Episode 162: How to Stop Making Decisions Based on Fear
How do you make decisions? Is it from a deep place of knowing and intuition? Or is it merely out of fear?
Making big decisions (or even small ones) can understandably be stressful and anxiety-inducing. But being stuck in fear-based thinking is a prescription for misery – and for living a life doing stuff you don’t actually want to do.
This week, Henri Stevenson, Executive Coach and Shapes trainer, joins us to discuss how to stop making decisions based on fear and anxiety. We break down how many of us fall into this pattern and then share simple strategies to get our egos out of the way and base our thinking on freedom and love.
If you want to stop making decisions based on fear and live in alignment with what you REALLY want, listen to our full conversation in this episode of You Are Not a Frog.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
- Discover how to distinguish when you decide out of intuition versus fear.
- Learn how to stop making decisions through fear of complaints or criticisms.
- Find out why being self-indulgent is anything ‘but’.
[05:41] Henri’s Journey to Finding a Different Operating System
- She has always been passionate about helping people realise their potential. But within that, she recognised that she didn’t realise her own.
- Her journey started when she went through a period of burnout from work.
- She went to a year of cognitive behavioural therapy. She learned she got her self-worth from work.
- She did a lot of personal development work and eventually trained formally as a coach. But she found herself falling back to old self-belief patterns.
- Her coaching with Think Love Education founder Catherina O’Gorman transformed her life.
‘I’ve just always been passionate about people and people realising their potential. But what I recognise within that, I wasn’t always realising my own.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[10:40] What Ego is
- Our ego is a protective piece within us. The internal chatter within the brain is analysing things all the time.
- Ego usually manifests when you’re in fear or feeling lacking in yourself.
- It can also serve you positively by pushing you to prove yourself.
- It comes down to how you use your ego and inner wisdom to create more happiness and decide in ways that benefit you.
- The brain reacts similarly in an uncomfortable conversation and a threatening situation.
‘It’s [the ego] not a sort of bad thing, but it’s about how you use it in conjunction with our other wisdom within ourselves’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[14:18] Why We Pay More Attention to Fear-Based Thoughts
- It goes back to our automatic reaction of keeping ourselves safe.
- Tune in to the episode to hear Rachel’s thoughts on the consequences of not saying no!
- Keeping this same pattern of behaviour will cost you something at some point.
- The key is to practise self-inquiry and allow yourself to learn from setbacks.
[19:11] Investing in Your Self-Growth
- Investment brings commitment.
- However, being committed to something doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have some time out.
‘I think the investment brings commitment.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
- You are always a work in progress. Taking back control of your life can be fearful at times.
- Taking a time out when you feel low can be challenging and feel self-indulgent. But allowing yourself to do so is a much-needed mindset shift to decide from a better mental space.
‘I’m always a work in progress, I’m always learning, I love anything around, I think the more you know yourself, the better life is.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[25:05] The Bottom Line of Self-Indulgence
‘All the sort of fear of trying to control everything and manage everything and make it all okay for everybody else, I was doing that at the cost of myself and what impact might that have had long term?’ – Click Here To Tweet This
- Listen to the episode to learn how Henri shifted her mindset on her fear of self-indulgence as a mother and wife.
- You lose integrity when you don’t give the same support you give to others to yourself.
- It’s not selfish to decide to ensure you’re okay before attending to others’ needs.
‘It’s not selfish to make sure that you are okay before attending to others’ needs. It’s simply common sense.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[36:52] How to Decide From a Better Mental Place
- Take a bit of time and just breathe. Ask yourself what other choices are there.
- Know whether you’re coming from a place of love for yourself or from your intuition, heart, or gut.
- Be honest with yourself. Listen to what the other parts of you are saying.
- Tune in and be aware of how making a choice will make you feel.
‘If I make this choice, how am I gonna feel? Then if I make that choice, how will that make me? Just being aware of those things and then choosing from there.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[38:18] How to Get Over a Fear Hump
- Change requires sitting through the discomfort. It’s empowering.
- Facing an uncomfortable situation gets easier once you’ve done it multiple times.
- It’s about being okay with being uncomfortable and recognising that you can decide for yourself.
[39:44] Techniques to Overcome Fear
- Do whatever works for you to quieten the mind. It’s easier to act when you’re in a more relaxed state.
- Some techniques could be through being in nature and writing your fear down.
- Think about what you really want, and focus there.
- There’s no one quick fix. It’s about finding what works for you.
- Decide to do something small each day that shifts your mindset.
[43:33] What to Do When You’re Completely Overwhelmed
- It’s the same when a child’s having an emotional outburst. You won’t get through to them until they’ve calmed down.
- It’s hard, but you must get in touch with what would make you feel better.
- There’s a deeper knowing when it’s coming from your heart and intuition.
- Learning how to trust your intuition is a practice.
- You won’t always make decisions from your heart. Forgive yourself when you decide from fear.
[48:33] Practising Self-Compassion
- You would never talk to other people the way you talk to yourself.
- Nobody will judge you more than you judge yourself.
- You will make mistakes. But you have to practise compassion for yourself and others.
[49:53] Henri’s Top Three Tips
- Notice the thoughts in your head. Are they helping or hindering you?
- Ease the pressure.
- Allow yourself some space to check whether life works the way you want. If not, do a bit of exploration.
Henri Stevenson is a leadership and personal development coach, trainer, and facilitator with 20 years of experience. Throughout her career, she has worked with individuals, leaders, and teams to improve performance and be the best they can be. Her work revolves around building confidence, resilience, and emotional well-being. She lives up to her values of trust, openness, and honesty to create a space that inspires growth and development.
