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Are you boxing yourself in?

I have spent most of my life, fighting my way out of boxes.

Most of the time, other people boxed me in, with the certainty of science and plenty of experience behind their thinking. They told me with clarity and conviction that I belonged in this box and that being in would dictate the limitations to my abilities.

I knew they were wrong, of course. I knew they had spent their lives living according to the boxes they’d also been put into by others. What did strike me as odd, on occasion, was how these highly qualified and respected people who could change and even save the lives of others, were happy to accept the box existed and, even more surprisingly that they belonged in it.

There never was a box.

It can feel easy and safe to put things in boxes, to label them and say things like ‘we’ve always done it like this’ or ‘everyone with this condition will behave this way and have these outcomes’. The thing is, it just isn’t true. These boxes are, more often than not, actually a way of putting aside something we don’t know how to deal with, or wish to pretend isn’t real.

It is far easier to tell someone ‘this is how it’s always been’ than to listen when they challenge the status-quo or show different results than you’re used to. If they don’t fit the mould you have, then how are you supposed to work through the problem?

And as we are bombarded by the boxes, from when we first start school and we’re put into boxes like ‘challenged’ or ‘disruptive’ or ‘prodigy’, we start to own them and become what is expected of everyone in the box. We take on the characteristics we’ve been told are part of who we are – simply because we’ve been told that’s what it means to live in this box. We start to box ourselves in.

When I was told, often with a total lack of empathy or compassion, about the more alarming parts of my health issues, I knew I had to break out of the boxes before I started to believe them to be my place.

When I was in my early twenties, I went to a ‘support group’ meeting for people with my genetic condition. I hoped to meet like-minded people of my age who had overcome the challenges I was facing and who might have words of encouragement and hope. The meeting was full of people who had decided this was their place, who had lost all hope of challenging the anticipated path for us and had become accepting of the outcomes their medical professionals predicted when they put them in the box.

It was a game-changing moment for me. I knew I could never go to another meeting like that, and I knew I had to decide that day, this was not going to be my future. I was not going to be sat in agony, covered in braces and having constant surgery. This was not my box. I had to find medical professionals who didn’t want to box me in, or tell me that I could never break out.

Which box have you become comfortable in? Which box could you do with breaking out of? It will feel scary and exciting in equal measure and, at times, you’ll hear yourself saying all the things that you say to stay in the nice, safe box. That’s okay. That’s what we all hear, every time we challenge behaviours or habits.

It takes time and practice and often, when you really believe that you’ve broken free, you realise you’re climbing back in and looking for a dark corner o feel safe. That’s okay too. It passes. It takes time to break down boxes that we’ve been building for years.

When it feels overwhelming, I remind myself; there never was a box. It was all in my imagination, or the text books that my doctors read, the lessons my teachers taught us and the language in my own head.

Dinah

One Size is never, ever, going to fit all

I remember the total sense of self-loathing, mixed with a sad if slightly sneery ‘I told you so’ that swirled round my head as the sleeve ripped as I pulled it over my head. I was stuck completely now, unable to pull the top off without ripping it the rest of the way down. I would have to buy it; I would have to buy this ‘One Size Fits ALL’ bright pink top that proclaimed, in all its fuchsia glory “Well, all except YOU”.

 

I was 29 years old and in a store in New York. I felt so disgusted with myself that I spent the next five (or more) years wearing black, eating in secret and constantly reminding myself that I was not one of the ‘all’. It took many years to get past that language of self-hate and the message that I’d seen was ‘you are not as you should be. You are different – but not in a good way.’

 

Now in my fifties, I often remind myself of the years of conversations I had on this topic with friends and the energy it consumed in us all.  And it wasn’t just about size.  We seem to live in a society where we are all put in boxes that have been built based on the concept of ‘one size fits all’ from education to healthcare, from parenting to sexuality, if you don’t find your place in these boxes, the message is that you are the odd one out. One Size Fits All – except YOU.

 

I have always been very aware of language and the impact it has on our mind-set.  I knew that working with my ‘Heart Failure Nurse’ was never going to be an option for me, and that’s why I worked hard to get her name badge changed to ‘Heart Specialist Nurse’.  One Size Fits All, is language that is created for a label, without thought for human vulnerabilities.

