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Episode 108: AmIOK?

This episode is about taking care of your own mental well-being. 

 I want to start by talking about the RU OK campaign in Australia and then to talk about the need to manage our own mental well-being as well.


R U OK? is an organisation whose vision is a world where we’re all connected and are protected from suicide.

Their mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

Their goals are to: 

  1. Boost our confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life’s ups and downs
  2. Nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
  3. Strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
  4. Be relevant, strong and dynamic

I love that the RU okay campaign exists. It gives us all an opportunity to think about the people around us and consider how we can offer support. 

It means that we are proactively reaching out to check in with people and to help them to speak up about what’s going on for them so they can get help.

I had a conversation with somebody one-day who I knew was severely depressed and going through a major incident and I had reached out to say are you okay. 

It was a difficult conversation because I hadn’t yet trained as a coach and this person was very upset but I was concerned about their mental well-being so I did the best that I could with the skills that I had at the time. 

Months later that person phoned me and said they were considering suicide the day I had called – they were getting ready to do it – and the conversation we had stopped them from taking action and caused them to reach out for help. 

Truly, I was taken aback that the conversation had had such a powerful impact on that person and it made me thankful that I’ve been able to help but also concerned about my skills and education and knowledge in this area.

So where and how do you start getting these skills?

What if you’re not a coach or working in a support capacity but want some basic understanding and skills?

Mental Health First Aid

It’s worth mentioning the mental first aid course.

Several organisations deliver this course: Mental Health First Aid Australia says that: 

Each year 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness. Many people are not knowledgeable or confident to offer assistance. Physical first aid is accepted and widespread in our community, however most do not cover mental health problems. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) teaches people the skills to help someone who they’re concerned about.

What About Me?

All of this got me thinking recently about the fact that there are many campaigns that are outward directed – helping us to check in with the other people about their own mental health and well-being.

But just as important is the ability to be self-aware and identify our own mental health challenges.

As a coach, I know that one of the main reasons people hire coaches is simply that they lack self-awareness of how they are thinking and operating in the world, and what their habits are.

People are either too busy to notice themselves and reflect on their behaviour, needs and wants, OR, they notice an issue coming up for themselves but say ‘she’ll be right, I’ll just push through.’

The old ‘she’ll be right attitude’ is a mask that many Australians have been wearing for a long time.

In either case, most people simply don’t know HOW to check in with themselves or to ask for help.

They say, I’m okay, don’t worry about me, everything is fine. I don’t need any help, I’ll put on my big girl pants or I’ll pull up my boots and I’ll just get on with it. 

I can totally see how we came to be that way. That attitude comes from the hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, hard-working people who founded modern society in our nation.

Think about it – once upon a time, not that long ago, we were a nation of pioneers in a new country who travelled long distances, lived off the land and managed many hardships to establish towns and cities. We were the kind of people that pitched in and did things and got on with things and to build a great nation.

But these days, there is a changing of the guard.

We have the rise of Gen Y (with more of a values focus, in my opinion) as dominant players in the workforce and leadership positions. 

We have an increase in multiculturalism in our society, and a need to consider people with different cultures, ethics and values.

And we are giving more attention to well-being, health and mindfulness. 

With all of this going on, we are starting to realise that the old ‘she’ll be right attitude’ is a mask that many Australians have been wearing for a long time.

The old stigma around mental health issues, not wanting to show any weakness or to be judged, has to come off.

We have to learn how to ask for help.

But first of all, we must be self-aware enough, to know when we need to get that help.

AmIok – a new paradigm 

I propose a concept that sits alongside RUOK, to acknowledge that it’s just as important to check in with yourself rather than to ignore the warning signs and push through. 

I want to ask you to think about a new paradigm. 

The AmIOK paradigm. 

Certainly check in with the others and ask are you okay, but at the same time give yourself the attention to – how am I travelling? 

Am I ok? 

And if not, what do I need, how am I feeling, what’s my capacity, and what do I need to do differently? 

I had this experience myself recently. 

I noticed a few things were becoming difficult for me. 

I was starting to avoid certain situations and certain tasks that I didn’t like. 

