Give Yourself Time To Grow

I’ve recently started living on avocados.

It’s part of my healthy eating plan and despite the price, I do relish a ripe avo that satiates my appetite. I just hate waiting for them to ripen. I never know what to do with a half ripe avo once I’ve cut it open.

Do I put it back together and place it in the fridge and hope for the best? Do I throw it in the bin and cringe at the money wasted? It’s often difficult to gauge by the level of softness of the skin when it is fully ripe.

I know you’re waiting for this avo monologue to turn into a meaningful metaphor, so here it is: how do you know when you’ve achieved a level of growth that has ‘ripened’ you for the next season in your life?

One of the definitions of the word ripe, means to ‘have arrived at the fitting stage or time for a particular action or purpose’. As you read this, you may be facing the prospect of taking on a new project, or bracing yourself for the start of a new job. Maybe you’re contemplating the start of a new relationship or friendship and you’re not sure of you’re ready for that commitment.

When it comes to new challenges or opportunities, we often vacillate across the range of preparedness: ‘I’m-so-not-ready-yet’, ‘yes- let’s-do-this’, ‘why-hasn’t-this-happened-yet’?

So, how do you know when you are ready to take on something new?

In my experience – and from my collected observations – there are three stages of readiness in life:

  1. Things that you need to say yes to in order to grow:
    • Learning how to drive, or enrolling for your university degree, are brief yet crucial stages  to development.
  2. Things that only materialize when you’ve reached a certain level of growth:
    • That job that has specific entry level requirements, or a career opportunity that is offered to you that you weren’t looking for, because your good work has had ripple positive effects.
  3. Things that you don’t feel not quite ready for but the decision to say yes to it will help you grow into it:
    • Committing to a relationship with the person you know is good for you or realising that you’re going to be a parent and responsibility is going to take on a whole new level.

Rarely do we feel 100% ready and excited to take on something new.

The day that your hand clutches that hard earned degree is just the beginning of a series of growth stages in your life. It might mean that you are ready to enter the world of work – but it also means that you are beginning a new series of cycles and seasons.

Life is a journey, not a series of events that we can neatly summarise on our cv.

Growth takes time. Change is a continual cycle that leads to slow, incremental growth that eventually results in a fruitful life.

Work week reflection question: What aspect of growth are you currently impatient about and how can you give yourself the time and space you need for things to take root?

 

 

Don’t Let Doubt Steal Your Dreams

image of a person in an iron mask

If the dawn of a new year scares you because you feel stuck in a private cycle of futility, then you could be letting self-doubt get the best of you.

Doubt is tricky to pinpoint because it hides itself behind so many other internal barriers. It’s easier to blame our lack of progress on our boss, or family background – or even on our own poor estimation of our capabilities.

Dictionary.com defines doubt as to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe. Every successful person on this planet talks about how the battle with doubt is a constant one. So there will never be a day when you get up in the morning and it will have suddenly disappeared. 

While you need to accept that the struggle with doubt is part of the human condition, you don’t need to accept its potentially debilitating factor in your life.

Doubt blinds you to your true abilities.

Have you ever witnessed someone excel in a certain area (like public speaking or problem solving or bringing a team together) and then hear them talk about how incompetent they said area?

It’s astonishing and mind boggling – and yet most of us paint over our full colour brilliance with the whitewash of doubt every day. It’s like we have an invisible apparition strapped to our backs of the hideous monster we think we are, compared to the generally ordinary person we present to the rest of the world.

If we really knew what doubt was costing us, we might be more willing to address it.

 

Five Ways Doubt is Stealing Your Dreams

  1. It causes you to hesitate and lets opportunities slip through your fingertips:
    • We lose so much of what could belong to us because we allow fear to snatch it from our hands. We don’t apply for that amazing job because we feel we’re not ready yet – or that we don’t deserve it. We say no too quickly and then live with that regret for too long. People who have developed confidence act quickly when a good opportunity presents itself because they have been preparing themselves for success behind the scenes.
  2. It gives you the perfect excuse to avoid the work to bring your best self to the world:
    • Are you allowing doubt to gnaw at your optimism and potential? At the root of doubt is fear. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? What if I really suck at something that everything things I’m good at? When we worry more about what people will think or say by any particular course of action we wish to take, we are choosing to keep ourselves enslaved. Blaming others is the perfect excuse to stop trying.
  3. It’s makes you wait for the day that never comes:
    • When we keep making others a hindrance and using them as an excuse for our lack of progress, then we are keeping ourselves in a holding pattern. “One day, I will go on my dream vacation,” we say… but never do the research of what it will actually cost and start saving. “One day, I will get the love I deserve…” but we keep making choices that prove the opposite.
  4. It robs you from relationships that help you grow:
    • The weaker your sense of self-esteem, the stronger your doubt will be. We might desire to have healthy relationships with strong individuals – but we’re often afraid of looking weak in comparison and so we never reach out. If relationships are only challenging you negatively, they will never be able to help you grow. We are all a work in progress – there are no perfect people out there. Once you can give up the delusion that you need to be perfect, you might find the courage to engage in relationship that stretch you in all the right ways.
  5. It breeds negativity that stops good things flowing to and through you:
    • When doubt has taken over your life, he invites his friends – Negativity, Defeat, Failure, Misery, Loneliness… all the people that makes for a great pity party. If you let doubt consume you, you will find yourself playing the victim card in every situation. Why does it seem like good things don’t happen to  people who are constantly negative? Well, the main reason is that they have a negative expectation. Bad traffic, lousy neighbours, too many bills – these are things they didn’t know they’ve been asking for.

The antidote to doubt is faith.

How do you start believing in yourself when you find out that you haven’t been?

Firstly, start taking stock. Look around – and be grateful for – all that you do have in your possession. Not just material things but also the latent gifts and talents that you can put to work to help you become prosperous.

