In this episode of Changes BIG and small, I chat with Avril Matsui. Born in the UK, Avril has lived in Japan for the past 26 years. We speak about race and prejudice, and what it’s like living as a black woman in Japan. As a mother of mixed race children in Japan, Avril is motivated to live her purpose to inspire her children and help them build strong identities. She speaks passionately about her work teaching about social justice issues at a university and about finding her purpose as a coach.
Listen to this episode to learn some great strategies for finding your purpose and making positive changes in your life. Avril inspires us with questions that we can ask to help us make sure that we are living full lives, in our integrity. Be sure to visit the show notes at changesbigandcom.com for all the links mentioned in the episode.
“I wanted to help women reconnect with those things that they wanted, the places they went, their relationships, their purpose, their careers.” – https://changesbigandsmall.com/24 #podcastTweet
Timeline of the Chat
1:30 – Avril introduces herself
2:10 – How long Avril has lived in japan and why she moved there initially
3:55 – Working in the JET Program
7:33 – The initial motivation for staying in Japan
8:19 – Fighting stereotypes and expectations
9:21 – The evolution of her work and how she’s able to teach what she wants
11:01 – The challenges of living in Japan and how she overcomes them
14:31 – The Black Women in Japan Group and building a supportive community
17:25 – The positives of living in Japan and the impact of moving there
19:51 – What she’s learned about change
20:39 – How she got into coaching, and doing the work
25:30 – What it feels like to live in her purpose
28:45 – The ripple on effects of change
29:44 – How her children inspires her in change
30:45 – Concrete advice to help you figure out what you want and discover your purpose
34:14 – Moving from the thinking step to the action step
38:06 – Facing our fears
39:23 – Giving birth in a Lawson’s parking lot
- What do I want?
- Why do I want it?
- What do I like?
- How am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What are these feelings/emotions trying to tell me?
- What is your message?
- What is your message in this situation?
- What am I really afraid of happening?
- Why am I afraid?
- Is it a legitimate fear or is it just a story that I am making up in my head (especially when it comes to making big life decisions)?
Finding Your Purpose
You haven’t gone inside to figure out what do I want. What do I like? What are the things that bring me joy? And then out of that, your purpose will come to you, again not overnight. There is no quick fix in these things, sadly.Avril Matsui
“Often what we want is more to do with what other people want than what we want to. It’s more to do with our parents or society or what we think we should be doing.”Avril Matsui
“There’s this feeling that everyone is judging you and looking at you all the time. If you slip up, not only are you discrediting yourself you are discrediting all foreign women, all black women or all English speakers.” – Avril MatsuiTweet
Get in Touch with Avril
Learn about her work and contact her on Facebook.
So I wrote down: I’m not good enough and then I wrote the opposite, I am enough. I kept writing both of them down and then eventually I just kept writing I am enough, I am enough. At first when I wrote it, I didn’t believe it at all in terms of coaching. But over time as you write and as you reflect on it, your mindset changes, you start to believe. Then you go on to make action steps.Avril Matsui
” We get into this little treadmill and we’re not really thinking about anything else but the things we get done and we just get depleted and anxious and tired and irritable, and we can’t understand why.” – Avril MatsuiTweet
Transcription for Challenging Prejudice and Building a Life of Purpose ep. 24[Damianne]: You are listening to Changes BIG and small. This is Damianne, your host as we explore what makes change exhilarating. Each episode, we’ll explore how you can create freedom in your life by embracing change. I intersperse interviews with research and challenges to help you make changes in your life.
In this episode of Changes BIG and small, I chat with Avril Matsui. Born in the UK, Avril has lived in Japan for the past twenty six years. We speak about race and prejudice and what it’s like living as a black woman in Japan. As the mother of mixed race children, Avril is motivated to live her purpose, to inspire her children and help them build strong identities. She speaks passionately about her work teaching about social justice issues at a university and about finding purpose as a coach. Listen to this episode to learn some great strategies for finding your purpose and making positive changes in your life.
Avril inspires us with questions that we can ask to help us make sure that we are living full lives in our integrity. Be sure to visit the show notes at changesbigandsmall.com for all the links mentioned in the episode. Let’s get started.
[Damianne]: I’ll let you introduce yourself. If you could tell us where were you born and where do you live now?
[Avril]: Goodness you didn’t prepare me for that question. My name is Avril and I’m originally from England. I grew up in the middle of England, in Nottingham and went to university in Sheffield. And then once university finished, I came to Japan and I never left.