Normally I can do tasks that I don’t like or don’t enjoy, but when I’m stressed, under a lot of pressure then I go into avoidance of those basic tasks. And to me that is a sign that I need to step back and check in with myself. 

Other signs that I need a break or to get help are that my cooking is boring, I’m not sleeping well, and I feel frustrated, and starting to look for more coffee.

Basically, I lose my enthusiasm and creativity. 

When those things start to ebb, I know it’s time to take a break or to get help.


RUOK is a wonderful initiative that helps us to lower the risk and rate of suicide, by reaching out to others.

It’s important to check in with yourself rather than to ignore the warning signs and push through. 

Mental Health First Aid is a great training course to gain basic skills.

I propose a new paradigm – AmIOK? – as a means of learning to give our own needs more attention and to get help sooner rather than later.

Ready to pay more attention to your own needs?

It’s OK to be not OK, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. If you need help to feel more in charge of your life, I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 98: Consistency with the CARE Model

Today I want to walk you through a model I’ve developed – the CARE model – to help you be consistent with self-care and build resilience.

As I mentioned in episode 96, resilience is the ability to adapt to and cope with life’s challenges with ease, and to bounce back and thrive in spite of them.

As I’ve mentioned previously, if resilience were money, it would be a $50,000 buffer in your bank account. In other words, building resilience requires a regular investment in your own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

One of the challenges people face is being consistent with self-care.

You know what it’s like – the kids need something urgently, or you get loaded with extra work, or your partner wants you to spend some quality time with them and your exercise session or meal prep or book chapter gets shelved – yet again – for later.

In the short term, that’s ok, but if that keeps happening, then you’re adding nothing to your resilience bank account, so your ability to cope with stress, be creative, make decisions is going to decrease.

Now is a great time to decide how you want to respond to stress in the future – whether it’s a downwards spiral or to lift yourself up out of the chaos you feel.

And assuming you want to choose the latter, then you will want to choose some self care activities that are absolutely not-negotiable, and that you can be consistent with.

Let’s look at a simple, five-step process to get it right – the CARE model.

Self Care to Build Resilience

Self-care is any activity that builds and maintains your physical, mental, and emotional health and it’s therefore essential for building resilience.

It could be described as a more positive set of habits that can create an upward spiral rather than a downward one.

Some self-care activities that build resilience could include exercise, being in nature, painting, gardening, singing, reading, cleaning up or getting organised, cooking and eating healthy nutritious food, speaking aloud, writing, drawing, playing with your pets, sleeping well, doing puzzles or playing games, speaking to friends or families, being part of a community. 

A friend of mine came up with a novel self-care activity recently.

She sat with her partner and they looked through photos from their 2018 European holiday, while reading their travel diaries together and reflecting on the memories of some wonderful experiences.

Reflect on your own life for a moment – how would you rate your current level of self-care? Are you attending to it as much as you’d like, and in ways that you enjoy?

Here are some clues that you might need more or different self-care habits:

  • You’re experiencing insomnia
  • You have food cravings
  • You are overeating or overdrinking
  • You feel stressed
  • You are short of breath, feeling rushed or have fast resting pulse
  • You have aches and pains
  • You feel run down, tired or unwell.

Any of these indicates something needs to change!

To that end, what are some creative self-care activities you can think of that would help you to build resilience?

Step 4 is to ask: What does my ideal self-CARE routine look like to meet all my needs?  

Now, for each of the activities you’ve listed, use the CARE model.

Is the activity:

  • Convenient – does it fit easily into your existing lifestyle?
  • Attractive – do you want to do the activity? Would you enjoy it?
  • Realistic – can you enjoy a benefit from as little as 5 minutes up to 50, depending on available time? Does it fit in?
  • Energizing – do you feel good afterwards? Remember, this could be accomplished, productive, uplifted or have a calm energy.

Score each activity according to this model.

If an activity ticks all those boxes – great! 

If an activity doesn’t tick all those boxes, it could become a source of guilt, so you’ll want to change it or replace it.

Firstly, look at any activities you currently do and ask yourself how you could change them to fit with the CARE model.