Then, take the time to reflect on what your life looked like a year ago this time – five years ago, ten years ago. Even if there are still some areas of your life that could use a massive overhaul, you have made some form of progress over the years. I sometimes consider my current life and all the things that God has added to it and it astounds me.

I had lived in a place of desperation and fear for so long that I didn’t know what freedom would look or feel like. And now that I am growing in my understanding of the freedom available to me, it humbles and motivates me to keep going along this path, to see what else is in store for me if I stay committed to my growth. 

If you’ve tied yourself to the opinions and approval of others, you can untie yourself from it. You also have to be willing to face your fears and start seeing yourself in a new reality.

Don’t study the thing that is tripping you up – study all the ways that you can learn how to run into freedom. The thing that is tripping you up will take care of itself. What we focus on, grows. 

So if you focus on belief, instead of doubt, a whole new world of possibility opens up to you. Don’t you want to be free?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Let The Pull Of Purpose Push You Into Greatness

Have you been pulled by your sense of purpose into areas of personal greatness?

What has been pushing you this year to reach the targets you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?

Was it your parents, your boss’s perceived expectations of you, your spouse, your own ambition?

And do you feel closer to where you wanted to be when you crossed the threshold of the year – or further away from it?

I ask you all these questions because I despise the almost obligatory reflection on the 31st of December every year. I want to know if I am on track, headed in the right direction – sooner rather than later, so that I don’t waste even more time going deeper into a purposeless abyss.

I want to live my life on purpose. I want to be intentional about my days.

Partly because I feel like a decade of my life has been stolen from me – but mainly because I really want my life to count for something. I want the fact that I have taken up a tiny portion of space to have mattered to the people that I have crossed paths with.

So when an evolving concept of “push and pull” behaviours began cropping up in a few conversations over the past few weeks, it began to intrigue me.

This is actually quite a deep topic to really delve into, so I’ll try and position it in the way that I am beginning to see the framework. The basic premise is: You will always feel pushed into something if you’re not pulled into it by a deeper sense of purpose. 

A retrenchment, a divorce, a sudden death. There are things that shove you into realities that you weren’t quite ready for (and don’t know how to deal with).

Circumstances that we find ourselves in, that are beyond our control, creates a negative kind of push. Another factor that we can’t control (that we often forget) is that we can’t control people.

Pushing others is not fun. Feeling pushed is no fun either.

It conjures up a sense of resistance. It makes you feel like you don’t have a choice. And then everything in you wants to do the opposite.

Have you been dealing with situations in your life this year that has made you feel pushed by external factors – and either caused you to respond defensively or rendered you passive?

When we allow situations or people to determine our state of action, that’s when we give up our power.

It might not always feel like we’re in control but the way we respond to a situation always is. If we don’t have a strong sense of why we’re doing what we’re doing, then we will always get caught up in the “what is happening around us” that can be a major distraction to your actual purpose.

No one is going to help you figure out your purpose. This is a process of discovery that we all have to embark on as solitary sojourners. And it’s scary.

So we often take a easy option and allow other people to decide the direction of our lives for us. Therefore if things don’t feel great, we can rail against the machine and blame the state of our lives on other people. “If my boss was just more… (fill in your magical wish list here)” or “If only I was married/single again/in a relationship/out of this one… then life would be ok.”

Finding your Beckoning Space

In a session with a coach earlier this year, she asked an evocative question: What is your beckoning space?

What is the place where you see yourself thriving, being fueled with passion, where do you see yourself coming alive?

I didn’t have to think too much about that question. I know what that answer is. I’ve known for years. It’s just taken a while for me to grow in maturity and character to be able to reach for the things that I know I’m wired for.

The thing is, we often get so fixated on fighting against our current realities that we don’t have energy to think about the any alternate realities that might make us come alive.

So yes, it will be a fight. Swimming upstream is not easy. Going against the flow, when everyone else seems content to wile their lives away on non-purpose related pursuits, doing the thing beating in your heart is going to take guts.

It’s going to mean that you have to be ok with other people not being ok with you.

What is pushing you? What are the things that you do on a daily or weekly basis that you feel propelled to take on because of a sense of duty or obligation?

On the other hand: What is pulling you towards the place where you feel a special kind of magic? What are the things that, when you do then, you feel a sense of wonder and excitement?

(You might want to write these things down and ponder them for a bit. Don’t ignore them… they will just keep lingering until you eventually pay attention to them).

Of course we can’t avoid all duty and obligation.

You might not feel like going to work some days. But maturity helps you to get up, shower, get dressed, and get your butt in your car. Once you’re there, you actually get things done and end up having a pretty productive day.

It might be a similar process with going to the gym. If you’ve had a long day (or week), everything in your body and mind is shouting at you to avoid the thing that won’t feel good at the outset but at the end of the session, you’re feeling pretty incredible.

Your strength of your inner pull will determine whether you will allow the right kind of push.

When I switched my gym visits from a place of beating myself up for not measuring up to some impossible standard, to now swiping my card because I understand how taking care of my health has a vital and direct result on my longevity so that I can live out what I believe my passion to be, what was previously a push action has shifted to a ‘pull choice’.

I still don’t ever feel like doing the session but there is less inner turmoil than a few months ago because my renewed perspective on this one aspect of my life has had positive knock on effects on other areas of my life.

So how do you allow the pull your of purpose push you into greatness? Here’s how it’s working for me:

 

 

1. Don’t be limited by your job title (or your salary)

You will have many job titles in your life, clocking in to a number of organisations and working in various office team environments. When we first start out, it’s easy to expect others to lay out the projected trajectory of our career – until we discover that just like life, our professional endeavours will not be linear.

