Today I am honoured to feature a previous client, Gentle Business Mastermind member, and now friend Melanie Wheatley on the blog as part of my Expert Spotlight segment where I interview experts and mentors on business + entrepreneurship, self care and personal development, and social change and social justice.
Melanie is an internationally certified Business and Lifestyle coach who helps women get out of self-help jail and into the freedom of action – assisting them to create a life and business without chaos, comparison and fear.
Okay, let’s jump into the questions…
I understand that you support women in getting out of self-help jail and into the freedom of action. Can you tell me what this means, how you came to be doing this work and why are you so passionate about it?
I get really passionate about women being stuck in a holding pattern of constantly feeling they are not enough. They to and fro backwards between new courses, new books, shiny objects and they forget to implement or action because they are forever thinking that it isn’t enough and they need to know more. I developed my methodology and simplified approach because… it worked for me! I was on this merry go round of self-help jail and e-courses for too long and I realised eventually enough was enough and drastic action followed.
I believe that every woman deserves to have their own version of balance, I believe that we are all capable of achieving our own version of success. I love getting to work alongside women when they have that moment of realisation that they are enough and they know enough, and then bringing it all together so that their actions are in alignment with their own values, beliefs and needs.
My life experience had me working in really high stress situations over an extended period of time that included natural disasters, personal injury and death, plane crashes (yes – you read that correctly) and coupled with the actual day to day management of the my operations with the training of staff. To say I was stressed was an understatement. The thing was, I was so permanently stressed, I had stopped being able to see things clearly enough to get out of my own way to help myself.
I am a solutions and action based coach and I really want to help and support women to achieve their dreams with really clear and purposeful action, rather than going at it like a bull at a gate, or being caught up in all the constant need to ‘work on yourself’ continuously that you see in this space. Please understand that while I feel working on yourself is important, it’s also important that we get off the couch and put into action the things we learn.
As someone who experiences Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), would you mind sharing how you have personally learned to do business gently? Is there anything you would say to others who might resonate with your experience?
Such a fun topic and it explains why I also feel so passionate about working on oneself (there is a difference between personal development and mental health as well that should be understood), but also implementing balanced, purposeful action.
I thought that I was recovered… and that my PTSD and GAD had vanished – Hallelujah, I was healed! – and then I started going to events and realising that in no way, shape or form had it gone anywhere.
That was a really big realisation for me. I had gone into denial, almost ashamed to admit the stigma that goes alongside mental health – I felt that I had done the work and now I should be able to just move on and into the action. But that’s not how PTSD works.
Right from the incident that brought on the PTSD, I was pretty embarrassed to show any vulnerability. Those who know me well have a perception of me as a strong woman and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so for a while there I was living in a quiet land of suffering. I eventually gave myself the permission to actually admit that this will be with me for the rest of my living life – and it makes me uniquely able to see things that others don’t.
I genuinely believe the PTSD and GAD has enhanced my skills as an empath and how I tune into others.
What I would say to others:
- Find what works for you in terms of self-care. Kinesiology is fantastic for me, as well as eating well and movement – it’s no brainer stuff and sometimes easier said than done.
- Appoint one person in your life to be “your person” the one you have the honest conversation with and say “these are the things I need you to help me with when I come to you feeling abc.” When you permit someone to take control for your choices when you’re riding a shit storm, it helps.
- Be really observant with your thoughts and check in with things that are “triggering” and step away before it becomes too much – even if that means being off social media for a week.
- If you need to push to achieve something, it isn’t worth it. It will come to you when you are ready, but the pushing will potentially trigger a week on the couch watching Netflix getting nothing done – find your balance and honour it.
- Be really proud of who you are and what you have achieved while managing this – mental health is not something that we should be embarrassed by and while there is a lot of work in this space, I think it is definitely something that we still have more room for. What you have makes you unique and someone in the world needs you – don’t ever forget that.
- Working solo is not ideal 5 days per week – find a space where you can go, be it free or paid, that has other people around you – you don’t need to talk to them…
I know you are a big believer in learning about and loving who you are – and leaning into her in how you run your business (even if it means you feel like an outsider sometimes or different to everyone else in your industry). Would you mind sharing why this is important and some ways that we can do it?
When I first started as a coach I was soooo tough on myself because I felt I was so different from everybody else… My hair was too short to get the perfect blonde curl, I didn’t wear flower crowns and I didn’t call everyone beautiful or babe… I felt like a total outsider and like no-one would ever like me… What a waste of time that was.
The thing about comparison is, it serves no-one. The people you are comparing yourself to couldn’t give a flying f’ck because they are out doing their thing and being of service to the world and as the person stuck in comparison – you are serving no-one because you are so busy creating excuses and reasons as to why you won’t be successful.
So for me it was critical to, dare I say it, start being authentic, to be me and to really own the stuff that comes out of my mouth. People either like it, or they don’t, and that’s okay because we are all different.
Some practical tips…
- Stop following the people that you are comparing yourself to until you can let it go.
- Get grateful for their work – because they are helping the people you can’t help.
