Only two types of people say this. Those who have more than enough money, or those who don’t have it and never will.
This is what I’ve observed, over and over.
I remember engaging in discussion once with someone who has been broke as hell and now does very well for themselves. She busted out this BS line – and threw something in about health (they always do, don’t they?!).
Come on. Really. She totally failed to acknowledge how different it would have been if she had been struck down with that health situation in her younger, poorer days.
It’s not just about the direct costs of care. It’s also about the fact that when you’re in lower paying, less stable jobs, you don’t tend to have as much leave, you might not get paid leave or have the option to take an extended absence, you might not have trauma/income insurance, you might not be able to work flexibly, all those surrounding factors play into your health experience.
But why? What makes people spout this line that is so out of touch with reality? Have they truly forgotten what it’s like (obviously the silver spoon rich may never have known anything but privilege)? And more importantly, what’s the underlying emotion driving it?
I suspect it might be guilt. For being comfortable, having more than others. Downplaying the status they’ve achieved (heck, it’s easy enough to get rid of money if you REALLY don’t want it!)
At the other end of the spectrum, the motivation is probably clearer. Defensiveness, defeatism, despair. If you know you’re never going to have money, why even think about what it would be like? Why aspire to it? I don’t want it anyway. It wouldn’t make a difference. Reverse psyching yourself out, driven by envy. Proactively adapting your expectations or downgrading your desires to compensate.
As someone in the middle – not broke, not rich – I struggle with both. Absolutely I experience envy of those with more. I also feel guilt about being better off than many (especially during pandemic times – the exacerbation of inequality is just terrifying).
The truth is, the more I make the more good I can do and the more I can give back. The more I AM doing and giving back. Making bigger and bigger donations as time goes on feels freaking amazing. Hell, I can see why people might even aspire to become VCs.
(NB: I don’t subscribe to the ‘you can do anything!’ school of thought. There are the realities of the bodies we live in and the societies in which we exist, that we have to work around. But I do believe most of us, if we want to, can achieve way bigger goals than we think we are capable of.)
Hustle culture would have you believe that you just need to grind to reach your biggest goals. NOPE. It starts with cultivating unshakeable belief in yourself. if you don’t believe in you, nobody else will either. Those vibes are contagious, like it or not.
You gotta get your head right. That is where it all begins. When you are laser focused on a goal and your motivation is rock solid, things have a way of unfolding from there. Especially when it comes to financial goals. Money needs a purpose.
1. Decide what the hell you want to do
Clarify what it is you want and are going to work towards. The thing that’s burning you up. You’re about to start writing a brand new story for yourself.
No, not a SMART goal.
You don’t need to know the HOW yet.
You just need to know the outcome you’re after, so you can imagine it in as much sharp and colourful detail as possible.
You need to see it in your mind. You’ve got to be able to envision it before you have it.
And then, go out and find evidence that it’s possible. You can’t be what you can’t see. All those people you’re secretly jealous of? Who have what you want and you feel wicked envy for? That’s evidence to bank right now and use as aspirational fuel.
Lastly: write it down. I know – so corny. Just do it. There’s power in naming things and power in the written word. (I’m always amazed at what happens when I sit down and let things out on paper/screen.)
Then keep doing it – reaffirming it every chance you get. I write out my main goal every day in my gratitude/journaling app and now I feel a sense of calm descend upon me every time I do. I also try to write out my secondary goals most days.
I surround myself with reminders of my goal. I use my passwords. I have a vision board. These things help keep my goal front and centre, keep my mind focused and bring my attention back to it throughout the day. And I try to actively concentrate on thinking about it whenever I become aware of my thoughts throughout the day – I switch into a thought that’s going to help me get where I want to go. (Tip: keep it tight and focused on the positive, desired outcome. i.e what you want, not what you don’t want.) What we focus on magnifies since our brains work much like the FB algorithm – feed it accordingly.
2. Feel and embody it right now
This is about conviction. Committing to being the type of person who does that thing. If you achieved the result you want – who would you be? What would your next-level self be like? What would they think, say, do?
When in doubt, tap into your bad bitch alter ego for guidance.
You can’t be what you can’t feel. So, do what you can to get into the vibe of that feeling and anchor it in now. In a responsible way, naturally.
Maybe you can’t take a yearlong sabbatical. But you can probably book a babysitter and take the night off. Or arrange a weekend away. A stretch of time devoted entirely to YOU goes a long way when you’ve been ignoring your needs for so long.
For me, and my financial goals, this has been two-fold. Giving more generously, like my richer self would. And indulging myself more, which is not something that comes naturally to me.
