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When loneliness and feeling alone is no laughing matter

The Christmas season is usually a time when people gather and celebrate together. Paradoxically almost, it can be also a time when many people feel very lonely. The sense of loneliness can affect people who are single and in relationships, living with others or on their own. It transcends cultures, class and locality. It can affect even those who seem the most jolly and full of the joys of life. Particularly after Christmas, there’s a “let down” period. After the high adrenalin rush and the excess, there’s often a “down” time.

Christmas in the West is a big spending binge followed by a feast, a massive media-and-retail-fuelled hype, a collective energy that it’s hard not to get sucked up into. Not surprisingly there’s then a hangover, both physical and emotional. Families get together. Things are said. Agendas are revealed. Behind the jollity there can be other things going on too, ones we may not feel comfortable to address. There’s high expectations, especially for those raised on an idea of the “perfect” family Christmas, one remembered from childhood. Afterwards, when we once again find that those expectations don’t get met, there’s not surprisingly a sadness, even a depression for many.

Of course this is also a time for the religious to reflect on their connection to their faith, and this can be a time that that faith can be tested, as Christ was: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)” (Matthew 27:46).

Allied to that, if one is aware of being alone already, this can be compounded. You’re not part of the fun. Not for you the sense of inclusion, of being part of something. Not the love that others seem to enjoy. The fact that a huge part of the human dilemma is that we are alone can still pass us by.

Existentialists say that this is after all one of the “givens” of being human, that we come into the world alone and leave it by the same route. They would say that we may dread our existence but it is for us to exercise free will and choice, to create the experience we seek. Famously, Viktor Frankl in Man’s search for meaning (1946) argued that for Auschwitz inmates to survive their enormous privations they had to continue to choose, to make meaning: “the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. He said, “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress”.

Thus, even in the midst of company, or on one’s own, we can feel alone, or, exercising choice, we can feel alone and, for example, at One. Our experience is our choice. We become not the victim but the master (or mistress) of our choice.

Therefore too, we can feel contented and at peace, just as much by ourselves as in the company of others.

It’s a challenge of life and living.

That’s not to say it isn’t difficult. The testimony of many thinkers and writers over time show that it can often be a very hard path. The demon of loneliness can spring out even with the hardened practitioner. So we need to develop a skill and practice so that we can recover and bring ourselves back on to our path, so that we too in time may feel contentment whatever is going on and whenever.

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Uncertainty undermines your sense of purpose

Uncertainty undermines your sense of purpose. You’re not sure what’s going to happen, what direction to take, or whether you are doing the right thing. You feel disempowered, no longer in control, at the mercy of other people or events, or prey to your mind and its fears.

It might be that this is due to events. Brexit could have put a halt to plans. Your organisation might have put investment and hiring on hold. You’re not sure whether you’ll have to move countries or whether you’ll have a job. Business conditions might have turned unfavourable. Maybe your landlord wants you to vacate your flat but you are sure where to go, or what you want.

Or, its personal. Your partner isn’t committed or is hinting at getting out. Or you’re not sure if you want to be in this relationship. Should you jump ship or stick around? Perhaps things are unstable and you’re not sure where you are.

You might lack a clear sense of direction yourself. You find it hard to commit when you don’t know what you want. Many people spend whole chunks of their lives sitting on the fence.

When we hesitate and hold back from action, the universe goes on hold too. We don’t say what we want. So how can the universe send you what you want? Uncertainty gets mirrored back to you, in the lack of commitment from others. We get back what we put out, or don’t put out. Doubt and confusion takes its place.

It doesn’t have to be like this: we have choice

What can be hard to recognise is our own part in our process. We are at cause in our lives, though it feels like we are at the effect of it. In other words, we feel things, events or other people cause what happens for us. In reality, we are the cause of what occurs, strange though that can seem.

This is about our thoughts and in particular our beliefs. What we think and believe is what occurs. It creates a state and that emotion goes out there and comes back in certain configurations.

Thus if we feel uncertain, that is what we get. And we disempower ourselves.

But we can choose. Even when it seems like we can’t. We can choose to think and feel differently.

