The story behind Women Supporting Women

As a speaker I was tired of waiting for invites and I knew other women speakers in the same boat who were also good at what they did and had a great message to share.  I decided to make it happen and stop waiting.  I designed my own event that I was waiting to be asked to speak at and put myself on the guest list as well as those other women speakers I’d mentioned and admired – Women Supporting Women was born.

main event image.PNG

In the spirit of collaboration and my firm belief that we are stronger together than we are apart, I enjoy bringing women together to share their wisdom to help inspire, motivate and empower each other.

It was initially just going to be a one off but after 200 tickets and such great feedback it became an annual thing and I expanded into other cities.  There’s a magic that happens when women get together in a room and I soon started to notice more opportunities with what I’d created here.

With so many women in a room we had a platform to support other women in business who could come along and showcase their products and services and give their business a bit of exposure – businesses who were also keen on empowering women to be their best.

The speakers inspired the audience as well as getting their name out these and hopefully picking up some business along the way and what’s more with such large audiences we were able to make a portion of tickets free and support local community groups to attend. 

This has become an important part of the social impact mission at the heart at these events.  I don’t run them for profit but sell enough tickets and stands to cover venue and catering cots and ensure sponsored places are always available.

Jess_Stuart-22.jpg

I also chose a local charity at each event, an organisation who empowers women, the help raise awareness of their great work and for people to support on the day with donations.  So far The Aunties, Dress for Success and Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust have been chosen charities of choice at these events.

The mission behind this not for profit event is to gather women together to be inspired and empowered, with amazing speakers to help motivate us but also a platform to empower them in the work they do.  At some of these events we also provide a platform to empower women in business and have expo type stands available for those women to showcase their business/products. 

Collaboration is such an important part of our success and so often we’re taught to compete with each other as women and that our success must be at the expense of someone elses.  Whilst many of these speakers are in the same line of work as me I see that as a reason to collaborate rather than compete and I believe in the saying lift as you climb, support each other.  We’re all sharing a similar message and trying to help the same people with the same issues so it makes sense we band together.  We’ll also do this differently with our own styles and personalities so I don’t think we’d be direct competition in that sense anyway – we all resonate with different audience members in different ways and that makes it all the more enjoyable when we collaborate and connect at events like these.

We make a large number of tickets free or minimal cost to ensure everyone has the opportunity to attend.  At our first three events all women were invited to bring their daughters along for free.  Local businesses donate prizes and in some cases goody bags are available for attendees on the day.

My mission is to empower women to be their best.  Whilst I love my work and sharing my passion to help others I also want to make it as accessible as possible, to ensure a more diverse representation and increase opportunities across the board for others.

Find out more about our events and the mission behind this work on the website

Our next event is 10 August in Auckland, with a Christchurch launch to come!  Join the Facebook Group to stay up to date and be the first to find out about tickets and specials.

Speakers WSW Auckland.png

Self-care beyond spas - powering you to succeed

Self-care is something I talk about a lot and also one of my non negotiables.  I learned the hard way, back in my corporate world days where the busier I thought I was the more valued I felt, the more hours I worked the more status I achieved and the more money I earned the happier I thought I’d be.  It turns out this isn’t the formula and whilst I’m still busy these days I’ve mastered the art of balance.

I use self-care as the foundation from which I build and if I feel good and have plenty of energy everything else seems so much easier, even when the tough times hit.  Self-care is a critical part of building our resilience but also giving us the mental clarity to create and the energy to succeed.

Self Care - Jess Stuart

When you read articles from some of the most successful people in our society they talk about their morning routines, their self-care, how they centre themselves.  I believe this is the key to our success and how we reach our potential because I’ve seen the difference it’s made for me.

I don’t mind admitting I’m in bed most nights before 10pm.  It means I wake up fresh and ready for the day.  I spent years dragging myself out of bed and was desperately attached to the snooze button.  As a result I’d feel sluggish most of the morning and it’d take a few cups of caffeine to lift the brain fog.  I find these days my morning routine is so important to starting the day well.  My brain functions better and my mind is more clear and therefore creative.

I get up early, do some stretches and sit for 10 minutes to meditate, sometimes longer if I’ve got the time and sometimes not at all if I’ve not.  I believe in the 80:20 rule and if you’re doing things 80% of the time the 20% you miss is inconsequential.  I then have breakfast and get ready for the day.  I also like to get outside and walk the dog.

Exercise is key for me as is being out in nature.  I make sure this happens in some form most lunchtimes.  I also make sure I’m getting to a yoga class at least once a week to offset all the sitting I do.  Failing that I so some stretches or sit with my legs up the wall for 5 minutes, this releases my lower back and helps calm the mind too.

It’s so often the small, simple stuff that makes the difference, the things that don’t cost money or take up much extra time because let’s face it we need this stuff most because we’re so short on time!

Those who know me know I’m a fan of the sauna, particularly in winter.  It’s a warm, quiet dark space and I feel instantly relaxed when I’m in there.  It’s also where a lot of my thinking happens so important processing time.

I’m also a fan of the spa and a massage but self-care is so much more than this.  These are the basics that keep us well but self-care extends far beyond this.  A lot of self-care is how we allow ourselves to be treated.  The people we hang out with, how we allow others to treat us, the voice inside our head and how we let it talk to us.  The food we put into our body, the way we feel when we look in the mirror, how busy we allow ourselves to be and if we care enough about ourselves to make time for ourselves.

As women it’s too easy to feel guilty or selfish when we take time for us.  Especially if we have dependants and other people relying on our time and energy.  However, if we do take time for us it’s not only ourselves that benefit.  Imagine what a better partner, parent, worker, colleague we’d be if we weren’t tired and stressed, how much more we could give others, the quality of our relationships and how we’d respond to conflict and bumps in the road?

When we take time for self-care everyone around us benefits too.  If we’re compassionate by nature we can often find we’re last on our own list – but then how can we give to others if we’re pouring from an empty cup?  It’s the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ adage.

When we take time for self-care everyone around us benefits too.

So how else can we take care of ourselves and invest in self-care to keep us at our best?

Taking a break from technology once a month for a day or two helps clear my mind and give me a break from the constant social media messaging and body image, comparison, not good enough spiral that it’s easy to get caught up in – this is an act of self-care.

Simply sitting in silence for a few minutes before the rest of the house wakes – this is also an act of self-care.

Leaving a company that doesn’t align to your values, a boss who mis-treats you, a partner who doesn’t respect you – these are all acts of self-care.  As is saying no to demands when you’re overscheduled.

This is a tough one, when we’re conditioned to put others first and the please people, when we’ve based our identity on helping others and being all things to all people, saying no does not come naturally for many women.  Often saying no can leave us feeling guilty and selfish, like we’ve let people down.

I’ve never been good in this space and that’s why I get so busy.  Either because I don’t want to let people down or I’m worried about offending them.  I’m also a people pleaser and I also want to help others, not to mention feeling proud that they’ve come to me in the first place and therefore wanting to deliver for them (the drive to succeed plays a role here too).  This may resonate with many of you.

Over the last year or so as I’ve become more well known the demands on my time have increased.  More people want to meet for coffee, to pick my brains or simply to connect and it’s something I love to do.  However there are only so many hours a day and often this can dominate my schedule and take me away from my work.  It’s led me to reflect; where do you draw the line and how can we get comfortable saying no?

I think saying no has evolved to be selfish, negative and avoidable in our eyes.  If we’re superwoman and succeeding in all areas of life surely we say yes to everything and saying no is a sign we’re not good enough or up to the job?

Flipping the narrative here and knowing that saying no is how we deliver on our superwoman ideal has helped me.  Saying no to protect myself and to ensure I stay on top form to be able to deliver on expectations and be good to others.  Saying no to the one extra meeting when the week is full means I’ve more energy when I get home to be with my family.  Saying no to another 6 am start because they’ve happened all week means that when I get on stage people get the full me not a 60% tired version.

No doesn’t have to be no, it doesn’t have to be a negative or a sign I don’t care or a feeling of not delivering or letting people down.  It can be

“Not right now, maybe when I’m less busy”. 

“No but thanks for asking I really appreciate that you thought of me”

“No but I might know someone else that can help”

“No, not this time but feel free to ask next time”

“No but I’d have loved to if I had the time”

“No because I’m doing x, y, and z in stead”

“I already have plans” or “something else has come up”

“I’m not available but let’s reschedule”

So next time you’re overscheduled see balancing the busyness as an act of self-care

Next time you’re in an uneven relationship or a negative conversation see removing yourself as an act of self-care.  Next time you have to say no, see it as looking after yourself so you’re able to give more to others and deliver on your own expectations.

Self-care is our foundation, is where everything else builds from and it’s how we stay our best.  It’s so often the small things and that’s why we tend to overlook them but they make such a big difference.

Kindness & Compassion - happy volunteer week

Compassion and kindness are key ingredients for happiness.  It leads us to want to do good without expecting anything in return, to look after each other and our environment.   

National Volunteer Week celebrates the collective contribution of the 1.2 million volunteers who enrich Aotearoa New Zealand.  This year’s theme is “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”.  

It's easy in our modern world to get caught in the trap of looking after number one, to go out and get what we want—and the more of it we can have, the better.  Our society preaches survival of the fittest and often encourages us that to succeed it needs to be at the expense of others.

Compassion and Kindness have always been strengths I admire in others and something instilled in me from a young age.  My Grandmother who passed away earlier this year was the most giving person I know and I see that in my Mum too so it's obviously been a big part of my life and something that's important.

It's something I know has always impacted my sense of purpose and fulfilment, giving back.  Whether it's money or time giving to a worthy cause makes us feel good as well as helping said cause.  There's even a term 'helpers high' that's used to define the endorphins that are released in the brain when we perform acts of kindness

volunteer week logo.PNG

When I hit 30 I was unfulfilled and unhappy, despite having every material I could ever have wished for.  I had a good upbringing, climbed the corporate ladders, earned good money, had a company car and a house by the beach so why was I unhappy?  At this point I set off on a journey that lead to understanding there was another way, the path to happiness and how to create a life we love.  I discovered what I valued, how to balance life, learned a new relationship with money and rediscovered what mattered.