[Damianne]: Wow. And how long have you been in Japan now?
[Avril]: Goodness. Now everybody will know how old I am?
[Damianne]: Ok give us a range. I won’t … give us a range ten to twenty years, twenty to fifty years…
[Avril]: I really don’t mind. I’m happy to tell everyone I’m going to be fifty this year. So about 25, goodness it’s more than 25 years, it’s been 26 years.
[Damianne]: What prompted you to move to Japan after university?
[Avril]: Poverty. Desperation.
[Damianne]:I know but there’s a whole world out there. Why Japan?
[Avril]: Essentially by accident. I wanted to work in the Public Sector; that was my degree. I wanted to be a civil servant, a hospital management. I have no idea what I was thinking. My course was four years and the third year of my course was a job placement. I went to work in a hospital in the north of England for a year. And it was the worst year of my life. I hated it.
[Damianne]:It’s good to find out right away.
[Avril]: I really wish I had known that before I started the degree. There are so many jobs within the public sector, I know that. Hospital Management, Public Sector Management had been my goal, but I didn’t like it at all. And a friend of mine and her boyfriend were applying for the JET programme, the Japan Exchange in Teaching programme. You come and you be an assistant in a Japanese high school (and Elementary School now). She said they need people who are lively and kind of loud. A veiled compliment, okay, but I’ll take it. You should apply so I did and I got it. Nobody was more shocked than me.
[Damianne]: What I know about the JET program is that usually you end up in quite … you don’t end up in Tokyo, for example. Where were you placed?
[Avril]: Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to go to a big city. I didn’t really wanna go to a smaller city either. I didn’t even go to a city. I went to a very, very small town, and town is using the word loosely, in the middle of Nagano in the mountains, a place called Matsukawa, really tiny, less than ten thousand people spread out all over the mountain. I went to a junior high school there, but I liked it.
[Damianne]: Were there other English speakers around? Were there other foreigners?
[Avril]: Well there were some English speakers, the teachers at my high school. I mean it’s a really, really small town. All the towns and villages are kind of close together, so it’s like one train station was one town, next train station was another town and there were other AETs, assistant English teachers in those towns. We’d meet up sometimes at the weekend, but really everyone in that community, they were just so good to me. And I know that they had never seen anyone like me before because they told me that. I’ve never seen a black person before; I’ve never talked to a black person. I went to this festival which was even deeper in the mountains. I’d been in Japan maybe for about two months, and this older man came up to me and he said, in English he said, Excuse me can I shake your hand?. And I was like okay. He shook my hand and then he said I’ve never seen a black person before. I’ve never touched a black person before. Thank you so much. I was like, okay, cool, no problem. Would you like me to sign something? I spent three years in Nagano and I really became part of the community. People were just very open and I presumed that everybody would be.
[Damianne]: We’ll get to that. Did you learn Japanese while you were there?
[Avril]: I did. I didn’t study as much as I should have. And even today, I still wish I had studied a lot more than I have. But it’s interesting, when I complain about things my Japanese is much better. I can have conversations; I’m verbally fine. Writing is a little bit different.
[Damianne]: What happened next? [Avril]:
I moved to the big city. I started working at an English Conversation School and I realized that Nagoya was really the gravy train. I had a house to myself that I didn’t even really have to pay for. People were so kind when I was sick. People would come and bring me food and I didn’t have to work that much. It sounds awful. I worked teaching hours and then I had quite long holidays, but really I think the English Conversation Schools, it was more of that factory production type of mentality, teachers in, teachers out, as many classes as possible squeezed into one day and contracts that were officially 29.5 hours and that was of teaching time, not preparation time. And the reason they keep it, and still do now actually, 29.5 hours is because to go over 30, they would have to pay health insurance and pension. It wasn’t all bad. Obviously, I met some really great people and had some interesting experiences there. And I also learned about teaching English as a foreign language.
[Damianne]: So you first did JET and then you moved to Nagoya. Did you decide at any point that you were going to stay in Japan or did it just happen.
[Avril]: Oh no. I was adamant that I was not going to stay in Japan. I was just sort of saving for grad school I suppose. I wanted to do a masters and then I just kept traveling, I suppose, and spending money so I had to stay another year to save it. Then there were a few issues in my family which meant I had to help out financially. So that kept me here a little bit longer but I really hadn’t intended on staying any longer than another five years after the JET Programme. I also met my husband.
[Damianne]: I was going to say what changed that.
