Keep going…and the breakthrough may not look like you expect

We are not yet “post pandemic”.

Yes, most of us can…. do things now. Visit places which were closed before. See people live and in person. Go to restaurants, museums, parks. Book a holiday cottage and stay there with family. Even hug people! It’s so exciting.

But the last year to 18 months has taken a heavy toll on us all, and I am seeing it every day in every person I interact with. Online, or offline. There’s a weariness, an uncertainty, a grief we are working through. There’s a tangle of emotions which is riiiiight at the edge and the smallest thing can tip us off or tip us over. We’re a little more anxious or snappy or grumpy or quick to laugh hysterically.

Some of us are working through it by…working. Almost frantically. Hurrying back to “everything we did before” – the office spaces, the morning visit to a coffee shop on the way, the racing, the rushing. There’s a comfort in what was familiar and an almost desperate need to pretend the last year never happened.

Some of us are pulling back. Not sure yet about doing the things and going the places and seeing the people, so just…waiting. Feeling a little guilty, perhaps, like we ought to be relieved and excited but we feel nervous.

Some of us are trying to find the balance. Doing things, and then resting. Saying yes to a few things, but saying no to more things than we ever used to. Rising, and then falling. Enthusiastic, and then tired.

I feel like I’m in all of those categories.

Work feels comfortable – we’ve never had offices (even pre pandemic), so I’m still working from home, like I always was, like I did all through the past year. But I am starting to meet up with some of my team members and clients when I’m in the area, or planning a visit. I like it. And I’m still figuring it out.

I had a few weeks of Doing The Things – took a holiday on the isle of Mull, saw the puffins, did loads of walking, visited the distillery, traveled the island. Met up with people in restaurants for dinner and for drinks. Had people over to my house for dinner, or went to others’ to visit. Loved all of it…and then got sick for a week. (#notcovid sick, but still felt miserable, like my body didn’t know what to make of all this change and all these places and people.)

I’m consciously saying yes, and also saying no. I’m trying to think more carefully about the impact each activity will have on my energy, my spirit, my body.

I’ve started seeing a new counselor. That was hard to do, and also encouraging. I told a friend (and this new counselor) that I’d say I’m in a “high functioning depressive state”. It means I’m still doing my work, and even enjoying it. Writing a book, but slowly. Not hiding away entirely, but choosing that some days. Grateful, and still sort of blank. I’ve got a new me to figure out and we are not there yet. (And that’s okay.)

Breakthroughs don’t happen when we think they will, or in the way we imagine.

They are the accumulation of small decisions, small steps, little actions and contributions. Hour by hour, day after day, month after month.

We keep swinging the pickaxe, pushing through the dark and the dirt. The diamonds are ahead, but we have no idea how far ahead. One more swing? Twenty? Are there years of work still to go?

We don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. But I’m wondering now whether it’s less about figuring out how far ahead the diamonds are, and more about pausing to make sure I’m in the right place moving towards the right diamonds.

Sometimes we push through all that dirt towards a reward we imagined we wanted, and when we get there discover they’re not real diamonds – they’re fake. Or they are diamonds, when really what we wanted and needed was sapphires. (Or turquoise or maybe just slate.)

The past year-plus has been heavy and hard in so many ways. I believe I am, at least for now, in the right place digging for the right things. I’ve gone off on some tangents, into some tunnels which weren’t helpful, over my life, but I’m still moving the direction I want to be.

I’ve had some hints of breakthroughs, but if I know anything about a breakthrough it’s never as wildly exciting or climactic as i imagine. It’s just one swing of the pickaxe, and a little tiny diamond falls out of the dirt.

And that’s not the end, either. I don’t pick up that diamond, pick up my pickaxe, turn around, and walk out of the tunnel. I pick up the diamond, gaze at it in wonder, and then peer into the darkness further figuring out which direction to keep digging. I dig some more. A few more diamonds fall out, or none. I turn a different direction. I try another tunnel.

