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Category: People life

Penfold: moving great people around since 2001.

Connecting with brilliant people rocks my world. And to that end, I have the best job on the planet; I am tasked with finding the best possible people to join our brilliant (and growing) business here at Shazam.

I have taken great delight in helping great businesses find great people (and brilliant people to find brilliant businesses) over the years and now lead a team of fantastic Recruiters in the UK, dedicated to building Shazam the best possible team.

That time when I realised the true value of social health

Loneliness is a silent assassin for some of us. 

Some people feel the absence of humans more keenly and quickly, but there are many of us who quietly noodle along, contentedly solo, seemingly all gravy but living with the absence of human connection.

During lockdown in London, this was very much me. I felt very comfortable in my own company, and became super insular, feeding my soul by simply walking up and down Portobello Road and getting to see and interact with humans from afar. I managed to still maintain my close friendships virtually but the people I saw IRL were usually Amazon people or staff at the local grocery store.

I was lonely. I missed humans, but I didn’t consciously realise it for a while. Then sadness came my way and I finally let myself feel and acknowledge my loneliness.

After I acknowledged it, I then did everything I could to change it, and made sure I saw my people more.

Our social well-being is up there with all of the other key things we need to thrive. The World Health Organisation states: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Our social circle matters. Our connection to our community matters. It is a very important component of what we need to thrive.

Now I am adapting to a different life, one that means that I have a partner, and therefore human contact in abundance, but I am also in a new place, trying to find my tribe and create a new community.

Moving country is a trip for sure, full of magical new things, but also full of sadness for the people and places you have left behind. I am both delighted to be experiencing new things, and also missing my community and my people. I feel a longing for connection and at times, loneliness.

I’m determined to prioritise my social well-being, now knowing just how much it matters, and make sure that I make new friends here IRL.

Here are some of the things I am planning to do:

  • Try out the local co working space; look out for the person who has her eyes darting up and down from the laptop, and keeps getting coffee haha.
  • Go to a few local classes; look out for the person getting there early and staying late, starting conversation as we grab our yoga mats.

I’ve written before about a more positive definition of resilience. Which is really to know ourselves and our emotions well enough to know what we need, and then take the steps we need to take to get ourselves to more stable footing. What I have just described to you above my friends, is resilience in action.

When we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel what is real to us, we deny ourselves access to authenticity. Authenticity starts with our ability to be honest with ourselves first, and continues when we become whole enough within ourselves to be honest with others.

Developing resilience is about developing flexibility

For me that has meant developing a toolkit that enables me to be able to know how to get back to myself, based on whatever comes my way. I highly recommend starting to consider what you might need in yours.

I can’t tell you what you need, that is something that only you can figure out. My toolkit looks a little like this:

Stillness: Finding the means to connect to my body, for me that means using a gentle breath meditation.

Structure: I need my days to follow a set structure to thrive, before that I operated in chaos.

Support: I have my team assembled that support me in different ways on different things, and I am always adding new members (see above haha).

Self love:  The conversation that I have with myself when no one else is around and the way that I look at myself in the mirror. The way I forgive myself if I get something wrong.

My invitation to you all is to take a moment think about your social well-being. Do you get to spend time with a variety of people who light you up? Do you need to add a few more in, and create the space to meet new humans?

How can you feed and water your community this week?

That time when I wanted us to learn to celebrate our differences

Hands up who at some time in their life has felt like they aren’t intelligent? 

(Side note: yes, that is meant to sound like an absolute, because for many of us, that view of ourselves has felt absolute.) 

If a lot of you just threw your hand up in the sky, I am right there with you. What I can also tell you is that there are lots of people like us, and it is no surprise; we exist in structures and societies that favour one kind of intelligence. 

It’s insidiously etched into our souls throughout education, and keeps going in the working world. We exist in a competitive system that teaches us the dark art of comparison early on. You can basically supplement the word intelligent for pretty much any of the other things that we think we aren’t. 

That comparison impacts us all in different ways and creates a tonne of different cages in our minds depending on who we are and our level of sensitivity. 

When we are littler beings, we take the outward assessments of us (that give rise to our own inward assessments) as final

Our littler being version of us, will have looked at the capabilities or looks of others, realised that they have something that we don’t, and rather than then figuring out all the brilliant things we do, simply make a rule about ourselves that we are not [insert whatever that thing is here]. 

We take for granted all of the magic that we bring, because when we find things easy, we assume that everyone must think they are easy too. 

As a coach, I work a lot with people around self esteem is something that comes up a lot. It is something I have also done a lot of work on personally. 

Different but still valuable

Coming back to intelligence then, I can tell you that I am someone who can either hyper focus and remember everything or remember nothing. I can find it hard to read and retain a lot of detail, and I have to be quite deliberate with reading in general. However, what I have always been able to read is humans, situations and energy (there she goes again with that yogi chat haha). 

I am great at finding creative solutions and my brain fires up excitedly when inventing new things. It tends to move quite quickly and can context-switch in a flash. I love these things about me now, but when I was younger, even in adulthood, I would compare myself to others and worry. 

For anyone who is either wrestling with their own relationship with their intelligence or seeking to support others, I’d like to offer a reframe that might make you fall in love with your intelligence a little bit, just like I have. 

Two legs good, four legs bad 

There is a book called Animal Farm by George Orwell that a lot of us read at school (wow, I remembered it haha). It’s a story about the shifting power dynamics as the animals, on four legs, take back power from the humans on two legs… only to eventually create a similar hierarchy once again with some of them starting to walk on two legs and becoming the ruling class. 

