Joy - the Authentic Tea podcast with Nicola

Nicola is an empowerment coach supporting women who have experienced trauma to rediscover their true self, find freedom and awaken their potential. Nicola combines her experience as a doctor and women’s trauma specialist with her training in Mindful-Self Compassion and transformational coaching to work with individuals to make a change and reclaim their lives.


Join Rach for Episode 19 and listen to her chat with Nicola and be inspired by her story and the joy she has found in her life choices.


Rach (00:00):

My guest today is Nicola. Nicola is an empowerment coach, supporting women who have experienced trauma to rediscover their true self, find freedom and awaken their potential. Nicola combines her experience as a doctor and a women's trauma specialist with our training in mindful self-compassion and transformational coaching to work with individuals to make a change and reclaim their lives. Welcome Nicola.


Nicola (00:25):

Hello.


Rach (00:25):

Thanks for joining me today. It's an absolute pleasure to have you, and maybe we could start with you explaining a little bit about one of the programs that you're sharing with your clients. You deliver a Freedom from Trauma Program, which supports your clients for six months to really love their lives. Again, could you share a little bit about why you decided to create the program and what type of transformation people see as they work through the program with you?


Nicola (00:51):

Yes, I'd love to. So as a GP, I mean, I was, I was working in the NHS for over 20 years and you meet so many people. And I absolutely love that aspect of being a Doctor. But as a GP I would, I would see snapshots of people's lives and sometimes kind of walk the journey of their lives with them for, for some time. And I really noticed how so many people who have potential the, the experiences that they're keeping on the inside, the kind of stuff that they're carrying is holding them back or has created a narrative that kind of runs their life. That stops them from moving forward. I guess, as the GP I wasn't particularly sort of pharmaceuticals interested. I was always very interested in the narrative, what was going on beneath and behind the symptoms and what was not being said.


Nicola (01:47):

And that was my general leaning as a doctor. Anyway, I've always just been very curious about people. And so over the years, I've thought a lot about this and it wasn't until I decided to train as a coach, but also I'm quite self-reflective. I thought about myself and what stopped me from moving forward. I, I quite often during my career, even though on paper, you know, I had everything going for me. I got all my exams. I didn't struggle in any way, and everybody gave me great feedback. Sometimes I would feel like I was kind of standing on the edge of the swimming pool of life and not fully leaping in. So I was really reflective about that side of myself. And I read a lot and I studied a lot over the years. And then when I finally made the decision to train as a coach and to actually leave medicine I started coaching women individually for the first couple of years.


Nicola (02:43):

And, and I, and I used that as a, as a way to reflect on what, what did these people need, who was attracted to working with me and what do people really need? And there were themes that came up again and again, and there were questions that came up again and again, that made me think actually I've really got something here that like it's much better with, as a coach to be able to just coach freely on whatever is needed on the day. But there were these skills and obstacles that I knew I could help my clients with. So by creating an online program, I could give those reflective exercises, meditations processes to help my clients to work through those things at the same time as being coached by me. So that's kind of where it came from, was a lot of observation and a lot of self-reflection and thinking about what do we really need to yeah. Help us to break free of those kinds of constraints that we put on ourselves or that life has, has put on us.


Rach (03:41):

Thank you. It sounds wonderful. And it's really interesting to see how your own experience has influenced how you've developed that program. So maybe you could just explore a little bit more about when you left clinical medicine and when you took those steps work more independently and maybe a little bit about what you learned maybe about yourself, but also about that whole experience of stepping out of one role into another.


Nicola (04:06):

Yeah. So a couple of years before I left Medicine, I had, I had several experiences where I came up against myself and, and initially I didn't learn the lesson. So I had a back injury. Gosh, it must be eight years ago now, eight, seven or eight years ago. And did the classic GP thing of, I could still feel my feet. So therefore there was no need to go to A and E. I just took some paracetamol and carried on, you know, and kind of that was in September. And it took me until December to sort of crawl into A and E in absolute agony and to get very told off by the orthopaedic team. And so at that phase of my life, I was still ignoring my own needs. I was putting myself right at the bottom of the list. I had young children and a husband that travelled abroad a lot for his work.


Nicola (04:54):

And I was so far down the list. I was almost not even noticing when I was hungry or in pain or, you know, and I don't think I'm alone as a, as a doctor and lots of other professions as well, of ending up in that kind of situation. But I didn't really learn from my back injury. I thought I'd learned, I changed my job. I moved my job closer to home, but I was still really of that mindset where I was really way down the list. And then scroll forward a few years, the NHS was gradually changing. And I started to realize that the way that the practice I worked for wanted to work was, and I was a salary GP was we were kind of just excuse the phrase, but sort of bums on seats, interchangeable, interchangeable, cogs in a great big machinery.