Every day, I also consciously work on this at a micro level – simply choosing to feel good whenever I can. Putting on my favourite songs. Actively appreciating the things around me.
When I was in a real slump, I kept returning to a particular memory in my mind – lounging on the couch at my friend’s new house in the sun, snuggling with another friend, as we all relaxed and caught up with each other. At the time, I felt so warm and deliciously drunk with simple pleasure… I knew I had to file it away for reference. And sure enough, I came back to it multiple times a day, many, many times after that. Letting the pure joy I felt in that moment sink in and transport me away from difficult moments in the present, and giving myself a reset.
Sometimes, there’s deep stuff that needs healing along the way. (Coming soon – thoughts on the mind-body connection!) Welcome all feelings and emotions, because stifling them doesn’t work in the long run. Only acceptance, and eventually healing release, does.
Feeling good when the world feels like it’s falling apart could look like making a donation to a cause or signing a petition. Follow your gut and heart.
Not convinced about the power of feeling it? Consider this. If you’ve ever been through a traumatic experience, you know what it’s like to get triggered. The body keeps score. It remembers and it relives it. Those same feelings arise and you react accordingly.
Imagine that same power of feeling, applied with a positive lens. It’s stronger than you can imagine.
3. Stick with your strategy
All that prework you’ve put in during steps 1 and 2? Channel the hell out of it in this phase.
This is the execution phase. You can’t have if you don’t do. Commit to seeing this story out.
For me, that has ranged from researching the things I want (how much they cost, where to get them, etc – to get the ball rolling and make more of a commitment to myself) to setting up a practice simulated stock portfolio to actively doing potentially money-generating activities.
Keep taking the next best step. Let go of exactly how and when the outcomes happen. Focus on the process. Track and celebrate the actions you take – the part in your control – not necessarily the results.
Celebrate all along the way, even the stumbles. Every action you take is getting you closer. You are never failing, always learning. And track all those wins! They go into your bank of evidence and will help keep you flying high when you start to falter.
Stay in the story. You’ve got to do a bit of a weird pivot here. Basically, it’s time to reverse psych yourself – and the universe.
Maintain your focus, but at the same time, figure out how to detach. How not to be invested in the outcome. I know, it’s hard to be committed yet not attached – literally everyone struggles to keep faith and trust it’s working even when they can’t see anything happening yet. Just don’t make that mean anything. We’re always telling ourselves stories. But we never know what’s just around the corner. What if you gave up one step away from the metaphorical top of the mountain because it was shrouded in cloud?
When doubts kick in, interrogate those beliefs. Is that really true? How do I know that? What evidence is there to prove it? What if the opposite was true? When resistance rears its head, dig deep to get to the bottom of what’s driving it. What’s the core belief underneath the block – what does it say about YOU? Get to that wound to tackle, heal,shift the root belief about yourself.
Trust the process. Have faith that it’s working. That things are on their way; you just can’t see around the bend yet. You have to keep going around the corner to open up your frame of view. Even a few degrees makes a big difference in perspective and to the size of your horizon.
So forget about timelines. Throw them out. Remember that we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we’re capable of over the long run.
Why this works
You can probably see that this all leads up to action, laying the groundwork for it. I think that manifesting brings opportunities your way. It’s then up to you to recognise and jump on them. Spot and seize them.
You can probably also see that in the process we’re essentially … evolving. Becoming a different version of ourselves. Stepping into a new mould. Updating our identity and how we see ourselves. When you see yourself as someone who has/does/is X, it’s way easier to take action in accordance. And all this applies in the same way,
First you start to see yourself differently. Maybe you need to borrow that belief from others. Harness the great external validation you’ve racked up over the years. Hold on to that (and let the rest go). I never saw myself as capable, incredible, a leader, until others told me so. They saw it first. Only then could I get on board with the idea.
Then you start to feel different. To be that person now. To think in that vein.
Then you start to do things differently – act in accordance with how you perceive yourself and how you feel.
You can show up feeling like a rockstar or with trepidation, tiptoeing and second-guessing yourself. People will react accordingly. It changes how it all feels.
How many times have you started off a day on the wrong foot? Everything bad that could possibly happen, happens. The shit keeps piling up. Cue the spiral. A self fulfilling prophecy.
And have you ever had the opposite experience? Started off on a high and had that winning streak continue, everything coming up gold?
What if you tried flipping it round, beginning from the perspective that it’s all working out, visualising it? (What is there to lose?)
Here are a few examples of the difference that doing the groundwork makes.