I like to refer to this with my coaching clients with two legged intelligence being the intelligence that we think we desire more than our own. I truly respect two legged intelligence, I am actually in awe of it. I would love to have the ability to read lots of detail and retain data. It’s that awe that has made me question my own intelligence so much. 

But what if we could learn instead to celebrate ourselves and our brains, just as they are?

In  Animal Farm terms, I like to think of the type of intelligence I have as four legged intelligence. I have all four hooves on the floor, so I can feel energy, I can assess environments quickly, I can read humans, I can optimise and solve problems. I don’t always retain data, and sometimes reading a lot of it is a challenge… but when I apply myself deliberately and intentionally to things, I can fire up that part of myself. 

My hooves mean that I can feel more, which is a tremendous gift, but can also be overwhelming. 

When I started to realise the magic of my brain, my four legged intelligence, I was able to start to celebrate it.

Can we therefore offer ourselves and our society a reframe? 

Two legs good, four legs good, three legs good, five legs good…? 

You are good at that stuff. I am good at this stuff. Sometimes you are good at this stuff. Sometimes I am good at that stuff. That person over there is amazing at this other stuff. You have this. I have that. And so on…

Can we please just find a way to celebrate ourselves as we are and work to remove comparison? Can we please see the beauty in one another’s differences and understand that we become more powerful when we are simply exposed to them and we don’t think we are failing because we don’t have what they have? Can we agree to just be beautifully different in some ways and brilliantly the same in many of the ways that make us human? 

If you are reading this, my guess is you are already past the school age where a lot of these views are formed. Might I invite you to think about how we break this down in the here and now? How can we learn to celebrate all that we are and all that we bring without the need to be worse or better than each other? 

In case that question left you feeling a little bit stuck…

My advice would be that many of the biggest changes we can make start small, they start with us.

How do you see yourself in the world? How do you see your intelligence? Is there work you need to do on your relationship with you.

Once we develop self awareness around this, it becomes easy to support those closest to us with their own self perception. That may start to add up into a growing number of people who start to believe in themselves and their abilities.

When we believe in ourselves and have confidence, that’s when we start to be a little bolder with our ideas and start to innovate on the world we find ourselves in. And boy does our world need some innovation. 

That time when I learnt the value of values 

I know I’ve been speaking a lot lately about the importance of becoming aligned with our own values, but trust me folks, this stuff is dynamite. I’ve started to work with a few of my coaching clients on this very topic and it’s enabling some really powerful conversations. 

The new year is felt by different people in different ways and in different ways on different days. Some years you might feel pumped; like hell yeah come at me. Some years you might just feel a little overwhelmed. 

This year I am both.

Wherever you are right now on your new year spectrum this year, I got you. 

There is something that you can use to ground yourself in the moment, whatever that moment is: your value system. 

I didn’t know the value of values for the longest while. I think I had some kinda awareness of my intuition but I totally disregarded it. If my nervous system was freaking out about something, a person or a situation, I overrode it. I simply wasn’t aware of the signs my body was giving me. 

I lived a highly stressed, highly disconnected life for a reeeeeeeally long time. 

The first time I listened to my intuition I didn’t know I was doing it. It was when I chose to leave my ex-husband and file for divorce. The pace of change at that time was so fast for me, that I simply went on autopilot to get through it. 

The first time I consciously learnt how to access my intuition was a couple of years later. I was finding it hard to know what I wanted on any level, and a friend at the time simply advised me to start small and try to make decisions that made me happy. 

It was a rudimentary model to say the least, but I at least started to really think about what I wanted for the first time. I actually had some tattoos at the time to symbolise the things that I was using to steer me; ‘energy, strength, grace’ for the way I wanted to operate, ‘change’ for my appetite to try new things and ‘challenge, transcend, transform and explore’ for how I wanted to evolve. I didn’t realise then but this was my first foray into learning to live by my values.

I made choices more instinctively but still floundered often, making as many bad decisions as I did good ones. Still, it was a start. 

Things started to shift when I learnt the power of values at Shazam, where I took the business on their first journey to create their own.

Shazam, at the time, was a business surviving on passion and hadn’t done a great job of articulating what mattered to it most in terms of values and behaviours. I was leading Talent and working to attract brilliant minds to the organisation. For me it made sense to be able to speak about the reality of life at Shazam in that way. 

It was a journey to get there, but when we did, I understood this was so much more than an attraction tool, our values provided an operating model for how we choose to work together and make decisions. 

Having been single and unsuccessfully dating for a few years at this point, I realised that values could be a useful lens for making more personal decisions. 

I worked out my own values with a simple tool and started applying that to my dating life. It wasn’t just about who they were, it was about the person that I was when I was around them. That was perhaps the most important marker of all. 

The result was amazing. I have since rebooted my values a number of times and everything that I am doing right now (like my Pancakes & Peacocks pod) is formed around those values. 

Living in true alignment with my values is one of my most significant goals for 2022.

They are: 

⚡️ Innovation: with a focus on continuous improvement, I am careful to protect my space for creativity and problem solving

⚡️ Community: that I nurture and build strong relationships with other humans that enable us to share ideas and encourage one another to dream bigger

⚡️ Integrity: in how I show up, to myself first and foremost, for that is the foundation, but also in how I move through the world and live in my truest expression of me

⚡️ Love: I seek to love first, ask questions later. Love limitlessly and sincerely, myself first, then let that permeate everything that I do

⚡️ Courage: the value that is the foundation for all the others, to be brave enough to love, challenge, create and importantly, to ask for support

What are your values? If you want to do a simple exercise like I did in the beginning, you can use my worksheet here

Whichever kind of January person you are this year, goal focused, overwhelmed or something else. Let your values guide your decisions and you won’t go far wrong. 

