I run a course that helps people live more gentle and, as a result, more successful lives. And yet, I can give you a number of reasons why I’m not gentle.
Does the fact that I’m not always gentle with myself make me the wrong person to run this course? Do you have to be a ‘guru’ in order to help others run more gentle lives? I don’t think so. Because something I’ve learnt along the way is that making changes to lead a more gentle life is an evolving process. There’ll always be somewhere we’d like to get to. There’ll always be a next stage. And another one after that, and one more after that. And that’s why I always say that we shouldn’t compare our gentle life to someone else’s or worry about what anyone else is doing in their own pursuit to living more gently.
We are all on different journeys.
Gentle living doesn’t happen by chance.
If you’ve seen some of the content I share on social media, you may have come to the conclusion that where I live is quite gentle. It’s quiet, I get space and access to lots of hills. But it wasn’t always this way. There’s a reason why I have these things now.
And that’s because about 6 years ago, during a holiday in Scotland with my husband in the middle of nowhere, we sat down and talked about where we thought we’d feel happy. I was in London at the time, we were both commuting, both quite stressed, and I had just gotten over cancer. So we asked each other what we wanted from our lives going forward, and we both ended up saying that we really wanted to move. Unconsciously, I guess I wanted to be somewhere I was able to run and potentially have a dog. I wanted green space and nature around me.
But it’s never just about one thing.
To somebody else looking in, my life could seem gentle. And yes, perhaps it is. But there are always other thoughts occupying our minds. Thoughts around how we feel about our bodies, or around what we’re doing with our lives, for example. No matter where we live or what’s already gentle in our lives, we always strive to be more gentle. As a result of making the decision to move all those years ago, I may be living surrounded by the things that matter to me, but there are still occasions where I’m not gentle.
I may be facilitating the Gentle Life course and coaching hundreds of lovely clients to help them live more gently, but I’d never want you to think I’ve reached this ‘pinnacle level of being gentle’. I’d never ask you to follow what I do. What I’d like you to do instead is to acknowledge that we’re all human. That there will always be things we’d like to change and adjust. And that we are always learning.
With that said, here are a few examples of why I’m not very gentle in my own life and why that should help you see you can too lead a more gentle life.
1. I’m an over thinker
Over the years, this has certainly led to anxiety, and running my own business doesn’t always help it. In fact, being self-employed can make anxiety worse sometimes, especially if you allow your inner critic to take control.
So I may catch myself potentially ruminating over something a friend said, for example. Or I might ruminate over a decision that I’ve not been able to make and I feel has been holding me back for a long time. Or I may have become aware of the fact I’ve been judgemental about something.
Of course, I don’t like it. But I’m also aware that these things happen to all of us and are part of how we live and interact with the world. What’s important here is to be able to bring more compassion to ourselves when we have those difficult thoughts.
For me, it’s all about awareness. And about being mindful that we all have an inner voice that requires us to manage it in a way that helps us. I have it, just as much as everyone else does.
My question for you in this would be: what compassion might you bring to your own inner critic that would help rather than hold you back today?
2. I’m not always gentle to my body
I don’t have a large bowel as a result of cancer and the surgeries I had to remove it, therefore I have to be careful with what I eat and drink. I need to make sure I have enough water throughout the day, and in the past, I’ve definitely had to be careful about going out and having too much alcohol.
Over the years, I’ve adjusted to this lifestyle and managed with various diets and preparation. But there are times when, quite frankly, I just can’t be bothered. I may not move my body in the right way or do the right things for my body. Because at times it all feels like it’s just too much.
Just like each one of us does, I know what my own body needs and how it reacts when I do certain things or miss out on others.
I know I could always treat it more gently. But how about giving ourselves a break for what we’re already trying to do – all the effort we put into planning and thinking about it even when it doesn’t look like much has changed on the outside?
I now choose to allow myself to see when I’ve taken a good step – whatever I may have done that day. And ultimately, I forgive myself if I feel I could have done better. That is probably the most important thing I could do. Because a big part of living more gently is the ability to treat ourselves – body and mind – with self-compassion.