[Avril]: I mean, when I met him, I said you’re great and everything but number one, I’m not staying in Japan and number two, I don’t wanna marry a Japanese guy. And he stuck around. He was like okay, okay.
[Damianne]: Where did the resistance come from?
[Avril]: Because I had these very strong stereotypes about Japanese men, which I was really wrong about.
[Damianne]: What were those concerns that you had?
[Avril]: It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to marry a Japanese guy. I didn’t wanna marry anybody that was not English. I wanted to marry an English person and I specifically wanted to marry an English black guy or an Asian guy because I thought that we would be able to understand each other better cause we have the same upbringing, brought up as minorities within the UK. I think it was more that. I did have some negative stereotypes about Japanese men, which is not just him that has proved me wrong, but there are many people that have proved me so wrong. You know when you’re young, you think you know everything and I really thought no, I’m going back to England and I’m gonna meet my partner there; that was what I thought.
[Damianne]: In what other ways has Japan surprised you, or living in Japan surprised you?
[Avril]: I really, really enjoy my job.
[Damianne]: That’s great.
[Avril]: Yeah and I didn’t quite expect that. Once I finished working in the English conversation industry, I went to work in a private high school and that gave me time to complete my masters. And then I moved into university teaching and into full time positions, and that’s where I came to this point of being able to teach exactly what I wanted in the way that I want. And I have to admit to myself I like getting people in a room and holding them captive. They have to listen to me and they can’t escape.
[Damianne]: And what do you teach?
[Avril]: It’s even better because in this position I really don’t teach English conversation. We don’t do the four skills or anything like that. I teach about gender and diversity, stereotypes and prejudice, and I just love it. And I also teach about community action and social activism, and students have to go out and do their own projects within the community and then come back and report about it in English.
[Damianne]: Other people can’t see you but you just light up when you’re talking about the work that you do.
[Avril]: I really like it. And I think as well, it just seemed once we got married and had children, it just seemed that Japan at that point was just a safer place to bring up our kids. Things that were available, the resources that were available to me like childcare and just being able to go to the doctors and things, it was better. Getting pregnant and having kids here was really good.
[Damianne]: Over the years, you’ve changed your world and you’ve lived in Nagoya most of the time. What kind of challenges have you had to overcome to get to this wonderful place you are right now?
[Avril]: There’s always going to be some kind of challenge, but I think that part of the reason why I’m here is because I am starting to speak out a little bit more about some social justice issues in terms of discrimination, especially as it relates to gender and race. So the challenges is for me, I think, is that in Japan, you’re always an outsider. It doesn’t matter how long you live here or how good your Japanese is or whether or not my last name is Japanese, always an outsider. And that can become quite tiresome. On the one hand, I do think that people in Japan are becoming so much more open minded, people are traveling, learning other languages besides English as well, other nationalities are coming here and there’s lots more intermarriage on the one hand, and I can see that in my students, especially this younger generation. Then, when I get on a train and nobody wants to sit next to me, I can see that we’ve still got a long way to go. The biggest challenge, actually, I think I face here is the way that people will react to you as a foreigner. Now on a train, it’s annoying and kind of embarrassing, but it’s not terribly detrimental. But if I go to hospital and somebody will not communicate with me in the same way as they would with a Japanese person, then that’s a problem, especially if I am there with my kids, and I’m there for my kids, then I just become a mama bear and say right, I don’t wanna talk to you. I want to talk to the person in charge. Then they start to realize okay, she speaks Japanese and she’s quite scary so we should probably listen to her more. That can be an issue, so actually going to new places, new situations, a new teacher for my kids or going to hospital or just people treating you always in a different way, until they get to know you.
[Damianne]: So it’s like you always have to prove yourself over and over and over again.
[Avril]: Yeah, and that can become very tiresome.
[Damianne]: How do you deal with this? What’s your approach besides scary Mama bear?
[Avril]: I think a lot of the coaching work that I’m doing now, which is another thing, you know a lot of this work of course I had to do it myself first, this sort of self development and this self trust and this sort of attracting and bringing in the right people and the right kind of connections, going back into my past and understanding why certain situations triggered me more than others. So I’ve done a lot of work on myself. I know that sounds really naff, but it’s really changed my life. So that’s the first thing. And then the second thing is I have a real commitment to community. I’m all about creating groups and communities and get that support. So the Black Women in Japan Group is one of those. And the Women’s Empowerment group, which is part of my coaching, is another one. So I think community is so important and I remember growing up in England, we had quite a strong Jamaican community around us, my parents and then of course there were other nationalities or ethnicities in that group too, but we’ve always gone to the community for support. I wanna create that here as much as I can, for me and for my kids and for the people around me.