Henri started her career in Marketing and Public Relations before working in Internal Communications & Employee Engagement and Learning & Development. From there, she has led multiple successful development and coaching programs.
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In today’s high-stress work environment, you may feel like a frog in boiling water. The pan has heated up so slowly that you didn’t notice the feeling of stress and overwhelmed becoming the norm. You may feel that surviving AND thriving in your work is impossible.
Frogs generally have only two options — stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan. Fortunately, you are not a frog. You have many more options, choices and control than you think. Don’t decide from a place of fear. Instead, choose to decide from your heart, intuition, and inner wisdom.
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Dr. Rachel Morris: How do you make decisions from a place of fear or from a place of deep knowing and intuition? Many of us right now are feeling stressed and anxious and making difficult decisions about our own lives and lives of others from a place of self-protection. But what would it look like to make decisions based on what we really want and need based on love and wisdom instead?
How would we feel if we were living truly in congruence with our deepest values and what makes our hearts sing? This week on the podcast, Henri Stevenson, coach and shapes trainer joins me to discuss how discovering how to make decisions involving her heart and gut as well as her head has transformed how she feels lives and works.
We discuss why we get so caught up in our own ego and left brain, and some simple strategies to get out of this fear-based thinking and into more freedom and. Listen to this episode If you want to find out how to stop making decisions through fear of complaints or criticism, how to know if it really is your intuition speaking and why being self-indulgent is anything but.
Welcome to You are not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high-stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer, and speaker. Like frogs In a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late, but you are not a frog, burning out or getting out are not your only options.
In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier. If you are a training manager or clinical lead, and your teams are under pressure and may be even feeling overwhelmed, we’d love to share our Shapes Toolkit training with you.
Our practical tools are designed by a team of doctors and practitioners who know what it’s like to work in a stretched and overwhelmed system with topics like how to take control of your time and workload, deal with conflicts and managing stress. From team away days and half day sessions to shorter workshops and webinars online or face-to-face.
We’d love to find out how we can help your team work calmer and happier. We work with primary care training hubs, ICS wellbeing teams, new to practise GP fellowships, hospital trusts, and lots of other healthcare providers with staff on the frontline. To find out more, drop us an email or request a brochure at the link below.
Henri Stevenson: I’m Henri Stevenson. I’m a coach, trainer and facilitator, and I work with groups and individuals around confidence, resilience, emotional wellbeing. I do lots of my work in nature.
Rachel: Henri was one of our facilitators for You Are Not A Frog off air, off grid retreat last year. In fact, we ran it together, didn’t we, Henri? That was just marvellous.
Henri: Oh, it was amazing. Such a great experience. Yeah, Looking forward to more.
Rachel: Yeah, great bunch of people, lovely experience. I wanted to get Henri on the podcast actually, mainly through one of the experiences we had on the retreat because at some point you said to people, ‘Would you like to do a mindset workshop?’
We’d all got back from this really long walk where we’d had some really intense conversations with each other. A load of us had run into the sea, we were cold. We’ve just been in the hot tub we’d warmed up, it was wonderful. We thought that people would just wanna have some dinner and go to bed, but actually they were like, ‘When are we doing this mindset workshop, please, Henri.’ We did it and I just think the insights that people got and the transformation, just from an hour of thinking this stuff through was quite incredible, really.
Henri: Yeah. It’s funny thinking about it because one of the things I think I remember, it started with this, in honesty, in the session was that I’d been avoiding doing that session because I was a bit scared. I was in a bit of fear around it because it was a workshop I hadn’t delivered before, I knew it was gonna be quite off the cuff, I knew I was gonna share quite a bit about myself and I was in fear and I was thinking people won’t be that interested. But that’s kind of part of the whole story because that’s the pattern of thinking that I’ve had in my life or that we often have is the fear within us.
Just to acknowledge that in the session kind of kicked it off on that, but I wasn’t gonna get away with not doing it and I’m so glad I did because, yeah, I think it was just really powerful and it was great to be able to share some of my experiences with people.
Rachel: I think it was really transformative for people because, Henri, I know you’ve been on a really quite a long journey since I met you. Henri and I, we met doing the coaching course first, it was in 2016 I think, wasn’t it? Long time ago. You’ve been on this massive journey and I’ve just seen what a massive difference it has made to you, and I saw a massive difference it made to people in just this sort of one hour workshop.
In fact, we were sort of talking about it for hours and hours later. What was it that really kicked you off on this sort of journey of thinking, ‘Hang on, I need to find a different operating system?’
Henri: God. How long have you got?
Rachel: About 45 minutes.
Henri: Well, I mean, actually I think the journey started quite a long time ago. I think I’ve always been fascinated about how our minds work, what makes us tick. You know, when people always say, what are you passionate about? I’ve just always been passionate about people and people realising their potential. But what I recognise within that, I wasn’t always realising my own.
For many years I have had low confidence in certain situations, I put on a good act and you know, didn’t think anyone would really notice. But underneath, lots of self-doubt and things that were getting in my way. The thing that kicked it off mostly, first of all was a period of a bit of burnout actually and was actually before I met you, Rach, about sort of three or four years before that where I was just taking more and more responsibility for things at work. I just say yes to everything, I would look around and think, well, everyone else is coping, so I need to be doing more. I was struggling with prioritising because I just felt I needed to do more and I just reached complete sort of overwhelm.
At that point, I realised I needed to do something different and I actually ended up having a year of cognitive behavioural therapy. The occupational psychologist said to me, ‘You are getting all of your self worth from work and that’s not healthy.’ That started me off and so that was a year of work and I did some other things within that around my personal development.
