We are round rounding off the season with a cracking conversation with founder of the Happy Me Project, Holly Matthews. As an actor, author, entrepreneur and mum, she discusses creativity and how it plays an important part in everything she does, from helping her clients, to bringing joy and fun into her daily routines. You can listen to the podcast here or via the player at the bottom of this page.

Welcome, Holly, to the creative switch.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Brilliant. If you could start off by telling everybody a little bit about who you are and what you do. Some people may know some of your background, but in your own words, of course.

So, my background is as a TV actress. So I started working when I was eleven years old as a TV actress and very much thought that that would be the space that I would be in forever, that I would always be in that creative space. I just wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be picking up that Oscar, and I was very, very focused on that. I was in a TV show for a long time. So from being eleven in a show called Biker Grove, which was very popular here in the UK, some of you, your audience will remember it, based in the northeast. And so I did that for seven years.

All of my growing up on TV, all of those awkward moments, those awkward hairstyles that your listeners will be able to hide on awkward photographs in their parents house, and mine is plastered all over the internet for people to tweet me and Facebook me and oh look, there you are. And I’m like, that’s. So yay. Yeah. And inside I’m like, why would you show everybody those? It’s like somebody getting out your school photographs. How embarrassing. So I grew up on TV.

I left that show, I signed to Sony. I was a singer, a solo artist for a time, and I was very much a jobbing TV actor for many years. I then switched it up and I went into a role as a self development coach. I have a membership. The Happy Me project membership. I have a book. The Happy Me Project book. I’m an author, I do speaking events, I do one on one coaching. Sometimes I do in person larger events under the Happy Me Project umbrella. And I say right now that my job is, I work with people on helping them to feel more happy and less crappy.

And it all very much ties into my creative brain. And I think sometimes people think it’s weird to have gone from being an actor into this space. But for me, it’s very much the same thing. It’s people’s minds, it’s stories, it’s how we do things. And there’s a lot of crossover in terms of in the acting world, in terms of drive and wanting to be your best self. And I still dabble in acting every now and then, and that’s mostly just for fun, because I need that kick of that stuff. But essentially now I’m a self development coach, a life coach, for want of a better word, because I don’t like the term life coach.

No, I don’t either.

I don’t resonate with it. Sometimes I say it because it’s easy to say, and people kind of know what that is now, but I don’t love it because I work with lots of different modalities, so I’ve had lots of different training in different areas. And it’s not just, I guess, the strictest sense of life coaching, and I never want anybody to think that me as a life coach is me telling you how to live your life. That just doesn’t align with what I do at all.

So, yeah, and I’m a mom of two girls. I’m a widowed mom, so my husband died in 2017, and that impacted my work and impacted where I went with my work. I wouldn’t have possibly gone in the direction that I did as quickly as I did. I think I probably would have always in fact, I know I would have always went into a space of our minds, because it was always something I did myself personally, and I always kind of knew that would be an older me.

In my mind, it was an older me direction. I didn’t imagine anybody would take me so seriously. So I felt at the time when I first started thinking about this, I think I always thought, if you do mindset stuff, then you have to be a very serious person, and you have to wear a suit, and you have to be called Margaret. I don’t know why, I just did, Sue or Margaret and just felt like, would I take me seriously? And now it doesn’t matter. In fact, my clients come to me because I’m not a very serious person in some respects, and I love what I do. That’s probably the longest intro in the world. There have been many things in between that, but that gives you some gives you somewhere to start.

You touched on it there. So people call it the golden thread, don’t they? My coaches that I work with call it the golden thread of, if you look back, it’s always easy to see the connection between the things we do. Not so easy at the time. And as you say, some people might say, well, that’s a bit of a shift of direction, but it’s the creative part of you that you’re using. Certainly in the entrepreneurial side of a business, you absolutely have to be creative there. So I don’t want to put words into your mouth. Tell me your definition of creativity, or rather, not so much a definition, but what it means to you, what does creativity mean?

So creativity to me is life. All of us, whether we see ourselves as creative or not, we are creative by default. The human existence is creative. Literal evolution is creative. We evolve to adapt to our surroundings and to maybe sometimes push through the surroundings that we are in. So for me, I can’t see a space without creativity. Because whether we think we are logical, literal thinkers or we see ourselves as creative, every single day, we make decisions and we have to adapt to our surroundings and other people’s behavior and life circumstances that are out of our control. And that means that we have to be creative to work around that stuff. Life finds a way to get through stuff and we as humans have that ability.