[Damianne]: Share with us about your Black Women in Japan group. What does it look like? What do you do?
[Avril]: I can’t take sole credit for this. A friend of mine, Stephanie Gayle, we both started the Facebook group together. It was like where are all the black women in Japan; we know they’re here somewhere. And so we started this Facebook group. Now there are over three thousand women in this Facebook group. And the next step, of course, was to get women together. So now I have this wonderful group of women who are moderating the Facebook group, but we also have a committee of women who organize a convention every year, well except for this year because of the Olympics and corona. But every year for the last three years, we’ve had this annual meeting and we bring everyone together, which is great. We have workshops, we have dancing, of course people are selling jewelry, getting advice about life, about hair, about personal development, about business. It’s a community. And also on a district level, we have people meeting up in Okinawa, people meet up in Fukuoka, which is the south of Japan. And even in Hokkaido, we have district reps who are bringing people together.
[Damianne]: Why was it important to you to create this group? You talked a bit about community and the importance of community. Why did you decide to go this route?
[Avril]: I was thinking about being the only black woman for miles around, or one of a few. And also I think as a foreigner in Japan, especially an english-speaking foreigner, there are many similarities to the way that we all treated. But the difference is that coming from England, I have my white friends who are being treated in a certain way in Japan, but then you may also find that you still have to deal with the same micro-aggressions with this particular group of white teachers in a language school, not everybody of course. You’re dealing with microaggressions in the Japanese society and then dealing with microaggressions within your school. And then there’s the whole gender issue as well. So it’s just, it’s different for us. And I felt that we needed a safe place, a safe space to go to. Of course, we all have these wonderful friends of any phenotype, who are gonna listen to us, but sometimes you just need somebody who understands and can see it from your perspective, and will know when you may be going a little bit too overboard, or too much the other way.
[Damianne]: It’s kind of a check-in, like am I imagining this, am I crazy, is this happening to you too? I think all of that can sometimes help with sanity or establishing where you are. Because sometimes we are unrealistic about our expectations or our behavior, but a lot of the time there are things happening that we can’t just stick our heads in the sand, right?
Let’s look at the other side. Clearly you have had some challenges but you’re living in a place that you also love, doing a job that you love as well. What do you enjoy about living in Japan?
[Avril]: The food. To be honest, you know Damianne, I’ve been here for so long that I very rarely think, unless we travel somewhere, oh I’m in Japan. Because to me, this is just my home. I have my house, my family is here, I pay my mortgage here. This is just where I live. When I travel outside of my area, I think that the things that I love, I know that for the most part, not always, but my kids could wander away and get lost and someone’s going to bring them back. I know that. Plus you can’t miss them anyway so they can’t get lost. And trains run on time. There’s that sort of respect for the environment and the people around you that I don’t always see when I go back to England, the politeness.
And I think perhaps, I don’t know if it’s Japan or just the fact of having left one’s home country, maybe you feel the same, I feel like I wouldn’t have developed in the same way. Also, I wouldn’t be aware that I am still developing from now. I just think my life would have been a lot different now, a lot more negative had I stayed in the UK. That may not be the case but that’s just how I feel.
[Damianne]: It sounds like that initial change to Japan was one of the major contributors to the life that you live now. That’s almost redundant, of course it is.
[Avril]: No, I know what you mean. When I left university, I really thought I was stupid, which sounds like an oxymoron. But I really had no confidence in myself and in what I could do, and very little belief in myself. I always looked to others to validate me. Am I doing this right; tell me what to do with my life. And again, it goes back to doing work on oneself, as well, but when I was in university, I never thought that I was the kind of person who’d leave my home forever and create a life somewhere else. And I think confidence is the main thing, and even now if I think about going back to England, I think well, I could go back and I could create a life for myself because I’ve done this once already. Even at my age, I feel confident that I could probably do that anywhere.
[Damianne]: What have you learned about change from the big changes that you did make. It sounds like you’ve become adaptable.
[Avril]: That’s the thing about change. We’re always changing especially as adults, and just as beings who are always on the move somehow. Even if you feel like you’re in the same place, you’re always kind of developing and evolving, and I think that’s an exciting thing. People often feel that they’re stuck. They’re not stuck. We always, always have a choice. It’s hard to believe that but we always have that choice, and we’re always reframing things and seeing it from different perspectives, but you kinda have to have an open mind to be able to do that. Just to think if I’d stayed in England, I wouldn’t have met the people or had the experiences that inspired me to have that sort of mindset.