Wishing you an aligned 2022, with love always.

That time when I developed a different relationship with fear

I hate to be the one to break it to you, if indeed I am, but most humans are most significantly limited by one person and one person alone. Ourselves.

We hold ourselves in places, patterns and relationships that don’t serve us. Most of the time we aren’t doing it consciously, we are doing it because we are afraid. There’s usually some good to be found in most scenarios, even if the entirety of the situation doesn’t work for us. We latch onto those things.

I’ve often talked about it in terms of the brain trying to keep us safe, that’s literally what it is doing. In high stress situations, adrenaline floods our system and disables our prefrontal cortex. Our prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that facilitates problem-solving and creative thinking.

What the brain actually does in reality is come at us with thoughts and ideas that move us away from the, probably slightly bolder, initial drive that was within us. We then start to listen to our brain and begin to decide that the bold idea is a bad idea, and everything that was moving us towards it starts to look a little better again.

I have lived this cycle over and over again, so trust me, I know.

The brilliant news is that there is another way.

You can instead do what I have done, and learn to see your brain for what it is, understand what it is trying to do, but then make decisions that feel more expansive for you. To do that though, you have to realise that fear is never going to go away, it’s always gonna be there, in the form of your brain, trying to keep you safe from harm. The real shift therefore is learning to hold that energy of fear in your body, being able to rationalise why it is showing up, and move forward in the way that truly serves us regardless.

By acknowledging, understanding and processing that the fear exists, we re-engage our prefrontal cortex, and supercharge our ability to do our best thinking.

Here’s how I do that.

#1: Figuring out how I feel about it.

Firstly by acknowledging and saying out loud how you feel about the situation. Even if only to yourself. You might not feel fear directly, but you might feel a sense of frustration, or a little more stressed – those are often signs from our nervous system that something isn’t right.

When we give ourselves permission to say how we feel out loud, we allow the emotion to dissipate. It loosens the hold it has. Like when you admit you need help with something. You feel your shoulders relax. It doesn’t change anything for others, but it changes everything for you. Now your mind is freed up, and fear is no longer in the driving seat, your problem solving brain can start mentally processing and creating a plan for how to deal with this.

#2: Perform an allergy test.

Once you have acknowledged how you feel, Identify the reasons for how you feel. The sources of your fears. Write out all the things you are worried about. All of them. It might be things like:

  • What if I look silly?
  • What if XYZ doesn’t like me?
  • What if I never meet someone else?
  • What if I never find a better job?
  • What if I fail?

Then run through all the things you have just written out in your mind one by one and allergy test them. Which one makes you feel the most awkward, stressed or wonky? Once you think you have the thing that is causing you the most concern, now to overcome it.

#3: Overcome your own objections

This is where I recommend having a conversation with yourself on a pad of paper between You (the most calm, brilliant, rational you) and Brain. If you are wondering how to access your rational side that isn’t afraid, start by thinking how you might answer if it was your friend who was telling you their feelings about something, and you were helping them to rationalise them.

  1. Divide a piece of paper into two columns
  2. Let your Brain state its concern at the top on one side
  3. From the You side, ask your Brain why you feel that way
  4. Respond as honestly as your Brain can
  5. Ask your Brain why it feels that way
  6. Respond as honestly as you can
  7. Ask your Brain again and what it thinks the feeling is underneath
  8. Keep going until you get to the honest bedrock of what lies beneath this fear – we keep asking why because it means that we get past all of our justifications and excuses, also known as ‘the Brain’s tricks’
  9. Next help yourself to understand a more realistic outcome

Let’s see that in action.

I’m worried about the client presentation I need to give next week. Why? Because it is a really big deal and a lot of the senior team will be there. Why is it a big deal? Because it is an important account so I am worried about getting something wrong. What would happen if you got something wrong? It could feel embarrassing and I might lose the respect of my peers. And what would that mean to you if that happened? I would feel bad and separate from the rest of the team.

The underlying theme here is a fear of what other people think.

Given it is normal for people to make little mistakes in every day life, if you were to get something slightly wrong, what is a more realistic outcome? In the example above, simply that I would apologise for the misstep, and complete the rest of the presentation.

Getting comfortable with fear

As I continue to learn to hold the energy of fear in my body, and be okay with it, I wanted to share with some of my best moments of getting comfortable with fear, in the hope that it might serve for a little inspo within yours:

2010: Setting myself free to leave a relationship that didn’t serve me. My brain held me in that one for 12 years, latching on to glimmers of goodness, rather than seeing it as the world of pain it really was. It took a lot to leave it, but when I did I never looked back – well, only to look at why I chose it in the first place!

2012: Setting myself free to be me and to make decisions that served me. That was supported by being at Shazam, but also was the time where I learnt to say no and to have boundaries, I’ve got better at those too over time. I am now a people pleaser in recovery, but I have to work hard to stay that way.

2020: Setting myself free to be loved by another human. Having learnt to love myself throughout the past decade, I finally became able to let love in. It was a love that asked me to step into fear and hold it in my body, not just because love is scary at first, but also because my love is based in America and I am in London.

2021: Setting myself all the way free. This year I left my job without having a job to go to. I literally had no plan, I just knew that change was needed. I decided to have faith in the Universe, given that we have a good relationship by now haha, and trust that good things would come my way. I am pleased to say they have.

