Are you struggling to reach your goals? Do you want to understand yourself – who you are and what you really want – a little better? Asking powerful questions may overwhelm you and make you uncomfortable, but they might also be your key to unlocking your potential and achieving success! In this episode, Linda Bonnar shares the impact of asking yourself better, more powerful questions and how it can frame the lenses you look through. It can be surprising to find places and fears in ourselves that we have never really known. It can also be surprising to discover the ways we try to feel safe. Linda is here to tell us that achieving self-management and self-awareness is a long process, and that every little change is important and worth it. Linda also touches on asking vs assuming, the comparison’s connection to safety, navigating situations with authenticity, and more. Tune in now and learn how to pinpoint the answers you need to take your life to the next level!
Quotes from Guest:
- What’s a tiny step forward for me?
- Everything we do serves us in some way, shape or form.
- It’s okay to share, expose, hide, reserve different parts of ourselves in different contexts.
- Instead of the judgement, what if we allow it to be what it is?
- What’s the purpose, and how does it serve me?
- “What is it that you want?” is the most important question.
- Fear loves to be shrouded in mystery so we don’t go near it.
- What I noticed about one of the pieces of my own fear was underneath it was sadness.
- Even the small steps can give us encouragement.
- If you don’t know, find someone who does know.
Listen to the podcast here
Authenticity In Action: Asking Powerful Questions, Conversing With Your Fears, And Unlocking Your Potential With Linda Bonnar
I’m trying to find words that are a little unique because I have a tendency to say similar things. It ends up being the case with a lot of the guests on the show, which is that I spend time getting to know someone before clicking record, and a whole conversation evolves. It feels like our guest, Linda, and I have been on quite a journey because we had some tech challenges to overcome. I don’t know about you, Linda, but I feel like when you resolve a challenge like that, it brings you so much closer to somebody. It’s like, “We did it. We overcame this mountain we are climbing.” I feel so grateful for that.
As I mentioned to you, Linda, I have gone through all sorts of tech challenges on this show. That doesn’t bring me any distress. I notice sometimes it brings the guest distress. I’d love to hear from you since you are so well-trained in your profession with well-being. I imagine that you have the self-awareness to express your feelings. I’m curious about what came up for you when we were going through tech challenges. Was it stress? Was it fear? Was it concern? What were you experiencing at that time?
What a great starting point, Whitney. It was all of the above. For a woman in tech, I said, “It’s the settings. There are three different settings. Where are these settings? Are they hidden somewhere? What is happening?” Honestly, I was frozen before. I was so cold. It’s cold in New York. It’s cold in my apartment. All these layers are on. Now that I’ve gone through this whole process of solving tech challenges, I’m sweating.
It’s interesting how that can manifest in our bodies. What do you think was making you sweat? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I want to ask. What is it that makes that uncomfortable or physically a shift in your body?
In full transparency, it’s that voice in my head that tells me I should know. It’s like, “You should know this, Linda. Are you literally the only 41-year-old in the world to know how to do settings?” This argument then starts. If you could see inside my head, it’s a, “No. Hang on. There are three different types of settings, so we’ll calm down. She’s obviously very patient and very good at what she does, and she’s going to talk you through it, so it’s fine.” There’s the other voice that’s eye-rolling, almost going, “Here we go again. Come on.” Then it’s the other chatter, “You have so much to do right now. Do you have any idea? Have you looked at that to-do list? No, because you’ve pushed it over to the side.” It’s this whole combination of things.
That’s super helpful to hear and interesting to me because I really enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences and how they process things. I’m so grateful that you articulated it that way because it’s a great example of not knowing how things manifest for other people. It’s so relative, each of our experiences. Even though you and I are here together virtually, not physically, we’re across the country from one another, we’re meeting for the first time. Maybe there’s social pressure. I’ve noticed a lot with guests on the show, I’m going to use this lightly, but like a lowercase t trauma, as it’s often referred to in psychology, where it’s bringing in the past experience, and thinking, “What if this person on the other side is not going to accept me? What if they’re not going to be patient with me?”
As you were saying, I should know better, and maybe coming up with this feeling of I wasn’t prepared, and all of that. No matter how hard I may try to convey to you, “No, it’s okay, we’re in this together, we can slow down and be patient,” there might be a feeling that’s not true, or based on past experiences of people not being patient or not being okay with you figuring something out. Is that part of it, too?
Here we go. Let’s dig a little deeper here. I know part of it is that my husband is such a whizz on laptops and would have everything sorted in two seconds, and I’d be over in the corner crying, sweating profusely in a fetal position, crying over that S word, Settings. It’s strange. The logical thing is, “What is the worst thing that’s going to happen here?” The worst thing is that I’ll start crying. You might say to me, “Linda, I don’t think this is going to be a good conversation. We might never speak again.” That’s the worst thing in the world.