[Damianne]: Recently you started working as a coach to help women heal and find their purpose in life. What motivated you to start this?
[Avril]: Again, we teach what we need. We teach what we need. I knew that there were things in my past the I just had not dealt with and put in a cupboard. And I just couldn’t understand why when I had a lovely husband and two gorgeous, gorgeous children (they’re really gorgeous) was I still struggling with this intense feeling of sadness or unworthiness or just lack of confidence, and things. Where did that come from, or just this sense of dissatisfaction. First of all I want to a counsellor and she was great, but I needed something that was sort of more purpose driven, that would push me to get stuff done, compassionately. And so I started working with this coach and going through this process and it just really opened my heart and mind in ways that I just never imagined, and I kept talking to people about it, boring them with it. Can you, you really should try it; you really should try it. And then people kept saying it seems like you’re into this, and have a handle on it, why don’t you teach it? Oh no, I could never do that; I’m just not ready. And finally my coach said, you know I have a teaching qualification that you can take. When you’re ready, you can go into coaching. And I realized that there was just this need to get women together, and this needs to provide this really safe space, especially for the English speakers in this area. We need the safe space to come and to really think about what do you want out of life, why do you want it? And the problem is that, and I know it’s the same anywhere, but you go to work, you go home, you go to work, you go home, you may study, but we get into this little treadmill and we’re not really thinking about anything else but the things we get done and we just get depleted and anxious and tired and irritable, and we can’t understand why. And you become quite disconnected with yourself, disconnected with your spirituality, with your body, your emotions because you know women are always supposed to be happy and pleasant. But you just become really disconnected. And I wanted to help women reconnect with those things that they wanted, the places they went, their relationships, their purpose, their careers. Let’s get together and let’s connect, and I will be the person that kind of pushes you like someone else kind of pushed me.
I love teaching. I really do but this is my purpose. This is my purpose. This is why I was born, I think, and why I had all these experiences. And the way it’s happened has been really organic as well. I’m not a big person online. I’m rubbish with computers, although I’m trying to change that. It’s one of my blocks, trying to change that. I just started a group and said okay, now we’re going to have this meeting on this day, why don’t you come along. And I kind of expected maybe three or four women to come, most of them my closest friends. Twenty-two women turned up and ever since then it’s always been like groups from 15 to 20 or sometimes, we have a small group but then it goes back up again. And people tell me thank you so much for providing this because we just need this, especially when it comes to talking about your emotions and anxieties. I think especially in Japan, as foreign women we’re constantly on guard. Put mask on, leave house, because there’s this feeling that everyone is judging you and looking at you all the time. If you slip up, not only are you discrediting yourself you are discrediting all foreign women, all black women or all English speakers. It’s huge, huge, heavy feeling and the truth is we don’t really have to carry that. We don’t. We only need to be responsible for ourselves.
[Damianne]: How often do you have these sessions?
[Avril]: Well, every month and I just finished a two-day retreat in Nagano, always go back to Nagano. That was on limiting beliefs, how to discover them and how to shift them. The next workshop will be in April. So that will be April, May, June and I’ll have another retreat in July.
[Damianne]: What does it feel like, to know that you’re in your purpose?
[Avril]: It’s really liberating. It’s really liberating. Because I think when I was young I was just splashing around going what can I do, what can I do? I’ve gotta do something, I’ve gotta do something without ever really connecting with what I really wanted to do. I know now I have to have that, because now I can help people who are indecisive and lacking their purpose because I went through that. To know that is just really comforting. I don’t know what exactly; no that’s not true. I do know what shape I want it to take. I don’t know what the future may bring, but I do know that I’m going to be doing this. I may still be teaching. When I retire, I will be doing this full time or maybe even before that, I don’t know. But it feels really comforting and it feels like life is going to kind of throw certain curveballs at us…
Okay, Okay. This is what it feels like. This is what it feels like. It’s like life can be difficult and hard and all of those things sometimes. We lose people, we lose jobs, money. We become very afraid. Now I know that I can cope with anything that comes. I know that. I didn’t have that before. I was always scared and nervous. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be sad about losing a loved one or my mom getting older and infirm. Those things are sad, but I know that I will not be destroyed by that. From a spiritual perspective, I’m supported by my higher levels. I’ve done a lot of work on my past, I’m hooked into my emotions. So yeah, it’s comforting to know that.
