KATE ATKIN

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kate@kateatkin.com
07779 646976

Right now the UK is gripped by the result of the referendum.

 

For some there is jubilation, while for others there is much gnashing of teeth & wailing. Whichever way you voted, we are all now in a period of uncertainty.

 

It’s at times like this that we need to reach for the ‘sod all’ box.

 

Allow me to explain…

 

There are some things in life you can control. This is about you. You can control what actions you take, what you say and, with awareness, what you think and how you react to events.

 

There are also some things you can influence. Casting your vote on Thursday 23rd June was a way of influencing the outcome of the referendum. You can also influence others and their behaviour through your own, but, as anyone with children will tell you, you can’t control anyone else, however much you might like to!

 

Sod-all Box

Finally there’s the ‘sod all’ box, which contains all those things you can’t do anything about.

Once you have cast your vote, and the result was announced, the referendum fell into the ‘sod all’ box. In fact, anything in the past, such as what you chose to eat for breakfast or whether you had a cookie or a banana at break time now fall into this box. The weather and the traffic are other, somethings frustrating, factors that generally fall into the ‘sod all’ box.

 

 

 

The concerns we all feel about the changes which lie ahead are very natural. While we can no longer influence the vote, we may be able to influence the brexit negotiations. However, for many of us the best use of our time and energy is to focus on what we can control and what is within our immediate sphere of influence.

Use your time and energy wisely

 

Complaining about something you can no longer do anything about isn’t a wise use of these finite resources.

Focus on the things you can control and influence and try to accept calmly the contents of the ‘sod all’ box to lessen the stress of change.

Today is the UN International Day of Happiness.  But can you create happiness by deliberate acts? And what happens if you don’t feel happy?

Psychologists have researched many ways to increase individual levels of happiness, community happiness and create a happier society.  Indeed, Action for Happiness, run their own 8-week course on Exploring what Matters to help individuals understand these different levels and encourage us all to take some action in anyone of those areas.

But what is happiness?

Happiness is a fleeting, positive emotion.  I like to use the analogy of a rainbow… there are times when you see it, there are times when you feel it but you cannot really touch it.  To experience happiness you need to also experience sadness and a whole spectrum of emotions in between; to see a rainbow there needs to be both sunshine AND rain.  So, today, the #internationaldayofhappiness please don’t feel compelled to be happy, just notice how you are feeling.

Having studied positive psychology for the past two years I have become increasingly aware that the media’s view of creating happiness is not the same as an individuals reality.  We might think the new car, the bigger TV, the flash clothes will bring us happiness. And to be fair, for a short while they do.  But not a meaningful type of happiness.  When we buy these material things, we experience hedonic adaptation… that is our spike of happiness soon fades and we return to our previous normal way of being and feeling.  To get the next spike of positive emotions it often needs to be an even flashier car, even bigger TV or more expensive clothes.

So what does bring happiness?

Rainbow over Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Living a meaningful life (defined by what you consider to be meaningful) is one way as that creates what psychologists call eudaimonic happiness.

I prefer a mix of both hedonic and eudaimonic happiness…

…by doing what I love,  giving to others through volunteering activities, walking my springer spaniel and my own hedonic pleasure which comes in the form of 85% dark chocolate!

Kate Atkin

Corporate Public Speaking Challenge

As I mentioned in my last post, I discovered the theory of the Imposter Phenomenon while studying for a masters in positive psychology. This led me to realise that my own internal voices, which for years have been telling me that “I wasn’t good enough” or “if I didn’t do things 100% perfect it was a huge failure”, are actually false and quite common.

Now, I knew that intellectually before I came across the psychological term, but learning more about the phenomenon has helped me to understand and work on overcoming the feelings. So when I was offered the chance to compete in this year’s corporate speaking challenge I said yes, before really thinking about the consequences.

The finals were held in Bloomsbury House in London, last week and I gave a well-received 6-minute speech on the given topic of “everything needs to change so everything can stay the same”.  And I came second. So does that mean I failed? Well, if I listened to my Imposter talking I not only failed, but I AM a failure.  But is that really true? Most people would probably rather visit the dentist than take part in a public speaking competition.

It is true that I failed to get first place, but I also know the judges took ages over their deliberations between first & second place, and I know that I did my best on the night, and I know from feedback that others thought it was a very good, and informative, speech. I also know that justifying the second-place position is another of my imposter traits!

