Who Are You Working For?

As the champagne bubbles from the New Year celebrations fade into memory, something else is rising on the inside of you as you face the work year ahead.

What is that feeling?

Is it anticipation? Dread? Anxiety? Excitement?

Pay close attention to those feelings as you make your way back to the office. Were you looking forward to the escape and dreading the inevitable return to chaos? Or are you grateful for the break but amped to jump into action and take on new challenges with your team?

The answer to that question provides a clue into the driving force of your work life. You are either working for yourself – where you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how to get there. Or you are working for someone else – doing what your boss wants you to do just to get paid the salary and go home.

One reality has you thriving – the other one has you stuck in survival mode.

It’s not possible to bring your best to work when you’re either not sure what “your best” is, or you haven’t yet found your “passion pocket” – the thing that you love to do and others will gladly pay you to do.

While finding one’s ‘sweet spot’ is a personal journey, your life is entirely in your hands. You don’t have to stay stuck. You have more options that you might imagine.

And if you love what you’re currently doing, challenge yourself to expand the borders of your current experience.

You only get one life.

And you decide who you will work for.

Work week reflection question: Am I working to achieve my potential or just to meet the expectations of others?

I have contributed to barbaric consumerism. And it kills me.

I’d finally found the perfect pair of black trousers. The fit was great, even though it wasn’t on sale. (The large sale signs were what drew me into the fast fashion store in the first place).

I was standing in line to buy it but couldn’t ignore the gnawing sensation in my tummy.

Just weeks before, I was surprised by the low prices for decent items at a different fast fashion store. I bought a gift for my friend’s birthday (she’s a lawyer) and was confused when I saw her visibly wince when she saw the label, even refusing to try it on.

When I pressed her for the reason a few days later, she told me how that retailer, among many others, was notorious for their use of sweat shops (and child labour in particular).

I didn’t want to believe it.

And then I Googled. And yes, she was right. It was my first real glimpse into the hidden evils of our convenient, affordable fashion. I remember seeing the list of fast fashion labels and the store that I was now standing in was one of them.

The trousers were made in a particular country and I was horrified to read that workers from that country had sewn messages into the clothes to let consumers know that they were not being paid for their work.

I vacillated for a few more seconds.

And then, I indignantly left the line, put the pants back on the rack (but in a hidden spot in case I changed my mind and came back) and left the store.

I make a monthly contribution to A21, an organisation committed to freeing sex slaves around the world. I want to give more than I currently do — and eventually I will.

What made me sad in that moment — and decidedly remorseful a few days later after I watched The True Cost Netflix documentary — was how my own addictions and compulsions can be stealing life from people in other parts of the world.

As a fourth generation South African Indian, I have been eternally grateful to my great great grandfather who got on that boat and risked his life to find a new one.

I know struggle. I know pain.

So it is inconceivable that I should close my eyes and swipe my card to get a good deal. As a recovering shopaholic, I’ve bought into the systematic machinations of consumerism. Trying to buy something to fix what’s missing on the inside.

And this is why I think the world’s gone mad. Why do people give themselves over to barbaric consumerism, choosing to be oblivious to the real cost and feigning innocence with the statement: “Isn’t that the way all clothes are made?”

Our digital, interconnected world ensures that we have no excuses for mindless behaviour. We can’t feign ignorance. The source of the things we buy is available at our fingertips. So a quick Google search confirmed my intuition. Knowing what I knew, I needed to make an informed choice while standing in that line.

If I bought that pair of trousers, I was saying that greed is ok. Abuse, discrimination, a disregard for basic humanity, is ok. That some people are just better off than others and that’s just the way things are.

It’s just a little tiny hop, skip and jump to the ideology driving the growing number of pedophiles scoring the dark net, wreaking havoc on entire communities.

Exploiting the disenfranchised to achieve selfish ends is never ok.

I am carrying this sadness around with me. It feels like not enough people care. We are making silent votes for or against death every time we make a purchase.

I can choose the live of another without compromising my own.

I can choose to stop compromised the lives of others over serving my own selfish needs.

 

Image of ad elipidated car

The Seven Slowest Ways To Ruin Your Life

Ruining one’s life is not something most people consciously set out to do. Most people want to achieve success in life. There is an inner drive to excel, to achieve your potential, to have your life count for something.

