Are you happy with where you are today?

Pointer SistersI’m so excited…and I just can’t hide it…I’m about to lose control and I think I like it...you are required to sing this section of my blog, aka Pointer Sisters from the 80’s.

Why am I excited?  Because interesting things are happening with my work at the moment, the project I am working on is reaching an important milestone, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel and I’m engaging with other people who have the same interests and goals.   It’s really nice to feel this way.

So how did this happen, how did I get here?  A few years ago I wasn’t feeling this way at all with my work, infact, I was feeling flat and uninspired.   At the time, I also couldn’t see what the future might hold.  I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to next but I knew I needed to move.  But where?

I started searching for ideas and a couple of things stick in my mind from that time.

The first thing I remember learning at the time,  is to try to visualise yourself in the future,  make a vision board with things you like or that inspire you.   Even if you can’t clearly articulate the end goal (I had no idea what I actually wanted), you can still articulate the pieces that interest you (it doesn’t matter if they don’t come together in a picture that makes sense…yet).    Write down what you like doing, what you don’t.  What gets you excited.  Think BIG.   If you do this…these things are much more likely to happen to you.   What, by Witchcraft??  I thought.   But I made a vision board anyway (I was feeling desperate) and guess what,  it did work.   It has adapted and changed as much as I have now,  adding new ideas, thoughts, pictures, quotes to it as I go along.   I think that it works because it opens your eyes to what your interested in,  so suddenly you can see the opportunities when they pop up that match your ideas.  Then you take small steps towards them…and bang, suddenly you’re doing it

So…the second thing is that you have to be willing to take one step first,  even if you don’t know exactly where you are going. Someone described it in a blog (sorry I can’t attribute because I can’t remember where),  to think of it like holding a candle in the dark,  you can only see as far as the light is shining…but if you step forward, the light moves a little bit further forward too….so you can take another step.   My first step was to speak to my Manager at the time and tell her that I didn’t think the role I was in was right for me.  I didn’t know what I did want but I wanted her support in exploring ideas, potentially building new skills and thinking about future directions.  I was happy to keep doing my role but I needed to start takings steps. I was a bit nervous that this might put my head on the chopping block for other changes, or that she might then start treating me differently and give me bad ratings.  I guess those things could have happened,  but it was a risk I needed to take in order to move forward.   However, she didn’t do those things. She was disappointed because she wanted me to stay but she suggested some people in the business I could talk to and we discussed potential courses I might be able to do over the next few years.    That discussion led to others, which ultimately scored me a new job in a new area within a few months.   SCORE.  Since then I’ve kept moving forward, one step at a time, to finally find myself where I am today…excited and engaged.

Are you happy with where you are today?   Have you mapped out your own vision board?  And what tiny step forward can you take today…and every day…to get you closer to your goals?

Yep…tonight’s the night we are going to make it happen (I don’t think that is quite what the Pointer Sisters meant but lets roll with it)

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The power of positivity…

Over the weekend I was feeling a bit flat (OK…a lot flat),  I wanted to get out of the house, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go.  I wanted to be on my own, but I wanted company.   I wanted to eat a tonne of chocolate but I knew I should be eating lots of healthy food (guess which one won out there).    I decided to bake.  I love baking.   It is my go to thing to lift the spirits.  The process was fun but in the aftermath of eating half a pecan pie and half a dozen white chocolate and cranberry cookies…I’m starting to think this was a bad idea.

Finally, I ended up at my computer,  wrote a grumpy journal entry then wandered onto my facebook page.   Found a few links,  clicked around…and then landed on this blog “Adventuring Home”.   I have never seen this blog before, might never go there again…but right then, at that moment…the words were exactly what I needed.  She talked about living big, laughing hard, embracing life.   It wasn’t so much that her exact words but the positivity that was jumping off the pages which jolted me out of my little rut.  It reminded me to stop looking at the glass half empty, and be excited and inspired and curious.   It reminded me of another favourite quote of mine…

“Your happiness increases the happiness of everyone around you”

www.freephotosbank.com
http://www.freephotosbank.com

It is amazing how other people’s positivity rubs off on you.   Being around other people who are working full of optimism and hope, makes you feel more excited and interested.   And what I love about social media, both in work and outside work, is that it makes it easier to find this people, to stumble on an inspiring quote or someones else’s journey from across the globe.

So today, at work,  I’ve been seeking out these people.  Who is really inspired at the moment, who is driving things they feel passionate about…I want to stand in their sunshine, hope some of it rubs off on me.

Then I’m going to take that sunshine and make some of my own.  Help the people around me to be inspired and engaged and interested…because despite having a few flat days every now and again,  I want to always come back to positivity and pragmatic optimism as my driving force at work and at home.

Left over cookies anyone?