 

I wonder how many times we’ve applied the ‘one size fits all’ approach to people without thinking about it; I think the word ‘should’ does this for us and we apply it to others and ourselves daily. ‘I should have done that by now’ or ‘I should be over this by now’ or ‘she should understand how I feel’ are all words I’ve heard often and used myself.

 

‘Should’ is one of those words that rarely encourages positives, it tends to be a stick we beat ourselves with rather than a way of supporting positive change or behaviour. And what ‘should’ is really saying is ‘one size fits all except you’.  The next time you’re tempted to tell yourself you ‘should’ be something, ask yourself ‘according to whom?’ You might find the answer enlightening.

 

I hope this thinking is useful for you and that you can start celebrating not being in the ‘one size fits all’ box, but instead being the perfectly-imperfect you that you are.

 

Dinah x

 

 

 

Not everyone’s comfortable with PDAs (Public Displays of Accountability)

When a client I was working with a few years ago told me he was finally ready to start writing the book he’d been talking about writing for almost 20 years, I suggested he make a Public Display of Accountability (PDA) to give him an incentive to stick with his commitment.  I suggested that by telling his peers of his plans he would achieve several things to support him on this journey; his supporters would encourage him and congratulate him for each milestone reached, his inner voice would tell him that he had to do it now because he’d look like a quitter if he didn’t and his potential publisher and readers might see his plans and he’d be marketing the book before he’d even written it.

 

I am pleased to report that this approach worked well for him and his book was written in less than four months and published within twelve. The fact that he’d never put accountability in place before was a key reason he’d never taken action and by not taking action he told his own self-belief (of lack of it) that he was failing to write his book for yet another year and this was proof of his continuing failure to take action. Writing the book has allowed him to discard this un-helpful pattern and create a new, positive habit with accountability built in as a key support mechanism.

 

It can feel uncomfortable when we decide to share an idea and our intentions around it, even with people we trust. Often, there is a historical situation in which we were rejected, either on a personal level, or in a work situation that felt like it was about something we were lacking (whether that was experience or talent, it will have knocked our  confidence) and so the very suggestion that telling people what we are planning can feel fraught with danger and we’ll come up with a thousand and one reasons to talk ourselves out of it. And of course the result is we don’t take action.

 

I look at PDAs as a commitment to myself and to the belief that the idea or project is worth the effort. The commitment to myself is to give the idea / goal / product (this can be anything from running a marathon to launching a blog to building a house)  its best possible chance of success; I know that I stick to a plan better when I am sharing the steps along the path with others, so by putting this accountability in place I am more likely to dedicate the time and energy required.

I also see PDAs as a way to see how people react to my intention; if nobody is interested in my blog about chocolate (seriously, could that happen?) then I may decide to do some market research to identify whether it’s my message or my demographic that needs re-thinking. Being public about my idea, my progress and even my challenges and failures along the way, will all help me connect with my potential audience, and create a loyal support base who I can turn to for honest feedback.

 

And by the way, yes, I do know that these Public Displays of Accountability can come back to haunt people. I believe however, that if your intentions are good and you find part way through that you’re going down the wrong path, it’s okay to say ‘this commitment is changing. I discovered this wasn’t the right choice / goal / project / company for me.  The great thing is, if you’ve taken people on the journey of this discovery, you’ll now find you have indeed got people around you who are ready to offer help, support, opinions (some may be hard to hear) and most of all, their time – for you.

 

What have you been promising yourself you’ll start for a long time that a PDA could help you get done?  I’d love to be one of your supporters if you’ll share your journey.

 

Dinah

Make changes, not Resolutions

I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; it strikes me that January is about the worst time (especially in the Northern Hemisphere) to start committing to enormous goals and making sweeping promises about our consumption, or denial of, certain pleasures from alcohol to sleep.  It is cold, dark and miserable for a large part of the time and this is not a great way to motivate yourself,  indeed the simple lack of Vitamin D we suffer at this time of year has a significant enough impact on mood to almost guarantee challenges.

In addition, I have a sense that Resolutions are not for the long term.  They are announced to our small community of friends and colleagues, often on Social Media, with much sincerity and complete belief that we are going to do “it” this time.  Who are we making these announcements for?  Who are we trying to convince that this year, this time, we really do mean it and really will do all the things we didn’t bother to finish the last time we set this challenge for ourselves.  Some kind of self-punishing cycle we perpetuate year after year that, often, results in little being achieved other than a confirmation that “I never finish anything” or “I am a quitter”.

