Try a fearless approch to family life

Tackling life's problems: Nicola Valantine, left, with Rachael Clegg; right.        PICTURES: STUART HASTINGS/BARRY RICHARDSON
Tackling life's problems: Nicola Valantine, left, with Rachael Clegg; right. PICTURES: STUART HASTINGS/BARRY RICHARDSON
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She Felt the Fear - and Did it Anyway, and now Nicky Vala ntine’s teaching people across Sheffield how to do it. Star reporter Rachael Clegg looks at how her workshops are helping families

A GROUP of women gather round a table in a modern Aston Hall.

In front of them, standing next to a whiteboard, is a glamorous lady with lush dark hair and a big smile.

Nicky Valantine is teaching them how to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ - a life philosophy that can help with work, relationships, and, more importantly, families.

The philosophy is the main motto and title of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, which has become a canon in the world of self-help books. Jeffers has as many as 15 million copies in 100 countries. Its devotees include Julie Walters and the founder of Jimmy Choo shoes, Tamara Mellon.

The book celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Its author, Susan Jeffers, was a young Pennsylvania mother who decided to go to university while bringing up her young family - she practised what she preached before she even put it into words.

But Nicky, 44, knows a thing or two about feeling the fear herself, which make her workshops all the more meaningful.

Until about one year ago, the mother of two from High Green worked in the civil service - she had a secure job, a regular wage and all the comforts that came with it.

And then she took the plunge and set up her own business as a life coach and style advisor.

For years she wanted to work for herself but what motivated her to make the jump was a tatty paperback book, which she’s read as a 20-year-old but re-read in her early forties.

Called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, this comprehensive self-help book served as Nicky’s bible. It encouraged her to accept that life is terrifying but that, somehow, whatever comes your way, you deal with it.

But it’s not just a confidence-building book either, it has had a huge effect on Nicky’s family life.

“The philosophy of the book - that whatever comes up in life, you can deal with - is a really good message to children. It also helps as a parent when you’re making difficult decisions such as what school to send your children to or what nursery they should be attending.”

One of the core values of the book is to ‘stop the chatterbox in our heads’ - the internal voice that brings us down, criticises what we do or encourages us to stay in our comfort zone.

“I learnt to stop the chatterbox and notice it when it reared its head. You have to tell yourself that you are a good enough wife, girlfriend or mother.”

Another of the principles is to commit to whatever you are doing 100 per cent, whatever it is you are doing.

“Susan Jeffers calls it ‘the grid of life,” says Nicky. “It’s really helped me and my family life because it teaches you to write down the main components of your life into boxes, so you can glance at which of them needs your attention.”

One of Nicky’s attendees at the workshop, Doncaster sex education expert Lynette Smith.

“The workshop helped me calm down a lot. I run my own business and I have been very very busy with that lately and that has impacted on my relationship as I am not able to switch off at night and I haven’t been sleeping properly. This has enabled me to be more present with my family.”

Lynette’s also learnt to be less fearful. “I’ve been fearful of the need to expand so I’ve been taking more on. It’s my baby and, like with a real baby, I haven’t wanted to go and leave it with someone else. Nicky’s been brilliant at helping me take stock of everything and calm down.”

It’s for this reason why Lynette believes Feel the Fear, particularly the workshops, are relevant to people with a family.

“Being so tired that you’re nodding off at 8pm and lying awake in bed panicking at 4am does not make you popular at home. Now I know to mark out personal time and properly clock-off.”

‘No more fretting, just doing’

I THOUGHT I’d try out one of Nicky’s workshops myself, to help jeer me on to finishing a personal project that’s taken up all of my spare time in the past year. Now the project is due to launch, I need all the help I can get.

Nicky comes to the rescue.

“Write down your achievements,” says Nicky. “All of them. It doesn’t matter how small they are, I want you to look back and think about what you have done so far.”

I do as I am instructed. And it does help. It’s amazing how many tasks - even small ones, I’ve completed in recent months.

“Now write down everything you have to do.” She hands me Post It notes for every job. “Make sure you get everything down - as soon as it’s written down you’ll feel better because you can park it.”

I’ve soon got two rows of Post Its, it’s not a system I’ve ever used before but ‘parking’ jobs until you have time to do them is far more productive than fretting about them constantly.

Nicky encourages me to be bold, to take action and to remind yourself of what you have achieved.

And before I know it, I am ticking off items in a list and being more productive than I have ever been. No more fretting, just doing. As Nicky says: “Keep remembering what you’ve achieved and it will spur you on to achieve more.”