I had a huge mental block around $60k. I really wanted to crack this figure when I left journalism. But when it came to writing down my desired salary on the application, I chickened out. I couldn’t put it down in black and white. The block was so strong. I just didn’t believe my skills were worth that much. I psyched myself out and wrote down $58k instead. I cut myself off at the knees! (This has a happy ending. They actually offered me $65k which I obviously jumped at and would never have dared to dream of asking for.)
My next mental block was around $80k. Again, a figure I really wanted to crack. This time I’d done the work. Talked to people who were earning this much in comparable roles. Perused salary surveys, staring at the numbers on screen, burning them into my brain. Searched in this pay bracket on online job boards specifically. I had the proof it was possible, and possible for me. And when I was offered a role at $78k, I was able to ask them to round up to $80k without missing a beat. It was a small ask, and an easy yes.
After that, $100k was the next stumbling block. A figure I never thought would be possible in my entire life. I remember telling my high school girlfriends I’d never make six figures. It just wasn’t realistic in my old industry. (They were all shocked – but they are all in high paying fields, mostly healthcare/medical – and I think their impression of media was TV anchors, the 1%.) Again, I did all the work that I’d done to shore myself up to get to $80k. It mostly worked. In an interview, I said I was looking for $100k without hesitating – though I didn’t get the gig. But when I got the call offering me another role I’d been interviewing for, I choked. I hadn’t been expecting it. I answered the phone, frazzled from wrangling my infant at home. It was great news but I was not in a mental place to negotiate! I rambled for far too long and asked for $98k.
When caught off guard – it’s so easy to slip back into old patterns. This is an ongoing practice. We’re never done.
None of us have complete control. In fact I’d argue that logically most things in life are beyond our control. But we do all have SOME degree of autonomy (the degree varies, of course) and especially when it comes to what we think and do.
It’s true: thoughts become things. Everything that ever was began with a thought. We do a thing first in our mind before repeating it for real out in the physical world.
Embody a deliberate, focused mindset and pair it with deliberate, focused actions. Amazing things can happen from there. Start with mindset and the actions naturally flow. You don’t have to try so hard. New ideas bloom. Next steps unfold. New opportunities reveal themselves.
That’s been my experience – first accidentally, then deliberately.
Let’s talk about the sneaky, invisible saboteurs holding us back financially. Or, as I like to call them, money porcupines.
They’re a defence mechanism. They mean well! They are there for our protection. To keep us safe. To keep us doing things the way we know best, to avoid pain that we learned a long time ago was best avoided. To avoid taking risks that might not pay off. To keep us in familiar patterns, in line with who we perceive ourselves to be and who others have dubbed us. They anchor us in what’s familiar, comfortable, safe.
And… they may not be serving us any more. Money porcupines are prickly little beasts actually repelling riches from our life – self-sabotage. These deeply held beliefs are pushing away money before it even enters our orbit.
These little devils play havoc under the surface. You’ve seen Inside Out, yeah? These gremlins are pulling the levers and stomping all over your intentions.
Let me give you some examples from my own life…
I can’t make money doing what I love.Why hello starving artist mentality! I thought I would have to compromise my creativity. Turns out I just had to think about it differently and channel it in new ways.
People won’t pay me that much.Oh, yes they will. It took me years to work up the ladder but you know what? It wasn’t so much them. It was mostly me. I needed to build my own confidence so I could raise my rates. I have no doubt I could have commanded much more a long time ago if I truly believed I was worthy of charging more. The more I earned in my day jobs, the more I learned about what other people are actually making, and the more I saw from online entrepreneurs, the more proof I gathered … that’s what made the difference for me. Now I have the evidence – not just from others’ success, but from my own.
If asked for money, I have to give if I can. A wicked twist on, can you really afford that? If I literally have the dollars in my account, shouldn’t I honour that request?
You can see pretty easily how these money porcupines might show up in my life, shape my actions, and hurt the bottom line.
They tend to lie dormant for years…
When starting out and you don’t have two cents to rub together, struggling to make ends meet … who has time for this stuff? I didn’t have the time or energy to go any deeper. Day to day struggle consumed all I had – and more.
Then things start to get a bit easier. You can breathe more freely and loosen up.
You probably hit some roadblocks, get through the growing pains, and keep going. You learn that you can get through hard shit and bounce back strong.
Then you get to the point where you’re living within your means, saving and investing … but somehow you feel stuck.
Tripping up over old money wounds rooted in the past. Getting wound up in anxiety and fear about the future. Leaking money here and there through weak (or nonexistent) boundaries. Doubting your worth and worrying about losing what you’ve built. Feeling guilt about having what you have, yet still wanting more.