In terms of literal creative stuff. For me as a person, we are talking about creativity in the most, I guess traditional sense, as you touched upon in the entrepreneurial space I get loads of a kick of that because I do different things. Firstly, I like the newness and the freshness of being able to jump from one thing to another as my creative brain likes to do. And there’s so many aspects within my workspace, whether that’s creating content on social media, content within my membership, whether that’s the art and the graphics that go with that, the spoken word, the written words.

I am a word nerd. If there’s not a rhyme or some kind of pun, I’m just not down for it. I definitely should have been a rap artist. In another life, who knows, maybe I’ll go that way and my children will just die of embarrassment. I probably won’t. You never know. Don’t dare a fool as they say. But I love words and all of my work gives me the ability to tell stories and I say, you talk about the golden thread, the one through line has been that creativity, but more specifically storytelling.

If we look right back to the beginning of my journey, firstly, coming from a family of storytellers, I come from a working class northern family. Anyone who comes from that kind of background will know that people sit around and tell stories and they have a drink and they eat food and they go to the pub and I very much come from a family of chatty, talky people. So I think genetically that’s always been there. But then throughout my whole work as an actor, you’re telling other people’s stories. You are becoming that character. You learn about their minds, you learn about their story and their journey and then you emulate that.

And then going into a space which I didn’t think I would, of talking about my own story and my own journey, which as a young actor would have been abhorrent to me. The idea of speaking about myself when I was younger, if someone had said would you like to do speaking or talk? Even at a wedding, like anything like that. I’d have been like, oh, God. It’s not a character that I’m hiding behind. That’s me.

But as I’ve got older and I’ve made that switch into that space, I love it because I do have stories for days. I feel like I’ve lived 300 lives, and I get to utilize all of those life experiences that I’ve had. I filter that through into what my clients or my members of my membership or those that read my book. I filter that through. What have I experienced? What do I know? And then how does that align with the research on our mental health or the research on how can we be more confident? How does that align with that? And I love being able to find relatable stories so that I can take all of this smart science research stuff that I haven’t done, but somebody very, very clever and analytical has done, and I can read that. And then I filter it through my silly actor story brain, and then I pump it out into the world in bite sized chunks that my audience can understand on a more basic level.

So I love that, and I think, so creativity is just in every aspect. And even as a mom, I’m always finding ways to make things silly and fun, and there’s always an adventure or something. I always want to make it like that. And that’s not just for the kids. That’s kind of for me as well. Kids are a great excuse if you’re a creative person and you love all of the messy play. And I’m just looking in front of me right now. My kids have got a bracelet making business, so there’s always artwork in my house of some description. There’s always something going on. Yeah, I think creativity to me, I live and breathe it, and I see creativity and beauty in everything that I do, even the most mundane stuff. I see the mess in here because obviously with creativity comes a lot of mess. And I just noticed my washing. When I hang my washing on my clothes horse, I do it in color order because I’m a geek. When I come down in the morning and I see the color scheme of the washing, I just think, well, that’s delightful for my eyes. What a treat. So it’s in everything. Everything I do that is.

Wow. People are understanding things that perhaps you and I knew intuitively or felt that were natural. They’re starting to understand it from a scientific perspective as to what it means to us. So one of the things that you mentioned there is about well being and within your project, it’s all about people trying to find their happy, which is, as you say, it’s not prescribed by you. It’s you helping them to uncover that. What have you found in terms of the links between people having creativity in their life or reintroducing it into their life and happiness in your project and with your clients?

Interestingly, over the last month, each month within my membership, we do a monthly group coaching session and we’ll pick a topic and we’ll delve into that. And that can be anything from assertiveness, confidence, anxiety. We do different things each month and that’s a deep dive. This month we did a deep dive into play and how to bring more joy into your life. And later on in the year, we’re specifically looking at creativity. And that’s because even those that don’t see themselves as creative, once I start to get them to, whether it’s literally bringing creativity. And sometimes within the membership, we will do sessions on something more creative. So it might even be, let’s create some kind of vision board, but let’s get the pens out and the cutting and sticking and be more creative. But I often try to bring in activities within the membership that are in that mindset.