Is that really so bad? Something I’ve been toying with, too, is sometimes we’re not connected to what the worst thing is. That’s what it feels like, a reaction that’s not very logical. It’s deep in the body. Why I brought up the word trauma is because I wonder if it’s connected to poor experiences in the past, projecting them onto the present. What a beautiful reminder that our past experiences do not dictate the present, and that things can be different and could be a healing reminder that it is okay sometimes. You’re not going to get yelled at and rejected, and there are people that are really accepting. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in my life. I’m grateful to explore it with you from the get-go.
I love this so much. You’ve reminded me of the patience part of it. I was a History teacher for fifteen years. I had and would still have so much patience with any young person that I was teaching history with. If I could have applied that patience to myself, who knows where I’d be now? It’s incredible what we notice in that process because I’ll put myself in the student’s situation and be like, “If I knew my teacher wanted me to write an essay, what I would want from them?” I would want compassion, understanding, guidance, instructions, and this very clearly, laid out detailed plan. Now, instead of making that assumption, I’ll check in with someone, “What do you need from me right now?” Sometimes, it’s nothing, “I can figure this out. Fantastic. Great.” There are different layers to that piece.
There’s also the side on the other end for me, and this is part of what makes this interesting. I jump into a mode of over-helping sometimes. Something that I’m practicing is letting the other person let me know when they need and want help versus assuming it. I get this panicked feeling on my end of, “I feel patient, but maybe they don’t feel patient, so let me help them.” It’s similar to what you were saying where it is assuming that somebody wants or needs something instead of asking them.
How powerful it is to ask?
For me, I don’t ask because I’m afraid they won’t know I have some lowercase trauma around people getting frustrated in general. People don’t like it when I ask questions. That’s been part of my life story because I’m a big question-asker. A lot of people are uncomfortable with questions. Have you ever noticed this? Is this part of your experience at all?
It’s part of my experience on both sides of the fence. As a coach, I know some coaches who do surface coaching. I do the deeper level coaching. I want to know what’s going on and what’s under there because it’s not your boss. We all know it’s not your boss. There’s something else there that is something about us. In asking those powerful questions, I’ve seen my clients be uncomfortable. I’ve heard them say to me, “Will you ever stop asking questions?”
No, because we’re getting places with this. If you don’t want to go there, absolutely fine. Being asked certain questions myself can make me very uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s not even a question, it can be a comment. It’s all ourselves. It’s that meaning that I place on the comment or on the question, and story that I start telling myself about that.
The meaning is such a great way to phrase it in the story. Each of us has our own meanings and stories. I’ve noticed about myself that if I think too much about that, socializing feels incredibly challenging. How can we possibly communicate with people if everybody’s walking around with different stories, meanings, definitions, and feelings? It’s amazing that two people can get along and understand but get frustrated with each other over device usage, something basic like that.
Those moments of perhaps self-righteousness, or, “You’re doing this,” “but I’m doing that,” and these little arguments we get into small things. That makes a little bit more sense to me versus when we get along, it’s almost like an absolute amazing achievement for people to get along and understand one another because everybody’s looking at the world a little bit differently. Maybe questions help us get there. Maybe the avenue to understanding each other is to ask questions.
We can all ask questions. It’s the type of question that we ask. It’s a huge difference between asking why. It can be used to find purpose and meaning in everything else. When we ask, “Linda, why were you not able to do that? Why were you not ready for Whitney? Why did you not know where your settings were?” The excuses come up in insurmountable numbers. Whereas, we ask ourselves and other people better questions like how, what, when, or something that is more solution-focused or action-orientated. My mind is overflowing now with examples of these questions and of times when I have completely distorted the meaning of something in my head, “Linda, you are very good at that.” It’s one of my strengths.
This leads into one of your strengths, and not in a joking sense like that might have been, but your expertise in a lot of ways is helping people make the small changes. In fact, you put it as the bite-sized ways to transform your life and how you can create huge transformations in life by making small, almost insignificant changes to everyday routines. I love that phrase. It might seem insignificant, but that could lead to something big. That was the reason I wanted to talk to you, Linda.
That feels like a very refreshing viewpoint because so many people are struggling with overwhelm. Many people feel busy and anxious, and there isn’t enough time. That can easily lead someone to feel like how they could possibly make a change. What if a change was based around something so small and almost insignificant? What if you could learn a method like yours to stack up things to a certain point where there are so many small things that they amount to something big?
