This article is about the darkness behind the scenes of success, that hardly anybody talks about. It is inspired by the sad suicide of Kate Spade yesterday.
It’s easy to assume that when someone has a life that looks shiny and beautiful on the outside… One where certain external and objective measures of success have been met. That they surely, SURELY they will be happy on the outside.
And that if they are not, they are surely a tragically ungrateful or broken anomaly.
This is one of the most flawed and pervasive assumptions in existence.
We apply it to others, and so too to ourselves in moments of weakness. When I have X, then I’ll feel amazing. That person has X, so they must be feeling amazing. Or, I have X, so I have to feel amazing every day! Or even, I had X, and now I don’t have X, so how can I possibly feel amazing?!
This is so far from the truth.
In reality, I’ve noticed a few things about human beings, in particular high and super-high achievers, that are relevant here.
One, is that the higher one rises, the higher the stakes are, the higher the standards, the bigger the decisions, the smaller the margin for error, and the more likely one becomes to experience inner turmoil that are often bound to these concerns. The turmoil is not a necessity or an inevitability, but it is a very real risk. And without established outlets, such as nourishing routines and rituals to balance the body and mind, and a dedicated, trusted confidant who one can confide in with no fear of judgment or recrimination – this pressure can build and build to the point of self-destruction.
The second, is that life consists of multiple areas and facets. And, you guessed it, some sense of balance is integral to happiness. Some areas and facets are not visible externally, in particular the areas of mindset, beliefs, creative fulfilment and the intricacies of personal relationships. And when these are out of whack, it doesn’t matter how great the other areas are. One can feel utterly hopeless and lost. I have had CEOs of major global corporations crying down the phone to me because there are beliefs or areas behind the scenes that aren’t working that no one else close to them has any idea about. But *they* have been feeling the pain daily. The heaviness, the darkness and the artificial – yet palpable – sense of constraint.
Thirdly, I’ve also noticed that not all – but many – high achievers seek – originally at least – to achieve in order to feel good about themselves or to obtain approval from caregivers they didn’t feel approved of by. They feel a fundamental “not enoughness” and it is a huge component to their extraordinary drive to do and be more. This pattern of achieving is both addictive, and never, ever satisfied. It’s no secret that many super achievers come from challenging backgrounds where they sought both to transcend their original circumstances and also validation in the absence of it being present during their childhood.
Challenging backgrounds can be financial, emotional, physical, sexual, you never know what has gone on behind the scenes of a person’s youth. But when drive comes from this place, one can then of course go on to achieve huge amounts, but if the underlying feeling of invalidation is not rectified, cycles of crippling self doubt will continue to pervade. From this place, you might have a bad day, month or year, or one or two areas of life may be out of whack, and in your eyes, you become worthless. I’ve worked with many exceptional achievers who under the surface have crippling self doubt and insecurity to cure these kind of cycles.
Furthermore, the same high standards that drive super-achieving are the same high standards that, can – left unchecked – make us unrelenting with ourselves and others, such that nothing is ever fully good enough. Like an inner hungry, angry lion that can never be satiated and yet continues to hunt for more and more and more prey, wreaking destruction and chaos along the way.
Wherever one’s concerns are coming from, however deep and unavoidable they may feel, they can be mitigated. The importance of nurturing our psychological and spiritual selves, and having confidants to rely on cannot be emphasised enough. I know for myself, without my partner, my coaches and advisors, I would not feel the sense of steadiness or serenity I do amidst the entrepreneurial rollercoaster and all that I’m up to.
The darkness behind the scenes is actually the number one reason I started Definitely Definitely, to help people have an internal experience of life that matches the outsides – and so to, to have outsides that don’t just look great but are exactly what THEY desire and yearn for. And not just what they desired last year, last month, or last decade, in a totally different space and time, from ego or fear, or any other form of projection, but what they authentically desire now, on a deep soul level. It has expanded to so much more, but this remains – and will continue to remain – my number one priority with any work that we do.
If you’d like to have a chat about your goals and what coaching can do for you, book a call in my calendar here.