Then after I got married and had children, I really wanted to train as a coach. I’ve been doing a lot of informal coaching in my work and, but I needed that badge to share, to say, ‘Yes, I am good enough at this.’ That’s when we met and it was actually after that period where I trained as a coach, I had quite an important job, whatever you want to describe an important job.
But I was working in an organisation, I was sort of stepping up into a bigger role and I was managing two kids and I was commuting up to London. I recognised some patterns that I was in again of trying to be the best mom, trying to be the best wife, trying to be the best leader, all these things.
Actually failing in some of those areas and I knew the thing that holding me back was, again, some of my self-belief. That’s when I was at a point where I was, ‘Oh my God, now what am I gonna do? I’ve done some therapy, I’ve done coaching and you know, what next?’ Actually I met a new coach, which was Catherina O’Gorman from Think Love, the founder of Think Love Education.
I started that journey with Catherina and that completely transformed my life, essentially, and made me look at things in a completely different way. What I discovered through that work was the patterns of my thinking, how that was informing the beliefs that I had about myself and therefore my behaviours and that really at the core of it, it was a need to develop a muscle that I hadn’t ever developed which was about kind of properly loving and accepting myself.
Even as I say that now, I can feel the ego in me going, ‘Oh, that’s a bit cringe’ but actually I don’t mean it in a kind of way of you know, a bit of self-care and a bit of doing this and that. I mean, actually fundamentally backing myself and accepting myself and really yeah, building that from the inside rather than the feeling that I’d be okay once everything else outside is sorted.
Rachel: Henri, I’m just fascinated in what you just said there. You know, when you said, ‘I’m backing myself and loving myself. Oh, I can feel my ego going, oh no, oh no.’ Because I think this is what we get so wrong about our egos, our own sense of self, but that it’s not just being big headed that our egos help us with. Our egos often help us the other way and not be, but it, our ego say, ‘you mustn’t think that you are not very good in this sense of self-protection.’ When we say someone’s egotistical, we often mean, ‘Oh, you’re so bigheaded. You think the world of yourself.’ But I find so many people that egos are getting away in absolutely opposite way and they’re not able to feel confident or loved themselves because they’re so obsessed with themselves and what people think of them.
I mean, I don’t mean that they’re selfish, it just mean that they are so scared of doing anything that is going to make other people see them in any other way.
Henri: Yeah, I mean it’s a complete sort of protective piece of us and I think for a long time I kind of saw it as a negative thing for me. Whereas actually, as you say and actually using the term ego, I think can be quite confusing sometimes for people. When I’m talking about ego, it’s, it’s really when I’m really in my head or with that, there’s that internal chatter going on or the sort of part of your brain that’s analysing things all the time.
It’s usually when I’m in fear, when I’m feeling a bit lacking in myself. All of those things, it’s the analytical sort of mind piece. But it served me very well in many ways and you know, it’s made me, it tipped over in terms of trying to prove myself. I’m trying to, I’m working really hard, but it also made me do a really good job and get recognition for that. It’s not a sort of bad thing, but it’s about how you use it in conjunction with our other wisdom within ourselves, which is for me around your heart space or our what’s in our gut and using all of our parts to create more sort of happiness or joy in our lives, love in our lives.
Rachel: I think for me, the way I understand it, sort of neuro-scientifically and Jill Bolte Taylor talks about this frequently, doesn’t she, talking in her book and I’ve got another podcast that’s coming out very soon with Giles Croft about this. Is that when we talk about our egos, we are really talking about our left side of our brain that is conscious of time, we know that we are gonna die, we know that there’s gonna be an ending to this life as we know it.
We also use our left brains to therefore plan and to achieve and because we have this concept of time, we know that we have to keep ourselves safe, and that’s the left amygdala that comes in and the left amygdala is all about protecting you as a separate person from other people, because the left amygdala wants to keep us safe. What it’s doing is constantly scanning for threats, group threats, hierarchical threats, physical threats, because it’s much more concerned with keeping us safe than keeping us happy.
Rachel: That is the problem, isn’t it? Because you can keep someone safe, but they’re gonna be like, you could lock someone in a room and give them food and water. They’re not gonna be happier, it’s gonna be awful, but they’ll be safe.
Henri: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t always know the difference between truth and reality. It reacts in the same way, whether it’s you know, maybe an uncomfortable conversation with somebody or or a really threatening situation.
Rachel: Yeah. I think this is something we got so wrong. Actually I was talking to a very senior doctor the other day and they’d been to one of our trainings and they said to me, ‘Can you just tell me a little bit more about this? Because I don’t quite understand when you said that our thoughts aren’t true or they’re not necessarily true’. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, Imagine having got to this point in your career thinking that every thought you had was true or had its basis in reality’.
Because thoughts are just thoughts, and the more we can detach ourselves and recognise that some of them are true, some of them aren’t, some of them are semi true, but our thoughts are generated by our egos a lot of the time, aren’t they? Then we can decide what we pay attention to and what we don’t. Why is it that we pay more attention to the fear-based thoughts, than the sort of loving, courageous, oneness type thoughts?
Henri: God, I wish I had a definite answer for you on that. But I guess it goes back to the kind of keeping ourselves safe. It’s that sort of automatic reaction. It’s really sort of built within us and I think in the societies that we live in and the way everything is sort of set up, we’re much more geared up towards our left brain than our right brain. That’s how the world operates, really. I think it’s very easy to sort of be in that most of the time.