When I work with clients who feel trapped in this cycle, we look at things with a view to making change; change that is a long-term commitment to doing something in a way they have not been doing them consistently until now.  Perhaps you’ve experienced that initial feeling of belief and commitment that comes with the new year, and set yourself the challenge to change a pattern in your life that has become a habit with a negative impact for you.  It can feel overwhelming, so here are my top tips on making real, lasting change without running out of steam before it has a chance to make the impact you want:

  1. Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail.  The easiest way to make change difficult is to make the goal so vast that you believe it is beyond reach;  don’t get carried away by other’s stories of success or the “amazing” results promised by programmes or courses.  Set your own, realistic and small targets that allow you to celebrate lots of small successful steps towards constant change.
  2. Change one thing at a time.  Yes, there is time.  No, you will not achieve more if you change everything that is wrong at the same time.  Small, single and repeated change makes you stronger and more able to make the next change, and the next…..
  3. Wipe the slate clean; every day. And then wipe it clean again.  When we constantly hold ourselves up to measure against what we used to do, or what others do, we are focussing on things that we have no control over.  If you had a bad day yesterday, wipe it out.  You can no longer change yesterday.  We can certainly learn from our past, but when you start to use the past to create excuses to  block your own success, it is time to wipe it clean and start with a positive mindset.
  4. Surround yourself with your “why”.  Lots of Coaches and Mentors will help clients find their true motivation, the reason they do what they do, the real “why”.  And often, once we’ve identified what we’re doing it for, we forget to focus on this.  When the hours we’re putting in seem crazy, or we’ve got another weekend scheduled, it’s helpful to have photos, written goals and successes on view, where we can reconnect with our motivation and let go of the resentment that can undermine our success.
  5. Create accountability.  This is where we often go to Social Media and “announce” a goal we’re setting.  Great idea to share, as this creates accountability.  However, I would advise caution here; sharing with a wide audience, who may not understand your personal motivation for change, can be the quickest road to being talked-out of change.  Perhaps wiser, as a first step at least, is to share with a person (or people) who you know will help and encourage you and understand how important the change is for you.  Ask them to help you stick with your goal for change, especially when you ask them to stop!

Making change that lasts is never a straightforward process; there will be twists along the way you could not control or predict, and your ability to see these are bends in the road instead of an excuse to give up, is what makes the most impact on lasting change.  I have changed my entire lifestyle to accommodate changes to my health and every day, in some small way, I have to adapt what I thought I had now got :the way I want it:.  Be open to the possibility that some of the twists and turns, and challenges, might also be opportunities to see a different option; change is flexible and a work-in-progress.

What changes are you most proud of from the last five years?  Think about how you achieved them and what your motivations were behind them.

Have a great day

Dinah

Compare and you feed your self-doubt

It feels like an inevitable part of living in the ‘developed’ world in this century; comparing ourselves to others, in almost every aspect of our lives.  Whether it’s our looks, our age, our accent or even what we wear, we are constantly encouraged (both openly and in less obvious and sometimes less ethical ways) to find faults in ourselves that don’t exist in the ‘perfect human’ we should aspire to be.  Well I am calling ‘Time” on this b.s. (that’s a polite way of writing bullshit) and making it my mission to fight back against the feeding of self-doubt that is, just as we all suspected, really about someone else making money.

Comparison with others starts early in our lives, and often even before we are actually born.  You only have to skim through your social media feeds to find images of expectant mothers comparing this pregnancy to their last, or to those of their peers.  Soon enough, they are convinced, by these comparisons, that they are ‘too’ something or ‘should’ be feeling or doing something other than they are.

And throughout our childhood we are measured and compared for our ‘development’ using scales and tables and instruments, each accompanied by a set of comparisons that prove you fit into a certain ‘box’.  And should you ever then change from that box to another – well, perish the thought!  From pre-natal to post-mortem, we are compared at every stage and unless we’re very lucky, the comparisons have negative messages at least part of the time.

I found a wonderful quote on Pinterest recently, and despite my best efforts, I am unable to attribute it to an original author:

“The grass only looks greener on the other side because it’s being fertilised by bullshit!”

This is the core of the issue for me; when you compare yourself to another person, you’re not actually comparing yourself to a real person.  You are seeing only what that person chooses to share, or portray in public.  Do you actually think everything you see on social media is real and perfect?  It is easy to believe the person sharing posts about confidence wakes up every day feeling on top of the world.  It’s hard to imagine the successful writer sitting at their desk for hours on end questioning whether they have anything left worth writing about. Far easier to believe that everyone else has their ‘shit together’ and you are the only one who isn’t achieving your potential.

Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to another, stop and ask yourself what’s going on here. really?  Are you looking for attention and sympathy because someone else put in the hard work and got the results?  Or are you in fact feeling frustrated because you’re not being real about the situation – how many years has this person worked to be the ‘overnight success’ you’re comparing yourself to? Either way, give yourself a pep-talk and get real about this.  You’re staying stuck with these kind of comparisons and that means staying small.

We’ve all heard the expression about only comparing yourself with the person you were yesterday; clever and thought-provoking, but in the current world very hard to achieve.  I’d look at this in a different way, and next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Am I comparing myself to someone I admire?  If so what can I learn from their success.  If not, see that as self-sabotage and shut it down.  No really, play loud music or read something aloud if you have to, just shut down the pattern.
  2. Am I going to take action as a result of this comparison or just keep repeating the negative messages I gave myself the last time I did this.  Always give yourself the chance to make this time, the time you take action.
  3. Am I feeding this with my own bullshit?  Ouch.  I know.  But we all do it.  We compare ourselves to someone who we hold in very high regard, perhaps even put them on a pedestal and then find all the things we are ‘less’ than they are.  And in truthful moments, if we stopped building them up in our head, we could acknowledge our own growth, or achievement, as being equal to theirs.

In our society, where we are bombarded with messages about not being complete, or enough or somehow worthy of being held up for others as a comparison, we have to learn to shut out a lot of noise that does not serve us.  My husband commented this morning how much more positive I am since we got rid of the full length mirrors in the house.  I realised that all they served as for me was a way to constantly compare my reflection with the one in my head, and as any 51 year old will tell you, I’m still expecting to see a 35 year old me looking back.  By removing the daily comparison I changed my focus and now feel much closer to my shoe size than my age.

I wonder what you regularly compare with others, or your ‘younger self’ that you’d benefit from leaving behind.

 

Dinah

 

 

Massive change requires reinvention of Brand-You

Massive Change; an event that has such a huge impact on your life, every moment of it, how you live it and how you define yourself, that you are a different person than the one you were previously.  It can happen to anyone at any time and is not because of karma, or due to some terrible thing they have done to “deserve it”. What goes around very rarely comes around, and accepting this is often the first stage in coming to terms with the person you are becoming.  Accepting that you need to re-invent yourself allows you to start to create a new future, a new picture of positivity and a reason to continue that can, initially, seem impossible.

When I was twenty six, I had a bad car accident which resulted in me being a wheelchair user for more than a decade.  I couldn’t possibly have predicted or prepared in advance for such a massive change.  I had to re-invent everything I had assumed would be my life and re-invent who I was going to be if my life was to continue in a positive and worth-while (in my view) way that I could be proud of and happy in.

It took every ounce of courage, support and a massive learning curve of ups and downs to get out of that wheelchair; I achieved it only because I decided to embrace the situation, make a new life for us as a family and re-invent myself.  I took a promotion at work of seven grades – no small steps up a ladder for me now, I was flying up the ramp!  I travelled all around the world, organising conferences and looking after important clients.  It was a job I adored and it proved I could DO so much, despite my dis-ability.  It taught me I could be this new, re-invented Dinah, a woman who overcame the restrictions of a wheelchair by taking on a job that required her to travel thousands of miles a year, without buying into limiting beliefs.

When I had my series of heart attacks in my mid forties, the same re-invention of self was required.  I had reached a place where I was confident and credible in my work,  I had established a reputation and was in the position where I could choose whom I worked with.  And then another massive change decided to shake things up again.  I had to stop. Not just rest a bit and take a short break. Stop completely for two years.  No work, no stress, just getting well and giving my heart a chance to recover from surgery.  Massive Change.

This June is was four years since my surgery; the physical scars healed much faster than the emotional ones. The emotional pain can still come to the surface if I give it the space.  I am not a fan of regrets or looking back, and this can be one of the great challenges of massive change.

Here are my top tips for getting through the first twelve months after massive change:

1) Give yourself time.  More time than you think “everyone else” would take.

