That was the question I asked myself in March last year…and many weeks following that. Like everyone, 2020 wasn’t turning out quite as I planned.
My word for the year was FunEmployed – encapsulating an enormous sign of relief after leaving an 18-year career in Investment Banking. Very long hours, with constant pressure, efficiencies, regulations, clients and controls and, at times, brutally misogynistic. It had been a monumental journey, but it was time to get out!
So I had escaped to Australia, to find myself amidst the kangaroos and koalas, and thankfully some old friends (having lived here previously for 8 years, it was also home 2.0).
And so what did I decide to do?
No pressure, no expectation, no career advice or searching. Even the gentle assertions of my parents ‘You could get a job???’ fell on deaf ears… ‘I’m having a break – some white space – and see what comes up.’
Now from someone who’s motto has always been ‘consistent, exceptional delivery’, white space was not something I was accustomed to. I wouldn’t have called myself a workaholic, but the words may have been uttered by some people along the way.
So I started to receive a few concerned check ins: ‘So…what’s keeping you busy?’ ‘Are you coping not working?’ ‘Aren’t you BORED?’ Actually (and rather surprisingly) my busy brain was delighted to have a break and seemed to be quite good at not working. But there was always a caveat… ‘…for now…’
As it turns out, neurologically, white space is really important (1). We push so much information into our brains nowadays – constantly – it rarely has a chance to breathe; to create; to BE. Glennon Doyle puts it beautifully in her book Untamed ‘I was an input junkie thrown into detox‘.
The reality is, it’s only in the mindful detox that we hear the whispers of our direction, our purpose.
‘The mind must be given relaxation, it will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced…so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind.‘Seneca
So, I enjoyed walks, meditation, running and just time being present alone and with friends. And whichever twist and turn my mind would make, it came back to the same thing – helping women with confidence.
Over nearly 2 decades, I saw too many women not reaching their incredible potential because they lacked confidence. I had doubted myself and my abilities, often feeling like a fraud in the positions I had worked so hard for. There were many so amazing, smart, intuitive, talented women; constantly doubting themselves to the extent that was crippling. And it was infuriating!
In fact, the research shows that 50% of women have self-doubt around their performance & careers (vs 30% of men) (2). According to the Women’s Agenda Ambition Report 2019 (3), the largest inhibitor to career progression was ‘Confidence in my abilities’ at 51% of over 1800 respondents. And when in the minority, women speak 75% less than men (4).
It was time I used my experience to help. I had always tried to be the ally, the cheerleader, the mentor, the coach, but it was time to listen to what the universe was telling me. It was my turn to be confident and this time really go ALL IN.
And so, amidst worldwide uncertainty, the entrepreneur was forged; although I didn’t actually tell myself that, as it sounded too official and daunting (the irony of this was also pointed to me by a friend ‘You’re a confidence coach for God’s sake!’) Either way, I decided to just take a breath, put my foot on the path and start walking.
I researched deeply; listened, talked and typed and slowly built a confidence programme that was to define my next chapter. ‘Done is better than perfect’ (Sheryl Sandberg). Dare to begin (Horace). ‘Failure is success in progress’ (Einstein) – if there was a motivational quote, I’ve used it. And now I’m excited to have a fully-fledged, growing business, website, programme and clients – all centred around building confidence.
So what have I learned:
- Stop being an input junkie – Giving your mind time to breathe releases unconscious avenues and buried creativity, which genuinely resonate with who you are and what you love.
- Take one step – Confidence comes from action – you need to step out of your comfort zone to gain confidence to do more (the release of dopamine encourages you to continue) (5).
- Don’t overthink it – If I had really thought it through, I would have talked myself out of it – catastrophising would have taken over. Try, fail fast, course correct and move on. Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule is a great tool to use on this front (6)
- Enjoy the process – I’ve loved learning new things: designing a website, social media strategy and writing. Having a growth mindset around that has been critical to keep going when it’s felt new and overwhelming. (7)
- Listen to the small voice – it had been talking to me for a while – now I’ve listened and am following my passion, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
(1) Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754
(2) Institute of Leadership and Management 2011 research featured in HBR https://hbr.org/2011/10/four-ways-women-stunt-their-careers
(3) Women’s Agenda Ambition Report 2019. https://womensagenda.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Womens_Agenda_Ambition_Report_2019.pdf
(4) Brigham Young University & Princeton research 2012. https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/talim/files/Gender%20Inequality%20in%20Deliberation%20-%20PDF.pdf
(5) John D. Salamone, Mercè Correa. The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine. Neuron, 2012; 76 (3): 470 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.021
(7) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dwek
About the Author: Caroline Brewin is a former corporate Director in Finance, turned Executive and Confidence Coach. She is passionate about helping women fulfil their potential through achieving lasting, exceptional results. Get more short snappy tips from her newsletter at www.brainpoweredcoaching.com.