Many people like to say that overwhelm is a result of doing too many things, ALL of the things even, and never stopping for a breath.
But I’ve noticed something altogether different.
I’ve noticed it’s not actually about the quantity of things you’re doing at all. Sure, doing a million things lacks selectiveness which is essential to a live of thrival. But fundamentally I’ve noticed that it’s never about doing a million things. A number of things only start to feel like a million things, when we’re doing the wrong things. Things that aren’t Definitely Definitelys.
Overwhelm comes up simply when situations start to amass where we haven’t actually listened to what our soul wants to do, but instead we’ve gone along with what we said we’d do or think we should do, or with what the loudest shouting person says they need us to do.
Every time you feel something, good or bad, and you ignore it, and take the opposite action, pushing your feelings down, rejecting them, your soul wails. Weakens. Dims its sparkle. Often silently, for a while. Until suddenly it’s yelling. At the smallest thing. At people you love. And then you’re being who you sure as hell don’t want to be, eating what you don’t really want to eat, taking misaligned actions all over the place, and wondering what happened to the real you? Where did the real you go?
And the more situations where you haven’t expressed yourself or acted in alignment in a given day, week, month, or year, the more the bank of evidence that you do not actually honour or fully respect your feelings or desires, and the more the overwhelm you will feel – in direct correlation – and the more out of alignment your actions will continue to be.
Until that is, you choose to wake up – fully – and decide enough is enough. That you are worthy of a life filled to the brim with Definitely Definitelys, and nothing but them.
And when you do, sure enough after a while, you find yourself in a life when you’re doing only things that you WANT to be doing, only the things that feel aligned. And it really doesn’t matter how much you’re doing. You can be busier than ever, but feeling zero overwhelm. In pure flow. Actually feeling and noticing that the more you do, the more ignited you feel, because every single thing is a hell yes and feeds you, creating a positive feedback loop.
Expressing – and then taking aligned action – on your truth is the number one most essential adjustment to eliminating overwhelm. Saying yes to what you really want to say yes to, and saying no to what you really want to say no to.
If it’s still fairly new to you, as it was to me four years ago, I recommend starting with writing. In the morning, write out what you’re feeling and what you really want to create. Write out anything you feel worried about or that doesn’t feel in alignment (anything that isn’t a Definitely Definitely). Anything that in an ideal world, you wouldn’t be doing anymore.
You won’t necessarily be able to cut out all the the things you want to immediately, it can take time, but even just letting yourself feel what you feel will start to provide a healing release that will shift your energy enormously, and enable you to put the building blocks in place to move away from anything you want to. Which, by the way, can happen faster than you can possibly imagine right now.
Then, practice expressing yourself about both everything you’re delighted about and everything that doesn’t work for you during the day – and in the moment. (Or for older issues that are not yet resolved, ASAP.) This is a muscle that gets stronger and stronger the more you use it.
Then in the evening, reflect again on what worked and didn’t work, what you’d do differently and say yes or no to if you were to start the day again, and start again tomorrow!
P.S. I’m kicking off something I’ve been thinking about for a while that feels sooooooo good (a total Definitely Definitely): a magical in-person mastermind for founders in London to get together every month for amazing food, accountability, problem solving and co-creating. Send me a direct message me if this is speaking to you.
Are you should-ing on yourself this week?
Telling yourself you “should” keep doing what you’re doing.
That you “should” have that meeting, call that person, tick that thing off your list, tick all of the things off your list.
That you “should” be grateful for what you have.
That you “should” answer every single call and email that comes in instantaneously, while also juggling what you actually planned to get done.
That you “should” be more excited about your day, your business, your life.
That you “should” be able to be in the moment more.
That you “shouldn’t” be too bossy, or too provocative.
That you “shouldn’t” share what you really think.
That you “shouldn’t” rock the boat or cause offence.
That you “shouldn’t” dream too big or get too big for your boots.
That you “shouldn’t” be greedy.
That you “should” be able to settle and enjoy what you have.
But also that you “should” be a multi-millionaire or billionaire by now.
That you “should” do X, Y, Z today. The same things you always do. That just don’t excite you anymore. And you “should” still enjoy them, but clearly there’s something wrong with you?
