Coachcast EP06: Life After Covid: Embracing Uncertainty

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EP06: Life after Covid: Embracing Uncertainty

Will life ever be the same again? Many people are finding that their personal and professional futures are full of uncertainty. Stress and anxiety are skyrocketing as people’s lives are undergoing unplanned, major upheavals. But is there a gift in all this? Coming from a career in leadership roles, Coach Genevieve has worked with CEOs, Heads of Departments, and Managers in leading teams, handling stress, and finding creative solutions to problems. She explores how you can find possibility in this newness, and how embracing curiosity can help you thrive through adversity.

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Victoria: The pandemic has had a huge impact on many of us. It’s separated families disrupted our work and even taken lives weeks and months of lockdowns have taken their toll and has left a huge amount of stress and overwhelm amongst us in our society. When the natural tendency is to take things one day at a time, it’s easy to sometimes forget yourself, your goals, losing sight of the future.

Even sometimes hope and wonder if the way that we live has actually been changed for us. We really start to ask ourselves, will life ever be the same again, it’s a wonderful topic that I’m really looking forward to having a conversation today with our guest coach Genevieve Matthews. Genevieve is certainly one of our amazing super coaches.

She’s worked with individuals and corporate clients on how to improve their performance, their wellbeing, becoming better leaders, and developing their creativity and unlocking their potential. So in today’s show, we’ll be taking a look and having a conversation around the post-pandemic future and what it looks like for all of us on a personal level and a professional level, and how we may successfully start to step in step by step and take control of parts of our lives, if not all of our lives.

So welcome today, Jen.

Genevieve: Thanks Victoria. Great to be here to have a chat.

Victoria: It’s a very topical conversation right now. And I know that we were talking offline before we started this podcast around the timing around how long will this conversation hang out for? And I do believe, and this is just a personal fault that COVID has had dramatic impact in such a short time. However, we’re going to be left with the systemic fallout of COVID in multiple areas of our personal and professional lives for years to come.

Which leads us into today’s topic, which is, ‘Will life ever be the same?’ And I know that you’ve been a coach for decades as well. And I know that you’ve got a wealth of knowledge and information and insights that you be able to share with us today. So I’d love to start with the first question being – given that this is all my first question – is really, is this a popular topic that clients are coming to you to get hope, to get solutions in how to navigate the uncertainty of will life ever be the same again?

Genevieve: They’re absolutely struggling with the uncertainty In so many different ways personally and professionally. And the question I think the question came quite early on in the journey too, about the conversation not needing to be about going back to the normal, back to the old world, if you like and how we were so used to things, because suddenly people realized actually it never could be the way it was.

And so for a long time, it was talking about it’s the new now – it’s what it is right now. And what that then looks like again in a few more months in another year’s time. In another three to five years, we don’t, we don’t know that yet. So there’s an extraordinary amount of uncertainty for people, whether that’s in their workplace, um, family, life schooling, life.

There are so many areas of our lives that COVID impacts.

Victoria: In your, when clients work with you, are you finding, I’m going, I’d love to show you some of the conversations that I’ve also been having, but there’s been a, there’s obviously this deep sense of fear. And this deep sense of fragility that is now coming to the surface of people’s lives and how they’re living their lives and how they’re spending their time and who they’re spending their time with.

And I’m wondering whether that is also feeding into this deep questioning around, will life ever be the same again? And I’m probably going to circumnavigate back to what I’ve just said and reverse engineer that question. Along the lines that with any vulnerability or with any fractured situation, there’s always an opportunity to create something positive from it.

If we’ve got the right tools and the right insights, to be able to look at what the learning is… to not ignore some of those fractures that could also be potentially surfacing when pressure points start to hit the ceiling. And this is just probably a philosophy that, that I’ve also shared with clients over the years.

As much as there is stress in a situation and deep uncertainty, it can also be an opportunity for what I refer to as an alchemisation point, where there is an opportunity to question, and there is an opportunity to look underneath the covers. And face some fears and face, maybe some areas of their own personal lives and professional lives that have taken a backseat.

So I’m probably spinning it around a little bit. To bring in a, probably a broader conversation around some of the opportunities that can come when we’re faced with the uncertainty of how we can also then alchemize that into something potentially positive. I’d love to get your thoughts on that.

