emotional intelligence

How I went from angry and stressed to calm and focused on my goals.

I sit writing this article as the sun streams in the window, the cat plays with the cardboard box on the floor, the jasmine tea is warming, and the creativity flows.

Contrast this to the day 8 years ago when I was such a wound-up ball of stress, I had to use the balustrade to steady me as I climbed the stairs at work, stopping on each step, positioning my back and my hips to be able to tackle the next one. My body felt and moved like an unhealthy eighty year-old.

I had just relocated from Paris to London in difficult circumstances with my career into a new position that was particularly high-pressure (not least of which came from me), traveling a lot for work, having relationship problems with the man I left behind in Paris, and trying to create a new place I could call home (with all the stresses setting that up brings). I was a short-tempered, fatigued woman and I knew this wasn’t “the real me.” It was the day I decided to take myself off to a detox retreat in Glastonbury, United Kingdom to decompress for a week.

Much has changed since that day. For one thing, a couple of years after “my senior moment” I left the corporate world, “re-relocated” to Paris to go back to the lad, and started my own business as a coach to senior business leaders globally. During the last few years, I have worked with several coaches and the constant throughout was journaling - a safe space for me to unpack sometimes intense emotions that otherwise, I didn’t quite know how to deal with.

I’ve always journaled, but not in an intelligent manner. When I began to ask better questions of myself, my emotions became less intense because having journaled about them, I could recognise them, give them a name, understand their origins and triggers, and let them go. The process of journaling has led me to a calmer state of being, of being more emotionally self-aware and more empathetic to others. I put myself in their shoes more often and can see their side of things.

I believe there are millions of leaders who feel like I did, who feel like they don’t know how to manage their emotions through the stress, urgency, fatigue, meetings, and task lists. It’s one of the most common questions from my clients, “How do I manage my emotions and my stress?” It makes them much less effective, certainly less impactful, and most definitely less inspiring when they don’t know what to do with the intense emotions that have a tendency to explode unexpectedly in high-stress environments.

It’s the benefits of journaling that led me to write my first book about my experience The Executive’s Guide to Journaling: Write Your Way to Less Stress, Better Relationships, and More Impactful and Inspiring Leadership. I have compiled over 300 Artful Questions, journaling prompts to help you ask better questions so you get better answers. The book outlines the research that supports the benefits of the practice of journaling with referenced articles and papers for you to look into further.

I’m an evangelist about the benefits of journaling on our mental health, relationships, and how we show up to the world. In writing this book, I want to help leaders become more emotionally self-aware because - let’s face it - a calm leader who isn’t losing their s*** all the time is a much nicer person to be around and to work for. That’s the leader people want to follow.

Pick up your copy of The Executive’s Guide to Journaling: Write Your Way to Less Stress, Better Relationships, and More Impactful and Inspiring Leadership on Amazon and Kindle.

Everything I love about my clients also makes me wince

My work leads me to some amazing women - smart, ambitious, successful, action-takers, and go-getters. They inspire me every day I work with them. They're working with me because they know more and better in their lives and careers is available to them as a right, and they want guidance to create their goals and make them happen.

Everything I love about them is also everything that makes me wince.

When did we become so hard on ourselves?

You see, these women have high standards and expectations - of others, and their level of work, effort and accuracy; but they hold themselves to an even HIGHER standard than they do of others.

To hold themselves to a higher standard, they raise the bar so high, they can never feel accomplished, competent, loved, accepted, or content. To live with that every moment of every day leaves a massive imprint on their brains of...

I'm not good enough.

Just imagine doing that to a child every single day. Imagine telling that little child, "You're hopeless," "You can't do that!" "You're not as good as they are."

You just wouldn't do it.

Think about that next time you're berating yourself for not meeting your self-imposed high standards.

I admire those ambitious traits you have, for what they can do for you, and what you can achieve in life and career with them.

Those same traits can also 'undo' you - in a big way.

  • Beating up on yourself on the daily when you don't measure up to the arbitrarily high standards you've set for yourself.
  • Experiencing extreme emotions when you are challenged in a work setting or when you feel you may not have all the answers, affecting your performance and relationships.
  • Feeling fiercely competitive, coming from a place of anger, frustration, and scarcity.

It preys on your well-being - emotionally, mentally, and even physically, with conditions like emotional eating, or over-training and injury. It affects your relationships.

It is exhausting to feel this pressure on a daily basis.

Does this resonate?

It resonates with me - at least, who I ONCE was.

What I practice now is FORGIVENESS: Allowing myself room to fail so I can learn from it, and see how I can do, be, and think differently next time; not, "What SHOULD I have done?" but "What can I do differently next time?"

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" Winston Churchill

What I practice now is ACCEPTANCE: that I am pretty bloody brilliant just as I am. My 'weaknesses' and failings make me human, and are an invitation to greater self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-mastery.

What I practice now is DETACHMENT: I have goals, of course, and I strive to achieve them. At the same time, by letting go of the outcome, I can ease into the goals, flow with the process, have faith that the goals will be achieved. It is a more abundant place to come from, instead of an angst-ridden, scarcity-based "What if I don't achieve my goals?" (The answer to that is, "I will still be pretty freaking awesome as Helen. It won't define me."

"Failure is seldom fatal"

You'll notice I said that I practice forgiveness, acceptance, and detachment - for that's what it is; a practice - every single day. I'm not perfect, and I know it,...and it's OK.

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it" Salvador Dali

Does any of this sound like you? Tired of beating up on yourself in this way? I'm currently offering a free Career Strategy call to help you turn down the volume on the inner critic so you can achieve your goals. Book a Career Strategy call to find out how to balance fierce ambition with fierce self-acceptance, as well as the 5 factors that might be slowing your leadership track.