Nicola (05:45):

And I, I found that really de-motivating, I'd always been a GP that just went above and beyond. I was absolutely passionate about what I did. And I suddenly found myself working in this environment where I thought, you know, I could die in the station recovered and they wouldn't even notice they'd just get a locum in, carry on, you know, which is horrible, horrible thing to say. I had wonderful colleagues and it's an amazing profession, but something inside me started to change. And, and I guess it's that when the equation changes and you start to realize, okay, all this extra effort I'm putting in to be an amazing doctor, or what I hoped was, you know, it's not really, it didn't feel valued anymore. And and therefore being that exhausted and that far down the list suddenly didn't seem like such a great decision.


Nicola (06:34):

So things started to shift for me. And I also had an experience where two people close to me were diagnosed with cancer in the same week. And they were both amazing energetic women outdoorsy, never any kind of inkling that they were in any way unhealthy. And it really shocked me. And it really made me think that could be me. I've got young children, I'm always frazzled. That's all my children ever see is me kind of pretty frazzled. And I know they loved me, but I just thought I've got some choices to make here. And I was, I was heading for burnout. I think there is an element of, I didn't fully, you know, reach burnout, but there was that feeling of, I was feeling less than less connected with the people around me. You know, when you're in that fight flight mode, you become less creative.


Nicola (07:20):

You get less good at delegating because you you're, you just can't see the wood for the trees. So I'd, I'd be in that kind of like, it was easy to do everything myself kind of mode, which I know a lot of people have experienced in the past 12 months that, you know, it's hard to think creatively and in a connected way when you're that stressed. And I could see all of this happening, I could see it all unfolding in front of me. And I, I just made the decision which was terrifying for my husband because he was like, well, what are you going to do? You know, and everyone around me was a bit shocked, but once I actually got clear on my mind that, and it was a really important choice, then actually it was really quite easy. I didn't, I was quite scared and I didn't know what I was going to do. And I found the uncertainty really difficult because as a Doctor, I'd always been in work and I'd always known that I could locum or something else. And I was completely stepping away from that structure. But I think it's, it was just seeing those two sides of the equation and realizing it no longer added up for me that made it easy in the end. So, yeah. Crazy or otherwise, I just went for it


Rach (08:32):

Really interesting to hear how that unfolded. But at some point there was probably a moment where you had to really be courageous actually, and just take those steps. And you remember what it was that sort of, or you said about the clarity and was it just really realizing that there was something else that was going to make it feel better? Or was it just knowing that what you were doing was not feeling right. And how do you think that's helped you now, when you, when you get into similar positions where you have to change, how do you find that those lessons from that have changed how you make your decisions now?


Nicola (09:06):

Yeah, that's a great question. I, so I think that one thing that really made a difference is when I had my back injury, that was my first time I had some coaching. I just had three sessions of coaching, but I was really impressed by how coaching has this very simple but really clear techniques to help people to do their best thinking and having been interested in all of these things as a Doctor for so long, there was a bit of me that felt a bit kind of humble that, wow, you know, as Doctors, we do, we do stuff on communication skills and I've been interested in this stuff for my whole career, but I don't have that level of skill. And it suddenly opened my eyes to training that I could do that would make me feel more proud of what I could offer.


Nicola (09:55):

So I think it was, there was an element of opening the door and looking outside of Medicine and just going, there are so many inspiring, amazing people doing really cool things out here. Medicine is not the be all and end all, and that really helped. And I think that when I said to my husband that's it I am leaving in my mind, I thought I'm going to train to be a coach. And I'm going to do this really well. And I don't know how it's gonna work out, but I I'm just going to trust myself. And I think I'm probably am I'm, I'm quite decisive and not impulsive person in a way, but I think what I've carried forward from that is learning to listen to myself. And I said, you know that before that, as a Doctor, I, I switched off parts of myself that because I just wasn't interested in me.


Nicola (10:45):

I was, everything was outward. And I think what changed was starting to really trust myself and the other thing that wasn't valued within Medicine. But I, I suddenly saw some possibilities for myself is that I'm a very intuitive person. Or my, my patients always say to me, you know, nobody's ever asked me that question before. And I suddenly found a whole world where that was valuable, where suddenly, instead of feeling like I had to squish everything into 10 minutes, and it was not appropriate Nicola, and you should be doing your job and prescribing, and you know, that suddenly I could actually feel valued for something that was actually very natural to me. So it, it was scary. I wasn't good with uncertainty at the beginning. I've got better at that with practice, but it was, I think sometimes when you get in touch with yourself, you kind of find a level of it's like being in a flow state is everything just feels really easy. And, you know, you're heading in the right direction. And maybe I just hadn't had that for a long time. So I just thought, right, I'm going to run with it.


