From what to do about your career, love life and more... no-nonsense life coach Maisie Hill will help you take control, as GTG's Florence Scordoulis can testify

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Over the years, I’ve tried various self-help books claiming to be life-changing - but it always felt rather like coming back from a shiny holiday: you feel amazing just afterwards, but somehow it always wears off.

That was until I discovered the life coach Maisie Hill at a point in my late 20s (Saturn return anyone?) when I had some major decisions to make about relationships, career and where I was heading. I followed her podcast The Maisie Hill Experience and joined her coaching membership platform, Powerful, which helped me steer the course through a stormy, decision-filled few years. 

Now her book Powerful: Be The Expert in Your Own Life  is out and encapsulates all of the wisdom that I've found so helpful. Maisie, 43,  knows your life can be messy, and she doesn't preach but carries you with her via real-talk tips rooted in science, experience and humour. She's the person I send any of my female friends to when they're going through a crisis.

In the five years that I've followed Maisie,  I’ve walked out of a well-paid, successful job (in what might have looked like a moment of madness), spent a life-changing six months solo travelling around Latin America and finally found the courage to turn my freelance dreams into reality to work for myself. Every step of the way, Maisie and her no-nonsense pep talks ("listen, I want you to get your shit done, I just don’t want you wrecking yourself in the process") have been part of the soundtrack, metaphorically cheering me on, daring me to go that much bigger. Until now she was one of my best-kept secrets.

Who is Maisie Hill - and what is her new book about?

Maisie came to prominence as a menstrual health expert and doula, and already has two best-selling books, Period Power  and Perimenopause Power , behind her plus an Instagram following of 61k. Since qualifying as a Master Certified Life Coach (the gold standard in coaching) she helps women manage their minds too.

And trust me, she really WILL change your life, as she did mine. If you want to say goodbye to people-pleasing, stop relying on external validation, start putting yourself first, ditch self-sabotaging patterns of perfectionism, stop being paralysed by fear of failure and even fear of success, and work to fulfil your potential, this is for you. It turned me from a ditherer to a more decisive doer - I now have a ten-year, a three-year and a one-year plan as well as a 'seasonal' goal. This might sound extreme, but as Maisie says on Instagram: "I don’t want to be a rubber duck. I have zero interest in floating around the ocean, like a rubber duck— directionless and entirely dependent on whatever the tides are up to." And neither do most women I know.

The new book Powerful is a really useful way to dip your toe into all things Maisie. There are chapters on managing your nervous system,  beating procrastination, setting boundaries, feeling your emotions - even the bad ones (although no emotion is actually bad, she says). She shows you how to blitz decision-making and brave hard conversations. “Each chapter holds the key to unlocking your inner power," she explains. 

She up-skills you with practical tips rooted in the science of neuroplasticity ("the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life".  Great news, because, with plenty of practice, you can rewire your thinking. This is something that I've found already, as many of these new skills are starting to become habits. One tip I use all the time is her brilliant anti-procrastination cheat called 'dopamine stacking' which involves breaking down a big task into smaller chunks and giving yourself mini rewards along the way.

Where self-help gurus have left me cold before, is their endless positivity and the idea that there's a 'right' way to do things. It can feel unrealistic and downright annoying (read the room!) to constantly be told everything is fine. Maisie has no time for such 'toxic positivity' –  it's OK not to be OK. Her approach is self-help, but almost anti-self-help, too. Many of her clients going through fertility issues, for example, “express a daunting obligation to remain endlessly positive” during this stressful time. Yet, this only adds to their stress, because they’re beating themselves up for not being more optimistic - which is “not only unrealistic, it’s counterintuitive," she says.

Instead, she suggests, “embracing the full spectrum of our emotions, seeking understanding and having self-compassion are far kinder and more useful. In a world that often peddles the notion of positivity at all costs, it’s important to cultivate spaces where genuine emotions are honoured”. As Maisie says, “This isn’t about creating a perfect life, or, indeed, a happy one… life is messy - and that’s okay. You don’t need to be fixed, because you aren’t broken. You just need the tools that I believe should all be taught in early life.”

Another big tick in my book as a self-help is that Maisie's strategies are inspired by her own experiences of  darker times - she suffered from depression and briefly mentions self-harm when she was younger and has only recently aged 39 been diagnosed with autism.  She explains, "This is the book that I wish I’d had to help me navigate those times, because back in my teens and twenties I experienced spells of depression. 

 "Nobody taught me how to feel my emotions. Nobody told me that thoughts aren’t factual and are therefore worth questioning. And nobody explained to me that my nervous system’s stress responses were the reason why I would sometimes feel so completely overwhelmed and stuck.”

GTG staffer Florence Scordoulis swears by Maisie Hill's new book Powerful

Is the Maisie Hill Powerful membership worth it?

While her podcast is free, the Powerful membership platform doesn’t come cheap (from £57.50 a month). For that reason, I put off joining  until last year, after I attended a free taster webinar on goal-setting for the new year.  It resonated. So. Much. Just like the podcast was always exactly what I needed to hear that day - it felt like she was speaking directly to me. And, sure enough, the membership didn’t disappoint.