Then, look at any new activities and ask yourself how you could make them fit with the CARE model. 

Step 5 is to develop a realistic, not-negotiable schedule.

Start with what’s already working – the things you are currently doing consistently.

Schedule those into your calendar, making sure you feel at least 9/10 confident that you could do them each week, in that time slot.

Now, consider whether you have room for any more right now, and can add to your self-care routine without stress, pressure or guilt.

If you can’t, keep your routine as it is and review it in a couple of weeks.

If you can, then consider one or maybe two things you could add, even just once or twice in the coming two weeks, to build more self-care into your life.

It takes about 12 weeks or 86 days to habituate a new routine on average, but often much longer.

This is a gradual process, and you’re building up your self-care activities in a way that is low-pressure, comfortable and achievable. 


  1.     Keep it simple – rather under-commit and exceed your own expectations, and
  2.     Be extremely specific about what you will do and when so you always win.
  3.     Build your habits gradually, starting with what suits your current capacity.


Self-care is any activity that builds and maintains your physical, mental, and emotional health and it’s therefore essential for building resilience.

It’s a positive set of habits that can create an upward spiral rather than a downward one.

When people struggle to be consistent with self care, it’s usually because they expect too much of themselves, try to do too many different things, or do things they think they should rather than what they like.

Self-care is any activity that builds and maintains your physical, mental, and emotional health and it’s therefore essential for building resilience.

I described a CARE Model to help you overcome those obstacles, and to help you get clear on the habits that will be sustainable in the long term.

Then, there was the five-step process I outlined to help you implement habit change on your own.

What I’ve described today is exactly how a Health and Wellness Coach works. We can support you to become motivated and self-accountable for building your own realistic, not-negotiable self-care routine that will build resilience, capacity and a better quality life.

Ready to be consistent with self care?

Habitology can give you the support you need to create your own realistic self-care routine that will build resilience and improve your quality of life! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 76: The Importance of Self-Compassion

More than ever before, we need a reliable tool to manage our inner critic, judgement, negative thinking and the opinions of others. This is self-compassion, and here’s how to start using it.

In case you have been living under a rock, I wanted to let you know that we are living in a very hyper critical time.

We have become addicted to the internet with all it’s catastrophizing news headlines, controversial click-bait and it’s social forums and soapboxes. 

Of course there are plenty of great things on the internet too.


But these great things are book ended by the extremes – beautiful people trying to outdo each other, and the dark corners where bullies, trolls and critics lurk.

As it turns out, even the most resilient amongst us can get sucked into the extreme ends of the internet in just a few clicks.

We can start questioning ourselves, doubting ourselves, or even judging ourselves.

I want to be clear with you – all of this happens in real life too.

But on the internet it happens faster, more broadly, and 24 hours per day.

That’s why now, more than ever, I think self compassion is so important. It’s a tool we can all use and benefit from, and it is a powerful antidote to the mental curveballs that we experience in our daily lives.

I want to walk you through the three elements of self-compassion today; discuss why it’s important, help you work out how self-compassionate you are and take some simple steps to bolster your resilience.

If it doesn’t feel good, then why do we criticize ourselves?

We humans are a lot like dogs in the way we behave and our social hierarchy.

Some dogs are aggressive and want to be the alpha dog. Other dogs are less confident and they roll over to expose their belly.

So self-criticism is a way of fitting in, even if it’s at the bottom of the pecking order.

When we criticize ourselves, it’s actually a submissive, safety behaviour that helps us to be accepted in social circles.

If we are submissive and self-critical, it might appease the bully or garner sympathy so that someone will tell us that we’re not as bad as we think we are. 

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

But as you can hear, this is a pretty unhealthy and uncomfortable way of dealing with internal and external criticism.

Luckily there is another, healthier option that makes way more sense – self-compassion.

What is self-compassion?

Psychologist Kristen Neff has done most of the work into self-compassion – a powerful tool for emotional resilience, helping us to cope with the good and bad around us. 

There are three main parts to self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness (instead of self-judgement)
  2. Common humanity (instead of withdrawal and isolation)
  3. Mindfulness (instead of overthinking).