During this journey I discovered my authenticity, made life more simple and rebuilt my life around my passions to find meaning and purpose.  Part of this involved quitting the corporate world and volunteering overseas.  I trained to be a yoga teacher, practiced mindfulness daily and did my life coaching certificate.  I now write books and run my own business and still enjoy volunteering.  In celebration of volunteer week I’d like to share why it’s so important as well as give thanks and gratitude to all those volunteers out there who give their time to good causes.

Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said “The word compassion is a verb”.  Just think back to the last time you performed the action of helping someone in need.  How good did you feel? 

Our natural response to seeing someone in distress is the impulse to help, we care about the suffering of others and we feel good when that suffering is released.  This applies if we do it ourselves, see it in a movie or witness it in real life.  It makes us feel good.  Feeling like we’re making a difference in the world and helping those who need it brings us joy, it gives us meaning 

James Baraz quotes statistics on why giving is good for you in his book; ‘Awakening Joy’.  “According to the measures of Social Capital Community Benchmark survey those who gave contributions of time or money were 42% more likely to be happy than those who didn’t.  Psychologists even have a term for the state of euphoria reported by those who give, it’s called ‘helpers high’ and is based on the theory that neuroscience is now backing up; giving produces endorphins in the brain that make us feel good, this activates the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure does”.

You may say, that’s easy if you’re happy, have money and the time to help.  But when you’re busy, worried and burned out it’s not so easy to find the space in your heart or mind to be compassionate.  Yes, it does make it harder but not impossible and can in fact be the opening to more joy in your life at a time when you need it most. 

I must admit that when I’m working full time and trying to run my own business I don’t get the time I’d like to volunteer but when I have periods between contracts and can focus on one job I make sure it incorporate a day to volunteer.  Not only does it give me a break from writing it gets me out mixing with others and that feeling of contributing to the community, being of service and doing some good for others. 

It’s not just for others though, it’s good for our souls, our sense of meaning and purpose, learning new things, social connection. All the things that are fundamental to our health and happiness.  It helps us think more positively about the world and our own contribution to it too.

 

It’s the voluntary work I’ve done over the years that I’ve enjoyed most above any paid job, no matter what the salary or benefits.  I spent time in Thailand teaching English to Buddhist monks, worked at yoga ashrams and Buddhist centres as well as doing the soup run for the homeless and volunteering to teach IT to the over 50’s and coordinate activities at elderly day care centres. I enjoy the company and get a sense of satisfaction from this work.

monks.jpg

 

Studies are also showing there are physical health benefits of compassion and giving through the form of voluntary work.  United Health Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.

·         76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier

·         94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood

·         78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels

·         96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life

·         Volunteering also improved their self-esteem

 

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being. 

 

It doesn’t have to be money, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time if you’re short on that.  It can even be as simple as starting with some random acts of kindness throughout your day.  When we think of giving we often think of charitable donations but it doesn’t have to involve money.  Donating items to charity collections, baking cakes for local events, helping out at a local animal shelter or using some of your skills to help others are all forms of giving.  Giving is not always about your money.  We all have skills and strengths we can share with others, we can all choose to be compassionate.  Even if we have very little material wealth, we all have infinite non material wealth we can share.

 

Take the project ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ for example.  They have many ideas of acts of kindness we can perform for complete strangers and at the same time encourage those who have been the recipient of an act of kindness to pass it on and do something kind for someone else.  This can be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with their shopping, paying the toll fee for the car behind you, holding the door open for a stranger or making coffee for a busy colleague. 

 

It doesn’t have to be hard or take up a lot of time, there are so many ways to help and by doing so we’re not just helping the recipients we’re helping ourselves too.  In a world where we’re increasing too busy for kindness see if you can make space to volunteer yourself in some capacity – your health and happiness will thank you.

 

IMG_0967.JPG

Living before we die

nikko-macaspac-263785-unsplash-1024x682.jpg

I love summer and admit to getting a bit sad once winter descends!  I find myself desperately grasping onto eachsunny day and trying to make the most of it at this time of year, wishing thedays were longer and warmer and wishing I’d made the most of the summer whilstit was here!  Crazy when we know thatsummer and winter come and go each year as the seasons change.  There’s some interesting parallels here onhow we live life and something I’ve been contemplating.

This weekend I went to a course on, wait for it – death!  Not the most enjoyable way to spend a weekendyou’d think and not at the top of most people’s list, but it was reallyinteresting which has led to this article on my take aways and how it can helpus.  Those who follow me know I’ve spentyears studying Buddhist practices and philosophies on life and this oneintrigued me having experienced loss a couple of times already this year.

You see one thing we all know for sure is that we will die, there’s nogreater certainty and we’ve no idea when really.  Because of this it’s so important we livewhilst we’re alive.  Some of us might getit pointed out in advance if we’re sick or receive a terminal diagnosis butwe’re all on the same conveyor belt whether we’re aware or not.

How can this help us though rather than send us into a state of panicor depression?  We never think aboutdeath in our western world.  We live likewe’ll be around forever and then when it comes (as it always does) we’recompletely unprepared, scared and desperately hanging on to life, wishing we’dactually lived it – like me with summer!

Here’s the thing from a Buddhist perspective though.  If we consider that we will die one day(fact), it changes the way we live, it changes our perspective.  If we thought we may die today ourinteractions become different with people, we do the things that matter, wetreat each other with kindness and the little things stop bothering us.

For anyone who’s been close to death, lost someone dear or been in themidst of an earthquake or natural disaster this may have become clear.  It doesn’t need to take those things thoughfor us to have the perspective and awareness and to live each day with meaningand appreciate more of what we have.  Thescary thing is that each day we live is a day closer to our death.

Yet we live like we’ll be here forever. The Buddhist nun this weekend likens it to staying in a posh hotel.  We know we’re only there for short time, wemake the most of the fine white sheets, the fluffy bath robe and freeshampoos.  We enjoy it, appreciate it butwe don’t believe we’ll take any of it with us or cry when we leave because weknew right from the start that we’d be checking out.

When we think about our death we stop chasing after the things that wecan’t take with us – money, status, material possessions and we focus on thethings that make life meaningful.  Westop putting things off “I’ll be happy when I get… (the job, house, car,partner)”.  We learn to appreciate whatwe have and live in the moment rather than postponing our happiness to a pointin the future.

When faced with death we stop worrying about getting it all perfect –our career, our house, the way we look.  Wetend to not want to think about death, it’s a morbid subject and we certainlydon’t want to think about the death of loved ones – we hope they’ll liveforever.

Let’s face it though; it’s only when something ends we talk about howmuch we enjoyed it, miss it and how lovely it or they were.  This is true of holidays, leaving speechesand eulogy’s at funerals but why wait until then.  If, like Buddhists, this was our every dayand not just in the face of something ending we’d learn to appreciate what wehave, we’d spend our time doing the things that matter, with those we love andwe’d tell people what they meant to us and what we appreciate about them.

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, talks of this in her book Top 5 regrets of the dying.  What is it that people regret most lookingback on life?  That they’d worked less,appreciated more and lived more true to themselves.

And when our final day comes, because we don’t always get the warning, we’ll have fewer regrets and we’ll have lived each day like we’d have wanted.

Find out more about beating the overwhelm and living life more meaningfully here

The power of collaboration: why I don’t believe in competition

rawpixel-675359-unsplash-1-1024x683.jpg

I’m naturally an introvert so networking hasn’t always come easy tome.  When I started my business though Iknew it was crucial so I started to attend different women in business groupsfor support and socialising.  One group Iattended had different groups set up across the city but the one closest to mealready had a coach in it and they had strict rules on non competition, “We’re only allowed one coach per group” they toldme.

Now I know many coaches who are all very different; business coaches,fitness coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches and the list goes on – whywould these people be competing I thought? Surely this would be a space for collaboration?  It’s like an author who writes kids storiesversus an author of travel guides – the same job but different audiences.  Some of my good friends are coaches who doexactly what I do and collaborating with them on pieces of work has been someof my most enjoyable and successful events – whilst we all share a mission ofempowering women to be their best we do this in our own unique voice.

It got me thinking about competition and the behaviours it drives –that there’s only room for one of us, that we should operate in isolation, thatits every man (and woman) for themselves.

When I put on big events and invite other women to speak on the stagepeople say; ‘but what if they steal your customers?’  The speakers I invite to share the stage aregenerally women who want to empower women, just like me – that’s the wholepoint.  This work enables me to provide aplatform for these women to showcase their work but also helps my audience heardifferent perspectives that may resonate. Yes, it may also mean that someone may become a follower of them not me,off the back of my own event!  But in allhonesty it’s because the connection has been made in a way I could not haveachieved.  If I don’t resonate with thatperson they are not my customer and it’s great I’ve been able to help someoneelse in the process and connect them to someone who does – we can’t expect toalways resonate with everyone.

One woman who came and spoke at my recent Auckland launch confessed afterwards – I was worried our subject matter was too similar and given my topic was so close to yours I thought ‘shall I even get up and give my talk now?’ – she did and it was great, it resonated in a totally different way and reinforced some key messages around authenticity we both share.  However, she delivered it in a totally different way and told her own story which of course will always be different person to person.  In this example we’re both women who’ve quit our corporate jobs to focus on empowering women to tap into their authenticity and use mind-set to succeed – pretty similar yet collaborative rather than competitive.

This has been a lesson I've had to learn. A younger me totally brought into competition, I wanted to be first and prized my success on winning at all costs. I played a lot of sports and even as part of the team would strive to be the stand out individual, top of the class. To win player of the year even though there were eleven other plays in that team. At work I believed I had to look after number one and focus on my own success to make sure it was me that won. It's not that I wasn't competitive rather that I've learned how we succeed together and now put collaboration first that we can live in a world where everyone wins.

team.jpg

I believe we’ve been taught fortoo long to compete, that it’s about survival of the fittest and that oursuccess needs to be at the expense of someone else’s.

It comes from a place of fear, of threat, of insecurity and can lead topoor behaviour that is unsupportive – you’ll have all heard of examples ofwomen who move up the career ladder only to pull the ladder up behind themrather than supporting others to do the same.

It is at odds with the lift asyou climb approach I strongly believe in – where we help and support eachother in a way we can all succeed.  We can only do this though when we feelsecure in ourselves, aligned to our values and believe in our product/service.

It’s the same reason some of my on-line course material is freelyavailable, do people rip it off?  Ofcourse they do, like most things that are available on line these days it getscopied.  However I’m comfortable andconfident in the message I have, the product I deliver and from that comes aplace of strength and support rather than fearful competition.  Despite who copies my work they will never deliverit the way I do because they are not me and that’s what’s special about us all.