Rach (11:48):

I love that description of the flow state, because I think you're so right there about describing how once we know where we are and what we need. It's so much easier to pick out those things that you like about certain surroundings. I can totally see how there were points in my life where I was in jobs that just didn't, they just didn't gel. And I couldn't understand why. And you felt like you were battling the whole time, but then when you're able to actually identify what your own values are and what your own needs are, then suddenly something clicks and you think, well, that's why that didn't feel so good for me, because that wasn't really meeting my values or the people I were working, was working with were not in the same mindset as me. And so that's why it didn't click. So, so much of it is that internal work that we do ourselves, isn't it and understanding ourselves. And one of the things that you explored was the mindful self-compassion and training in that to be able to deliver it. So I'd love to hear more about how that training has influenced you and maybe how it has influenced both your coaching, but also your own approach to your mindfulness and self-compassion.


Nicola (12:58):

Yeah, so it's massively influenced me. And when I first came across self-compassion a lovely friend, who's a coach in London mentioned that this training was happening in Holland. And probably it's kind of typical GP was just like, why is she suggesting this to me? And how on earth can you spend five days studying self-compassion like, you know, the, the kind of the culture around me was, you know, that's just being kind to yourself, isn't it? You know, and somebody actually said that to me when I was leaving my job, Oh, you're going off to do self-compassion, you know, as if it was just the simplest thing, but the reality of self-compassion and, and I'm, I'm not a hundred per cent comfortable with the phrase cause it makes it sound very simple. And it really isn't is that we, we, most people find it much easier to be kind to other people than to themselves.


Nicola (13:50):

And I was absolutely in that category. And I was also really quite fond of my inner critic because I thought that she helped me to achieve high standards. And so I was kind of clinging quite strongly to my inner critic it is what had got me this far in my, in my career. But when I read, I read Kristin Neff's book. So she's the person who was funding the training in Holland. I read her book and found it quite a, it was an easy read, but I could not stop thinking about it. And I kind of, I was pretty burnt out at the time. So there was a bit of me that was resisting like crazy and thinking, Oh no, this is just something else that I need to master. And, you know, or I was just tired and a bit, bit too worn out. But what really excited me about the training?


Nicola (14:34):

So I went and did the training in Holland, despite all my reservations was that was that they taught us so much neurophysiology that the, the understanding that, that the way we're hardwired is for survival rather than happiness. And that actually you can learn to train, yourself to activate this, this emotional system called the mammalian caregiving system, which releases oxytocin and natural opiates. It's that loving connecting side of ourselves that you can actually learn to cultivate that. And you can learn to feel compassion for yourself for yourself, which is when I first thought about it, I was thinking actually, that's, you know, it felt a million miles away. It, I wasn't, I wasn't depressed. I was a happy person. I was happily married, but it was just a skill that I completely lacked. And when I, I think what's helped me in my coaching and, and with my clients is that I totally understand the resistance we feel to self-compassion it comes up against all sorts of beliefs and reservations and fears.


Nicola (15:37):

And I'm, I'm still very in touch with that part of me that was completely resistant, but because I'm, I've learnt it I've practiced it. I mastered it. I can also see the massive difference it makes. And instead of making me all kind of soft and lazy and unmotivated it's, which is what I was scared of, you know, I thought, gosh, I'll never get out of bed. If I start being nice to myself, what I actually discovered was that it's made me much more willing to try new things. Failure is, you know, just something I can recover from so much more easily because I haven't got that internal kind of berating going on that, that I used to have, you know, it's much easier to go, well, I'll try it. It might not work. It might work. My motivation is, and my enthusiasm is bigger and bigger because actually the possibilities, you know, feel possible for me rather than just positioning myself on the edge of the swimming pool. Like I, like I used to,


Nicola (16:33):

And this is what the research has borne out, as well as the people who are trained in the skills of self-compassion, you know, they cope better with divorce, a they recover from anxiety, depression, it's helpful for PTSD. It's quite interesting. And it's really fascinating to me that it's not something that we were taught in school. And actually, you know, what I realize is that the generations ahead of us, they went through, you know, World Wars and really tough times. And this was really not part of the vocabulary. And people didn't know, didn't know about this stuff and the newer new science that's come on since then has helped us to really understand. And the, you know, on a very basic level, the biggest shift for me was realizing that some of those things that I used to think of as kind of nice to do, but not necessary, actually, they are, they are high-performance techniques. They're actually about keeping yourself well and bouncing back from adversity and coping with difficulty. Yes. So for me, it completely changed as a subject. It doesn't feel soft and fluffy. It is incredibly powerful and yeah, it's been useful as a complete newbie to business, setting up a business and not knowing what I was doing. I think I've found all of that much, much easier because I'm just like, let's have a go, let's see what happens. So I'm not really worrying. And I'm certainly not beating myself up if I make a mistake.