Side note: the new and emerging Pancakes and Peacocks community is one of those things. There are many of us who have felt trapped in the working world we have created, and I am thrilled that many of us want to come together to think about how we might do that better. If that’s a mission that sounds interesting to you, let me know.

I’m going to leave you with two questions that I am asking myself all the time now, perhaps to reflect on over the holidays:

  1. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  2. What would you do if you were able to hold the energy of fear and do it anyway…?

That time when I realised that the way we do work isn’t working

As a People and Talent person for over two decades, I’ve built and rebuilt teams and organisations like Shazam, Onfido and bp Launchpad. Whilst I was in the thick of it, working hard towards trying to make these businesses successful made a lot of sense to me. This year though, things felt different.

I realised this year that I have seen similar culture struggles, relationship issues and growing pains play out over and over again within otherwise incredible organisations. Kind hearted, well-meaning, brilliant people come together to build something with the best of intentions. Some of the team (often the leaders) feel like they are creating a great culture, whilst many of the team feel like they are overwhelmed and underwhelmed, all at once. I have been on both sides of that coin at one time also.

By moving away from Talent and stepped into heading up People teams as a People person, I was responding to the call of my purpose by attempting to support other humans to find the flow of life, growth and work that works for them. I feel I only ever created glimmers of that. Instead it has felt like I have spent time either papering over the cracks of organisational distress or before that as a headhunter, helping them to leave it.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again so this summer I did something radical. I decided to stop. I left my job.

I took a break, a proper break.

There in the midst of the unravelling of my relationship with work, myself and where my frustrations lay, I realised that the way we do work isn’t working. Not for a lot of us.

Sure, there are magical pockets of people thriving here and there, but they are magical pockets. Across industries, across locations, I see soooooo many companies who aren’t able to create an environment where all their humans can really thrive.

I think we can do better. I think we can build something different. Something where we all actually thrive and feel like we belong.

Why does it matter so much?

Creating the space to innovate is essential, for humans, for businesses and for our society as a whole.

When people are thriving, that is when we do our best work. We become brilliant, bold and even more innovative and apply that energy to whatever we are doing. When we feel safe and like we belong, we are free to innovate without fear. When we feel the opposite, we spend all of our time in survival mode and working on the closest problem in our lives, rather than the ones that might be the most impactful. Until all the people in our organisations feel like they belong, we won’t ever truly get to experience the magic of them.

With space we can learn how to thrive, and once we create space for ourselves, we can learn how to build it for others.

I’ve decided to spend a little time unpacking the world of work and reimagining how we might do this better. I’m thrilled to be working with some brilliant clients who want to reimagine their environments currently, coaching some amazing humans and building out aa course with the ASPIRE team on how we create the space to innovate. I’ll be sharing my findings as I go, here in cyber space with writing and on my pod Pancakes and Peacocks.

If this is a mission that resonates with you, let me know. I am keen to see if there might just be a community of reimaginers out there who want to come on that journey with me. One of those reimaginers is definitely Jules Fedele. And taking her lead, I’m going to set some longer term impact focused goals, some very similar to Jules (that’s likely why we found each other!), you can hear her explaining them here.

I have realigned my purpose to be to help people and businesses to reimagine, experiment and reinvent our environments to create a space where we all truly thrive and feel like we belong. That translates to the following impact goals:

  1. To create space for innovation within humans, whether by supporting organisations to create that environment or by supporting the individual to create the space for themselves.
  2. To support leaders to step into a truer expression of themselves through deep self awareness and being to lead from that place in what Jules refers to as Embodied Leadership. Only when we learn how to do it for ourselves can we really provide that space for others.
  3. To be part of a community of reimaginers that reinvents the idea of work to create a thriving community of beings of all life stages, that come together and create things, have a tonne of fun and step into the fullest expression of ourselves – mind, body, soul.

Who is up for a little reimagining with me?

That time when I developed some habit hacks

Do you struggle with your habits? Whether it is creating the ones we want to have or breaking the ones we already have locked in – most of us have at some stage. 

Let’s start with a definition first. Let’s remove the idea of BAD or GOOD habits. One habit could be really positive for one person and negative for someone else. It is all completely individual and will evolve over time – just like you do. I can also tend to find that this years positive habits end up being next years negative ones haha, is anyone with me on that? 

Habits shifting has been an important part of my own evolution. Learning to treat myself better has supported my growing ability to truly love myself.

I believe that the way you live sets the bar for who you believe you are. 

That means that if you aren’t quite there with loving you yet (you know who you are), evolving how you live to support you better, can positively influence that perception. 

Before structure for me, there was chaos. 

12 years ago my life was in total chaos. The formulation of (at the time) more positive habits around my eating enabled to start to take agency over my own life. I took charge of my weight and managed to lose 3 stone (42 lbs). 

There is something quite magical that happens to a human being when they step into their power and realise that they have the power of choice. For me that didn’t come in one great flash of wisdom, even with the weight loss. It came through developing the power to control, review and iterate a thousand tiny habits.

Habit shifting is something I am pretty much always working on – as is my relationship with myself.

Let’s work together on this.

There are some great books on this topic, notably James Clear with his Atomic Habits and BJ Fogg with his Tiny Habits and so much of what they say in those books I share – it is the little habits that set the foundation for how we live our lives.

If you want a quick start on how to start thinking about where you might be able to create better habits in your own world, but don’t know what you want to change, perhaps a little self care audit might be a good place to start.