Each job contains opportunities for you to learn particular skills sets and if you are open to that, you will be able to glean a lot of valueable experience that you might only realise 10 or 20 years down the line was actually extremely beneficial.

Therefore, do not despise humble beginnings and also don’t be limited by your salary. Explore what you can do to develop multiple streams of income. Job security is fickle. Don’t set anchors in sinking sand.

In this current shifting landscape of work, it still fascinates me how some people pin all their hopes on a job title (and it’s incumbent benefits).

I understand that not all personality types are comfortable with risk taking and not everyone will have a desire to start their own business. I do believe, though, that everyone needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, just to keep themselves relevant and flexible in a vastly changing job market.

2. Let your life purpose be your compass (and then step out)

There is a golden thread in your life that provides clues to your life purpose. As you begin to see this more clearly, it will help you determine what you will say yes, no more, no, or maybe to.

Something that has helped me to keep a clear focus on my life vision, is a printed list entitled “What I want people to say when I die”. I read this list of ten items that I have determined will be the cumulative impact of my life (and I can see it from this finite point) every morning when I’m brushing my teeth.

It often feels daunting but it also reminds me to appreciate the ‘small’ ways I’m able to live our my life purpose every day and every week. Some days, that just looks like being purposeful about meeting someone for coffee and encouraging them. Other days, it means sitting at my desk and (finally) writing that blog post that has been simmering in my brain for way to long.

Most of the time, it’s reminding myself to be present in the conversations I have with others or learning how to say no when I need to. Your life purpose should direct your steps and it should chart your course. After numerous iterations, my life purpose can now be summarised in the phrase “inspire hope in the hopeless.”

3. Make time to dream (and then plan your action)

Whose life am I living?

It’s important to ask yourself this question on a regular basis because sometimes our life scripts morph into what others expect from us without us realising it. Don’t forget the reason you’re living. Write down the vision for your life and then keep reminders of where you’re headed with you in places that you can see it.

Don’t get sucked into the subtle ways that you can ruin your life.

You get one life. And it comes with an expiry date.

Dreams only come to live when your drape your wishes around the skeleton of a plan.

Don’t blame others for you not taking the action that is within your power – right in this moment – to take.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture of a mannequin lying on the floor

Why Your Bad Habits Will Bankrupt Your Life

Habits form our character but our core beliefs form our habits.

No one needs to name and shame the bad habits in your life. You are keenly aware of it. Whether the crime is indulging in time wasters like binge series watching and mindless social media surfing, to more serious choices like staying in toxic relationships, you know what’s tripping you up in life.

You might want to protest that if you knew how to do better, you would. But the heart of the matter is ­- do you really want to do better? We all know that we need to exercise, eat healthy, increase our levels of focus to improve our productivity, etc etc.

The way that we make the switch from bad behavior to good behavior has more to do with a heart change than a head change. At the root of every bad habit is a high level of tolerance for the thing we know needs to change if we want to get the life we really desire.

Our motivation to reach for the things we really want is often thwarted by a lack of belief that we deserve the things that we know will give us a better quality of life.

We don’t know what the true cost of our bad habits are because we haven’t yet begun to taste what the opposite actions in our lives could produce.

The only problem is that until we really believe that we deserve to have the things we want, we will never be motivated to make the change.

When it hurts too much

John Maxwell says that “People change when they hurt enough that they have to change, learn enough that they want to change, receive enough that they are able to change.”

I’ve been struggling with my fitness targets for years. Writing the same targets year in and year out has led to despair. I felt trapped, like I was just fooling myself for even trying to make a change.

One day, while I was at gym, with my inner voice was shouting at me to finish quickly because I had so many things to do and on the other hand knowing that I would mentally berate myself if I hadn’t gone to gym in the first place, I knew that I had to stop the madness.

I hated myself if I didn’t go to gym – and I hated myself even when I was there.

I stopped the exercise I was doing and had an inner talk-in-the-corner with myself. “What’s really going on here?” I asked myself. Why am I continuing to keep going on this miserable-go-round cycle year in and year out?

I decided to run an experiment on myself, to get to the root of what was keeping me stuck in the proverbial mud when it came to getting my fitness to start moving in a forward direction. I decided to go to gym for one hour every day in the upcoming month and study (with a microscope) all the excuses and barriers that were preventing me from keeping my commitment to myself.

Once I challenged myself to figure out what was really going on with me, a friend who just happens to be a personal trainer offered his help and I was open enough to actually sign up for proper training sessions.

The day of my first session, I had a total freak out. I was scared, nervous, petrified even. The fear I felt made me realise that there was some deeper stuff going on that just forcing myself to get into workout gear.

I’d allowed all sorts of thorns to grow into my thinking about fitness, health, my own body image and what I can actually accomplish in this area. This is an ongoing process of change and challenge and my personal trainer surprises me every so often by taking things up a notch and pushing me further than I know my body can go.

But that’s the biggest hindrance to changing our bad habits: it takes work. You have to expend more energy and effort and focus to do the things you know will have a long term positive effect than just scoffing down the chips or scone (my personal nemesis) in the moment.

Working out regularly and eating better (just for a few weeks) has already had so many knock on positive effects. The small changes that I’ve seen within a two month time span helped me feel more confident when I finally did my first ever author talk.

That after workout feeling is also a pretty great high that really competes with the exhausted this-has-been-a-long-day feeling that makes me want to veg on the couch instead.

Oh yeah – and it’s freaking painful. There are days when I curse the stairs and feel the ache of muscles coming alive. I’m not at the point yet where I’m actually looking forward to the training sessions (that might come) but I keep showing up because I know that just doing the work is going to help me learn about what I am really capable of.

I ended up going to gym 28 days out of 31 (some days I opted to take a walk on the beach as my workout activity). My mini-experiment proved that actually, I had the capacity to change and finally prioritizing my personal commitments over the other areas on my life helped me feel more empowered to give my best to the world.