But in this particular month, we’ve done a real deep dive into play. And play can be many things, but it’s very much based on the science of play and now the research and the science backing, really understanding that this helps us in all aspects of our life, whether it’s well being and feeling happier, whether it’s our adaptability, our resilience, our logical thinking, our problem solving. All of this stuff comes from keeping our minds malleable and unstuck.

So play and creativity and all of the things you talk about on this show are essential. A lot of time when people come to me, they are at a crossroads and one of the biggest descriptions I’ll have is ‘I feel stuck. I feel really stuck and I don’t know where to go next.’ And I often say to people, well, let’s firstly reframe this as a total transition period of your life. And it’s not a terrible time, it’s exciting. This is an exciting time because we’re about to see what’s this next chapter going to hold for you. Where do we go next? How exciting. And if we can think of it like in a child’s mind of that playful, what will we play next? Right? We can think about life in that way. That’s exciting. It doesn’t feel like, oh my God, I don’t have all of the answers.

As adult brain and society will sometimes teach us, you should have all of the answers, all of your ducks in a row, you should know where you’re going with life. And none of us do. And some people pretend to look like they do, but they don’t. So when I’m working with people, I do keep my sessions very playful in general. In my delivery, when we’ve been working on this, this month particularly, I’ve been encouraging people to try some of the activities that I talked about in the session and we had things like going on scavenger hunts around your neighborhood. Obviously, that’s totally a trick for me to get them to be mindful and to get them outdoors. Because if you’re out in nature, we know the science is, for your well being, 20 minutes or more out in nature increases your happiness, right? My mind is going, how do I get them to make that fun and interesting so they stay out there for long enough?

Mindfulness is about bringing ourselves into the present. Again, the research, the science, the anecdotal evidence tells us this makes us feel happier. We’re not running ahead of ourselves, worrying about the future, we’re not mulling over what we could have done, should have done. We’re in the present, we’re experiencing it. So, again, things like a silly scavenger hunt, where I’ve got a list of things for them to look out for, it keeps them in the mind of being outdoors. Also, it feels fun and silly and you’re ticking things off and they share it in the group.

But also I’ve been doing things like trying to look at how do we gamify and make fun, the boring, everyday, mundane stuff that we have to do as adults. Because there’s not many of us that love that stuff, unless that is totally your thing and you love cleaning and sorting and I’m sure there is many people that do, but there’s a whole chunk of us that really hate doing the food shop, getting petrol, doing the household chores. I am you, I hate all of that adult stuff. And so if I can find ways to make that more fun, I will. So I have been giving them silly ideas and they are silly, that’s the point. They’re not supposed to be serious, of ways they can make it a game, make it a competition, they can work with each other to make it a bit of fun. Who can do something first?

Or even things like, I’ve given them an acting exercise to do and before your listeners who’ve never done acting, and the idea makes them want to vomit in their mouths, panic, you’re not going to have to do this in front of anybody. This is more of an internal acting exercise. But essentially it’s things like I’ve given them a list of chores that you do in the house, changing your beds or washing dishes, stacking dishes in the dishwasher and then given them almost a character to do it in.

So you’re washing your windows, but actually it’s not you, Nikki, you’re Snow White and you’re waiting for the dwarves to come home and you’re washing your windows. Maybe you wave at the just, it’s beautiful. Maybe you want to sing while you do, or and you’re going to think about this, if you clean your windows next, you’re just going to be like, I am Snow White. One of the other examples was, and again, this is more of a practice of mindfulness as well. So washing your dishes or stacking it in your dishwasher, but you’re an alien and actually, you’ve never been to Earth before, and each one of these dishes is fascinating. You’ve got to polish it clean or you’ve got to carefully place it in this new fangled thing, this dishwasher, whatever this means. And again, it makes it silly, playful, and it makes you present and it allows you to stop, because mindfulness is about that moment of presence and we need that in our lives. We need those breakers in the busyness of life.

And so I am constantly trying to find ways for creativity to be in people’s lives, especially those that think they don’t love it. I mean, I’ve got people in the membership and I’ve got people who are clients who paint or they write, and they’re an easy win in creativity because they already understand it. But there’s also people as well that are totally I don’t think I’m creative, I’m rubbish at art because somebody told them that years ago. And then they try things and I’m like, it’s just for fun, it doesn’t need to be serious.