Genevieve: It’s such a good opportunity too. And I’ve had several conversations with clients, even a lady yesterday who is going through the job interview process of needing to reassess and, looking at the differences. That she’s no longer a part of her old world industry, where she has previously worked and now looking at new employment and historically that would just never, ever, ever have been on her radar.

You know, a long-term professional in an industry, and then having to suddenly retrain and relearn. She’s back studying, doing two different courses. And so that’s incredibly stretching, and to use her words, ‘scary’, yet at the same time, she’s actually been discovering things about herself and really opening herself up to this new opportunity.

And it takes guts, like Victoria, it’s really extraordinary to watch these individuals suddenly realize that they can and find hope in the possibility. Of this new newness. You used the word, I think before, um, the exploring, I really love curiosity because the more questions we can ask and the more curiosity we can bring to our situations, whether that’s, dealing with kids, whether it’s helping a friend through grief, whether it is, you know, having those awkward conversations with the new boss that you’ve only ever met on zoom and never actually met in person, there are so many different scenarios we’re facing.

And if we can do that with curiosity, And have that beautiful sense of trust of I’ve got this risk in spite of the uncertainty, in spite of that, like the fear that might sit underneath it all, it’s just have a go at it and give these new experiences a go, and really stretch yourself because I think it’s with this uncertainty that we grow the most, I think we learn the most about ourselves.

We get to learn an enormous amount about other people as well. And that’s good, bad and ugly. There’s all aspects that have come out of the woodwork of, living intimately way more than we’ve ever had to with partners, husbands, friends, and even people that have gone back into home situations where there might’ve been young adults and had to go back to their parents.

Housing with parents again, is "We’ve been stretched. We’ve been tested," yet it’s this curiosity that I think really puts us in a good, good place.

Victoria: I love that word, curiosity. If we were to create a backpack, what would be the tools Jen, when clients work with you and have worked with you, what are the ingredients that make up the bravery to offer yourself the space of being curious? Cause it’s often different for everyone. But sometimes there is, there needs to be almost permission given within yourself to face your fears to even then step into curiosity.

Genevieve: Absolutely.

Victoria: And I’m just wondering with your experience when the clients that you’ve worked with, how would, what would some of those insights or strategies be that if we could put in create a backpack of curiosity? Because, wow. That’s such an empowering word. And I can literally see a backpack. And if we were to fill that backpack with the ingredients that we need to feel curious, and to act with curiosity, what would be some of those things that we would pack into our backpack?

Genevieve: Well, they’re yummy they’re really delicious. Okay. So. And I’m not talking about the chocolate and the bottle of wine and whatever else you’d need to go on a picnic with. Yeah. given the picnic things, a real theme at the moment, I’m going to give you the picnic of ingredients, this backpack for curiosity. And I always start with, empathy.

Okay. Compassion, forgiveness, and love. Like they, my four key ingredients. Cause if we haven’t got that first, really tricky then to actually start to be curious, because one, we’re not compassionate to the person or haven’t got empathy for the person that’s right in front of us in the situation that they’re going through.

We may not have it for ourselves yet. We might be being really judgy and critical and way too much in a talk going on, putting ourselves down. Well, maybe we’re overestimating our strength and perhaps got tickets going on that need to just, we need to calm the farm and calm it down a little bit so that we can actually ask the right questions or ask great questions of other people.

And so let’s say it’s, in the workplace and there’s been complicated history and maybe it’s been a rocky road. Then that’s where forgiveness comes in. Because if you hold people to account for all that history that’s gone on, it means you’ve already got all this context, background history. And so you’re not going to put yourself into a curious space because you’ve got all this background.

Like it’s almost like you’ve got suitcases of other luggage that don’t let you go. With that curious backpack phase. Cause you’re carrying everything else with you. So it’s really important to let that go and use forgiveness. So then it enables you to be curious and in a curious frame of mind and curiosity for me is heaps of listening.

It’s never just talk, talk, talk. It’s very much that sense of listen, receive the information and let it process… and maybe not with your map of the world and how you like to see things, but actually think, what’s their perspective? What are they saying? And really listen to it. and I think always the dose of love, I think we need so much love and kindness going on right now, like in any aspect of life, whether it’s that family life, where it’s been so stressed out perhaps, and everyone’s right at the end of their day, Or maybe it’s, just more about getting back in love with your customer again.

So let’s say you’re on the business journey and business has been quite challenging. Well, then you’re going to need a heck of a lot of love for your customers to get them back in the door, whether that’s the way in which you write contextually or is it, get on the phone tall people get back in love with them, fall back in love with them.