That’s the whole point, the meaning. If we tell ourselves that story or we place that meaning on something, it’s huge. This is a big deal. I’m overwhelmed. We catch ourselves in that moment, and we hear the way that we’re talking about it, even the emphasis on the word, “That’s a huge task.” Is it really? Whereas, it’s the way that we frame things and the lens that we look at things through. I always use myself as an example. I feel like I’m going around a number of different things. There are parts I think of this. The first one is we can sometimes make an assumption about someone, especially if they’re successful, where they are now is where they’ve always been.We can sometimes make an assumption about someone, especially if they're successful, that where they are now is where they always have been. Click To Tweet
I use my running as an analogy for that. People will often say to me, “It’s easy for you because you’ve run loads of marathons.” Hang on a second. Could I go out and run a marathon now? Yes, I could. Would I be injured after it? Chances are yes because I’m not a fully match fit. However, if you met me ten years ago, would I’ve been able to run a marathon? Not a chance. A mile would’ve been a huge push for me at that stage because I was still smoking and whatnot at the time as well. What I started doing was making the tiniest changes because what we need is buy-in from our brains.
Years ago, if I said to my brain, “We’re going to run a marathon,” my brain would be, “Nope. That’s a hard note for us. Thanks, Linda. Not at all.” Now, if I say to my brain, “We’re doing that marathon next week,” it would be like, “Here she goes again. We better get ready.” Not fully on board, but it’s like, “Okay.” It’s those small things that we might take for granted because of the overwhelm and the fact that we think we should be doing more. “Look at what everybody else is doing.” Here’s a comparison trap as well where it’s like, “Hang on.” Even a tiny step forward from me, “Right here and now with what I know and have, what’s a step forward for me?” and doing that.
That is such a powerful question to ask yourself. Speaking of questions, that might be the theme of our discussion now, the questions we can ask to make forward momentum. With all of your work in psychology and well-being, why do you think we focus so much on what other people are doing versus what we’re doing? Why is it so commonplace and tempting to minimize our progress, the small steps that we’re taking because they don’t look like the steps other people are taking?
First of all, I love that question of the questions and the title of the questions as well. Often, we want to know where we fit in. More often than not, and maybe more often than we realize, we’re looking for how we measure up. If we think of this with a reptilian brain, who’s the strongest, who’s going to survive all of this shit? Who’s going to win? Who’s not going to be eaten now or attacked? Yes, we’ve changed, grown, and everything else, but that basic level is, “How do I compare?” I can’t remember where I read it before, but I love that thing where when we walk into a room of people, we instantly do it. Our brain will look for a friend or a foe straight away, even if we don’t know anyone.
A brain will do that thing. For me, it’s, “That person looks Irish. Go and talk to that person,” or, “I’ve heard that person over there is Irish. You need to have an immediate connection with someone.” The same as if we’re looking for a mate or any partner in life. Who do I look for? Who am I attracted to? Where do I feel safe? “Look at that woman over there. She’s so tall and beautiful, and looks like she earns £1,000,000 a day. There’s no way I’m going near her. I am going to stand here on my own because that’s safer for me. Thanks.”
It’s that core need or desire to survive and feel safe socially. Maybe many of us don’t feel safe in social situations. That comparison is interesting when you look through that lens to find someone who’s like you. It feels to me, and maybe it’s a limited perspective and a shift that I could make. When I think of the comparison trap, I don’t think of it as safety. I feel like it’s the opposite. Are people self-sabotaging themselves? Why would they want to? If our core goal is to feel safe, there must be some sort of level that unconsciously we’re getting to. Maybe not self-sabotage, but there’s something that feels safe about not feeling good enough. Is that possible?
Totally. I’m thinking about this in terms of my own path and things like that. It’s so interesting where we find safety and what we find safety in. It can be almost that secondary gain. To anybody else, what is she doing? There doesn’t seem to be a primary gain to be had from that experience. Somewhere along the line, there’s a secondary gain, and that’s why we’re doing the things that we do. The comparison thing, if I compare myself to others, but it drives me, motivates me, and makes me want to do better, is that not a positive for me? Whereas, if I compare myself to others and I end up in this negative spiral, but through that negative spiral, I open up the bottle of wine, and all of a sudden, I feel better about myself. This is great. I’m living my best life ever.
It’s understanding. It’s the awareness around the patterns that we catch ourselves in or the patterns that we can so easily fall into. It’s understanding because everything that we do, and I mean everything, serves us in some way, shape, or form. It’s not always completely obvious. The safety thing, “Do I really want to feel safe? Is that my primary goal? Maybe it’s something else. Maybe there’s a higher criteria that I’m aiming for here.” It’s so fascinating when we understand ourselves even a little bit better, then we can understand others better. I find people fascinating.
You’re in luck because I love tangents and always welcome them. You can go off in as many directions as you want, and I will follow it. Even that is interesting, Linda. I’ll stop for a second to address that because I’ve often felt self-conscious about going off on tangents. In 2022, I started to ask myself, “What if I could accept the fact that I speak on tangents?” Another thing for me is I struggle with being concise. I’ve trained myself, especially with the show, to shorten things and not to go too long.
Even as a coach, when I went through my well-being coaching training in 2022, one of my teachers said to me, “You asked too many questions in a row. Try to ask one question at a time.” I was like, “Okay.” I was able to shift that because, in that setting, I was there for the client, as you well know, Linda. You have to keep the client focused, and that seemed easy for me. I started wondering, in a personal setting, in a non-client professional setting, do I need to be concise and restrain myself from being tangential? When you started expressing that you were becoming tangential, what was the emotion behind that comment? Do you feel self-conscious like I do about going on tangents?