Rachel: I was thinking the other day about what a contradiction this all is because I’ve been doing a lot of work around saying no, we had a webinar last night with over a thousand people who signed up for it. This is a real, you know, a real issue. If you’re doing it all, how do you say no? We always get the same comment and the same pushback in the chat is, ‘What if I get a complaint?’
We can’t say no for medical legal reasons, we can’t say no because of mistakes and patient safety. It’s so interesting because if you think about it, if you say no to something that you can’t do because either you’re not competent to do it or you are worn out, or it’s not in your contract, which are generally the reasons you have to say no.
Then yes, you might get complaints from people, you might get pushback, you might get people being annoyed with you and yes, you might get referred to the regulator, people get referred to the GMC all the time for like silly tweets or this, that, and the other. But GMC doesn’t take many of them forward, we are so petrified of that.
But you’re generally gonna be okay because if you can show insight and say why you did it, even if you did the wrong thing, you can say, ‘Oh, well next time I’ve reflected blah, blah.’ But here’s the rub, If you continually say yes, you never say no because your ego’s trying to protect you from that uncomfortableness from people-pleasing, and you carry on and you end up burning out, end up stressed, et cetera. The mistakes that you make are going to be of a completely different nature, there are going to be things like acting outside your competence. Doing something, even if they feel really uncomfortable, you’ll probably get some communication issues. You’ll probably end up being rude to people.
You’ll probably, you know, this is where people go into addictions and working way beyond when they should. Then the sorts of mistakes you make then can be much worse and can be much harder to come back from, and the regulator will not look at you and go ‘Oh dear, you were really tired. Don’t worry about it. I’ll go, you were really tired. Why did you not take time off?’
We’re really frightened of these, that the complaints that we can deal with and go, well actually there was a reason for that and here it is, and you may or may not agree with me, but we do not think about those. Oh my gosh, how bad it’s going to be. We were talking just before we came on, where was it? We don’t look at the other side, we don’t look at what happens if I don’t do that?
Henri: Exactly. You know, without our coaching cards, yeah. What is the cost of not saying that? What is really the cost to you are physically, emotionally, your relationships at home, at work, your patients, your clients, your colleagues in the long run, we can keep on in the same patterns of behaviour.
And probably, you know, you’re right, but I always think there’s a cost at some point. It’s just having that bit of inquiry, I think with yourself and like with you said, you know what, if I get in a complaint as, as you talk through, you know what, if you do get a complaint, what then? You like you’ll probably be able to learn from it, work it through, explain it, whatever it is.
Henri: But we are default because it’s just practice, just because it’s what we’ve been practising at doing is to just say yes and to keep on doing that.
Rachel: It’s not just about what’s the cost of not saying no, it’s also about what’s the cost in continuing in your thinking patterns. What’s the cost in continuing in how things are? Because you know, someone said to me the other day, I think it was like Drummond actually does a lot of work with doctors and burnout in…
Rachel: You know, just rate. How do you feel about your job right now, scale of 1 TO 10? Rate it. You know, I think most of the people that were on the webinar last night probably would’ve rated it 2 or 3.
Rachel: Then you ask yourself, is that okay to feel like that about something that you do for 100 hours a week? You know…
Rachel: Is that acceptable? Is that what you really want your life to be like? What is the cost of keeping it like that and keeping it like that?
Henri, I know that you decided not to do that and you invested a lot of money in you know, in time and resources in doing that, you know, do you regret any of that investment?
Henri: God, no. Not at all. Because I feel completely different and that’s not to say I haven’t got challenges. I think this one of the traps that I’ve fell into and I think often we do is, well if I just do this, then I’ll be alright and then I’ll be fixed and I’ll be sorted and it will all come together. The investment and the commitment. I think the investment brings commitment. Number one for me, personally, well, if I invested in something, I’m committed and the commitment was practising to retrain some of my thinking and some of my patterns of behaviour.
That’s not to say I don’t slip, I do. But it means that when I meet challenges, it’s how I approach those really depends on where my mindset is. Let’s be honest, in January we were due to have this podcast, I was having a tricky time in January. I really keep crashing in the beginning of the year and I just didn’t feel in the right headspace to be able to have this conversation.
Of course all the ego came up for me around, I don’t wanna let Rachel down. I’ve got to, you know, just brush yourself down and you’ll be alright and be able to talk about this stuff. Um, but actually no, what I chose to do in that moment was just say to you, I can’t do the thing. I am just gonna have some time out and that’s what I did.
Now, my circumstances since then have changed a little bit, but not dramatically. I am still dealing with some of the same challenges, but because I allowed myself to recognise where what was happening for me, allow myself to feel those feelings. I’ve let go of some of the stories that I was creating in my mind that were really attached to some limiting negative thoughts, and that took me down.
Once I kind of moved from that and reconnected with myself a bit, then I’m in a better place to actually manage my business, to think creatively. Now, the investment I don’t regret anything and that I’m always a work in progress, I’m always learning, I love anything around, I think the more you know yourself, the better life is. But it’s just about, I’m not as dependent on others to make me feel good and I’m more in control of how I want my life to be. But that has taken some courageous steps and it has been very fearful at times.
Rachel: What was the mindset shift that you had then? What was the fundamental mindset shift that you needed to go through? Obviously, in January, you had a low point, but you were able to just go, ‘No, I can’t do this. I need to look after myself.’ You know, you’re better. What enabled you and I love what you’re saying because it’s not about, ‘If I do this, I’m gonna be absolutely brilliant for the rest of my life and I’ll feel like this all the time.’ But you were like, ‘Oh, I’m having a tough time and I’m gonna look after myself.’ Yeah, the Henri from three or four years ago probably wouldn’t have been able to say that, right?