And then you’ve got people who forgot they liked creative stuff. And I bet you come across those people the more they probably loved it when they were children and then some boring adult went, that’s not proper. Get a proper job, get in line, do what you’re told. And then they stopped doing it. And so when you see, and I know you’ll see this as well, when we see those people get given an outlet for that creativity, it sparks so many ideas and opportunity in their world that it’s just such a beautiful thing to watch and it can come from the tiniest little thing. And I know you’d be talking about this last, but all of the different mediums that we have to be creative, whether it’s the way you dress, your art, your poetry, writing books, whatever way we have accessible to us, there are so many ways. And when people realize that, they can really enjoy it. And so I love being able to reintroduce people to it, I guess.

Yeah, brilliant. But you mentioned there something around people who did want to do it, but didn’t feel they could because they were told they weren’t good enough at it, the comparisonitis thing. And I have got a segment that I’m going to be running with members of my group where they can actually tell me those examples. Now, there are some people who had those, I call them the Doubting Dorises in their life, and there are some people who have absolutely amazing advocates and supporters. You started out with your creative career. We’re all creative, but you had a creative career. So how did that happen? Where did that come from? Where did that inner confidence come from, to go, do you know what? I’m going to go and do this thing. I want to be an actress, I’m going to do it.

Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting because, again, I’ve had to look back on this stuff, certainly writing my book and really reflecting on where that all came from. And I definitely think there’s an element of genetics within it, as we mentioned, and we know there’s an element of that. My working class family are very chatty and my dad and my granddad shop know they were men who would speak to people, they would be speaking to the workers that they work with, they would be rallying the troops. They’re very good talkers.

My granddad was very well known in Newcastle. Matt the Cat, that was his name. Matt the Cat, Matty. And even now there’s some bars and places in Newcastle where, if I were to say Matt the Cat, they would definitely have fond stories about him. And sadly, he died quite young. He was only about 54 when he died, but he made a great impact and he was very good at being able to talk and get to know people from the roughest pubs in Newcastle, but also was very politically motivated and would be invited to these very posh events with all of the politicians. And he sat in both those spaces. And I guess the genetic side of having those people in my family who believed that there wasn’t a hierarchy of those are the people who have money or those are the people that don’t, it’s very much everybody we treat as we find them. And even that as a basis is really helpful.

My parents weren’t, ‘It’s our way or no way.’ We debated in my house and sometimes as a teenager, I was even allowed to win those debates. If I argued the case well enough, certainly my dad would go, ‘Fair enough’ again, particularly my dad would be vocal about it, but obviously the space was from both of my parents. But my dad would often say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve never done this before, so I’m just doing my best’, which is actually very creative in a sense. And my dad worked on the oil rigs and when I was younger and was away a lot and would write us stories as kids, me and my sister, and they were great. He’s an excellent writer and he would draw and he would draw us really excellent caricature type, cartoon sketches.

And so he’s always definitely a person that went to school and was told, you need to get a trade from where he was from and squash any of that musical ability you have. And very much music was a huge part of my growing up as well. My parents were punks, I grew up around music. I grew up vinyl records out and knowing about music and having my first ghetto blaster when I was dead young and recording myself singing Mariah Carey and listening to that. And my parents, who were way cooler than me in their musical choices, just being mortified that I was loving the Spice Girls and, I don’t know, the Outer Here Brothers and Tupac, and they were listening to some really cool people, like Bowie and stuff, and ‘who is this child?’

But I think of that as a foundation of being in a space where I was allowed to be, and being an undiagnosed neurodivergent child, I have ADHD. And I think that in itself, even though in retrospect, my parents will say, yeah, you were weird. They fully say that to me. ‘Yeah, you were really weird, we thought you were weird.’ But they never made me feel like that. I never felt weird. I just felt like they embraced it. They laughed with me.

They sat through endless shows that I would put on for them. Endless. I mean, painfully endless. And they allowed space for that. So I think before I got to the stage of it being a professional thing, there was already that foundation. So I initially went to a local drama club called Sit and Fidget, which is so apt, it’s untrue in my world, just a local group put together by whoever. And I learned in that moment that this playful stuff I was doing with my friends, like you do at that age, was actually something that was a job and you could be the person on the telly or the person that you went to see at the theater. You could do that now, because I do have the brain type that I do, when I love something, I’m all in on a level that is hyper focused.