It’s funny because one of my greatest fears, and there are a number of them, is not being considered smart. There’s a deep history there. It shows up in a number of ways. It’s really interesting because my husband would always ask me to go to these table quizzes with him, and I would say no. I used to go then with friends, and we’d do quite well or something. He said to me one day, “Why won’t you come and be on my team?” I was going through this phase of trying to communicate even better with him because I learned from a very young age, and this is quite typically Irish, you don’t talk about the uncomfortable things, Whitney. You don’t. You sweep them under the carpet and leave them there, and maybe somebody will find them someday, and then it’s their job.People don't talk about uncomfortable things. They sweep them under the carpet, and leave them there and maybe somebody else will find them someday and then, it's their job. Click To Tweet
One of my strengths became very good at that. I plucked up the courage and said, “We were having a conversation one day. You asked me something, assuming that because I’m a History teacher, I know everything that has happened throughout history when I don’t. I didn’t know the answer. You turned around to me and said, ‘Everybody knows that.'” I was broken inside. It was horrible. It was one of the worst things that I’ve experienced when everything was relative.
He said, “I had no idea that I said that. That was a bit of a dumbass thing for me to say, wasn’t it?” I said, “Yes, a little bit. Thank you for the apology.” Isn’t it interesting what we carry? I’m a voracious reader anyways, but for ages afterward, it was like, “I got to prove myself to Steve. I’ve got to prove to Steve that I’m smart. I’ve got to prove it because everybody else sees it. Why does he not see it? It’s interesting.”
It is. I’m sitting here nodding because I can relate. That is a big thing for me, too. It’s fascinating because, at this point in my life, I generally do feel like people see me as smart. I feel accomplished about that. You’re bringing up something helpful for me, which is the connection between being tangential. For some reason, many people have reinforced this message, “If you can’t tie everything up into a nice bow, stay on track, and stay focused, you must not be smart. You must not be this version of intelligent,” which, to me, I think of men when I think of that definition. It seems patriarchal.
I think of some professor in a room who sounds really polished or a public speaker who says the exact quote words, and everything flows together. It’s interesting to examine something like that. What is it about being unfocused or going off on tangents? Does that have anything to do with intelligence? I can add that to my 2023 reflection. Thanks to you, Linda. What if I can choose for myself what my intelligence looks like and not be so concerned? What would it be like to feel okay with people not noticing my intelligence?
Part of the work, too, is being less concerned about other people’s observations. I can see why it would be very challenging for your life partner to observe you as not being intelligent. What you shared is a different story because that’s a person in your life. It must have felt hurtful for him to say something like that, and how amazing that he was able to apologize for that.
He’s amazing. I’m not saying it because I’ve been married to him for some time now. He’s amazing in so many ways. He has taught me so much as well. We are tying this together beautifully, Whitney, with some gorgeous little Tiffany bow or something because it’s the meaning that I placed on that comment, the meaning that I place on so much, and hearing what you’ve shared as well. What’s fascinating is I sit with one of my best girlfriends here. We’ll sit and talk for hours, and then we’ll start laughing and be like, “If anybody was to doodle our conversation, what do you think it would look like?” We’ll burst out laughing.
We’ll interrupt each other at one point, “Hang on. How did we get here? What have we done? How did we end up here?” We started talking about your promotion at work, and all of a sudden, we’re talking about anything. Instead of the judgment, if we allow it to be whatever it is, it’s this thing of how beautiful to have that mind where you can go deeper into things and where it sparks off new ideas and different pieces of creativity, and to have people in your life who you can share that with and go with. Context is everything. Sure, there probably is a time and a place to be more polished, eloquent, and things like that if you have to give a TED Talk or you have to say something in 30 seconds flat like your elevator pitch. In a different context when we take the judgment out, let’s talk and see where it goes.
That sounds so much better to me. It feels somewhere along the same lines of the context trap where we forget about the context of ourselves in different situations and start applying our fears to every situation without context. In general, I am terrified of someone thinking that I’m not intelligent. No matter what context I’m in, I have to be mindful of how I speak. To your point, Linda, in certain contexts, nobody cares. In certain contexts, they’re happy like me now.
I am happy to go on tangents with you, Linda, even though the context of many shows might be to have sound bites, to be concise, sound, and intelligent, whatever that means and looks like. On this show and with me as a host, I embrace the tangential. It’s an example of you don’t have to be the same way in every single situation, yet many people lose sight of that, myself included. They feel like they have to look and sound one certain way in every situation, or they won’t be accepted perhaps.