As you’re reading this, there are probably some thoughts and feelings stirring in your heart and mind. Maybe you’re remembering the things your parents want you to do with your life. Maybe it’s your own goals and ambitions that seem so far away. Perhaps you feel a tinge of regret over the things that failed and punctured your confidence to try again.

Regardless of what’s happened in the past, you most likely have a desire for life to work out well for you. You’re probably not getting up each morning thinking: “How can I ruin my life today?” And yet, ruin is a sneaky thing.

Because it’s invisible, it can be extremely insidious. It’s so much easier to pin our lack of achievement on circumstances we can actually see and people we can point our fingers to. We don’t actually think about the inner obstacles (of our own creation) that can impede progress along our road to success.

People who are angry and bitter, with multiple chips on their shoulders (we all know a few of them)probably don’t realise how, over the years, they’ve created their own version of quicksand and despite all their frenetic activity, are going nowhere slowly.

picture of a person trapped in quicksand

 

So how does one destroy one’s life, bit by bit, day by day, decision by decision? Decay usually sets in because of neglect. The proper care and attention is not applied appropriately and while it might not seem to be too damaging when you look at things over a short period of time, the tragic picture of ruination sets in over a decade or two.

  1. You lack vision: We weren’t born to just pay bills and die. You have been designed with a passion and on purpose and until you find and pursue the thing that makes you come alive, you will always be yearning for inner contentment. Success means different things to different people. You will feel like there is something missing from your life until you do whatever it is that fills you with joy when you’re doing it: whether it’s teaching children, running your own business or baking cakes. If you don’t write the script for your life, someone else will.
  2. You never take action: You keep talking about your dreams but you never translate them into goals and concrete plans. Successful people have turned wishful thinking into practical action. If you are not willing to pay the price, you will never lay your hands on the things you want. The things you like, you talk about. The things you love, you commit to.
  3. You never take responsibility: Someone else is always to blame for the things that haven’t happened yet in your life. There is no denying that some people have an easier start to life and have more privilege than others. And yet, there are countless examples of people who have experienced similar challenges and life circumstances as you. Once they took accountability for their lives, they managed to not just overcome it but to rise above their limitations and achieve phenomenal success. Find inspiring role models and ditch the scapegoats. If you haven’t learn how to receive – and grow from – constructive criticism, then you are bound to repeat the same experiences year in and year out.
  4. You stop growing: Your graduation day is not the finishing line of your learning. Great leaders are life long learners and successful people are constantly learning new things. Skill sets need to be tweaked and expanded in order to stay relevant in the market place. If you never really evaluate your personal progress and reflect on ways to improve and grow, you will experience regression instead of progression.
  5. You think you can make it on your own: A self-made man/woman is a fallacy. We need people to help us achieve more than we could ever accomplish on our own. People who have faith in the goodness of God and depend on His help experience a God-sized life as opposed to a life based on limited self-efforts.
  6. You live beyond your means: Talking yourself into unnecessary credit card purchases or ‘must-have items’ is a sure way to dig a deep hole of debt that will be a major impediment to living a whole, full life. Comparing yourself to others – and trying to keep up to someone else’s standards – is a sure way to drain the joy and contentment from your own life. Your finances don’t crumble in a day… but one bad choice after another eventually causes the ship to sink.
  7. You won’t diversify your friendship circle: If you’re constantly hanging out with people that look, act and think like you, you are robbing yourself from a rich tapestry of connection and understanding. Some relationships are like spiderwebs – keeping you trapped in a reality that doesn’t serve you and keeps you stuck. Most people never change because they are too afraid to allow their friendship circle to evolve.

What we don’t realise is that our fixed mindsets can act like a slow poison in our lives. Developing a growth mindset can help you galvanise yourself against the long-term, devastating affects of these soul-destroying decisions and behaviours.

Picture of a worn out car under a shed

This proverb has always stuck with me: “Wise people build their house with their own hands, but foolish people tear it down with their own hands.” There is no denying that you are entirely responsible for what your “house of life” currently looks like.

The truth is that even though there may be some areas that look severely debilitated right now, there is nothing so broken that God cannot restore. Once you are honest about the current state of affairs, you can then go about uprooting the roots of the things that are slowly but surely destroying your life.

If you don’t believe that you are a valuable person and deserving of living a whole, full, life – then you are not going to be motivated to stop the self-harm. I have swung on the pendulum of identity, living as a victim and as a rebel, until finally settling into the truth about my created value as a child of God.