That’s where I was a few years ago. And then shit really hit the fan. It was a make or break moment. The biggest financial/personal crisis I’ve ever faced. And I wallowed and wavered for far too long. Seriously.
But eventually I 100% committed to finding a solution. One day, I just knew that’s what I was going to do. How? Meh. I simply felt the shift inside me that came with the certainty of what I would achieve.
I started looking around. Waking up. Facing the whole world within me that has been driving the show from under the surface. It was finally time to unlock it, face it, and integrate it. If I wanted to change things, break cycles, and make more money than I ever had before, I had to get this foundation right.
I now know I can use my skills to earn a good living. I’ve banked the evidence.
I now know I can handle rejection and ghosting, and that not every opportunity is for me.
I now know that other people’s money problems are not mine to solve, and I need to put myself first – always. It serves no one if I give grudgingly.
I faced my bullshit, ploughed through, and I still keep clearing the path as more keeps blowing back and building up.
Breaking self-sabotaging money patterns and beliefs
Isn’t it funny how we always tend to doubt our instincts? Come up with an idea or solution and then, the next thing that crops up in the mind goes something like: will that work? Is that really true/possible?
And yet when the opposite happens – when fears or doubts arise – we don’t question them. We just take them as gospel. Shy away, shrink back, avoid looking too closely at them.
What if gave them equal treatment? What if we were just as sceptical of our doubts as we were of our instincts?
Cross examine the belief. That’s really all it takes.
If we were to simply apply the same philosophy, play devil’s advocate, often we find they don’t stand up to scrutiny.
I don’t deserve this. Why not? Is that really true? Or is this belief a hangover from old hurts that it’s now time to cut loose?
Get curious about those prickly porcupines. Notice them. Sit with them. Interrogate them. Disarm and dismantle them.
With a new perspective, you can then try on and eventually adopt a different belief. It might simply be the exact opposite of the belief you just took apart. Or maybe it’s something in the middle. If the opposite feels like too much of a leap, try:
“I’m learning to…” “I’m becoming…” “I’m on my way to…”
And keep sticking with it. It takes time to embed a new belief. Habits aren’t built overnight: they’re anchored in with practice.
Money porcupines don’t just go away. You don’t get fit and healthy once, then coast for the rest of your life. Your mental hurdles don’t, either! If anything they are even more pervasive and stubborn. Acknowledging and then rising above them is a lifelong practice.
The good news is, every time we do the work to send them back to where they came from, we strengthen that muscle. The next time, it gets a little easier to say “not today” and carry on to channel your most abundant self. Once you recalibrate, and question the validity of each money porcupine, you can ask the real question: What would the wealthiest, most self-assured version of you do? Let the answers come to you, and let them guide your next move.
(NB: Our thoughts and beliefs are powerful. So are wider forces and circumstances beyond our control, too numerous to count. This post is solely about the former – the part we have influence over.)
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We’ve been lucky to spend more of the pandemic living relatively normal lives than not.
I’ve never been so glad to live in little old NZ than I have been the past 18 months.
Complaining about being in lockdown right now feels indulgent, so I’ll try to keep the whinging to a minimum.
As a working parent of a high maintenance toddler, this is the hardest thing I’ve been through yet. The slog gets harder every day.
Spud’s birthday earlier this month was a bright spot, but obviously any Covid birthday is somewhat bittersweet. Last year we had just come out of lockdown and it was touch and go as to whether that would happen at all, so we kept it low key and didn’t plan a party. And for his first birthday … shit was going down and life was a mess. We didn’t do much at all to celebrate.
One good thing this lockdown has been the chance to detox Spud with a cleaner diet and learn a little more about gut healing (talk to me about this, if this is in your wheelhouse!) as his intolerances had been flaring pretty bad just before lockdown. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the brief period when he was only on Neocate before starting solids – that was a golden time.
Being around him 24/7 and watching him grow is something I try not to take for granted. I get to do this – rather than I have to do this.
He’s been through a couple of developmental leaps just in the past few weeks, and it’s a gift and privilege to witness these spurts.
I can’t help but imagine being in lockdown on my own, wondering what that would be like. (I have never lived alone though I would have liked to.) I’m not under the illusion that it would be easy or perfect; in my first year out of my childhood home, I remember one stark moment of feeling such intense, stabbing, and overwhelming loneliness that I almost couldn’t bear it. I don’t think my flatmate was home at the time. I called one of my best friends, desperate for human contact. I’ve never felt so panicked about my place in the world as I did then, and wouldn’t care to repeat it.
