Lessons from a life coach, the spiritual response to a shitty email, and sauna meetings with Sarah Wilson

This week’s adventures in self-help have included professional advice, personal progress and an almost naked date with a brilliant author in Soho. Life is weird but great right now…


Online and on my way to being a much better #GIRLBOSS thanks to coaching from Kim Sprague

Online and on my way to being a much better #GIRLBOSS thanks to coaching from Kim Sprague

“I’m all insights and no action. That’s my problem,” I whined to my (very patient) life coach Kim last week, as we reviewed the eight weeks we had just spent working together.

One of the side effects of reading a lot of self-help is that I get a lot of new insights into my Self and my story, sometimes daily, which in the grand scheme of things is not a major problem (hello fasttrack to enlightenment?!) but throw in a life coach, a pretty spiritual yoga retreat and Mercury Retrograde and lately I feel I’m all about learning and not enough about doing. (And there’s SO much that needs doing!)

I’ve been working with Kim Sprague, founder of Flamingo Life Coaching for the last couple of months, focusing on my business mindset as I navigate Shelf Help (and myself) through exciting-but-also-more-than-a-little-bit-terrifying new waters.

As a recovering undersharer I didn’t think I was great at being coached, because I don’t like sharing parts of myself that I’m unsure about. And I’m unsure about most things at the moment, because I spend most of my time doing things I’ve never done before. But Kim has gently but expertly guided me through several new business situations and self-esteem crises to arrive at a place where I might still feel unsure about things, but I also feel excited and confident that I can tackle them.

And one of the most insightful pieces of advice from her has been to take that insight comment and challenge me to stop looking forward and to what I haven’t yet figured out (e.g. my latest insight that I don’t like responsibility and go to great lengths to avoid it) and instead to take a step back and look at everything that I have done, and all the insights I have actually worked on, figured out and grown from over past two months and actually two years.

We spend our lives pushing forward, with our eye on the next prize, because it’s what we are built to do, and that’s how shit gets done. But it’s so important to stop and reflect sometimes and appreciate ourselves for how far we have come. Indeed, it helps us to push further. This month’s Book of the Month, Crazy Good talks about how we need to recognise the good in ourselves before we can do more good. Author (and coach) Steve Chandler calls it ‘priming’; if I want to become more responsible, then I should look at the ways that I am already responsible and take it from there. MUCH easier to become more responsible than to go from an idea of completely irresponsible to totally responsible pillar of society, right?

I often advise Shelf Helpers to stop comparing themselves to other people and instead compare themselves to themselves one year, or five or ten years ago. And they are usually amazed by what they have achieved and how different they are as people. (You might have noticed, I’m great at giving advice, and not so great at following it sometimes….)

ACTION: Compare yourself to yourself one year ago. Write down three things you have done/achieved/learned/tried/changed/stopped/improved that make you feel proud. Put that list somewhere you’ll see it daily.

2. CREATING VS REACTING aka The Best Way to Respond to a Shitty Email

This was another action inspired by the July Book of the Month, Crazy Good, and guys, I am crazy proud of myself for this one…

Anyone who has applied to be a Shelf Help member or host recently will (hopefully) have realised by the delayed response that SH HQ is a bit swamped. Some amazing press coverage alongside our ever-expanding digital family has meant that I can’t keep up with requests as quickly as I would like (incase you don’t know, SH HQ is actually just me, for now) and so this weekend I holed up with a ton of Nespresso and blitzed the To Do lists, taking my inbox down from 2,000 to less than 50 while my friends watched Florence & The Machine and the Cricket and Tennis in the sunshine (give this girl a freakin’ medal).

Getting inspired by Book of the Month, Crazy Good, on a crazy good work trip to the South of France

Getting inspired by Book of the Month, Crazy Good, on a crazy good work trip to the South of France

During the blitz I replied to a couple of local Host applicants who may have been waiting for a while. Like, um three months. I know , I know! That’s pretty terrible. It’s really terrible. Especially when I am actively asking people to apply to be Shelf Help Hosts and join our tribe. And I really WANT you to. All of you! But in my defence I do have two other jobs and also, as we have established, sometimes I have issues with responsibility and am probably subconsciously self-sabotaging my efforts to be a more responsible human. ANYWAY, I’m digressing…

The upshot of this story is that one of the wannabe Hosts replied to my message with instructions on how to join with a pretty blunt: “LOL! You ignore me for three months and now you expect me to do something for you and spend my time and energy on something this badly organised? I don’t think so, mate,” kind of message. Which is a totally valid response, given the situation. But which initially made me feel ashamed and then angry. How dare he be so mean when all I’m doing is trying to help people? He can screw off if he thinks I’m going to drop all my other commitments just to reply to him. Doesn’t he know that I’m working ALL of the time to try and get this thing off the ground? He’s not even paying or contributing anything yet he expects me to be at his beck and call. How RUDE! etc etc etc. You can imagine the first email that I crafted back…

And then I remembered Steve Chandler’s advice on a bad situation. And that instead of making it worse or fuelling the fire or REACTING with venom when we feel hard done by we always have the option to pause, take a breath, look at the situation from a new perspective and/or someone else’s perspective, and ask ourselves what we could CREATE instead? CREATE vs REACT. Almost the same letters, but two very different words, with two very different outcomes. Steve gives an example of a critical email he received about one of his earlier audio books, and describes the first angry reply he crafted before taking a breath and deciding that he would try and create something good out of it, and sending a reply that thanked the dude for his time and comments and even agreed with him on some of the points. He finished by offering to send him a book. And guess what, the response from the dude was filled with compliments and a bit of remorse, and the result was a new relationship, a happy new super fan and good vibes all round.