This reminds me of so much. This is only me. There is no judgment for people who do anything different. It’s like that authenticity thing. A young person I was speaking to, I loved the way they put this because they said, “I couldn’t be myself in every situation.” Straight away, my authentic self goes, “That’s terrible.” There needs to be some kind of consistency. I said, “Hang on a second. Let this person explain themselves.” I asked better questions, and they were like, “How helpful is it going to be? Could you imagine if you were my teacher, and I turned around to you and started speaking to you the same way as I speak to some of my friends?”
I said, “No because I’ve heard the way you speak to some of your friends. That language would not be appropriate here. Thank you.” It’s the little things like that. Also, it’s okay to share, expose, hide, and reserve different parts of ourselves in different contexts. I think of me with my parents or me with Steve’s mom and dad. They’re all fabulous people. Do I show up as my full authentic self every time because that would be appropriate? I like to think of being authentically appropriate. In this context right here, right now, what’s appropriate for me? In some of the language, if I was to be authentic with everyone, I don’t know how that would’ve gone down, but there you go.
That’s an interesting thing too. We show up differently depending on the context. The examples you give sound very logical. There’s part of me that goes, “Wait a second. Why can’t we be our same selves no matter what? Why do we have these social constructs and all these rules?” Maybe that feels stressful to us as human beings to constantly be shape-shifting. I used to identify as a chameleon. I take pride in being able to shape-shift and be this person in this situation like you’re describing.It’s stressful for us as human beings to constantly shape-shift. Why can't we just be our same selves no matter what? Why do we have these social constructs and all these rules? Click To Tweet
Now, I feel a little bit of a yearning to not do that, a yearning to be the same person no matter where I’m at. Now, this point that you’re bringing up makes me wonder about that. Can you be the same person in every situation, or is it socially beneficial and important to shift a little bit depending on the context?
This is only for me. I’ll never speak for everyone because I can’t. If our core is strong and solid, we know what we’re about, and we know our purpose, values, and beliefs, that’s where we are aligned. I’m thinking of other parts of my personality. There are other strengths that I will leverage in different situations. In some situations, my strength of humor is going to be valuable and perhaps even influential in helping me get what I want. I don’t mean that in a manipulative way, but helping other people get what they want as well. Whereas sometimes, there’s maybe a cause or a need, or it’s going to be more beneficial for me to speak more seriously about something.
I know that if I walk into a company or an organization and meet people for the first time, and the other person comes out and starts the conversation off and is stern, focused, and incredibly professional, is it appropriate for me to say, “Did I tell you about this great one-liner I heard the other night? It was amazing.” Really, Linda? It’s that whole appropriateness piece. When we get to know each other better and we’ve built that rapport, then perhaps it’s appropriate, helpful, and beneficial for me to share another piece of my personality and have a laugh with that person. It’s about what service is best at that moment.
That sounds like a very simple point, yet it’s worth reflecting on how each of us shows up because sometimes we’re not aware of it. It can contribute to a sense of anxiety, disconnection, or lack of authenticity. Authenticity is such a big word in the last few years. A lot of people yearning to be themselves, not compare, and not look at what other people are doing. What I’m getting from this conversation is that there are benefits to comparing, shifting, and adapting ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be quite so extreme. The biggest takeaway is it’s a case-by-case basis and checking in with yourself, being there in that present moment, and using that self-awareness to guide you through these different scenarios. I’m curious how or if this pertains to making changes in your life. Is understanding this about yourself a key part of making a change?
What comes up for me is the comparison on both sides of that as well. I think of my running again. I remember scrolling through social media one day and sitting there. Steve says to me, “What is wrong with you?” I said, “Look at this woman.” He says, “What am I looking at?” I said, “You’re looking at this woman who’s absolutely ripped. She’s ten years younger than me. Her marathon time is 30 minutes faster than mine.” He says, “Look at that. Running is what she does. That’s her job. Do you want running to be your job?” I said, “No, I don’t want running to be my job. Thanks.”
“It looks like she spends a lot of time in the gym. Do you want to spend all that time in the gym?” I said, “I know where you’re going with this.” He said, “Exactly. Do yourself a favor.” I’m like, “Yes.” It’s in those moments. That kind of comparison is not helpful at all. Actually, it is, because you learned something from it. In those moments, it’s asking myself those questions of, “What’s the purpose of this? How does that serve me? What’s the purpose of me looking at this photo of this woman and comparing myself to her, comparing apples to oranges? I don’t think there is one. Does it help her serve me? No, because I feel bad about myself now. Now, what have I got to do next?” It’s that context-by-context basis. What’s the purpose? What am I learning about myself here and now?
It sounds like by getting that context and asking yourself how something serves you, perhaps then you’re more willing and able to make a shift in your life because you have the foundation built there. You have that self-awareness.
I love that. I didn’t even answer your question. Steve says to me, “Is that something that you want? Do you want running to be your job?” Instantly, I was like, “No.” What if I had said, “Do you know what I’d do? I want to throw everything else aside, take a year, and see how fast I can run. That’s what I want to do.” I know for a fact he’d support me and be like, “Let’s think about this logically as well.” Once we have an idea of what it is that we want instead of what we have now, we’ve got that awareness.