It might take working on, which is why people do personal development and learn skills in managing the mind. But we can learn to step back from our egos, witness them, and enter a calm, peaceful state.

Anchored in your Self

When anchored in your Self, you are at peace. You have then stepped aside from the whirring of the mind, and your state, which in this case is uncertainty. It isn’t you.

When we are in this space, we can choose. We can let go. We can take charge. We can create our own purpose and have our own intentions. We are once again aligned to the creative force of the universe, who can now send you what you know you want!

Doesn’t that feel better?!

To feel better, plan how you can take charge of your life, and get some coaching.

Contact me

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Do you wish you have confidence to make things happen?

The self-help industry is full of powerful-sounding exhortations to transform your thinking: “If you think you can, you can”. “Drive away negative thoughts”. “Let go – be in the flow!” But are you sometimes left feeling inadequate, like maybe others can do it but somehow you can’t? It might be that the missing ingredient is confidence.

I often hear clients say that after coaching they feel much more positive and confident. It’s like something has happened in our work that has boosted their confidence. Yet, it would not be easy to say what precisely that was, just that they felt a whole lot better, usually in relation to particular situations. So what happens that “gives confidence”?

I find that this is where coaching is so valuable, where we can together get to the bottom of what really holds people back from accomplishing what they want. There’s a lot that’s very personal to the individual and it needs to be fleshed out, named and then have strategies worked out to get around or let go of.

The confident person has a certain absence of doubt and fear that otherwise holds them back. People can be very confident in some situations but a complete jelly in another. I’m reminded of very competent executives who are great one-to-one and with their teams but are reduced to shaking wrecks in front of large meetings or events.

Confidence comes with self belief. You believe in yourself and your capabilities in relation to the situation you are dealing with. It’s like you have an inner certainty, at least in the situation you need to deal with. This is not arrogance, pretence, or”faking it”. This is not inauthenticity.

Actually you are being connected to who you are. You are able to let go of “your stuff” with regard to what you need to do. In this situation you are not prey to inner conflicts or they don’t get in the way right now with what you need to do. You can stay calm and “in control”. You know you possess a particular skill and can use it successfully. You can make it work

Not everybody is like this. Some just have confidence per se; they “wing it”, but still have their own inner dramas. I remember people from the analytical tradition in psychology using the word, “well defended”. They could so organise themselves to be able to do what’s needed in the situation in question. Others aren’t so much like that. It’s partly about our ability to manage ourselves such that we can take action unencumbered by self-limiting thoughts and beliefs.

That’s why it is so important, if you have this difficulty, to take the time to find what it really is that holds you back, learn some techniques in self belief of course, but work out how you can best accomplish things in your way that convincingly resolves what holds you back. This means working out how you limit yourself, what actually happens in your particular world, and then discover your own unique way to move beyond self limitation and be all you can be.

To learn more about my coaching, click here, and to contact me, click here.

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Is being yourself really scary?

People are it seems really confused around the issue of identity and authenticity, especially when communicating with or presenting themselves to others. The comment “just be yourself”, sounds very simple but is actually a minefield for many of us. Being yourself can mean to enter into a state of authentic being, but you might not be able to work out what that is or how you do it. To put yourself out there in a genuine way can feel very scary since we can feel very vulnerable and we don’t know how it will go down with others. What if we get ridicule or hostility?

Being yourself can be tricky

It’s all the more  tricky when various “celebrities” and PR-savvy people seem to be doing a pretty good job of it, with whom we compare ourselves negatively, until that is we hear that there’s a crisis of confidence in public figures, a cynicism and distrust which seems to suggest that actually what we’re getting isn’t truly honest and authentic. This is often described as the age of narcissism, the false self, self-absorbed and “me first” orientated, presenting some seemingly convincing image but actually wrought with anxiety about whether it is “good enough”. Many people are now asking for honesty and trustworthiness. If you are presenting a “self” that people don’t get, there’s a problem.

