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Category: Role Model Challenge

The RMC Week 4 Post (or why it matters to care for and be myself )

Read the introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC) if you’re new to the blog. If you’ve not yet caught up (where have you been?!) you can also read my findings from Week 1 , Week 2, and Week 3.

For the fourth and final time I’d like to introduce this week’s role models:

My #RMCSquad4!IMG_2890

I select my role models by reading the next chapter of Tim Ferriss’ “Tribe of Mentors” book and then I consciously choose a second mentor from YouTube. Thus far I’ve used only videos from Evan Carmichael’s channel, which feature life and business advice taken from the world’s top thought leaders.

However in this last week I broke this habit, venturing into other video content to fulfil my desire to study my heroes. This proved to be a bit more time-consuming in the short-term because it wasn’t specifically designed for my purpose. It takes thought and effort to translate footage into practical, actionable advice. However it was worth it to model those people whose work has most impacted upon me personally.

Reviewing my findings across the week identified three main strategies for success:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Be brave
  3. Prioritize self-care

Let’s now take these one at a time and explore them in detail.

Fundamental Finding #1: Be yourself

Most mentors this week believe wholeheartedly that being yourself is key to success in work and in life. Given the strong individuals who comprise my #RMCWeek4 squad, this is somewhat unsurprising. However what I didn’t anticipate was how honest they would be about the practical challenges of fully being themselves.

“Showing who you really are – being vulnerable – requires a willingness to be open, both in and with the rest of the world.”

Heather (<—That’s me! My first quote!)

Though technically impossible to be anyone else, it requires courage and confidence to consistently be yourself. It can be genuinely scary to live your truth. Directed to the core of who you are, criticism and negative comments from others can hurt all the more.

Thankfully I had many amazing examples of how to be myself among this week’s thought leaders. For me, Lionel Schriver stood out as someone who truly who embodies the principle of staying true to yourself. Both in her work as an author and in her personal life she stands by her conviction that “we can be whoever we want to be.” At just fifteen she made a huge decision to change her name to Lionel. Not wanting to be confined by gender, this was an extraordinarily brave move at a time when gender fluidity wasn’t common parlance, much less understood.

I’m starting to genuinely value being myself  for the confidence and self-respect this engenders. Lionel showed that it’s possible to gain respect for being unapologetically yourself, even if others dislike or disagree with you personally. Many find Lionel’s awkwardness and unwillingness to submit to convention unsettling, yet for me it’s these very qualities which I most admire. As a childless woman writing on motherhood and the degree to which parents are responsible for their children’s actions in “We need to talk about Kevin”, she faced a barrage of personal and professional criticism. Yet never once did she contemplate changing her book to appease others, instead pursuing agents and publishers who would understand her work.

Similarly, Michelle Obama strongly believes in being authentic, which she explains as follows:

“…as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values, and follow my own moral compass, then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”  

Michelle Obama

In this sense, both Lionel and Michelle imply that there’s a freedom to be gained from being yourself. Whilst I agree with this in principle, I recognise the difficulty of putting this into practice. “Hip Hop Preacher” Eric Thomas explains how exactly to apply this advice, recognising that being authentically yourself requires first knowing who you are and what you believe. Eric says that knowing who we are comes from understanding our values; namely those rules to which we hold ourselves accountable and which subsequently set the direction of our lives. Clarifying my own values and belief systems has been a huge part of my personal development practise this year. It’s not easy to put into words what essentially makes you who you are, but in so doing I’ve found I’m able to act in alignment with what matters most to me. Investing my time and energies into writing this post is a perfect example of how I’m learning to be true to myself and my dreams.

IMG_2985Personally I find the real challenge is in being consistently authentic. I’m fine with being myself until I’m in a situation where I feel uncomfortable or anxious; when it goes against my natural instincts to choose vulnerability. For example, I’m often scared of either saying or doing the “wrong” thing when networking. I easily slip into protection mode, avoiding conversation and instead retreating inside my own head. Not only is this embarrassing but it’s incredibly frustrating when I know that the “real” me is someone who genuinely loves to make connections.

I turned to this week’s role models for guidance on overcoming the fear and being yourself and wasn’t disappointed. I took heart from Emma Watson who implores us to love ourselves not in spite of – but because of – our flaws. This requires being honest with ourselves; acknowledging even those parts we’d rather deny. Emma believes that accepting our inherent human imperfections empowers us to be kind and compassionate towards each other. Easier said than done, it’s a beautiful principle that takes a lot of practise. I suspect I’ll be working on this particular flaw for some time.

I liked Mel Robbins’ practical suggestion that we stop using the “F-bomb” (the word “fine”) to describe how we feel, instead being honest and speaking our truth. She believes this then gives us the choice to act differently and be whoever we want. Since I stopped using “fine, thanks!” in response to any inquiry as to my well-being, the world didn’t fall apart. I did however feel considerably better for not pretending to feel something if it’s not what I actually felt.

However it’s not only what we think and do that affects our willingness to show up. Other people have a huge influence on whether we decide to be fully ourselves. Richa Chadha recommends carefully critiquing advice before acting on it. She says that even those closest to us can “…set invisible limits on how much you can achieve in you life and pass those limitations on to you inadvertently.”

This is something I relate to, having historically taken on my parents’ anxieties as if they were my own. By not following my heart and pursuing my dreams, I’ll never know whether I’ve potentially missed out on life-changing opportunities. Having heard Richa’s eloquent description of the effect others can have on our decisions, I plan to question my perceptions and their origins more closely in future. This week’s female thought leaders in particular inspire me to be myself. Following Michelle’s advice I plan to “stay true to the most real, most authentic and most sincere parts of [my]self.”

Fundamental Finding #2: Be brave

Success requires we act bravely; willing to face fear and take action to move in the direction of our dreams. I noticed there are three main ways in which my #RMCSquad4 advise we act courageously.

Brave act #1: Daring to face our fears

Role models Emma and Michelle challenge us to do what scares us in order to grow. Despite their different professional and personal backgrounds, they both agree that having the courage to face one’s fears can positively impact the world. Both of these extremely accomplished women exemplify this behaviour.  In her early twenties, Emma made an impassioned speech about gender equality before the leaders of the United Nations. Conversely, whilst used to the political spotlight, Michelle had to face a barrage of criticism and personal comments directed at her family when they moved into the White House. In particular, I admire that both their replies have taken on a calm, dignified manner in response to fear.

There’s a contradiction in facing our fears, in that it requires learning to trust ourselves, and yet also requires us to take action despite our feelings. It’s not easy to have the courage to bet on ourselves; to follow our hearts and trust our gut instincts in the wya Mel describes. At the same time she says pursuing our dreams can sometimes only be achieved by “…by forcing ourselves to take small steps in the direction we want to.”

Our challenge is to combine our need to push beyond our perceived limits and have faith in our own judgments. I believe this is what leads us to achieve more than we believe ourselves capable. Looking to the talented artists and entrepreneurs in my #RMCSquad4, creativity is clearly the reward for facing fear. This makes sense because creativity necessitates bravery in order to push boundaries and explore new ideas. As Lionel puts it “I instinctively want to enter perilous territory. That’s when it gets interesting.”