But I’m not a fan of what-ifs, and despite the state of things, I truly believe (more than ever) that I’m right where I am meant to be for now.
Humans. We’re complex and unpredictable. Yet deep down we all just want a few basic things – to feel seen, heard, understood. Our minds are so incredibly powerful and yet, the base operating system is … well, pretty basic.
It’s at once humbling and amusing to realise this.
Your brain basically has a nifty little Facebook-like algorithm powering it
You can shape, feed, train it to support your goals. I mentioned the reticular activating system in my last post – this is what is always working to show you what you want to focus on, bringing you the best stuff, surfacing new opportunities that you can capitalise on. Helping you get where you want to go.
If FB can serve you ads for all the things you want to buy and all the content you want to read, your brain can absolutely steer you likewise, bringing your attention to opportunities you want. Maybe that’s finding a new job. Turning your eye toward ways to make more money. Finding the perfect house or partner.
The flipside of that, of course, is it can reinforce negative patterns. I’ve had to consciously work to let go of a number of deeply ingrained beliefs and replace them with more useful ones.
I can’t make good money doing what I love >>> I get paid well and have fun doing it
This was a gradual process over years, but the data points added up and eventually, this shift happened for me too. As I truly came to see and believe what was possible, I made damn sure I pursued the money and steeled myself to ask for it.
My friend from uni who landed a $60k starting salary (obviously not in journalism…)
My colleague who went to a PR agency, constantly got told what a great job she was doing, and given a pay rise every 6 months.
My colleague who went on to do social media at a financial institution for $80k
Hearing about PR reps and media/comms managers on $130k
I devoured salary surveys, staring at the numbers until they imprinted in my brain. I did the same with the salary bands on the intranet, burning those figures into my brain. If those people could make that much money, so could I. Why not?
I shouldn’t spend money on myself >>> I get to have nice things if I want them
My immigrant parents definitely modeled intense frugality. Honestly, I still have a mental anchor around $20 being what we spent on shoes and gifts. I bought a $25 swimsuit once and lied to them about what it cost. Shopping sprees – buying more than one non-essential item at a time? Get outta here! And on top of that, I had a block around having nice things, knowing they can be taken away (like when my mum gave away my Westlife CD to a friend’s kid, or the multiple times I’ve been burgled, or other people taking/using things of mine).
I work hard and I deserve nice things. I know this gets some people into trouble, but I am more of the underbuying, self-denying variety 🙂 Little luxuries, like hand cream or nice cheese, elevate daily life SO much. You can’t be what you can’t feel, and pleasures that help me feel like a million bucks actually support my success.
I’m not an ideas person >>> I know my stuff and I own it
A particularly formative experience for me involved receiving unexpected, harsh criticism from a parent. That probably fueled my reluctance to put myself out there and to do anything to avoid the discomfort of going through similar pain. But of course, I wound up dating someone who told me, albeit jokingly, “I’m surprised you came up with that by yourself…”
Until recently, the word “idea” was literally a huge trigger for me. I’d panic if asked for ideas. I’d panic ahead of “brainstorming sessions”. Spontaneous ideation was not a thing for me, so I worked really hard to overcompensate and overprepare.
Being asked to prepare presentations on my area of expertise at work was a daunting challenge every time. But each time, I was able to synthesise industry trends and formulate great decks based on my own knowledge, and surprise myself.
Now, I embrace my subconscious and know that great stuff flows out from there when I relax and let it. I try not to overthink things too much before speaking up. I trust my value and power, because over time people have validated my contributions over and over. The data points added up. I now finally believe them.
I’m a bad communicator >>> I am an articulate and thoughtful communicator
My parents were terrible communicators. Not that they realised it. They told me I was, projecting their issues onto me. Everything was my fault. And of course, we gravitate to what we know, and I’ve experienced the same pattern play out with others since then.
I communicate fantastically through writing. I’m much better at verbal communication than I used to be. I am often complimented on how articulate and thoughtful I am, and recently a colleague literally told me she learns a lot from I work and communicate. My communication style continues to evolve for the better as I heal, become more emotionally mature, and learn more about psychology and human nature.
Clear your cache, upgrade your brain’s OS
Where the hell did all that stuff come from, anyway?
As you can see, it’s mostly shit we’ve taken on from external sources and formative childhood experiences. That noise is like retargeting – stalking you, haunting you, following you around. Whispering (or shouting!) at every chance it gets.
When you become aware of it and start to really observe what’s happening, you will realise that your brain is probably telling you mostly unkind thoughts. You’re stuck with it, even though it’s not that helpful. We’re stunted, frozen in time emotionally, playing in adult bodies.
What if you flipped that around and nurtured your mind with encouraging thoughts instead? What could you do? What could you have? What could you be?
Clear your cache. Each belief you shake up is like clearing your browser cache, emptying out all the accumulated weight.
Upgrade your operating system. Eventually, you’ll notice a dramatic difference. Rewire enough beliefs and it’s like running an entirely new OS. If you’re about my age, you’re probably still running something like Windows XP when now Windows 10 is available. We’re up to a WAY newer version and just haven’t updated.
There’s a whole new world waiting on the other side. You may not look any different, but you will feel like an entirely new person.
Years ago, I noticed something odd. Little windfalls seemed to come my way just after I gave money to a charitable cause. This happened over and over again.
That really was the beginning of my journey in relation to manifesting.
I’ve gone on to manifest lots of things, small and big. But my favourite example has got to be a tailor-made-for-me job (no kidding – a new position at a dream organisation that didn’t previously have a team in this department, let alone an office in my city). I truly believe in the power of setting an intention, then stepping back, and taking actions that flow in the right direction.
Just recently, I received an email that I’d written to 2021 me, three years ago. No joke: I have everything I outlined in that letter, none of which I had achieved back then, and had no concrete idea as to the HOW – only the WHAT. That’s not to say my life is perfect. Far from it! There are some things I didn’t specify, didn’t touch on at all in that letter – and those are currently the most deficient areas in my life. They are worse than I could have ever imagined, to be honest.
Now, I’m still not crazy about the word manifest. It’s a little too woo for me and I know it turns a LOT of people off. But the fact is, my experience has shown me that:
I can achieve what initially seemed like impossible goals once I DECIDE to go all in
The more I give, the more comes back to me
Barring certain external limitations (physical, societal/systemic/structural factors, etc), what I need to succeed is already within me. And therefore on the flipside, all that’s stopping me is also within me.
Sometimes you hear something phrased in a way that just clicks for you.
It’s not all about money, although a lot of my goals have been financial. And let’s face it, most goals require money.
In my quest to work my way up to six figures, I have had to do SO MUCH inner work, training my brain to absorb and accept new thoughts, ideas, and patterns. Moulding it to help me. Building those neural pathways. The brain is a muscle, and it has so much power to help or hinder you (as anyone with anxiety, etc knows). Opening my brain up to new possibilities helps it to see more opportunities and then to take advantage of them. No wonder so many entrepreneurs treat working on their mindset like a full-time job. I’ve tried to adopt that mentality too. It’s what has helped me get through Covid, along with a ton of … other life stuff. I’ve made mindset work a daily practice, and I only wish I’d discovered it earlier.
Getting my brain on board with change
What really clicked for me was learning about the Reticular Activating System (RAS), a lovely big bundle of nerves that basically connects the subconscious and conscious part of the brain. (This is basically the science that serves as the base for anything vaguely Law of Attraction-y.) When you learn a new word then start hearing it everywhere, buy a new car and start seeing the same model everywhere, or instinctively snap to attention when you hear someone call your name – that’s our buddy RAS kicking in. It tunes us in to the things we care about, filtering out all the masses of information that the brain is constantly taking in and processing and honing in on what it thinks we’ll be interested in.
It’s basically nature’s version of the Facebook algorithm. It’s always looking for data points to back up and validate your beliefs. It shows what it thinks you want to see and what it thinks you care about. But it doesn’t actually know what you really want unless you explicitly tell it. And that’s where all the mindset work comes in – training it to prioritise stuff that will help you achieve your goals and help you become the person you want to be.
Three things that have helped me a lot in the past year, and that I frequently return to, are:
I can choose a new thought any time (and everything that exists once began as a mere thought)
A thought just needs to be 51% believable
Envy = evidence. Take others’ achievements as proof of what’s possible
I have a funny relationship with external validation. I crave it more than anything else. It gives me the most delightful warm glow in my belly. But I also feel intensely…uncomfortable receiving it?
Sometimes you need others to believe in you before you can believe in yourself. You can borrow their convictions and try them on for size until you get comfortable in them.
I’m now 33 (what a cool number) and only now do I REALLY feel like I’m starting to come into my own. And I’ve been reflecting on the most important relationship in my life. It’s not with my son or his dad or any of my family. It’s not even with another living creature.
It’s with my work and career
I’ve gained so much through my work that I can’t possibly begin to quantify or articulate it all.