2) Comparing yourself to others, or to the You before your massive change is not helpful and this is a great time to stop this habit.  I know it’s not easy, nothing is easy when you’re going through something this huge, so suck-it up and just drop the self-deprecating “I’m not good enough” crap,  it won’t help, ever. You need to be disciplined about this one. More than anything else, when you repeat a negative message to yourself, you won’t be able to make the step forward required to actually believe in the change yourself.  All the positive outward “I am fine” stuff is pointless if you’re telling yourself it’s not true.

3) Anger is hugely negative when you bottle it up, particularly when the person you are angry with in these situations is often yourself.  You have every right to feel anger and, in a society where we’re taught anger is a negative thing, something we have to control at all costs, it can be hard to let it go.  I used to go somewhere that I could have a good, loud shout when I was first in my wheelchair.  I was spotted more than once in Richmond Park on a cold morning shouting at the ducks!  It worked though, and allowed me to release what might otherwise have consumed me.  Holding in your anger is dangerous and, while appreciate letting it out can be too, I’m suggesting you look for a SAFE way to express it, without that impacting anyone’s wellbeing.  Including your own.

4) Stop looking for the answers.  “Why did this happen to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” and “If I had/hadn’t done …. do you think this wouldn’t have happened?”  There is no positive answer to any of these questions, and looking for reasons will often leave you more negative and self-absorbed.  What matters when massive change impacts us is not so much why it happened as what we do about it when it has.  When our daughter was very small, we knew it was important to let her express how much our massive change had impacted our lives;  we had one day a month where the whole family talked about how unfair it was that I was in a wheelchair.  We talked about the fact that I was the only mum who couldn’t take part at Sports Day, and that it was really hard to go shopping together because I couldn’t get my chair into some of her favourite stores.  We called it our “Why me day” and it allowed all of us to express our frustrations at living with the impacts of massive change.

5) Let yourself change. I sounds simple enough, but accepting a new “you” is a huge challenge for most of us.  We may believe we avoid labelling others, but there are many labels we give ourselves to define who we are.  Often leaving a job we’ve held for a long time can be an example of that feeling of not knowing who we are anymore; when I couldn’t wear my corporate “badge” anymore, I was lost about how to introduce myself.  It can feel frightening to see that you are a new person, that perhaps you’re going to be seen differently by others.  Once you allow yourself to change and start to feel comfortable with the new person you’re becoming, you’ll find the changes become easier.

Have you had massive changes in your life that have required you to re-invent the person you thought you were?  I’d love to hear your techniques for re-inventing your life after massive change.

Dinah

You CAN please everyone – if you want to be average

It is one of the conversations I hear most often as a Mentor; a client is feeling down, their confidence is at an all-time-low and they’ve just admitted that today, someone told them they didn’t like what they do.  “They said my style wasn’t right for them”, “She said my product wasn’t as good as their other choice”, “He’s told me he’s not renewing our contract”, all news that everyone in business has heard at one point, and is likely to hear again.  The painful truth is, you are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that is great news.  If you want to please everyone, you’ll have to be bland, middle of the road, non-controversial, happy to stay put and resist change, oh and more than anything else, you’ll need to be average.

I can say with confidence, that nobody ever wanted to run an average business, lead an average group, give an average service or teach an average class.  We have all encountered businesses who have attempted to be all things to all people, but without exception, they fail.  Take any brand, however well known, respected or credible, and you will find a customer who has had a bad experience with them.  Any brand.  One of the greatest challenges facing our Public Services is that they are expected to be exactly what we all need, at every stage of our lives, whatever our circumstances.  I must say, as someone who would not be here without our NHS, I am grateful that this remarkable group of people somehow manage to be anything but average, on the “shop floor” and it is thanks to these remarkable, way-above-average people that this service delivers miracles every day.

Accepting that you’re not going to deliver, or accept, average in your life, requires you to be clear about where you draw some lines:

