Tuesday Tales: What we focus on grows – Donna Thistlethwaite

“Just do up”, I stammered as I wrestled the zipper on my son, Matt’s, lunchbox. It resisted in that way that something you’re trying to force to move more quickly often does. Finally, the lunchbox conceded defeat and I breathed a momentary sigh of relief. No time to linger.

I looked around for Matt. He can be difficult to corral for school at the best of times. This was one morning that I needed everything to go smoothly. It wasn’t.

My breathing was shallow as a bunch of different emotions started flooding my system – frustration … fear … disappointment … disgust … regret. I should have left the house 10 minutes ago.

“I can’t believe I’m late again. How could I waste his time when he’s being so kind to me?” A barrage of negative thoughts assaulted my mind.

Earlier that month, the President of our Chamber of Commerce, let’s call him Peter, approached me at a meeting saying “Donna, I see you give so much but I rarely see you take anything. I’d like to help you. How would you like some coaching?” I knew that Peter coached executives and leaders and couldn’t believe he was offering me an opportunity to work with him probono. I jumped at the chance.

As I backed out of the driveway that morning, I could feel tears pricking my eyes. I still had to stop at the school enroute to the coffee shop meeting. I paused on the driveway for a moment and sent Peter a text to say I’d be five to ten minutes late.

By the time I arrived, my tears were in full flow. I felt embarrassed by my tardiness and about looking like a wet mess. Peter stood up and gave me a hug, a gesture that unleashed even more tears.

When Peter asked how I was, I babbled about being late and how much pressure I felt about the prospect of running out of money and having to close down my career coaching business. I explained that I had told my partner, Greg, that if my bank account dipped below $5 000 I would use the remaining money to fund a period of job search. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want this to happen but it was starting to look more and more likely.

Peter listened intently for some time before saying: “What is it you really want Donna? I hear lots of words about what you don’t want. How would you like things to be in your business?”

I couldn’t believe it.  I was aware of the power of our words and our thoughts but it hadn’t stopped me from getting caught up and focusing on my fears, doubts, and worst case scenarios.

I explained my ideal business situation to Peter … to have a regular stream of clients, to have an economically viable business, and to make a difference in the world. He challenged me to choose the amount of money I wanted to earn that financial year and to develop some clarity about whom I wanted to work with and how I wanted to make a difference. Peter encouraged me to shift my focus to what was going well in the business and to spend time thinking about my ideal business life.

By the end of the meeting, I felt calm, optimistic, and filled with gratitude. Over the following months, Peter and I met again and I found that a focus on what I wanted to create, and what was working well, lifted my energy and inspired me to take action. My results improved accordingly.

By the end of that year, both my business and I were in a great place, culminating in my Chamber of Commerce peers nominating me for multiple awards and being awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year”, an outcome I could never have anticipated that morning I met Peter.

So what’s the message here?

As the saying goes “What we focus on grows”. Thinking about, articulating, and even visualising our ideal situation can make us more resourceful and inspired to take action.

When someone offers help, reach out with both hands. It’s happened for a reason and there are benefits for both you and them given that “Helper’s High” can deliver them a nice boost of happy chemicals such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.

Life, and we, are constantly changing. While we might not be able to see it at the time something awesome is often around the corner.

It’s ok to be vulnerable. It can improve connection and allow us to get valuable support.

Is there something in your life right that you could apply these insights to?

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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