Rach (17:56):

And the fascinating part around that is like you say, around the inner critic, isn't it because I know a lot of her research as well, has focused on that. We all believe that that is necessary to support our development, that we have kind of grown up in a culture and I can really see a lot of parallels with clinical medicine and going through med school and then coming out the other side and you're continuing on aren't you. And there's always something else. There's always the next thing. And we have in a way, been trained to have that inner critic in us because it's, what is the apparent that it's going to move us forward, but shifting away from that and realizing that it's actually not the most healthiest behavior. And it's like you said, it's been shown to be detrimental to our wellbeing rather than a positive is a big shift. It's a big mindset shift to be able to transfer it across.


Nicola (18:48):

Yeah. And I hadn't realized how demotivating the inner critic is. And when you think about it, it's absolutely true. You know, when you, if you tell yourself, Oh, you know, you're such an idiot, you messed up, how do you feel when you feel worse? You don't feel better, but you're right. It's very much part of the culture. And and not just in Medicine, you know, in amongst lawyers I've come across exactly the same. So you think that you're motivating yourself and you're, you know, you're saying, come on, you know, you should be able to do better, but, but that internal feeling when you're self critical is, is actually very, de-motivating, it's very ingrained. And there's a, yeah, we have a lot of fear about letting go of that. There's, there's a very real fear, but if I didn't have that internal voice, what would happen, and, but that's what I found so fascinating is that my experience and the research has, has shown that because the internal dialogue is saying, you know, I, I care about you and I want you to do well. What do you need to do in order to improve the situation? It's a completely different energy. It comes from a completely different angle, but actually it has, it's much more useful in terms of managing motivation and just, yeah. Dealing with difficulty really.


Rach (20:05):

And we, with that mindset change and that shift, was there a point where you also had to shift your mindset about productivity? Because this is something that I found as I've moved through my career out of clinical medicine, into Public Health, and then taking on my yoga business is that I have to be productivity differently because it was so tangible before, and I sort of knew what the outcomes were. And then when you shift into a different space, it's not so evident. So has that been something that you've also noticed?


Nicola (20:37):

Definitely. And I think when you first, if you're, if you step outside of a profession where you've got those external signals and timetabling and all of those things, yeah. It's a steep learning curve trying to manage your time because you can go one, way. , You can go in all different directions potentially, but you know, the initial kind of desire to go, Oh my gosh, I can meet up with friends for coffee was really, really strong because I hadn't done that for so long. And then, but then there's also that kind of inner guilt of, I need to have something to show for what I'm doing. And particularly because my husband was still an employee and I'd, we'd always, you know, shared the kind of financial burden. And suddenly I was trying to build a business from zero, you know, that's actually that takes time.


Nicola (21:22):

And you can feel very impatient. You know, I certainly did feel very impatient to work out well, how do I get the right clients? How do I encourage the right people to come and work with me? So, so definitely I've had to learn new skills. I think there were two key ones that I would mention. So one around productivity is being quite intentional. I, I don't have long to do lists. Instead I work out what my key priorities are for the week or the day. And I make sure that I'm realistic about how long things take. I think anyone who's in, you know, who works in medicine, who that, that feeling of having a day off and you have a list as long as your arm and you spend the whole day feeling frustrated and getting to the end of it exhausted. And that's how I used to be.


Nicola (22:06):

And I've definitely learned to pace myself and to I actually for a while, kept a list of wins, you know, just to remind myself of what I had actually achieved, rather than always focusing on the mountain to climb, because there's an endless amount to do, but you can't do it all at once. You have to be patient and you have to be strategic in a way as well, focus your energy on what's going to be most beneficial. And then the second thing I think is when I first started, because I was, I was a little bit fearful about it and well, how do I earn money if I'm not on a salary? It's very easy to start to fall into the trap of kind of scarcity thinking of, you know, how am I going to get clients? And, and I, I realized it probably took me a little while, but I realized that what was much more important was to focus on who I was serving.


Nicola (22:58):

So what was the value that I could bring and who, who was it, who would most relate to what I was doing, who needed to hear from me? And I think that makes a really big difference because, you know, if you're doing I don't know Facebook Live, or you can spend a lot of time doing things like that. And you can feel a bit like, well, I'm doing all this stuff, but I'm not any money, but it would be, I guess when I changed my values to be more focused on, you know, people who don't know me, they're going to need to find out about me. They're going to need to learn to trust me and to have a sense of whether I'm the right person for them to work with. And therefore all of that time is not time wasted. That's not unproductive time.