No-one will ever tell your storythe way you do, no-one will ever deliver your content the way you do and thisis what makes each of us powerful and we are so much more powerful togetherthan we are apart.

It’s why I’ve put so much energy behind Women Support Women and will continue to do so because I believe we all have a gift to share and even those with similar gifts will all resonate with difference audiences and supporting each other doesn’t just help us but those we serve too.

The superwoman balancing act – how perfectionism sets us up to fail

potential2-1024x768.jpg

We are all on amission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect houses,families, partners, and jobs, to complete our to-do lists, to complete ourbucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, andbe successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we areso developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is whatwe have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. Weexpect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’tbe. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best theycan be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are thendisappointed because it never arrives.

All this againsta backdrop of not quite feeling good enough those nagging feelings of self-doubt.  According to the International Journal ofbehavioural science 70% of us think we’re not as good as others believe we are,it’s called Imposter Syndrome.  It’sexacerbated by our fear of failure, trying to please everyone around us,striving for perfection but worried we’re falling short all rolled into one!  It’s particularly prevalent in women and givenrise to these superwomen tendencies that so often end up in busyness, burnoutand breakdown.

Woman are good atbeing perfectionists; this comes from our need to please people but also ourvery high standards and expectations of ourselves. It can be a strength andwhat makes us good at what we do, but can also be our undoing. It’s where weset ourselves up to fail, expect too much, and lose touch with reality, andwhere the bar actually is - often we raise it far higher than it needs tobe. 

Perfectionism isalso our fear of failure manifesting. Sometimes our self-doubt means we’re soscared of not making the mark or falling short that we go way over what’snecessary, work twice as hard, to make sure we don’t fail. Whether we’reapplying for a job, having our hair done, going to the gym, or just doing ourday jobs. We want to be the perfect parents, workers, friends, and partners; wewant to look like a perfect cover of a magazine and live in perfectly clean, tidyhouses with perfect lawns. 

We placemassively unfair expectations on ourselves. To work hard at work but notfeel guilty if we can’t be at the school gates at 3pm everyday or to be a goodmother and not feel bad for arriving to work at 9am. Much of this guiltcomes from ourselves – we feel bad for leaving at 3pm even if we arrived at 7 –we worry what others will think and we are constantly trying to prove ourselvesworthy.

It’s no wonderwe’re so busy and can never find time for ourselves.  We are so busy in our modern world, the pace of life has quickened,expectations are higher and we’re all trying to do more things in lesstime. We have this superwoman complex where we try to juggle multipleroles in life all masterfully - with overflowing to do lists and excessivedemands on our time – there’s never enough hours in the day.

We’ve also attachedour self-worth to being busy.  It meanswe’re needed and valued and that we’re contributing.  Often is can be martyrdom at play as westruggle through our busy lives feeling secretly pleased the family/workplace mightcrumble without us.  So we wear busy likea badge of honour and attach our identity and worth to society in just how busywe are – this means we’ve deprioritised rest, relaxation, time out and anythingthat is the converse of busy – no wonder burnout is becoming more common!

Often its our ownhigh expectations that drive this behaviour – especially if we’reperfectionists.  So what can we do aboutit?

Top Tips

It’s not about notdoing our best or lowering the bar but resetting it to a realistic level.. Understandingthe difference between excellence and greatness and perfect and what isachievable in reality.  If we’re perfectin one area of life there’s bound to be another far from perfect that’s notgetting the attention it needs!

  • Give yourself permissionto make mistakes – we are human

  • Knowing that we don’t have to be superwomen to be enough and to beworthy

  • Stop comparing to others

  • Putting ourselves first for a change

  • Making time for self-care – balance the busyness and buildresilience

  • Leverage your strengths rather than trying to be good ateverything

  • Asking for help when you need it and delegating tasks (both atwork and at home)

  • The to-dolist will never be complete.

  • You’re doing thebest you can with what you’ve got, and that is enough

“We don’t have todo all of it alone – we were never meant to” Brene Brown

Top tips to help women thrive #IWD2019

team.jpg

It’s International Women’s Day this month and a time to celebrate what makes women great and bring awareness to the importance of a more gender balanced world.  It’s also the one year birthday for my second book, Like A Girl and a special 2 for 1 deal throughout March is on offer to celebrate!

The theme for IWD2019 is #balanceforbetter and I’m a firm believer that equality for women is not about the downfall of men – equality is everyone’s business and balance is definitely better! Likewise, equality is not a women’s problem that can be solved by women alone, we’re all in this together. 

I've heard many awesome successful women as well as mentioning abhorrent stories of bullying, sexual harassment and gender bias also talk about men who have been their sponsors & cheerleaders. I’ve also been privileged to work with some great men. We often forget this bit.  It may be true that some men (& women) are part of the problem but many more are also part of the solution.  Men are a key part of us making change towards a more equal society, they still make up the majority of our positions of authority, not to mention important parts of our family too, so it’s critical we bring them along on the journey with us.

Having said that though it is still harder for women, things are not yet equal.  In gender pay, in leadership numbers, in the way we are treated, the expectations on us and how we are judged.  Many women are doing the lions share of housework, social organising and child caring despite having full time jobs.  We also have a habit of beating ourselves up for either having career ambitions and not being at the school gates at 3pm each day or for not contributing financially whilst that career is on hold so we can be at the school gates at 3pm every day – no wonder we feel we can’t quite win.

Quite simply if you walk in a woman’s shoes life is different than if you were a male wearing those same shoes.

Often though some of these issues are with us; who are the people who have the highest expectation of us, those who judge us most harshly, those who think it’s not ok to ask for help or say no – most often, as women that person is ourselves!  So what can we do in light of IWD2019 to ensure we’re being our best and thriving at life?  Here are 6 tips to enable women to thrive.

Be you and let that be enough

We’re always trying to be more, never feeling good, pretty, clever, rich, fit,strong, thin (place your word here) enough! We have so many molds to try and fit as women, in the workplace and at home.  It can leave us feeling like an expat living in a foreign country far from who we truly are and adrift from what matters to us, and it’s exhausting trying to ‘be someone’.  We live in a society though that puts pressure on us to fit in, to be liked, to follow the norm.  At work we have to tread the careful line between being more assertive but not labelled a bully, or be more vulnerable without being labelled as weak – it’s no wonder authenticity is so hard!

Knowing who you are, what you want and what matters most is key.  Making decisions in line with our values and doing things that align with our passions ensures that our schedule matches our priorities.

Speak up, lean in, take risks, back yourself

We can be guilty of standing back, waiting for permission, waiting for that idea to be 100% before sharing or waiting for someone else to speak before we ask the question, not speaking up at meetings or apologising too often before we speak or ask a question and waiting for a bit more experience before we apply for the promotion.  When we do this we can miss out.  If we lean back rather than lean in the opportunity will go to someone else. Sometimes we have to back ourselves, lean in and take a risk.  This is how we grow and develop.  It’s easier said than done though and here’s why:

Face your fear, challenge yourself and have permission to fail

Generally fear is what stops us!  Fear of what people think, the unknown, leaving a familiar space, what if we make the wrong choice, what if fail.  We can be guilty of playing it safe to avoid failure, our fear of rejection sometimes mean we don’t even ask.

It’s called our comfort zone for a reason and sometimes we think it’s better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. We’ve been taught to avoid risk and to play it safe – we don’t want to fail at any cost.  However getting out of our comfort zone is the only way we grow and develop, challenging ourselves and taking risks is a key part of this and yes sometimes we might fail and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So often failure is a stepping stone to success, it’s how we learn and grow.  I’ve learned things from many trial and error moments that I’d never have otherwise known. 

It’s easy to look at those we admire and think they’re doing it right and we’redoing it wrong but quite often they’ve made mistakes, learned from them,bounced back from failures and that’s got then to where they are today.  Even the best fail in fact it’s often why they succeed.

So give yourself permission to fail and know that it’s often how we learn to succeed.

Let go of perfectionism

This can be difficult though if we’re perfectionists.  Sometimes we’re so scared of failure we go right to the other end of the extreme.

Th eirony with perfection though is it sets us up to fail, it’s not real.  Whether it’s an airbrushed photo in a magazine we’re trying to look like or a perfect side of someone’s life on Facebook we’re trying to emulate – we’re always going to fall short because we’re not comparing full stories, real life! Yet we still beat ourselves up when we fall short and compare ourselves in this way.

Navigating perfectionism isn’t about not doing a great job, it’s about resetting the bar to a realistic level and understanding that sometimes done is better than perfect and being in touch with the imperfect reality that exists.

We area breed of people pleasers and always so concerned with what others think.  We’ve probably spent our whole lives trying to make our parents, teachers, friends, bosses etc proud of us.  We feel we have to work twice as hard, exceed expectations and constantly keep raising the bar on ourselves to a point where we’re struggling to keep up.  We all know where this leads and it’s why so many of us are busy and burnt out.

Balancing busyness and avoiding overwhelm

We do have a tendency to be superwoman!  To do everything and do it perfectly.  We take on too much, over schedule ourselves and then feel like we’re failing when we approach burn out.  Saying no and delegating is a key part of avoiding this overwhelm and managing the busyness.

Resilience is key but so is having good boundaries and taking time out, prioritising self-care, prioritising us.  For people who put others first, don’t like saying no, feel we have to do everything and do it perfectly, please everyone around us – this can be tough.

We also have an attachment to being busy though. We wear it like a badge of honour, it makes us feel valued and attaches to our self-worth.  This leads us into the trap of not taking time out or feeling like down time is lazy, selfish or unproductive.  However this stuff is the foundation we build on, to enable us to be superwoman, without it we’re always fending off burnout and exhaustion.

Celebrate success and own it, get comfortable accepting praise

We are so busy focusing on what we haven’t got, the things that didn’t go well, the bits about ourselves we don’t like that we forget about the good stuff.  Our brains are wired to think more negatively and as women we’re often taught to down play our success and wave away praise to avoid being a tall poppy and to appear modest.  So often we put our success down to something outside of ourselves or we respond with things like ‘it’s nothing really’.

If you’re receiving praise or acknowledgement it’s because you’ve earned it,saying thank you is a great start. Remember to celebrate your success, own the praise and know that it helps address the negativity bias in our brains as well as doing wonders for our brand!