Here’s the Self Care audit that I use to check in on how I am tracking against these things and to set goals around where I want to be. Feel free to change the questions around what works for you. There is no one path to wellbeing, it’s a completely individual and inside job. 

Honestly though, most of us already know deep down what is truly serving us and what isn’t. 

If you have given the audit a go and you have your one thing you would like to add into this week. Here’s some ideas (likely some also from the folks I mentioned above, can’t remember who said what haha) for making and breaking habits. 

1. Habit stacking 

If there is always something you do, it is SO easy to make add one habit to another. We all clean our teeth in some way every day (I am sure), so is there a way you can create a habit around that habit.

2. Create triggers

Earlier this year I wanted to make a habit of taking a vitamin every day (Heights – life changing!), and given I wanted to take it at lunchtime I leave it in my kitchen where I will see it when I make lunch. You can also set alarms on your phone. 

3. Create or remove barriers 

Whether you want to add something or take it away, it helps to create or remove barriers accordingly. If I want to stop eating something, I stop buying it. If I want to wean myself off something, I have sometimes gone cold turkey altogether. I did that with salt because I was SUCH a salt monster that I needed to be a little more extreme. Now I have re-educated my palate and can eat salt more responsibly. 

4. Habit replacement 

When I was trying to break a snack habit a while ago, I simply stopped buying snacks. At the time the snack habit craving kicked in, I simply made a cup of tea, then gradually weaning myself of the replaced tea habit. 

5. Make it feel satisfying

Is there a way that you can gamify yourself to feel like you have been rewarded for either doing or not doing something? Sometimes the act is enough of a reward in and of itself, but in case it isn’t, can you keep a daily tally? 

6. Create an accountability partner or group

When I was learning how to meditate, it was one of the hardest habits I had to teach myself. I found communities of likeminded friends and we created WhatsApp groups. When a person meditated, they simply posted an emoji into the chat. It was a great trigger to everyone else to meditate if they hadn’t yet today. 

When you can get into the habit (see what I did there haha) of creating and removing habits in a more iterative, fluid way it makes tackling the bigger changes a whole bunch easier. Developing a mindset of continuous improvement becomes easier the more you do it. Just like if you are working on a software product, if something doesn’t work, you simply remove it and try something else. 

Try also to view any ‘failures’ as positively as you can. They are there merely to provide data points for future growth.

What I learnt about habits in my own world, is that the small habits I was able to create and remove where the things that have added up to the total transformation in not only how I live, but more importantly, how I see myself. 

If you feel like you need a little extra help around your self perception, or indeed habits, holler at your girl. 

That time when I realised the importance of doing nothing

For anyone who is deep in the trenches of the fight for self-esteem with me, like me, I am sure you have found a million different tiny ways to try to make sure that you feel like you are enough. However we do it, we find our own little ways of creating that spark of recognition in others.

My capacity for doing has always been exponential, whatever I have chosen to apply that ‘doing’ to. The doing is linked to feeling like I have value. If I can make the world feel a certain way about me, I create safety.

It’s not a part of some deep, evil plan to manipulate others to remove them of something they can’t afford to give, however. What my subconscious is trying to collect is love, admiration and affection.

Excessive doing means that you are never truly being.

You exist in every moment calculating what the next might be. Pre COVID, I always had plans, I always had ideas of what I wanted to get up to. When the world stopped in March 2020, I had no choice but to stop with it.

Happily, I had already been hard at work learning how to get still with myself. I was lucky enough to have already started to curate a toolkit for my own version of wellness and it served me well.

Even with big pockets of stillness, I still managed to find plenty of ways to keep doing. Working crazy hours, consoling myself that I was one of the fortunate ones to even have the opportunity to be working.

Then something shifted. I met a human who I wanted to be still with. With that human I felt no need to escape back into doing. I could be still.

That’s where I am right now, content in the still. But knowing him and experiencing those moments of not wanting to escape to the next thing, has shown me that I still seek my escape often.

So that is my work. Being over doing.

Being gives us so much more than doing, my friends. Being enables us to connect to our higher power, our light within. Being allows us to have a dialogue with our bodies, and honour what they truly need. Being enables us to create space inside ourselves for wonder.

I read a great book lately, From What Is to What If, by Rob Hopkins. He talks in detail about what the lack of this kind of space does not only to humans, but also to the world.

When we are deeply immersed in stuff, however hard that stuff might be, we are less able to imagine our way out. Imagination lies at the heart of our growth. If we can’t see further than what is in front of us and allow ourselves to be sucked into the cycles of our lives, we will never truly create the space for joy.

Joy is a radical force, because it connects us to life.

When we are connected to life, we feel connected to each other, we see each other more clearly, we care more about each other’s experiences and are therefore more likely to start trying to figure out how we might be able to enrich them.

Trying to figure out how to truly create this energy within workplaces will be my life’s work. What is the right shape of the organisation for imaginations to flourish? How do we start to measure success by new dreams adopted? I’ll let you know if and when I get there.

Right now, our work is in our own back yards.