  1. Say no to potential business
    We’ve all been in that place where work is at a low point and we’ve considered working with someone when our gut is telling us to walk away.  Perhaps the cash was just too tempting, or the introductions promised are getting you into a new market; as you’re saying yes, you know you should be saying no and sure enough, within weeks, you encounter problems.  Saying “No. This is not for me” is one of the most difficult and fantastic things you will ever do; overcoming the desire to make the wrong decision for a short-term gain, and having the confidence that something better will come is a moment you will look back on with pride and pleasure in the future.
  2. Decide what “above average” really means to you
    If you are going to set yourself up to succeed here, you need to set some guides in place for measuring your delivery as being “above average”.  A great place to start this is to ask previous  and existing clients what it is about your service or products that keeps them coming back to you.  Ask them what makes you unique and what they most value in what you do for their business.  These are your pointers for excellence and setting these as standards you will achieve for every customer will allow you to be realistic about the consistence and credibility of your services.
  3. Manage expectations with authenticity
    It is almost certain that it is the very things that some don’t “get” or like about you that will appeal most to others.  We have all discovered with experience that our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses when we are at our most vulnerable and with this in mind, being authentic about who you are, how you work and what it is that makes you different, is key to attracting the right clients to your business (and the same applies to attracting friends and partners too).  This means being yourself at all times, even when it is tempting to conform, or play-down your individuality, even if you’re finding number one (above) hard to master.  I remember the greatest compliment I received the first time I met someone who’d only conversed with me on line; “You’re exactly who I thought you’d be” he told me “You come over on Twitter and your blog just as you do on stage and over coffee.”  Being yourself, setting an expectation in advance, helps attract the right people and also helps avoid uncomfortable situations with the wrong ones.
  4. Refuse to accept average
    I always have respect for people who “walk their talk”, especially when I know it requires effort.  Accepting average service is a choice; if you’re regularly getting less than you believe you’ve paid for from a company or giving more than you get in a relationship or friendship, it is possibly because you’re prepared to accept average.  Perhaps you believe average is all you deserve.  When you’re serious about accepting above average, it does something to your level of self-esteem that is liberating and powerful.  When you decide that only above average is good enough, you’ll expect it, appreciate it, acknowledge it and enjoy it more than you do on an “average” day.  You will also enjoy the challenge of delivering that for others; there is no better motivation to deliver outstanding service than to experience it yourself.

The next time someone tells you they’re less than thrilled with your service or product, ask them what they’d expected.  Ask them what would have made it right for them and thank them for their feedback and then consider this question: Was their rejection because I’m not good enough  or could it be that I would have suited them better if I had been more average?

The image at the top of this post was created by my wonderful friend and teacher, Amanda Rose.  You can see her fabulous art in Myddfai Community Centre, attend one of her art classes (with me) every Wednesday afternoon, or commission her to illustrate your Poetry or writing.  She’s the inspiration behind this blog; one of the most authentic, talented and above-average people I know who’s a real inspiration to me. And she makes me smile.

The Secret is…..

…There is NO secret.  Honestly.  There is no answer that will be revealed when you’ve learned enough, or suffered enough.  There is no Secret to happiness, success or lasting contentment.  AND THATS GREAT NEWS!

Great news for all of us; there is no secret to any of the things we all strive for – happiness, success in love work business relationships parenthood…The list goes on.  There are plenty of opportunities, new things to learn, choices to be made and some of them may be painful.  These things will all be in your control and you are capable of deciding which ones you want to put effort into, which ones will lead you where you want to go.

The idea that you can read a book, take part in a programme or work with a Coach and suddenly you’re going to have all the answers is a myth.  I’m not sure where it started, and I know the idea of a secret was around long before people started to talk about “the universe delivering” or even “What goes around comes around.”  I have to say that, in my opinion, these are two of the other great myths of our time.

The one truth that does apply to all the really happy, successful people I know is a simple one:  they’ve all worked really, really hard to get where they are.  Did they all believe they were going to succeed?  No, not always.  Did each of them have amazing support behind them? Again, no; neither financial or moral support were particularly relevant to their success.  Each of them has a very different journey, a unique story of their life.  And not one of them believes there is a Secret to their success.

I had a client a few years ago, who spent the best part of 20 years going from training programme to retreat, to mentor, to coach and most recently, back to University (in her 50s).  While I’m all for personal growth and learning, there is a time when you have to actually put what you’ve learned into practice.  So what’s keeping her so engaged in learning?  She’s searching for that promised Secret, and she’s not quitting until she finds it!

Let’s learn from her experience and from the truly successful people around us (however we choose to measure that) and spend less time looking for “the answer” and instead, start creating our own results, which we can take credit for.  It’s no secret that’s got to feel good!

Have an excellent day

Dinah

Don’t let a Vocation become your life-sentence

Loving what you do is often considered to be one of the greatest joys in life and many people agree that when they found what they considered to be their vocation, they felt a greater sense of achievement from their daily contribution to society.  Indeed, we even see certain roles as vocational choices, which only certain people can carry out; nursing, teaching, policing and paramedics are amongst the most often mentioned.  What happens, though, when you review your vocation and discover it no longer feels like that comfortable coat, or that you’re making a difference in a way that matters to you?