We are more powerful together than we are apart

We are often taught to compete and that our success must be at the expense of someone else’s.  I’ve learned that we are far more powerful together than we are apart and collaboration is key for us to flourish.  In the spirit of#balanceforbetter we are all in this together regardless of gender!

IWD2019 recommended viewing for more inspiration

Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability

SherylSandberg - Why we have too few women leaders

InspiringTED Talk - why do ambitious women have flat heads?

Genderbias, equality and why its still harder for women

Navigatingperfectionism blog

Impostersyndrome resources page

Navigating Perfectionism

potential2-1024x768.jpg

Tomorrow I fly to Auckland to do a TV interview. Thankfully I’m not as nervous this time around having now done one I feel slightly more comfortable knowing what to expect. You can watch my last TV interview on Imposter syndrome here. What you can’t see is that out of shot my legs were shaking!

The producer told me after the show ‘that was great, can you pitch us some more ideas and we’ll have you back on’ so I did but heard nothing. I thought perhaps she was being nice or said that to all the guests (Imposter Syndrome in action – right there!) but then they got back in touch recently and here I am now preparing for an interview on perfectionism on TV3s The Café this week. 

This is something I know well. I remember as soon as the last interview was over the first thing I did was re-read my script to see what I’d missed, which bits could have been better and the parts that had not gone perfectly – do you find yourself doing that with meetings, presentations, conversations with family?

We are all on a mission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect houses, families, partners, and jobs, to complete our to-do lists, to complete our bucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, and be successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we are so developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is what we have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. We expect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’t be. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best they can be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are then disappointed because it never arrives.

Woman are good at being perfectionists; this comes from our need to please people but also our very high standards and expectations of ourselves. It can be a strength and what makes us good at what we do, but can also be our undoing. It’s where we set ourselves up to fail, expect too much, and lose touch with reality, and where the barrier actually is, often we raise it far higher than it needs to be. 

Perfectionism is also our fear of failure manifesting. Sometimes we’re so scared of not making the mark or falling short that we go way over what’s necessary to make sure we don’t fail. Whether we’re applying for a job, having our hair done, going to the gym, or just doing our day jobs. We want to be the perfect parents, workers, friends, and partners; we want to look like a perfect cover of a magazine and live in perfectly clean, tidy houses with perfect lawns. 

Rather than settling for a standard “good enough,” we find our “good enough” can be way over real expectations. So on a scale of 100 percent, where 80 percent is good enough, perfectionists feel they have to deliver 120 percent—that’s their good enough. Even 100 percent, in a perfectionist’s eyes, is failure, despite this exceeding good enough on the scale.

It’s not about lowering our standards, but being more realistic and understanding that sometimes as a perfectionist, our bars will be set way higher than everyone else’s and higher than they need to be. It’s exhausting and often leads to disappointment when we fail. Sometimes done is better than perfect, because perfect isn’t always possible.

If we have our hearts set on perfection, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. Things don’t exist in a perfect way. It may seem like this when we compare our lives to others on Facebook or celebrity magazines, but what we see is the perfect side of what is always an imperfect life. For everyone, no matter how rich or successful, imperfection is always present. There will be parts of their lives not going to plan, a bit about themselves they’d like to change, something outside of their control that upsets them.

When we meet our soul mate everything seems perfect until the novelty wears off. We get to know each other better and find out that as humans we all have imperfect flaws. We may not always agree and be less tolerant of our differences. New jobs have bits we don’t like, and even our bodies age and change in ways we don’t view as perfect eventually. Adjusting our mind-set on perfection is key to helping us thrive. If you aim to look like an airbrushed picture in a magazine, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a Mr. Right without any faults, you’ll also be disappointed. If you’re searching for the perfect job, you’ll find there are always downsides; this is true for me, even now with the job of my dreams—I have to spend time doing my accounts and marketing! If you make plans, they won’t always turn out right. It’s not being negative; it’s being realistic! Rather than aiming for an unrealistic goal of perfection, we need to be more realistic and enjoy everything for the good that it brings to our lives. Everything has its perfect and imperfect side—our jobs, our partners, and our lives. Embrace and appreciate both sides!

I spent years striving for perfection in all I did, at work and at home, trying to conform in a bid to please people, and it made me unhappy and unfulfilled. The perfect life always seemed just out of reach, and yet my life on the outside might have looked ideal to everyone else. During my life transformation I learned a lot about myself and learned, from others about how we can live an authentic, perfectly imperfect life:

  • Things won’t always go according to plan.

  • The to-do list will never be complete.

  • You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that is as perfect as it can be.

  • No one has a perfect life (despite what it may look like on Facebook or in a magazine).

  • Happiness is not a point you arrive at in the distant future when you resolve all your problems and achieve perfection. It’s available all along in those imperfect moments scattered throughout our everyday lives.

  • Often, it’s our quest for perfection that stops us from being happy.

So give yourself permission to make mistakes and stop beating yourself up for being human. Ask for help when you need it, say no from time to time and stop worrying about what people think. It means we’ll take more risks, get more done and accept our life just the way it is – perfectly imperfect.

https://youtu.be/p_wq1FE15x0

Lessons learned on a business anniversary

IMG_0070.jpg

Fear, Authenticity, Self-worth, growth and not giving up

Facebook reminded me this week that 4 years ago today I graduated from my Yoga Teacher training in Byron Bay – I’ve not taught much yoga since but have done so much else and learned so many lessons which I’ve been reflecting on.

I’d quit my corporatecareer a few months prior and had embarked on a year out to discover my passionsand try and find a new career that aligned with my values – and a new lifereally having just walked away from a seven year relationship too as part of aprocess that resulted in me come out.

This journey took meto places like Bali, the Kingdom of Bhutan, teaching English to novice monks inNorthern Thailand, silent meditation retreats, debuting in public speaking,starting my own business and writing my first book.  A book that was published a year later andcontained much more about the inner journey that had unfolded.

monks.jpg

4 years on I lookback, incidentally on the verge of a holiday back to Byron Bay next month withmy wife to be.  I’m now an author of two books with my ownbusiness and invited to speak at events and conferences across the world.  I’ve discovered my passions and feelcomfortable aligning with my values to be my authentic self – it was a longtime coming and hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Here are some lessons I’d like to share with you following that journey:

Just because you’ve never done it doesn’t mean you can’t do it

When I left my job Ihad no idea what else I could do.  I’dtrained all my life for one career which wasn’t fulfilling me.  I didn’t know what else I wanted to do or ifI’d be capable of anything else, I certainly wasn’t qualified.

When it came torunning my own business I didn’t know where to start.  There’s been a lot of learning over the lastfew years, trial and error and a lot of failing too!  I’ve learned to do things like accounts,marketing, social media and more that I’d never had to consider in my former career. 

It’s also pushed meout of my comfort zone in other ways – networking, building a reputation and abrand as well as being the face of my business (having been someone who prefersto be in the background!)

I used to think – I’venever done this before it’s not in my skill–set, I’ve no experience in this butI’ve learned over the years that just because we’ve not done it doesn’t mean wecan’t, it’s just something we haven’t learned to do yet.

It’s so important that whatever we’re doing we make sure we always learn new things, push ourselves and take on challenges so that we learn and grow.  It also leads me nicely onto my next lesson

Get out of your comfort zone - don’t play it too safe

I avoided risksbecause I didn’t want to fail but taking on my own business, re-inventing mycareer meant I could no longer avoid this. I had to take risks and I became familiar with failure as I battledthrough the trial and error of learning so many new things. 

I faced many fears asI embarked on this journey; leaving the certainty of what I knew, a career Itrained 15 years for and knew well, a regular pay check and company car, animage people had of me – what would they think now?  What if I failed?  What if I’m making the wrong choice?

I had no choice but toget out of my comfort zone but sometimes it seemed tempting to stay there –better the devil you know!  As I steppedout of my comfort zone I faced the fears, uncertainty and risk and at times Ialso failed.

I put on events thatno-one showed up to.  For the firstcouple of years I earned no money from my business.  Most of my speaking was for free and my firstroyalty cheque was worth less than $5.

After each rejectionletter from a publisher I could have decided to give up.  In fact there’s been many times business gothard, I was out of my depth, I wasn’t earning money and it felt like I’dfailed, reached the end of the line, I was tempted to give it up.

One of the things thatalways kept me going was asking “What has this taught me and what can I doabout it?”  This solutions focusedreflection forced me into action, rather than wallowing in the fact it was hardand I’d failed it immediately turned my mind towards – what am I going to doabout it and scanning the options I had.

Failure is how we learn and grow and is often how we learn to succeed, it’s also something that’s unavoidable if you push yourself, take risks and face challenges, I now see how it can be a positive.  But we can see failure as a sign of our lack, a mirror of our self-worth and it encourages us to devalue what we’re capable of.

Don’t under estimate yourself – you’ve earned your place

We often doubt ourabilities, underestimate ourselves or think that our success must have beendown to something other than our ability – luck, a mistake, being liked etc.

Throughout my career Iwould wave away success and down play my achievements almost embarrassed bypraise.  I can’t say I’m there yet but Ihave since learned to respond to praise and recognition with ‘thank you’ whichis a good start!

For many years in myformer career I suffered from Imposter Syndrome.  I didn’t get a degree, I left school at 16and as I progressed into senior roles (where everyone had a degree) I used tofeel like I was less intelligent, not as valuable or worthy – despite myperformance and achievements.

Other people’sopinions seem to carry more weight than our own and it’s only the feedback I’vehad from others over the years that now allows me to believe I can do this andthat people love what I do.

I remember worrying inmy first workshop I’d been asked to do for a big business – am I qualified todo this?  Will they enjoy it?  Will it be good enough?  Who am I to be posing as an expert in thisfield? – all those questions played on my mind despite having written a book onthe subject I was speaking about!

Late last yeararriving at parliament to do the same workshop I finally felt like I belonged,that I’d earned my place and that I had something important to share that wouldbe of value to those who’d asked me to come.

If you’re getting praise you’ve earned it.  The success you achieve is because you’re capable and have worked for it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be success and you also don’t need to have all the answers.