Knowing who you are

Being  yourself presupposes you know who you are. Do you know who the being is who you are trying to be?! That can need working out and it isn’t necessarily easy, especially knowing where to start. It’s really important to do some training where you need to share with others in a group and part of the work to involve sharing yourself authentically. It is in groups that you can get the feedback, and people can be very straight about what’s missing. You can learn from that. It’s also important to work on getting connected with yourself emotionally, to sense how you are really feeling, and learn to trust what your body and your feelings are telling you in any given situation. Then learn to express that, so that what you then share is connected with all levels of your being.

At all levels

This brings us to the importance of knowing yourself at all levels of your being, which is not only intellectual and rational but also emotional and sensed as stated above, and also spiritual. Sensing your spiritual side is unfashionable but something that people can sense intuitively. Thus when you are connected at all levels and speak from there, you open yourself to connect with all levels of the other person too, and to others in a group for example. This is the level of the connectedness we have with all others, in the sense that we are all One. So when you are thus connected, you are in touch with a force that we all know even if not consciously, and people can feel almost automatically drawn to you. This is arguably the challenge of the modern age, to use this age of instant communication to connect with all people through our Oneness. To be so aware of being yourself brings a whole new dimension to knowing yourself and being yourself.

Thus real authenticity is to be complete at all levels of your Being, so that you can truly be your Self.

You can still opt out of it all if you choose, and go and find and be yourself on your own or with like-minded. But you might at some level still find yourself needing to deal with the challenge of connecting with less like-minded people. After all, what we resist, we get.

I give coaching to help people overcome their fears, be themselves and communicate effectively with others. To contact me, click here.

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Have you lost confidence recently?

Confidence – that ability to believe in yourself and your capability – can be present one moment and gone the next. It can help us to sparkle, impress and be effective at what we aspire to do, and its absence can weaken, undermine and inhibit our potential and what we accomplish. When we’ve lost confidence in some area of our lives, we really know the difference because there’s a gap between what we really want and what is occurring right now. We can feel undermined, held back and limited in some way. And it’s likely we don’t know what to do about it, otherwise we probably wouldn’t feel like this for long.

You might have lost confidence recently because something’s happened to undermine it. It might be some knock-back, a blow that affected your belief in yourself, like losing a job or some severely negative feedback that led you to doubt your abilities and your worth. It might be that some change has occurred that might be unexpected or you’ve only just woken up to, like you’ve always flourished at what you do but you’ve now noticed that the world has moved on and somehow you are behind the curve. It could be that something has changed in your environment, like you’ve fallen out with someone and broken up with them, and the old certainties have gone, or so it seems. You might have reached a certain stage or age in life and in reviewing your situation you might have realised that all is not so comfortable as you had imagined.

Thus people lose confidence for a whole manner of reasons, both in their work and their personal lives, like redundancy, change at work, a new role, divorce or breakup of a relationship, operating in an unfamiliar environment, reaching a certain age or an awareness of aging, illness, an accident or some other health issue, not coping with stress, moving house, bereavement – there are many possibilities. Yet these can focus our awareness in on our capabilities and our faith and trust in what we can accomplish.

Yet how we respond to it can be crucial to our future. It might be that we are otherwise limited in what we can accomplish unless we deal with the challenge. It might be that we just need to let go and move on. It’s not obvious and we can feel left in some no-mans-land where we don’t feel so good.

It’s a classic reason why people come to me for life coaching or business coaching. There is something they want to accomplish and yet, when we explore the underlying issues, one that comes out is that people want confidence to do what they want to do. Confidence to take action, confidence in dealing with people, confidence in presenting themselves, confidence in public, confidence in managing high-profile situations, confidence in developing their careers, confidence at being at the top of their game, confidence in staying on track and accomplishing what they really want, confidence in completing what they set out to do and in taking the profit from their endeavours.

If you are at a point in your life when you feel you’ve lost confidence recently and need help to re-build it and succeed in what you are trying to accomplish, and you are interested in coaching to help you, contact me here.

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Do you blame yourself too much?

Do you find that when things don’t go well you blame yourself? It’s like we can have an omni-present scanner that detects incoming signals and filters them for where we can make ourselves wrong. Someone makes a negative comment and we think it is us that has the problem, even if it really belongs to another. We have difficulty with a project at work and blame ourselves for our mistakes when it could be that we haven’t had things fully explained or we haven’t been trained properly. It might be that really it is as a result of a multiplicity of things that we ended up struggling. Yet somehow we don’t see it like that and make ourselves to be “at fault”. So, why do we do this, and what can be done about it?