And that’s so, yeah, that’s why those four, I think, are really, really important for the backpack of curiosity.

Victoria: I think that’s such a wonderful analogy that in order to create a picnic backpack, which is light, we really do need to drop the suitcases of judgment. And we’re often so trained in our judgments. They just become a part of who we are. And we don’t even realize that we even have a judgment, and it’s very challenging to then experience empathy with who we are and compassionate with who we are and, or forgiveness and love.

If you are carrying around or not even aware that you’re carrying around these large suitcases of baggage often, no. And in, in my own years as a coach and Jen, you would have seen this with your clients that you can’t really gift it forward to someone until you’ve really gifted it to yourself. So being able to come back to yourself and ask if I chose to be, if I chose to show myself empathy in this situation, what would it say?

How would I act? How would I be? I often find it’s been a really powerful question because not a lot of people necessarily understand the definition of empathy. And I’d love just to maybe just to spend a little bit of time on those four picnic ingredients. And yes, I would have loved to have had it some chocolate in there in our backpack.

Maybe we can throw that in at the end, but to have I’d love just to spend a little bit of time on those four ingredients for our listeners. To help them go on a journey or get a deeper understanding of these ingredients and what they look like and what they feel like and how do they then translate into our day-to-day world as a mother, colleague, sister, aunt, grandmother, whatever that is, to work colleague business owner, entrepreneur.

And how that just can translate into a behavioural analogy of what, when we show up for ourselves, what is, what does empathy really look like?

Genevieve: As you asked that question, I actually, before you started listing all those aspects of life, that we are, I had a visual flash up of my daughter. As a ten-year-old and for me, empathy with her and the way in which I’m behaving and interacting on daily basis is understanding it’s actually in that moment that I might be wanting to do another email or, am scrolling through my phone or rushing to the kitchen to get something sorted.

It’s actually stopping. It’s looking her in the eye. And I do this physically. I actually stop and look her in the eyes and potentially touch her. So it might be rub her back or actually really connect with her. So she knows that in spite of busy mum, I’m actually really present and listening and understanding.

And so that, that, and again, not rushing and not got the noise in the head because otherwise the information isn’t going in that she’s talking about, it’s not going in, I’m not processing it. Cause again, mind is distracted, not present and busy doing other stuff. So it’s very much behaviourally being understanding.

What does she want from me? Does she need some love and attention? Is she wanting to explain something she’s learned at school? And I think we do this. This is very important too, in the workplace, again, regardless if you’ve got a zoom relationship going on at work or, you’re face-to-face in the workplace, this relationship, this connectivity that we get through eye contact that we get through presence, whether you’re in the middle of typing an email and you’re actually looking at the person you’ve got.

Stop what you’re doing and actually look up to understand where they’re coming from, and then that physiological shift of the way in which you’re receiving the information. So your head is up, it’s listening, it’s attentive and quiet when it needs to be quiet.

Victoria: Do you think also there’s another extension of that because I’m hearing when you’re sharing that beautiful story. With your daughter, Lucy, that is there. I’m just wondering whether there’s an opportunity here that we can. How do we, how does it look when we practice it with ourselves? So sometimes I find that it can certainly be easier when we can offer others empathy and we can offer others forgiveness and compassion, and we can show up for them.

But I find sometimes our biggest blocker is ourselves and we’re the one that is actually carrying this suitcase, that we’re more than happy to discard when it comes to others’ feelings and emotions and making sure that we show up for them. But the beautiful thing around, and I, I know that I’m a huge fan of coaching.

As I know you are, Gen, is that coaching allows us to be, it allows us to explore and allows us to be curious around ourselves. And I’m wondering, what does empathy look like for ourselves first and foremost before we then extend it to others?

Genevieve: Great question.

Victoria: Yeah. I mean, look, I’m practising. I think we’re all practising it in our lives at the moment, given these new times that we’re facing and. For me, it can often even just be sticking to my daily ritual that other days I might have the freedom to skip a few things, but right now, whilst we’re in lockdown, I’m really grasping onto those daily rituals for myself. And yes, I know we’re both incredible coaches and we’ve been on the journey for decades.

However, we don’t where human beings and it’s also being able to offer. What do we need, to make sure that we’re thriving to then be able to show up for others? And when I say we, I mean, the collective. So whatever that means for you to show empathy in that moment, saying no to some meetings, being able to create space in your day, being able to walk outside and feel the sun on your face for 10 minutes.