So I learned that there were drama schools, and the top one at the time in London was RADA. So if you’ve spoken to me at nine or ten, I’d have said, I’m going to RADA. I’m going to work with Steven Spielberg. Because I had learned he was a director. Anytime I went to Planet Hollywood or those kind of restaurants, I would leave my name and phone number on a napkin and write, ‘My name is Holly, I’m an actress. I’ll just leave it, in case Steven Spielberg spotted that napkin and thought, ‘this is the girl for me. I need her in the next ET.’

Or just, and this is the key. Nobody told me I couldn’t because I had people around me that said, ‘Go on then. Dare you, see what happens.’ And when it came about that, I went into a TV show. There was a TV show in Newcastle at the time, a different TV show. It was new. It was set to be the Geordie EastEnders, so it didn’t quite get off the ground in that way. But there was a talk about that, and I guess I said to my dad, I want to be in that. And there was a phone number on the bottom, for the casting department. I mean, you couldn’t get that these days, in the local paper. And my dad contacted them and they said, look, this is going to be set in bars. It’s not really for kids, but why don’t you contact Biker Grove? Here is the casting director’s number, which, again, you’re not getting that these days, are you? My dad phoned. And they said, ‘Look, get her to send us a letter and we’ll look at it. And it was very much like that. Biker Grove was children from normal schools, normal backgrounds. It wasn’t stage school kids. We didn’t have access to it.

So I wrote a letter. And again, my parents could very easily have gone, ‘Don’t be so silly. Crack on with school.’ But they didn’t. They allowed me to do that. I wrote a letter, very hilarious letter, that says, My name is Holly. I’m an actress, and I have it blown up on a canvas board. It was given to me for my 30th birthday. My parents found it, which was so brilliant to see, because I started to think it was an urban legend. Like, had I written this letter, and this letter just says, my name is Holly. I’m not shy one bit. And at the very bottom, it says, I want to be in your TV show. And then at the bottom it says, PS. Please write back quickly. I wanted to get in that show. And I guess the thing with it all, all of these touch points, nobody was saying it wasn’t possible. And I auditioned for that show six times, didn’t get the part. This was the same character, so I auditioned six times for the same part. Did Workshopping, was on the set, met other actors, met casting people, directors, piqued my interest.

I didn’t get the part, but I didn’t feel doubt. I didn’t have any of those Doubting Dorises, not at that stage. Nobody was saying to me, you can’t do this. I guess I was young enough. So it was before secondary school, where the Doubting Dorises get a bit noisy. And because of that, when I didn’t get the part, I just thought, so there’s a way. There’s a way to do it. If I’ve got this far, I just do it again and I do it better, or I do it differently. And that childish mind without all of the influences of adults with fear and unhealed adults telling you that you’re not good enough or you need to get a proper job, because they did. I didn’t have that. So I was lucky in the sense that I managed to get it at that age. But I did put myself in the space to be lucky. When preparation meets opportunity, I was there.

So I think it’s all of those things that gave me the foundation of confidence that going forward, after that point, there were many, many knockbacks there were many no’s, there were many Doubting Dorises. But I think that foundation of my family believing in me and I’ve had some success.

So it is doable. I just learned that in the acting industry, you get taught this in the most brutal way, I learned that you just have to keep going and find your route and find your way and see life as a game. And even when you get a bit like a computer game, and I only have the Mario Kart or something in my mind of trying to go one route. So life is like that, right, you’re going to hit something and you’ve gone back to the beginning of something, but in my mind, it’s okay. So you get back up and you try and avoid the things that are going to stop you and you go again. I guess the confidence comes from action taking and eventually seeing results, and getting comfortable with being rejected and being uncomfortable and people not liking you. So then when the Doubting Dorises pipe up, I just don’t listen to them. I just think, ‘That’s just your opinion.’

Yeah, you just ignore them.

Yeah, it’s like they’re not there. And certainly over the years, I’ve had many people tell me, ‘But you should have a plan B.’ And I’m like, nah, I’ll just work out a plan A and then there might be a few little splinters off plan A and maybe plan A changes over time, but I’m not going to do my plan B because you’re scared. That’s your issue, that’s not mine.

And actually, if you have two plans, you’ve got to put two lots of energy in, haven’t you? So you’re splitting the energy that you could be investing in plan A.

Exactly. That’s a great point. Yeah, exactly that. If I’m focusing on plan B, I’m focusing on that. And I’m also teaching my subconscious mind that I don’t believe I can have plan A. And the minute we start doing that, the minute we start putting plan B into practice, we’re telling our brain to seek out ways to sort out plan B. I just don’t have that. I don’t always know how I’m going to do something. Like, I don’t, even now, I was about to say my age and then I forgot, how old am I? 38. I mean, you get to a point and you just don’t know your age, do you?