It is essentially a process to help you stop judging and evaluating yourself altogether.

It’s a way to stop labeling yourself and the things you do as good or bad – and to simply accept things with an open heart. 

It means we can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

I want to explain these concepts by exploring why self compassion is important – especially right now. 

Why is self-compassion important?

At this time more than any other, you are being constantly bombarded by conflict and catastrophizing and many other things that cause you to have an emotional response.

Back in the old days you were only exposed to the people you saw each day, and printed advertising and TV.

Now we have an added layer – the 24/7 barrage of the internet.

When we are being self-critical, we are simply saying – ‘I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned.’ We are trying to save ourselves.

We get sucked in by intriguing headlines like these few I found online today:

“Mum’s baby ‘mistake’ angers” 

“Belle Gibson’s sob story in a letter” or even

Trump Sparks Outrage by Quoting Emerson to Refer to Himself as “the King”

The intrigue ropes you in, and then you enticed into getting emotional – into having an opinion at the least, or making a judgement and taking sides at the most – even better – to comment at the bottom of the story and add your 2c worth.

After all, Google ranking, right? That’s the online newspaper’s agenda – readership and reaction.

But how does that leave you feeling? Happy? Light? Resilient?


The fact is, more than ever before there is a buffet of triggers for negative thoughts and feelings, comparison and self judgement on the internet.

But you don’t have to get sucked into ANY this stuff.

Managing your exposure is obviously important. You can choose which media you follow and how often, and that’s a discipline worth having.

In addition, you can learn the skills of self-compassion for those times that you get drawn into emotionally challenging situations.

You can learn to be more gentle with yourself, more accepting of others, and understanding that the only person you can control is yourself (what a relief!).

You can notice that others feel like you do, too. You are not alone. There is that common experience that somehow eases the suffering.

And you can dial down catastrophizing and overthinking so you can be present, mindful and more at peace, calmer and more resilient.

To be self-compassionate, we must first realise that negative emotions are part of the human experience and to know that we can have authority over them.

When you can notice and accept negative emotions with kindness and be open to feeling them and letting go, you will experience many benefits.

More emotional stability.

More rational thinking. 

More love. 

Better relationships. 

Better decision making. 

Better coping skills. 

Less stress and anxiety. 

More resilience.

Imagine how your life would be different if you were more self-compassionate.

Imagine how much less drama there would be, less second-guessing and insecurity.

Imagine how much more self-confident you’d feel.

How other people’s stuff would roll off you like water off a duck’s back.

How you would have more empathy for others, more energy for your loved ones, more joy, and a greater sense of satisfaction, meaningful connection and self-love.

That’s what self-compassion can create.

How self-compassionate are you?

Kristen Neff has a free self-compassion test on her website.

You can take that test, but for now I will ask you six of the questions from this test.

  1. How often are you disapproving and judgemental about your flaws and inadequacies?
  2. When you’re feeling down, how often do you approach your feelings with curiosity and openness?
  3. How often are you intolerant toward your own personality traits that you think are negative?
  4. When you fail at something important to you, how often do you try to keep things in perspective?
  5. When something painful happens, how often do you blow the incident out of proportion?
  6. When you’re suffering, how often are you kind to yourself?

How did you go?

In an ideal situation, your scores for the positively worded questions were higher, and your scores for the negatively worded questions were lower.

The online test goes into more detail and gives you ratings in specific areas of self-kindness, self-judgement, common humanity, isolation, mindfulness, over-identification and an overall score. 

Whether you take the test or not, maybe you want to build more self compassion!

Here are three easy ways.

Three easy ways to build


1. Loving kindness meditation is a way of connecting to yourself in a loving and kind way.

Taking just 10 minutes once or twice per week for guided loving kindness meditation can help you build a resilience bank that you can draw on when you are feeling low.

Being proactive about this exercise can help to train your brain with more positive messaging as a default position.

2. Journalling or self coaching is an easy way to get your thoughts and feelings out on paper.

When we see what we are thinking and feeling, it’s easier to stand back from that and be empathetic. 