Here’s the thing.
Shoulding on yourself is EXHAUSTING. It literally slowly but very surely kills your body and soul.
Shoulding is not energising or activating or alivening. It’s heavy, dark, and steeped in obligation rather than inspiration.
The only things you actually NEED to do are eat, sleep, breathe and pay your bills. And if you’re a parent, to also look after your children.
Everything else is a CHOICE. How you make the money to pay your bills. What you eat, where and how, what air you breathe, where you sleep, and who with, etc.
Shoulds are wholly unnecessary.
Us human beings are very good at convincing ourselves that we’re stuck. And it’s just a huge inauthenticity. Unless you’re in prison superglued to the floor, you’re not stuck.
I spent a long time shoulding on myself then wondering why I felt tired and heavy no matter how much yoga I did or green juice I drank.
Guess what, it was all that damn shoulding!
For example, I LOVED living in New York City, which I did for two and a half years. But I also knew that while I often enjoyed and was enormously grateful for my job and many of my colleagues, by the two year point, the trajectory I was on wasn’t for me anymore. I loved being intellectual and strategic but I also wanted to use my intuition and sensitivity more, and mostly I had to switch them off to be effective in the corporate world. I also knew my future husband wasn’t there, he was in London, and that my family needed me.
When I stopped telling myself I “should” stay, and “should” still be in love with my life, and instead let myself feel what I actually felt, it was like a ten ton weight lifted off me.
A self-inflicted one.
I felt like a bird flying for the first time, when she’s only ever walked, but thought she’d been flying.
As I released myself from the prison of “shoulds”, which I’d created myself, and started creating what I actually yearned for and desired, I got to feel and notice and intuit and CREATE more and more and more of what I really wanted. It was a huge snowball effect.
My brain started working even more effectively. My creativity and ingenuity began flowing. I gained access to skills and resources I didn’t even know I had before. I became more open, patient and loving, both with myself and others.
And from there everything I’d ever desired began to flow. Easily and naturally. No pushing. No hustling. No shoulding. Just flow.
Of course I still have to catch myself sometimes, noticing a “should” thought creeping up, and promptly blitz and replace it. But I’m certainly not living in Should Prison anymore. And I have to tell you, it’s amazing.
Are you living in Should Prison? Externally appearing to be free but inside, feeling constrained and constricted?
Enough is enough. 🚫
I’m doing something really exciting I’ve never done before for leaders yearning for freedom and flow and impact like never before.
Work with me for 4 weeks to plan your escape, liberate yourself from the confines of what you think you “should” do, and start creating what your body and soul are truly hungry for.
Send me a direct message for details and the investment information. Spots are limited as the programme includes unlimited access to me, so message quickly! We start in just under two weeks.
Do you ever stop and recognize just how much you’ve evolved over the last year? Never mind two years, five years, ten years, but in just one year?
Sometimes it takes a photo captured in time to help us appreciate our own growth. Timehop is a wonderful tool for charting your progress as well as reconnecting with fond memories (either online or via their app).
This time a year and a month ago I was sitting at my desk, doing a job I loved, with people I loved, but noticing a growing desire to help people in more personal, intuitive, creative and ultimately more profound ways. Even though I was incredibly grateful and passionate about my job, I was getting intuitive hits that would manifest physically in recurring hollow, sinking and twisting feelings in my belly when I was in the office but not elsewhere.
This was in part because I was already midway through my life, business and health coaching training (which I had immediately discovered I had an even greater passion for), and was getting incredible insights into the entrepreneurial world through my volunteering with House of Genius. But while I dreamed of it, I still hadn’t quite imagined entrepreneurship to be realistic for me yet. I just quietly noticed the fire in my belly returning every time I was in training or volunteering engaged in coaching or entrepreneurship.
I also noticed that in order to be successful in my job, I had to spend a lot of my time in the hyper-logical, efficiency focused part of my brain, and that this not only felt like more work, but that it was at times challenging to switch it off in my personal life, which meant my relationships were less fulfilling than I knew they could be. In contrast, I could feel that these newer activities were engaging many more parts of my brain on a much more holistic and exhilarating level, as well as my gut and heart. I noticed too that in turn all of my relationships were becoming more and more energised.