[Damianne]: How has this work changed your daily practice or has it changed your daily practice?
[Avril]: Oh it’s changed my daily practice a lot. You know I get up in the morning and I spend a bit of time in prayer and meditation, short, it’s just like five minutes. It’s the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet so I need to move things along. Then I may journal for five minutes, just feelings in my body and my emotions, because a lot of what I teach and what I was taught by my mentor and coach, Tanya Penny, is the mind-body connection; it’s the mind body healing. So every symptom within your body is sending you a message; every emotion that you have is sending you a message. It’s not good; it’s not bad. It’s just this message. When you focus on them, you can start to understand what that message is. There are so many things in our bodies that we ignore, like stiff neck and shoulders; oh I’m always like that. Yeah, maybe you’re like that because you’re overwhelmed and you’re just taking too much on. Or you have this stomach ache; maybe you’re a little angry about something that happened in the past and you haven’t released it, or it’s something that happened yesterday and you haven’t released it.
Going back to your question, anyway, so there’s that. And then I come to work, I do my thing. I make a bit of time every day to do a guided meditation, just a short one again, 15 minutes. I did it before this call because my level of inner critic voice came in saying: Oh my gosh, what if I’m boring, if I’m not interesting. I did this meditation and I felt the support of my higher levels and I went in focused on self-trust because I can only be me, and that’s all I need to be. So I was reminded of that. And then I’ll go home and do the mom thing and I again will journal before I go to bed. And again short times. But what’s interesting is that I have not forced my family to do any of this at all. I’ll talk about what I’m doing. My daughter likes to fall asleep with a guided meditation every night; she’s 10. And my husband has kind of started reading these self-help books about emotional intelligence and things. It’s kind of spreading.
[Damianne]: That’s interesting, I’m thinking about how being something, being somebody, changes you in ways that has an effect on other people in your environment. I guess that’s why they say you’re the average of the people you spend time with. Maybe that’s the same in family so if you elevate the level, the average raises for everyone.
[Avril]: I love that. In fact, it’s a little ripple.
[Avril]: And that’s kind of cool. I mean they teach me things too, all the time. I think that’s one of my motivations as well to do this work for myself, is because I want to be a better parent. I’m raising mixed-race kids in Japan, and I want them to have that strength, that inner strength and that certainty of knowing who they are and that they are loved no matter what happens. I don’t want them to feel that they are less than because they’re different from those people around.
[Damianne]: And they belong.
[Avril]: They belong wherever they go. That’s it. I want them to know that. That’s the kind of motivation for me. The response I’ve gotten from the women who’ve come to the workshops and the retreats has been really great. I’m really grateful for them.
[Damianne]: I liked how you shared that you did a meditation right before to kind of help yourself get grounded, to help you get back into what you know to be true. What advice would you have for people who have those same types of struggles, who always have those niggling doubts, who feel like an imposter at different times?
[Avril]: Ooh goodness, yes, that’s a big one. Gosh. I mean there’s so many different pieces to it. So first of all, I would suggest people start journaling. Everyone hates when I say that. But I think everyone’s idea of writing things down, journaling, is of pages and pages and pages. It doesn’t. Sometimes you can use specific words of how you’re feeling and how you want to feel; that’s number one. And then just take time to go inside yourself sometimes. Ask yourself those questions: How am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way? And don’t judge the answer, oh I’m feeling this or that. Don’t judge the answer because we our own worst critics. You’re just acknowledging that you have these feelings, these emotions. And then you ask: What are these feelings/emotions trying to tell me? Now if you’re out and about and you get a little bit triggered by something, someone pushes you and makes you angry, and you have ten minutes, do a quick guided guided meditation. But they have to be spe… Well, I’m not trying to plug my services. I do specific meditations that are personalized for specific life areas and personalized for a specific person. And it deals with the emotions and the feelings that they’re having. One thing that you can also in the moment, when you have that negative thought or critical thought like I’m stupid or I hate that person, actively do a thought shift and not in a way that you’re telling yourself, like oh gosh, you shouldn’t have said that, terrible, but just in a way that OK, I acknowledge that thought, and I’m going to think something that’s positive. I’m not stupid; the truth is I’m very intelligent. I’m amazing. Ok, just within that moment. And the other thing is just to understand it’s a process. It’s not gonna happen overnight. You’re not gonna stop criticizing yourself overnight or know what your purpose and career should be overnight or get out at a bad relationship overnight. But you want to start the process, start doing those things that will help you to move to the other side. So if you’re planning to leave a relationship and you’re finding it difficult, then take that first step. Maybe it’s to talk to your partner. Or maybe it’s to write out exactly what you want. If you can’t decide what you want in a career and you can’t decide if you should go or you should stay, this is something that is great to journal on first thing in the morning, because our mind knows what to do when we wake up, because it’s been uninterferred with for 7 or 8 hours. So start journaling. What do I want? Why do I want this? Because often what we want is more to do with what other people want than what we want to. It’s more to do with our parents or society or what we think we should be doing.