Small wins in one area of your life begin to inspire confidence in other areas of your life and eventually you find the small wins add up to a greater forward momentum that begins to build in your life.

Shifting from consuming to producing

When you shift from a consumer to a producer mindset, the things that used to be ok begins to choke your progress. I’ve mentioned before that I used to be a shopaholic… and that meant that I could literally spend hours in malls, being enthralled by all the colourful possibilities that I encountered.

And while I have to watch that I don’t get caught up in that cycle again, now when I feel myself wandering around the mall for a ‘must have item’, I’ve begun to notice that my inner voice is reminding me that I’m wasting time when I could rather be writing.

I’d been threatening my friends that I was going to publish a book for years. But until I started seeing myself as having something valuable to offer the world, I wasn’t acting on it.

If you want to make progress on the path of personal excellence, then you have to constantly break out of limiting versions of yourself. Having cheerleaders in your life that help you see the truth about your potential is also vital to breaking old patterns.

I finally did the work on my first book because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. People have been telling me for years how much my writing has helped them, has inspired them to get closer to God, how what they read came at the right time to help answer some questions they had in their heart.

And so I was being really selfish by thinking so little of myself and not enough of what I’ve been given the world needs.

YOU have something that the world needs. You may not have absolute clarity on it yet. You might not fully believe in your ability to bring it out yet but the seed is there.

The way to tackle bad habits it to deal with our toxic thinking. Thought processes rooted in incorrect belief systems will keep you stuck and silently settling for a mediocre life when you know in your spirit that what you truly yearn for is to be excellence and significant.

Thinking that is linked to deep seated beliefs are difficult to change. It involves an intentional process of catching yourself playing the silent tapes in your head – and then interrupting them and replacing them with new information.

In the days of VHS and cassette tapes, you could record new music or video by taping over the old. Rewiring the negative narratives that are tripping you up is not that easy – but it is possible.

It means that you will have to keep presenting yourself with new information every time your brain brings up the old evidence of how you will fail in this area. What has helped me in this process is connecting to my spiritual identity as a child of God and seeing myself as God sees me – as perfect and whole on the inside.

The more I believe that, the more it motivates me to mirror on the outside what I know to be true on the inside. I can see more clearly now the actions that are limiting my growth. It doesn’t make it easier to shift to positive behavior but having a vision for a higher life helps me with the resolve to allow the sandpapering of my daily experiences to refine the truth I am living within.

Because I am secure in my identity as being loved, I can grow through my experience and learn how to constantly tweak my understanding and perspectives so that I stay tuned in to the frequencies of growth.

I can apologise to my husband when I’m wrong, I can decide when to speak up or when to just let something go, I can choose to focus on the most important tasks in a day and ignore the constant distractions clawing at my consciousness (definitely an hourly struggle).

I want my life to be rich: with experience, with joy, with growth, with peace, with good health, with abundance, with grace.

I can say goodbye to bad habits because they don’t offer any of that.

 

 

 

 

Finding The Fun In Your Work

We’re all tempted to press the snooze button one too many times on days we feel like we can’t face the office.

Work is challenging, it can be rewarding – but it’s not going to be something that makes you feel like you’re floating on clouds all day playing the harp. (Unless you’re a harpist – and all the best to you).

I cannot stomach work that is tedious and boring. I’m sure you’re not rearing to go in the morning to face another day of mundane, monotonous, unchallenged tasks. Yes there are people who avoid work like the plague and seem to get a high out of avoiding work like bullets flying at Neo in The Matrix but they’re probably not interested in reading a blog about taking responsbility for feeling engaged in your work space.

As an entrepreneurial thinker, I am always energized by improving processes, finding solutions to serving the client and harnessing stories to capture the impact of partnerships. Millennials, more than other generations, need to have fun in their work environments: https://goo.gl/eZeJhY

While many environments are evolving to embrace the new world of work, most are stuck in traditional patterns that can feel stifling at the best of times. So how does one stay engaged and motivated in environments that can be stogy and overly conservative?

Here are the five fun factors that help me enjoy the work I put my hands to:

1. Bring your own brand of fun: If everything around you is grey and dull, then think about ways that you can add some colour to your environment. Whether it’s playing around with colours and patterns in your work wardrobe or bringing some personal items to place on your desk or in your space that make you smile when you look at it, there is something you can to to bring a bit of your vivaciousness to the work environment. You can brand yourself as a carefree and fun individual without being too risqué.

2. Have lunch with a colleague whose company you enjoy: Some coworkers can be taxing on the mind and when it feels like you’re liable to head into an unhealthy emotional space, arrange a lunch date or coffee with a colleague whose company you actually enjoy. Someone who ‘gets’ you, a kindred spirit who you can laugh with and just be yourself around helps to take some of the pressure off a stressful day.

3. Schedule your week and try and have one thing you’re looking forward to every day: As much as it is up to you, spend some time at the end of each week to plan out what your week ahead will look like. Carefully consider the meetings you think is actually valuable to attend and as far as possible, eliminate time wasters from your schedule. Plan at least one thing that makes you feel a sense of excitement each day: either finishing up an overdue project (I know that doesn’t sound like much fun but you will be surprised at the relief you feel when you hand it in), or talking a walk around the office park that you’ve been wanting to do for a few weeks, or even that coffee with your kindred spirit colleague. Life is too short to hate your work days.

4. Don’t be a poopy head just because there is a ‘culture of stuffiness’: People may be older than you who have been working there for years – but just because there is a culture of conservatism, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to run for the hills. More than likely, your bright and cheerful spirit is just what’s needed to brighten up the place. At one of my former jobs, I was convinced that my manager despised my very existence. She was generally a negative person and would aggressively shrug off any encouragement I tried to lend to the situation. Imagine my surprise when she said: “I will miss your positivity”, when I finally tended my resignation. I wanted to say: “Fancy that – I thought you barely noticed it!” But being a professional I said something positive and encouraging instead.