Brave act #2: Standing up for our beliefs

IMG_2983Richa warns that the courage to stand by your convictions often comes at a cost. She says that “… no matter where you are, you have to pay a price for voicing your concerns.” Being brave by making ourselves vulnerable to others is inherently risky. It’s human nature to judge others and so Richa recommends we “be provokable”, meaning be ready to defend yourself

A more extreme example of this kind of courage, Lionel prioritises her artistic integrity above all else. She stood by her decision to write a novel based on her own family dynamics, despite the pain it caused her relationships. Neither option seems particularly appealing to me, but I can appreciate how being brave enough to stand by your beliefs can mean mean making difficult decisions.

Brave act #3: Stepping out of our comfort zone

Matthew McConoughey demonstrated this kind of bravery by taking time out from the film industry to reinvent his career. It takes courage to turn down lucrative job offers and risk not working again in what’s a notoriously difficult industry to break. Yet this brave strategy worked out in the long-term. By stepping out of his comfort zone, Matthew’s career as a serious, dramatic actor blew up and took him down a totally new path.

For me, writing this blog is stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ve read other people’s blogs forever and longed to start my own, but had no idea where to begin. Having a spark of an idea earlier this year pushed me to face my fears of judgment and start to publish my writing publically. I believe that sharing my story and speaking my truth might help someone else to become better, hence why I’m working on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. After all, it’s only by taking brave action that we move forward.

Fundamental Finding #3: Prioritise self-care

My final finding this week relates to the subject of self-care, which I broadly define as paying attention to our needs and acting in our own best interests. There are physical, emotional, and psychological approaches to self-care which Neil Strauss described as doing “…anything healthy that gets you out of your mind and into your body.”

Like many mentors, I deploy a range of strategies to ensure I’m my happiest, healthiest self. Some of my examples include:

  • Getting enough good-quality sleep.
  • Working out with like-minded people.
  • Reading for fun.
  • Time with the people (and feline friends) that I love.
  • Consistently taking my medicine.
  • Organisation strategies whereby I prioritise and plan projects, both at work and at home.

I notice that most self-care strategies fall into categories of organisation, balance, relaxation and seeking support.

Self-care strategy #1: Organisation

IMG_2912Organisation requires planning and preparation that most mentors acknowledge is key to success. By planning ahead to take care of our present and future needs, we’re literally directing our lives. Being organised is psychologically beneficial, reducing stress, helping us sort any mental clutter, and creating the headspace to better handle whatever life throws at us. It also permits us to prioritise how we use our time.

Self-care strategies often work best when we use the most appropriate organisational tools. This week’s mentors recommend using Post-its, notepads, and techie tools to apply their favourite self-care techniques: Journalling like Richa, list-making like Veronica Belmont, and Post-it planning like Mel all of which make sense to me as a writer. Putting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper (or screen) is a great way for me to slow down and clear my mind.

Planning in time for self-care is essential for me. I take action up-front to give myself the space, time, and energy I need to relax, have fun, and connect with the people I love. For instance, I schedule my workouts for the week in my calendar, generally go to bed at a decent time, and use task lists to help me focus.McConoughey refers to this organisational approach where one plans and executes as much as possible ahead of time as “creating your own weather.”He can “…then blow in the wind – or at least appear that way.”

This gave me a different perspective on those whom I envy for having their sh*t together; for making life look so easy. If hugely successful actors like Matthew are hustling behind the scenes, then it’s pretty safe to assume others are also having to work hard to get what they want. It’s worth remembering that all I’m seeing is them blowing in the wind.

When I think of it this way, I consider being organised the most important act of self-care. Not only does the process of planning and preparation help me feel a greater sense of control, but it allows me to create the balance that’s right for my own life.

Self-care strategy #2: Balance

It seems I’m not alone in seeking balance. Many mentors took this macro-level perspective of self-care, speaking about their individual approach to work-life balance. It was refreshing to hear such extraordinarily accomplished people talk about striving for balance in their own lives. For example, former First Lady Michelle speaks openly of her belief that balance matters more than status:

“I’ve never been the kind of person who has defined myself by a career or a job. I just never have.”

Michelle Obama

In a capitalist, Western society it’s hard not to define ourselves by how we pay the bills. Even when we meet new people, one of the first questions we typically ask is  “so, what do you do?” I relate to Michelle in not seeing myself in such limited terms.

Having a strong, successful female role model like Michelle gives me confidence in creating a balanced life on my terms. For instance, family is always her highest priority but it’s also important that she can pursue her passion for social projects. Whilst this isn’t my idea of balance, I respect her self-awareness in recognising what’s right for her.

Reviewing my own work-life balance, I’m grateful to have clear boundaries between my paid work and my free time. Managing this time is still a work-in-progress. There’s so much I want to do, like pursuing my passion for writing and connecting via social media, spending quality time with my loved ones, and importantly, taking care of myself. This can feel a little overwhelming, but I’m excited and feel inspired to enjoy the balance I’ve built into my own life.

Yet there’s also a misconception that a balanced approach to self-care should come easily. In reality  it takes work and requires our focused attention – much like anything else worth doing in life. As Veronica says:

“My downtime is just as valuable as my uptime, and I have to schedule it in accordingly.”

Veronica Belmont

Taking an organised, holistic approach to managing our time is important in creating balance. This is something Lewis Cantley mentioned this week. Acknowledging that doing what you love requires energy, he thinks it’s important we don’t spend it all on work. I’ve never had much trouble keeping my work and personal life separate. However as more of my free time is taken up by personal projects, the lines between work and leisure are becoming a little less clear.

Self-care strategy #3: Relaxation

Crucial to our physical and mental well-being, relaxation is closely linked with organisation. In fact, planning is what creates the space and time this element of self-care requires. Relaxation-focused self-care generally refers to those activities which promote health, fitness, and general well-being. It’s essentially what most people think of when they think about what self-care comprises.

Examples of relaxation strategies from this week’s mentors include Richa’s recommendation to take regular breaks, or to walk the dog like Veronica as a way to unwind.  Being with animals is something I personally find therapeutic. My recent zoo adventures and my obsession with my cats probably gives this away. Whilst they sometimes drive C and I up the wall, for the most part they’re a huge reason to be happy and relaxed!

An interesting lesson from my #RMCSquad4 is that acting in our own best interests sometimes means not doing something. Neil Strauss describes the mind as like a computer, with overwhelm a sign that our memory is full and we need to shut down, recharge and reboot. Richa explains how she handles this; by going on a life or career detox:

“A life detox is me delegating my responsibilities to an assistant or manager for a while, and seeking help, before I turn off my phone and wander and think and relax. A career detox means I turn my phone off, don’t read about how my films, shows or plays are faring, and be a regular person.”

Whilst most of us don’t have the means to follow her advice exactly (!), we can all adapt Richa’s detoxification strategy to suit our circumstances. For example, if we’re over-reliant on devices, we can switch off and undergo a digital detox. When work takes too much time and energy away from our relationships, we can realign with our values and adjust the balance accordingly. Admittedly, prioritizing my mental wellbeing and knowing when I need to step back and take a break is still a challenge. While I’m getting better at understanding where my head’s at, this week’s RMC has got me thinking about what’s important and my mental health is most definitely up there!

Self-care strategy #4: Supportive community

Finally, my #RMCSquad4 seem to view self-care as building connections and seeking support.  Richa wasn’t the only person to speak of the importance of having someone to turn to for help; Mark Zuckerberg is also unsurprisingly in favour of developing strong social bonds. He believes friendships matters so much that our education systems ought to reflect this, developing social skills alongside academics.