Nicola (23:43):

That's about building relationships, supporting people not, not giving away hours and hours of coaching for free, but just offering people value. Then I think that changed for me. So it's, it's a quite different pace when you work for yourself, it's not the same as turning up, doing a certain number of hours and getting paid for it, but it's really enjoyable. And I, I hadn't realized how creative I am until I left medicine, I didn't think I had a creative bone in my body, but it's actually quite exciting to be able to think the, how am I going to meet that need, what could I do? And then sort of getting stuck into creating something for people. So yeah, it's been very exciting


Rach (24:24):

And I think that's one of the reasons I love doing this podcast is that it's so nice to hear how people have found different parts of creativity, particularly when they've opened up different doors for themselves. And like you say, you do things that you think, gosh, I would never have thought I would do this. It's like this podcast. If someone had told me five years ago, I'd be talking on a podcast, you know, I would have laughed and just said, yeah, sure. But it's so enjoyable. And it's so nice that you create it from your own internal thinking. Now, when you're following your passions, is coaching something that you still use as a tool for yourself? Do you have a Coach yourself? Is it something that you dip into when you need to?


Nicola (25:04):

Yeah, definitely. I do. I don't have a coach all the time, but every so often I will have a bit more coaching because I really value it as a process. So, so there's two ways I do it. One is that I will pay for a coach, you know sometimes when I know that I'm getting stuck or I'm feeling like I'm not quite sure the best way to move forward and that's sort of intermittent for me. But the other thing that I, I did some training around Nancy Kleins' work about thinking partnerships and, you know, learning to help people to do their own best thinking. And when I did the training, I met another coach and we actually, it's been on zoom all the way through the last 12 months or so, but we just get together and we actively listen to each other. So we do 20 minutes. She'll, she'll talk. And then we swap over and I'll do 20 minutes, completely uninterrupted, just cultivating that sort of space for another person to, to do their thinking. And so that's, that's also really, really beneficial. And it's something that I would love to encourage more teams, Doctors, you know, people, people in the workplace to think about using because so much stuff comes out when you actually have the space to think properly. So yeah, I, that's part of my self-care kind of weekly routine.


Rach (26:21):

Thanks for sharing that, it's just totally reminded me of her books because she's, all about time to think and, and creating those spaces. Like you say, to be able to have those interactions and to communicate and listen to each other. So it's really, it's really just sparked something in my memory, which I'm going to definitely follow up after you just said that.


Nicola (26:41):

Yeah. I mean they are fantastic books, they're really interesting.


Rach (26:44):

Are there other little techniques that you use, like little mindfulness techniques on a daily basis or sort of a self-care routine?


Nicola (26:52):

I do. So one of the things I really love about mindful self-compassion is that it's fantastically practical. So my, my fear around mindfulness and meditation before I knew about this stuff was that it would be massively time consuming and that I didn't, you know, I'd either have to get up at four in the morning, or I just wouldn't be able to keep it going. And I do do longer sessions of meditation. And I run a group once a week for my graduates. They stay with me quite a lot of them come back just once a week. We do a group session together, which has been really lovely, the techniques of mindful self-compassion. Some of them, some of them are so easy and so quick, and once you've practiced them and understood the principles there, there's something that you can use all the time. So I'll just share one example with you, which is there's a lovely meditation, which is about cultivating compassion for yourself first and then generating compassion for other people.


Nicola (27:45):

And you, you do it using the breath. So you just meditate on the, in breath being compassion, flowing into yourself, and then just the ease of exhalation being how easy it is to be compassionate to other people just through the passive kind of exhalation. And that's a practice that I've done over the last few years, but because I've learned that practice, it's kind of distilled down into just a really kind of like a changing breath. I think, you know, mindfulness practitioners would probably refer to it as, so if I'm leaving, you know, before, when I used to go to work, when I'd leave the house to go to work, every time I got in the car and put the ignition key in the ignition, I would just do the breath in for me and a breath out for the rest of the world or for whoever needed it.


Nicola (28:33):

And it's just a really conscious way of reminding myself that sometimes I'm struggling and other people are struggling too. And it was as a GP, I used to use this if somebody was very distressed or aggressive, it's that reminder that you know, that I'm having this internal response, but this other person is probably struggling too in their own way. And it just helped me to take a step back to not react, you know, to feel much calmer in myself, to calm my nervous system down when things were really, really stressful. And it was great when the kids were little. And if they had a big tantrum about not wanting to put their welly boots on or something like that, again, you know, just one for me, one for you, it's the most beautiful technique and it's incredibly easy and just practicing it often enough for, you know, maybe a month, you just get the hang of using it whenever you need it. So yeah, I use things like that all the time.


Rach (29:26):

Thank you for sharing that. I think that's so beautiful and it, like you say, it really shows how techniques don't have to be complicated. You know, some of us love meditating for hours at a time, and that's obviously that is something that I've done at points in my training, in my life, but also just having those small little techniques that you can do at any time that you say in the car, when you're walking, when you're in an, in a situation with other people, I think that's actually really where the value can come from mindfulness and those self-compassion techniques. So it's great to hear that. And I hope that listeners also can just pick up on that. If that's one thing they try today, that would be lovely to do.