We know what’s something that we want, even if we’re not sure of how to get there. The very fact that we want it strikes a chord with us somewhere, and it’s almost like there’s some purpose or value about this that I’m drawn to. It’s amazing what your brain comes up with because then you can start asking yourself those better questions. Your brain will go, “What if you did this? What if you did that?” It makes it sound easy.
That’s important to acknowledge. It’s not necessarily easy. It’s just a tool you can have in your toolbox when perhaps something triggers you in a positive way. Maybe it’s a comparison into a question and saying, “Right now, I’m looking at this woman who’s running a marathon and I’m comparing myself to her. What if I pull from these observations about myself and ask some more questions, and that leads me to the place I want to get to versus sitting here feeling awful because we’re not at that place yet?”
It’s like you had said before of looking at someone and saying, “It’s easy for you to say. You are already doing this.” You have to backtrack and say, “No, it took me a long time to get there. I had to take all of these steps. You’re just seeing the results.” Part of that explains why social media can be so hard for us in our society. We’re often seeing the result of all the hard work. Not everybody shares all the steps it took to get there.
It’s almost like what we mentioned earlier about you seeing someone where they are now and making a number of assumptions about it that they’ve always been that successful if we’re looking at them through that lens, and it’s been easier for them. They’ve had something along the way that we haven’t. They’ve had a helping hand. Sometimes, we like to tell ourselves, “It was easy for them.” If it’s easier for them and we believe that, then it’s harder for us, and then it’s, “It’s harder for me. It’s no wonder I haven’t achieved that.” That belief helps me. Here’s the secondary gain part as well. If I haven’t achieved something, you haven’t achieved it, Linda, because it’s harder for you.
There’s something so comforting about that, even the reminder to give ourselves a break. Going back to the questions that you and I have been touching upon, we can ask questions either directly to somebody instead of comparing ourselves like, “How did you get there? How did you achieve this?” If we’re unable to ask them directly, we could imagine the answers and imagine ourselves in our shoes. If I want to run a marathon like this person I’m comparing myself to, what are the steps that I would have to take to run that marathon?
It’s almost going backward from the results that we want so much. That’s not always as easy as it sounds. One thing I’m curious about is how a lot of people know what the steps are. They’ve done the research, asked themselves the questions, and maybe have a whole plan outlined, but getting started can be hard. Even continuing can be hard after you got started. How would you guide somebody through those moments where they know the steps, but taking them is the hard part?
My first question is always, “Do you want it? I don’t mean want it. In your heart of hearts, do you really want it?” It’s interesting what people respond with. Especially around this time of year, people are still talking about goal setting, resolutions, and everything else. I’ve had a number of conversations with people, and what’s transpired is I don’t want that thing at all. What’s there? You now know that you don’t want that thing, so what else are you figuring out about yourself? It’s like, “It’s my family. Everyone else is married in my family. I think that I should be at this stage, have achieved this, or have achieved that. Do I really want it? No. Do I want to buy a house? No.”
What do you want? “I want to walk out of my job tomorrow.” I did not see that coming. They’re like, “I’ve had enough. That’s what I really want.” What is it that you want? That’s the most important part of it. You can find ways of moving forward. You can read all the steps. Is it what you really want? Another layer to that can be asking, “What is it? Where am I standing my own way? What’s holding me back here?” For a number of people, they know everything about it. They’re so clear on what it is they have to do day by day, maybe even hour by hour. There’s fear of judgment and failure, “What happens if I do it? What happens if I don’t? What if I start and am not able to continue?” It’s the continuing piece.
Not that we fall into two categories at all. Sometimes, the trend that I notice is people who find it hard to get started, and then once they start, they’re on their way. Not generalizing here, but what’s quite common is people then who struggle to keep it going. It’s something common. It’s not everyone that’s around that and envelopes that piece, “I’m not doing well enough. Where’s my progress?”
I started this six months ago, Linda. I know you did. I was there at the start. Why am I not there? Why the questions? They bring up excuses, justifications, and everything else. It’s that whole cycle of it. If we step back and take the judgment out of the way and criticism, and say, “I wonder what it is. What’s there?” sometimes, it’s that critical voice then that raises its hand and go, “Hello. I’m here. I’m back.”
What do you do? Let’s say you’ve identified that fear. How do you address that?