Being naturally shy, I’d have likely benefited from adult support in building my confidence, creating and nurturing connections. As an adult I recognise I’m not so much shy as I am introverted. I’m a confident, eloquent public speaker, but social situations leave me easily exhausted. Recognising when my energy is low allows me to apply the relaxation recommendations I discussed earlier in this post.

Taking this idea further Neil believes “the secret to change and growth is not willpower, but positive community.” He explains how being part of a group has helped him achieve his best-ever physical shape. Returning time and again to classes for the sheer fun of it helped Neil maintain this healthy habit. Getting to know my fitness classmates these past few years, meeting like-minded people with whom I’m comfortable – even in Lycra! – helped me make fitness a regular part of lifestyle. Being around the right people makes a huge impact upon my mindset.

Overall Observations: Week 4

If you’ve been following my RMC week-by-week, then you’ll likely have noticed how much I’ve grown in the short time I’ve spent modelling my mentors. Regardless of their industry or path to success, each and every thought leader has taught me something of value.

Specifically, during this fourth week I’ve become better at noticing nuance in my mentors’ advice. Even when hearing from someone or something I think I already know, I’m learning to identify what’s new to me; those things I’ve perhaps overlooked or not yet tried. Moreover, I’m intentionally seeking out fresh facts, tricks, and tips to apply to my own life.

Reflecting on this challenge, I can confidently say that this month has been one long exciting, eye-opening experiment. I’ve learnt so much that I think my final conclusions deserve their own post (plus I think I’ll likely lose the plot – or you will – if I keep writing!). My plan is to return with a “special edition” post in a few weeks’ time, once I’ve had time to step back, gain a little perspective, and muse on my findings.

Until then, thank you for joining me for my second month-long challenge. I look forward to experimenting with something new in the not-so-distant future!

x

The RMC: Week 3 Post (or why being open to love makes us stronger)

Read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), or if you’ve not yet caught up, you can read my findings from Week 1 and Week 2

So it’s third time lucky with this week’s RMC and I’m delighted to introduce my #RMCsquad3:

In the third week of my RMC I was lucky enough to have a second opportunity to be a “Keeper for the Day” at a local zoo. Having previously had an awesome time caring for the giraffes, I gratefully accepted my Dad’s kind offer to return in the Spring sunshine to work with rhinos. A belated joint Christmas-and-birthday present, my zoo day had finally arrived!

The morning before I was due to meet the rhinos I was really nervous. I needed my partner C and good friend D (via text) to remind me how much happiness my last zoo experience brought me to get me up and ready to go. As much as I adore animals, my social anxiety kicked into gear, determined to prevent me from enjoying my day before it had even begun.

Anxiously waiting at the zoo gates, I made the decision once again to choose love over fear. Reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s “The Universe Has your Back” reinforced that how I react in any given moment is a choice; I have control over my emotional state. Taking her guidance to heart when faced with fear, I silently repeated her mantra myself: “I choose to learn through love.” In so doing, this brought me back to a place of quiet confidence from which I was able to relax and be myself.

Realigning with gratitude in this way helped me make the best of a unique experience. Getting up-close with some of the world’s most endangered animals was truly humbling. Feeding the Bongo in particular was a stark reminder of just how privileged I am to meet these creatures before humanity potentially destroys them. I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like scratching a rhino behind the ear to make you feel lucky to be alive!

I learnt that it’s hard to feel afraid when in awe of nature. Even when confronted with inappropriate, sexist comment I still consciouslychose love and had a brilliant time. This newfound self-assurance continued to influence other areas of my life. Upon my return home I felt empowered to speak out against the casual misogyny I’d witnessed. I feel strongly about young women not having to handle this kind of negativity, particularly at work. I believe the Universe had my back when I needed it this week, which gave me the inner strength to have other women’s’ backs in turn.

Proud of myself for my progress in becoming better, I’m excited to share my findings from this week’s RMC with you.

Fundamental Findings #1:  Build emotional fitnessimg_0045-1

Many mentors this week recommended cultivating emotional fitness as crucial to achieving success. Jocko Willink suggests we seek to “be emotionally strong”. He believes this to be more important than physical strength, which given his physically demanding former career as a U.S. Navy Seal, is really saying something! Jocko says that if we have the psychological strength to handle life’s challenges, we can build physical strength. This strikes a cord with me of late.

I truly believe that my body’s physical condition matters far less than my mental health. When I’m in a good mental state, then not only am I far more likely to take care of my body, but I can handle pretty much anything life throws at me.With emotions directing my behaviour towards my body, this implies that it’s emotional fitness which trumps all in my quest for holistic wellness.

Taking a slightly different perspective, Mike Maples Jr recommends you “be kind to yourself in your own mind.” Through the practise of self-care, this version of emotional fitness emphasises our individual capacity to build strength and resilience. To me, being “emotionally resilient” means using kindness, compassion, and self-respect to strengthen our ability to handle whatever difficulties life throws at us. In so doing we avoid the common trap of treating ourselves unkindly or cruelly in the misguided believe that bullying ourselves will drive change. This simply doesn’t works and will never achieve success.

I’ve been working on building this kind of emotional resilience for at least fifteen years now. Not something I learnt growing up, adversity has forced my hand to teach myself. I’m actually grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and grow. I now coach myself to be emotionally happier, healthier, and wealthier. In working on becoming better, I hope one day I can help others do this for themselves, too.

I heed Tony Robbins’ advice to take advantage of good times; using occasions when I feel emotionally fit to pursue my dreams. When I have this extra energy I up my mental training so that during those times where I don’t have this strength, I’m able to draw on skills I’ve already practise. Just this week I had cause to use self-care techniques and tricks to help myself recover from a “mental wobble”. Prioritising rest and sleep, seeking support from people who love me, and and alleviating the pressure having to “do” anything all contributed to a quick recovery.

For me, this is really what life is all about: As human beings we’re always on a path to becoming better. Our emotional strength lies at the heart of our ability to realise our life’s goals and dreams. Sometimes we’ve just got to put ourselves first to renew that strength.

Fundamental Findings #2: Find your purpose

img_0046Another theme in the advice from my #RMCSquad3 thought leaders this week is to “find your purpose”, which chronologically precedes #RMCSquad1’s guidance to “follow your passion”. Taking his typically military perspective, Jocko describes this as “finding your mission”; essentially accepting responsibility for the outcomes of your actions.

I define “finding my purpose” to mean discovering for myself who I really am and what positive change I wish to bring into the world. I’m pretty confident that Tony Robbins would agree with me, believing that “the purpose of a goal is WHO you become.” This reminds me to keep in mind what’s truly important when setting gaols and pursuing my ambitions.

So how do you even start to think about finding your purpose? This week’s mentors had plenty of advice to share on this, too. For example, author Soman Chainani suggests we consider our favourite childhood books and look to uncover the reasons why we loved to read them over and over again. He thinks that “somewhere in that book is the clue to not only what makes you tick, but also your life’s purpose. ”

My personal favourites are classic novels including “Jane Eyre”, “Little Women”, and “A Little Princess”. These books all feature female leads and share personal traits I admire: emotional strength, creativity, independence and bravery. Each leading character was eventually successful in their own right, entirely on their own terms. As an adult this is exactly the kind of woman I want to be: successful in my creative endeavours, and confident that I have the physical, mental, and emotional strength to handle whatever life throws at me.