5. Put forward that idea for a project that gets you excited: While there are some people who take a job with a retirement plan in mind, most employees are more concerned about training opportunities. Don’t let the sands of time pass without having a clear vision of what skills you want to add to your resume when you take on a new job. You’re there to make things better, so don’t wait for permission to present new ideas. Managers (secure managers) love initiators and those who don’t just get the job done but also bring life and energy to the office and take things forward. The proactive, productive employees will be those who learn and grow – and take on new opportunities, while the retirees-in-waiting will keep dodging bullets and wondering how people can actually have fun while at work.

You put a third of your life into work – why not try and find the life in your work?

 

 

 

 

Broken watches

Don’t Let Regret Eat Your Joy

As long as you are living and breathing on this planet, you are guaranteed to face regret.

To regret something is to “feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).” To be ‘repentant’ means to wish that you could go back in time to the moment when the regretful incident happened – and make an alternate choice.

I think of regret as death’s first cousin. Regret doesn’t respect age, race, nationality or a person’s favourite ice cream flavour. It comes as a consequence of things you don’t have full control over and lingers in the shadows of darkness in the corners of your soul.  (Ok that was dramatic. I think I’ve made my point).

Regret brings along a host of friends: disappointment, guilt, shame, embarrassment and fear. If we don’t learn how to wrestle with it in a healthy way – and win – regret will always be a handicap in our lives.

Identifying the causes of regret

At the basis of regret is that the outer world is not lining up with expectations of your inner world. Disappointment at the realities of our past can haunt us and limit our freedom to live in the world the way that we know we can.

Think about the things that you’ve been regretting over the past few months. What comes up as a constant theme?

1. Bad things that other people did to you: Is there something that happened to you when you were younger, that you couldn’t really control, that you still blame yourself for? Maybe you’re tormented with questions like: ‘Why didn’t I tell someone?’, ‘Why did I go there’, ‘I should’ve…’ Ruminating on all the ways that you could have changed the situation is hampering your confidence to make decisions in the present. If you have not sought professional help to deal with the psychological and emotional hurts that were inflicted on you by others, then you are keeping yourself in a private prison. Get the help you need. You deserve to live a whole, free, full life.

2. Bad decisions that hurt you: Sometimes, we unknowingly cooperate with others in perpetuating a negative reality. We don’t always have all the foresight and life experience that will enable us to make better decisions and then we get stuck (sometimes for years) in relationships or places that keep us from living authentically. When we finally escape that limiting reality and have taken time to heal, looking back on the wasted time can cause feelings of regret at what could’ve been. You also can’t help feeling like an idiot for what now (thanks to hindsight) is extremely obvious to you.

3. Actions you took that hurt others: This is a tough one. It’s easier to live life upset at the evil people who mess up the lives of others. But what happens what that person is you? It is extremely difficult to reconcile yourself with the notion of yourself as a “good person”, knowing that there were actions that you took that directly affected others negatively. You may not have intended that as a consequence but there is no way of disputing that you have caused pain to someone else. The redeeming aspect of this kind of regret is that you realise that people are fallible (yes even you!) and it helps you to have a deeper level of understanding. It might make it easier for you to forgive someone else for what they did to you because maybe they too didn’t intend for the bad consequence and we just doing their best. Remember that we judge others by their actions but we judge ourselves by our intentions.

4. Wishing you’d made a different choice: We all have cringe-worthy actions that we prefer no one ever knew about. Just this week, one of my major regrets came back to me, taunting me for the silly fool that I was. Instead of just giving into the usual self-pity and self-inflicted internal flogging, I pictured taking that regret by the neck (like lionesses grab their cubs) and looking it in the eye.

Yes I should never have done what I did, yes I hated the person I was at the time when I made that decision and yes, if I could go back in time to the moment when things went the wrong way and drag myself out of that moment, I would. But I can’t undo what was done. I can’t magically reverse my mistake. What I can do – and what I have to do each time this memory comes up, is to remind myself that the person I am now would never made the same decision today. So as ugly and painful as that regrettable time in my life was, it has taught me a lot about life, vulnerability and strength. You can only make better choices when you are strong enough and healthy enough to choose the things that will build you up, not break you down. We can choose to stay stuck in a private prison of regret or we can live uncaged. We hold the keys to our freedom.

 

 

Understand the spectrum of regret

Not all regret is necessary negative. There is a spectrum of regret that we need to learn to navigate. A spectrum is defined as “any range or scale, as of capabilities, emotions, or moods.”  

Regretting something you did in high school is not as painful to remember as when you messed up a project at work last week.  From saying something stupid to the person you have a crush on to a bad decision or the consequences of a character flaw, regret can become a tool for transformation. If we learn how to use it.

With the first two sources of regret, it will not help us to marinate in the stew of “why did this happen to me?” Staying fixated on things you can’t change is not helpful and will only keep you stuck.

Regret can help you learn from the actions and behaviours that are in your control (the second two sources). Sometimes a careless action, done in a moment of haste, can be easily rectified by a heartfelt apology.

Other things, like a prolonged pattern of behaviour in crucial areas like career development and relationships, take a little longer to rectify. In order to fix my flawed default emotional and psychological patterns of engagement, has taken a long time (and it is still a work in progress).

I use all the tools of personal development at my disposal (spiritual practices, mental techniques, journalling and reflection etc) to strengthen a growth mindset. But I need to be intentional about it.

When I feel the twinge of regret pinch at the corners of my conscience, I am learning how to place it upon the regret spectrum.