You don’t have to have all the answers

For many years I’d putoff leaving the security of my corporate job. I needed a plan first.  If thiswasn’t my career I needed to know what was before I made any changes.  Where I’m at now I could never have foreseenthen.  It’s been a result of the journeyI’ve taken and the things I’ve learned along the way that have helped informedmy next move, developed me and taken me to where I am.

Often we feel we needall the answers, to see the whole stair case before we take the first step andbegin.

There was trial anderror, trying things to know if that worked or not.  Training to teach yoga to see if this couldbe the future me or where else that might take me.  Whilst I had a plan, I had no idea where I’dend up and it was only as I made progress the next steps began to emerge.

Sometimes we have to be comfortable with uncertainty because we don’t know what’s next.  We might have a path set out but end up somewhere different, or sometimes we end up in the same place but take a different path or route to the one we planned, either way it works.  I’m of the opinion now that there are no wrong paths and there are lessons learned and experiences gained even from the tough paths I wish I’d not chosen – I wouldn’t go back and change it.

yoga.jpg

Align with your values – be yourself

For many of my formeryears I tried to be who I thought I should be, what the world wanted, to fitin.  I denied my sexuality for many yearsand took the corporate path of success as my own.  It was only when I realised status and salarywere not markers of happiness that I began to look for work that aligned to myvalues – I had to figure out what those were.

As a young leader Ifelt there was a mould to fit.  I had tobe a certain way to pass as a leader and as a result I devalued some of myskills that I didn’t think had a place at work. I used to leave my ‘Jess’ hat at the door to put my ‘Leader’ haton.  I now release these are the samehats and things like kindness, compassion and empathy are major leadershipstrengths rather than character weaknesses – what a relief because we all knowpretending to be something we’re not is exhausting!

Being able to show up as my authentic self both in life and in work makes every day so much more rewarding.  It also allows people to trust us when we’re genuine and relate to us if we’ve walked in their shoes.

Choose your people wisely

I’m lucky to have hadsupport around me, cheerleaders, people who believe in me.  Support from my family even though they hadno idea what I was doing and feared my exit from a corporate well paid job toclean composting toilets in a yoga ashram may not be a great career move!

It’s taught e thevalue of those who surround us.  Thepeople I’ve learned from and aspired to be who inspired me to carry on, evenwhen it got hard.  But equally thosewho’ve challenged me to grow and pushed me.

I used to feel jealouswhen I looked at those who’d succeeded, like they’d done it right and I wasdoing it wrong; “why can’t I be on the stage at this event rather than in theaudience?”  It made me feel like I wasn’tas capable rather than just on an earlier stage of my journey.  It’s important we respect these people, learnfrom them but never compare to them or feel their success threatens our ownlearning.

Find people whosupport you but challenge you positively to grow, respect them and be inspiredby them but don’t compare yourself to them or feel jealous.  Avoid negative people who hold you back –surround yourself with those who’ll nourish you.

It’s also taught methe power of collaboration.  I’ve met somany amazing people doing similar kinds of work and often now when I organizeevents I’ll use it as a platform for other women to inspire my audience too andinvite guest speakers.

I’ve also beenfortunate to join business groups and communities full of supportive peoplewilling to share their knowledge and time with me.

Often we’re taught tocompete, that our success needs to be at the expense of someone elses.  I’ve learned that we are much strongertogether than we are apart.

Find out more aboutJess on her website www.jessstuart.co.nz  and visit the blog at www.inspireyourlife.org/blog

Being a good person isn't always enough

The spotlight is well and truly on violence against women since the recent murder of Grace Millane. And whilst many may question, why the outrage now when so many others have gone before? I was at the vigil last night in Wellington with many others and something resonated. When asked to put up our hands if we’d travelled alone offshore, felt unsafe, had families fear for our safety the majority of the women there did – we could have been Grace, we identified with her story and we can walk in her shoes. Like Grace, at 22 I arrived in Auckland from England on my OE over a decade ago, this is our reality that’s why it resonates.

But regardless of the name on the vigil there are many names that sit alongside, lesser profile perhaps but equally important lives - the statistics speak for themselves. It’s a sad fact that it took a young, white foreign tourist to die in this way on our shores to bring violence against women in NZ into the spotlight and the undeniable fact that in the vast majority of cases this is at the hands of men.

But we all know and love many men who don’t fit into this category, these same men join us in our outrage but is that enough? What are we doing as men (and women) to stop violence against women. To talk to our men and boys about their responsibility in how we treat women and how to balance out the power dynamic when it comes to gender.

Are we calling out the men (and women) who still assume when this happens a woman must be, in some way, to blame – she was out late at night, unaccompanied, using a dating app, wearing the wrong thing, behaving inappropriately. Why should it rest purely on women’s shoulders to try and protect themselves from men or to justify why they didn’t deserve to be victims of violence – don’t we all deserve the right to live safe?

Especially when all the evidence suggests the rules we’ve been taught to follow for so many years still do not protect us, summed up perfectly in this article by Emily Writes. And even if they did is it fair that we should live life differently, more cautious, less privileged and free to our male counterparts because of the threat they pose to our life?

So what is the answer and how do we ensure this is not just another women’s issue that women alone try to resolve because we know that’s only got us so far.

I had the privilege to see Author Clementine Ford speak recently when she was over in NZ. Having written a book with a similar title to mine and spoken a lot about empowering women I was intrigued. One thing she mentioned really stuck with me. She talked about those who we put in the ‘bad’ category – perpetrators of violence against women, those who discriminate or harass/bully females in the work place. Then on the other hand those who are ‘good’ people, obviously we do none of this, in fact we condemn it but is that enough? Clementine talked about the many men (and women) who may be in the ‘good people’ category but still are too passive, we stand by as this stuff goes on and feel because we’re opposed to it and refuse to partake that’s enough, but is it?

You see I’m not the protest type, I’ve never seen myself as a feminist (although I respect those that are and the work they’ve done massively). My mantra is that we focus on ourselves and empower each other to deal with this rather than what happens externally.

However it is apparent that we can’t do this alone and the success of women relies on us bringing our male counterparts along on the journey. The balance of equality and making our country safer for women is something men must help with – we can’t do this alone, we are in this together and we must take action together – all of us.

I’m aware that I prefer to stand in the background, I prefer quiet, subtle action and have always shied away from conflict. I’ve no desire to be the lighting rod for abuse that Clementine Ford admits to having become. But sometimes this is at the risk of me being too passive. I’m a good person but what use is that unless I’m actively doing something to help, speaking out, having the right conversations?

I’ve worked with many good men (and women) and indeed outside of work too but so many of us (myself included) are passive in this space. We think that because we’re not perpetrators of violence against women or believe we would never discriminate based on gender that we put ourselves firmly in the ‘good’ category. However, how much change does simply not being bad create? Is more than that required? Given the statistics 125 years after women won the right to vote in NZ it may suggest that yes, more is required.

Whilst I’m not ready to pick up my placards and hit the streets it has given me food for thought, along with other ‘good’ people. Standing by passively being good people is sometimes not enough. And that’s not to say we need to be protesting or petitioning our governments (although that can help too), it’s thinking about the conversations we have with each other, the small actions we can do and how we can use our privileged positions for greater advantage and change in this space.

Imposter syndrome on-line course out now

To get your early bird discount and download the course click the link below www.jessstuart.co.nz/imposter-syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something I’ve encountered throughout my career and is one of the topics from my latest book that has resonated most with people.

I used to think it was just me but after 15 years working with people in personal development and then running my own training and coaching business, it transpires that many others feel exactly the same.

I spent most of my career doubting my abilities, and getting promotions didn’t seem to help. I still felt like an imposter who’d be found out one day. The reality was I was good at my job and even bigger jobs as the promotions came—but each new job would raise the same fear: I’m not sure I can do this.

It’s called imposter syndrome, and it’s a lot more common than we think. I thought it was only me, but every woman I speak to who confesses they feel it too also believes she is the only one! According to the Journal of Behavioural Science, 70 percent of people suffer from imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It’s that voice of self-doubt that, despite our successes, keeps us feeling like we might fail, we might not be good enough, and we might get found out.

Those with imposter syndrome have a tendency to attribute their success to external factors—like luck, or the work of the team. It takes courage to take on challenges and pursue dreams that leave you open to the risk of failure, falling short, losing face, and being “found out.”

Over the last week I’ve released the following video blogs on Imposter Syndrome to help you identify it and tips on how to handle it.

What matters most is not whether we fear failing, looking foolish, or not being enough; it’s whether we give those fears the power to keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals.

If you missed the free content that's been coming out this week you can view the short video blogs here for top tips and more information on handling Imposter Syndrome http://youtu.be/ycgVQvg7NvU

http://youtu.be/1nw893bfAY4

http://youtu.be/WSMChcUdO-I

To get your early bird discount and download the course click the link below www.jessstuart.co.nz/imposter-syndrome

Is fear causing you to play small? Learn how to think big!

Do you have big dreams that always seem to be on the back burner?  Are there goals you’ve yet to achieve, a step out of your comfort zone you’ve been terrified to make so far?  Are there people out there you admire yet you’re not sure how you’d ever get to where they are now?

There are many reasons we play it small and sometimes we’re not even aware of what’s guiding our choices as it sits in our subconscious.  Either way the result is the same - the answer is yes, if you play it small you will always miss out on making it big.

One of the main things that stops us is fear!  Fear of what other people will think.  Fear of losing what we have, of leaving what we know.  Fear of being different.  Fear of the unknown.  What if I get it wrong?  What if I lose what I have?  What if I fail?  Fear of rejection means that sometimes we won’t even ask the question.  Our fear of failure means that we often prefer to play it safe to avoid failure - but at what cost?

And is failure really such a bad thing that it brings about such fear in us?  Giving ourselves permission to fail is part of learning to play it big – the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures.  I used to think that if we avoided failure we’d be successful by default but I now believe that failure is actually part of the path to success and each failure can be a step closer to success.

I spent years learning what I don’t know (the art of writing, marketing 101, and the business side of publishing) and still I sometimes fail!  I put on events and no-one turned up, my first royalty cheque was worth less than $5.  It didn’t stop me because if I gave up all the hard work to date would have been for nothing.  It’s taught me to learn to see the success in failure - the lessons learned. 