Tony Robbins recommends we spend time finding our “why” by asking ourselves why something is a “must” to pursue. He believes that acquiring this deeper level of self-knowledge helps to sustain momentum in pursuing our dreams. As it happened, on the day I tested Tony’s theory my mood was really low. Coming out of nowhere, this depressive feeling knocked me off my feet. It took me a moment to stand up, dust myself off, and carry on, but having my “why” to focus on did make this a little easier. I refocused on my work, mentally eased up on myself, and actually achieved more than I’d have done on difficult days like this in the past.

When thinking about our life’s purpose, most of us automatically connect this to our career aspirations. I’m no exception in presuming that personal meaning ought to come from my paid work. When this isn’t necessarily the case I’ve felt frustrated, but Soman Chainani recommends separating those actions which earn money from those we do to fulfill our creativity.  Having a business (tutoring college students) that generates an independent income stream reduced his reliance on writing to earn a living, whilst also removing any potential pressure on his creativity. Instead of writing to live, he lives to write, which he values highly enough to keep his business going long after his writing career took off.

Inspired by finding my purpose, I’ve spent more time working on my writing and received some fantastic feedback on my blog. It made my day! Through writing I’m free to share my life’s lessons in the hopes of helping others. It’s where I find my flow, feel fulfilled, and re-energised. I’m grateful to have found that thing which makes my heart beat faster.

Fundamental Findings #3: Dare to be open-minded and open-hearted

img_0047-1Whilst many mentors talked about strength and purpose, just as many spoke about matters of the heart. Having an open heart and mind towards yourself and others is highly valued as a route to success. Possessing these qualities is thought to inspire greater creativity, a willingness to embrace new opportunities, and the potential to build positive relationships.

Being someone who approaches life with an open mind and heart sounds great, but that’s not to say it’s easy. Researcher Brene Brown’s work focuses on the “wholehearted”, whom she defines as people with a strong sense of self-worth; those who truly believe they deserve love and belonging. She focuses on understanding how they differ from people who struggle with shame.

Indeedopenness requires a degree of vulnerability and risk that makes most people uncomfortable. Instead of metaphorically “putting on armour” to protect ourselves from the world, we must instead make ourselves vulnerable to emotional pain. Ironically, it’s only by taking risks like this that we can hope to experience closeness and connection with others.

Brene sums up this dilemma in this quote:

“Our capacity for wholeheartness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted”. Brene Brown

Obviously Brene isn’t suggesting we tell just anyone our deepest secrets. When deciding to open our hearts up to others it makes sense to choose to take a calculated risk. This means making ourselves vulnerable to those whom we already love and trust; those that love and trust us too, and whom we believe deserve our faith. This lesson hit home with me this week when I realised that the actions I take to protect myself from hurt are the same things that sometimes limit my experience of love and connection.

Relating closely to the work of “spirit junkie” Gabrielle Bernstein, Brene’s research backs up the idea of making a conscious decision to choose love over fear. She emphasises that this is something we can work on – that we’re not stuck in a fixed mindset and can seek to become more open in our heart, mind, and soul. I’m confident in pursuing Brene’s approach because of her background in academia. She takes a scientifically-sound approach to her research, which I find reassuring.

However in spite of my skepticism I must admit to having what some might call a “spiritual moment”. Watching Brene’s video, it dawned on me that to feel loved and belong I have to allow myself to show my vulnerability. I must make a repeated choice to live in love and not fear, by which I mean those negative emotions including anxiety and depression which so easily overwhelm me.

This realisation hit me on Sunday morning and quite literally left me shaking. It could be a coincidence, but I chose to interpret this as a positive sign from the Universe that I’m on the right path for me. It started me thinking about whether I’d benefit from reading one of Brene’s books to study this subject in depth. Turning to find my Kindle in the middle of the bed (I’d not read it in weeks), I followed my intuition and bought the book immediately. Turns out that it’s exactly what I needed to read.

I like to think this week’s RMC has encouraged me to be open to whatever opportunities come my way. Yet in writing my words read like much of the “woo-woo spiritual sh*t” to which I’m normally averse. I’m a bit embarrassed to own them, if I’m being totally honest. Still I have to admit it feels good to trust that I’m coming into alignment with what I need right now. It shows in my choice of mentors, going with whomever I’m intuitively drawn to; whomever I believe has the capacity to help me become better.

I was pleased to learn the incredible Dita Von Teese backs me up in being open-minded to achieve my ambitions. Dita takes this advice one step further in her conviction that “…those of us who have intense desire but lack natural God-given talent sometimes find roundabout ways of realising dreams”. Essentially, she says if you want something badly enough, you’ll achieve this by whatever means necessary.

This perspective assumes knowing what we want and where to go. In line with the principles of the “Law of Attraction”, being clear in what you desire creates the possibility of finding a way to get there. Actor Jim Carrey supports this idea, citing his own life as evidence that miracles do come true if you believe in them strongly enough. Moved by his passion but not entirely convinced of its scientific accuracy, I think it’s more likely that our beliefs shape our behaviours, which in turn direct our lives. Hence positive thoughts lead to positive actions and yield positive results.

Overall Observations: Week 3

My #RMCsquad3 worked out well in delivering the guidance I needed this week. At difficult times I turned to thought leaders I already trust and admire; the Tony Robbins’, Gabby Bernstein’s, and Oprah Winfrey’s of the world. At the same time, it was exciting to be inspired by new (to me) successful people. Some mentors in this week’s line up were people I’d never heard of before, like Mike Maples Jr and Jesse Williams, whereas others had careers I’d heard of, but as people, I knew very little about them before taking on this RMC.

To date, my RMC has helped build my self-confidence. Reaffirming I’m on the path to my true purpose, this experiment has encouraged me to seek out even more role models than those I’ve studied in this challenge. Specifically I’ve been listening to Evan Carmichael’s audio book and found my one word: become. I’ll talk more about this in future posts, but it’s yet another exciting consequence of this challenge.

Even more importantly, following my passions with conviction helped lift me out of depression this week. It’s given me a way to positively channel my energy into developing my emotional strength. as opposed to reassuring my fears by controlling my body. Instead I’m taking a chance on opening my heart and mind to whatever opportunities come my way.

In following Jada Pinkett-Smith’s lead to “go with the flow” I’m genuinely becoming happier. As I head into the last week of my RMC I’m excited to see what more I can learn. With an inspiring list of thought leaders I’ve yet to turn to for guidance {including several female role models), I’m looking forward to the final week of this month’s experiment. Much like in this elegant and articulate quote from Jada, I hope to continue in m\\y pursuit of positivity, where “what I look for is the power… and the beauty in all things.”

The RMC Week 2 Post (or why I’m making happiness my #1 priority)

Read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), or if you’ve not yet caught up with my Week 1 findings, you can read the post here

Okay, so it’s week two of my RMC and I’m proud to introduce yet another awesome line-up of extraordinary people! My #RMCsquad2 looks like this:

It’s a pretty eclectic collection, and you might be wondering how I’m choosing my role models each day. As I come to the end of week two, it feels like I’ve found a natural sense of balance in this process. This results from a combination of luck, mindful intention and intuition.