Through work, I have had people advocate for me. Observe my contribution when I couldn’t see it. “They’d have been screwed without you.” “You handled that really diplomatically.” (On one occasion, this led to me saying semi-jokingly, “Send all the angry men my way.”)
I’ve been told I have a really interesting way of thinking. That nobody else in their interviews said what I did. I’ve been told by a leader, “I always value/appreciate our chats.” I’ve been dubbed the “silent assassin”.
I’ve been a second choice for a job, but been told it turned out for the best 🙂 As a junior on a project, I’ve caught and raised major red flags early on that nobody else spotted.
Being pushed to create and deliver presentations for teams forced me to reflect on industry shifts, see trends, and synthesise my thoughts. To think critically and originally, drawing my own conclusions.
Through writing and the power of words I’ve been able to fund my dreams, connect with others, learn about countless industries and topics, heal, and grow. I’ve received an education in coaching and personal development by proxy, just through editing books.
I learned to trust my instincts and how to approach tough situations with tact. When I became the target of a toxic leader, who picked on me in meetings publicly, I didn’t take it personally.
Through work I learned how I should and shouldn’t let people in my personal life treat me. I’ve learned so much through the interpersonal aspects of professional life that I now bring into the rest of my life.
When all else fails, work was an escape and a break. There, I was competent and confident.
I will have this always. When my son is grown, I will have all the gifts my work has given me, on top of financially supporting my lifestyle, and I know that I will continue to find joy and satisfaction in for years to come.
I recently had a client – let’s call her Ana – bail on a project. This was a real blow. It was an expansion on something we’d done together previously – I was so excited! I even posted publicly about it once we agreed to proceed (and maybe that was the problem…) I was paid for the work I did do, but it was only a small part of the total scope.
I couldn’t help but think back to another client – let’s call him Rich – where something somewhat similar happened. I way overestimated his project – it hardly needed anything from me. (Seriously. When does that ever happen?!) I charged him something like 25% or 33% of my original quote because I barely had to touch most of the draft.
Both times, I was very attached to that sum of money I had quoted. I needed it for something- it was already earmarked in my mind for a purpose. And neither worked out!
But Rich went on to refer so many more people my way, which has paid off dozens of times over. And hopefully this instance this will make space too for something else to flow in. Already I’ve had another former client come back wanting help with almost the same thing Ana did…
Looking back, things have actually happened for me when I least expected them. Usually once I’d given up and let go of all expectation. Not when I was pushing for them, obsessing about them. Only when I finally freed up the space for them to flow.
At work, I’m always trying to figure out if we are tackling the right problem. What are we trying to solve? It starts with the strategy, or you could be focused on answering the wrong question. There can be many different ways to achieve the same outcome. Define the goal but don’t dictate the solution or even the timeline.
What is shadow work and why the hell should I care?
This, along with reparenting, is pretty new to my lexicon.
It’s all part of healing. Getting to the roots of our baggage. Moving forward in life despite it all. And this pays off in improvements to our self-esteem, relationships, finances, LIFE.
You know that feeling that you’re just playing at being an adult? It’s because really most of us are just children running around in adult bodies. We’re reacting and behaving instinctively and not in a particularly conscious way. These deep beliefs and instincts sprung up in childhood and are often based on something that might seem really trivial, once you trace it back to its origin. Often, they actually wind up sabotaging us.
Until we wake up to this, we go around operating from/focusing on our conscious awareness, and that’s only part of the picture.
Shadow work: a definition
We all have flaws. There are parts of ourselves we don’t like. Some we don’t even acknowledge.
Psychologist Carl Jung conceptualized our disowned parts, our ‘dark side’ and repressed desires as ‘the shadow’.
Unfortunately, many of us do not know what is in our shadow — and these disowned parts may still be driving the show in creating our reality.
Shadow work is about bringing those out into the open. Facing them. Accepting them. Uniting with them. Becoming your full, whole, true self.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a strong sense of self. It’s a product of various things, but the main two in my upbringing were:
my parents and how they held their own perceptions/projections of who I was
moving countries and feeling totally adrift, then trying to desperately fit in
Facing your demons isn’t for the faint of heart. You may not be ready yet. I know I wasn’t, 10 years ago. Not even 5, or 3.
Anyway, that’s all really fluffy sounding shit. What, exactly, does this process involve?
Broadly, it starts with awareness. Then this allows you to start observing yourself in the moment. And eventually you’re able to choose a different path, a different thought, a different action. You’re taking control and acting consciously.