But as well as fear of failure, it’s worth noting that we may also (ironically) experience a fear of success!  Summed up perfectly by Marianne Williamson who said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Fear is what happens when we try to take a step outside of our comfort zone.  It’s called that for a reason.  It feels nice, safe and comfortable and that’s why it’s so easy to stay there.  It takes courage to step outside our comfort zone and do things that are different and unfamiliar.  But if we can move outside of our comfort zone it expands, as our comfort zone becomes bigger we learn more.  Things become easier as there are now fewer things outside our comfort zone, therefore less that scares us.  Think of public speaking, a thing that sits outside most people’s comfort zone.  It makes many of us nervous, me included.  But once we’ve done one, we can do another and by the time we’ve done 30 our comfort zone has expanded and now includes public speaking.  So it no longer feels so nerve racking and our confidence improves.  Yes, it’s a challenge, yes they’ll be fear, danger and maybe even failure along the way, but that’s part of the path and unless you travel the path you’ll never grow. 

Our fear of failure can also breed a perfectionism in us that means if we can’t do it 100% right and right now we don’t do it at all.  Well, sometimes done is better than perfect and getting the ball rolling, making a start, taking action is key on the road to making it big.  You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress – in fact it is the only way.  We’re always learning, never perfect and continuously developing.

We do struggle with being a work in progress though and many of us (70% according to the journal of behavioural science) suffer from Imposter syndrome which can also be a major contributing factor in our playing it small.  Imposter Syndrome is an inability to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud".  Often feeling like you’re not as good as people seem to think therefore not as deserving or capable of the success you’re experiencing.

It impacts both men and women, no-one is immune to the self-doubt this feeds (apart from narcissists).  But what matters most is not whether we fear failing, it’s whether we give those fears the power to keep us from playing it big. 

Imposter Syndrome can also be blamed for us downplaying our achievements and not claiming deserved credit.  It can also be from our need to please, to fit in and be liked.  We may have been brought up not to boast of our achievements and to overplay modesty as a way if being liked.  This can lead us to downplaying our achievements or waving away recognition and simply not valuing our success.  Our cultural expectations can play a role here too; “don’t get above your station” – the tall poppy!  Your success may appear as a threat to others so we downplay it to protect them; older siblings, best friends, male partners.  In many cultures girls are taught to avoid risks whereas boys are encouraged – it can have lasting impacts on us and that decision we take on whether to lean in and go for it or not.  We downplay achievements because no-one likes a big head and we all desperately want to be liked or we step back rather than lean in because we’ve been conditioned to and we want to fit the mould – either way we chose to play small each time.

Whether we’re frozen to the spot due to fear or imposter syndrome or (highly likely) a bit of both, when things scare us we can find so many excuses that prevent us from moving forward.  It’s already been done, I don’t have the time, I need some more experience or money or the time just isn’t right yet.  We worry about leaving our comfortable familiar place to step out into the unknown and most of all we worry about the potential impacts of making that move.  What will people think?  What if I get it wrong?  What if I lose what I have?  What if I fail?  All valid concerns and all potential outcomes we risk when we take a step into the unknown - but there’s no way of getting around it, it’s part of the journey.  Grow is not supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to stretch us so that we can learn and grow into the people we’re capable of being.

Don’t forget as well that if we are playing it small it could also mean we don’t want to make it big.  Not taking up a promotion opportunity could be for any of the reasons above but it could also be because we simply don’t want it.  The seniority is not for us, we don’t want the hours and pressure or we may be in the wrong job all together so it pays to be aware of this option as well in order to guide our decisions.  Sometimes playing it big can mean saying no, walking away from something that isn’t right to play it big elsewhere.

Playing it small is easier and safer, it appeals to our aversion to risk taking and desire to stay in the comfortable, familiar place we know.  Playing it big is hard, it’s scary and it takes courage to go there but it pays off – it’s worth it and there’s no way of doing it without the tough side effects we have to navigate.

There’s no short cut and those who’ve got to where you’d like to be haven’t found a certain secret you’ve been missing, nor have they got it right and you’ve got it wrong.  They have just faced their fears, worked hard, learned from the mistakes and decided they want to play big.

6 hacks to handle Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that I’ve suffered from most of my life—and I thought I was the only one.

After 15 years working with people in personal development and then running my own training and coaching business, it transpires that many others feel exactly the same.

I spent most of my career doubting my abilities, and getting promotions didn’t seem to help. I still felt like an imposter who’d be found out one day. The reality was I was good at my job and even bigger jobs as the promotions came—but each new job would raise the same fear: I’m not sure I can do this.

The same voice also told me I’d never be a writer. Who would read it apart from my mum? You’re not good enough, you’re not qualified, you can’t spell, and you don’t even have a degree.

It’s called imposter syndrome, and it’s a lot more common than we think. I thought it was only me, but every woman I speak to who confesses they feel it too also believes she is the only one! According to the Journal of Behavioural Science, 70 percent of people suffer from imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It’s that voice of self-doubt that, despite our successes, keeps us feeling like we might fail, we might not be good enough, and we might get found out.

Those with imposter syndrome have a tendency to attribute their success to external factors—like luck, or the work of the team. It takes courage to take on challenges and pursue dreams that leave you open to the risk of failure, falling short, losing face, and being “found out.”

So what can we do about it?

It’s something I’ve learned to handle and to live alongside because it’s always there. Sadly, it’s not something we can easily overcome—but we can learn to navigate through and succeed in spite of it. Here’s how:

1. Own your successes.

You didn’t get lucky by chance. We tend to be modest when it comes to our achievements, and have been brought up not to boast about our strengths. We feel uncomfortable accepting praise and our negativity bias in our brain means we’re wired not to think of the positives so much.

I’ve found that keeping an achievement journal helps. I also have a folder on my computer where I file messages of praise and feedback to look back on when I’m having those moments of doubt. Remembering positive feedback from colleagues and friends helps too, as it often carries more weight than when we praise ourselves.

The most important thing to remember is that if we’re getting praise or positive feedback, it’s because we’ve earned it and deserve it. Own it and let it help counter some of those moments of self-doubt.

In fact, let’s start now: write down your top three strengths. Why do people come to you, what do your colleagues at work value in you, and what do people tell you you’re good at?

2. Give it your all and know it’s enough.

Sometimes our imposter syndrome is due to our fear of failure and our perfectionism manifesting all at once to give us this fear of not being good enough. We fail to meet our own unrealistic ideals of perfection—either in the way we look, our abilities in life, or our achievements at work. Perfectionism so often sets us up to fail and feeds these feelings of self-doubt.

Overcoming the imposter syndrome requires self-acceptance: you don’t have to attain perfection to be worthy of the success you’ve achieved. It’s not about lowering the bar, it’s about resetting it to a realistic level. You don’t have to be Einstein to be a valuable asset or worthy of love. Nor do you have to attain perfection to share something with the world.

3. Don’t let your doubt and fear stop you.

We need to continue to take risks and challenges even though we might not think we’re ready—especially women. Too often, we stand back and let the opportunities pass us by because we doubt our capabilities. The best way to see if you’re ready is to dive in and take on the challenge!

There will always be a feeling of fear and the risk of failure—we grow and develop by facing these fears and getting outside of our comfort zone. Don’t let your worries hold you back. I’d often use the “fake it till you make it” technique to overcome these feelings of fear and doubt when I took on new challenges. I’d act and dress confidently so I at least looked the part, and took comfort in the fact no one else could see what was going on in my head.

4. Remember: your thoughts are not common knowledge.

I know how it feels to be gripped by imposter syndrome—we spend all our energy trying to prove our worth to everyone else to make it go away. The funny thing is, only we believe that we’re not capable. For example, we wouldn’t have been offered the job if people didn’t think we were capable. The only person we need to prove anything to is ourselves.

5. Acknowledge it and know it’s not just you.

We need to be mindful that the voice in our head is often swayed. We are wired to see the glass as half empty, to focus on the negative. This comes from evolutionary times when it was helpful for us to always see the worst that could happen in order to survive. In the days of cavemen and women, it was useful for us to be wary of a saber-toothed tiger around the corner because then we’d be prepared to run.

What this can translate to in our modern world is a constant focus on what we’re not good at, things that went wrong, and why we’re not enough—in our jobs, how we look compared to our friends, who we are as a person, or what we’ve achieved in life.

This negativity bias can leave us feeling like we’ll never be good enough. So to counter the bias, we need to focus on what we have, not what we haven’t, to direct our energy toward the things we’re good at rather than on what might go wrong and where we might fail.

Know that it’s not something we experience alone. Some of the most successful people I know who seem to have mastered life admit that underneath, they feel the opposite some days. Even famous people earning millions and excelling at what they do admit to having moments of self-doubt.

6. Stop comparing yourself to others.

It’s the fastest way to feel inferior and feed our self-doubt. Unfortunately there will always be someone more beautiful, clever, talented, or stronger than you. But the reverse is also true: at times, you will be the most talented and successful. So instead of comparing yourself to others, look to see if you’re fulfilling your own potential and celebrate the things you have.

We are all capable of more than we know, and we can do amazing things if we’re not busy doubting our abilities. Next time that negative voice in your head starts to speak, turn down the volume.

What matters most is not whether we fear failing, looking foolish, or not being enough; it’s whether we give those fears the power to keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals.

Detox Lessons

As my 10 day detox draws to a close I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned and how I might take some lessons forward to make sustainable tweaks to the way I live.  To keep it going but in a more moderated way, some middle ground – both with food and technology!

The detox has been like pressing pause and a kick start for healthier habits but beyond this it’s made me so much more aware.

It wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined and at times I found myself actually enjoying it – and other times I’d wish I’d never thought of the idea!  Particularly the first few days before the headaches wore off and my body ached liked I was getting the flu – apparently though this was just the toxins working their way out.

Admittedly there’s been a few breaks in the 10 day detox, a treat cup of tea with milk – the caffeine high lasted all morning and left my feeling like I was a bit drunk!  And a couple of healthy meals when I needed that extra boost.  But the strange thing is despite thinking about pizza so often I don’t actually want any.  My cravings now are for the simple things I missed; a cup of tea with milk, a piece of cheese on a cracker, toast with butter!  It seems the more healthily we eat the less junk food we crave and I suppose the reverse is also true.  That’s why it’s so easy to get stuck in unhealthy cycles.  That’s been my main lesson from this experiment – the power of habits and our ability to form new habits, press reset.

So I’ve lost a few kilos but that’s just a bonus in terms of the real benefits, the way I feel – which is somehow just brighter and lighter, how my body functions and the lessons I’ve learned.  So what have I learned and what might I do differently now?