It’s easy to note the exaggeration and to pull back from that, to notice and re-frame faulty or unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs.

3. Ask yourself some powerful questions.

I am a firm believer that the way to solve any problem is by asking a question.

When the chips are down, you can ask yourself – How could I shift into compassion? 

What might I say to a friend who feels like this? 

What would that feel like? 

How would that change things?

Questions trigger the logical, factual parts of your brain, so they are a useful way to pull back from the emotional heat of the moment and to start thinking more rationally and objectively.

Questions are a powerful way to solve the inner critic. It can be useful to have some questions written down in advance, so that you can refer to it in such a moment.


Our modern lives are busy and we are surrounded by catastrophe, judgement and bullying, which can affect even the most resilient people.

Those unfortunate situations can bring out the worst in us, in both feelings and behaviours.

But we can rather create better relationships, connections, emotional balance, resilience, peace and joy in our lives through the use of self-compassion.

The three elements are:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. Common humanity, and
  3. Mindfulness

You can take Dr Neff’s online test to measure your own levels of self-compassion.

We can show ourselves the kindness that we would show a good friend, and to treat ourselves with more respect and acknowledgement.

Three practices to increase self-compassion include:

  1. Loving kindness meditation
  2. Journalling, and
  3. Powerful questioning.

If you would like to study self-compassion with me in March 2020, please visit to sign up for the Habitology Membership.

Ready to be more self compassionate?

You’ll love the benefits it will bring into your life! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 71: Selfish vs Selfless

If you often feel selfish about doing things for yourself, listen up. I’m going to help you explore the concepts of being selfish, selfless, and to identify the comfortable middle ground.

When it comes to doing something for themselves, so many of my clients struggle with feeling selfish about that.

I felt it was a great topic for a podcast to today about being selfish, being selfless, and what lies in between.

Fact – They’re Just Behaviours

Before we start, let’s be clear that being selfish or selfless is largely about someone’s behaviour in a certain circumstance.

Some people behave selfishly, or selflessly, more often than others.

And while frequent selfish behaviour or unselfish behaviour may shape your general attitude, it also may not necessarily define you as a person.

I have known people to behave selfishly in certain situations and yet generously and compassionately in others. 

I have known people to be seemingly selfless in certain situations, and then to lash out, withdraw all support and empathy and become seemingly selfish. 

In that context, please, let’s not use these terms as judgements, labels, or ways to define ourselves or others. 

Let’s take the drama out of these words and use them as frames of reference for behaviours that people may display in certain situations.

Selfish vs Selfless: Some Definitions

To get clear on those frames of reference, I want to read you some dictionary definitions for the words selfish and selfless.

As I read each one out, listen to see what they conjure up for you.

The word selfish (of a person, action, or motive) means lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

The word selfless means you are chiefly concerned with the needs and wishes of others, much more than your own.

How do you feel about those two words?

A lot of your will think that being selfish has negative connotations – it’s about ignoring the needs of others.

The word selfless is interesting though; it is almost the opposite in meaning in that you have little to no regard for yourself, yet somehow it sounds strangely positive – almost as if you are being virtuous, or a knight in shining armour for others.

The trouble with these two extremes is that having any level of consideration for your own needs seems to be a negative thing.

Yet there is no way that could be true!

So, knowing that neither extreme is sustainable, I want to ask you a question you might not have considered.

There must be a middle ground where looking after yourself is acceptable – so WHAT IS IT?

I posed this question on Facebook last year and some smart cookie had a great answer; therefore I would like to introduce you to the middle ground.


Self-care is any activity that you do deliberately in order to take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s setting time aside for activities that enhance your energy, restore your health and reduce stress.

How do you feel about the word self-care?

I find it interesting that some people see self care as a negative, as something for the weak, or at least, as something they don’t have time for.

Perhaps you might find yourself dissing self-care because you have only ever considered the (unsustainable) extremes.

So I would like to dig into the concept a little further – to explore the middle ground with you right now – so you can review your relationship with yourself, your needs and these three little words.

Being Selfish 

I want you to first get really clear on what being selfish means to you and how you relate to it, personally.