The mainstay of my RMC is in reading a chapter from “Tribe of Mentors” (which I’ll refer to for brevity from here on as ToM). My first teacher for any given day is simply whomever’s chapter is next up in this book. The “surprise” element of my experiment, ToM connects me to inspiring people from a cross-section of society and culture that I might never otherwise have encountered.

Conversely, I intentionally select a contrasting daily mentor from Evan Carmichael’s YouTube channel. I generally choose someone whose background, career or world-view differs from whomever I’ve drawn from ToM. Sometimes it’s simply a case of following my heart and trusting my intuition, which explains the mash-up of some of the world’s finest business minds, scientists, entertainers and leaders that make up my #RMCsquad2.

Fundamental Finding #1: Prioritise happiness

Underpinning this week’s advice is the theme of happiness. Tony Robbins believes that “happiness is a choice” and it’s the responsibility of each of us to “decide to be happy”. Many mentors support this focus on in valuing happiness, from celebrities like Victoria Beckham and “The Rock”, to spiritual teachers like Gabrielle Bernstein. This got me considering what makes me happy, and whether I make “joy and happiness my top priority in life”, as Gabby advises us to do.

I’ve learnt that happiness is a more complex concept than that for which I’d previously given it credit. Rather than a permanent state of being, Tony sees it as a particular state of mind we can choose to step into at any moment. Alternatively Naval Ravikant sees happiness as  “..a skill you develop”, suggesting that not only can it be learnt, but there’s also room to increase our current levels of bliss. Khloe Kardashian emphasised how happiness is something we create for ourselves, rather than relying on others to do it for us.

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Happiness necessitates action. It’s a practise, and each day I choose to act in small ways that bring me greater joy. Consciously taking time for activities I love contributes to my overall feeling of well-being. Spending more time reading, playing with my cats, and learning to garden from my partner C generally makes life better. I’m also writing more because it’s what truly I love to do. I’m learning to make my passions a priority because they bring me genuine happiness.

Depression previously conditioned me to think that happiness was out of my reach. I believed my thoughts were somehow “pre-programmed” to have an underlying negative “tone”; that was simply the way I was. This week’s RMC has reaffirmed for me that this is not the case. Happiness is a decision we make and commit to on a daily basis. As a result of this week’s RMC I feel empowered to choose to live in a beautiful state of happiness more often.

Fundamental Finding #2: Put yourself first

We’ve all heard the advice to put yourself first many times. “Help yourself before you help others” is commonly cited in all kinds of situations, from emergency evacuation procedures on-board aeroplanes to preachers of all denominations giving sermons in churches, mosques and temples all over the world. I came across this exact phrase again just this week from Ayaan Hirsi Ali in ToM.

Depending on whom you choose to listen to, “put yourself first” can be interpreted in myriad different ways. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson defines it as being a “trailblazer” ; someone who steps out and leads the way, up-front and centre. Going first involves a significant amount of courage and self-assurance. In this respect, putting yourself first also involves a degree of risk and vulnerability which isn’t always easy to overcome. I know in my life this has held me back from fulfilling my potential on more than one occasion.

Tim Urban describes putting oneself first as choosing to “be a chef, not a cook”. By this he means us to direct our work and live life like a chef, heading up their kitchen and leading their team in experimenting with creative new ideas. Acting “like a cook” means working to realise someone else’s vision. It’s a perfectly fine career path, but it seems to me that being a chef in my own life is a wiser path to a more successful, fulfilling existence. Linked to last week’s musings about the difference between intelligence and wisdom, Tim reaffirmed my desire to become a wiser woman in my life.

Putting yourself first also requires standing up for yourself. Khloe Kardashian calls us to “ignore the naysayers” in our lives – and she should know! On the receiving end of brutal, frequent public scrutiny, Khloe is a true role model, proving it’s possible to handle extreme negativity whilst maintaining one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. If Khloe can handle the amount of sh*t thrown her way, then I’m sure I can cope with an odd off-hand comment thrown my way.

Another way of looking at the concept of putting yourself first is to put other people’s needs and desires after our own. Graham Duncan advises taking other people’s perspectives lightly. There’s no “right” point of view on anything, so why is it that so many of us prioritise others’ views above our own? Practising putting myself first this week, I’ve risked ridicule from not only C, who has a significant aversion to anything he deems “woo-woo”, but also myself for engaging in “magical thinking”. Drawing an inspirational card each day from my pack of Gabrielle Bernstein’s “The Universe Has Your Back” cards, this ritual reminds me to choose to think positively , which makes me happy.

Thinking deeply about what the idea of “putting myself first” really means, I realise that it can mean whatever I want it to mean. As such I’ve created my own definition of what this means to me:

Putting myself first means prioritising myself, in terms of my health, wellness and happiness, and also rating my own opinions of myself and what I do above those of others.

Thinking about it this way, putting myself first is a way of empowering myself to become happier, healthier, and generally better in any area of my life. At work I often play the role of “cook”, taking action to realise other people’s visions. In contrast, when I’m reading, writing or researching my own passions there are no limits to my creative thinking. I feel truly free. This week taught me that it’s okay to practise prioritising myself and my interests. By making time and space to write, for example, I’m more fulfilled and am a much nicer person to others as a result.

Fundamental Finding #3: Successful people are often readers and writers

Citing reading as a key passion in their lives, this week’s role models assured me that it’s actually pretty cool to be a reader. Naval insists we “read for love”; a phrase that stuck in my mind because it reflects exactly how I feel about reading. Coming back to books as an adult, I still feel a bit embarrassed to admit I’m happiest curled up with a book and a brew. I’d honestly rather read than go on a night out these days. With several successful mentors sharing my love of reading, I feel more confident accepting myself for who I am and what I enjoy.

Already a vociferous reader, I was encouraged this week to read even more. Matt Ridley suggests that I can increase the number of books I read by listening to audio books. Having recently re-subscribed to Audible, I’ve enjoyed listening to authors read their own books in their authentic voice. To me, it’s not like reading a book but is an entirely different experience. Whilst I generally prefer reading paper copies, I’ve actually found some books that I think work better as audio, like Robert Webb’s autobiography, for example.

This week’s thoughts leaders had plenty to say about writing, too. Up until I started this blog, I’ve been guarded about letting others know how important writing is to me. I hadn’t really shared my work with anyone before as I felt scared of being judged. However by publishing my writing on a regular basis and putting my work “out there” into the Universe, I’ve gradually gained confidence in my skills.

Specifically, I’ve begun to find my own authentic voice as a writer. I’ve taken the advice of mentors like Tim Urban, who suggests I “write for myself”, and Matt Ridley, who recommends specialising in writing about whatever most fascinates you. They agree that tailoring your creativity to appeal to the masses is unlikely to make you happy. Putting across my passion in my writing, it then requires that I trust those readers whose interests align with my own will eventually find – and love – my work.

Thus far, I’m grateful to have received some amazingly positive feedback from friends, family and even strangers on my blog. These kind words of encouragement and support drive me to positive action, where I’ve then found myself intentionally dedicating more time and effort to my writing. Of course, there are no guarantees my writing will connect with an audience in the way I hope. I know I’ll make plenty of mistakes in pursuing my writing. Yet I’m glad to have learnt to act on my passion for writing simply because doing so makes me happy.

