Living WildKate James
Writer, Speaker and Coach,
plus Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher
Women believing in themselves and doing what they love
Business Manager for a film company
Take baby action steps
I met Kate James in 2012, when I was looking for a Mindfulness Coach for my workplace. Kate is the ultimate professional and a big hitter – type her name into the google machine and you’ll see what I mean.
But the number one reason Kate commanded respect from me, is that in our very first phone call, when I was trying to squeeze her 2 hour workshop into 45 minutes, she said no to me.
Because regardless of whatever fee I was going to pay her, she knew it wouldn’t work as I was forcing her to compromise the integrity of her work.
Now, when people try to say no to me, it’s not usually pretty.
But Kate did so in the most graceful, professional way and with such integrity and authenticity that there was no doubting her strength and her feminine power.
I was awestruck and a few months later, I hired Kate for my own personal one-on-one coaching – and ever since, have sung her praises to anyone who will listen.
When I interviewed Kate, she had just decided to sell her home of 25 years, the same week I had bought my first home. We talked about taking small baby steps to effect real change, the 100 Things List, and being in nature.
In your one on one coaching, one of the things I loved was that you gave me permission to enjoy my life, get a hobby and in a way, accept the responsibility that my passions were worth pursuing. Why do you think it is that women in particular struggle to give themselves permission to enjoy their life?
One of the underlying issues might be the fact that we are the ones who bear the children and we are the ones who have to breastfeed those children.
This means we feel compelled to step into the carer role and many of us are reasonably good at that. It’s what we do, it’s what we see in women around us and so it’s what we take on.
But what that can mean is that practicing self-care can become something women struggle with, something they feel guilty about, and something they find difficult to do.
Also, it’s such a balancing act. Women born in the 60s, my age and younger, were part of the feminist movement – we fought for our rights and we fought to be independent so some of us came to consider pursuing ‘frivolous wants’, like passions and hobbies as not putting our careers first.
It’s such a juggle for women who want to have families to negotiate that territory of being a mum, plus being in employment or creating a new business.
Often there seems to be so little time left for ourselves, but I think it’s imperative that we learn to put ourselves first at least some of the time.
One of your offerings is supporting Women in Business – women starting up their own creative or wellness business and who are hoping to make a positive difference in the world. Why is supporting women soultrepeneurs so important to you?
I was never very good at the corporate thing – it was too structured and rigid for me. I did try working in a corporate for three weeks.
I had a little temp job and on my first day I thought,“Oh my god, there are so many rules! I think I need to get out!”
Good for you for getting out after only three weeks!
I remember someone saying to me, “You are such a princess Kate!” and me saying, “No, this is not about being a princess. This is about staying alive. It would kill me to stay in an environment I felt so suffocated in.”
I don’t know how people who struggle with it keep on getting up and doing it every day.
Working with women in business was something that started to unfold by itself – women who had the idea for a creative or wellness business would seek me out for coaching and it grew from there.
Interestingly, I had a client email me recently asking, “What is your Myers Briggs Type Indicator® profile?” It’s a random question but a great one – the client said “I want someone who thinks like me.” My profile is INFJ – and with just 1% of the population, it is apparently the rarest profile.
The thing is, 75-80% of my clients are INFJ, so I’ve managed to find or create this little world where I’m working with like-minded people, who think like I do and have the same concerns that I do.
I guess my work supporting women in new creative or wellness business is probably what I needed and wanted for myself when I was starting up my own business 15 years ago. Like any of us that are helping others, I’m actually helping a younger version of myself.
It’s actually quite therapeutic. For us to really heal and recover from our own pain, we can help others who are experiencing the same pain – that’s what makes our lives truly meaningful. You see this on a grand scale with the Rosie Batty’s of this world.
Fear stops so many of us from making change, trying something new or trying something that has the potential to make our heart sing. What are some of the common fear blocks you see?
If we are looking at someone making change like stepping into their own small business, some of the common fears are, “What will people think of me? Will I make a fool of myself?” Also, “What if I don’t like it?” Quite a few people say that – “What if I start this and I don’t like what I’m doing?”