Henri: No, because I would have been that, you know, not wanting to let you down and so feeling like I’ve go to you know, be strong and show up and all of these things and not be vulnerable. The shift was actually thinking, what is the thing that I need to do? That’s the most kind and compassionate thing for myself? That’s challenging because the next thing that comes up, well, that’s a bit selfish. That’s a bit self-indulgent, isn’t it?
That’s okay, that’s the old thinking, that’s there and I can see that and I can say, ‘Yeah, thank you. Just take, sit in the backseat please.’ While I actually think about what I need right now most lovely, and I do appreciate that, that isn’t sometimes to take a bit of time out or to not do a particular thing is challenging.
But even some, I do think you can still do small things each day to just focus on what your needs are and what’s gonna support you and get you in touch with your heart a bit. It’s really that getting in touch with your heart. Yeah.
Rachel: What you did at that point was go, okay, did my head say, ‘I should get on the podcast with Rachel, cause I’ll let her down blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ Incidentally, side note, of course you didn’t let me down. Like who doesn’t suddenly need an hour in their day to get on with stuff? I think…
Rachel: …we’re so worried about letting people, half the time people are like, ‘Yay! brilliant.’.
Henri: I kind of knew that too, but it was still, there in my head.
Rachel: Yeah. But this… all this word, this word ‘self-indulgent’, we have really weaponised that word. You know, I had a member of my family who shall remain nameless, who doesn’t listen to the podcast anyway, so we’re fine. It’s not my other half. He’s learning, he’s coming around. We’re managing to turn him.
Henri: Come on a journey.
Rachel: Yeah. We’re dragging there, kicking and screaming. Someone in my family accused me of being self-indulgent because I was trying to thrive in my work.
Rachel: That is just like, Why wouldn’t we be self-indulgent? Because the bottom line is if I’m not here, if I’m literally not here, I can’t serve anybody.
Henri: Well, that is the bottom line, right?
Rachel: The bottom line, yeah.
Henri: I had a moment when I was doing my training with Catherina, we were on a retreat, and I basically said that my dad died when I was young and so at some level I’ve got a fear within me about , my kids maybe losing a parent, you know, that’s just something that’s there at a very deep level.
I was sharing a bit around that and I said something like, ‘You know, I am absolutely 100% prepared to put boys and Steve’s,my husband’s needs ahead of mine.’ Like for me, that was just like, ‘Yeah.’ It wasn’t until she come around, Catherina said, ‘Really? At what cost essentially?’ Really, and I know this sounds maybe quite dramatic and hopefully it would never have got to this stage, but yeah, I was being a martyr essentially, and if I carried on possibly in time, maybe I would have created the one thing that I really didn’t want and maybe I would got ill or you know, I mean, I don’t know.
But it was a wake up moment for me to go, okay, in all the sort of fear of trying to control everything and manage everything and make it all okay for everybody else, I was doing that at the cost of myself and what impact might that have had long term?
Rachel: Yeah, and I mean, I know you say, you know, hopefully that will never happen long term, but we are seeing doctors dying by suicide in increasing numbers at the moment. I heard about someone in another caring profession recently in our town who died by suicide. You know, there are obviously lots of other factors involved.
Rachel: But it happens if you push too hard and too long. Interestingly, we went out for Mother’s Day the other week for brunch. My behalf, bless them, said to the kids, ‘Let’s say what we like about mum.’ He’s really like, he’s really learning. He knows my love language…
Henri: Yeah. He’s been training him well.
Rachel: I’ve been training him. Again, he doesn’t listen to podcasts. I can compliment him on here. He knows that my love language is words of affirmation. We sat for brunch and my other half says, ‘What do you like most about mum? What do you appreciate about mum?’ My teenage son said, he said, ‘You’ve been much less stressed recently.’ That was what he appreciated about me. I thought, oh my goodness. Why have I been much less stressed?
Because if I’m honest, Henri, and this is like me opening up just between me and you, you know, I’ve been pretty close to burnout recently, because we’ve had so much on and again, thinking, I’ve got to get this out, I’ve got to serve people. And again, ego telling me it’s really important that I work every weekend, blah, blah, blah.
We’ve had some people that have just come in and gone. No, unless you look after yourself, unless you just stop you are no good for anyone else. The last, you know, few months, I’ve been really putting that in. I have to look after my own needs and it has felt really selfish.
But my son says, ‘What I like about the year is that you are less stressed.’ What does that tell you about how I am when I’m not being self-indulgent, right?
Henri: Yeah, well, exactly and your presence will be different with the kids. Also I feel quite passionately about the fact that if I’m gonna be working, supporting other people around resilience, confidence, wellbeing, burnout, and I’m not practising these things myself.
My integrity is off . You know, I do my things on a daily basis, I am selfish about stuff and I’m really, it’s taken a long time to be okay with that. I read somewhere said — I might even have it on a post-it — oh yeah, here it is. A little reminder.
Rachel: Henri is reaching for the post-its!
Henri: I can’t even remember where this came from, but it says ‘It’s not selfish to make sure that you are okay before attending to others’ needs. It’s simply common sense.’ So people gain more when we are able to be in service for others, whether that’s our kids, our clients, our colleagues, our patients or whatever, if we are alright and it’s common sense. We haven’t been conditioned in that way.
Rachel: Yeah and who doesn’t want to be operated on by a happy, healthy surgeon, right?. As opposed to a burnout, knackered one and as part of my self-care, I went from massage the other day because I got a stiff neck and I dislocated my shoulder last year, there’s my ankle and I physically, I just need to get my stuff together. Anyway, and some really good massage therapist, but she greeted me with, ‘Oh, you are my fifth massage in a row. I’m absolutely exhausted.’ I was like, ‘Oh great.’