To create some healthier habits around my device, not having it in the bedroom so it doesn’t become the last thing I do at night and the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Resolving to check it only at certain times of the day to reduce that habit of constantly reaching for it.  Removing the notifications from apps so each time I use my phone I’m not distracted by these little calls for attention and promises of social validation.

The food detox has really increased my awareness around my relationship with food.  We’ve been brought up to clear out plates, don’t leave the table until you’ve eaten all your dinner.  Even when we’re out for dinner there’s a feeling of eating more to get value.  I’ve become much more mindful about what I eat and why.  Stopping when I’m full and knowing that that’s after less food than my brain often believes.  Being more aware of emotional eating and not just reaching for food because its midday or we’ve been invited to a party and there’s snacks.

It’s been an interesting experiment and one that’s benefited my health but I’m also keen to return to something more balanced and moderated – that will be the big test!

The Detox Continues

This is the week of detox.  Following on from this weekends impromptu digital detox I’m now trying the food version, it’s the end of day 3 of a 12 day detox.  They say the first few days are the hardest so I thought it’d be a good time to share my thoughts.
 
It’s true I’ve been indulging over the past few months and have picked up some unhealthy habits I feel I need to address.  By doing this detox I’m hoping to kick start a new healthy routine and give my health some much needed attention.  It’s a first for me, whilst I’ve had yoga ashram diets and lived very healthily at times I’ve never done a detox so I’m intrigued what I find.
 
I have a love of food (bread in particular) and knew I’d been getting into unhealthy habits.  I also knew this would be a real challenge for me given my attachment to food but I’ve surprised myself by sticking to it religiously so far and not kicking and screaming anywhere near what I was expecting!
 
It mainly involves eating nothing but raw fruit and veg, mostly blended.  Three meals and snacks but no caffeine, meat, dairy, wheat, sugar or alcohol.  Gentle exercise of 30 minutes a day is recommended which even for me is achievable and what’s more it recommends I stay out of the gym and away from high intensity workouts (a bonus!)  The bits I love most are the rest days, saunas and massage on the schedule though.
 
I have always loved food and am aware I often eat for reasons other than being hungry.  I have attachment issues with food.  It’s not just the steady weight gain though that forces me to action but the drain on my energy, the clarity of my skin, my concentration levels and how fit I feel when I exercise.  I’ve been aware for a while that all of this needs improving and there’s a bigger issue at play but it’s easier not to bother sometimes and reach for those foods and habits that comfort us.  But eventually I am at a point where action is necessary and I am ready.  Especially as we head into winter.
 
So I’ve taken the plunge and so far surviving well.  Yes there’s been cravings and temptations but there’s not been as much hunger as I’d imagined, however that’s not always the reason that we reach for food I know.
 
It’s amazing how much time we spend thinking of food, what we’re having to eat, buying the ingredients and then preparing meals.  Once we’ve done our morning juice that’s it for the day (aside from some raw veg snacks and nuts and seeds).  There’s much more time in the day.  However, much more time spend day dreaming about food since I’ve been detoxing – mostly pizza!
 
It’s a good chance to rest too as for the first few days I didn’t feel like doing much else.  It’s funny that I’m eating more healthily than ever yet I feel worse!  It’s those initial few days whilst your body starts getting rid of the toxins and withdraws from things like sugar and caffeine that are the worst.  I'm glad to say my 2 day headache has now gone though :-)
 
The energy levels are much improved once the body has adjusted, not to mention better skin, a flatter stomach and just that feeling of health.  Healthy food tastes better and the cravings for junk food are diminishing (although I do still spend a lot of time thinking about pizza).
 
Support has been an key ingredient.  My partner and I are on this journey together which when you live together makes this so much easier, it also gives me someone to compare notes with, encouragement and a feeling of not being alone in the challenge.
 
So I’ll keep going and let you know what next week brings at the conclusion of this challenge.

Digital Detox

It’s not the first time I’ve done digital detox but it’s been a while so I decided on Friday night when I turned off my phone I’d put it away until Monday. Now I tend not to go into my office to be on my laptop over the weekend anyway as that is family time but it’s amazing how much work I can do on my phone! The news feeds, information gathering, social catching up and sometimes just mindless scrolling. Especially on quiet weekends I’ve lost count of the number of times I reach for my phone; for some information, social interaction or validation of some kind.

So what did I miss? Initially it felt like I was missing something as my actions shone a light on the habits I’ve formed with technology. First thing in the morning it is common for me to reach for my phone, it wasn’t there. When I wanted to see when it would stop raining, the weather app was not available even my meditation app made me think twice about having to meditate without my device (ironically). It made ordering a curry difficult and choosing what movie to watch but nothing we could not get around!

What did I gain? More time and a more clear mind not to mention a certain sense of calm that comes from switching off from the outside world for a while and just being. There’s a natural inclination to turn inwards, especially on a quiet weekend at home nursing a cold!

Instead I was able to spend time being present, with those I loved, being aware of my surroundings, reading a book, walking the dog and being 100% present when doing those things not distracted by what photos I could take or what posts I might create and how many likes they’d get.

Now my business relies on social media and having friends and family around the world, so do I but I am aware of the habits it forms and the impacts its use has on our brain. I'm aware of the impacts of information overload and the addictive nature of our devices but it’s less about the device and more about our relationship with them. It’s not something I’d give up completely but I am a fan of the digital detox and it is something I plan to do more often to keep me aware of this and to be mindful of some of those no so healthy habits we form with our devices.

The detox theme has continued and this week I'm trying it with food! Stay tuned for more about my food detox tomorrow

Mindful Leadership

We’ve all heard of mindfulness and in recent years it’s been making its way into the workplace but how does it relate to leadership and can it really impact our effectiveness to the point where it contributes to the bottom line?

Leadership has changed and expectations have changed with it.It less about instruction and more about inspiration, less about managing and more about motivating.We need to meet constant work demands and look after those who work for us too.To deliver on expectations and results but remain balanced and avoid burning out in the process.It’s just as critical to lead ourselves though as well as leading others.We know, as leaders, we’re expected to deliver results.But it’s as much about how we deliver as it is what we deliver and as leaders we cause a ripple effect across our departments and business units.The tone we set, the way we show up and the examples we set ripple throughout our teams and therefore our business.

I’ve been a senior leader and I’ve had the privilege throughout my HR career to work with many others and be involved in Leadership Development in different businesses, various industries across multiple countries.

I’ve noticed some reoccurring themes in terms of what works well and what doesn’t.

I know how leaders engage employees and the impact this has not just on team morale but their performance too.I have also developed a passion for mindfulness through my own journey and personal experience as a leader and how I’ve seen it work when brought into the workplace with my own programmes.

We know that if our employees thrive so do our business results.  They are the ones, after all, responsible for the output. We also know as leaders that if we are to meet our targets and deliver on our expectations we need a good team around us who will support us and go the extra mile.

Understanding others is key as is the ability to motivate, inspire, listen, trust and empathise with them - all skills mindfulness helps us develop.But our ability to lead others really does start with the ability to lead and manage ourselves and where mindfulness can make the difference.

I learned mindfulness many years ago as a way of managing my stress and workload as a busy leader and it did this, but so much more. The more I practiced the more benefits I experienced and this lead to an impact on my productivity I’d never anticipated.

The biggest impact for me has been having a clearer, focused, sharper mind and how this has increased my effectiveness.We know what it feels like trying to wade through paperwork, a never ending to do list and back to back meetings when we’re tired, can’t think straight and our brain feels a bit foggy.We have this multitasking myth that we can do many things simultaneously.In fact we feel it’s a necessary skill in a world where we have to do more things in less time.Yet a Harvard study suggests that rather than multitasking our brains are in fact just switching from one thing to the next very quickly and therefore not really focusing on any one thing properly.Mindfulness is training the brain to focus on one thing at a time and give the present your unwavering attention and concentration.

Sounds slow perhaps?Let me introduce you to the concept of slowing down to speed up.If we focus on one thing at a time it doesn’t take as long to complete and what we produce is likely to be of better quality.If we have decisions to make or problems to solve it is also not likely to take as long when we’re thinking clearly and not trying to focus on other things at the same time, hence saving time.If we get things done right the first time we don’t have to re-do them and if we’re operating at our best it doesn’t take as long.

Many scientific studies now done on mindfulness have found that it alters the brain, the grey matter increases and those who practice experience physical changes in the brain as a result.By improving the brains function we are also improving our effectiveness.But beyond the physical impacts mindfulness has been linked to; improved sleep, lower blood pressure, better memory and less stress there’s much more.

When we practice mindfulness we become more aware, of ourselves and of others.This can have significant impacts if we’re in a meeting room full of people we need to influence and we can tap into skills of empathy and awareness to help better understand our audience and how the meeting is going.But this awareness also equips us with the ability to navigate difficult conversations and conflict resolution whilst tapping into the self-awareness that helps us regulate our own mood and reaction to frustrations.

When we train the mind to focus and be present we’re more alert to what’s going on around us.We can hear the unspoken in a meeting by noticing body language and the feeling in the room.When we are in a meeting and focused we hear what’s being said rather than thinking about our to do list or what’s for tea with only half an ear on what’s actually happening right in front of us.Thus making us better able to learn and respond too.

A clear mind is also a spacious mind.Think of a glass of dirty water, it’s murky and you can’t really see anything in it.Now sit it on the table and watch the sediment sink to the bottom and clear water settle on top.This is like the mind.When we rest it and take time to be still and quiet the busy thoughts subside, the fog clears and we get clarity on top.In this clarity we have space to think, to have ideas, to be creative.This helps us with solving problems but also making sound decisions.

And it doesn’t stop there.Mindfulness has also been linked to Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which we’re also starting to hear a lot more about in the Leadership space. EQ is now considered to be more important than IQ in terms of our success as a leader.Emotional Intelligence is considered to help with better communication and relationship building.It is the ability to manage our self and better understand others.To empathise, motivate, persist in the face of set backs, manage frustrations and regulate our mood.It allows us to think before we act and plays a key role in decision making, self-esteem and resilience.

Mindfulness also trains the brain to be a more positive place which helps with things like Imposter Syndrome and negative self-talk when we’re under pressure at work or settling into a new promotion.Mindfulness is the new must have leadership skill alongside the likes of Emotional intelligence and Executive Stamina.So how can we develop it?