One of the biggest fears is a practical one – “Will it make me money? What if I don’t succeed? Will it be a huge financial burden?” This is really important to address. The pressure of making money from your creative project can be almost too much.
Liz Gilbert in Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear writes about this in a really practical way. She doesn’t say, “Throw everything out, just start your creative business and all the world will conspire to make it happen.”
She takes that middle road. It’s that fine balancing act, because if you’re really up against it financially, a creative project can end up being hugely draining.
But there is some truth in getting really clear and then taking steps. From that, momentum will occur – no question.
How do you help women cultivate more self-belief?
Underlying all of these fears is the thought, “Am I actually good enough? Who am I to do this?” Some people think “How dare I step out in the world and show up?”
To be in the public eye can be pretty daunting too. A starting point for this can be creating a website, and having your own photograph on there. Having all eyes on you is a big thing, and can be really confronting.
In terms of how I help women cultivate more self-belief, it’s actually quite simple – it’s about taking baby action steps that teach you you can do things differently.
We can read books, talk to people, practice, prepare, get another degree, get a masters, but really the thing that builds your confidence more than anything else in the world is stepping out into something that feels a little bit daunting or scary.
And it doesn’t have to be work-related. I was reminded of this recently when I started the process of moving out of this beautiful house that I’ve lived in for the last 25 years.
Tell me about that journey.
The way that that unfolded sort of surprised me. Normally at the beginning of every year, I write out a vision and goals.
At the end of last year, a lovely friend of mine Elizabeth Bull who has a gorgeous business called One Fine Print, wrote me a note asking if I’d heard of this 100 Things List. I told her I hadn’t heard of it, but I’d start doing it.
When you write out goals normally, they are meant to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. Recently I had found that a bit too rigid for my creative spirit.
And when I started writing the 100 Things List it felt good, it felt liberating.
When I finished writing the list, I looked for themes. I realised that the vision I’d created for myself and kept for 12 years was still present, but I’d changed it in the last 2 years.
Fear had gotten in the way and so I had tweaked it and decided “Oh, I don’t think I really want that anymore,” but actually it was because I thought I couldn’t have it…
No way! Kate James The Oracle, has fears and doubts?!
Oh, I’m far from perfect! It’s fascinating the things we do to ourselves, isn’t it? I didn’t rewrite the vision, but the awareness was there about what I’d been doing to myself the last two years. I decided to just have this list and hold it lightly, and try and do something say once a month, and to cross things off the list when I didn’t want to do them anymore.
Then I was asked to speak in Ballina, and when I travel, I like to stay and get to know a place. So I booked for an extra two days, and not knowing what to do in Ballina, I went onto Trip Advisor and found a guy that does kayaking. I called him up, and we were talking about it and he just happened to say to me, “Do you want to go kayaking at dawn?”
Now, this wasn’t something that he normally offered, so it was totally unexpected, but the second thing on my list was kayaking at dawn!
And I thought, “I can do something like this, but I’m scared, it’s for two hours, I’m not very fit at the moment, and my shoulders are killing me. But I’m just going to do it!”
And I had the most incredible experience! When I got home I felt like I needed to keep this momentum going.
So I looked at my 100 Things List and I asked myself “What is it that I really, really want?” and I knew that I really, really wanted to spend time living out of the city, and so now we are going to do that!
With just that one baby action step; by doing something a bit differently by writing the 100 Things List and reflecting on it, then making a phone-call and saying yes to kayaking at dawn, it shifted something in me.
You often write that being in nature is important to you. Why do you think that is and how can we cultivate more time in it?
It is really important to me and thank you for picking up on that. It’s almost like it’s my form of spirituality. I hadn’t tied all that together until recently, and have realised that other than my family, the most important thing for me is to spend time in nature.
Thankfully my husband has exactly the same appreciation so when we go away, we go to more natural environments and do something like bushwalking. We’d prefer to do that then go to fancy restaurants or go shopping – shopping is definitely not my idea of fun!