Henri: What happened to my massage?
Rachel: ‘You’re really tired. You want to sit down and let me massage you instead? You know, obviously we respect that from a sort of holistic healing massage place. But you know, we should be expecting that from our coaches, from our doctors,from our nurses, from everyone as well. It’s so blind when we think that it is okay not to be self-indulgent because everybody else can see it. Everyone else can see that there’s a problem, they really can. Apart from you where the problem.
Actually, I was coaching someone recently who nearly cancelled the session because something had happened in their work. They had a call last minute to say somebody couldn’t come in? They nearly cancelled, but actually they made the choice not to cancel and to come to the session.
At the end of the session, they said that the way they were going to be in the afternoon was she said, you know, it will be completely different. I’m going to be able to be a much better. She was a doctor. She said I am going to be a much better doctor as a result of actually giving myself a little bit of time to think through some stuff.
Rachel: When she said no, did the world fall down or collapse?
Henri: No, It worked. It worked itself out.
Rachel: There is a little bit about wanting, I don’t know, I wonder how much in our deep ego-based psyche is us wanting to be absolutely needed and such some sort of codependency on being indispensable at work. I don’t know.
Henri: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I think we wear busyness as a badge of honour.
Rachel: Oh God. Yeah.
Henri: You know, and I used to laugh about my old organisation. Instead of talking about the weather, we just talk about how busy we are. It’s that thing of, ‘Yeah, I’m the hero, I ‘m indispensable.’
Rachel: I’ve tried to make a little bit of a mind shift because if someone tells me they’re busy now, I’m trying to tell myself, ‘Oh my gosh that person is really inefficient and not managing their time properly.’ Then, yeah, so I go what’s, what’s wrong?
Henri: Yeah. Yeah.
Rachel: It just stuff, so important. I must have told you this a couple of years ago, I did a tennis course in the summer.
Yeah, I’m just learning to play tennis again. I thought, well, I can go and do some emails and do some work at sort of half past four. I had quite a lot to do and we finished and then the coach said to me, ‘Oh. Rachel, are you coming for a drink or whatever?’ I said, ‘Oh I’ve got far too many emails I’ve got to go and do.
He looked at me, said, ‘Well, congratulations. You must be a very important person.’ Just walk off. I felt about this big, and honestly, talk about just putting me in my place. Honestly, it was brilliant. I was really, really pissed off.
Henri: But sometimes we need those little reminders, don’t we?
Rachel: One day I’ll tell this story and I’ll be fine.
Henri: Well, I think that that also just highlights for me something else that I think that I’ve learned through my work and that I talk about quite a lot in work is about choice. You know, I think sometimes we think we’ve got no choice. We’re so, kind of beholden to the situations that we’re in and the circumstances that we’re in, that we feel like we have nothing in our control and that there’s nothing we can do.
We know this from the Shapes toolkit and the work that we do, but I really strongly believe that there is always a choice that we can make. It’s really about making a conscious choice. Even if you choose to go and do that 12 hour day, do it from a place of making a conscious choice that’s what you’re gonna do and that’s something you’re okay with doing.
But when we’re doing everything in sort of autopilot and from a place of feeling rubbish about it or feeling like I have to do this because if I don’t do this, either they’re gonna think I’m rubbish or I’m gonna let someone down, or I’m gonna get a complaint, or whatever it might be. When we come from that energy, then we feel like we’ve got no personal power.
Rachel: It is so interesting about how that small shift in mindset makes a complete difference. You know, when we do the training on how to say no, people are always saying, ‘I have no control over when I leave work.’ They go, ‘Well who does have control?”
They realise, ‘Well I do, but I can’t because there’s an emergency patient to see, you know?’ We get to say, well, okay, ‘It’s your choice and you are choosing to do that.’ and that power language of I am choosing to say that, can make all the difference, even if you still do the same thing because you know it’s doctors. It’s like ‘I can’t possibly say no, look after myself, not do that, rest because someone might die, patient safety all the way. I’m letting my patients down!’ And I always say to people, well, genuinely if someone’s gonna die because you said no, don’t say no.
Rachel: You can choose to stay to keep that patient safe.
Henri: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rachel: That is totally, that’s fine.
Rachel: That’s that position of power and control. You’ll stay and be quite happy about staying, but if you’re staying going, ‘I’ve got to stay. I have no choice’ Then, oh, you feel awful. You feel resentful.
Rachel: Often you are staying because you don’t wanna piss that person off or the word —
if I hear the phrase ‘dump on my colleagues’ one more time Because if you are always in the position of dumping on your colleagues, what are you and your colleagues doing about that? It’s tricky, but it’s a conversation.
Henri: Exactly the conversation.
RacheI: It’s about this choice, Henri, how do we `ice though, in a position that’s not ego, that’s not fear, amygdala trying to keep ourselves safe. What else can we use?
Henri: I often, I have to ask another part of me, which sounds a bit weird, but when I’m in my head, I’m always in, I’m often in fear and ego. I have to take a bit of time and that might, doesn’t have to be a long period of time, it might be a minute, it might be two minutes, and just breathe a bit and just almost ask myself like, what other choices are there? If I was coming at this from a place of love for myself or from my intuition or from my heart. Or even what’s my gut saying about this? You know, what choices do I have here?
You know and being really honest with yourself and listening. That’s kind of listening in a little bit to what that other part is saying. Otherwise we just get caught in the same cycle and also, you know, if I make this choice, how am I gonna feel? Then if I make that choice, how will that make me? Just being aware of those things and then choosing from there.