- Mark Manson writes about this really well in his book, but in summary, if we only get a certain amount of things to stress about in this lifetime, pick something good – don’t waste it on comparison/procrastination.
- Don’t go to events because you think you should – yep, if you don’t care about the moon affecting your period, don’t go… find events with speakers that excite and inspire you and go to those events – even if everyone else isn’t going to them
- Finally, stay open and be curious… If you can be curious, you may just learn something from all of those people you think you aren’t like.
We all obviously go through periods of procrastination and overwhelm in our lives and work. Would you mind sharing what your personal warning signs are – those signs that things are getting a bit too much and you may need to slow down or change something? And when you do notice these signs, what do you do to return to alignment or ‘balance’?
- When I stop exercising – I book in with a PT for a month to re-create the habit and force me to be accountable
- When stupid arguments happen at home – I plan date night
- When uber eats becomes my new health food store – I take the time on the weekend to create the meal plan and do meal prep – if that physically pulls me into a freakout zone, it’s ordering healthy whole meals delivered
- When the first thing I do before I get out of bed is check my phone – I leave my phone out of the bedroom at night because really do I need the torch to get to the bathroom?
What would be your top tips for entrepreneurs who want to learn how they can get into action building successful businesses and platforms, while hustling less be – as many people seem to think this isn’t possible?
Here’s the funny thing, everyone’s hustle is different and what might feel like hustling to you may not to someone else. The key is creating room for balance and making sure all of your buckets are filled.
You cannot sustain waking up at 4am to comment in your Facebook group, cook your kids breakfast, take them to school, roll up for your other job, come home, make dinner and work on your “idea” till 10pm to do it all again – it just won’t work – too many buckets are getting dropped.
What you need to do is to create your vision and then create really careful sustainable steps to get there. As entrepreneurs we get so caught up in thinking we need to sprint to keep up, but sprints are noooot fun.
So – break your life down into compartments once you have that vision, and then create the steps. Schedule them into your diary and to ensure you get time for you, you get time to be a wife and mumma, you get time to be social outside of your family unit. Know that the time you have for work is going to be purposeful and this all becomes a lot easier. It’s the activity and the richness that is life that creates the space for you to create.
For those reading this article who are not entrepreneurs of business owners, who may be overwhelmed and stressed at work or in their lives and browsing the self-help aisle for their next solution – would you have any advice for them too? I know you had experience with stressful contexts before becoming an entrepreneur too!
The harsh reality is I would probably tell myself to get out of the job I was doing because it wasn’t worth it. I’d say to take things a little less seriously. I wasted so much time taking EVERYTHING so seriously and it really wasn’t!
If it’s not the job, but life has got you by the balls too, it’s time to ask the really tough questions and clear the decks completely. I have a resource on my website called the sanity saver which helps with this and I recommend my clients keep it on file as a handy resource to go back to at anytime.
I know that you also support entrepreneurs in creating the lifestyle they desire – and am someone who has lived and worked in a variety of different locations from islands to cities and so many places in between. Would you mind sharing with us some of the myths you’ve learned about being location independent – and how we can be more mindful in making or aspiring for lifestyle choices that are truly aligned with our preferences (rather than chosen simply because they seem ‘cool’ based on Instagram feeds etc!)?
Don’t we have so much to thank Instagram and Facebook for! Every day is not a perfect smoothie bowl and walk along the beach despite what we may see for many of the location dependants on Insta…
This is a really great question because it goes back to your why. So for me, I do what I do for freedom as a primary need. When I feel like I am tied to a place or location and can’t travel at any given time, its out of alignment with my why and I need to adjust.
I think the real secret here is knowing our preferences and values – that helps create the alignment. It all goes back to that vision and creating something that is how you want it to look in the end – and walking that walk every day to stay in alignment.
I know that dreaming for others, being of use, and giving back is important to you. Would you mind sharing with us some of the ways you do this?
Giving back has been something that I have done since I was a little girl – without even realising that picking up the clothes for the clothing appeal for St Vincents or doing door knock appeals for the Salvo’s was a thing. I just thought that’s what you did.
Some of the ways we have given back include volunteering with my parents on Christmas Day to feed the elderly, using our wedding to raise money for 2 charities we care about (RFDS and Qld Cancer), walking dogs for a shelter, and yes I’ve cooked for those who need it as well. I don’t gift presents too much anymore, but instead gift donations to causes I love like 1 Million Women. Australian Marine Conservation Society, and Royal Flying Doctor Service. I do it for an entirely selfish reason – I enjoy being able to.
It’s about the fact that I am lucky to live the life I have and have experienced what I have – and thankfully my husband feels the same. I have enough, if that makes sense, and I want to be able to provide/help or share some of that experience when I can.
Maybe its a mistake that I don’t shout out about it because maybe if I did, it would encourage others to get up and do something as well, but it’s just never been about that to me. It’s just my way to acknowledge the soft side, which sometimes gets very overpowered by the masculine.
I have certain charities that have either directly touched me or that I am passionate about. I sometimes think I should or could do more, but that’s the gift of volunteering – you give what you can, when you can and that’s ok.
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