Michael Ronayne, director of the College of Public Speaking said “The Corporate Speaking Challenge brings together a wide range of accomplished speakers from all walks of society in a contest to test the fluency and credibility of the individual speakers. To be the runner up in a very strong field is a great achievement and Kate’s performance, talking about control, connection and purpose was worthy of the prize. She has great poise and a very relaxed and relatable manner. She engages naturally and draws the listener in with ease.”

Then this Friday I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 in the car about the BBC New Comedy Awards. Guess what struck me? A number of now highly successful comedians came second.  Did those placed second view themselves as failures and give up, or did they go on to pursue their craft? Some of our best-known and well-loved comedians came second, or weren’t even placed, when they entered the Awards. I’ll take solace from that.

So is second place a failure? No, real failure would have been finding an excuse not to take part at all.

If you find yourself making excuses not to speak in public, or find yourself reluctant to speak up in meetings or wish to brush up on your skills, then join me on 7th December at 6.30pm at St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge for a glass of wine, a nibble of cheese and some sharing of presentation tips.

To book, sign up via Eventbrite and make a donation on the night to help raise funds for Arthur Rank Hospice.

Impostor Syndrome dealing with the imposter phenomenon

reveal your imposter for what it is, a mask, not reality

How to banish your impostor or cope with imposter feelings

Having spent the past two years studying for a masters in applied positive psychology, and completing a dissertation on the imposter phenomenon and self-efficacy I should know enough about it by now to write a blog.  Yet my own Imposter rears its head when I go to put my fingers to the keyboard…. You probably know the sort of stuff, an internal voice which says “there are so many writing about this already, why you?”, “who’s going to want to hear your take?”, “are you sure you’ve got anything to add?” or “what if you write something that’s incorrect?”, “make sure there aren’t any spelling mistakes or typos” and “do you really know what you are talking about?”

Well do I?  I have read a few (ok, several!) books, numerous research articles and interviewed successful entrepreneurs, six men and six women, for my dissertation on the subject.  So does that qualify me to write a blog post?

What really qualifies me is my own experience of dealing with what I now know to be an Imposter for many years. Something which pops up every so often, or rather very often!  On coming across the term two years ago in the early part of my studies I realised that this is what I had been dealing with.

 

It wasn’t exactly a lack of confidence, more a crippling

“don’t put yourself out THERE as you’ll be FOUND OUT” feeling…

For those of you who, like me, can relate to the imposter feelings, there is often a huge desire to be successful, to do well and make a difference in the world, which contrasts big time with the internal struggle of what to do if you are successful, if you do make a difference because then you really have to work hard at not failing. To fail, so the imposter tells you, negates the success you have achieved and proves that you weren’t worth it after all.

Right from my early primary school days I have been subjected to ridicule, or “teasing” as it is often innocuously referred to. Harmless to many, for me it became something to avoid. If I didn’t do well, I would be ridiculed. If I didn’t succeed I was a failure. If I didn’t know something I was an idiot.  Not in other people’s eyes I might add…but in my own!  Others would tell me how well I was doing, how entrepreneurial I am to start a training business on my own (sixteen years ago), and how brave I am (to travel to Outer Mongolia on my own, for instance). Internally those comments only fueled the desire to work hard, to be 100% perfect… so as not to be found out.

 

Stop Hiding

Last weekend I spoke at the District 71 Toastmaster Conference and I let my Imposter completely out of the bag by pulling off my mask. I spoke about the ridicule, the internal angst, the perfectionism and also ways to overcome the feelings, which I confessed I was still working on.  Surprisingly (that’s my Imposter talking, to everyone else it wasn’t a surprise) I wasn’t ridiculed, I wasn’t run out of town for talking nonsense, instead I had people coming up to me to thank me for my honesty and to say how well I had connected with their own experiences.

Then just two days later I attended an event at the O2. A graduation ceremony for my masters in applied positive psychology. Again, I feel amazed that I not only now have a masters, but was awarded it with distinction!  Compare that with failing the 11 Plus, an examination all primary school leavers had to take in the UK to determine whether they were clever enough to go to the grammar school. I obviously wasn’t clever as I attended the Spilsby Franklin School, a secondary modern. But just two years ago, at the age of 48, at the same time as learning about the imposter phenomenon, I realised that I probably failed the exam as I took it at the age of 10 because my birthday is in August. How I hadn’t come to that realisation before I don’t know, but there it was staring me in the face.  My sisters both passed, I didn’t, yet I’m the only summer-born sibling.