The day my boss wanted to throw a laptop at me…

http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html
http://www.freephotosbank.com/1066.html

Early in my career,   I was moved into a team with a boss who was a talented and credible marketer.  I couldn’t wait to work in her team and I knew that I would learn a lot.  The first few weeks seemed to be going fine,  she was paying attention to what I was contributing in meetings and watching my work intently.   Soon, she pulled me aside for “a chat”.  She started to reel off the things that she thought I needed to work on,  she mentioned everything I had done “wrong” and she finished by telling me that I talk so much she found it “really annoying” and just sits in meetings feeling like she wants to throw her lap top at my head.

DEVASTATED! 

I was gutted,  I couldn’t believe it….well actually no, I believed every single word she told me.   She was right,  I was useless.   I know I have issues with talking too much sometimes, especially when I am passionate and excited and engaged.   She made it personal,  and her words cut me like a knife.   I went home dejected and upset.  I didn’t want to go back into work.  How could I keep going?

But after 24hrs,  I came back determined to improve.   I decided to take the personal out of what she was saying, and tackle the issue head on.   I went back to her and asked her for MORE feedback.  Was I crazy!?!  No, I just thought having it all on the table would help me to understand her position.   It was hard to take,  I had to bite my cheeks to stop from getting upset.  I made notes.   I took those notes and stripped away all the personal comments.  If she doesn’t like me as a person, it doesn’t matter,  but I want to be good at my job so I am going to take this as an opportunity to learn and grow.    I asked other Managers if they had ideas on how i could improve some of the things she mentioned.   I spoke to my colleagues and apologised if they felt “talked over” like she told me they did.  I reminded them I would not be offended if they cut me off or made other suggestions in meetings…I would prefer this than they suffer in silence.  Incredibly,  they all looked at me like I was bonkers and told me they enjoyed working with me on teams because I was so engaged…even if I was a bit over exuberant some times.  I didn’t believe them but I forged through.   My Manager continued to point out my flaws,  she rang me after meetings (it was apparently important to provide feedback in real time) and in our annual business reviews,  she reeled off everything that I hadn’t done to perfection.

Amazingly,  I was soon promoted. 

I couldn’t believe it.  Not only was I getting a new job but I was moving away from this Manager…YIPPPEEEE!!!  I survived this period in my career by staying resilient, by not trying not to take things personally and looking at where I could grow and learn from the experience.   But it wasn’t easy and it was also the start of many many wasted years of my career, where I focused all my attention on what I was doing wrong.  She had taught me to look for my weaknesses and try to fix them.  That anything less than perfect meant that I hadn’t succeeded and I needed to change.    Don’t get me wrong, I had great fun and lots of growth, learning and opportunity at work, but underpinning it all was a constant voice that kept reminding me of what I should be…not what I was.  Never truly believing that I was good at what I was doing,  even when I was promoted and praised.  I was just waiting for the house of cards to fall down around me, and my new Managers to realise how many flaws I was trying to patch.

The turnaround

Many years later, I had the absolute pleasure to be invited to a Positive Leadership workshop run by Michelle McQuaid.   One of the things we did in the workshop was complete a VIA Strengths survey.   Michelle talked about the importance of focusing on your strengths instead of trying to fix your weaknesses.   To have a mindset of growth and to build on your strengths and the things that energise and engage you, letting your true self shine.   This was a revolutionary moment for me.   I took my top 5 strengths and put them up at my desk to remind me each day to search for those things in my work.  My number 1 character Strength is Teamwork,  so instead of seeing my need to work with others as a weaknesses because I’m hopeless at working on my own,  I realised it was a strength to be able to work effectively with teams, to be energised by others, to show kindness to their needs…this is why I love being a Manager.   Now I could seek out those opportunities which let my strengths shine.

And a funny thing happened

You know what,  I stopped talking quite so much (Ok…so I didn’t exactly become quiet).  The more confident I grew by reminding myself of my strengths,  I stopped trying to over explain myself.  And without the little voice in my head saying “stop stop talking, just stop, you’re talking too much”,  I found more clarity in my words.    I also realised that writing (like this blog!) and mentoring others gave me a channel for my thoughts, helping to get them out of my head and reduce my need to speak all the time in meetings.

I did meet up with that old Manager at a conference once (she had long since moved away from my company),  and when I told her what I was doing, she said she wasn’t surprised.  She always saw the potential in me, and that is why she was so hard on me, she thought pointing out the things I could improve would help me.  And she believed she did help me.   Noble intention,  shocking execution.  If only she knew the damage she did.

I’m just glad she never actually did throw her laptop at my head,  although in hindsight, it would have been kinda funny if she tried…

(want to read more about my experiences with bosses, check out the story of Teflon!)

 

 

Gossiping…don’t get sucked into the vortex

woman-gossip-18967767I’m feeling a bit down this week,  dragged down by office gossip and politics.   It all started innocently enough,  sharing a few frustrations with colleagues… there is something reassuring about knowing that others are feeling the same way you do,  struggling to interact with another colleague or getting annoyed with dealing with bureaucracy.   But it’s a slippery slope my friends, and once I was on the hill I started sliding down.   Venting frustrations became bitching and moaning.  Next thing I know, there’s an all mighty sling fest going on and everyone is spiraling down together.  Gosh, do I even want to work here anymore?!