Right now, think of a time you judged yourself or someone else to be selfish.

What was it that caused you to make that judgement?

What were you telling yourself at the time?

What feedback did you get from others that influenced your thinking?

Chances are that you noticed was someone behaved differently than you would (or you behaved out of character) in a certain situation.

If you are someone who wishes you were more self-disciplined, or were better at regulation your thoughts and actions, then that tells me what you actually want is self-care.

For example, a group of friends organise a coffee date that suits all except for Kylie, who says she can’t make it then because she has her pilates class at that time.

Is she selfish for sticking with her existing plan, instead of meeting her friends?

What meaning would YOU attach to Kylie’s behaviours?

What are the other friends saying, and how might that influence your judgement?

To me this is self-care. 

Without any other information about what sort of person Kylie is, how she is feeling right now, what her needs are, or how good a friend she is, it is clear that in this instance she is looking after her own needs.

Here’s another example.

Let’s say you have slaved all week for the family, washing clothes, making beds and cooking meals, and you are short tempered, frazzled and exhausted.

So you lock yourself in the bathroom for a nice warm bath. You hear your kids knocking at the door wanting to come in and talk to you.

Would it be selfish to say no?

To me this is self-care at the end of a largely selfless week. 

Without any other information about what sort of person you are, it is clear that in this instance you are looking after your own needs.

To me, this is setting a good example for your kids of how to set boundaries and meet your own needs, so you can be calmer, more stable and emotionally balanced, more available to others and a happier person to be around.

What do you think?

Being Selfless

Now let’s get clear on your perspectives on selflessness.

Right now, think of a time you judged yourself or someone else to be selfless.

What was it that caused you to make that judgement?

What were you telling yourself at the time?

What feedback did you get from others that influenced your thinking?

Think about this example. 

Kelly worked hard all week, did all her work and stayed back late to finish projects on time, and made time to help her colleagues with some of their tasks.

Is Kelly being selfless?

How do you know?

To me, it sounds that way. She is putting others first.

But we have no information on what this behaviour has cost her, personally.

What if Kelly sacrificed her healthy meal prep, missed her gym sessions and drank wine a few nights this week, despite her intentions to do the opposite of these things?

In that case, how would you feel about the concept of selflessness?

And what would you think of Kelly as a person?

One thing I know is this – when spend most of their time doing selfless behaviours, they may become martyrs (constant sufferers and complainers) or lose the respect of others.

Getting Clarity

By now you may be feeling a little bit uncomfortable about your ideas and feelings toward selfishness and selflessness.

That’s ok.

That simply means you are at a growth edge, getting ready to consider the truth in your own terms, and perhaps, how you would like to behave and show up, be going forward.

I suspect that most of you listening to this podcast are not aligned with either selfishness or selflessness. 

You’re seeking a middle ground that feels aligned and has integrity.

So let’s talk about that now.

Why Self-Care Wins

If you are someone who wishes you were more self-disciplined, or were better at regulation your thoughts and actions (self-regulation), then that tells me what you actually want is self-care.

You want the middle ground between selfish and selfless.

You want to be accountable to yourself, and to do enough of the basics required to meet your own needs.

When I say basics, I am talking about the basic human needs – to eat well, to move, to get enough good quality sleep, to have adequate relaxation and rejuvenation time, to have some fun, to enjoy loving relationships and to have a sense of peace, calm and confidence.

People with high self regulation have good levels of confidence and belief that they can be effective in what they pursue and they are more likely to achieve their goals.

As you can see, there is nothing woo woo about self-care.

Looking after yourself and giving enough attention to your own needs.


Let’s get some perspective on selfishness, selflessness and self-care. If you are consistently selfish or selfless, it can become your attitude. 

But a lot of the time we judge individual behaviours – our own or others – as selfish or selfless.

You want the middle ground between selfish and selfless… the middle ground is self-care.

The problem with these words, according to their formal definition, is that you don’t get your needs met. So they both have negative connotations for you as an individual.

I propose that the middle ground is self-care.

That is the state of intentionally looking after your basic needs – for food, shelter, activity, sleep and rest – with self-discipline.