  • Invest in your now: When something new comes up into my self awareness about the way I responded to someone, or a silent thought that I have that is not entirely positive, this internal checklist usually helps:
    • Is this something I can change?
      • If no, I focus on the things that are within my power to control.
    • If yes, I consider the steps that I need to take to practise a new course of action the next time a similar situation arises.
  • Celebrate the growth: If a long-standing regret from a painful period of my life rears its ugly head, I take a moment to feed in a new narrative. You have to build new tapes to drown out the old ones. I interject the taunting “see how hopeless you were with “Thank goodness I’m not that person anymore” or “Thank God I never have to see those people ever again.”
  • Let go of the minutia: Sometimes, it’s just a simple ‘I wish I said that this instead of not saying anything to that person in that situation.’ Alas, the moment is gone and it doesn’t help to ruminate. I usually just tell myself to let it go and move on with my life.
  • Pay the price to get the life you want: If there are specific limiting behavioural patterns that I keep picking up (like talking myself out of going to gym more times than my feet actually make it on the treadmill, then more drastic measures have to be taken to get myself out of a rut (like finally signing up with a personal trainer). Less insanity (going the same things and expecting different results) and more proactive challenges.

The better you get with dealing with regret today, the less regret you will have to deal with as you get older.

We’ve all read about studies done on people in their death beds. The things we will regret at the end of our lives will be not enjoying or fully appreciating the things that money can’t buy. Things like friendship, family, genuine love, joy, peace of mind, meaningful conversations (etc, etc).

We’re gifted with life. Only we can decide whether we will cherish the present. The antidote to regret is gratitude.

Are there any regrets that you just can’t seem to let go of? Share your comments below.

Finding A Mid Year Check-In Mechanism That Works For You

Most people project their wishful thinking into a bucket of New Years Resolutions… which, if not followed by basic personal development skills, eventually falls out of the holes of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve…
But if you’re reading this blog, you’re not like most people. You care about your life and your future and understand that if things need to change in your life, you’re the one to make it happen.
So I’m making certain assumptions as I provide the following guidelines:
1. You actually have a set of targets in the critical areas of your life for 2017.
2. You currently have a personal development plan, with measurable outcomes in place.
3. You have been tweaking your introspection and evaluation tools.
I generally have to manage my anxiety levels when it comes to mid-year or end of the year. (Oh who am I kidding, I have to manage my anxiety levels every week because I don’t want to waste my life. One of the sessions with a coach, where she helped me see how little time we actually have, really freaked me out. Yes I know, I might be a little hardcore about this, hence the blog. Moving on.)

                            The amount of time – in weeks – we actually have (scary, huh)?

Last year, I realised that it works better for me if I do a mini-evaluation at the end of each quarter. This seems to be the pattern that has repeated in my life and so I decided to lean into it instead of adopting someone else’s system that might not be the best fit for my personality and the way I function. I later discovered that the ’12 week year’ is actually a thing. Lucky me.
I try to do a weekly evaluation but what’s actually been working for me recently is a daily check-in that I do before bedtime. It’s a simple spreadsheet that I update on my phone and over the past three weeks, this has become a habit. The days go by so quickly that we barely have time to appreciate all the life and love that we have been gifted with. So, as a writer, this has been a great tool for me because it forms a mini-narrative of my life and I can instantly look back on Tuesday last week and muse about what has transpired since then. (And I can bug my husband with the details).
At the end of last year, I spent a few days reflecting on my targets* over the past year and came up with an extensive list of targets in the following key areas of my life: Spiritual, Character, Health, Relationships, Career and Finances. These are the categories that have been the strongest areas of investment over the years.
I’ve had to simplify my targets. I was doing too much but didn’t want to admit that to myself (#Superwomantendencies). The targets that I expressed in writing would only realistically take place over a 3-5 (maybe even 10) year period. And here I was trying to cram everything into one year (and getting annoyed at myself for not making it happen).

So now, I have chiselled the Big Goals down into more doable, bite size pieces and have simplified targets in each focus area.If you haven’t sculpted your personal growth targets yet, don’t wait until New Years Eve to kick it off. Here’s a good list of questions (thanks to Valorie Burton) to ask yourself if you don’t know where to start:

1.What am I most proud of this year?
2. What is the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year?
3. What is the most meaningful milestone I can accomplish this year?
4. What would make it easier for me to reach that milestone?
Adaptive, not prescriptive
The key to developing an effective check-in process for yourself is that you need to design it to work for you. Anything that you try to put in place that will have you feeling like you’re working against yourself is doomed to fail. So be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the space and time to reflect and adapt where necessary.
Here’s the guideline I use for my mid year (and quarterly) check-in:
  1. Is my system working?
    • Yes but needs tweaks
      • No, I need to change it
        • What needs to change in order to make information tracking easier?
  2. What has worked?
  3. What have I learned?
  4. What do I need to stop doing?
  5. What do I need to focus more on?
  6. What do I want to visualise as successes at the end of the year (or quarter)?

I have now chipped down my Mount Everest of personal achievement into tiny hills that I feel more confident at being able to climb every day. My targets for the next six months is broken down into daily, weekly and monthly intentions. It primarily serves as a reminder to “stave my distractions and feed my focus.” For me to take meaningful steps towards meeting my targets, means that I need to say no sometimes to social events and to block out writing weekends in my calendar (these words doesn’t magically appear in my sleep).

It means that I have to overcome my ‘internal downer voice’ that mocks me for trying once again to increase my fitness levels (I finally succumbed to signing up with a personal trainer – eat that inner critic!).

I’m also trying to teach myself to be more present in the moment – paying attention to the sound of gravel under my feet, or my husband’s voice while he’s talking (unrelated metaphor). If I miss all the beauty that life offers me today, I will always be chasing what I already have. This is why it’s so important to acknowledge all the baby steps you take along the way.