[Damianne]: It all gets conflated.
[Avril]: Exactly. You haven’t gone inside to figure out what do I want. What do I like? What are the things that bring me joy? And then out of that, your purpose will come to you, again not overnight. There is no quick fix in these things, sadly.
[Damianne]: How do you move from thinking about it, because for example you thought initially when it came to coaching, I’m not ready. How do you get ready? Or how do you move from thinking to doing?
[Avril]: So first of all I had to work on my sense of self-worth and my belief in myself. I had to shift that mindset using journaling and meditation. Because I really just didn’t think I was good enough. And that’s the thing, most people think they’re not good enough to do the things that they like to do, or even to try them. And that is also processing, so you’ve got to go back and figure out where did that belief come from, that I’m not good enough? I wanted to do coaching but I thought I’m not good enough. So I wrote down: I’m not good enough and then I wrote the opposite, I am enough. I kept writing both of them down and then eventually I just kept writing I am enough, I am enough. At first when I wrote it, I didn’t believe it at all in terms of coaching. But over time as you write and as you reflect on it, your mindset changes, you start to believe. Then you go on to make action steps. My coach calls them inspired actions. Ok, I want to be a coach, what do I need to do? OK, first I need to get this certification, or maybe I just need to find a place. I need to work out how much money it’s gonna cost to rent a venue. At least talk to a few friends and see if they are interested. What would I want to talk about? Just get your pen and let it pour out of you. And then, it’s really important to have somebody that holds you accountable. That’s why coaching is such a growth industry.
In short, take action steps and don’t make those action steps overwhelming. Give yourself three. And then when you’ve achieved those, make three more. Always have that person who’s kind of just reminding you in a gentle way. For me, I don’t need somebody who’s nagging me and breathing down my neck all the time. But a coach, coaches I supposed nag you in a gentle way. They don’t so much breathe down your next as just gently blow. You’ve got that person who’s got your back and pushing you, but at your own pace. Everything happens at the right time. There’s no lost opportunities or missed chances. If you missed a chance, it means you weren’t ready to take it. Everything happens at the right time.
[Damianne]: What I’m hearing is there are steps you can take to get ready and don’t make it overwhelming but start with some things that are manageable. And I think what they talk about in psychology (I did a previous episode on this) but as you achieve one of your goals, celebrate it because that will help motivate you to go on to the next step.
[Avril]: Yeah, and that sense of celebration is so important, which acknowledge it. It’s fine to big yourself up a bit and dance around and go yeah, I did it. These small things, these small daily things: I went to the gym today, I went for a walk today, I wrote out a proposal today. These things need to be celebrated, definitely.
[Damianne]: What is the workshop that you’re doing right now that really energizes you or your participants?
[Avril]: I have to say the retreat that just did on limiting beliefs was, it was amazing. I really felt like I’m a real coach now. Somehow, I was able to zone in on people’s energy and on people’s intentions and their desires. And it just flowed exactly the way I wanted it to flow, because limiting beliefs is something that we all struggle with in certain areas. And also by doing that for others, it means I have to work on my own too. So that was really good for me on a personal level.
[Damianne]: What would you say to someone who is facing fear for whatever is coming up for them about the thing they might like to achieve?
[Avril]: Well face your fear and acknowledge it. It’s not like we are ever going to be without fear; it’s always going to be there and fear’s message is to motivate you. It’s not to disable you or cripple you in any way. Okay, there’s something that I’m afraid of, that means there’s something that I need to do. Or maybe I need to change the way that I need to think. So you need to ask fear What is your message? What is your message in this situation? What am I really afraid of happening? And why am I afraid? Is it a legitimate fear or is it just a story that I am making up in my head, especially when it comes to making big life decisions, because these are scary things. And it’s alright. But the scariest thing of all is just staying still, just staying where you are…
[Damianne]: And being unhappy, right?
