Doesn’t life just seem to be so busy now? This was my first week back at work, after our staycation holiday, and it was nice to shift down a couple of gears; but on my return it was like I hit the ground running! I don’t seem to be alone on this, every minute of the day is crammed, pulled in different directions, with more to do than we possibly have time for. But you’re a coach I hear you say! Surely you should have this nailed, be able to create more time and only work for a few hours a week! Well, fortunately, I’m also human with a real family and a real business!
However, whilst I love being busy, and always have done, my busyness looks and feels a lot different to how it did before I learnt how I worked as a human being, and so my experience of being busy is less fraught with stress or pressure, and is often enjoyable and brings me a lot of joy.
Often when I work with stressed out, overworked, clients, my heart goes out to them, because I remember so clearly what it was like. My to do list never ending, plates spinning in all directions, and a head so full I thought it would explode. Filled with fearful imaginings of what would happen in the future, going over in my mind what others would think, comparing myself to others, telling myself that they were better or doing better than me, filling myself with dread if one of the plates I was spinning fell, and then adding for good measure the guilt of not balancing my work life with my home life better, for not working harder, for not being able to keep on top of whatever it was that was going on. It was no wonder that I was exhausted all of the time, that my body ached, my mind was being driven so hard it never got a moments peace to rest.
I would love to say that the secret to feeling calmer and having more space in your mind was by learning to spin the plates a little better or by having different or less plates but I learnt the hard way, after changing careers several times, all that happened was my stress followed me, just in a slightly different guise and didn’t dissipate until I learnt how to create a different experience.
So how can you reduce your stress a little? How can you be busy on the outside but calm and peaceful on the inside?
One thing that I learnt from my journey was that the quieter my mind was, the more I could get done. Now I wasn’t a quick learner at all, and some might say that I subscribed to the body of thinking that I needed to be stressed to put myself under enough pressure to get stuff done – so I had a lot to learn! One of my first realisations was how distracting my busy mind was, and how much time it took up.
It’s something that I often invite clients to become aware of, that perpetual list that is being narrated in your mind and how much time it takes to think about that and how much you have to do, how you’re not going to get it done, and the consequences of that. I remember one client honestly reporting that she could lose maybe five or ten minutes just panicking about what she had to do – she then got really curious as to how much time she spent during the day, before she exclaimed ‘I could get loads done in that time!’. She then started to not pay attention to those thoughts, and instead direct her mind to doing what she needed to do – she quickly realised how efficient she could be if she simply ‘did without thinking’.
The other insight that I had was that I was rarely in the moment I was in; I was either way into the future working out ‘what if’, pondering a consequence of a consequence or in the past regretting some action and imagining a life where a different path had been taken. Apart from this, again, taking up precious time and energy, I got really curious about how helpful this really was.
It occurred to me that as human beings we are rarely accurate with our predictions of the future, more often than not, the one consequence that I hadn’t thought of invariably happened, and as if the universe was trying to show me that I would be ok in these circumstances, I always was! As humans we have an enormous capacity for figuring things out, thinking on our feet, and generally being ok when the unexpected happens. I think now of the past two years and how unpredictable it has been, and whilst the journey has been incredibly rough for many, we are literally ok, we are figuring out, and we will get through, just as generations before us have done to.
I applied the same curiosity to things that I had done in the past. The thing I really noticed about the past is that we can’t change it, no matter how much we think about it and whilst that may seem obvious, it was amazing how much time I dwelt on things that I simply couldn’t change. However, so often my mind was drawn to create some kind of parallel universe where whatever it was that had happened, hadn’t happened and invariably everything that I felt wrong with my life magically had disappeared. What struck me was that this made me feel so bad, I felt like I had a rough deal, I didn’t have the life that I had ordered, that I had failed. But I was doing this to myself I was creating an imagined life of ‘could have been’ as if it was really an option, as if it really could have happened and comparing it to my ‘real’ life, the one that I was really in. I began to wonder how I would feel if I simply didn’t do that, and unsurprisingly I began to feel calmer, less downhearted, and incredibly, began to see more joy in the life around me instead of seeing what was wrong with it – simply because I had stopped paying attention to any thoughts that encouraged me to imagine ‘what life would have been like if’.
Learning about the power of the human mind, its ability to create our experience and how we can be an active participant in that, enables us to be a lot quieter in our own minds. The consequence of this is immeasurable, from being more creative, more effective, more efficient to feeling happier, more presence and present with those around you, relationships blossom, and there is a joy and lightness to life, one that often my clients haven’t experienced for a very long time as well as feeling physically more relaxed and less tense. It is like the key that unlocks what it is that many are searching for, unlocking our well-being on the inside and out.
Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Coach, Tedx Speaker and Yorkshire Post Columnist. She works with high achieving, ambitious, kind-hearted businesses and professionals, sharing with them a straightforward, yet impactful state of mind understanding, enabling them to free their innate potential and achieve the well-being and balance in their lives that they seek.