And even once I hit the motherlode, there then will be gathering of the diamonds and cleaning of the diamonds. And how am I going to use those diamonds? And who will I share them with? Or will I sell them, and will I go back into the tunnel or stay above ground for a while?

So yes, keep going.

But also….turn around if you need to. Sit and grieve if you need to. Try another tunnel if you need to. Enjoy the few diamonds you’ve found so far. Ask for help. Get another pickaxe. Join a team. Go back up to the surface and feel the sun on your face, and then go back down. It’s not as simple as “just keep going”: it never is.

Because it happens in pieces. In stages. Quietly, and usually in the dark.

That’s how breakthroughs happen.

Follow me

ON THE GRAM

I’m not actually bummed about the grey weather we’re having. Here’s why.

I went for a walk in the MORNING today, which felt like i’m winning at life. 🏆 

Lately I’ve been fitting in my daily walk at 9 or 10pm after a long day of meetings. I’m super grateful for the way it’s still light so late at night, but a walk-at-end-of-day doesn’t have the same motivational kick as the walk-at-the-start. 🌑 

So that one little thing I did puts me at champion status, and affects my entire mindset for the day. 💪 

There are a lot of contributing factors to this morning’s walk, but the top one was that it was grey, cool, and windy...which is far more motivational to me than bright sunshine. 🌬 

I know, it’s weird.

The rest of britain is like UGH WHAT A SHIT SUMMER and i’m here going um...i really, really love the rain. And clouds. And cool breezes. And grey skies. ☔ 

I’ll join in the conversation and be like yea, yea, it really does suck...but that’s just to start conversation and show British solidarity. Deep down I don’t think it does suck. 👀 

I do like sunshine, but after spending 25 years of my life in Arizona, I don’t love or crave the heat. ☀ 

Anything over about 20 degrees and i start getting a bit antsy...and my limit is “23 with a breeze”. 😎 

If it’s higher than that I’ll literally hide inside, not rush out to sit in a beer garden or at the beach. I really don’t enjoy heat at all. 

So thanks grey skies and wind, you helped a lot today. 💪 

Just me? Everyone else dreaming of 30+ degrees and sunshine?? It’s okay if you are...i just...don’t get it. 🤣 

#justkeepgoing #walkoftheday #goodmorning #wegotthis #onestepatatime #motivation
Cancelling things is a superhero skill.

Not all the time, of course: we want to be trustworthy.

And the sheer stubbornness of being a business owner is good.

I can do it. I will do it. No matter what! I can make. this. work.

A product, an event, a new hire, a business.

So we keep pushing. Show up, send the emails, make the phone call, record the videos. More training for the new hire, more new hires. Make sure we never let anyone down.

Of course, things happen. We get sick, something happens to a family member, or there’s an emergency and we need to shift things around.

But cancelling things can be a superhero skill: when you do it well, knowing why it’s time to cut the cord and communicating it well.

Here’s some of what I consider when I’m trying to decide if it’s time to dig in, or stop & go another direction:

1. Does anyone even know about it?
Sometimes it’s been a big part of your business life and used a lot of brainpower, but no one outwith you and your team know it was meant to happen.

2. What’s the cost of not doing this now?
The full cost, more than financial, including:
- Motivational cost for you, team, clients
- Decreased trust for clients
- Loss of strategic partnership connection

3. Could you replace it with something else?
Another day, an online option, a template instead of custom build? Sometimes a replacement isn’t a cancellation at all. You’re doing it, but in a less costly way.

4. Do I have the energy and appetite to keep going?
I can do it with an automaton approach…but given the other things on my plate, where do I want my energy to go? How much do I have to give? Will it renew energy, or drain it?

I ended up cancelling a small event recently, & whilst I was disappointed, it was the right decision for these reasons.

It can feel embarrassing...but cancelling something can be a superpower, if it’s done well & communicated clearly and honestly. And when it’s more the exception than the rule.

Anything you are considering stopping? What impact might that have?

✨This is from this week’s Creative Headspace note. They go out every Friday - except for the rare occasions I skip a week for my own sanity. 😄 Sign up in bio!💌