Even if you do, you don’t want to remember it.

I mean, this is going to sound the most pretentious thing in the world, but I had to Wikipedia my age a couple of years ago because I forgot how old I was and because I’m not great at maths. That felt like an easier thing. I felt easier than working it out. I just googled it. Someone knows how old I am. How old am I? I mean, I was fine. I didn’t lose a year. That would have been quite sad. You know, if I’d Googled it and I’d thought I was younger and I’d be like, oh! Wikipedia could be lying, there’s a lot of stuff that’s untrue on there.

Yeah, that’s true. Anyway, interesting thing about age, and this is maybe a little bit of creativity coming in, when I hit a big number in my chronological age, my husband and I are six weeks apart, so the same year it kicks in. And so we decided when we got to a certain age, that and I’ll say it was the age of 50, and we decided to start counting backwards because we reckoned by the time we were 100, we’d probably be like a child and need looking after and feeding and whatever.

So actually, for the sensible amongst us, and a lot of the people who are listening to this podcast are coming here because they have followed that sensible path, they did listen to a Doubting Doris way back in their past, and they’re trying to undo all of that limiting belief. Actually, it’s possible at any point in your life to say, no, I’m going to change direction. And the younger we become, because obviously now every year we get younger, the more playful we can be.

So love this. That is so cool, I love this so much. And you’re right. And actually, realistically, we do see people start to let go of the nonsense of before. As we get older, we hit points, and we have really tough stuff happening our lives, where we realize, oh, my God, I was worrying about a thigh gap, and I was worrying about what my maths teacher said about me being rubbish at math. And actually, now I’m dealing with really big, painful life stuff, and none of that matters. So we naturally, a lot of us let go of that stuff anyway, but actually love the idea of just being more playful each year. And I totally get that and I just love the idea of it because it really just spins it on its head.

I mean, these days, when I was a kid and you were a kid, 50 was old, 40. Oh, my God, you were so old at 40. But these days, you see a 70 year old and they look absolutely gorgeous and they’re just starting a new business. We’re so much healthier, we have so much more access to knowledge and how we can be our best selves. And we’re also not told anymore that there’s one route because we have access to so many different versions, so many different cultures or ethos, all these different things now.

And this is what’s so brilliant about what you’re doing and getting to open people’s minds to, ‘I know you got told this and I know your parents did it that way, and people around you probably do. And your Doubting Doris’s have told you this is the only route you can do. But you know, these people over here, they’re doing it this way. And look how happy they are.’

I always think about, you know, when we were younger, we had four channels. If we were lucky, we couldn’t even get channel five because our TV was ****. We couldn’t even get that. It was just like unless you hung out the window with the aerial, which my kids would have no idea what I was on about if I said that. And now we have so many channels, right? We have an abundance of different versions of something. I often say our current life is this one channel that we’re on, and sometimes we’re really fixated on it being the only way.

But if you can right now listen to this and accept that all of those other channels, like, if we think about literally as a TV channel, you’re watching EastEnders, you’re watching Love Island, I don’t know what people are watching. You’re watching that program. You can accept that all of those channels do exist outside of your one channel. You can accept that logically, right? You can go, yeah, I’m not watching them, but they’re there. If we think about our lives in the same way, that allows us to remain open to that creativity. If we can look at this one version and go, yeah, okay, I only see this right now because I’m on this channel, but I can logically recognize that there’s somebody else who’s switched from a corporate role into being a drag dancer in Blackpool. I can logically see that that could be a version. That’s probably a TV show, in fairness. And if it’s not, it should be. But if we can recognize that at some point, you get to switch channels, you get to decide that you don’t have to be on this one thing, that there’s so many options available. When you lock yourself into this one thing, you’re stopping your clever brain, being able to find a way, being able to come up with something that maybe right now, you can’t even contemplate.

And this is why I say I get excited when my clients tell me they feel stuck. It’s because when your backs against the ropes and you’ve come to me, or they’ve come to you, or they’re listening to this, that’s like a spark of hope of, I am ready for this next fight.