Nicola (30:06):

Yeah. And if you're having a really bad day, you can say three for me and one for you. So it's there is a bit of humor in that too. You know, it's not about being perfect. It's just about acknowledging what you're experiencing, but also that, you know, other people are having difficulty too. And that it's, it's not selfish. It's just about maintaining yourself and supporting yourself.


Rach (30:27):

And I think also that speaks to sort of realizing that life is bumpy and none of us have all the answers. And even with our best intentions, life cannot be all glossy and wrapped up with a shiny bow on it. During our careers. I guess we find different points in time where we are enjoying them more than others. And yet we can take stuff with us. So when you look back now at being a GP and your clinical work, do you, can you look back at it with the lens to be able to take learning from it? How do you think that has shaped the way you are as a coach?


Nicola (31:05):

I definitely can. And I certainly don't regret anything about my career and there is and there's something that you said then that I think particularly was important for me before I did this kind of inner work. I hadn't noticed but it, but it, it became clear to me that I had swallowed this myth. I had this belief that life should be perfect. And if I was struggling that I was failing in some way and, and saying that out loud, it's kind of a little bit like embarrassing, but it wasn't obvious to me that that was a myth that I was carrying around inside of me. And when I challenged that and realized that that was just complete rubbish, you know, life is messy and full of emotions and difficulty. And so me struggling was not a sign of, you know, me failing. It's just that that's completely normal.


Nicola (31:59):

And this is what, something that Kristin Neff really taught me. It changed my perspective on things. It was like putting another lens on. And one of the beautiful things that it's really helped me to learn is how to manage difficulty as an opportunity to learn. As you know, this is not me dealing with things well or badly and judging emotions as they come up, but actually it's really normal to feel difficult emotions, to feel all sorts of things and definitely the training that I've done and what I share with my clients. It gives you a Technicolor version of life, including the bad stuff. You feel all of it more vividly. But what I realized when I look back is that because I was trying to suppress any sense that anything was difficult. You end up losing the fun at the same time. It's like, if you, if you sort of quieten down your emotions, you miss out on the vividness of life.


Nicola (33:01):

And for me, that's just been such an enormous change to, to, yeah. Just to embrace the difficulty full on with the snot and the tears and, and to be able to kind of move through it more quickly because I'm not resisting it. But at the same time to have just be able to cultivate joy and excitement and enjoyment in a way that I don't think I really had before. But what I do know about my coaching career is that my experience as a doctor, the number of hours of meeting people and listening to people and having that privilege of kind of walking their life journey with them, that is a experience that you can't get through training as a coach or so. I have absolutely no regrets about, about being a doctor. And I did, I did love my time as a GP. And I also worked as a Macmillan GP, GP advisor, all of those experiences are so rich and valuable because I came into coaching feeding, like, you know, I have kind of pretty much seen every situation you could throw at me. I'm not going to be flustered. And my clients all say, you know, you're incredibly calm to be around. I think that that does come from the experience of having seen a lot of life. I guess also I'm very, very lucky that I took the decision when I did, and I had good enough health that I could go, right. I've, I've had all this experience and I'm going to turn it into something that I really, really enjoy. And I, and I, it doesn't feel like going to work anymore. You know, it's just fun.


Rach (34:30):

Well, that's wonderful. I mean, it's, it's great to hear you say that, that you found that and to be able to find that joy in what you do. And it's interesting that you talk about when we're in a clinical role, because in a way, I think in a clinical role we are trained to sort of dampen down some of our emotions, because we aren't there to, to show our emotions to others, we are there to serve someone. And at that point in time, their emotions and their situation is paramount. So in a way we do dampen down some of that personality of us. It's very interesting, isn't it? That, that we can now use that training, but also just open ourselves up a little bit and be joyful and allow those emotions to come through.


Nicola (35:16):

Yeah. And I think if I had my time again, cause I, I fully appreciate that there is that need for that sort of professionalism and the, you know, consultations with patients are not about us. So they really need us to stay calm and, and on top of things and thinking clearly. But I think what I would do differently if I had my time again, would be to maybe write or find a way to acknowledge what I was experiencing much more clearly. And interestingly after I'd trained as a teacher of self-compassion, I was still working for Macmillan and I was heading to London on a train and somebody had a a cardiac arrest on the platform and it was arrest situations were always my least favorite. My heart used to race and things, but because of the training that I've had, I was much, I was calm and I was able to build a team of helpers on the platform.


Nicola (36:10):

And everybody worked really beautifully together. And actually incredibly this, this man, he was airlifted to hospital. He survived. I then continued my journey to London, where I was due to give a speech from Macmillan. And I sat down in the hotel room and I cried and I wrote it all down, everything that I wanted to say, and I, I let it all out. And I just don't think I would have done that years ago. I would have felt like a failure for feeling it so strongly, but my, I had a completely different perspective, which was, I need to let this flow through me. So it doesn't get stuck in me. And I need to acknowledge that poor man and you know, that situation. And it was, so it was so tough, you know, the paramedics took 35 minutes to get there, you know? And, and I processed it differently. And I think that is the, the thing I wish I'd been shown how to do as a medical student to, to still feel. But to be able to kind of put it on hold until I got to a safe place and then to have a way of processing it, but maybe we can gradually influence medicine in the future so that people feel more allowed to be human. That would be nice.