One of the things about fear is that it loves to be shrouded in this mystery, “Don’t come near me. I’m fear.” We’re like, “Fear is over there in the corner.” We don’t go near it. We all know what it’s like when we don’t go near things. We don’t talk about them and everything else, and they’re swept under the carpet. What’s very different is if you call fear out, and it’s dear fear. Linda Bonnar invites you to wine at 6:00 PM. Fear comes out, and you’re like, “Tell me what’s going on here.” Call it out. I know this can sound a little bit woo-woo or something. Think about it logically. It’s a part of you. It wants something for you.One of the things about fear is that it loves to be shrouded in mystery. Click To Tweet
As soon as we call fear out, some of the mystery has disappeared. What I found of myself in terms of fear is the what if. Sometimes it’s not even fear. Sometimes it’s a what-if, “What if this doesn’t work?” Often, this is myself. It’s fear of making a mistake or getting it wrong, so don’t do it. Play it safe. A common theme in my head is I’ll play it safe. If I don’t do it, can’t get it wrong, can’t fail, winning, but not really. It’s calling the fear out and having that conversation with it. It can be about getting support. Maybe that’s through coaching, a friend, and googling something online as well. If you want to get past it, we’ve got to find ways of doing that.
It’s an interesting exercise. You’ve given the readers so many questions to ask themselves. It seems like questions have been the big theme here. Sometimes, we don’t know where to start. Asking a question yourself can be a wonderful exercise for revealing the answers. You can do this on your own. You can do this with a coach, therapist, medical professional, or someone who can guide you through it. It’s not always easy. It can be so uncomfortable that we just avoid it. This is something that you’ve touched upon, avoiding something. I love the metaphor of fear and mystery. I immediately see this visual, this dark space, and not knowing what’s over there and the way our heart might pound because we don’t know what something is.
What if we have the courage to examine it anyways and realize it’s not that scary, and it was the fear of the unknown that stopped us? If we can find the courage to push through that, the unknown may not be scary at all. I also feel it’s so important to acknowledge that’s not easy work. All of these things can sound so simple. As another theme you and I have explored, just because it sounds easy and looks easy and because somebody else is doing it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be that easy for you. It’s okay if it’s hard.
It’s all relative. For some people, even the thought of sitting down and considering fear, that in itself is petrifying. There’s no way I’m going there. For some people, it’s a 2nd layer, a 2nd, or 3rd question. The thing to keep in mind about this is it’s a brain thing. Your brain will do everything that it can to protect you. Anything that seems scary or uncomfortable, we’re going to go, “Don’t do that.” Don’t even think about asking yourself that question because we all know where that’s going to lead. Go and do something else instead, read a book, turn on Netflix, go to the fridge, do something, but don’t look at fear. On the other side of it is if we explore it and if we take it again, take it step by step.
What I noticed about one of the pieces of my own fear was that underneath it was sadness. It’s that fear of, “Don’t do that. I’m so scared of doing that.” Right now, if I call fear out, it’s interesting that this whole visual of fear changed completely. Originally, it’s this all-scene, all-knowing queen of something. I call fear out, and changes size straight away, because all of a sudden, it doesn’t have all that power. What’s underneath all that cloak and dagger is sadness. It’s myself. It’s like, “Linda, don’t do it because you’ve been hurt before, and it hurts so badly. The potential rejection here is so high. Don’t do it.” The secondary gain or the positive intent behind that is you’re happier and safer when you don’t do that thing, so don’t. There we go.
Thank you for sharing that. That feels so relatable. You’re safer when you don’t do that thing. I feel like so many people, if not most people, can relate to that. This is where that lowercase trauma comes into play. It’s all these little things that added up to pain. There’s a big association between rejection and protection. Sometimes, we can look at rejection as protection, meaning that’s a sign not to do something. Other times, if we acknowledge that we’re trying to protect ourselves and avoid rejection, but by doing that, we’re stopping ourselves from getting to a place that serves us better.
It takes a lot of self-awareness to get to that point, and that’s where the questions come into play. That’s where the explorations come in. Having these realizations about ourselves does take a lot of deep work. You have to be willing to do that work either on your own or with the support of someone who can guide you there. That says so much about someone who’s willing to do it, that willingness to proceed through something that could potentially be painful and scary.
How beautiful to come through the other side of it. Even if it’s step-by-step, how amazing it is to then have this frame of reference that you can look back at and say, “I remember when I did that thing, and that was so hard. I absolutely nailed it.” Even the small steps can give us that other encouragement of, “Hang on. You did something like that before. Look at you. You’re still here.”Even if it's just a step by step, how amazing it is to have this frame of reference that you can look back at and say, “Oh actually remember when I did that thing.” Click To Tweet
One of my favorite tools is to write down the small steps you took, all these little things. We have to train ourselves, many of us, to acknowledge even the tiniest accomplishments because looking at those can be so affirming and encouraging to your point. A lot of us don’t stop to think about it. It’s hard sometimes to even acknowledge. To have gratitude can be challenging, but it is vastly beneficial and it’s signaling to your brain that you’re making that progress. That progress in itself is often what we’re seeking. It’s not even some specific goal, it’s the satisfaction of moving towards something that can be even greater than reaching the destination.
