If you are anxious about taking action on something, break it down into the very smallest step you can. ~Gina Musa
In the Sensipreneur Series I interview HSP’s who have made sensitivity a big part of their own business.
This Sensipreneur interview is with Gina Musa, the “small steps coach”. Gina helps people achieve change at a gentle pace. You can find her at thesmallstepscoach.com
1. You’re a small steps coach (we’ll talk more about that further on) and you also do lots of other things. Tell us about it!
As a bit of background, ‘The Small Steps Coach’ is one aspect of my work. As part of this I write my own fortnightly blog and monthly articles for an online magazine (ALT magazine).
Another aspect of my business includes writing and delivering training courses for staff and parents of disabled children. I also work on a helpline for the UK charity Missing People (technically this is a ‘job’ but I have a contract that allows me to fit it around my business!)
My free time finds me playing in a ukulele band, singing in a choir, doing embroidery/textiles and studying. (the header and a couple of other pictures on my website are examples of my work). As you can probably tell I’m a bit of a scanner/multipotentialite (or whatever you want to call it!)
2. What is a small steps coach and how did you come up with the idea of becoming one?
My background is in special education and actually I used to break learning tasks down into small steps for my pupils years ago! When I trained as a Life Coach in 2005 and again, when I studied for an MSc in Coaching Psychology, I realized that some clients needed a different approach to those being promoted. I’d discovered that many of my coaching clients were easily overwhelmed or fearful of change, despite wanting to achieve some big goals. Many identified with being HSP once they were introduced to it and I experimented with getting people to take tiny steps, because this approach had worked for me. (Tiny enough to prevent their fear centre getting activated.) When I re-launched my website a couple of years ago, I wanted a name that basically said what I did – hence the Small Steps Coach.
3. How and when did you first realize you are HSP?
I don’t exactly remember – it was about 8 years ago and I think I was looking on the internet for articles about being sensitive. I was struggling a bit with life and was trying to find a way through it. I took Elaine Aron’s test and ticked almost every answer, so bought her book and things started to make sense!
4. What are 3 ways you really notice that you are HSP in running your business?
I prefer working alone and usually in quiet surroundings! I hear about the downside of being self-employed being the lack of contact with other people and suggestions to work in cafes and so on. But I can’t concentrate if there is too much noise and I like to limit the amount of contact I have with people!
I also limit how much I take on. I enjoy a lot of variety and do other kinds of work too and so I try to make sure I leave enough time to just be and to re-energise before moving onto the next thing. It sometimes means turning work down or putting my wellbeing before money. I don’t always get the balance right though!
I seem to feel things more deeply than many other people. This can be positive when I’m working with clients because I can use this to guide my work with them. The downside is that I can get really bothered by other people’s words or energies (especially in groups – even online!) and this can be distressing and/or distracting.
5. What are 2 ways in which you have diverted from classic business models to suit your sensitivity?
I find the usual networking events just too overwhelming so I don’t go to them anymore. Instead, I set up a small, local group of people working in the complementary/alternative health field. We meet monthly at a local (quiet!) café to share ideas and provide support.
I don’t have a business plan! Or any plan really! I follow my intuition about what is the right thing for me to do (an example of this was when I started my newsletter – completely on a hunch and I’m still doing it nearly 3 years later). I try to go with the natural ebb and flow rather than worrying about how to make things bigger and better. I sometimes find myself getting drawn into believing I ‘should’ be doing more or something different (usually marketing ideas!) but inevitably those ideas don’t work for me. Even ideas designed for ‘introverts’ don’t always fit with me.
6. How has – when you look back – your sensitivity proven to be an advantage in having and running your own business?
Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I think it made me want to work for myself in the first place. I like the time, space and freedom to act on my intuition, to make the changes I perceive are needed and to have the power or influence to do that.
I think being sensitive has also kept me going when things have seemed difficult. I spent so many years trying to fit into, and being exhausted from, working in organisations, that working for myself is not something I’ll give up lightly.
My sensitivity also helps me understand what people need or are feeling – sometimes before they are aware of it themselves. This is really helpful in my 1-1 coaching work and also when writing my newsletter. People often say they think I’m writing just for them or must have been watching their life!
7. What is one thing in particular that you struggle with with regards to being a Sensipreneur?
There are a number of things actually. Needing more time to myself, comparing myself unfavourably to those who achieve more than me, and finding it hard to get going in the morning unless I’ve processed my dreams or feelings.
The number one thing though is that I am unduly bothered by negative energies and comments. I can forget to protect myself, or get caught unexpectedly, and can feel almost ‘infected’ by others sometimes. It can take me a long time to internally clear or resolve these feelings.
8. What is the one thing you would have liked to know (and that you now do know) about being a Sensipreneur when you first considered starting your own business?
I wished I’d realized that I didn’t have to try and recreate ‘having a job’ and that it is alright to turn down work if it doesn’t feel right. I would like to have trusted that I would earn enough money and that worrying about it doesn’t actually help!
9. You do a lot of different things besides the Small Steps Coach. How do you keep all the balls up in the air and stop them from bouncing all over the place?
This might sound ironic for someone who doesn’t have a business plan, but I’m really good at planning! And at saying no!
I still use a week-to-view diary – not an electronic one, so when I’m asked to do something (business or pleasure) I can see at a glance how much free time I’ve actually got that week. I also make sure I have one or two whole days each week without external commitments and don’t put in back to back activities thereby making sure I have recovery time. Crucially I treat my free days and recovery time as being as important as my clients and other work commitments.
I also plan weekly, rather than just daily. Every Sunday evening I write out a plan for the coming week. Some of it will be actual commitments, other items will be aspirational (things from my To do list!). I also make sure I allocate time for things like planning coaching and training sessions or writing up notes instead of trying to fit them in between other activities. The plan is flexible but doing it this way means I don’t try and fit too much in.
Importantly, I don’t try to juggle all the balls at the same time! I have my coaching clients and writing as a constant (because these are my favourite work activities to do) but, for example, if I’m running a training course, I won’t do much work on the Missing People helpline. And I limit the number of evenings I go out socialising. Of course, I don’t get the balance right all the time
9. Do you have any general small steps recommendations for HSP’s?
If you are anxious about taking action on something, break it down into the very smallest step you can. You are aiming for an action that might feel slightly uncomfortable but doesn’t cause you alarm! Take that step, then the next smallest step and so on. E.g. making a phone call might involve: writing a script for what you want to say; practicing saying it out loud; saying it into the phone without dialing the number etc.
If you are putting off doing something, tell yourself you will do it for just 15 minutes (or less if necessary) and just get started. Motivation often comes once we start taking action
If you have a substantial piece of work to do but are reluctant to start because it feels so big, set an alarm for 30 minutes. Turn off all online and offline distractions and work until the alarm goes off. You’ll get a lot done! Have a 5 or 10 minute break and repeat as necessary.
You can find more about Gina and her work at thesmallstepscoach.com