And I often say when my back’s against the ropes, I’m coming out fighting with ideas I’m ready for. My brain starts to work. It looks for the other possibilities. And so it is exciting. And if you are listening, you’re like, ‘I feel this. I’m here because I feel this. I don’t know where to begin.’ My advice would be to play, to try different things and have no expectation of it being the thing. And some things will be the thing. Some things you’ll be like, ‘This is actually something that I will make into something that is my work. How exciting.’ Some things you’ll try and you’ll hate them and you’re like, ‘I hate pottery. It’s just not for me. It’s not the creative outlet I hoped it would be.’ Or you might try something, think, I love it, but it’s not the work that I want to do. I just love it. And I know we’ve shared this before, but for me, firstly, as a singer, I didn’t love singing as a job. Didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t hate it. I like singing and sometimes it still comes into my work. It’s fun. It feels on my terms. But as a solo performer, I was doing Top Of The Pops and MTV and I was this curated pop princess. I didn’t love it. It didn’t feel like creativity. It felt like you’d taken something creative and made it into maths, like you’d made it unfun. Like, it just didn’t feel fun to me. I didn’t feel creative. I felt stuck.

So sometimes you will feel that and I’ll share this story with your listeners because it just always makes me laugh and it’s a great mantra for your mind when you’re in that space. And it was. I hit a rock bottom in my life. My husband had brain cancer, my sister’s partner had been diagnosed with leukemia and I was running two businesses with two babies under three. I was at burnout, I was at head exploding stage. And so I stopped what I was doing. I pulled back from the work I was doing, but because I’m such a busy brained human, stopping to me can’t look like what it looks like on Pinterest. People at the spa, lounging by the pool. My calm and my relaxed looks like most people’s, busy. But I’m internally joyful and calm. But I do need, if I’m just staying still, something to do with my hands, I need something to do. Otherwise I just don’t find it easy to switch off.

So in my wisdom, no idea where it came from, I thought, Well, I’ll make woolen pompoms, right? You’re threading it through, you cut it, you make a pompom. So I thought I’ll give that a shot. So I started making little pompoms at first, gave them to the kids, whatever. And then I’m like, I can make big ones. That’d be like a cushion, that’d be massive. Big pompoms. That’s really cool. Love that. Then the entrepreneur kicks in, right? Then it’s like, Hang on a minute, these are great pompoms. I could make loads of pompoms. I could sell the pompoms. I could, in fact, write books about the pompoms. I could make workshops, a membership. I’m going to be the pompom queen of the world. Everybody’s going to make… this is how far it’s going, right? I decide to share this new, exciting business prospect with my husband, who just came up to me and gave me the best piece of advice, right? And this is to your listeners as well, because sometimes this will be important to you. He placed his hands on my shoulders and he just said, ‘Holly, let the Pompoms be the Pompoms. Let the pompoms be the pompoms.’

And I thought, he’s right. This is not a passion. Actually, I don’t really want to be the pompom queen. I’m not sure that’s a thing. I’m not sure how I can monetize this in reality. Maybe somebody will. But it was such a good reminder that sometimes things can have no end goal, but still be valuable to you. So the making of Pompoms, I enjoyed doing them at the time, and it gave me all of that outlet. But it didn’t need to be a business or have a monetary value. And I think that’s important for people to know.

As you go on this exploration. If you’re here, you likely are in that right now as you explore all of these new avenues. Remain open to being surprised by what you like and what you thought you would like, but actually is just for you and it’s not for the rest of the world and it’s not your job. And all of those things are okay, and you can be okay with that. And maybe there’ll be some of your listeners who actually end up finding they do stay in a more corporate space in terms of their day to day, but they just cushion it with so much creativity around it, maybe that’s enough. Some of them will do that full switch, and they’ll be like, rejection of that world. I am going all into Queen of the Pompoms, whatever theirs is, and all of those options are available. But I think, as you will no doubt talk about lots on here, society tells people there’s one way and there’s just definitely not.

And there is always a way through as well, which is one of your other mantras.

Always a way. I imagine it like and I often think of nature, how nature finds a way. Once in the side of my house, a big brick house, a branch had grown through the bricks, crack in the brickwork and got through. And I was fascinated by it, probably too much, but nature, it found its way. That’s some resilient plant right there that has just bust through my house in a way, to just find a way. But we are those plants.

