer than 1000 calories each day was not only bad for my physical health, it was poor for my mental health, often leading me to binge. Three years ago, I decided to change that and using a combination of regular exercise and healthy eating, I have moved from a size 22 to 10/12 and I feel fabulous. And you can too.

One of the questions I am often asked is ‘how do you make time for exercise?’  Initially, I completed a ‘week in the life of’ study to understand how I could create time.  I have written a whole chapter on this in the self-help section of my book Enough and there will be templates available in the Ninja Notes journal which is out next month.

The truth is, there is always time, it’s simply a matter of prioritising.  Equally, it’s a matter of eating the elephant one bite at a time.  Now that I’m coaching people, I am understanding even more that many of us are experts at placing enormous pressure on ourselves. Whilst I don’t coach specifically about nutrition and exercise, it is always a theme because it’s recognised as being an important part of a self-care journey.  So many of my clients beat themselves up because they can’t manage 5 hour long sessions in the gym every week.  When I ask why they are trying to do 5 hour long sessions there is often a momentary pause and a look of ‘I don’t actually know’.

Who said you have to climb Everest right from the get-go?  or at all?

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Why not start small and develop habits gradually.  It’s much more likely to be sustainable and it’s highly likely you won’t have cause to chastise yourself for not reaching the summit of your too high expectations.

One of the myths about exercise is to be effective it has to entail hour-long sessions at the gym. I believed this myself and got into a habit of over exercising.  I’ve since cut this back significantly. According to government guidelines we benefit from incorporating 150 minutes of moderate activity into our schedules every week. This equates to ten 15-minute sessions. Easy! The great news is you don’t have to spend lots of money on kit to get your heart rate pumping. The benefit of social media and the rise of the ‘app’ means there is a wealth of resources at your fingertips. You’ll find hundreds of workouts on YouTube & App store catering for the absolute beginner to the advanced or of course, you can keep it simple and walk.

Here’s my ten tips for incorporating exercise into your busy life: –
• Jump out of bed, hit the deck and do 15 crunches to start the day
• Kill the time spent brushing teeth by doing 25 squats
• Take the stairs, rather than the lift
• Set a goal to walk a marathon in a month, it’s less than a mile each day
• Set the alarm early or repurpose evening TV time to do a YouTube workout
• Skip with an imaginary rope for 5 minutes whilst dinner is cooking – 30 seconds skipping – 30 seconds resting
• Step your way through a TV programme
• Volunteer to do the lunch/coffee run for your colleagues
• Use the stairs for a workout. Aim to walk and down 10 times without stopping
• Jog/march on the spot while you wait for the kettle to boil

Maybe it’s about climbing molehills often rather than mountains now and then. Short sharp burst of activity will increase your heart rate and help you to shine from within. Give it a go and for more tips on how to create capacity in your day check out my book, Enough on Amazon or at my Shop

‘Closed for Spiritual Maintenance’

I love social media.  Despite experiencing an occasional sprinkling of negativity from those I like to refer to as ‘trolls’, I have a remarkably positive relationship with it and would encourage people to engage through it.

Whilst I haven’t yet dipped my toe into the unknown waters of Snapchat or the calm tranquillity of Pinterest, I do regularly engage on Instagram, Twitter, Linked in and Facebook.  And, now that I have an internet based business, coaching and supporting people to be their best-selves, social media is a necessary part of my job, the perfect platform to share my messages and attract new clients.

With so many positives, why would I choose to take a week out and indulge in a social media hiatus. As is the case with most of my hair brained schemes, it wasn’t a moment of clarity, it was more something that evolved over time.

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We were on holiday in Lanzarote a few weeks ago and I turned to my son Finley who was busy scrolling on his tablet just as we were about to go for dinner.  ‘Finley, please put that down now, we are going to dinner’ I said.  I added a challenge to the ask by including ‘why don’t you take a break from the tablet for the whole day tomorrow, you don’t need it.’

Finley is ten and is getting rather smart with his retorts.  ‘Well Mummy, I will if you will.  Did you know that the average adult checks their phone more than 12 times every hour?’

Yikes, he had me with that one.  I could have done the ‘I’m an adult, I can make my own decisions’ thing which would have been extremely irritating for him to hear I’m sure.  It wasn’t something I liked hearing as a child.  Or I could ‘have a taste of my own flavour’ (as the kids say) and do the same thing I was asking him to do.

And so, I agreed to a 24 hour ‘no phones’ period, which of course meant ‘no social media’.

That one day break turned into two and without much thought quickly rolled into a whole week social media free. The break was welcome, like a total shut down from the outside world and it opened the pathways, allowing creativity to flow.

I had three big realisations during the break..

  1. REAL connection is the best kind of connection

I love social media because it helps me connect with people all over the world and I’ve built friendships with some remarkable people. It can though,  impact the connections with the real people in my life.  I have lost count of the times my husband or children have said something to me and I’ve only half heard it because I’ve been scrolling for example. (sound familiar?)

Without the interference from social media, my husband and I had amazing conversations whilst lying on the sun-loungers.  I’d usually spend this time scrolling, posting, reading blogs and listening to podcasts but without my phone I couldn’t do these things and so we chatted.  We chatted about our ‘to be’ lists, what was important to us, where we would like to be in a few years time, the experiences we would like to have and what we have learned that has helped us to grow.  We spent time talking through ideas for a book we are writing and this gave way to some lightbulb moments.   We connected, fully and wholeheartedly.  And it was the same with the children, deeper conversations which led me to discover so much more than I might have done had I been glued to my phone.

2. External validation is not required

When you come from a place of low self-worth, external validation and constant affirmation plays a key role in the feel good factor.  It was a ‘must have’ in my life for a very long time and it’s only been through deliberate practice of reinforcing positive self-affirmation that I’ve been able to slowly move away from the need for it.  What I realised during the week away from the ‘likes’ pinging on Instagram is that I don’t need it to make me feel good about myself.  I feel good about myself without it.  Proving that to myself has been useful and it’s demonstrated the giant leaps I’ve managed to make.

3. I enjoy lots of other things and I can have them all to myself 

By freeing up time from posting and scrolling on social media, I remembered my love of and had time for reading, rather than just listening to books.  I read an actual book, covered in sun-cream and I developed that satisfying ache in my hand from holding the pages in position.  I did some writing too, something I have missed since finishing writing my own book, Enough.  And I spent time developing concepts and ideas that I have had for a while but haven’t had the headspace to think through. We also had some magic moments on holiday.  Special things that the four of us enjoyed without feeling the the need to share them ‘on the gram’. My social free world was a place of creativity and calm.

Add to this amazing sleep and two very happy children who had a fully engaged mummy on tap, it proved to be a very useful week for me. It was like a gift to myself and I returned refreshed, revived and raring to go.

I’ll definitely be repeating my social media break and would encourage everyone to try it. It’s the perfect act of self-love.

On the subject of self-love, the Ninja Notes journal is available now for pre-order.. get your copy here  Ninja Notes