[Avril]: Yeah, exactly but when you’re just stuck, you’re paralyzed for years and years? That’s the scariest thing.
[Damianne]: To finish up today, is there anything else you’d like to add? Oh no, we cannot end this without getting to that. When I asked you what might we talk about today, you told me about how your husband delivered one of your kids in the car. And I need to know this story.
[Avril]: He did. My daughter. Thank goodness it wasn’t my first child. For my second child, I went to a midwife clinic rather than to a regular hospital, a lovely lady. I went in the night before and everything kind of slowed down. She was like you might as well go home and relax. So I went home, did a bit of yoga, laid on the couch, scared my husband and my sister who were there. Every 5 seconds, I kept going Oh, oh. They would panic and jump up. It was very entertaining for me until it was real. So in the evening, or early evening, the contractions just suddenly started coming so much faster. It went from 0 to 100. I told my husband we gotta go. So my sister stayed home with my son. We got in the car. We’re driving and it’s rush hour. It’s 5:30 on the busiest roads in Nagoya and I said to him from the back seat, I said I think the baby’s coming and he was like Ganbatte, which in Japanese means good luck. I’m like what does that mean? What does that mean? I think he was really scared. So he gets on the phone with the midwife and he said to her I think the baby’s coming and she said ok, don’t panic, just park the car, the baby comes, just wrap them in a blanket, and then drive to us. He gets out of the car, and I have to say he was very, very calm. Because he’s usually the one that panics when the kids are sick. He was very calm and he looked at me and he’s like okay, I’m gonna have a look, and then push when I tell you to. And I’m thinking men can be really squeamish about these things. What if he faints or even worst, if he never wants to go there, he never wants to do it again. He looked and he could see her crowning. We are in the carpark at the convenience store, a Lawson’s convenience store. He sees her crowning and he’s like push. One big push and she came out, and he caught her.
We looked at each other and we went, we did it. And he was like yeah, we did it, put her on my chest. She started feeding straightaway, wrapped us up, drove us to the midwife clinic. We couldn’t do the umbilical cord and everything. But it was the most amazing thing because, well birth is always amazing, but it was like this calm just settled on car as we drove there. We were just on a cloud; it was beautiful, that sense of peace and perfection. And the midwife runs out apologizing, and I tell her it’s fine. They brought a wheelchair and I was walking in. Honestly, I was on such a high after that. And then she cut the umbilical cord and all those things. One of the best parts though was that, in Japan you have to pay a certain amount of money. You get some money back from the government but not the whole thing. We got a huge discount.
[Damianne]: Bonus money.
[Avril]: I was like yes! And the baby, she was healthy and happy. Now she’s ten and a half.
[Damianne]: Just out of curiosity, did you have to stay at the midwife clinic or did you get to go home?
[Avril]: No, I stayed for about 3-4 days. Because in Japan, you tend to stay quite long.
[Damianne]: I think it’s like a week or something, isn’t it?
[Avril]: Yeah, it’s like five to seven days, 5 days for your second, 7 days for your first. She was like, go home. She was a midwife so it’s different to a hospital. So she was much more open-minded, kind of a hippie about it. Loved it. She wanted me to give birth at home. On reflection, that might have been best.
[Damianne]: Well, I mean it makes for a great story and everything. And it turned out wonderfully so…
[Avril]: It did, id did.
[Damianne]: Thank you for sharing. I’m happy that I remembered. Otherwise, I would have had to send you a message and be like Avril, I need to know what happened.
To end, is there anything else you’d like to add before we end this conversation, anything I missed.
[Avril]: If people want to connect, the women’s empowerment group is called the Nagoya Women’s Empowerment Circle. And that’s on Facebook. Anyone in Nagoya who would like to come to a workshop, the information will be there too. I’m also planning in the future to do some online workshops as well, so people from other places can join. The last thing I’d like to add, my last little message, is don’t be afraid of change. No, change is a good thing. Like I said before, it keeps us moving and evolving and developing and it makes life interesting. And so thank you for doing this, Damianne. I love what you’re doing with this podcast. I’m gonna list to all of them.
[Damianne]: I’m so happy that you took the time to chat with me today. I’ll add all of this in the show notes.
[Avril]: Yay, thank you.
“Every emotion that you have is sending you a message. It’s not good; it’s not bad. It’s just this message.” Avril MatsuiTweet