When you see your worth and start living from a place of identity instead of for identity, the things you used to do to self-destruct become ludicrous patterns in your life. The great news is that if you are on any of these seven paths of death, you can decide to turn around and walk in the opposite direction into new paths of life.

I think that deep down, you really want to live a life that is full of joy, that is freeing and that frees you from the judgement, actions or opinions of others. Make the change today. If you wait another day, and another, and still another, ruin will come upon you and you will wish you could turn back the hands of time.

 

Are You An Ageless Student?

The youngest person in my English Honours class is probably 21.

The only student with a wedding ring, I am more than a decade older than the talented and promising post-graduates that I share a learning space with. And I am privileged to be there. I have tried this before, and I have failed before. And I’m giving it another go. Let’s hope ‘third time lucky’ holds true.

When life offers you a delicious opportunity, you take a luscious bite.

No one forced me to choose to pursue my dream (again) of finally getting my Honours. Yes its scary and uncomfortable to challenge yourself, to break the borders of what you thought you are able to achieve. But if you don’t champion your life, who is going to do it?  Here’s the three-step process of progress that I try to apply to my own life:

1. Find what you really want.

It’s easy to talk ourselves out of the things we don’t really have a passion for. Sometimes when it feels like things are going against the grain, its because Life is sending you an important message. Something doesn’t quite fit, something’s not quite right.

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. I almost succeeded in enrolling for Psychology Honours – until I hit the Research module which was stashed with unfair maths and stats. Tickets for a non-numerical, decidedly word-person like me.

Then I tried doing an Honours in Applied Linguistics, which would have been great if I was still working in Publishing, expect that my career had taken a perpendicular path.

Now I am doing English Honours courses – which I absolutely love and it challenges me in ways that fuels a passion long dormant. Sometimes it takes a while to dig down to your core passion – but don’t stop digging. You will finally strike the raw gold of your passion.

2. Work out what it will cost you.

I have no social life (for a few months). I banned myself from Facebook. I spend the weekends studying and working on assignments. I know that all this self-sacrifice means saying to invitations  from my beautiful friends “no for now, but not forever.”

Developing your dream is going to cost you something. It will probably will cost you a lot. More than your comfortable self-talk is willing to pay. Determine whether you are willing to pay the full price of achieving your goals.

3. Choose to pay the price everyday.

It has to be a daily decision.

You will have to exercise the power of either talking yourself into taking the next step – or talking yourself out of it. Each day that you move one step closer is a victory worthy of being celebrated.

The entirety of our lives are determined by how we spend our days. Choose well. Choose wisely. Choose you.

 

 

 

Run Your (Own) Race

Today I made history.

Not the kind of history that would make the evening news – but the kind of personal history that celebrates my freedom.

I woke up super early and although my irritated body tried to talk me out of it, I drove to the Cradle of Humankind to participate in my first ever 5km Fun Run. (Ok, it was more of a walk than a run, and much more of huffing-and-puffing pacing) but still… I did it.

There is nothing like breaking out of your comfort zone. Doing something for the first time. Having your preconceptions shattered to be replaced by experiential knowledge that results in wisdom for ‘next time’.

I think the reason I have postponed doing this for so long is because I would have to face the truth about myself: I am not an athlete. I am not those tanned, toned, lean machines who show the tarmac whose boss.

No, I am the not-really-sure-where-my-outside-gym-fitness-level-is-at cautious participants that ask themselves what they’re doing in the middle of a bunch of serious runners.

Anyway, there were kids and dogs running with us – so really… it couldn’t be that hard. It wasn’t actually. Even though I walked a total distance of 10km (distance from where car was parked to beginning and finish line) and my knees were buggered from the pounding of the pavement – I felt elated as I drove home.

I had pushed beyond my excuses.

I had pushed beyond my own fears.

I had pushed beyond my own limitations.

The medal hangs proudly above my bookshelf to remind me that I can do those things that I have been avoiding. Those things that I have been afraid of. Those things that – deep down – I know I can be brilliant at.

That medal is a symbol of me giving myself permission to be myself. To feel the fear – do it anyway and realise that it wasn’t that difficult after all. It is a reminder to face the things that will make me more successful at being myself.

I don’t need to be a star athlete. I don’t need to be perfect at something the very first time I do it.

But I can be myself. I can allow myself to grow, to try new things, to be astounded at what I can accomplish when I lean on God and allow Him to show me what He put in me.

I can run my own race.