How to find focus

This week we hear from Bird associate Elloa, sharing her reflections after our Bird associate workshop day last month. Enjoy…

A few weeks ago, all of the Bird Associates and Abby from Work Well Being, a great organisation that Bird partners with, spent the day together working (and playing!) our way through some of the core Bird workshops. We spent the morning looking in depth at stress, navigating uncertainty and perfectionism, and strategies for self-care. Personally it was powerful and a huge relief to acknowledge and address perfectionism in a group of likeminded women, and to give a voice to the stories that we tell about uncertainty. So often we attempt to address these issues in isolation, perhaps reading books about dealing with stress or meditating, but something powerful happens when we do this in the company of other human beings.

After a delicious shared lunch, we moved on to what ended up being, for me, a really powerful workshop: getting focused and taking action. We each identified an area where we wanted to develop. I knew instantly what I wanted to bring…

A few years ago, I used to host a podcast where I interviewed wholehearted individuals about their vulnerabilities, their gifts and their experiences of being fully alive. It took off and did really well. Then, a couple of years ago, the show morphed and changed direction and became The Wide Awake Show, and I began co-hosting it with my husband Nige. But for lots of reasons, we just didn’t have the same momentum as I’d had with the podcast in its original incarnation. Slowly, over a period of many months, it ground to an absolute halt.

Occasionally, I’d get a really strong urge to podcast again. I would record long, philosophical ramblings into my phone while walking my dog and would occasionally feel incredibly inspired and motivated to get the podcast up and running again. But something always stopped me from editing and publishing the episodes – and as the finding focus workshop explores, that ‘something’ is often a challenging internal story or barrier in one shape or form. Luckily, the workshop gave us the space to address what those stories were.

I wrote, ‘Create the Wide Awake Show!’ in big purple letters at the top of the finding focus worksheet, and began to voice the different blocks, stories and messages that had been jangling around inside me for months with my workshop buddy.

We have too much other stuff to do.
There’s enough podcasts in the world already.
Other people’s shows are more popular.
It’s never going to make us any money.
Blah, blah, blah…

Sharing my stories – but also hearing my workshop partner run through herchallenging messages and barriers about her area of focus (which was completely different to mine) – also helped me see these stories for what they were – just stories. NOT the truth, and not something I had to invest any more energy in if I chose not to.

Then we shifted gears and focused on the new story we wanted to tell, and our internal and external sources of support. As soon as I wrote down ‘We LOVE podcasting! It’s about the process not the outcome’, I felt something reorient itself in my mind. The focus didn’t need to be on making the show popular or even making it good! The point was simply to let myself create.

Then came the scary bit – getting absolute clarity on next steps and the specific actions we would take, plus identifying the boundaries we would need to put in place. Self-awareness is one thing: awareness plus action is where the rubber meets the road. It was decision time.

Hannah invited us all to share out loud what we were committing to and what we were saying no to. Listening to these amazing women sharing their area of focus, their actions and their boundaries, I was reminded once again of the power of exploring self-care, wellbeing and resilience in collaboration and community with other people. Somehow, I ended up going last – I think in some ways I held back deliberately, because I’d been talking about doing the podcast for so long that I needed to be really honest with myself about whether I was going to leave the workshop and make it happen. As I made eye contact with the women when sharing about the podcast, I just knew I had made a proper commitment to getting three episodes out into the world – and soon!

That was a few weeks ago. I put the worksheet up on my cork board and looked at it every day and started working through the actions I’d listed. It took longer than I’d have ideally liked, but…

Yesterday, Nige and I published the first of those new episodes (you can listen to it here). It isn’t perfect. It hasn’t had and will not get hundreds of downloads. But today I am crystal clear that that isn’t the point.

The Bird workshop helped me remember what the point is, and for me it’s very personal.

The point is to create. To anchor into the values that really matter to me, and to let those guide the way I live my days. To put in the footwork and let go of the outcome. To show up to my life with as much authenticity and enthusiasm and openness as I dare.

To be unapologetic in how I answer the question posed by the wonderful poet Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What I plan to do is to keep creating. What about you?

With love, Elloa and Hannah

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Image by Caleb Lucas

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