Rach (37:18):

Yeah. I agree. I think it would be wonderful if there was part of our training as med students and as junior doctors that allows you to give yourself permission to feel when things are tough and when things, things are challenging or emotions come up and dealing with them in the right way and the right time that helps you process them rather than bottling them up for many years. Because as you say that, I can think back to certain stages of my own training and of my own work in a hospital environment that has stuck with me because they were traumatic and we are faced, you know, you come into traumatic situations and it's about being able to process that process, that yourself writing for me, I love writing and just journaling down what's going on. And it's just a way of processing it. Isn't it, which I think can be again, very simple. It's not a, it's not, it's not time consuming. It doesn't cost anything, but it can really help.


Nicola (38:16):

Yeah. And you can process things much more quickly. You don't have to get stuck. I think that I didn't realize, you know, by being so kind of brave and, you know, never talking about certain things that happened as a med student and as a, as a doctor I reckon I held onto that trauma way longer than, than to kind of lean into the difficult emotions and allowing it to just go through and accepting that it was part of, you know, what I'd experienced and then moving forward. And I guess that that's, you know, I hadn't really thought about it, but that's probably fed into the work that I'm doing now is just allowing people to get back to who they are. And to really feel good about that.


Rach (38:56):

And talking about writing, there's something exciting. I really want to ask you about is writing books, because I know that you contributed to a book which is called Monetize your Message, which was with another 20 other women, but you're also writing your own book. So I wonder if you can just tell us a little bit about that and what the experience of writing the first book was like, and also what's prompted you to put pen to paper now.


Nicola (39:18):

So writing the first book was really terrifying and exciting. And really the reason I did that was because I, I thought I would like to try and write a book at some point. And I, that felt like a big mountain to climb. So I thought, right, let's just do a chapter for a book. And it sort of was like, I needed to get past the kind of, you know, not being on the school board, you know, feeling of just like I can do this. And I have a lovely, one of my best friends is an English academic at Bristol University. So she was fabulous cause I was able to run my chapter past her. And she was very honest with me and gave me lots of feedback. So it was a wonderful process. And in some ways I didn't sort of shout about it as much as I could have done.


Nicola (40:07):

Except that I just needed to do it for me. It was kind of just getting myself started as a writer and realizing quite how incredibly difficult it is and, and telling everyone I was going to write a book and then, you know, starting and stopping and starting and stopping. It's really hard to write a book I've discovered. But it's something I'm absolutely determined to do. And it's really interesting because once you decide, and particularly for me, I, it was important that I said it, I didn't just keep it to myself because otherwise I would talk myself out of doing it. It's never very far from my thinking and I, you know, that I quite frequently have thoughts. Oh, that's how that chapter's going to go or that I need to bring that in. But what I have realized, and this is something I'm working on now, is that to get a book finished, you absolutely have to timetable your writing in.


Nicola (40:59):

I think there was a bit of me that was over ambitious and thought that I could just do, you know, 15 minutes writing a day and it would kind of take care of itself, but it's been quite a process. And I would love to say that it's nearly finished, but it really isn't. And I, I, I came across a coach the other day and it had taken him six years to write his latest book. And actually that made me feel a lot better because he's very successful. And I thought, you know this book is, is there, it's working its way through me. And and I'm also learning about how to be a writer. I think maybe a bit of me just thought that I've written stuff. It would be fine. I've written loads of blogs and things like that, but actually structuring a book and deciding, okay, that's going in and that's not going in, has been really challenging.


Nicola (41:48):

So watch this space. But don't hold your breath. Cause it might be a bit longer than than just the next 12 months. It's been really exciting. And I think that, again, that's, that's part of the whole experience of stepping away from a profession and just learning to be a bit more brave and try new things is that I'm not beating myself up about the fact that it's not finished yet. Cause I know that the final version will be much better if I just learn what I need to learn about writing and, and keep going, keep plugging away at it and I'll get there in the end.


Rach (42:22):

And it sounds really exciting. So we will, we will be watching and waiting. But do you think also that it's something about acknowledging that you have a voice to be heard and that you've got something to say? Has that been part of that process?