Prioritising creativity isn’t easy when there’s so much else in life vying for our attention. However this week’s RMC encouraged me to take practical steps to make time for what matters to me. When I’m writing I lose all sense of time and I’m utterly in the moment. I know I’ve hit on something good because when I write is one of the rare occasions I even lose interest in food! Tuning out the radio, I put on my “mental blinkers” and focus on the words on my screen. I get in the “effortless flow of where I am”, as Graham Duncan puts it. Artists like Demi Lovato, Victoria Beckham, and Matt Ridley also commit to their work with this kind of intense concentration. Spending more time and energy thinking about writing has brought home to me quite how important it is to me.

Overall Observations: Week 2

Getting into a habit of selecting role models, I’m becoming better at identifying  those teachers and though leaders with whom I’m likely to instinctively connect. In the past two weeks, I’ve found that a positive connection is essential for me to really understand the lessons they have to share. For example, discovering Naval Ravikant in ToM and reading his eloquent, considerate responses to questions posed by the author, along with his love of writing and reading (of course!), made me like him immediately. Inversely, it’s nearly impossible to be unaware of the Kardashians. As a recovering reality TV junkie, Khloe was already my favourite of all the Kardashian “klan”, and so I was drawn to her success rules video. Subsequently I’ve a whole new level of respect for her. I aspire to attain even a modicum of her body confidence and unwavering self-belief!

Yet despite having access to a million motivating mentors at via the magic of the Internet, there have still been days where I’ve sought out guidance from familiar thought leaders. It feels comfortable and safe to engage with the teachings of people like Tony Robbins and Gabrielle Bernstein. I already have respect for them and their work, and I’m likely to return to them for inspiration time and again.

In virtually “meeting” such a broad range of successful people, I’m becoming better at being both intellectually open-minded and emotionally open-hearted. My mindset seems to be moving towards what’s called a “growth orientation”, whereby I’m willing to welcome wisdom from any and all spheres of influence. A good example of this is my gravitating towards Gabby Bernstein, whose spiritual teachings run contrary to my not having any religious leanings whatsoever. In this growth mindset I’m less likely to pre-judge and instead approach life asking myself: “what can I learn from this?”

Moreover, I realised the importance of maintaining a positive mindset if I want to learn as much as possible from my RMC.  One way I’ve achieved this is by continuing the priming process I taught myself to do whilst walking to work. It sets me up for a great start to the day by literally driving me forward to take action. Creating positive momentum, my RMC is thus far helping me grow in brilliant, yet unexpected ways.img_0743

 

 

 

 

Next up: Week 3 #squadgoals

Now half-way through this month’s experiment, I feel confident selecting mentors whose advice challenges me to become better. As I said at the start of this post (if you can remember that far back!), I’m following the order laid out in Tim Ferriss’ ToM book, accepting whomever he proposes as my first teacher of the day, then carefully curating a contrasting hero for my second.

In the coming week I plan to spend time learning from the legendary Steve Jobs. He’s quoted time and again by successful business people as having influenced their careers and lives. Being the self-help junkie that I am, I’ve heard clips of his most famous speeches, and seen many a quote of his when reading other people’s blogs. Yet I’ve not intentionally sought out his wisdom for myself before and think the RMC is a great opportunity to do this.

I also aim to continue seeking out strong female role models this week. In general there seem to be more inspiration videos of men online, so to address the balance I’ve chosen some women with whom I’m not especially familiar. Having learnt something from everyone thus far, I’m more open-minded to mentors whom perhaps I would have previously overlooked. This includes those whom I may have previously gossiped about, which is sh*tty behaviour on my part, I know, but I’m human and I’m learning to accept that I sometimes make these kinds of dumb mistakes.

By reserving my judgement and opening my heart to receiving wisdom from whomever I come across this next week, I hope to “meet” more brilliant role models in the second half of this challenge.

The RMC Week 1 Post (or how I’ve set about building my #squad)

If you’ve not yet read my introductory post to my Role Model Challenge (RMC), you can find out more about the thinking behind this month’s challenge here.

So how did week one go, I hear you cry?!

Before I spill the beans, let me introduce my role models for week one #RMSquad1. The line-up is as follows:

 

First off, I’d like to say that I’ve loved putting this challenge into action and testing out the role model theory. Combining my passion for learning, reading and writing with an element of experimentation, this challenge is totally “up my street”,  as we like to say up North. Having recently finished reading Gretchen Rubin‘s “The Happiness Project“, it fits with my desire to bring more happiness into my life. Much like Gretchen’s commitment to “be Gretchen” and live authentically, I’m excited to “be Heather” by creating this RMC experiment.

With such an awesome #RMSquad, it’s really difficult to choose which pearls of wisdom to feature in this post. In my desire to share the best of my weekly lessons with you, I’ve organised them into “Fundamental Findings”; the advice that’s moved me, got me thinking differently, and ultimately has, or will have, a significant impact on my life. My theory is that if it’s sparked something in me, then I hope it might do the same for you.

Towards the end of this post, you’ll also find some of my “Overall Observations”. In addition to bestowing the wisdom of this week’s thought leaders, I’ll comment on how the experiment itself is going, sharing what’s been most or least challenging thus far. I’ll then conclude this mega-post with a few notes about how I plan to approach the second week of the RMC, in light of what I’ve learnt this week.

So here goes…

Fundamental Finding #1: Follow your passion

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The most impactful advice from this week was to “follow your passion”; the idea being that most people do their best work when they truly love what they do. If you adore your work, then it doesn’t feel like hard work. Instead, it feels natural to invest time, energy and passion in something which holds true meaning for you.

Though worded differently, the majority of mentors placed this as one of their most highly valued tips for success. Being implored by such incredible thought leaders to “invest in your heart” (Steven Pressfield), “follow your bliss” (Kyle Maynard) and “love what you do” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), I felt inspired to pursue my own passions.

After some intensive naval-gazing over the past year, I can articulate this as follows:

A devoted student of health and wellness, self-help, personal development and  growth, my mission in life is to share these lessons with other people, through my writing and speaking. I aim to help as many people as I can to become happier, healthier and emotionally wealthier. I’m passionately committed to making mental wellness as much of a priority as physical wellness in our society, and to broadening the definition of “health, fitness and wellbeing” to include mental and emotional health as standard. 

Sounds impressive, right?!

It sounds so simple to “do what you love” (Karlie Kloss), but it’s actually the most challenging practice I came across this week. It’s surprisingly difficult to “make your life fit your passions”, as Susan Cain suggested. Working full-time to pay the bills means my attention is necessarily divided between what I want to do, and the myriad demands life places on our time and energy.

This dilemma clarified a key question for me, to which I’m yet to find an answer:

How can I balance doing what I love, with my desire to meet the needs and expectations of the people I love?

Seeking answers, I intentionally sought guidance from successful female writers, Susan Cain and JK Rowling. It was reassuring to discover that it took them time to transition to doing what they love, and writing full-time. I was also pleasantly surprised to hear that their road to success was not the “all or nothing” kind of approach I’d expected of such extraordinary achievers.

For example, Susan recommends that you ensure you can make enough money elsewhere, so that the time you spend on creative projects “… can be all about focus, flow, and occasional glimpses of joy.” The implication here being that monetising one’s passion can lead to it diminishing if you’re not careful.

Whilst it would be amazing to make writing and speakin my full-time career, I’m fortunate that my current work supports me in pursuing my passions in my free time. This empowers me to pursue my love of learning and writing for its own sake, without financial pressure. This gives me the creative freedom to experiment without external expectations censoring my output. At least for now, I can enjoy following my passion primarily for myself.