Instead of sitting in zoom meetings from 12 hours on, you know, every day it’s showing up with. Love and compassion for yourself. And I know we touched on this at the beginning of the conversation that there are no rules right now. And every day is almost a new day where the system gets reset every day.

And often it’s a case of what do I need to say no to today? If that’s the theme of the day in order to allow my day to flow more? Because I, I feel that that shows a layer of empathy and a layer of love and a layer of compassion instead of flogging yourself and trying to do too many things in the day when there is already this incredible pressure around us because of the COVID lockdown experience.

So I love you to share some of your own examples of where clients have come to you, where. They’ve been able to drop some of the suitcases of judgment and what have some of those breakthroughs, Gen, for them in that moment.

Genevieve: With some of those practical examples, you’ve talked about Victoria. I really want to, I want to go a little bit deeper into some of the neurology as well because I think the background to that really helps us, them with our practice. Routines and rituals and our day-to-day of what we can then say no to or not, and how to do that day to day, reset of how we’re feeling, because neurologically, if we aren’t familiar with what triggers us and what triggers the negative region of our brain and our response mechanism, then we will constantly be bombarded by that because that region of the brain will have what I call a potty when it might be our sense of control.

And certainty is absolutely under pressure is our sense of achievement. And if we love achievement and we don’t feel like we’re fulfilling our ourselves, like being, feeling fulfilled ourselves or others, aren’t meeting our expectations, whether that’s at home or in the workplace. It could be that things aren’t being done perfectly enough.

So certain aspects are triggering us will have a negative response to that. We’ll feel the anger we’ll feel the frustration we’ll feel immense sadness. We could go through a number of those different triggers and without knowing what we’ve been triggered with. In the, in, down the rabbit hole and that, then we need to be able to know what sent us down the rabbit hole and how to come back out of it so that we can then find that place of empathy.

And it is actually literally knowing neurologically that we get to choose the pathway, that the information in our brain is taking. And if you like, what, meaning we give something because if we give a meaning to a conversation or a statement or something we’ve observed as we’re walking past that can trigger us.

And we’ve got to make sure that we’re very, very mindful of that, meaning that we’re giving it. So then we’re choosing the pathway. We want that information. You’re a logically in our brain to go so that we can be choosing the positive region of that. Cause that’s where our empathy sits. That’s where our curiosity sits.

That’s where our ability to take action states. Otherwise we can sit around avoiding and at the moment, there’s a lot of good reason to sit around avoiding, you know, some days Groundhog day is like, I’d love to just kick the pillow over my head and not get out of bed. And that’s where we then need to be able to go empathy.

Okay. I’m feeling, I’m feeling it. And I had a complete meltdown in the kitchen the other day, and I was standing there crying and it was this COVID sadness and tears were coming down and hubby said something to me. And I said, I’m feeling really sad today. And he gave me a solution. Bless him, bless his cotton socks.

He went straight to solution orientated. What I need right now is for you to come over and please give me a hug. So I think asking for what we want, having that empathy of how we feel and knowing what’s triggered us, it wasn’t anything specific. It was just that general wave of sadness that came, but I was able to manage it in that moment and have the conversation.

And so this is a particular tool that I think is really critical for clients. And when we work together, it’s always about helping them understand what their triggers are. If they’re in the workplace, you know, we can do a lot of people-pleasing in the workplace. And people can get very offended and upset by others when they’re not doing something well, they’ve offended them.

So if you know your triggers, you can catch them. It’s like he can almost grab it before it goes down that rabbit hole and creates a lot of discomfort. And that ability now through COVID has been very, very critical for clients to right themselves and find some sense of balance and equilibrium.

It’s not to say you don’t feel sad and you don’t feel anger and all of those different emotions, they’re normal, but they’re in the alert signal. They’re not where we need to spend our days, our weeks and months, otherwise, we get consumed by them. And it’s important not to let it consume you.

Victoria: I love the insight that you said that we get alert signals.

And I’m wondering if, say I’m putting my curiosity backpack on right now that when we have the awareness that we have an alert going on. What would be, Gen, in your experience from working with clients, what would be three steps when you get that alert bell that goes off that alert signal, what would be three steps that you could take away or practice or be mindful of to recognize it and start to move away from a potential reaction into a positive response in that situation?