Nicola (42:36):

Definitely. I mean, I, I said before that I'd had this experience throughout my life of feeling like I had all these abilities, but I sort of was stood on the edge of the swimming pool and not quite jumping in challenging myself to write a book was definitely motivated by that feeling of, you know, that, you know, deep down that you have something to say and so come on, let's, let's do it. Yeah. So I think, and I think, you know, starting out even just starting the business, I found that incredibly hard at the beginning. I mean, I, I didn't do any Facebook lives for the first two years cause I was scared. And what I've just, what I found about all of these things is that nothing is actually that scary. Nothing's impossible. Everything is, can be figured out. It's amazing what you can just, you know, Google online to find out ways of doing things.


Nicola (43:27):

And there are lots of amazing people who can help with writing can give advice and and things like that. There are lots of people out there who will tell you, you can write it in 12 weeks and you can self-publish and, and you can, but it may not may or may not be the kind of book that I would really hope to write. So yeah, it's a fascinating process. And I think when you're in a career, it's like, you've, you've you get to a certain job, you've attained something. When you take away all of that structure, then it just becomes about kind of the university of life without sounding too cheesy. But you know, it's just about where do I want to go next? And, and what do I want to learn is all part of my, of my journey. And you know, I hope I hope I get lots more years to just keep learning and keep trying new things. Cause it's really fun.


Rach (44:15):

We're all on that path. Aren't we of continual learning and exploring, which is why it's so wonderful to hear other people's stories. And when you connected with the other women in the book that you contributed to, was that also quite empowering in a way because they were coming from different sectors and different spaces. What do you think we can learn from kind of immersing ourselves in places that we probably don't feel as comfortable in?


Nicola (44:42):

Well, I mean, I think collaboration is, particularly with COVID, that's just become so clear that it's so lovely to have conversations like this and to have opportunities to hear what other people are doing and to have those kind of collaborations. And I definitely, I work with men too, but I definitely have a leaning towards raising up other women and, you know, seeing other people shine it's just is really lovely and collaboration is also about being challenged and reading other people's chapters really helped my chapter to be better as well. You know, thinking about the way they've done things differently. So no I mean, I think for me that was a really nice part of, it was kind of creating community around yourself. I'm still in touch with most of the women who wrote for that book and it was just a great opportunity to do it.


Nicola (45:33):

And the other thing I really loved when I did my coaching training, it was nothing to do with the medical profession. It was at a coaching school in London called Animas and the variety of different backgrounds and professions that people came into that training from. I absolutely loved it because I'd forgotten really, you know, we spent so much time in the silo of medicine and we obviously we meet loads of patients, but these were really inspiring people that I absolutely, I, that was really important for me. And I, I, I've probably always been a bit like that. You know, when I chose my university, I wanted to be amongst students who were studying everything, not just medicine, it was really inspiring. And it made me think and it, and I asked loads of questions and we'd have great discussions over the lunch breaks about, you know, how people have come to coaching from different angles and how they were going to use it.


Nicola (46:23):

And all of those things. I just think there's such a big wide world out there and the potential to create something that you really love is so enormous nowadays. It's just amazing. I have clients all over the world. I get to talk to people in lots of different countries. Yeah. The opportunities are huge. So I don't, I think if anyone listening to this as feeling like, well, you know, I I've only ever done medicine, I've got nothing to offer. You don't need to be scared. It's just so much fun. And, and, and having had medicine you will say, bring so much experience as well.


Rach (46:58):

Thank you. And listening to your story is so inspiring. So I'm really hope that everyone listening has that same feeling and it sparks something in them to think about their day differently or their next steps differently. So where can people find out more about what you're offering at the moment?


Nicola (47:14):

So my website is Nicola Harker, coaching.com. And so everything is on there. I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram. So @ Dr. Nicola Harker but I mean, you can, to all of that from my website as well. So everything is there. And my email address is on my website. So you're, you know, anyone who just wants to find out a bit more, just drop me an email and that's the easiest way to get hold of me.


Rach (47:40): And we'll put all the links underneath the podcast so people can click through and see what you're doing and listen in to you and share everything. So I could talk to you for a long time. It's been absolutely wonderful chatting today. One last question is that this podcast is called Authentic Tea with the idea being that we can just be ourselves and our most authentic version, but where would you and with who would you choose to have your most authentic cup of tea?


Nicola (48:09):

So the person I would so love to have a cup of tea with would have been Maya Angelou because she, for me, so one of my core values as you probably already picked up is courage. And she had so many struggles in her early life and and throughout her life, but she just has such grace and dignity, but, but strength as well, which yeah, for me, I just would find massively inspiring. And where would I have that cup of tea with her? Well, I would actually invite her to come and sit on the veranda at the back of my garage, which has a lovely view over the countryside on a nice, still sunny day, like today. And I would just have so many questions for, for her. So yeah, that would, that would be my choice.


Rach (48:56):

Thank you. That is a beautiful way to end our conversation today. And I just want to say a big thank you to you. Nicola is absolute pleasure talking to you.


Nicola (49:05):

Thank you very much. It's been really fun.



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