Fundamental Finding #2: Make time for what mattersWhiteFlowers

As if preempting my concerns about practising the first finding, this week’s role models also direct me to make time for what matters most. As someone who’s organised and conscientious (as confirmed by the skills audit Gary V suggested I take this week), I like to think I’m someone who manages her time pretty well.

And yet, like just about everyone I know, I feel time poor. With only twenty-four hours in a day, I feel torn between using my spare hours of an evening to read, research and write, whilst still fulfilling my commitments as a partner, friend and family member. Sometimes, it feels like we’re all too busy to even think about being busy!

In this world, where busyness is worn like a badge of honour, it was refreshing to hear from some of the most accomplished people on the planet confirming my suspicions that our citing busyness is really more of an excuse not to act.

I can definitely see how this plays out in my own life. I’ve only very recently allowed myself to think about the future. Giving myself permission to have dreams – let alone pursue them – has scared me because there’s a real chance of failure. A recovering perfectionist and chronically risk averse, it’s felt safer to simply not try; to live a small life rather than strive to be more.  Overcoming these mental barriers to success will likely take me more than a week, but simply acknowledging their existence  feels like a step in the right direction.

Still, no one ever said that it would be easy to make time to pursue one’s dreams. Conversely, It takes a lot of mental and physical effort get sh*t done. Schwarzenegger is a great example of someone who’s “walked the walk” on this. He talks about how in his early career he maximised every hour in the day, explaining how hard he worked to make the most of every opportunity to develop and grow. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be.

But how?

As Debbie Millman says, “busy is a decision“. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day and it’s up to each of us to invest our time wisely. Learning from this week’s thought leaders, it’s clear that I need to make my passion for writing a priority by establishing some kind of consistent practise. Rather than simply thinking about acting, I must actually get out there and make things happen.

This process won’t be easy. Kyle Maynard recognizes that following your bliss will require courage, resilience, bravery, and risk-taking. But it’s worth it, if it’s something you really love. Writing truly is my passion project, and making the time to write every day, however little, is important to me. Initially, I plan to establish a routine in which writing is a regular habit. I’m good at creating habits, so this makes sense as a starting point. This week has reaffirmed that it matters to make what I love a priority.

Fundamental Finding #3: The most interesting and least expected advice

PinkFlowersPerhaps the least expected, yet most interesting, guidance I received this week was from Terry Crews, someone whom it’s unlikely I’d have come across without the RMC. Terry got me thinking about there being a difference between intelligence and wisdom.

 

 

 

He defines this as follows:

“Intelligence is like following a GPS route right into a body of water until you drown. Wisdom looks at the route but, when it takes a turn into the ocean, decides not to follow it, then finds a new, better way. Wisdom reigns supreme.” Terry Crews (Tribe of Mentors)

Appreciating the subtle, but critical, difference between these two important qualities allowed me to recognise occasions in my own life where I’ve acted with intelligence, but have not necessarily made wise decisions. My relationship with food is a prime example.

Acting with intelligence as regards the science of weight management, I’ve successfully achieved my weight loss goals. However this has involved investment of significant time and energy into meal planning and scheduling fitness. This seems acceptable, until I consider how much time and energy this has taken from my most important relationships.  Specifically, the many social occasions I’ve avoided where I’ve also missed opportunities to connect with family and friends, and the mental focus that I’ve given to worrying about my weight, rather than being in the moment with my (long-suffering) partner, C. Whilst acting intelligently from the perspective of my physical health, I’ve neglected not only my mental health but also potentially contributed negatively to the mental health of the people I love. Not wise.

Armed with this new knowledge of the fundamental difference between intelligence and wisdom, I’ve reconsidered my allegiance to intelligence

Holding up my intellectual intelligence as a key strength isn’t wrong, as such (I’m a bright button, if I say so myself). Terry’s simply made me think about how I value this in comparison with other kinds of intelligence, such as emotional or spiritual (intuitive) intelligence, and with the wisdom of making the best choice in any given situation. Whilst justifiably proud of achieving a healthy weight, I question my intelligence leading me to prioritising this over the quality of my relationships. How I look and feel in my skin matters to me, but it feels unwise to prioritise skinniness over the experience of giving and receiving love. Life’s too short and time too precious. This lesson taught me the importance of developing the wisdom to make better choices in the moment for the long-term happiness of myself and those I love.

Overall Observations: Week One 

Generally, I found that the easiest advice to follow tended to be the most prescriptiveHaving a few of these “easy wins” helped me build momentum for the RMC this week.  Some thought leaders provided clear instructions quite literally giving me practical steps to follow. This eliminated the need to “translate” the guidance I received into actionable steps, which is what I found myself frequently having to do. Finding the gems of wisdom in their stories, and then interpreting ways in which I might live by this guidance takes time. Hence it was helpful to have mentors who sometimes simply told me what to do. Examples of quick and easy-to-follow advice this week include writing goals into my journal (Samin Nosrat) and doing a personal strengths audit (Gary V).

Other strategies that were simple to apply included those I’d already built into my day prior to this challenge. For example, Karlie Kloss described her morning routine, talking about the importance of starting her day right. I’m already on the same page here, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my blog. I got this one down during my Walking to Work Challenge a month or so ago. This also boosted my confidence in what I do. After all, if it’s good enough for Karlie, then I’m pretty sure it’s good enough for me!

If there’s any downside to the RMC, it’s that it’s been more time-consuming than expected. Outside of reading and listening to the day’s heroes, which of course takes a little time away from other things, I think what’s draining my time is my propensity to take copious notes. As you’ve probably gathered, I love to write and note-taking is actually something I love to do, even when reading non-fiction for fun.

Gretchen Rubin writes about having this very same note-taking obsession in her book, “The Happiness Project”, which I’ve recently finished. Taking comfort from our shared passion for penmanship, I decided to embrace it and put it to use in my RMC. Taking notes isn’t only the best way I absorb knowledge, but for me, it’s also a source of fun. While it takes time and energy in the short-term, I think it’s worth doing, both to maximise what I learn from spending time with influential, inspirational people and also simply to make me happy.

Next up: Week 2 #squadgoals

Looking ahead, I plan to make a few changes to my #squad line up for my second attempt at implementing the RMC. Noticing that I learnt new things about myself this week by intentionally selecting a wide range of people to model, I will look to continue broadening my sphere of influence in the coming days.

Specifically, my aim is to seek out a wider variety of female thought leaders. I want to focus my attention on learning from more women in general.  Aware of my inclination to hand over the decision-making power to the men in my life, I’d like to expand my perspectives of women’s capabilities, and hence my personal power. Women on my “hot list” for future RMC weeks include: Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Gabrielle Bernstein, Mel Robbins, and Lionel Schriver, to name a few.

This week, I randomly chose some videos without too much thought about who they featured. Some role models, I expected to adore. I felt Susan Cain and JK Rowling to be kindred spirits, both introverted women who love writing and prefer taking a measured approach to risk-taking, like me. What I didn’t expect, but was delighted to discover, was finding some of the most impactful advice coming from models Karlie Kloss and Ashley Graham. Indeed, Karlie was really the only person to focus on caring for one’s physical body alongside one’s mental health, which is a crucial part of overall well-being.