By making the most of the momentary pauses in our day and prioritising time to sit and just be.This can be difficult in a world where we’re conditioned to be doing rather than being.But remembering the concept of slowing down to speed up, these few minutes spent being still and quiet save us more time throughout the day with our energised, sharp, focused mind-set.For me it’s 10 minutes each morning when I get up sat with my eyes closed focusing on my breathing.It’s taking time to notice what’s around us on the walk to work and tuning into how we feel and taking some deep breaths each time we pause to wait for the lift, the bus, the kettle to boil or between meetings.

It’s taking a walk in the park at lunchtime and noticing the sights, sounds and smells or doing a guided meditation before bed.There are so many opportunities to practice mindfulness but in our technological age these pauses are often filled with multitasking on our devices which has the opposite effect on our mind.It’s like training a muscle though, it takes practice, little and often is the key and it won’t happen overnight.We don’t walk into the gym and expect to lift the heaviest weight.

Start small and build up, keep it consistent and you’ll notice a difference.Similar to when we’ve been training at the gym for a while we don’t just feel strong whilst we’re at the gym but all day.Mindfulness is like a mental gym and given our current mental health statistics is something we should all be investing in to help thrive as individuals and help our businesses flourish.

Those in New Zealand can take the first step on this journey and learn from those who’ve brought this into their life and organisations and what it’s done for their business as well as their own personal performance.Check out the first NZ Mindful Leaders Conference in March 2018 and register for tickets here

Jess Stuart is a former HR professional turned Author & Coach with a passion for Mindfulness.  With 15 years working in personal development and leadership development across many industries and countries visit the business page of the website for more www.jessstuart.co.nz

The Art of Mindfulness

The Art of Mindfulness: Busy Life, Peaceful Mind.  Staying sane in a crazy world, keeping calm amid the chaos.

Click here to download 

Master the art of mindfulness.  Stop worrying and start living.  Learn how to bring Mindfulness into your life to make you happier, calmer and more effective.  Achieve better stress management and resilience and realise the benefits of mindfulness and how we harness the power of our mind. 

Develop a regular practice to tame your monkey mind, achieve a more positive mindset and free yourself from worry.  Discover skills that help you bounce back from the tough times, stay in the present more often and achieve balance.  Create more space in the mind and train the brain to be more clear and focused and a more positive place to be.

Understand how Mindfulness aids our effectiveness, the impacts of emotional intelligence and how we can use this skill at work.https://youtu.be/FE5IqFHRzIs

A Mindfulness teacher with a daily practice of 7 years.  Training from teachers from around the world in many cultures and countries.  Without any religious affiliations, I bring eastern techniques to benefit our western world modified in a way that is easily applied to modern life.  Experienced course instructor, described by others as authentic, uplifting and inspiring.

Discover the basics of meditation and how to deal with a busy mind or negative thoughts.  Achieve the skills to apply Mindfulness into your daily life and work to become more focused, clear and effective and develop a regular practice to sustain you well beyond this course.

Suitable for beginners to mindfulness or those who have done some before and are looking to learn new ways to bring this to life and create a regular practice

Over 2 hours of content, one lecture per day and some practical exercises to download as well as bonus material and resources.Available online and through your device with lifetime access once purchased

Why Learning to Let Go and Adapt Is a Shortcut to Happiness

No matter what kind of life we live, we all need to learn to adapt, because everything changes. Good and bad come and go in everybody’s life. It’s one of the reasons resilience is so critical.

We plan our lives expecting good to come our way, to get what we want, and for things to work out how we planned. At the same time we’re chasing the good, we try to avoid the bad.

One of the biggest sources of our unhappiness and discontent is not being able to adapt to change; instead, we cling to things we’ve lost or get upset because things don’t unfold as we want them to.  

What we overlook is that this is a fundamental law of life, the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Things come and go, nothing stays the same, and we can’t control most of the things we’d like to. Accepting this and learning to adapt and go with the flow brings us one step closer to happiness.

I’ve just come back from a meditation retreat. It sounds relaxing, and it was, but it was also difficult in many ways.I had to adapt to a new routine, which meant a 5:30am alarm, sitting for long periods of meditation, and periods of complete silence and solitude.

And there were lots of other changes: Not having my morning cup of tea or evening chocolate—or any caffeine or dairy—and adjusting to a vegan diet. Being without WiFi and my cell phone, and braving the sub zero temperatures up in the mountains of NZ in winter. Having to do karma yoga work—things like cleaning toilets and stacking wood.Not to mention the kind of emotions, thoughts, and feelings we’re confronted with when we start to disconnect from the world and spend time with ourselves.

I was so pleased to be returning home, but then instantly thrown into the chaos of a busy airport with all flights grounded due to fog. I then realized that I would not be going home, and to attempt that tomorrow meant a bus ride to the next airport and finding some overnight accommodation to wait it out with the hope that the weather would be fit for flying in the morning.

Despite my Zen-like state post-meditation, I was frustrated, upset, and I just wanted to get home to see my partner, sleep in my own bed, and not feel so helpless.I had my plan, my expected outcome, and for reasons beyond everyone’s control, this wasn’t possible. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.Now, a week later, I find myself having to learn the skill of adaptability once again.Many years ago I played soccer. I wasn’t bad, either. I loved it. It was my passion. As a kid, I’d play all day on my own in the garden, and once I found a team I’d never miss a match. However, my career was cut short in my early twenties after a ruptured cruciate ligament that was surgically repaired, re-ruptured.

I had to give up on my passion and for many years didn’t play soccer. It was as a result of this devastation that I found yoga—my new passion and lifesaver for the past seven years, something I do every day.

I’ve just had a further operation on this ailing knee, and while I’d adapted over the years from the injury, I found myself once again having to adapt to changes: Not being able to walk, being housebound, using crutches and the difficulties this brings. Finding a way of sleeping comfortably and seeing through the fog the painkillers seemed to create. Not being able to do my morning yoga routine and struggling to meditate because I couldn’t adopt my usual cross-legged ‘proper’ meditation position.

Sometimes what is, is good enough. Acceptance is key to helping us adapt. If I can breathe, I can meditate, and I’ve enjoyed some of my lying down meditations (the ones where I’ve managed to stay awake!).And now, as I reduce the meds and ease off the crutches, I can see positive change occurring. I can do a few standing yoga asanas and can take short walks with support.The devastation of leaving my beloved sport morphed into another form of exercise I fell in love with that I may never have otherwise discovered. And my recent operation led me to new ways of enjoying this passion.

These recent lessons caused me to reflect on how life has changed for me over the last year or so and how I’ve been adapting along the way (sometimes kicking and screaming).I’ve gone from a nomad traveling the world to settling down in a city I’d said I’d never live in due to the wind and the earthquakes. I’ve experienced some of the worst winds and biggest earthquakes of my life since being here and learned to love it all the same.

I’ve recognized the positives and come to love the bits that make this city (Wellington, NZ) great: the small town feel, the laid back lifestyle, the friendly residents, the ocean, the beach suburbs and beautiful scenery, the wonderful array of cafes and restaurants, not to mention the abundance of yoga, meditation, and wellness related activities.

I’ve gone from being single and happy to living with someone else and having to think about someone else, taking into account more needs than just my own.

I’ve had to learn to love again, take risks, and face fears while navigating a long-term relationship and our different wants and needs. I’ve had to learn to share a home and build a nest, and think about the future in ways I’d never have thought I could, feeling very blessed if also a little apprehensive and scared at the same time.read the rest of the blog and the full article here on Tiny Buddha

Why Kindness is a skill

Many of us are brought up today to look after number one, to go out and get what we want—and the more of it we can have, the better.

Our society preaches survival of the fittest and often encourages us to succeed at the expense of others.I was no different, and while I noticed a tendency to feel sorry for others and want to help, I was too busy lining my own pockets and chasing my own success to act on these impulses. I worried that kindness was me being soft and, therefore, a weakness that may hamper my progress, especially at work as I moved up the ranks.It was only when I quit my corporate career, after years of unhappiness, to realign my values and rebuild a life around my passions that I learned the true value of kindness and how it has impacted my life since.

I volunteered overseas with those less fortunate. I lived in yoga ashrams and spent time with Buddhist nuns and monks across many different countries. I learned how compassion and kindness can be a source of strength, and since then I’ve applied this wisdom, with success, repeatedly into my own life.

Our natural response to seeing someone in distress is to want to help. We care about the suffering of others and we feel good when that suffering is released. This applies if we do it ourselves, see it in a movie, or witness it in real life. It makes us feel good. Feeling like we’re making a difference in the world and helping those who need it brings us joy; it gives us meaning.

My grandma was the most giving person I ever knew.When her weekly pension arrived she delighted in giving the grandchildren money, even though it meant having little to spend on herself.Family members would get upset that they bought her lovely gifts, which she then re-gifted to others, often less fortunate. Over the years I began to understand that it if she gifted it to someone else, it meant that she liked it and thought it was worthy of sharing.Knowing the pleasure she got from giving to others and that she wasn’t in the position to buy things herself, I saw it as her getting the gift twice: the pleasure of receiving it but then also the pleasure she got from being able to give it to someone else. The recipients were always grateful and touched by her kindness too.Buddhists say, “All the happiness there is in the world comes from us wishing others to be happy.” When we do good deeds for others it makes us feel good.

James Baraz quotes statistics on why giving is good for you in his book Awakening Joy. “According to the measures of Social Capital Community Benchmark survey, those who gave contributions of time or money were 42 percent more likely to be happy than those who didn’t.”Psychologists even have a term for the state of euphoria reported by those who give. It’s called “helpers high,” and it’s based on the theory that neuroscience is now backing up: Giving produces endorphins in the brain that make us feel good. This activates the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure does.Practicing kindness also helps train the mind to be more positive and see more good in the world. There’s plenty of it out there; it just doesn’t seem like it because, while the kind acts outnumber the bad, they don’t make as many headlines.

When I think back to how life was before, I realize that I wasn’t even being kind to myself, so it makes sense that I didn’t value kindness for others. I’ve learned it’s about self-respect first, and from there it’s much easier to respect others. Kindness as a skill taps into our true strength. We can respect ourselves when we are being kind to others and to our planet.Read the rest of the blog here on Tiny Buddha