The Lonely Diplomat: on crossroads - heart v. brain

Updated: Apr 17

I need to practice what I preach

and take down some façades.

Vulnerability is hard.

I’ve really been struggling with how I’m going to start this blog. So, I’m going back to basics and showing that I practice what I preach.

I believe that great things are possible for us and our employers when we show up in the world as ourselves. When we are, as I say at the end of each podcast, amazingly and humanly ourselves.

I realise that I’ve not been showing up in my work at The Lonely Diplomat as myself for the past few months. I’ve been hiding behind my masks of competence and good humour. I’ve been numbing myself with busyness, schedules, carefully crafted words and producing things.

I’ve realised that I’ve been feeling out of integrity within myself. This hasn’t been sitting well with me. If my work encourages you – my wonderful audience – to reconnect with yourself and the world around you, then I must continue to do so, too.

I don’t reflect this in my social media channels, but there’s a lot going on in my life. I find myself at two of life’s major crossroads – personally and professionally. When I talk to the people in my life about this, I often use the term ‘exhilarating’, as it neatly describes both terror and excitement. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have such amazing people in my corner who I know love me and support me. I’m also very grateful to have done a lot of work within myself over the past few years and I know – without doubt – what I know to be true for myself. I have solid values which serve me well.

While life happens, I have the tools needed to adjust, to adapt and to respond to the situation. This was not always the case.

I realise that you don’t know or see any of this. And while you have not earned the right to hear my story, you do need to know that life keeps on happening to all of us, even those who help other people get themselves sorted. I fear that you may be connecting with the Phil you see on social media (great beard and hair and all) and doing what I do with those I follow on social media and compare my thoughts and feelings with what they’re choosing to show and promote. Good content does not always equal success.

More thoughts on success later.

I’m standing at two of life’s major crossroads. I’m working through a lot of thoughts and feelings about what to do next.

I want to get it right. I don’t want to make a wrong decision.

If only life was ever that simple.

It occurred to me today that my head and my heart are having a discussion within me. If you follow the excellent comic ‘The Awkward Yeti’, you’ll be sharing the imagery that I have in my mind right now. [If you’re not familiar, follow it on Instagram and/or Facebook. You can thank me later when you say ‘this is so true!’]

The Lonely Diplomat is the product of me following my heart AND brain. But sometimes they agree, other times they bicker.

My brain says that I need to earn money. I need to provide. To do this, I need to do. I must produce. I must deliver. It’s all action, action, action.

My heart says that most of this is OK, so long as I continue to connect with people and help them through my lived experience and research to become more awesomely themselves.

I work to strike a balance. I work to put myself out there enough so you see me. I work to put enough content into the world that resonates with you and lets you know that you’re not alone. I do find myself doing things that I feel will be safe enough. Helpful enough. Inspiring enough. I find myself engaged in internal conversations about not wanting to overwhelm, interrupt or be too timid. I take all sorts of advice from others I follow on social media and in my life to work out how I can best crack the code.

Bugger that. I’m going to do what I feel is right for me at this moment.

I’m going to be very honest with you.

It’s not going well right now. It’s hard work convincing you – my awesome, highly competent and accomplished audience – to take a step beyond reading my words in my book and blog and listening to my podcast. It’d hard work getting you to register for my Friends of The Lonely Diplomat meetups. It’s hard work asking you to share my recently-released book within your networks. It’s hard work getting you to engage in The Lounge. It’s hard work encouraging you to get the support I really feel you need. It’s hard work encouraging you to step up and be seen.

The words of my friend, coach and mentor Mike Campbell are also echoing through my mind now. When I first asked him to help me ‘do something for diplomats like me’ back in December 2017, he responded that ‘it’s not going to be all rainbows and unicorn farts.’

This was wise advice. I’m up for doing the hard yards of building the audience and making connections. But the fart that life has done right now doesn’t seem to have come from a magical creature. Rather, it seems to have been emitted by a loathsome animal who’s not feeling well.

I’m working through a major shame storm right now. I’m engulfed with thoughts of ‘what will people think if I post this?’. My brain doesn’t want to share this post because it exposes my vulnerabilities to you. My heart wants to speak my truth and level with you because it knows – through lots of experience – that opening up, speaking my truth and asking for help is never the wrong thing to do.

I find that I’ve spent years listening almost exclusively to my brain. I’ve let logic and reason win out over emotions for such a long time.

I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. Our work requires us to always be reasonable, logical and calculating (not meant in the sinister sense). It doesn’t do to be overly emotional when dealing with matters of state. Indeed, we are trained this way. I fear that, over time, we engineer our hearts out of every equation. We look at life’s problems like we do at work – with reason, logic and calm calculation.

I see evidence of this often. I’ve noticed that I tend to get people seeking my coaching services on a Friday evening after work. They’re tired. They’re exhausted. Maybe they’ve had a drink or two. They’re not thinking with their brain, but feeling with their heart. This situation helps them reach out for help. They feel that things could be better.

However, when the time comes closer to have a chat with them a few days later, the reasoned, logical brain has returned and they cancel their call.

‘I’m OK now. I was just tired.’ is the most common reason. My response is to honour that part of them that reached out for help and to just have a chat.

I get it. It’s hard to ask for help. Sometimes the heart needs to have a win over the brain.

I’ve been working hard to make The Lonely Diplomat successful. But what does success look like? My brain says look at the metrics: website hits; engagement on social media posts; number of times my podcast is heard; and coaching clients. My heart says that success is the personalised feedback someone sends me when something I’ve said, posted or written has resonated with them and helped change some part of their life.

I love how my heart sees this as success. But this success does not pay the bills.

When my brain doesn’t get what it wants or feels at all uncomfortable, it begins to generate some awesome stories. A favourite story right now is ‘what if I’m offering services that no one ever wants?’ Another good one is that my services are something that is widely agreed ‘are good for so many other people, but not good for me. I’m fine.’ My heart counters that no one else in the world right now is offering this kind of service for diplomats and those living the diplomatic life. It’s not known how to best characterise my work. Engaging with it sometimes requires processing some difficult feelings and having uncomfortable discussions.

So, in Phil’s eternal internal debate, my heart wins today. But my brain desperately wants to go back over these words and edit the crap out of them. I’m not going to do that. Being authentic and vulnerable means that you get to see my thought processes, sentences that drift off into nothingness and that I’m filled with doubt sometimes. I want you to see that while I have developed the skills and tools to help me process the things that life throws at me, I’m still in the business of living life, just like you. I want you to see that I’m awesomely and humanly me. Being human sometimes means not knowing what to do and being frustrated.

My brain and heart also want to say that these thoughts and feelings will pass. Something will happen soon enough that will help me along from these crossroads towards moving on from The Lonely Diplomat or it developing into something even better than now. I also know that I’ll be continuing my life’s journey of becoming more me than ever.

It will happen whether I force it or not. And whether I put up façades or not. On this, I choose to remove the façade and let you see my doubt and brain/heart battle.

But I still want to edit the crap out of this…

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Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and do not reflect any official position. The words published above are intended to support, challenge and inspire diplomats and those living the diplomatic life as they reconnect with themselves and the world around them. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional.

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