Of course, I’d also like to spend time with some of my favourite mentors, like Tony Robbins, Gretchen Rubin and Geneen Roth. These teachers whose work I already admire, and who have proven ability to move me to action are always worth my time. These are people whom I have deep respect and love for, and will likely always turn to for advice and guidance when times are tough.

Surprisingly, my curiosity was sparked by hearing from mentors whose careers, experiences and lives differ so widely from my own. I was intrigued by Elon Musk, for example, and his passion for changing the world on such a dramatic scale using cutting-edge science and technology.  After listening to a range of role models this week, I’d like to spend some time learning from people like Steve Jobs and Steven Hawkins, whose interests are so far from mine, and yet have so much to teach me.

Finally, I’d like to learn more about the personal perspectives of people in the public eye. These “celebrities” whom we think we know through their work, may be completely different people in real-life. I found this to be the case with Reese Witherspoon this week, and look forward to getting to know people like actors Jim Carrey, Matthew McConaughey in the coming weeks.

With so much potential to learn and grow, I’m excited to pursue this challenge. Wish me luck in the next three weeks!

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, you’re worthy of a place on my list of heroes!

The Role Models Challenge (RMC) Post (or how I’m experimenting with virtual inspiration)

So I’ve developed a habit of watching inspirational YouTube videos before going to work in the morning. Or, more accurately, I listen to them. I’m usually busy trying to get myself ready whilst simultaneously trying not to trip over two hungry, excitable cats weaving around my ankles.

Magnolia

Spring is the perfect time for a new challenge!

One thing I really love about this is how I start out listening to one of my favourite speakers – say, Tony Robbins or Gala Darling – and end up, like Alice in Wonderland, following my curiosity down the rabbit hole and discovering new teachers. Had I not ventured into video, I might never have found awesome motivational speakers like Abraham-Hicks, the Hip Hop Preacher , Eric Thomas, Gary Vaynercheuk and even celebs like Jim Carrey, talking about his moving perspective on life and living.

Sometime this past fortnight, my Internet wanderings had me crossing virtual paths with a guy called Evan Carmichael. Evan is an entrepreneur who runs the biggest YouTube channel that helps entrepreneurs develop themselves, and subsequently their businesses.

EvanCarmichael

Thanks to Evan Carmichael for allowing me to use this picture!

“Success leaves clues. Study the people you admire and want to learn from.” Evan Carmichael.

His strategy for success is to find role models, and learn as much as possible from them. Evan (and his team) dedicates hours to condensing hours of footage into carefully curated, easy-to-consume videos featuring the world’s most inspirational people sharing their top life and business advice.

Through Tony Robbins’ work, I’d already come across the idea of “modelling; a concept based in the NLP  (neuro-linguistic programming) approach to self-development. By seeking out mentors or role models, and learning from others’ mistakes and successes, the idea is that it’s possible to fast-track your own personal growth.

“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” – Tony Robbins

I also identified that I had people in my life whom I already looked up to and

Rose

“A rose, by any other name…” or so it goes…

admired:

  • My sisters, C  (all-round super-woman and my heroine) and A (the most driven, organized and lovable person I know);
  • My friends, E (my go-to for rational, intelligent perspectives on just about anything, and an unsung NHS heroine), and D (one of the smartest, strongest women I know),
  • and my manager, K (whose unrelenting, positive support I’ve talked about before on my blog).

However given that I’ve worked in the same job for seven years now, sit at the same desk, and generally see the same people most days, my exposure to new, inspiring people is rather limited.

Tony speaks often about the power of books as a source of inspiration, a means of acquiring knowledge, and to learn from the experiences and expertise of others. Reading vociferously at challenging times in his life, Tony made major life changes and has achieved huge success. In addition to modelling himself on real-life mentors like Jim Rohn, he also turned to books, and often references “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl, as an example of a book which changed his perspective on life (as do many other successful people, which is why I’ve ordered myself a copy!).

Remarkably (or at least, now it feels this way). I’d never really considered the possibility of find role models by looking to the literary and virtual worlds. I’d presumed a mentor had to be someone you know in real-life, and have thus overlooked these potential sources of inspiration.

Thinking back, many of my childhood heroes came from books or movies. I’ve come away from reading or watching something inspiring many a time feeling energised and driven to action because of a connection with the characters or story-teller. As we live in an interconnected digital world today, whereby we have access to unlimited resources and direct, instantaneous connections to  incredible people, it makes perfect sense that we could use this to further our personal growth. No longer limited to our immediate social circle, the opportunities to connect with and learn from our personal heroes are endless!

Inspired by this concept – the idea of reading a book, watching a YouTube video, or listening to a podcast as a way of “spending time” on a daily basis with some of the best teachers and thought leaders in the world – I’ve designed myself  a new personal challenge:

My Role Model Challenge (or RMC, as I’ll refer to it from here, in order on to save my fingers from any unnecessary RSI) is a month-long experiment whereby I’m testing out this theory:

“Model success. The way to shortcut your path is to learn from people who did what you want to do.” Evan Carmichael

 

But where to start?

Combining my newest obsession for watching motivational YouTube videos, with my life-long passion for reading, I’ll be taking strategies from the best in their fields and choosing key lessons to put into action each day of the next month. Using video and books as a means to do this is an inexpensive, easily accessible way of tapping into the greatness of the world’s most successful people.

Before we begin, I’d like to lay out my hypothesis (and in many ways, this is also my goal for the RMC), which is:

By increasing my exposure to inspirational thought leaders I will broaden my perspective on life, and help me uncover new ways of living my happiest, healthiest and most prosperous life.

In practise, my testing this means I’ll be:

I’ve chosen Tim Ferriss’ “Tribe of Mentors” as my RMC book for two reasons. One, I’d been gifted this book at Christmas, and at 605 pages long, this book is almost Biblical in proportions (even compared with Tony Robbins’ books!) Initially daunted at the prospect of reading Tim’s book, I realised it’s perfect for the RMC as each chapter is only few pages long and is an easily manageable read of an evening.

 

 

Equally perfectly designed for the RMC, these videos will be my main online source of inspiration. Each containing ten success strategies, this gives me plenty of options when selecting what to practise in any given day.

  • Taking notes, distilling key advice and recording interesting quotes (because this is how I best learn, as you’ll pick up in future posts).
  • Choosing the 2-4 pieces of advice that stand out to me by which I’d like to live that day.
  • Creating practical ways to apply my role models’ advice in my daily life.
  • At the end of each day, or during the next day, I’ll be recording my findings, what I’ve learnt and what I’ve achieved.

Each week, I’ll be sharing my findings with you here on my blog. Starting each

BlueFlowers

In real-life, I continue to be inspired by nature in all its brilliance!

post by giving you that week’s line-up of mentors (my #RMCsquad), there’ll be links so you can find out more about them and their work.

I’ll then give you the low-down on what I’ve learnt that week; how I’ve applied their genius advice in my own life; and whether the RMC is helping my self-development. By exploring the benefits and limitations of looking to “virtual” role models for guidance, I’ll seek to evaluate how useful this strategy is as a tool for personal growth.

Encouraging and uplifting others to live their best lives is a huge part of my purpose and passion, and a massive driver behind my writing this blog. I hope I’ve sparked your curiosity and you’re as excited as I am to “meet” my mentors and see what happens with my RMC over this next month!

 

Wish me luck!

 

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