Ladies, Take a Bow!

I sit writing this on International Women's Day, March 8th. It feels like this day is gathering momentum as being more and more important, rather than less. Although the subject of women's rights is leap years ahead of where it was when the first internationally recognised day was celebrated in 1975, it seems there is a new momentum, a new vigour to it. It's the next iteration of women's rights that's evolving, with a future that looks brighter.

Today, I'm giving thanks to those women, real, fictional, past and current, who have inspired and influenced me to be the woman I am today:

  • Kate Sheppard: a New Zealand activist who campaigned women's suffrage, gaining women in NZ the right to vote as early as 1893. As the first country in the world to do so, and growing up in a relatively egalitarian society, it has given me a sense of "anything is possible."
  • My mother: who gave me steely determination with oodles of generosity and kindness. Although, I've tried hard over the years to not be like her by being a career woman, rather than a home-maker, there's no getting away from the fact that I am my mother's daughter.
  • My grandmothers: Becoming widows early in their lives, I learned that it was possible for women to be alone in the world, and be OK with it. My maternal grandmother, in particular, did so with relish, leading a life full of love and connection with those around her, without a partner.
  • My mentor: who has shown me that when you are fully yourself, and unapologetically so, you can lead an abundant, full life, where anything is possible, by putting your mind, body and spirit into it. (You know who you are! x)
  • Anne Hartley: author of "Financially Free: a Woman's Guide to Creating Wealth," a book I read in my 20s which changed my relationship with money and wealth. I went from low-wealth-consciousness teacher, to a financially secure corporate queen in the space of a few years.
  • HRH Queen Elizabeth II: She has been a public figure all my life, stoically leading and developing the Commonwealth. Although we could get into a debate about the relevance of monarchy today, she has made it completely natural for us to see a woman in power.

I know there are more women who have inspired and influenced me, (I mean - Notorious RBG! #badass; Oprah!) but the list is long.

Whatever your gender, stop a moment and give thanks to all those women who have shaped you and continue to influence and inspire you. #womanlyartofleadership

For more inspiring women, subscribe on Apple Podcasts to the Womanly Art of Leadership Sessions podcast.

The "People-Pleaser" Debate

Are you a people-pleaser?

Are you someone who goes out of your way to please others without a thought for yourself?

I've had discussions with a few people recently who question me, "What's wrong with being a 'people-pleaser'? It's kind and generous to want to please others."

Yes, it is...until it's not.

People-pleasing in itself is not bad - in fact more kindness, generosity and a desire to love, connect with and please others is probably just what the world needs now (I feel a song coming on...)

The question to ask yourself is:

"What benefit am I getting from pleasing others all the time?"

  • Is it to be accepted, loved, and approved of because you learned from your parents or guardians that you could only be loved if you were the 'good girl' and helped others?
  • Is it to avoid conflict because you feel like you have to tip-toe around the other person so as not to upset them?
  • Is it because you only feel needed when you are doing things for others?
  • Is it because by doing things for others, you can get others to do things for you?

It's when pleasing others takes on such significance that you do it consistently, without regard for your own needs, at an emotional, physical, mental, financial, or spiritual cost to you, so that you become resentful, a martyr, and afraid to set boundaries, that it's time to look at it, and create new habits and beliefs. The trick is to find a healthy balance of giving to others that feels good to you without it being a compulsion and causing you pain.

So no - pleasing people is not bad, but consider the driving need behind it and at what cost to you. Codependence, self-abandonment, and lack of self-worth can easily be dressed up as 'doing good' for others.

PS I'm flying today to Dubai for 10 whole days! Work and play, I'll share with you what's going on.

Where did your emotions go?

OMG!

I'm loving the feedback and conversations I'm having lately in response to my blogs, posts and comments on various social media.

A recent conversation occurred on LinkedIn in response to an article published in Arianna Huffington's publication, Thrive Global. Read it here.

The author writes about the word 'should' and how it is the one word to banish from our vocabulary. I've written about this before in my blog, "There's no good in should."

There's no good in should

My comment in response to the Thrive Global article on LinkedIn was that if we have emotional connection to our goals, there is no space for 'should.'

A question from one of the LinkedIn community to me was, "Why is it some people find it easier to connect emotionally than others?"

A great question - and a big response!

We are emotional beings. Emotions are powerful and strong and big and scary and joyous all at the same time. We are taught from a very young age that emotions are to be feared "Stop crying!" "Don't shout!" "Calm down!" Boys are told not "to be a girl" with their emotions, and girls are told to stop being so emotional. Whichever gender you are, there is no place for emotion in our upbringing.

Does that go some way in answering the question?

Through the years, we lose touch with our emotions, to the point that when asked to recall a memory, some people profess to feel nothing, despite the fact that it is impossible for us to recall a memory without experiencing some emotion. It is simply that we have learned to ignore it, stamp it out, not recognise the emotion. To open ourselves up to these emotions is how we can connect emotionally, not just to goals, but to our relationships, to our decisions, to our intuition.

Emotions are a powerful tool in living our lives and creating careers that are exactly as we desire.

No 'shoulds' required when you're emotionally connected to the outcome.

Bisous x

P.S. I'd love to hear about your experience - do you 'should' yourself? Is what you're 'should-ing' yourself about really something you desire or feel emotionally connected to? Let me know. Message or email me.

P.P.S. If you'd like to discuss a way of having fewer 'shoulds' in your life so you can create a life and career you LOVE, and step into your power and confidence, message or email me. I won't send any booking links - let's keep it personal.