Rachel: How do you get over that hump of fear? Because even if you do go to your intuition and go, well, actually I know intuitively that it’s not right to do that, but telling that person that is so scary, I can’t.
Henri: Well sometimes, it is about being with a bit of discomfort because change does, it’s not comfortable all the time, but it can be really empowering. When you’ve done it once or twice or three times and said no, or whatever it is or had the conversation that you’d much rather not have — actually gets easier. It’s about, again, it’s that question of what’s the cost of not doing that?
I think it is about being okay being uncomfortable, not trying to shut that down. Because too often we’re trying to avoid having the bad feeling, you know? But that’s not what being a human is all about, we have good feelings, we have bad feelings, you know? Sometimes it’s just about recognising that’s there, but still making the choice, the choice that’s gonna serve you in the longer term.
Rachel: Do you have any actual techniques that you use to do that? You’ve already mentioned sort of some grounded breaths, I know you do a lot in nature, which is an amazing way of getting some perspective on stuff and just , realising our place in this world. But you know, that our ego is not the most central important thing in the world.
Henri: I mean, nature for me is really helpful because when I’m in nature, I can feel calm and grounded. I guess my first tip is: whatever works for you to quieten the mind and get in and try and feel sort of grounded in yourself and calm. Whether that, you’re having a moment on your own or being in nature as it is for me.
Then when you’re in a bit more of a relaxed state, I think it’s easier to act from there. From there you are able to kind of work out a little bit more about what you should be doing. I do have some other sort of models and techniques that I use within, within my coaching.
Sometimes I find writing stuff out, so you know, I might even write down, what is the fear? Write it all down and just get it out and then kind of look at it and then think about what do I really want? How do I want this to be? Focus there, because that’s the more empowering place’s, that’s the place more in tune with the life that we wanna have, really.
Rachel: How do you get people to get to that, ‘What do I really want?’ Because in my experience, particularly working with doctors, people don’t, I think we’ve been so used to dancing to someone else’s tune for so long, doing what other people say we should do. You know, right from, ‘You should do these A levels and don’t do art, do chemistry’ which is what happened to me. Because you know, you’ve almost lost your sense of, what do I want? You know, actually what I just wanna do is go lie in bed and put my head under the pillow and go, ‘Oh, make it stop, please, I just need some rest.’ But that is again, that’s from a place of fear as well. How do you work it out?
Henri: I don’t think there’s one kind of quick fix, sort of do this and that’s it. I think it is a little bit about pointing what works for you. I mean, sometimes I can get myself caught up in a, ‘Well, I don’t know what I want?’ Then I create even more stress for myself and pressure on myself trying to work out what I want.
I always say I think it’s in the small things. Okay, so doing something really small each day that just shifts your mindset a little bit, or shifts, It enables you to just quiet and all calm a little bit and then trusting it you’ll come from there, it will emerge. It’s when people say things like. we have our best ideas in the shower or on all of those kind of things, it’s because, or when we’re out having a walk, it’s because we’re in a calmer state.
That’s when you can actually get in, ‘Yeah, actually that’s what I want.’ You sort of could get yourself out of the day to day and that isn’t always possible cause they’re living very busy lives. It’s just doing maybe one tiny thing, like a minute a day or five minutes a day of writing something down or being in nature or doing a breathing exercise.
Rachel: I think that’s question of, ‘What do I need right now?’ Can be quite helpful if you’re just completely overwrought, ‘What do I need now?’ Because then once like you said, getting into that place of relaxation, you can then go, what do I really want? But it is really hard to know that when you are what I call, backed into the corner, you know?
Rachel: We’re in our adrenaline based zone where we’re stuck in people pleasing and perfectionism and shame and guilt.
Rachel: All that sort of thing.
Henri: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same with kids. You’ve ever had those situations when your child’s having a massive emotional outburst or whatever and you know that you can’t get through to them when they’re in that state.
You have to wait ‘til things have calmed and then you can have a different kind of conversation. It’s the same when we’re in that frenetic business, it’s very hard to get in touch with actually, what in our heart of hearts do we want to? What would make us feel a little bit better in this situation?
Rachel: How do we learn to trust that? How do we learn to trust our intuition when we are surrounded by all these different voices that tell us what we should and shouldn’t do? I’m talking about some of the internal voices as well. How do we know that is coming from our hearts and our intuition? Is there any signs?
Henri: I think there’s a sort of a deeper knowing I think, when it’s coming from that part of you. I did a practice recently actually, which might be a good one to think about. Because it kind of gets to the heart of things. I was on a webinar and the question was why are you here? We all wrote some stuff down and then the next question was, why are you really here? I wrote some more stuff to tell there. The next question was, why are you really, really here? That is when you get to the sort of heart of things. You cut through the sort of the main, the first sort of reasons, which is usually the sort of heavy ego stuff and you get a little bit.
I think when you, it’s almost like you can feel it in your body a bit more. I believe when you are working from your intuition, it’s a feeling that sort of almost has a different energy to it. You can always sort of physically feel it when your shoulders are up and you are operating from here.
Actually, when you’re operating from your intuition, things feel calmer. Your shoulders are down and I think in terms of how do you learn to trust it? I’m still learning that. I am definitely still learning that, but it’s practice. You know, it’s a day for me, it’s a daily practice.
Rachel: It’s interesting, I was just thinking, I think we all know when we are not acting in our own integrity and authenticity, because we can feel that in our bodies. If our intuition’s saying one thing, yet we’re doing something else out of fear, I think that is when we feel completely stressed and it’s very difficult.