It consists of webinars which deep dive into the topics she touches on in the podcast: such as a 90 Day Inner Odyssey, which teaches you how to navigate your nervous system, your cycle, your emotions and to unpack your thinking in a ‘thoughtwork’ model. She also encourages you to set seasonal goals: for winter, spring, summer and autumn - and you’re supported to achieve them and more, via group coaching sessions (where you literally get coached in front of other people on Zoom - yes, terrifying, but strangely effective).

Plus, I love the written Ask a Coach service, which is like having a personal agony aunt column: you can send in an unlimited number of questions, which are answered by a team of coaches. There’s a Facebook community, too, which you can be as involved in as you want to - for example, there's a 'weekly wins' thread, where you literally post about your wins for that week, which is designed to make a habit out of celebrating yourself, instead of always focusing on the negatives. 

Now I see it as like having a gym membership for my mind. You can cancel at any time (but FYI, you can only join at the start of a new season), and I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it, but the best part is that the self-coaching skills you learn don’t go away - so there’s no going back after this.

The good news, though, is that if you don’t want to splurge, having read the new book Powerful, it’s a great place to start - bottling all of her best coaching tips, for a bargain at £15.99. Hurrah! As she says: “Ultimately, I want you to feel at home in your body and in your mind. To be able to be you. And to turn the dial the hell up on your self-compassion. I know from experience that when you do that, your life will shift in ways that you can’t even fathom right now.”

If that sounds appealing to you, too, then I highly recommend checking her out. And, in the meantime, if you're raring to get started, here are my favourite tips from the new book, which have worked wonders for me. I'm quite positive (in a non-toxic way, of course), that they will do for you, too...

8 empowering tips I learned life coach Maisie Hill:

1. Close down the tabs

If you struggle to make decisions, Hill suggests that you "imagine your mind is a laptop and each decision you need to make is an open tab in your browser". She explains that a backlog of unmade decisions zaps our energy and slows us down, just like our computers. Try making a list of all your decision baggage, then schedule a ‘decision-making session’ of about 20 minutes, to tackle them one at a time, in one go. (Clue: "if it’s not a resounding, ‘Hell, yes’ then it’s a no".)

2. Is it a fire, or is it burnt toast?

A key theme of Hill’s work is teaching you how to navigate your nervous system’s stress response system (SRS). As she explains, "Your SRS is a lot like that smoke alarm". That’s because it "can’t always distinguish between real threats and perceived ones". It’s over-active, which is ultimately a good thing, as it keeps us safe - but next time you feel activated, ask yourself: is it a fire, or is it just burnt toast?

3. New saplings vs old oaks 

When it comes to re-wiring your mindset, Maisie likens your older, more established and automatic thought patterns to a "majestic oak tree", with deep roots: its shade feels sturdy and secure, but stops you from being your authentic self. In contrast, new thoughts which counter this status quo are like a "delicate sapling": which requires a lot of care, effort and attention, to grow. You must be willing to step out of your comfort zone, but, over time, these new shoots will outgrow the old ones.

4. The emotional beach ball 

According to Maisie, accusations like ‘you’re so emotional!’ should be way more of a compliment than an insult. She recommends befriending your emotions: from anger, to joy, jealousy and anxiety, to discover the powerful messages they bring. One trick is to picture your emotions - including the not-so-great ones you’re trying to avoid - as a bright, bouncy beach ball: if you tried to push it under the water, it would pop back up. Instead of trying to suppress the beach ball, she suggests "gently holding it and getting to know it", so that you can find out where the valve is and release the air.

5. ...And then what?

Maisie explains that our brains tend to be over-dramatic, often jumping to the worst-case scenarios. A brilliant technique she suggests is to ask yourself: "And then what?" Keep doing this, again and again, until you get to the root of your fears. "You’ll have your thoughts and feelings about their response. And for the most part, that’s probably it," she explains, when it’s about making decisions which might upset other people.

6. Give them a leg-up

Being self-responsible is the key to having agency in your life, says Hill. This also means not being overly responsible for others, which she says often shows up in romantic relationships, where one partner takes on more than their fair share. She likens it to if a loved one tries to climb over a wall. If you give them a bunk-up with your hands to get them started, then you’re helping them. But if you’re pushing them over the wall, stopping them from doing it themselves, then you might be over-functioning - which can lead to burnout, stress and resentment.

7. Protect the garden fence 

Boundaries are a "real or imagined line that marks the edge of something" - just like a house with a front garden and a gate around it. For example, if your neighbour started painting part of the front of your house without asking, she says, that would be a "boundary transgression". It’s important to communicate this, otherwise people might not realise it’s a problem. These conversations can be awkward, but she says it’s worth it, as it can actually make you more connected than if you continue harbouring negative feelings. Tips on boundary-setting conversations include being clear about the transgression, giving a consequence for it continuing, and making sure you follow through on this.

8. Be the marmite!

It’s very human to fear rejection, Maisie explains - as it’s part of the way we were wired for survival. But, in order to go after what you want in life, you do have to risk other people not liking it. "A jar of marmite doesn’t worry about the people who can’t stand it and nor should you!" Instead, if you start learning to validate, approve and accept yourself, "you won’t need other people to approve of you so much".

Buy Maisie Hill’s new book Powerful: Be the Expert in Your Own Life, £12.97 or join the waitlist for her membership Powerful here