We are those gnarly trees, the ones that you see, their roots are deep, the wind is blowing them. The weather has weathered their branches and bashed them around a bit, but they’re still standing. And that’s us as people. I don’t want us to be so bashed around, of course, and I want us to find more joy and creativity and love and all of those things that we want to be bringing in. But I think it’s recognizing that wherever people are right now, you are not stuck, right? You’re not there, you don’t have to stay there. And I’m not saying that bit, that switch is easy because depending on where you are, it can be really hard. It can be if you are listening to this and you’re like, something has to change, it can’t stay as it is. Being playful and trying different things is the answer. And even the silliest of things, I think, can be the breakthrough.

This is why I love silly, I love playful and I love coming up with ideas for my clients that are silly because it’s often that that will actually make the difference. Then this really serious strategic model for a business or strategic model for your fitness or your love life and whatever, it is can actually stifle your intuition, your ability to try and fail. We need to do that. That’s part of the process as part of the dance. Your ability to try something and hate it and not love it or be indifferent to it. And that’s what will help us to find a way to have those minds of being open enough to allow our brain to do what it needs to do, to find the way.

When we give it old stories and we keep saying, ‘Well, you know, Betsy down the road from me, she’s only ever done that.’ And, ‘I’m from this area and I speak like this’ or ‘people like me can’t have…’, ‘I’m very, very serious. I’ve been a solicitor my whole life, my whole family are solicitors, I can’t stop. Becoming a stand up comedian? Nobody would take me seriously’, whatever it is, right? Got to let go of those stories because it will make you happier when you do.

Yeah. What a brilliant note to end on. Before you go, you need to tell everybody how they can find you, where you hang out, where they can connect with you.

Oh, absolutely. So my website, Iamhollymathews.com/allmystuff, is there for you and all of my stuff is on there. So I have a podcast. The Happy Me Project podcast. Completely inconsistent on there, but there’s tons for you to listen to. I have my membership, as I’ve referenced in here, which its doors are open all of the time and please feel free to message me, ask questions about that. There’s no tie in. It is definitely about a space of learning, of connection. And Nikki has been in there as a wonderful guest offering her amazing insight into creativity and writing and how that can be a space for people. And as we get great guests in there, that’s available for you. My book, The Happy Me Project and no Nonsense Guide to Self Development is available in all of the spaces, that came out last year, won some awards and got to number one in all of the books on Amazon, and that is a book, 60 chapters, four pages of each chapter. Each one has tangible actionable stuff and a lot of it is creative and playful and low bar stuff in many ways.

But again, the low bar stuff can sometimes be the thing that breaks through the stuff. It’s not meant to be read in a linear fashion. So those of you that have that creative, ‘I want to flick through it, I want to write in it, I want to highlight it.’ That’s absolutely encouraged in that. I also do have in person events periodically. And my next one is in the UK, in London in November. It’s called Restival. And we have a whole day of nourishing self development with speakers and activities, all the play, all the fun, all of the silliness when we’re in that space. So, again, to get tickets for that, just message me or it’s on eventbrite as well. And on my website, I hang out on social media a vast amount. I’m horrifically prolifically online. I do have boundaries around that, but I’m there. So Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook don’t do Snapchat. But I’m on those. But I hang out on Instagram mostly.

I have a YouTube channel, which again, has some stuff on there that people can access. That’s free stuff there for you. But as you can probably tell from this podcast, I am an approachable human and feel free to message me, let me know that you came from this podcast. And actually what I’m going to do is I’m going to say that the first five people that message me and say they came from The Creative Switch on Instagram is probably going to be the easiest one to do. Message me on Instagram, say I came from The Creative Switch, I’m going to give you a month free in my membership and you can try it out, see what you think and enjoy it. And you’ll be able to access Nikki’s session, which is still in there for people to watch. And, yeah, the first five people that message me and just say I’m from The Creative Switch and I’ll get to know you. And if you have a business already, I will follow that business, I will push it on my social media for you as well. I’ve said it, maybe it’s impulsive, but, you know, it’s said now, Nikki, so it’s happening.

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Holly. You’ve been inspirational and wonderful to chat to, as ever.

Thank you so much, Nikki.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Creative Switch. If you enjoyed it, please leave a review over on podchaser.com. And if you’ve got any questions, please let me know on Twitter @nikki_vallance. You can also head to nikkivallance.com to join The Creative Switch community.  

I’m taking a short break but already have some great guests lined up for season 2 in the autumn. Whilst I’m working on my other cfreative projects do Keep creating and remember, Why Survive When You Can Thrive?