Which is a bit different from, ‘Oh, I’m stressed because this is uncomfortable.’ I think if you’re right, if we listen long enough, we hear it, but that requires sitting with it and not just scrolling through Facebook or putting Netflix or just grabbing that. I was gonna say third gin and tonic or third bottle of wine
Henri: Yeah. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with those things either. Because I do feel that we’re human beings, wall do different things. It’s about knowing yourself and knowing what works for you and what doesn’t, but so it’s just knowing, having a bit of a conversation with yourself, knowing what works for you, what doesn’t.
Even sometimes, again, I can’t sit here and say that every decision I make is from love or from my heart and myself. Sometimes I’m aware that I’m operating from fear.
But then it’s about forgiving myself for that. Actually, you know, and again, not what I would’ve done in the past was batted myself over the head around that. You should know better than this. Come on, you’ve done all this work and you’re still doing that. No, it’s a learning, it’s a choice that I made in that moment.
Rachel: I think that’s so important because I think there is that thing. I was listening to some amazing podcasts on shame, and this doctor was saying she’d felt so much shame for being forced into the keyhole of what a doctor should look like. Then she felt a lot of shame for allowing that to happen and we constantly take, it’s the second arrow, the video calls it. By feeling bad about allowing ourselves to do that.
But one thing I’ve found really helpful is just again, a bit of self-compassion, hand on my heart and going, ‘Of course you did that, that was like a really normal response, oh you poor thing? Of course you felt like that. Of course you did that.’ Just like you wouldn’t say to your best mate, ‘Well, that was really bad. You know, when your husband yells at you, you yelled back at him, aren’t you?’ Oh, of course you did. What a difficult situation, yeah.
Henri: Exactly. I bet you know, if that is so then that’s another shift that I’ve had, of how I talk to myself. Because I would never talk to, I would never have talked to other people, my friends or my family, or my kids in the way that I’ve talked to myself.
Nobody’s gonna judge me more than I judge myself. You know, no one’s going to criticise me in the way that I have criticised myself. That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna make mistakes and get things, you know, Lose my ragged toes at times or whatever it might be. But it’s how I then deal with it and doing that in a way that’s compassionate to myself and compassionate to others.
Rachel: Henri, gosh. We’ve talked for a long time now. I’m gonna ask you for your, your three tips about how we can move from this ego-based decision-making, out of a place of real fear and worry and anxiety into somewhere where we’re listening to our heart. We’re making decisions through love, we’re listening to our own intuition and our feelings in our body. What would your three tips be for busy people who just have gotten overwhelming demands on them?
Henri: The first tip that I’d give would be about just noticing the thoughts in your head, noticing whether those are thoughts that are helping you.
Whether those thoughts are hindering you and getting in your way. That me, it’s always about awareness, first of all. The second one, which links to that is to just ease the pressure, a tiny little bit. If there was one thing you could do to ease the precedent, what would that be? I think the third one would be just to allow yourself some space.
Check in with yourself about how your life is and whether it’s working in the way that you want it to and if it’s not, then do a bit of exploration about around, you know, what might what help.
Rachel: Wonderful. My three tips, I think it’s probably a few questions. Number one is what’s the cost of not changing. We always worry about the cost of making investments or doing things or changing, but what’s the cost of not, what’s the cost of carrying on a 3 out of 10 in your job? Second tip, I think, is something about being self-indulgent because it’s not until you are in a good, calm, relaxed place that you can actually hear your intuition in the first place so that you can actually make those decisions from that space.
I think my third one the self-talk, watch the self-talk and use that. Of course you’re feeling like that. Oh, of course you are, bit of self-compassion. Of course you are, what do you need right now? Yeah, what do you need? Often it might be a bath,
Henri: Yeah. Oh my god, I’m a big one for baths.
Rachel: Henri, those think all those are really helpful. You and I, we are running another retreat in May.
Henri: Oh yeah. Can’t wait.
Rachel: We’ll be looking at this, we’ll be seeing some coaching walks in nature will be asking ourselves these questions and really working with people to work. What is it you want? Because I think it’s not until you just get away from your normal everyday life and get some perspective that you can really start to access that intuition. I think there are a couple of spots left.
Henri: Yes, please come in.
Rachel: They are going quick, so you’ll need to sign up quickly and if you’re listening to this after the retreat, then you can sign up for the waiting list if we run on next year and we’ll put the links in the show notes, just encourage people even just getting away for a couple of hours and going for a walk or having a bath or just sitting. You can just let your physiology come down would be really good. Henri, I know that you run retreat days as well to look at some…
Henri: Yeah, I have my Nourish retreats, which is the day to connect in nature and have a bit of breathing space, a bit of sinking space where I share some tools along these lines that we’ve talked about today.
Yeah, just give people that opportunity to drop the shoulders for a day and get some kind of quality thinking space with others. Those are currently in the Cambridge area. Next month in June, actually 29th of June. So, yeah. Great.
Rachel: We’ll put the links in the show notes. How can people find you if they wanna get in touch with you, Henri?
Henri: Yeah, so through my website and I’m sure most of all through LinkedIn, put my contacts or whatever on the show notes.
Rachel: Thanks so much for being with us and we’ll have to get you back and talk about more of this because there’s so much more to explore. But, yeah. we’ll speak to you soon.Thank you.
Henri: Thanks so much for having me.
Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self-coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes, and if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions. At firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you.
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Henri provides 121 Coaching, Group Coaching and a variety of Leadership, Resilience and Wellbeing workshops, training and retreats. Check this link if you’re interested in her one day retreat for super busy professional women.
Episode 126: Using Nature to Answer Your Big Questions With Henri Stevenson
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