So my question to you is: What could you do for your own body this week that would help you help it? What’s realistic and exciting about it?
3. I can overbook myself
Sometimes I put too many things in my diary. I’m not always correct in estimating how long some things may take, or I don’t allow enough time in between commitments. There are plenty of resources that could help me in doing this better – I could use an email management system, operational tools, virtual assistants, or even ask someone to come and work with me for a day to get a handle on how I manage my own time. And yet, like many other people, I don’t always get this right.
As a result, I try and stay really aware of what I need in my day to function well. So if I’m having a client day, I’ll try to just have a client day. This doesn’t just help me (and my mind), but I believe it’s good for my clients too, as I find I have a different kind of energy in those days. Or I might dedicate a whole morning or day to other activities, like writing or admin.
The key for me is that each of us can learn to understand how we work best, to create the conditions to be ‘in flow’.
For example, I know I work and think best when I allow myself white space and downtime in between the activities I do. Or when I have clear, tidy spaces around me. But I’m always learning and adjusting. It’s an ever-evolving project. As long as I keep my focus on my own gentle life vision, I can make changes to achieve it.
So my question to you is: What changes do you have control over in your diary or day that will help you work in the best way for you?
Gentle living is about awareness and self-compassion.
The aim, for me as well as anyone taking the Gentle Life course, is to continuously bring awareness to where we may not be having very gentle thoughts, practices, feelings, or behaviours. And to allow ourselves to come to terms with that. We strive towards forgiveness and self-compassion, and only if we’re ready to go one step further, we may start to think about how we can adjust next time we come into that situation. But in some cases, awareness is all we need.
4. I’m not always mindful of my digital use
One of the elements that comes up again and again in conversation about living a more gentle life is how we are online. I know for myself I can definitely be triggered by scrolling and over-thinking about things I may have seen online. And as a result, I find myself making assumptions, or not always moving forward in my own way. I work online myself too so I know that as well as developing change programmes for people to support themselves in this area, I have to follow and learn from my own guidance too.
A big part of being gentle with ourselves in our digital use is to understand what’s right for us. If we can be more aware of the triggers that make us feel not good, we can often translate this into making better decisions when we’re going online. Of course, we can’t always choose – we need email to work, and online accounts to pay and be paid etc but for what we can choose, we can create more control so we’re more consciously consuming what we really want.
You may choose to unfollow some accounts or pages, and maybe even avoid being in certain circles for a while if you feel vulnerable in them. It’s about acknowledging that there are certain ways of being online that feel and work better for you, and that’s okay.
So, the question is…
If I’m not always gentle, why am I the best person to run the course?
One of the nicest things about running the gentle life course is to see that we’re all in different places with our lives and how kind we are within them to ourselves. Where one person may be way ahead in a certain part of their gentle life, they may still need help in another. And when you’re taking the course as a group, you can even be the one helping someone else along. Swapping stories is a very powerful way to do this.
That’s why I share my own examples, because as a result of knowing where I’m not very gentle with myself, I’ve been able to put practices in place to help myself move the needle. I suppose you could call this being authentic, if that’s the language that fits.
Being a coach for me was never about having one big transformation 8 years ago, me changing everything, then teaching you all my learnings.
This is about constant evolution – for all of us – and learning from the right people along the way.
Those who might be slightly further along maybe, or simply just speaking the language you want to hear – that you are OK, that you can have more control and that you have permission to try things differently.
For me, gentle living is a lovely cycle of constant awareness and adjustment. And while that can sound tiring and exhausting, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about knowing that you can bring kindness to yourself when you learn something new. And that you can do that over and over in every area of your life.
The course helps you to see this, whilst providing you with a structured framework to learn more about what you want from life and how exactly you’re going to get it.
That’s the beauty of it all – gentle for successful living.
Are there areas of your life where you’re not so gentle?