How you manage to create ‘space’ is going to be completely individual to you, but in the meantime, let me inspire you with some clues in the world to help you on your path, some taken from the book:

  • The more joy you fake, the more joy you make. A trick of mine for years has been smiling when I don’t feel like doing so, even if alone.
  • Create time to do something that moves you, perhaps it’s writing, perhaps it’s drawing, perhaps it’s just lying on your back and looking at the sky and feeling how small you are.
  • Find more opportunities for we not me. See where you can start to shift self-interest to collective interest. When making big decisions, reflect deeply on what the drivers might be.
  • In the teams you work in, work hard to remove the fallacy of a right or wrong answer. Become critical friends rather than critics to one another’s ideas. “Yes, and” over “No, but” for the win.
  • Turn off stories so you don’t have pre traumatic stress disorder. Consider what you are consuming in your world and if that needs to alter. Does how you are living deplete or support you?
  • Find moments of awe to reunite with fellow humans. When we are in awe of something, it creates a shift with us, it makes us wonder and it helps us to turn our own imaginations back on.

Once you have created the awareness of what joyful exploration feels like, you will start to notice when you stop doing it. When that happens, you might be running out of space again. Use that awareness as a beautiful gift and do whatever it is you need to do to create that space again.

 

That time when I realised that I am not an anxious person

The feeling of anxiety is something many of us experience. That doesn’t have to be the way we experience the world. Here’s a little on how I managed to create a better experience for myself. 

Anxious AF

If you type “how to deal with” into your Google search bar, the first thing that comes up is anxiety. If that’s not a clear indicator of how we are all feeling I don’t know what is.

Anxiety is something that is hugely impactful for those experiencing it and it can have huge implications on your physical and mental health.

So what is it? 

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. It can feel different from body to body, but for me, it’s something I can feel bubbling in the centre of my chest. I also have a stress knot in my left shoulder that dials up and down based on how I am feeling.

Learning what the markers are in your body is so so important. It doesn’t mean you become suddenly immune to the feeling, but it does give you a great barometer that can tell you if you need to course correct.

It took me a while to realise that I was experiencing anxiety, because from the outside I can appear pretty steady a lot of the time. I was good at fooling myself too. Then when I started to unpack and consider what feelings I was having in my body, I would often say things like; “as an anxious person…”.

That’s not true either. It is not absolute. I am not an anxious person. I am a person that has absorbed energy easily and has often let things like anxiety creep in. I did that because I didn’t have the boundaries to hold the rest of the world back.

What did I do about it? 

A few years ago I was wound up like a coil. I had developed some fairly firm beliefs about how I should be showing up in the world and was tying myself up in knots. I decided to unpack the feelings of anxiety I was experiencing, and worked with a therapist at the time to do so.

She described me as “a bit like a kitchen which has all the utensils it needs, but at that time they were in a big pile in the centre of the room, needing to learn where everything lived and what it all does.” She was right. I had all my “utensils” I just didn’t know how to use them for the right activity.

When we really looked at the root cause of what was worrying me, every single time it boiled down to the fear of what other people thought of me. If you want to do the same thing, it’s pretty easy.

  1. State your concern.
  2. Ask yourself why you feel that way. Ask yourself why again and what the feeling is underneath. Ask yourself why again.
  3. And keep going until you get to the honest bedrock of what lies underneath your fears. Your underlying theme. 
  4. Help yourself to understand a more realistic outcome. 

We keep asking why because it means that we get past all of our justifications and excuses. Let’s see that in action.

  1. I’m worried about the client presentation I need to give next week. 
  2. Why? Because it is a really big deal and a lot of the senior team will be there. Why is it a big deal? Because it is an important account so I am worried about getting something wrong. What would happen if you got something wrong? It could feel embarrassing and I might lose the respect of my peers. And what would that mean to you if that happened? I would feel bad and separate from the rest of the team.
  3. The underlying theme here is a fear of what other people think. 
  4. Given it is normal for people to make little mistakes in every day life, if you were to get something slightly wrong, what is a more realistic outcome? That I would apologise for the misstep, and complete the rest of the presentation. 

Once we had created the space for me to learn those things about myself, we were able to work together to change the narrative I told myself from “I must” to “Ideally I would, but it is okay if I don’t”.

Some of my WAY too rigid beliefs were:

  • I need everything to be fair
  • I want to be perfect
  • I want to be held in the highest regard

We changed them to:

  • Ideally I would like everything to be fair but I am okay if it isn’t
  • Ideally I would like to be perfect, but it is okay if I am not
  • Ideally I would like to be held in the highest regard, but if I am not, that is okay

Together, we were able to create space between me and what I was letting in. What that has given me is the power of choice. It doesn’t mean that those feelings go away, it just means that when they do, I can have a conversation between the rational and irrational parts of myself.

I recommend doing this as a written exercise when you are getting started. Take a sheet of paper and create two columns. Write how you feel on one side, then on the other side, write a reply to what you have just said from your rational side. Then reply from the irrational feelings and so on, until you have talked yourself into a place of reason.

If you are wondering how to access your rational side, start by thinking how you might answer if it was your friend who was telling your their feelings about something, and you were helping them to rationalise them. Learning how to have these conversations with myself was critical in learning how to self soothe, and how to be my own therapist.

Our reactions are learnt

Most of the things we say that we “are” are things that have been introduced. We are born as joyful, worry-free creatures that then become distorted by the world around us. As we look to our primary caregivers for our needs to be met and they aren’t, even in a small way, that’s where the worry kicks in. Something as small as a facial expression can be the difference between feeling safe and feeling exposed and vulnerable.

Given how we are born, anything that we then become can only be something that is introduced. That means there is always a chance to find our way back to our default setting. Much of my journey back to me has been more about unlearning things which I held to be true.

Unlearning this stuff and getting better at using our “utensils” means that we can create the space to choose another path. We can find the means to create space between us and what we are letting in and sit firmly in the driving seat of our lived experience.