Maybe it’s finding that joy in the steps and saying, “This is the good stuff. I don’t even care if I get where I want to go. I’m going to enjoy every little piece of progress.” Your awareness of that, your enthusiasm, and the way you embrace this, Linda, have brought me joy. This journey with you now has been absolutely lovely. I said from the beginning, listening to your voice brings me joy. You have such a comforting way of speaking.
You embody someone who’s there to go through the hard stuff with you. You have this companionship element of you that is so lovely. I would love for you to share with the reader if they’re feeling the same way and they want to dig deeper into your work. You were sharing with me about the well-being app that you’ve been working on. Where is that in its own journey? Is that available yet or when will it be?
It is. We’ve got Upstrive Education and Upstrive Business. We created Upstrive Education for schools and students, first of all, because as a teacher for so many years, and seeing how the young people that I was teaching, I have seen their struggles. That’s not to say that every young person is struggling. It’s never a generalization. I wrote my first book Press Play primarily to help young people as well in terms of coaching book with skills, tools, and techniques to help them overcome challenges. A friend of mine said, “Your book is great. Young people will want an app, and schools could use an app.”
I was like, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $200,000 lying around or whatever it takes to create apps these days. I don’t even know where my settings are.” The thing is, if you don’t know, you don’t know, but you can find someone who does know. You can find someone who does know about creating apps and everything else. Upstrive Education has gone from strength to strength. We’re primarily based in the Middle East because we live there for fifteen years as well. We’ve gotten nearly 30,000 students logging in every day using Upstrive as a way to develop self-awareness around their emotions and what they’re feeling, and also self-management.
It’s not that, “I’m worried”, because the app tracks their emotions, gives them a little comparison chart, and everything fun like that. It’s not about this negative emotion or positive emotion. It’s, “I’m feeling this way. It’s not good or bad. This is how I’m feeling.” It’s those questions that we asked ourselves earlier, “Do I want to stay in this emotional state, or would I like to be feeling something a bit more pleasant and more comfortable?” I’d love to. What’s one thing that I could be doing differently? I’ve met with groups of students using the app, and I love the way they talk about it.
It’s one of the brilliant things about young people that sometimes they get a bad rep, whereas, they want to know about well-being and mental health. They’re asking these questions. Sometimes, they struggle to find the truth are their truth and strong factual knowledge about things like proper mental health challenges, eating disorders, and anxiety. Upstrive is not some cure-all at all. Even that, you start to look after your mind a little bit better and recognize your emotions, or you start asking yourself different questions and recognize that, “When I stop asking myself why, isn’t it amazing? What does come up for me?” I’m really proud of that. Thank you for asking.
That is beautiful. What an accomplishment to acknowledge the journey to create something like that but also the rewards of getting something out there and seeing it benefit so many people. It’s beautiful. It’s been such a wonderful experience hearing about your perspectives, your processes, and everything that you’ve been considering to support people through this. I even love the term self-management. I don’t feel like that’s used quite nearly as much as self-awareness, which is part of it. Many of us are looking to manage our lives in a positive way.
I have a little bit of a negative association with the word management. It sounds rigid, but it is such a great word when you think about managing your day for yourself to get where you want to be, and managing to overcome the challenges in life. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you, Linda, for discussing all of these things and all these tangential beauties with me. I really appreciated the time, and it flew by almost as quick as your tortoise, who we didn’t even talk about in this episode. I love how your tortoise moves around so quickly despite all of the preconceived notions I have about tortoises moving slowly.
There’s a lot to be learned from those little animals. I’ll tell you that. Whitney, I’ve loved speaking with you. I would talk to you for hours. Thank you so much.
I feel the same.
- Linda Bonnar
- Upstrive Education
- Upstrive Business
- Press Play
- Just Three Things: Bite-size Ways to Transform Your Life
About Linda Bonnar
Linda Bonnar is a pragmatic and client-centred Master NLP Coach & Practitioner, Co-founder, author, trainer and keynote speaker. She combines her sixteen years of educational experience with her wealth of coaching certifications, NLP training and Positive Psychology to empower her clients to maximise their full potential. Linda’s mission has always been to make a positive difference in the lives of others. This led her into a 16-year teaching career, to establish her own coaching business, write three personal development books (PRESS PLAY, The START 30-day Journal, and Just Three Things) and to become the Co-founder & Director of Content for the wellbeing app for schools and businesses, Upstrive. As a corporate coach, Linda has coached employees in global companies such as Google, Salesforce, Chevron and Warner Media, in areas of leadership, executive and career coaching. An engaging and vivacious keynote speaker, Linda talks about a range of topics pertinent to personal growth and professional development including goal setting, activating happiness and stress management. Originally from Ireland, Linda now lives in New York City with her husband Stephen and their two tortoises. An avid runner, Linda has completed 15 marathons, two ultra-marathons and numerous half marathons. As a mental health advocate, Linda constantly works to break the silence and stigma that surrounds mental health”
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