We have a kind of inner program which is like a knee-jerk response, unconscious, automatic. It’s very important to get highly attuned to our tendency to do this. Maybe we were scalded a lot as small children and were told that something was our “fault” or due to our misbehaviour, and so we made an association between things not being OK and what we’ve done or us ourselves. Maybe the result of what occurred when we were small was that we felt ashamed or guilty for what we did, or were punished in some way that made a strong impact on us, so that we had a strong feeling about it, such as upset, anger, guilt or shame. This might have locked itself into our bodies and at a subtle level such that when something go wrong, we immediately get the feeling that we had unconsciously locked into when small.

Sometimes it is more subtle such as the disconnect that occurred for us between us ourselves and significant others, like parents or siblings. We might have felt unloved by a parent and blamed ourselves: “Mummy doesn’t love me because I’m bad”. Or our parents were in conflict a lot and we made ourselves the cause of the problem. These things can run deep. Also we personalised the so-called failing, like thinking that we are wrong as a person, such as in the thought “I’m bad”. We even describe ourselves as such in today’s situations: “I’m no good at…” whatever it is we struggle with, in effect saying to ourselves “I’m no good!”

Others might pick it up of course today. The kinder ones feed it back to us: “You’ve just put yourself down”. Others less so disposed might take advantage of it, and sense that since you think you are the one “at fault” they can go ahead, press home the advantage and get more of their way in situations.

What is very important is to develop your self-awareness, to become very aware of your tendency to find fault with yourself, to “put yourself down”, etc.. Then it is important to challenge it. Is this really true? Is there another interpretation of the situation, since there are often many other perceptions of what has occurred? Are you playing your old record here, your knee-jerk response? Finally, work to change the program. This is the vital bit, to develop new ways of viewing ourselves such that we learn to value ourselves. Rather than seeing ourselves as bad or at fault or whatever other way we think of ourselves, instead have positive, affirmative beliefs about ourselves, such as “I’m good…I’m a good person…I love, value and respect myself…I’m worth it” (Thanks, Oreal) and so on. Learn to let go of negative beliefs. And keep on at this such that it doesn’t continue to mess up our lives.

Learn to love yourself instead.

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Too many thoughts can get you what you don’t want

As well as having too many thoughts, we can also tend to repeatedly focus all these thoughts on particular matters. We churn these issues round in our minds. Then, surprise surprise, these things go on in our lives! Bummer, isn’t it?! So if we want to see improvement in our lives, as well as our mental contentment, we can benefit from paying attention to and letting go of what we focus on.

A tricky one.

What’s on your mind then plays out in your life. It’s a well known understanding in the yoga tradition. For example Swami Muktananda wrote that “it is the nature of the mind to become like what it constantly thinks about. Whatever the mind dwells on, it becomes identified with and takes on its very nature” (Play of Consciousness). If you have worrying thoughts about not having enough money, you get the experience of not having enough money. It’s you, how your life is, like your very being. Or so it seems. Or you feel like people don’t like you. So you get difficulties with people, upsets, quarrels, difficulties. If you have angry thoughts and feel resentful towards others, the government, your boss, your partner, etc., you get situations occurring where these feelings play themselves out. Then you go off and have more angry and resentful thoughts and feelings. It’s self-reinforcing.

We think that by churning over the issue we are somehow sorting it out, resolving it, so that we can move on in our life. Yet very often it’s when we’ve let go of the matter and focused on other things that the problem diminishes or seemingly goes away. We relax, feel better, and even think that things can go differently. An exciting possibility! Constantly thinking, about it however serves instead to keep it alive in your awareness.

It’s important to remember that these repetitive thoughts are illusion, maya, creations of the mind. They exist at one level, since we’re creating them, but at another level they don’t.