If you do this, you will be on your game, better able to support others and probably, a happier person.

Ready to find the balance between selfish and selfless?

Come explore the middle ground! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 70: Self-Discipline Without Guilt

If you want to be more self-disciplined and feel less guilty, you need to learn to manage your thinking patterns and emotions. Here are 6 guilt-reducing skills and 5 self-discipline building strategies to help you do that.

My Habitology members and I are studying self discipline this month and I figured that it would be useful to talk about guilt as part of that.

That was Podcast #68 – Cultivating Self Discipline and Self Regulation. You may want to go back and listen to that first.

Here’s a quick recap – self-discipline is defined as resisting an urge in the moment.

It’s resisting the urge to eat the doughnut you just got a whiff of. It’s resisting the urge to skip your exercise session.

Thinking of these examples, it’s easy to see how someone might make themselves feel guilty at giving in to an urge.

I see this a lot in my coaching clients.

And I think there could be two main reasons people beat themselves up and feel guilty about such lapses.

Firstly, we have trained ourselves to punish failure rather than learn from it.

Secondly, many of us have high expectations for ourselves, and subsequently a sense of guilt if we are not able to live up to those expectations. In other words, our rational minds tell us that we ‘should’ be able to do something, and therefore, we are somehow not good enough or a failure if we don’t do it.

So let’s have this important conversation about understanding guilt, so that we can create self-discipline without guilt.

What is Guilt?

Guilt is a feeling you create in your own mind, with your own thought patterns, when you do something that is not aligned with your values. 

It’s really important to recognise that you create guilt with your own thoughts and therefore, you can also get rid of guilt with your own thoughts too.

Guilt is the sense that you have done something bad, or wrong, against someone else or against your own moral code.

And while guilt is designed to help us act with integrity, in line with our moral compass. But many of us take it too far, to our own detriment.

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say that you planned to go to the gym three times this week and you wanted to be really self disciplined about that. But something got in the way and you are only able to do one of those three exercise sessions. 

Would you admonish yourself and make yourself feel guilty?

Would you become self-critical?

Would you challenge your own capacity to take action, or your worthiness?

If you answer yes to these types of questions, you may be an overly guilty person. Notice that it is your own thought patterns that create that unnecessary guilt.

There are two things I want to say about guilt.

Firstly, guilt cannot change the past. Once you have said or done something – or not said or done them – you can’t take it back. It’s over. It’s gone.

Secondly, guilt doesn’t make you feel good. Guilt is not an enjoyable motivator, and it may decrease your self-discipline in the long term. That’s because negative self talk weakens your resolve, self-confidence, motivation and self-belief over time, so it ends up being counter-productive.

What I want to offer is that guilt is unhelpful most of the time, and it can sabotage your attempts to build self discipline.

How to Be Guilt-Free and Self-Disciplined 

If you agree that guilt can be detrimental to your self esteem and goals, then let’s talk about how to be guilt-free AND self-disciplined at the same time.

Both of these things require you to manage your thoughts and feelings, so the primary skills you need to learn to be guilt-free and self-disciplined are managing your thinking patterns, feelings and actions.

You could think of learning to be guilt-free and learning to be self-disciplined as much like driving a car, or playing the piano, or any other skill you could be learning.

They take time, patience and practice.

Let’s start with the skills of being guilt-free.

The Skills of Being Guilt-Free

We must first recognise that guilt is an emotion that keeps you in check with your values, morals and ethics.

When I am talking about being guilt-free, I am specifically talking about excessive, unhelpful guilt that sabotages your ability to change.

There are some character skills you can learn to become guilt-free, which I will touch on briefly now.

Guilt cannot change the past. Once you have said or done something – or not said or done them – you can’t take it back. It’s over. It’s gone.

When I am talking about being guilt-free, I am specifically talking about excessive, unhelpful guilt that sabotages your ability to change.

There are some character skills you can learn to become guilt-free, which I will touch on briefly now.

The way to develop these skills is to pick one to start with and practice it as often as possible. 

That means making time in your week to do some thinking about the skill, or writing about it, or speaking to a coach about it.