That time when I learnt a little more about the ways that shame can drive us

Every so often a book comes along that really shifts something for me, and I feel compelled to share some of its contents. Having just read Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw, now is one of those times. 

To sensitive people in the world like me, the ones who feel emotion and energy around them, the ones who have likely battled against low self esteem, the ones who have had to work hard on their relationships with themselves; this book is one I highly recommend reading. 

Shame as a word may feel a little triggering, but ultimately it’s the thing that drives people around the world to both overachieve and underachieve. It is the thing that drives the majority of our toxic behaviours.

We are likely, for a time at least, resolute in those behaviours, thinking that if we can just keep working super humanly hard then we won’t be found out, or on the flip side, no thank you, I don’t want to be part of your society because it is easier this way. 

Either way we are working ridiculously hard to make sure we don’t have to experience shame. 

We learn this really early on, often through our experiences of otherwise loving adults. As children we study the eyes of those around us for acceptance and learn to clip ourselves in a way that we feel meets everyone else’s needs. We learn what it means to be bad and what it means to be good. 

Whichever adult we are in contact with as children, our survival is dependent on them, so we have to believe that they are good. That means that if there is even a sniff of disdain sensed, the child will often form the hard view that they are indeed the bad one, and frankly lucky to be tolerated at all. 

This is where a low self esteem creeps in. This is also where the shrinking creeps in, namely that you don’t want to be too big for the folks around you, because you need them to love you and keep you safe, so you cover up who you really are.

It happens at school also and I can see how that was the case for me, when my imagination and ideas were a little too ‘out there’ for the adult I was dealing with. They trigger your shame with their disgust at your work and perhaps you, like me, tried to become something else or create something else in order to meet their needs. 

I also lived out a full scale teenage rebellion at around this time, and looking back I can see how at my core I was simply seeking belonging and acceptance in the eyes of others.

Cool and rebellious was a badge I was happy to wear, no matter what that meant for my future, and I tried to infiltrate many different groups that had their own identity, in the hope that I would feel a sense of belonging. 

To develop strong ego boundaries, children need parents with strong boundaries, so if a parent hasn’t managed to develop their own, the children are unlikely to be able to do so by design. 

When you have damaged boundaries, like I had for much of my adult life, you don’t really have a clear sense of self.

You have existed in the world in a way that means you survive. 

What that means is that you are likely prone to love too hard, too quickly (I’ve definitely done my fair share of that) and become dependent entirely on other beings, and pretty much codependent by design. You’ve also likely learnt to stifle your real feelings to be more palatable for the people around you and cling on for dear life in those doomed relationships, romantic or otherwise. 

You are also extremely likely to attract and seek people who are perhaps a different side of the same coin, perhaps narcissistic or similar. You then may find yourself in a relationship which is shaming on a daily basis and therefore continues to lower your value within yourself. Side note: if we do not grow because of someone else’s ‘love’, it’s generally because it is not legit.

You’ve also probably learnt that kindness is better than honestly, so you have extended and distorted yourself in all kinds of ways to meet the needs of others. You’ve perhaps also been super judgemental of others and perhaps envious, which may show up in a ‘nice’ way in the form of a barbed compliment. Top tip: if you find someone triggers you in that way, it’s worth sitting with that and looking at the emotion that they have brought up in you, there is likely to be a major learning opportunity hidden in there somewhere. 

You’ve also likely been extremely prone to addictions whether big or small. For clarity, in the book he cites Pia Mellody’s definition of addiction as: “any process used to avoid or take away intolerable reality.”

I’ve always been someone who jumps into things, constantly seeking, constantly looking to fill what was missing inside me and make the world love me more. When I managed to overcome one addiction, a new one would creep in. I simply got lucky that my addictions didn’t involve drugs and alcohol, but the energy driving the behaviour is the same.

In my childhood world there was no big thing, no big incident, my parents were just two wonderful humans doing the best with what they had. In a recent conversation with my Mum she shared some of the guilt she felt watching her own children on their healing journeys. 

The way I see it is as simple as this; we can only operate in the world based on our own lived experiences. My parents came into the world and were influenced by their own experiences, they stood on the shoulders of their ancestors and have evolved based on the platform they were standing on. All I am doing is that; standing on my parents shoulders and evolving based on the platform I am standing on. I also benefit from many positive things I have learnt from them, the resourcefulness to find the means to put myself onto a more expansive path being one.

I appreciate that doesn’t even scratch the surface of a parents guilt on this stuff, but I also must point out that much of these things happens due to the nature of who we are as creatures and our drive for survival. Emotion is quite literally there to drive us to get what we need to survive. 

I am sure you are thinking by now, okay Penfold, enough. What do we do about this? 

Well you could read John’s book for a start, as there are a tonne of great practical exercises in there to support you with developing self awareness. The truth is there is no quick path to your own evolution, there is just the long road of life long commitment to keep expanding and evolving. Each persons path is individual to them and completely unique, which I can appreciate makes things even harder. 

What we can do though is be inspired by others, and pay attention to what they have learnt, in the hope that we might learn something too. 

I’ve written many blogs on all of this over the years, but some of the other things that have helped me on my path have been:

  • To start to make decisions for myself that truly served me, whether big or small. 
  • To start to monitor my emotions and pay attention to what they are telling me.
  • To learn how to get still within myself through meditation, and learn that there’s nothing in there I need to run away from.
  • By learning how to meditate, to give myself the space to create a greater awareness of myself and the nuances that drive my behaviour throughout a day.
  • To build a trusted, non shaming team around me that I trusted enough to believe it when they told me I was loveable. 
  • To put in the work to become vulnerable, to allow space for the love of other people to come in.
  • And right now, my new one is to give the negative voice inside myself a voice so that I can love and accept my dark parts as well as my light ones.