It takes practice to change this, but it can be done. The first steps involve you (or me) recognising we’re doing this to ourselves. And recognise, re-cognise, ie think again, and become aware. It might that you believe you “can’t” do this, again another limiting belief, one that we can work through. There’s a lot in all this about being aware, being mindful, and choosing to respond differently or to shift or let go of thoughts. There is an act of will involved, and we may often need to build up our will power. When it starts to work, our confidence grows. It’s self-reinforcing too.

I give life coaching to people who are working to manage their minds more effectively, and develop new, more suitable thoughts, feelings and strategies that take them forward, so as to be going where they really want to go in life. Click here.

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Lack of self belief limits us until we choose to think differently

How often do you not attempt something you would like to accomplish because you don’t believe you can? If you were honest with yourself would a lack of self-belief hold you back? You’d not be alone. Huge numbers of us, even “high achievers”, have areas of their lives where they doubt themselves.

It is not uncommon to find people at the tops of organisations who think they are frauds, that one day they’ll be “found out”, exposed for who or what they really are, “not good enough”. When we don’t believe in our capabilities, we put a limiting thought out there, even if it is a subtle one and not expressed as such. Thus we rule out certain actions that we don’t really know about but have ruled out before even attempting it. Or we perform it at a lower level, perhaps not stretching ourselves as we might.

We might worry about what others might think and say of us. We might fear the perceived negative consequences of failure. We might not think we can perform an activity “very well” and not make a perceived level of acceptability. We may fear the shame we may feel at others’ negative views of us. We may have been ridiculed in the past. We may not have been encouraged as children. A common “truism” of education is that pupils deliver to the level of expectations of their teachers. Our parents may not have praised us but been critical instead. We weren’t as children able to go out and experiment and learn to deal with and overcome lack of success. There’s lots of factors at play here.

Underlying much lack of self-belief is firstly the lack of significant others’ positive mirroring of us as children and a view we develop as children that we weren’t “good enough”.

You can probably tell that a lot of this stuff is around belief, ie a thought we hold, in this case about ourselves. Beliefs can be changed, and often are. They are also relational, in relation to others and what view we think they hold of us. Also it is about a social consensus, or what we think is the consensus, about a standard of behaviour. A lot of this can be illusions, ie stories we made up on the limited and imperfect sets of so-called facts we garnered as children. At core there is often a “root thought”, such as thinking we’re “not good enough”.

All of which is around perception, which we can also choose to change, if we choose to! And that means the self-belief to change it! A vicious circle.

This is where we cut through it and change our beliefs by the simple action of deciding to do it. Carpe diem!

I coach people to think differently about themselves and what they can and will accomplish. Click here

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How fear keeps you from the wellbeing you long for

Fear and being fearful, being absorbed with fear, is the great disconnect, keeping us from what we truly want, and keeping what we truly want from us. It is often said on these pages that love and fear are opposite sides of the same coin. From being absorbed in fear, you let it go, turn your attention, and you can have love instead. One obscures the other.

By love of course I also mean contentment, joy, enthusiasm, positive passion and any one of the different ways our heart-centred connection manifests itself, if we put aside that oft-felt discomfort at saying “love”. Interesting that it is often a discomfort. It can be embarrassing to say the word, so much is it associated with passions we can be uncomfortable with and stay separate from. Perhaps it is really a source of pain for us.

Fear can seem like the other polarity, also manifesting let’s say with anxiety, worry, a vague unease, or just not feeling quite right with the world. Some say fear lies behind anger and upset too, a bottom-line, deep-seated emotion that helps hold in place our ego’s survival behaviour and drives the flight-fight-freeze stress response. Fear lurks in the shadows of the seeker, plaguing our meditations and our sleep, and keeps us from the joy we long for.

The function of polarity is interesting, light and dark, black and white, positivity and negativity, faith and despair, wellbeing and illness, upliftment and depression. I could go on. As humans we flip between one polarity and another. In Gestalt we say there’s a lack of middle ground, which could in these examples be balance, equilibrium, equipoise, centredness. When you are centred, there is calm, peace, contentment, evenness of spirit. You aren’t “caught up” in the flings of emotion. Your mind doesn’t go off to places you don’t want to go. You aren’t stuck but have freedom. Things are easy. Anything is possible. Nothing “matters”. Life is, you are, I am.