Here are six skills that I think will help you to stop feeling so guilty all the time.

  1. Empathy – for yourself as someone learning how to do something differently.
  2. Self-awareness – of what you did, or your behaviour patterns.
  3. Mindfulness – of how you felt in that moment, in your body and mind.
  4. Reflection – on how you interpreted and responded to those mind and body sensations.
  5. Self-compassion – to accept without judgement and move on from any slip ups. 
  6. Decision making – for getting clear on what to do next.

Now, here are the steps you can take to help you be self-disciplined.

The Steps (and Skills) to Developing Self-Discipline

Here are the key things you need to do so that you can develop self-discipline.

1. Define realistic standards

Firstly you need to decide on some realistic standards for the area you’re trying to change. 

For example, it’s no use committing a standard of five x 1 hour sessions of exercise each week if you can only realistically fit in three.

Having unrealistic standards or expectations is a recipe for failure, and subsequently, guilt.

So you’ll have to do some learning about what can fit into your life style realistically.

As a coach, I often notice this is hard for a lot of people to do. It feels more logical or perhaps easier to set a goal around taking action, but looking at the big picture of what’s actually possible is the most important thing that will increase your chance of successfully achieving what you set out to achieve.

You might look at setting standards for yourself at the start of every year, or perhaps every six months. 

It may help you to think of these standards as behavioural goals – that is – to define the thinking or doing habits you would like to be doing regularly.

2. Discover what motivates you

When you know what motivates you, you will more likely succeed at taking action. 

For example, even if you have the time, you may not feel motivated to go to the gym in the moment. 

But if you are really clear on how good you will feel when you are 20% stronger, or 5kg lighter, those images will help you to get there and do a workout regardless of how you feel.

3. Use your strengths

All of us have character strengths – that is, things we are good at and enjoy doing or being.

When you know what your strengths are, you can use them to help you to maintain self-discipline. 

For example, if you’re a great planner, then you’ll probably find it easy to choose exercise timeslots where you are most likely to be energised for going to the gym.

Or, if honesty is one of your strengths, then being very honest with yourself about the doughnut, the gym or working too late will probably help you to make a healthier choice that you feel good about.

4. Learning to say no (or yes)

There’s another skill that most people need to learn when it comes to self discipline. And that is the skill of saying no. 

We all have responsibilities in our lives – to ourselves and to other people. And the skill of saying no as an important part of that.

Consider this. Let’s say it’s a Tuesday afternoon and as you’re finishing work, your mum phones and asks you over for a cup of tea because she hasn’t seen you in a while – in the exact time slot that you are planning to go to the gym. 

What do you do? 

Who do you say no to? 

Yourself or your mum?

A lot of people feel guilty about letting other people down and that is greater guilt than what they may feel around not doing their own personal habit.

Having your standards in place (point 1) will help you to make decisions at times like these.

So will planning.

If you have a clear plan in place and Plan B, C and even a Plan D to do your exercise, it may be easier to make allowances around other people.

Alternatively, you can stick with your original plan and let your mum know you will show up at another time – and book that in with her so she knows it’s important to you.

5. Learning, not failing

Finally, it’s important to get rid of the idea of failing – or at least, that it is a bad thing. Every time something doesn‘t go to plan, there is a lesson to be learned.

When you have the emotional skills you need to get rid of unnecessary guilt, it will be easier to step back and see the facts, problem solve and discover the valuable lessons that failure has given you, so you can do things differently next time.


Self-discipline is the act of being able to resist urges, but for a lot of people there is often guilt attached.

If you want to be more self-disciplined and feel less guilty, you need to learn to manage your thinking patterns and emotions.

There are six skills you can learn to reduce guilt and start being kinder to yourself.

Every time something doesn‘t go to plan, there is a lesson to be learned.

And, there are five steps and skills you can learn to develop more self-discipline.

As you can tell, it’s helpful to work with a coach on these things in tandem, so you can get the empathy and professional support and accountability you need to develop your own self-accountability, confidence and success.

If you would like to find out about working with a coach, visit and visit my contact page. Shoot me an email to enquire about coaching.

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