I will leave you with some commandments from John:

  • You have the right to judge your own behaviour, thoughts and emotions, and to take responsibility for their initiation and consequences. 
  • You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behaviour.
  • You have the right to judge if you are responsible for judging other people’s problems.
  • You have the right to change your mind. 
  • You have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. 
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t know.” 
  • You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them. You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.” 
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t care.” 

If any of this piece resonates with you and you are feeling a little flummoxed about where to go from here, reach out to me and let’s have a conversation and hack it together. My own healing journey is supported by sharing both what I have learnt and what I am learning in the support of others.

With special thanks to Josh Connolly for recommending the book and more broadly for his work in creating awareness of this area.

That time when I realised I had been mistaking numbness for resilience

I used to pride myself on my ability to bounce back. When something significant happened to me, generally I was able to wake up the next day as a fresh start and put it behind me. People would commend me on it, and it made me feel like I was strong and resilient.

What I was actually doing, on a very deep subconscious level, was not allowing myself to feel things, and in doing so, denying myself the opportunity to process them. I developed a tolerance for things that felt bad by simply becoming numb.

I was living a lie, but not deliberately so, my brain was finding a way to stay safe and protect me from pain. I say was, it still does by the way, I am just getting a little better at calling it out.

A better definition of resilience

Recently I have been blessed to spend some time with Josh Connolly, largely as I invited him to come and work with the Launchpad team on this very subject and to be a guest on my podcast, Pancakes and Peacocks. He has a beautiful take on resilience.

“Resilience is about connecting with my authenticity to understand myself well enough to know exactly what I’m feeling, so that I can get the resources in my life to be able to deal with the way that I feel. That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to struggle, that doesn’t mean that I am not able to find life difficult.” 

He goes further when he talks about honesty with ourselves; when we show up for everyone else around us and what we think they want us to be, we do so at the expense of ourselves. Rather than building relationships based on who we are, we work out who you need and want us to be and give you that person.

In doing so, we deny everyone (us included) the opportunity for authenticity in that moment.

In denying the reality of my emotions to myself, I was also denying the reality of myself to others. When people met the seemingly happy and ‘moving on with things’ me, they weren’t really getting to meet the real me, they were getting the version of me I thought they wanted and needed.

When we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel what is real to us, we deny ourselves access to authenticity. Authenticity starts with our ability to be honest with ourselves first, and continues when we become whole enough within ourselves to be honest with others.

Developing resilience is about developing flexibility 

For me that has meant developing a toolkit that enables me to be able to know how to get back to myself, based on whatever comes my way. I highly recommend starting to consider what you might need in yours.

I can’t tell you what you need, that is something that only you can figure out. My toolkit looks a little like this:

Stillness

Finding the means to connect to my body, for me that means using a gentle breath meditation. I do this every morning for 10-15 minutes. For me, developing a daily practice as been an essential part of enabling my emotional stability, and my ability to cope with the challenges of life.

Structure

I need my days to follow a set structure to thrive, before that I operated in chaos. My bedtimes and my wake up times are set, in the mornings I meditate, move and then take the time to do whatever I need before I start my working day. I eat at the same times every day, and sleep hygiene is super important to me. I always have 2 hours between eating and sleeping, and allow myself some screen free time before I attempt to sleep. My journey with rest has been a critical part of my overall mental flexibility.

Support

Letting go of tolerance to allow space for the support and love of others in a very real way. Coming back to Josh on this one: “Resilience is not about being insular, it is not about doing it on our own, accepting the support of other people is an act of resilience”. 

I have had to work really hard to accept the love and support of others. I have had to work to let my guard down and learn what I need in terms of the support of others. I now have my team assembled that support me in different ways on different things, and I am always adding new members.

Self love

For me that means things like the conversation that I have with myself when no one else is around and the way that I look at myself in the mirror. The way I forgive myself if I get something wrong.

I also love myself by taking care of myself and my environment. I aim to start each day feeling as good as I possibly can be and am always thinking about the future me when it comes to the level of care I take for the things around me.

That’s what works for me my friends, the key is to find what works for you and to play around with it.

Supporting yourself to support others 

A big part of the way we are able to develop our collective resilience will come in the way we are able to support one another.

When someone tells you something that is hard to hear, we don’t like the feeling that they are bringing us, so we often give them false positivity, or try to troubleshoot their challenges. I know I have been so guilty of this, the fixer in me just doesn’t want to quit. In reality we need to develop our own ability to withstand someone else’s truth.

We develop the means to withstand emotions and feelings from another person when we have developed enough within ourselves not to be pulled into them. That doesn’t mean the trigger doesn’t happen, it just means that we have developed the muscle that means that we are okay sitting within it when it does. 

We experienced this as a team at Launchpad in Josh’s workshop, where we divided into pairs and have a few minutes each sharing a moment where we developed resilience. We listened, we loved, we supported and we held space for one another. It was a beautiful thing indeed.

As Josh puts it; “…rather than seeking to make someone else better, we actually need to help them be better at feeling.” We do that by allowing them the space to do so, with honest enquiry, and from a place of gentle, loving discovery.  By listening fully, by caring enough to take the time to understand where they are and by simply just letting them speak. 

This was a huge reflection for me in terms of how I have shown up for others in the past, and one I take forward with me in terms of how I will show up in future.