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My life has been largely about embracing changes that have impacted my life due to my health.  Each time I’ve believed I have found my “vocation” something has impacted my choice and caused me to ask the question, “Can I do something completely different and still feel this passionate about it?”

As I look back, I see that I’ve had a new vocation for each decade of my life, even beginning in my childhood:

Until the age of 10, I loved to sing
During my teen years I was sure I would be a Violinist
During my twenties I adored being in Personnel (Human Resources)
During my thirties I found my ability as an Event Manager
And in my forties I knew I had always meant to be a Mentor and Speaker

Now, in my first year into my fifties, I’ve found a new vocation, as an independent funeral celebrant.  Helping people at one of the lowest points in their lives, to deal with grief and somehow put together a tribute to a loved one which does them proud.

I found myself wondering how often we stay put in something because we believe the idea that if you’ve found your vocation in life, you should stick with it.  I wonder how often the changes that occur in our lives prevent us from making change that can feel overwhelming or even ungrateful.

I once worked with a client to help her make the change to become self-employed.  She’d spent over twenty five years in a role she had fallen out of love with more than a decade ago.  She told me it felt “wrong” to leave something she’d always wanted to do.  We so often pin our view of ourself to the job title we carry, and once we can let that go, it can be easier to accept it is not a “failure” to become something else.

We are allowed to change.  We are allowed to feel differently as we age and experience new things. Is it time for your to explore your next vocation in life?

Enjoy the journey,

Dinah

My body and me, a love/hate relationship

my body’s been through a tough time. It’s lived with ehlers danlos syndrome all it’s life, causing dislocations in every joint from hips to fingers, tears in skin from the bottoms of feet to gums, pain from ankles to neck and complications including a ruptured womb and recurrently dislocating neck. In recent years, it’s also had Chronic heart disease, angina, POTs, vascular degeneration, Pomphyx eczema and Raynards disease to add to the daily challenges. You could say it’s been through the mill. You could say it’s amazing, strong, determined and remarkable.

you could also say it’s a huge disappointment; imagine being given something to travel through life in only to discover it’s broken, over and over again.  Imagine wanting to do so many things with your life only to discover that you have to stop half way through and acknowledge, “I won’t be physically able to do that.”  Think about the frustration of spending a large proportion of your daily life asking people to do things for you that should be simple, like putting on shoes, brushing your hair, lifting your baking out of the oven. After a while, you’d be incredibly strong if you didn’t stop doing some things simply because you’re tired of asking for help.

My body is also curvy and ‘larger than life’; I think the last time I fit into a size 12, I was about 12 years old! The fact that I have large hips, curves and wobbly bits and a fairly impressive bust, are the very things that attracted my husband to me when we first met, back in our teens. He has a true love of my body to this day; he appreciates everything about it that makes it, in his words, “voluptuous-yummyness”;  “I want to cuddle someone soft, not take an eye out” he assures me when I comment that I should probably work on my core.

And there’s my dilemma. In a society where our bodies are meant to conform to a certain size, shape and proportion, my remarkable body doesn’t fit. It’s curvy and wobbly, I have large hips and as once described in Bridget Jones, I have a bottom you could “rest your pint on and park your bike in”!  (That always makes me chuckle).

How am I meant to love my body when I’m bombarded with the constant message that ‘fat’ is evil, an indication that I live a lazy life, eat too much, have no self-control? How can I be in awe of this amazing, tough, miraculous body, that has got me through so much, achieved it’s own miracles by walking and surviving everything my illnesses have thrown at it. How can I be proud and celebrate when all the messages tell me I should feel shame?

So, I find myself skipping over pages in magazines that show stick-thin, under-fed models, I ignore the adverts for weight loss clubs where you’re made to feel guilt at a whole new level and I listen to my husband; well, in truth, I’m still learning to listen, it’s an effort some days more than others. I’ve reached the point where I know it is true for him when he tells me I’m gorgeous and sexy, and that’s good enough for now. Me? I’m learning to believe it, learning that I can love my body. It doesn’t have to be a love-hate relationship.

how are you getting on in your relationship with your body? Have you got any tips that helped you?

dinah x