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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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

If the hat fits

When I launched my first business venture in my late 30’s, I wanted to be the best International Event Manager in my field. I wanted to run superb, memorable events that people were clamouring to attend.

I was clear about the hat I wanted to wear; I knew it fitted and suited me and that I felt good in it. I did not anticipate the many other hats that came with running a business and I certainly had not anticipated the need to wear many of them at the same time. I was overwhelmed by the expectation that I would willingly wear them, having never so much as tried them for size or made a choice about colour or style.

Indeed many of the hats were ones I had consciously avoided and had been only too pleased to leave behind on the hat stand for someone else to wear.

When a business starts to grow, the hat we chose spends less and less time on our head each day. The joy we had in creating something and delivering it with pride to a client is overshadowed by the constant demands that we serve our business needs and not just those of our customers.

We have to “work on our business not in our business” investing time in planning for the future and creating a legacy. With every success it is easy to be moved further away from the very passion that inspired the business to be born. I think it helps to be clear about our identity and how we see ourselves.

I remember speaking at a networking group several years ago, and I referred to “sole traders” as being self employed people and not businesses. A member of the audience took offence at what I said and asked me “what’s wrong with being a sole trader? Not everyone wants to build an empire you know”.

My answer to him was that I had not explained myself clearly – there was nothing wrong with being a sole-trader, far from this. To have recognised your core strength and deliver that to clients with focus and passion was a gift. A conscious decision not to work on your business, but to work in it. Clearly the right decision for him as he was highly successful.

This conversation gave me clarity with several of my clients at that time (and since) as they struggled to wear the entrepreneur hat, which did not fit them and would never feel comfortable. They had left behind their real passions in order to build a business and lost touch with the thing that drove them and kept them engaged and inspired.

They believed success meant wearing all the hats regardless of whether they had the skills, or the inclination, to do so effectively. Many of them did not see the possibility of others wearing some of the hats.

The successful entrepreneurs among my clients were happily trying the hats on for size and then actively seeking out the right people to wear them. They worked hard at building relationships and making connections with people who had the skills that they lacked. They were happy to pass the hats around and spend time in the hat they had selected for themselves from the beginning.

They trusted those around them and took risks with the hats when it was called for. And they knew their strength lay in wearing one hat.

The main reason people give me for wearing all the hats is that the business isn’t ready for them to take someone on yet. “I would happily pass over that hat if we had more business coming in” “I would love to give that to someone else to do, but I know they’d need my input so it’s quicker to do it myself.”

What I hear is that they are not ready to hand over the hat. They haven’t yet got the people they trust around them; or perhaps they didn’t give the people around them a chance to try on the hats.

One team I worked with in 2009 was a business that had started with three friends and had now grown to a team of 19. The three founders were wearing all the hats and were, not surprisingly, frustrated with their results and lack of team engagement. We purchased a hat stand and the team placed all the hats on the stand – between them the three men were taking 12 hats away from the team. For one month, each had to wear just one hat a day, and the rest of the team shared the remaining hats between them. The results were significant and the hat-stand remains to this day.

Try taking a couple of hats off and hanging them out on your hat stand. Let others know they can try them on for size without commitment or fear of failure. If the hat fits – wear it and if it doesn’t then take it off and share it.

Dinah

I originally wrote this blog for virgin.com as one of their featured VIBs (very Important Bloggers).

It’s all about you!

It is, it really is!  It’s all about YOU.  Isn’t that wonderful news?  Or is it rather scary?  We’ve grown up being told it’s not all about us, that we should focus more on those around us, make our mission in life to put others first.  And these are wise words.  Indeed, I am a great believer that focussing on others builds us as people and gives us huge joy.  So when did the rules change?

They changed the moment you decided to follow that dream – you remember, that crazy moment when you put on that new hat and said “I’m going into business on my own!”  The minute you decided to blaze your trail and join the ranks of the Entrepreneur, you changed the rules.

And if you didn’t you missed something HUGE!

Here are a few reasons why it’s all about YOU:

– YOU are the real USP (unique Selling Point) in your business.  People do buy from people.  When there is a choice about where we spend our money (especially when money is tight) we’d rather spend it with someone we know and trust; someone we’ve connected with or heard great things about.  YOU.

– YOU are the values in your business, the ethics and code of conduct.  YOU are the Customer Service Policy, the Complaints Procedure and the Guarantee.  YOU set the standards that create your credibility. YOU.

– YOU are the face and the voice of your business, the person who engages on social media, who writes the blogs, who shares the pictures of your family and your first time on a stage or meeting new people. YOU.

– YOU are the driving force, the energy that kick-starts the action every Monday morning, the determination to keep going when it feels like it’s hard out there, the reason to get up and do it all again tomorrow. YOU.

Most of all, YOU are the one that will realise that, above all else, when you embrace that it’s all about your contacts, your clients, your friends and your collaborators, when you value them above everything else in your business, YOU will be a success.

It really is all about YOU.

Have a great day

Dinah

According to whom?

I watch with my head in my hands when the adverts come on the television.  The cause of this despair is quite simple really, it’s the idea that women are failing if they don’t “match up” to the perfection that is personified in stick-thin, teen-age models with “perfect” lifestyles and the skin, hair and figure to match.  Apparently, it’s what we all want.

 

I’d like to know, According to whom?

 

I saw an ad for skin cream that claimed “80% of women said they’d consider delaying surgery after using it”

 

Delaying? As if, surgery was inevitable once we took a good look in the mirror and realised how wrinkled we were.

 

Another shows a husband, claiming “we’ve been through three pregnancies…. and she still looks like Kate”

 

Let’s get this straight – the model still looks 30 because she is 30 and has probably never borne a child, let alone three.  Your wife still looks like your wife because you love her and we see only what we want to in people we love. And by the way, despite the grey hair you seem to despair of, she finds that sexy and exciting.  Don’t knock it!

 

My point is, who is it that sets these expectations, these apparent standards we must strive to achieve with diets, creams, procedures and prodding?  And what is it that makes us buy into them?  Is it a crowd thing, that sense that “everyone else does it so if I don’t then I’ll stand out for the wrong reasons?”  Is it that we’ve been so convinced the message is true, we’ve started to believe it ourselves?

 

I looked at my husband this morning; really looked at him.  His lines around his eyes, from working out-doors and no doubt added to by stress over the years. His grey hairs, now a good 30% of his head is covered in greys and whites.  I love them, I think they show his experience and maturity and yes, if I’m totally honest, they just look incredible with his tan!  I looked at his hands, with scars that show a life-time of crafting, creating, working hard for a living. Oh yes, I looked at other bits too – but that’s between us 😉

 

I asked myself “Do I see these changes in him as imperfections?  Do they stand out and become the things I notice?”  The answer for me was no.  I see these as the signs that we are growing old – together.  That makes me emotional.  We did not anticipate this.  It’s exciting and new.    I love the lines that tell his story, the rugged look that highlights his features, the grey hair that makes his blue eyes even more intense.

 

And I wonder, does he notice my lines, my creases and wrinkles?  Does he see the grey mixing in with the blonde or notice the lines on my hips and arms which tell of my history?  Does he love me because of them or despite them?  I believe I know.  I believe he’s with me on this one.

 

According to him I’m beautiful.  According to him I can stop fixating over the ageing process and continue to celebrate my years and my lines.  According to him, I’m perfect just as I am.

 

Dinah x