Wait a minute, I totally love my job,  what happened here?  I’ve been sucked into the vortex and I don’t want to be here.   Time for some re-framing action.

Firstly, STOP sharing frustrations.   Venting time is over and OUT.    Secondly,  focus on MY problems only.  Whilst it is reassuring to know others are also struggling, I can’t let myself get frustrated by everyone elses issues.  What are the issues really impacting me?  How can I use my strengths (VIA Strengths…I love them) here?  Maybe if I come up with a solution for me,  I can share it with this others and start a positive spiral of hope and….my favourite….pragmatic optimism.

And maybe,  when the time is right,  a few funny Cat videos from YouTube might give everyone some well needed perspective!?

What’s on your power playlist?

P1020845As per usual, I trotted out for my morning walk with the dog and although the birds chirping and breeze blowing were lovely and calming…my legs weren’t really pumping and my mind was wandering elsewhere.   So I decided to put on some tunes, digging around on the smartphone for some suitably energising beats, soon I found myself picking up the pace to keep up with the music. Next thing I’m pumping up the hill like nobody’s business and when I reach the top (after a quick recky to ensure no one was watching), I actually started to dance around the top of the mountain. It was fabulous, I felt strong and energised and READY!!! As I made the descent down the hill, my mind was buzzing, ideas flowing and I returned back home invigorated and in a completely different mindset than when I left.

And it reminded me the power music has to impact my mood, and it is a little trick that I had forgotten about. Sure, a bit of calming background music can help set the scene when you need to concentrate. But on those days when you are feeling less than motivated, perhaps when things don’t seem to be going your way and quite frankly you feel like job #1 Is pushing S&%T up a hill…yet again.

Now is the time to pull out your POWER PLAYLIST, pump up the volume and start dancing around like no one is watching (except, of course, if you are in the office and clearly people ARE watching. Then you might need headphones and some subtle chair dancing to complete this task).

Some days I imagine my life as a scene in a movie because crap stuff happens in movies all the time, but a few well placed songs and we are back on track. Cue the montage, the snippets of scenes where the person starts the healing process, working out, getting jobs done..whatever the solution requires. And over the top is a fist pumping, “hell yeah” tune which makes it all look so easy (think “Rocky” training scenes, running up stairs never looked so much fun!).   So I try to put this perspective on my life, pump up my power playlist and imagine the montage…Claire working on her blog, Claire exercising, Claire kicking butt at work and Claire the super mum…and all of a sudden, I feel like that person, the person in my movie who has got it all under control. (yes…folks…she really has gone mad this time)

Here’s a few tracks that often make it onto my movie soundrack (clearly it is going to be a Disney style 80’s flashback movie)…what’s on yours?

I get knocked down, but I get up again – Tubthumping

This is who I am – Vanessa Amarosi

Stronger – Kelly Clarkson

Fighter – Christina Aguilera

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Eye of the Tiger – Survivor

I’m so impatient…

So yesterday  it happened,  that down turn of spirits I have been expecting ever since I hit “post” on my first update.  I knew at some point I would come crashing down from my high.  What was exciting me is now stressing me, what was inspiring me now seems daunting and frustrating…and today, I’m not sure it was such a good idea.  I can’t do this.

Lucky today I had the luxury of a bit of time walking to clear that fuzzy head of mine.   And I realised that I am really just VERY impatient.  All the great things that I was so inspired and excited about earlier…I want them NOW,  I want all the knowledge NOW, I don’t want to wait, I want to learn today, I want to know it all already.  I ‘m panicking that I’m not doing a great job in something I am so passionate and interested in.  I want to be great from day one.   And that nasty little inner critic voice is out,  in Task Master mode (thanks Rachel Macdonald for that analogy), and she keeps telling me it is because I am not working hard enough, I need to do more, push harder and I will get there quicker.

But today,  as I reframe the situation with a calmer mind,  I realise that pushing myself is indeed not getting me there quicker,  infact, it is just making the road slower and harder because I am not enjoying it and I feel like I should be somewhere that I am not.   I don’t need to speed up,  I need to slow down.   I need to remind myself that sometimes at work,  you need to make space for listening and absorbing, rather than solutioning.   Allowing myself not to have all the answers, and be ok with that, because I am learning and that is how I will grow.   Others will know more than me.  Maybe this year,  I won’t be the leader, I will be the follower, the observer, the experimenter.  And I need to be content in this position,  secure in the knowledge that this is exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

So when my alarm goes off at 5.45am tomorrow for another 6am international telecon, hopefully followed by some inspiring thoughts for my new blog…I’m going to put my calming oils on, make a cup of tea…and get ready to simply absorb…and see where that takes me…