Why you should always ask yourself, ‘Is it a fact?’ | Interview with Mindset Coach Wendy Bollard

Wendy Bollard
Wendy Bollard.

THERE IS a phrase which comes up regularly when speaking with Wendy Bollard - ‘Is it a fact?’. It is a question that lies at the heart of her approach to helping people take care of their mental health.

Wendy, a Mindset Coach, whose clients include creative design agency owners and designers, theatre designers, actors, Hollywood executives and Netflix producers, will be one of the key speakers at the Design Leaders Conference, led by Design Skillnet, which takes place in The Light House Cinema, Dublin, on January 26 2023.

Her talk will focus on facilitating joy in our work and on building resilience and she will be teaching some “very clear and simple skills” that those attending “will be able to take with them and put into practice in their personal life and in their business”.

Now based in Britain, Wendy was born in London to Irish parents. “Both are Dubliners. My mom’s a southsider, my dad’s a northsider,” she says. “They lived in Dublin until the 60s, and then moved to London as many people did at that time”.

She was raised in Canada after her family emigrated there but as an adult she returned to London where she works as a mindset coach

‘We make up all kinds of stuff about other people’

Mindset coaching is a specific kind of counselling. Whereas traditional life coaching focuses on structured strategies to help a client reach a specific goal, mindset coaching focuses on a clients' existing beliefs, patterns of thinking and behaviour, in order to help them recognise, question, and revise persistent patterns of thought which may be harming them in their approach to their life and/or career.

In short, it is a way to fact-check your own assumptions, beliefs and attitudes - from those you are aware you have, to those you are unaware of but which nonetheless influence your behaviour. Hence Wendy’s mantra of, ‘Is it a fact?’

“One of the biggest skills I have used in my life, since I have started using mindset work, was asking myself, ‘Is that a fact?’,” she says. “We all have these stories going around in our brain, and we make all kinds of assumptions about other people; about what they think of us; about our clients - What they think about what we’re doing, what they think about what we’re charging, and so on, and we believe them.

“Then we move forward, thinking ‘That’s what that person thinks and therefore this is how I’m going to act’. But when we stop and say, ‘Well wait a minute, is that a fact?’ - a fact in the sense of something you have to prove in a court of law - If you can’t prove it, you realise, ‘Oh, that’s just a thought’, which means it’s optional. Then you realise, ‘I don’t have to think that’.”

“When I think, ‘My client can’t afford this’, well I don’t know what my client can and can’t afford, but if I’m thinking ‘My client can’t afford this’, I’m going to feel nervous to present that amount, and I’m going to act a certain way because of that - but unless my client has told me they can’t afford this, it’s not a fact, it’s a thought in my head. How do I feel when I think that?”

For Wendy, questioning yourself [constructively] and testing your assumptions and beliefs against reality is vital for cultivating fresh thinking. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Professor of Business at Harvard once said, “Mindless habitual behaviour is the enemy of innovation.” It underlines why Wendy’s approach is important advice for businesses, design teams and leaders - challenging set ideas lays the ground for innovation and originality to arise.

‘I felt drawn to help them get unstuck’

Wendy Bollard 2
Wendy Bollard.

Wendy’s approach developed from very personal experiences and later, from close observations, of assisting people who had become ‘stuck’ in their ideas and methods.

Before becoming a qualified mindset coach, Wendy was involved in the performing arts for some 30 years. “I’ve been in the performing arts since I can remember. I was an actor, a jazz singer, a director, an artistic director and I teach acting,” she says.

Despite her decades of such experience, an unexpected bout of stage fright jolted Wendy into questioning what lay behind that fear.

“That really threw me,” she says, “because I had been that person, growing up, who was like ‘Get out of my way! I want to be centre stage with the spotlight!’. To suddenly feel completely panicked in front of people was terrifying. Once I found out why that happened, I wanted to share it with other people.”

“I also saw so many talented people, either performers or designers - sound designers, set designers, costume designers and in broader design and creative fields - that were really, really, great at what they did, that were so talented and yet were stuck, so I felt drawn to help them get unstuck. It feels like a calling, if I can be as grandiose as that.”

The cost of not changing your mindset

Where to begin questioning your mindset? That is what Wendy will be teaching Design Leaders Conference attendees, with practical methods that creatives can implement immediately into their process.

“It’s a practice, just like anything else,” she says. “If you were going to start building up the muscles in your body, you would start a daily practice or do it three times a week. For questioning your thoughts, it’s something as simple as having post-it notes with ‘Is it a fact?’ written on them, because our brain wants to do the same thing all the time. That’s the easiest thing for our brain to do.”

“You drive home the same way after work every day and after a while you get home and you don’t even realise how you got there, as your brain just took you there, so you need to put stuff into your own GPS, like those post-it notes, or doing a journal every day, taking two minutes to write down what you're thinking about and then ask, ‘Is it a fact?’.”

Wendy points out that your brain’s reaction will likely be ‘Yes it is!!!”, as our mind has a tendency to “really dig its heels in” with thoughts that have become habitual or deeply embedded in our sense of self and our identity.

However, when such thoughts are holding us back, it is then a person needs to ask, “‘How would I prove this to a judge?’” and if they cannot, then it is time to re-think that idea.

“It’s really painful sometimes,” Wendy says, “to realise that something we have been thinking about ourselves, or our business, isn't true.”

As Wendy points out, it is vital to undertake such challenges and to be honest with yourself - about where you are in your life, your career, your creativity, and in your business.

“The cost of not changing your mindset can be severe mental health problems like depression and anxiety. In the workplace, it leads to becoming stagnant, not enjoying where you are at and furthermore not being honest with yourself.

“We can’t keep doing things the same way or we’ll keep getting the same results, we have to shift our mindset. One of the ways to up-level is learning how to manage our own mind, which is a sort of evolution of humans and our brains.”

The Design Leaders Conference takes place on Thursday January 26 in the Light House Cinema, Smithfield, Dublin. For more information see www.designleadersconference.com.

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