Genevieve: Oh, great question. It’s actually a really simple technique. There are probably four, let’s call it four good steps to making it work really well. First step is recognizing that you have been triggered. Okay. And I mentioned a few of those triggers. you recognize the triggers. And then it’s in that moment, choosing a visual or a physical or an auditory activity – and literally 10 seconds is enough to do a pattern interrupt neurologically in your brain so that you can then shift into that positive frame. So for example, if we were going to be doing one, now we could find a piece of art that’s on the wall, or look at the green of the trees, or you could actually feel your toes in your shoes.

And if you’re listening to this, you might have your boots on. It works just as well.

Victoria: Oh, I’ve totally got my boots on it and I’m totally wiggling my toes right now.

Genevieve: Could be out listening to this while you’re walking and you’ve got your thongs on and your feet in the sand. So physiologically in our brain, we cannot do everything at once. Okay. So let’s say we’ve had that negative emotion. It’s triggered us. If we then do a pattern interrupt with this physiological, use the toes in your boots.

You can rub your fingertips together as well. 10 seconds. It’s enough of a pattern interrupt in your brain to actually then do a switch and be able to say, okay, let’s turn on some empathy now. And you’re literally changing the direction of the information as it’s going through your brain. So what that means in the moment is it’s taking mental health.

And if we were to be having to deal with really heavy lifting, let’s say kids are having a massive meltdown or something really has gone pear-shaped at work. Okay. If you’re trying to lift a car – because it’s so heavy – your muscles aren’t going to be able to deal with that straight away. It takes the development of these mental muscles, just like we’d go to the gym and lift weights.

Some of us might be might’ve been able to do 15 kilos before COVID and no gyms open. And now. we’d probably be back down to lifting an eight-kilo dumbbell. Okay. So you, your mental muscles at the same. So it is really about 10 seconds of doing this pattern interrupt. Maybe it’s a bit longer.

And if you’ve got some really heavy lifting to do, that’s when you’ve got to know, then you’ve got to go and walk, you’ve got to get outside and do something that’s physiologically really going to shift your whole thinking. And that’s why we then go and say, we’ll take a bath, okay. Or go for a walk or go and have a cup of tea there, the big chunks.

But in 10 seconds you can actually neurologically change the information in your brain as well, which is really critical.

Victoria: Yeah. Our entire conversation is just filled with so many golden goodies. I love the backpack of curiosity. I love the fact that you’re able to help isolate the four magic ingredients, even though they’re not really magic, but they can have a magic outcome when we use them. And we’re aware of them, which is empathy, compassion, forgiveness.

And love ultimately to help us explore the question around curiosity and how this can help us navigate uncertainty. as well as the big question around will life ever be the same again, and to a large degree? No, it won’t. And this is. This is the truth that we’re dealing with. How can life ever go back to where we were two years ago?

It’s very challenging. And again, going back to what we initially started talking about there is also using our backpack of curiosity. It’s an incredibly rich opportunity to dig deep into who we are and to look at what does need to change. What does need shifting up? Do we want to use this time to up-skill, use this as an opportunity to perhaps say yes and be brave and maybe go after different opportunities that we might not have felt as resilient to do a couple of years ago?

And I love, I just love the concept of the backpack. I also just wanted to do a summary around, being able to recognize your alert responses, your trigger responses, and then being able to literally give yourself a ten-second pattern interrupter, whether that is wiggle your toes, go for a cup of tea, go outside, do something to interrupt their thinking or their physical response or their mental and emotional response that you’re having in that moment to stop, and reflect and pause.

I think that is one of the greatest insights that you’ve shared today, that our mindset is so critical to us navigating stress and navigating uncertainty. thank you so much for sharing those tools and those solutions today. I’ve certainly found it incredibly inspiring and I loved hearing your story around Lucy and particularly, you know, as parents, our children can sometimes be positive triggers or negative triggers depending on how you look at it, but as well as all other people around ourselves and ultimately.

We have an opportunity to use that exploration, that backpack of curiosity on ourselves to help us become more whole individuals to assist us on this incredible journey of life. So thank you, Gen, for being a part of our conversation today, it’s been lovely to have you.

Genevieve: Thanks. It’s been great to chat.

Victoria: if you would like to get in contact with Gen or any of our coaches on Hello Coach please pop over to hello-coach.com. And there’ll be more information at the end of the podcast. Thank you again, Gen, for coming today. And I do look forward to having you back on for another conversation.

Genevieve: I look forward to it.

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