Are you trying to make some changes to your life? Introduce new habits? Or perhaps aiming to achieve something in particular?
Humans are quite simply creatures of habit, and change is hard. A lot of determination, dedication and hard work need to go into trying to change our behaviours and habits, especially if we want them to stick.
2017 is all about working on these changes.
And I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of them is to introduce more regular mindful meditation into my life. So when I heard that Academic Coach Lucy Parsons once managed to meditate for 232 days in a row, I had to jump at the opportunity to speak to her.
But let’s take a quick step back…
Who’s Lucy Parsons?
I first spotted Lucy on social media – she had just been featured in The Telegraph with a piece about her book The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. An ex-teacher, Lucy now helps 15-18 year olds get the top grades in their exams and into the best universities.
In the last two years Lucy has built a business around her knowledge, passions, strengths and her own family, and if that isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is! So I was really interested in talking to Lucy about her lifestyle and daily routines to see if there was something I could be doing to get a bit closer to my own goals.
The importance of self-care
Lucy says: “I normally get up at 6am – I do 10 minutes of meditation and then practice yoga until 7am, when the rest of the family get up. I actually do this 5 or 6 days a week, except for those days when I try and tune in more with my body and recognise that I need more sleep. After all, being kind to yourself is part of what mindfulness practice is all about!
After taking the children to school, I go for a walk through the fields, get back for around 9:30-10am and work on my business for a couple of hours. Then I have a break for lunch and work until school pick-up time.
I take my children to any after-school activities they might have, make their dinner, and then work with clients in the evenings until about 8:30pm. I then have about an hour to wind-down, and if I want to be up at 6am the next morning, I know I need to go be in bed by 10pm!”
Personally, this was just what I needed to hear.
Lucy is very much there for her family while also successfully running her own business from home, but the key in all this, I believe, is the time that Lucy carves out for herself. She prioritises self-care, even when she finds it hard or would rather be doing something else. But whether it’s the morning meditation, yoga, having a lie-in, taking a walk, or making herself take a break over lunch, Lucy is regularly and consistengly doing something for herself.
I think that’s a powerful insight into someone’s life, don’t you? I’ll be the first one to put my hand up – I’m not that good!
The importance of mindful meditation
I also asked Lucy about mindful meditation, and in particular about when and how she started meditating and whether she found it beneficial.
“Over the years, I attended yoga classes on and off, and I remember always feeling relaxed at the end of a session, following a guided mindful meditation with the instructor.
So when I read the book The Big Leap, by Gay Handricks, which has meditations in it, I then started looking for meditation tracks on YouTube and eventually found the Calm app. I didn’t use it consistently to start with, but around July 2015 I made the commitment to invest in the paid-for version of the app – seeing that I had now paid for it, I felt that I had to use it!”
And this is how Lucy meditated for 232 days in a row. She had a few days off here and there, and in particular in September and October 2016, when she was writing her book, but she’s now back on a 70+ day stretch (at the time of me speaking to her in February 2017).
When I asked Lucy whether she finds that mindfulness helps her, she told me she noticed that she feels a lot more patient, and she’s able to tune into herself a lot more.
“For example, the other day, I had a terrible migraine, and I wasn’t feeling at all well following my children’s swimming lesson. Parents normally have to sit by the pool side during the lessons, and it’s really hot and humid. It’s not pleasant on a normal day, but with a migraine, I felt awful. When we got home, instead of rushing to make their dinner, I took 3 minutes out to do some deep breathing, and I was able to handle the rest of the evening a lot better for it”.
This is how powerful self-awareness and self-kindness can be. And without a doubt, the consistent practice of mindful meditation is key in developing these qualities even further.
I have a long way to go here, but hearing that practicing mindfulness does work is giving me even more determination to keep working on this.
So are change and self-improvement really possible?
You just have to look at Lucy’s story to believe that they are.
“Before I had my first child, nearly 7 years ago, I was working as a teacher, but because we re-located to a place that was 100 miles away from where I worked, I couldn’t go back to my old job after maternity leave. I tried to look for a part-time job in our new area, but none were available, and I felt that a full-time teaching job would be too much for myself and my family.
We had our second child, who just recently started school, and in 2015 I had the idea for my business, which I started from the ground up. Two years later, I’ve now written and published a book, and as an Academic Coach, I’m fully booked – I couldn’t possibly work with an other client even if I wanted to”.
How did Lucy do it?
“I think it’s about adapting your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses. I’m very driven and strong willed, and try and use this to my advantage”.
Now, I don’t know if that’s what Lucy advocates when she works with her students, but this message is so powerful.
No one is saying that achieving what you want is easy. No one is saying that striving to change is easy, but it’s possible. Like with grades or exams, you just have to work at it.
Because hard, targeted work will get you where you want to be.
So set your goals. And start working.
I must admit, I got so much more than I bargained for from this conversation with Lucy. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her personally, but we seem to have very similar personalities, so I felt like I was talking to a future version of myself. And I definitely put the phone down with a smile on my face and my mind buzzing with inspiring thoughts.
Lucy gave me some pointers for books to read, which I’m definitely going to check out and share with you here:
- The Big Leap, by Gay Handricks
- Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
- The Desire Map, a Guide to Creating Goals with Soul, by Danielle Laporte
Lucy Parsons is an Academic Coach who helps 15-18 year olds get the top grades in their exams and into the best universities. Lucy started her business to follow her passion for education and share her expertise but also to create a life around her strengths and needs rather than fit the demands of an employer.
To find out more about Lucy and her work visit her website, Life More Extraordinary, follow her on Twitter or join her private Facebook group for parents, The Supportive Parents, Successful Students community.