A key outcome, many would say, of the cultivation of the mindful state is that centredness. When you let go of attachment to polarities, and being stuck in, say, a negative, fearful spiral, become mindful of it, the witness of it, and return to your alert awareness, you are no longer the victim to fluctuations of thoughts and feelings.

Letting go is of course a practice all of its own, and very vital. You can, for example learn to dissolve negative emotion and release yourself from your thought/feeling cycles. We teach this on our upcoming retreat, by the way. It is liberating when you find you are no longer the prisoner of your stuff in this way.

Then in the centred state you can make contact with a far more profound love, if you so choose, one not prone to “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Hamlet ,Shakespeare). It is always available, round every corner. But we ignore it and fly on to the next bout of negativity. That’s one reason why having a regular mindfulness practice is so important, to help you re-connect on a regular basis with who you really are.

If you struggle with gaining and retaining this equipoise, then that’s a very good reason for coming on our retreat and finding your inner state of balance, and then, when you authentically know that state, you can bring yourself back there again and again.

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Being in the public eye can be terrifying but it needn’t be so

Despite the jokes made about Michael Bay’s exit from his own presentation, some might be surprised and some amused but others more sympathetic about a very common fear that is likely to have driven Bay away, the fear of being “upfront”, being in the public eye, in front of other people, vulnerable and exposed, as when something wasn’t working in his presentation. I would add to it, for many of us, the fear of being upfront in itself.

We’re thankfully becoming more candid about such things, as witnessed by a well-known book, And Death Came Third, by Lopata and Roper, where the writers found that public speaking and walking into a room full of strangers were rated by very many as their first two fears. Apparently PM Tony Blair was scared witless before every Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions time in the UK Parliament. Even a very publicity-savvy person as he could find aspects of his role daunting.

In coaching executive clients, I have often met people who needed help with their presentation skills in high-profile situations, such as to stakeholders, Board colleagues, shareholders and other important occasions. They are not alone. It occurs for very many people where their work brings them to places where they need to stand in front of others and speak. Many give themselves a very hard time about this, often feeling ashamed that their otherwise great abilities seemingly desert them and they are left as if a gibbering wreck, inside at least. People speak of feeling dread, shaking, sweating, loss of voice, having diarrhea beforehand, catastrophising, rehearsing in their minds for hours beforehand, not being able to sleep, and so on. People dream of losing their notes, of the equipment not working, of not being sufficiently prepared, and of all sorts of things going wrong, not just before the occasion but for weeks and months afterwards.

This taps into a wider fear, of being upfront in general, of self-disclosure, vulnerability in front of others, the fear of how others may react, being shamed, feeling ashamed, embarrassed, ridiculed, and as we see it as not being liked or approved of. We live in an acutely publicity-conscious age, where you sink or swim according to your ability to “perform”, as it seems, in the spotlight. People sometimes describe it to me as the fear of “being the centre of attention”. Would the earth swallow them up if that occurs!

Despite many years of teaching, training, facilitating, and speaking “upfront”, I can certainly resonate with this myself. At one level I find I enjoy the buzz of a good session, of stimulating discussion, of good interaction with the audience, of bright faces, alert attention, strong engagement and satisfied outcomes. At another I also find myself feeling nervous before an event. I’ve certainly got masses of techniques, “tricks” and methodologies to ensure all goes well, and certainly learned to flex and adapt when they don’t. The nervousness is a throw-back to my early teaching days  and the fear of not “being in control” or “losing control”. For many a teacher this occurs, and it also wonderful when the fear is replaced by the deep satisfaction gained from the strong engagement achieved, the great learning that people get and the wonderful relationships that are built.

However what is key is what one can learn about oneself. All most people have come for is to hear what we have to offer, which is of course our knowledge and expertise. It is for us ourselves to make it work or not, and that means moving through and letting go of fear. Fear is an illusion, F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real, and we can learn to manage it and in fact turn it to our advantage. The solution is just a breath away.

I coach people in developing their public confidence, and I also run a program that can greatly help too by helping people become more mindful.