Much like during yoga and meditation, I could feel myself losing my sense of separateness between myself and others, and even losing awareness of irrelevant external stimuli as I began to experience flow state with ever increasing frequency. I begun to feel more alive, stimulated and purposeful than ever before. Everything just came more naturally.
I quickly found ways to incorporate my new coaching skills into my corporate position by taking a new approach in all of my meetings and relationships as well as by running wellbeing workshops at lunchtimes to have a greater impact on my colleagues. After just a couple of these, I realised there was a profound need for this work in the world and that I had to make this a full-time venture ASAP. A year later, here I am running my business full-time!
What didn’t seem possible for you this time last year that’s now a reality?
Below are a few of my other “on this day” Timehops. I’d love to see yours!
I’m also curious, if you could go back in time and tell 6 year ago you one thing, what would it be?
I’d tell 6 year ago me, instead of trying so hard to make everything work, to just let go of anything that didn’t feel good and move on. Challenges are amazing and important, but within reason. I firmly believe now if it doesn’t feel good it’s not what you’re meant for!
Sometimes we over complicate things needlessly. In work, in life, in love. In reality, simplicity is beauty, and far more memorable. More likely than not, you’ll be remembered more for that hilarious one liner, exquisitely crafted tagline, or powerfully succinct one pager, than for that 30 page report. Go against the grain and stand out powerfully by being a simplifier in a sea of over-complicators.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs. Sometimes simple takes longer (notably in engineering), but not always. Radical simplification can actually make life a lot more efficient.
The art of simplification also ties in with the concept of essentialism, of which I’m a huge fan, inspired in part by Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism”. Essentialism is all about “the disciplined pursuit of less”, something I’ve been striving for since 2012. In McKeown’s words, “the way of the Essentialist involves doing less, but better, so you can make the highest possible contribution. Essentialism isn’t one more thing; it’s a different way of doing everything. It is a discipline you apply constantly, effortlessly. Essentialism is a mindset; a way of life.”
This brochure stand (which I passed walking near Senate House in London) is a great example of the effects of applying an essentialist mindset to reach the simplest possible outcome. And it works right? How many times do you walk by a brochure stand and actually want to pick a brochure up? Would you be more likely to pick one up from here?
One of the things I help my clients achieve is intense clarity and the ability to radically simplify their decision making processes for more happiness, impact and freedom in all areas of their life and business. Book a free call with me at http://calendly.com/jsecrooks/consult.
Let’s talk about pricing for a minute.
There are so many horror stories out there where people have bought the cheapest option and found themselves up sh** creek without a paddle. We’ve all experienced this to one degree or another. An item of clothing that looked 10 years old after 1 wash, or that split or fell apart at the worst moment possible, a cheap hair cut that left us looking like a goon, a cockroach ridden hotel that looks nothing like the photos…
Now, there are times when it pays to economize. For more on this, I recommend listening to Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You To Be Rich and these two blog posts Stop Being A Loser And Pay Money to Save Money and Cheap vs Frugal.
But in general, scarcity choices = monkeys (or things that break), while abundance choices = results. One of the things Ramit recommends is being frugal not cheap. That means looking at the long term implications of your purchases, not just heading straight for the cheapest option today.
Let’s say you’re deciding between a $1000 laptop, or a $500 one. You’ve read the reviews and it looks like the $500 laptop is likely to need fixing or worse replacing after a year, but buyers report the $1000 laptop is still good after 3 years, AND it includes service coverage and delivers better performance, enabling you to deliver income producing work faster, it’s a no brainer. That’s before you’ve even factored in the value you place on your happiness!
There are many other situations where you can get more value and save more longer term by buying a higher priced option. Especially if a) it’s a product and you don’t need to replace it so soon, or b) it’s a service that enables you to actually get results faster, especially if those results are guaranteed, and better still if they have the potential to raise your earning potential.
Speaking of which, I offer a results guarantee on my work. Not something you get from amateurs or monkeys.