And so I decided to channel Steve and take this opportunity to tell my wannabe host that he was right - because he was - and that three months is too long to be kept waiting for an RSVP, before explaining my situation and the current overwhelm and that I hoped he would still consider joining us online. And I received the most lovely reply back. Thanking me for the nice reply and referencing the fact that I am a responsible person. Responsible! Me! The exact same quality that I had been moaning about not having in my latest life coaching session.

When faced with my instinctive defensive reaction I took a different action, and behaved in a way I would like my best-self to behave. The result? A a feeling of empowerment and pride in my best-self behaviour, as well as a new Shelf Help member, and possibly host, who is now more invested then he may ever have been because I took the time to engage with him from a place of positivity and honesty.

And now I DO expect a freakin’ medal. Thank you.

ACTION: When you feel yourself start to react negatively to something today or this week think about what you can create instead. How can you turn the situation into something positive? Or at least that makes you/someone else feel a bit better in the moment? Then do it. Enjoy it. And I’d love you to share it with the SH community here in the comments or on the Facebook page.

3. Sauna meetings with Sarah Wilson

If you google Sarah Wilson you will read that she is: “A multi-New York Times bestselling and #1 Amazon bestselling author, former journalist and editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, host of MasterChef Australia, philanthropist and founder of IQuitSugar.com, Australia’s largest digital wellness site. Her latest book, Simplicious Flow, is the world’s first zero-waste cookbook. Her international bestseller first, we make the beast beautiful sells in 131 countries, she ranks as one of the top 200 most influential authors in the world (2017 and 2018) and has a combined digital audience of 3 million.”

She’s basically everything that 'old me' would have been terrified to enter into a room, let alone a conversation, with.

Women like Sarah - aka confident, successful, seeming to be acing life doing all the things I dream about and having full shit together - used to make me shrink. Emotionally and even physically as I would tense up and find it impossible to articulate myself in front of them. Feeling small and stupid and worthless.

Dinner party date at Melissa Hemsley’s house to celebrate the launch of Sarah Wilson’s paperback here in the UK

Dinner party date at Melissa Hemsley’s house to celebrate the launch of Sarah Wilson’s paperback here in the UK

Instead of being inspired when meeting people like her who have achieved so much I would often feel inadequate and 'less than' simply by being in their presence. Like a fraud or phoney or imposter gatecrashing a party for the cool kids, just waiting to get caught out.

Which is everything to do with how I felt about myself at the time and nothing to do with what these super-humans were/are like as people. (If you’ve read Sarah’s book you’ll know that she suffers from anxiety more crippling than most of us can comprehend).

So...how totally cool is it that just a couple of days ago Sarah the super-human and I were thigh-to thigh, barely dressed and sweating it out together in an infrared sauna pod in the basement of the Soho Glow bar. On my invitation. Yep! I had read in her book that she loved an infrared sauna, and so, feeling brave, I invited this bestselling author and busy-as-hell mega woman on a sweat-soaked date while she was in town and she said yes. And then she actually turned up. And then we we actually had fun.

A bit of context here: I first met Sydney-based Sarah a couple of weeks earlier at a dinner party to launch the paperback of that book on anxiety, where she admitted that she finds London terribly lonely. So I did have a loose connection with her, and I did guess that she might appreciate a kind invitation from a kind-of-stranger (if you follow her Instagram account you’ll see that Sarah has some brilliant adventures accepting invitations from kind strangers).

But the fact that I a) took a chance on getting in touch and reaching out to someone I am in actual awe of and b) actually enjoyed our time together, getting inspired and educated (“You gotta sit in your shit and do the work,” she told me) rather than spending the time wondering what the hell someone like her is doing hanging out wth someone like me, says a LOT about how far I have come in my quest to accept myself. Because now that I accept and like myself, I have no reason to think that others won’t either. And if they don’t, I’ll get over it. And that is such a brilliant, freeing feeling.

Sarah and I even found ourself disagreeing on some things - she thinks most self-help is a load of narcissistic bollox when the planet is about to implode, wheras I think most of us need to transform our relationships with our Selves before we will start to properly care about the planet for instance - but now that I am more secure in myself, that’s totally OK.

Brene Brown says that if your goal is to get people to like you and they don’t, you’re in trouble. But if your goal is to be yourself and they don’t, then you’re OK.

And I think that’s a wonderful way to look at life.

ACTION: Think about someone you really want to meet, or spend more time with, who is already in your orbit (boy/girl/contact/author/mentor/guru/teacher), get creative with your invite, then ASK THEM OUT* and celebrate yourself for doing the asking whatever they say. (*clothes optional)

Toni Jones1 Comment