 

What to do if you have experience imposter feelings

So what can you do to alleviate your imposter feelings?  The first step is to recognise them for what they are.  Feelings, not necessarily truths.  The second step is to start to talk about them.  You don’t have to go to the extreme of going on stage at a conference, but talk about them with family members or friends, or a work colleague you know you can trust.  Chances are they’ll go “yeah, me too”.

 

Further ways of banishing the imposter and boosting confidence will be the subject of subsequent blogs.  Meanwhile if you’d like me to speak at your conference, or to your staff or organisation, or for one-to-one coaching do get in touch. I’m on a mission to Banish the Imposter, my own included.

Contact me on kate@kateatkin.com or see www.kateatkin.com for more details.

Thank you.

yerkes dodson stress and performance

Yerkes Dodson Law: How stress can affect performance positively

Today is national stress awareness day. Much of what is available on the internet about stress is about how to avoid it. The assumption is that stress = bad. But is that really the case?

For some people of course an overload of stress is unhelpful. But the focus on stress always being bad is in itself bad. There is such a thing as good stress, called eustress. Have you ever heard that being talked about? The term eustress was first coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye and can be helpful in differentiating between different types of stress.

A certain amount of stress, eustress, is good for you. Eustress can be a great motivator, provide challenge and purpose, both at work and in our home lives. The difficult thing is defining how much is good for you. It is different for different people. The level of stress I may be able to endure could be significantly different from the level you can cope with. It is also situational; we have different coping abilities and mechanisms in different situations. For instance a shouty work colleague may upset someone far more on one day than on another depending on what is going on elsewhere in their lives. Or the computer failing to pick up emails may be a blessing on one day allowing you to get on with other tasks, but a high stressor on another day when you are expecting an important contract to come through electronically.

The strategies for coping with stress, whether eustress or distress, are also varied. Mindfulness, meditation, playing squash (or other sport), walking or talking are all useful strategies. And there are many more. But remember, some stress is good for you and can help you achieve your goals. As can be seen in the Yerkes–Dodson curve when dealing with a difficult task, there is an optimum performance level. How will you achieve yours?

Image of Kate

Kate Atkin

Have you ever said yes to something which seemed a good idea, but when the time came you started to view it differently?

A year ago I missed the entry deadline into the Corporate Speaking Challenge run by the School of Public Speaking. So I gaily said “put me down for next year”. Well those twelve months passed and I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I got an invitation to attend the heats and prepare a 6-minute speech on the theme of “everything needs to change, so that everything can remain the same”.

THE day arrives. The nerves start to kick in, even though I had prepared and practiced my speech. “Why am I doing this?” I wonder to myself…

Two days before the contest I decided to set myself an evening reminder for something unconnected, by way of a daily alarm on my phone. I chose to use a song rather than an alarm sound thinking this would be a good idea, and then promptly forgot about it. After all that’s the point of a reminder!

Back to yesterday evening… at Mintel’s offices in the City of London.  Phones are on silent, check! And double check! Ten participants, and I was speaking fourth. It comes to my turn to speak. As I am part way through the second of three points in my speech, a story about change in the British mining industry, strains of Enya are heard in the room, gradually getting louder. Yes, you’ve guessed it my alarm was interrupting my speech. What would you do?

The chap sitting near my handbag realised where the offending noise was coming from, so I had a choice. Do I carry on and ignore the noise, do I ask him to turn it off, or do I turn it off myself? Well carrying on wasn’t going to work, I was distracted and had lost my thread and my audience were distracted.  Asking a stranger to rummage in my handbag didn’t appeal, so I opted to have the bag passed to me and turned it off myself.

Interruptions happen all the time; speeches don’t always go to plan. It’s how you deal with the matter that is important. I have never interrupted myself before, and said as much to the audience, with an apology. I then paused, regrouped my thoughts, ditched a good chunk of my speech as I had lost valuable time during the incident, quickly finished my third point and jumped to my conclusion. Finishing just on the allotted 6 minutes.

So often in business we need to deal with the unexpected. Things don’t go to plan. You need to change course or miss something out. How do you deal with it?

If no-one had noticed I could have ignored the alarm and carried on. But it was obvious to others that there was something going on, and it had also put me off my flow, so I needed to “call it out”. Once named, and dealt with using a little bit of humour, the big task was to pick up where I had left off. The only reason I could do this was because of the upfront planning I had put in to writing, preparing and practising my speech.

The old adage of know your beginning and your ending held fast for me yesterday. I was able to jump to my conclusion… And still finish on time, just.

So was it a good idea? It seemed so at the time, and I am through to the finals.  Hopefully next time I’ll be able to deliver my speech without interruption!