In bringing in our shadow, we shine light on it and diminish its power over us. We learn to coexist with it and to gain control over it.
Once you’ve got the awareness, then you can start to take action in the real world with tangible results.
How I’ve been doing shadow work
You guessed it. Writing. Journalling about things like:
Some of the things I believe
Why I have those beliefs
What results that’s gotten me
What other beliefs I could adopt
What emotions I was discouraged from expressing
What common excuses I use
How I sabotage myself
How I judge others
(Go read and work through the exercises, especially Deepest Fear Inventory, in Existential Kink by Dr Carolyn Elliott. It’s the single best accessible, relatable, plain English resource/explainer on shadow work I’ve come across yet.)
That’s where the awareness begins. Then it’s about applying awareness in real life situations.
In a challenging or confronting moment, pause and breathe. What emotions are coming up? I try to walk toward the feelings. Acknowledge them. Name the sensations.
For example: Spud is screaming in the middle of the night. I’m feeling ragey. I need sleep! Guilt. Was it the ice cream he begged for this afternoon – was that too much dairy for his system? Oh my god, why haven’t I learned? Worry. Can the neighbours hear and what will they think?! Empathy. Poor thing. He must be having a horrible time right now.
I’m feeling hot, throbby, and having flashbacks to previous nights when he was younger and screamed his way through countless night wakings.
Another example: Someone’s come to me with an inquiry about a project and I’m not sure how to charge. I’m feeling uncertain. Anxious. How can I scope this out?! It’s gonna take so much time – I’m already so busy! How can I make sure I make it worth my time? Will I scare them away? What’s the right answer here?
I’m feeling panicky, with all those imposter syndrome vibes rushing up, my old beliefs that I need to work hard for money, that I’m not worthy of charging high rates (anchored in my old career and in early experiences knowing my parents’ hourly rates) and general scarcity mindset.
Then I decide what to do, from a deliberate and unrushed place.
There’s not much to be done with a screaming Spud. Hold him if he wants. Lie down with him, if he will. Offer milk, and add a few gas drops to it if he wants some. Refrain from self-blame.
I think about what I feel is a fair project fee. I might Google to get an idea of what others charge for this kind of work, and what tiers there are. I take the time to thoroughly review the material, if applicable, and might spend a few minutes working up a sample for myself to get a feel for how long it would realistically take.
I contemplate the true worth of the project. It may not be hugely profitable for the client – but that’s not the goal. The aim of this piece of work is to help them convert more clients as a result, to establish their expertise through valuable content. I think about all the other clients I’ve already helped and how they raved about the end product. I encourage myself to raise that number a bit from my original estimate.
I’m a calmer, steadier parent, no longer sending off vibes of panic, guilt, and stress. Better for me, better for Spud.
I’m quoting from a place of confidence and wholeness, trusting myself as an expert. Showing up with a different energy. I’m okay with hearing no; I’m not desperate for this. I remind myself that I don’t want to wind up resentful for quoting too low. My rate needs to be one that I’m happy to work for. I’m even making more than I ever have before. I’m enjoying it more, and honestly, I think I’m doing better work because of that! What a result.
For me, the core of it boils down to: respond, don’t react.
Acknowledge memories it’s brought up. Question the story I’m telling myself. Is this true? Be kinder to myself; start with empathy not shame, and extend the same to others. It’s a new and gentler, more conscious approach to everything in life. I’m liking the results, and the more I do it, the better it gets.
Were there pros to the pandemic? Silver linings in the lockdowns?
The one that first comes to mind is work flexibility. The dream! May it last.
The second is time with Spud, albeit with wayyyy too much screen time.
And with the dogs.
The reduced cost/time of commuting is great. On in-office days, it still provides a nice buffer in the morning and evening to myself to switch gears and get into the right mindset.
How did I ever manage laundry working FT in the city?
Being able to do more daycare dropoff and pickup – connect with parents and teachers, which I couldn’t really do before.
Appreciation for my neighbourhood – easily walkable to greenery, cycleways, parks, playgrounds, the local horse farm. Shops, transport, pool, library, vet, pet store/bird barn and other amenities not far away. Having my own house and yard to quarantine in.
Being stretched and finding new depths of resilience, patience, and awareness as a parent and a person.
Not gonna lie, though. It was an effing horrendous year that nearly broke me.
Going into 2021…
Upgradeis my word of the year. My mindset, and my results.
I’ve written a bit about conscious parenting and soon I’ll be delving into intentionality and consciousness around money. Bringing this mindful approach into all areas of life. Woo as it sounds, I now know it’s the key to levelling up and creating a new reality.