Celebrate the small wins

I was moaning at my dietician earlier this year about how stuck I am and how nothing I do seems to change. She reminded me that when I first went in to see her last year, I was eating a chocolate a day (that has stopped now) and was only getting to gym once or twice a week (it had since moved to three to four times a week).

The perspective of another person (albeit a paid professional) helped me to get the mindset shift I needed. I am a big picture person, so the vision of the future, the ideal, is to tangible and real that I constantly have to manage frustration at the ever-imperfect present). Yes, of course I wrote a blog post about my struggles.

There were many things that happened this year that came as a result of my intent (although not in the way that I expected). So I’m learning to recognise (and appreciate) the tiny signposts along the way that confirm that I’m headed in the right direction.

Then again, you need to know what direction you want your life to go – otherwise how will you know when you get there?

I hope this has helped to inspire you to a) get some targets if you don’t have any already or b) get excited again about re-aligning your daily activities so that you keep moving forward along your path of person greatness. Leave some comments/suggestions below 🙂

 

*A few years ago, I stopped having goals and started working towards targets. (This post on Linkedin by a local entrepreneur I respect inspired this shift http://bit.ly/2sDLGzt )

 

The Secret to Personal Progress

I don’t know whether you’ve realised this yet – or whether you’re still learning this life truth: you can’t figure life out on your own.

I think I’ve always known this to some degree but I didn’t always know how to seek the help I needed in healthy ways.  I unfortunately developed a bad habit of listening to the wrong voices when I was younger (with disastrous consequences) so it’s taken me a while to understand how to identify the right kind of people to ask for help.

As an avid reader and knowledge seeker, if I have questions around a particular topic, I go into immediate research mode. Google searches help to some degree, but then I always find myself looking for videos on the topic instead. There is something about hearing a voice speak about a topic that I’m interested in, that serves as a warming illumination that melts away clouds of confusion.

We want to hear someone who has been through what we’re going through, who had the same questions we have and somehow found answers that took them forward. We want connection. I’ve discovered that the secret to personal progress is: finding the right voices, at the right time, will help you go in the right direction.

You can of course talk to the wrong people at the right time (right time meaning that you are at a crossroads of decision) and end up going down the wrong path. Getting lost because of bad advice often leads to frustration and resentment. It might make you feel like giving up because you feel like things are so far gone that they can’t be salvaged.

But that is not true. There is always a new opportunity to start again. So if that is where you are today (hopeless and despondent) – let my voice be the one that encourages you to get up from here and find your way back to your path of purpose.

A book of wisdom says: “Without advice plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Finding the right voices

 

 

You don’t have to learn from your own mistakes. You can learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. The experiences of others are able to serve as building blocks in your own understanding. Identifying the right voices doesn’t have to be an impossible quest. Here’s the guidelines I use when asking for advice:

1. They have a level of success in a particular area that you wish to attain.

The best advisers are people that are  currently doing the thing that you want to do. Or have experience in the field you want information about. It doesn’t have to be specifically related to your field, but if they are applying the skills that you need to apply, and doing so successfully, then that is something you can learn from. Recently, I was consulting with someone who has a retail company, as their social media presence on Instagram was better than mine. Even though the product differed, the marketing principles remained the same.

Talking to him helped me to connect the dots and suddenly I could see what my focus area has been for many years. There were many other factors that contributed to this moment of clarity but our conversations helped me refine my offering quicker than I could have done on my own.

2. They have your best interests at heart.

Do the people you’re talking to have your best interests at heart? If you know that there is someone in your personal network or friendship circles that might be harbouring a   “what’s in this for me” expectation, chances are they the advice they offer is going to be tainted with self-interest. Unfortunately, not everyone has pure intentions and the golden rule here is to trust your instinct. If you feel uncomfortable around the person, or unsure of their motives in helping you, then rather look for an alternate source of wisdom.

3. They are happy to see you succeed.

Good counsellors (another word for wise people) are those who are not jealous of you, neither do they see you as a threat. They genuinely believe in you and want to see you succeed. A friend of mine has developed a possible business solution in the form of big data. He is super intelligent and has a good character – he just doesn’t have all the practical business experience yet because he is still completing his masters degree. I set up a meeting with a business owner who operates in the IT field and after a brief discussion, my friend realised where he needed to focus his development efforts.

He could have wasted a lot of time, energy, effort and money developing something that went bust. Because He was open to learning, it didn’t matter that he didn’t even know the person that helped to steer him in the right direction until I introduced them. So the lesson here is that if you know that there is a group of people who believe you, don’t be afraid to ask for help because they could connect you to the right person that will direct you along the right path. I found this great post on LinkedIn that will help you understand the power of “indirect networking: http://bit.ly/2sJAg1e

4. They are willing to assist where they can.

When you’re asking someone for help, you will need to fit into their schedule. When is the most convenient time for them to squeeze in a coffee with you?

Be grateful for the time someone gives you. If you can afford it, pay for their coffee or lunch. They will feel honoured that you value their time and their input (John Maxwell has made this a staple of his personal development).

You don’t want to come across as naggy or needy. Ask once, remind them again but if they are too busy and haven’t been able to make time to see you, then it might be better to move on to someone else who has more time. There might be an opportunity at a later stage to hone in on their wisdom.

5. They are making progress in their own endeavours.

Remember that while people aren’t perfect, there is a lot than you can learn from them. Asking for advise from someone doesn’t mean that they have it all together – but you are gleaning from their expertise and progress in a particular aspect of their lives. Someone might be a fitness freak – but they aren’t great at building successful relationships. Just because you’ve received positive input from them in one area of personal growth, doesn’t mean that you should follow everything that they do.