I was born in Sydney, and my parents moved to Tassie when I was ten. We lived at Mount Nelson, which is not really a mountain, it’s more of a hill and we were right on the edge of the bush.
As a kid I’d shifted around a lot, and didn’t have any consistent friendships so I’d spend a lot of time alone. I’d hang out in nature, walk out into the bush on my own when I was 10, 11, 12.
I’d make cubbies, dam the local creek and there was this one particular gum tree that I would sit in for hours. It’s where I found consolation and peace. It just made me feel at home being in nature.
I interviewed a woman recently who is absolutely at the top of her game, and I was surprised to hear her say, she still sometimes stands in front of her audience and wonders when they are going to figure out she’s a fake. How common is Imposter Syndrome and how do you combat it when you are just starting out in a new field?
I think it’s a really commonly felt thing with women in very senior positions in corporates or in their own business. It’s my experience that it’s mostly felt by women who really care about what they are doing and who care about doing quality work. Often, it’s those same women who are quite hard on themselves even though they are exceeding other people’s expectations.
If we can recognise that it’s a fundamental thing that is in that person, we can recognise too that it probably won’t go away. There is nothing magic that we can do to cure it.
This is where mindfulness is really important. To sit with it and see that it’s there. “I have this fear in me, but I’m going to do it anyway.”
I had a terrible fear of public speaking, and I used to think if I could just get enough practice until I wasn’t fearful anymore, then I’d be ready to start.
But then I worked with a beautiful coach, Robert Rabbin who lives in the US now, and he said to me, you have to stop doing that, you can’t use that excuse anymore, you just have to start.
We don’t need to get rid of the fear to do what it is that we want to do.
Just get out there with the fear.
It’s just one baby action step – we just start, we tell ourselves the fear is normal, we take the fear along with us and we just do it anyway.
Which I find so strange, when you are such a beautiful public speaker!
Thank you! It really helped having a coach who invited me to be seen, because that was my biggest fear.
I’m an introvert and introverts would happily sit at the back of the room with an easy escape, and preferably not be at the front with all eyes on me. He said, “If you have an important message to share and there are things you want out there, then this is part of it.”
Shifting the focus away from myself and thinking more about the people in the audience, really helped me. There could be someone in the audience who really needs to hear what I’ve got to share today.
I really enjoyed your tip on how to be mindful in your book “Believe in Yourself & Do What You Love”, to ask yourself “What matters the most to me in this point in my life?” When starting a new venture, all the steps can seem so overwhelming. Can you share some simple tips for mindfulness for people just starting out both with mindfulness and just starting out in business?
What I do with mindfulness, outside of the three books I’ve written (coming out in paperback later this year), is a short e-book called “The Five Principles for Living Mindfully.” It’s what you get now when you sign up for my newsletter.
That book outlines the steps that I think are most helpful. They are a good introduction to mindfulness and how to live and work mindfully.
So start by paying attention to this moment and bringing yourself into this room. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings, but from a place of non-judgement. Be aware of all that mental chatter and also the emotion you feel in your body.
Then be mindful of your actions – and the small action steps that will help you move forward.
Right from the beginning, make your plans mindfully and be mindful in the way you interact with yourself and others. A large part of that is compassion and self-compassion.
In terms of how you get through the early stages of being in business, that last principle of self-compassion is the one you need to begin with first.
Have compassion for yourself.
Know that it’s going to be big, it’s going to be daunting, and it’s going to be really important to have support.
Ask a friend or a buddy, “Can I call you once a week to run through stuff with you? Because I know I’m going to feel overwhelmed at times.”
Kate, if you were in a position to lead a group of women, to lead them into a life more wild, a life more feminine, what would your battlecry be?
It’s really important to have self-belief and to go out into the world and do what you love.
The name of my first book really says everything for me:
“Believe in yourself and do what you love.”
I need to hear more stories about strong women leading beauty-filled and spiritual lives, and so I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. It’s a forum to showcase the inspirational stories of women in uniquely feminine careers. It's also a bridge between what we think we know and what we feel is right. Thank you for joining me – let’s all learn, grow and celebrate the feminine together.
Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis