With unlimited confidence…

That was the prompt in a self-help book I read around 6 or 7 years ago.

It was followed by questions like:

  • How would you behave?
  • How would your relationships change?
  • What would it allow you to do?

I think it’s a helpful set of words to get you thinking about how you might be limiting yourself.

As human beings we often fall into thinking that we have to wait until we’re confident to live our lives the way we want. But actually it’s the other way round.

You have to start living your life first and then the confidence will follow.

Feeling difficult feelings

When you feel low or sad about something it can be difficult to know what t do with the feeling. After all you don’t want to feel it, you’d much rather the sadness just left you alone.

But the thing with difficult feelings and feelings in general is that they don’t leave if you don’t allow yourself to feel them.

And then there is the question of how do you feel your feelings.

I don’t think there is a set answer of how but I’ll share what works for me.

Writing is incredibly therapeutic, I do it everyday.

Writing allows you to explore yourself freely and can be used as a tool to express how you feel. If you’re feeling hurt you can write about it. But you can also ask yourself questions like ‘why does this bother me?’ or ‘what would make me feel better right now?’ and then write until you have some kind of answer or at least until your mood has shifted.

Making the case for curiosity

I think the idea of being curious is something often associated with childhood. You think of being at a young age where you have lots of questions and so you ask them not really thinking about whether or not you should.

But then we get older, for a large majority of people asking questions is seen as a bad thing. It’s considered nosy.

I think being curious is a good thing. It helps us learn and grow.

Plus, in many situations although there are almost unspoken rules about not asking questions, the truth is that asking might actually benefit you.

It might feel like you’re being an inconvenience but if you don’t understand something or you want to know more, why should you stay quiet. This of course does not apply to asking questions that can be answered by a quick google. Those questions are more about laziness than curiosity.

I’m thinking more of the questions with answers that will provide knowledge.

Maybe it’s a question about yourself. Maybe you ask someone if there’s anything you can do to help them.

Anyway the point is curiosity isn’t a bad thing, it’s human nature. It comes in more forms than just asking questions, it’s also about exploration and openness.

Curiosity is an aspect of myself I’ve been making more of an effort to embrace and it’s paying off.

Creating a safe space

When it comes to opening up, do you know what you need in order to feel safe?

A starting point is to ask yourself ‘Will what I am about to say be handled with care?’

I’ve learnt that people often hold their challenges dear. Even if it’s not deeply affecting them now they still require a level of care when it’s being discussed.

For example, you probably want more than just ‘oh wow, glad you’re okay’ when opening up about a past period of depression.

Another question to ask is ‘What do I want from this situation?’

Many times when we open up to people, we want something particular from them in return. But often we don’t realise until it’s too late.

A common example is discussing an issue you’re having and getting annoyed when the other person tries to offer advice or tell you what to do. Turns out you just wanted someone to listen.

And so overall, creating a safe space is a combination of knowing what makes you feel safe, voicing what you need and (as always) picking the right people.

Reflecting on the past 3 months

The past few months have been something none of us could have ever anticipated. It’s been challenging, sad, stressful and at times overwhelming.

Times like this are perfect for reflection because we’ve all been reminded how short life is and how tomorrow isn’t promised.

Our day to day have all changed in some way. We’ve had to do without things we didn’t even know we relied on and instead had to stay indoors.

I’ve written a few questions below for you to think about. They’re things I’ve been reflecting on as the lockdown rules start to ease up here in England.

What has brought you joy?

How have you been spending your free time?

What do you miss?

What have you been happy without?

What will you change moving forward?

The problem with looking back

I think it’s fair to say that most people are enticed by new things. A new habit, a new opportunity even a new person. As much as we can fear the new there are many instances when it actually excites us.

Yet, in many cases instead of going towards the new thing, we look back.

We look back with this cosy feeling of nostalgia for what once was or what it’s time to move on from and all of a sudden we begin to hesitate.

That’s when the fear and what ifs kicks in.

What if things don’t work out?

What if this new thing isn’t better than what I’ve left behind?

What if I have to start over again?

The what if questions we ask are rarely framed in a helpful way and only serve to amplify the fear.

The alternative to looking back is to focus on the possibilities that will come from embracing the new and learn to trust that you’ll be fine.

What next?

When leading a movement or if you put yourself in a position to be a voice for change, a question to regularly ask is, what next?

What next, when things don’t go to plan?

What next, when people lose motivation?

What next, when you complete one of the things you were working towards?

The road to your destination will be paved with what next over and over again.

If you’re not ready to ask yourself (or be asked) that question and start figuring out an answer, then perhaps you’re not ready to lead.

To lead takes innovation, a strong sense of self, dedication and commitment.

Not everybody is able to hold out their hand and say come this way.

Looking to the future

In challenging times it can be difficult to look to the future and think about all the possibilities. Your mind will be going round in circles and you’ll be asking yourself questions like:

How can I get there when there is all this stuff going on right now?

When you’re caught up in a challenging situation it can be hard to see past it, especially when you have no idea how you’ll overcome it.

But, if you start with believing you can figure things out and then try and work towards a solution, you might find that you’re more capable than you thought.

The perfect time to daydream

Nobody is living their life exactly as they would like right now. But in this space of uncertainty, limited in person interaction and staying inside you’ll get a pretty good idea of how you want to live your life.

Ask yourself: What do I miss?

What do I want to do with my day?

And give yourself time to daydream.

Lie down maybe even sit outside in the sun if possible and just daydream. Daydream about your job, how do you earn a living, what is your working life like.

Daydream about how you spend your free time, the people in your life, how you dress and any other bit of your life that’s on your mind.

Then come back to your reality and think about how different the daydream is to your current life.

It’s not bad if they greatly differ but it might serve as a reminder that you’re not living the life you truly want.

Back to the drawing board

The plans you made a year ago, 6 months ago or even a few weeks ago may now be obsolete. You can time planning far in advance but when it comes to putting those plans into action, you never really know how things will go until you see the results.

Sometimes the results are as expected or better and other times the results are a learning curve, a growth point an opportunity to go back to the drawing board.

It can be disappointing when things don’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, you might feel like the time and effort you put in was wasted. In times like this it’s so important to not to dwell on what went wrong but instead to think about how you can move forward.

How can you improve?

How can you do things better?

What can you do differently?

Of course, going back to the drawing board is never part of the plan but if you use it as an opportunity to grow, experiment and explore, suddenly it might not seem so bad.