The golden rule with personal development is that you are ultimately responsible for your own life choices. Asking for advise is valuable. The way that you apply the knowledge that you’ve received is what leads to wisdom manifested in your own life. So keep moving forward, keep the hunger alive and seek out the right advice to help you go in the right direction.

 

 

 

Boy screaming into microphone

Finding Your Voice In The Workplace

(This post is dedicated to my sister, who like me, is learning to amplify her voice in the corporate arena).

We all have an intrinsic need to be heard. We want to know that our opinion matters. In the corporate space, we want our voices to be heard, we want to know that our work matters. In order for business to be increasingly globally competitive, harnessing the collective diversity of their human capital is vital to progress.

In countries like South Africa, where our rich diversity is undercut by a traumatic past, it’s no wonder that the children of the “previously oppressed” find it difficult to use their voices in the places and spaces that was previously restricted.

A consequence of first generation students accessing higher education is emerging pools of first generation professionals who need to learn to find their voices. Their parents are largely blue collar workers and although proud of the opportunities available to their offspring that was denied to them, they remain unable to provide a framework of support to help first generation professionals navigate the strange new white collar environments.

There is a multiple muting of potentially powerful voices that are harbouring solutions, creativity and new direction. Much of this internal barbed wire has been strung together through years of cultural norming where children were not allowed to express their voices in healthy ways.

Women in societies based in patriarchy were told in various covert and overt messages that they were not valuable in the workplace, let alone as leaders in the corporate world. Many young people that travel into cities and towns in the hubs of commerce have faced starkly different realities growing up and feel like pariahs in their own worlds.

 

 

Depending on your life experiences, there will be multiple aspects of finding and expressing your voice in the workplace.

  1. Find your voice: The first step to finding your voice is learning to determine what you like and don’t like in your own life. You may have become so accustomed to succumbing to the status quo that you have not given yourself permission to formulate your own opinions.

Growing up, there were many things about my Indian culture that I didn’t like. I didn’t listen to Bollywood music. I read lots of books while others we playing card games. I didn’t enjoy the petty gossip and comparisons that I was  exposed to. People teased me for using too many ‘big words’.

I tried to fit in for a long time but after my peer groups kept dismissing me as a “coconut”, I realised that it was pointless trying to fit in. It still took me a long time to own my voice but the first step was giving myself permission to be different from the people around me.

2. Own your voice: This is not an easy step. The process to owning your voice will not be linear. The way to own your voice will be to find out what the greatest impediments are to your ability to speak up.

Biological: Did you grow up in a home where you were the youngest (or middle child) and you felt like no one paid attention when you tried to share your opinion? Feeling like your voice doesn’t count can become so frustrating that you eventually give up on trying to be heard.

Cultural: Is your family culture rooted in beliefs that certain members of the group held all the power – and you fell into the “naturally voiceless” segment? When you’re part of an active workplace, you will be expected to bring all your personal power to bear within your role – but if you’ve learned how to remain silent (even though you have something valuable to say), you will need to learn how to speak up.

Psychological/Emotional: My attempts to speak up in the home was met with violent consequences and so I learnt that speaking up gets me (and the people I care about) in trouble. That led to deep seated emotional and psychological rifts in my inner belief and caused me to doubt my voice in every area of my life.

I let other people decide what was best for my life – because I lacked the confidence and the courage to say No.

Gender/Race: Men still generally find it easier to own their voice and speak up with confidence due to the global gender bias that is unfortunately a reality in most workplaces (Five Common Signs of Gender Bias in the Workplace: http://bit.ly/2srCZw7)

Political instability only serves to heighten tension in terms of race relations and often the workplace is where people have to confront their subconscious frustrations and find easy scapegoats.

So yes, speaking up is not going to be easy – given that you have to address your personal muzzle configuration, as well as the invisible gags within your specific work context. But it is not impossible and if you are part of a workforce, your voice matters.

3. Practice using your voice in various contexts: If it feels impossible to amplify your voice on the job, start by speaking up in other areas that are just as important. Is there a difficult friendship where you need to establish some healthy boundaries but you’ve been putting it off for too long? Do you always turn a blind eye at a restaurant when the waiter doesn’t bring what you asked for?

Speaking up in one area successfully builds the confidence you need to speak up in other areas of your life.

 4. Be open to constructive criticism: Learning how to speak up will necessitate learning how to deal with constructive criticism. Not all the ideas that you develop will be a right fit, so be prepared to learn how to integrate your suggestions into what is needed for the current work context. (Here’s a good guideline for making your voice heard in meetings: http://bit.ly/2r7SXI0)

5. Keep reflecting and growing in this area: Start keeping a journal of the things that make you feel “I wish I’d said that” or “If only they would do it this way”. Then start writing down the ways that you will speak up the next time the opportunity arises.

Ask someone you trust for help in learning how to own your voice. Reflect with them and allow them to serve as a sounding board. Give yourself time. A year from now, you will look back and find the things you are struggling with today will have become easier because you rose to the challenge.

6. Listen to others and encourage them to share their voices: When you start valuing your own voice and your right to be heard, you will begin to appreciate how difficult it might be for others to express their voices too. You will find yourself becoming a better listener and being more proactive in how you process information.

You can become one of those people who actively own their voice and use their words to shape the worlds around them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Leadership Traits We Can All Learn

Leaders are not born.

They are made by the choices they constantly make.

Every person has the ability to learn to become a leader. We have to lead our own lives, otherwise we will be led by others. Servant leadership is a style of leadership that places the benefits of others over benefits to self. Here are seven servant leadership traits we can all learn.

1. Willingness to embrace discomfort: taking the lead on projects and in organisations is not comfortable. You will have to deal with different types of people, you will come up against various obstacles and you will face the precipice of perceived limitations.

People who choose to embrace the discomfort that change brings are the ones that are able to bring about change.

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