Not sure where you are heading? That’s OK…me neither

Is it just me, or does it sometimes feel like there is a lot of pressure to know what you want and where you are going in life?

Sometimes this idea really eats away at me. As much as I love planning, I don’t have a 5year plan. I don’t exactly know what my passion is and I don’t have big huge dreams for something. Unlike my husband who know exactly what he loves (cars, cars and more cars), but I don’t have that one thing that drives me forward.

And every now and again, I get a bit panicky about that. Does that mean I’m not trying hard enough? And one day I will look back and really regret something that I wish I did? Or maybe I have some secret unlocked passion that I just need to figure out and…oh my god…how do I know whether I am making the right decisions about my career and my life…and EVERYTHING…if I don’t know precisely exactly where I am going?

But, it’s Ok, because now, every time I feel bit like this. I remember the one piece of advice from from Elizabeth Gilberts, Big Magic, that has really stuck in my head and has helped me navigate the tricky waters when I panic about finding my thing.

The concept of thinking of your passions more like following a treasure hunt. So all you have to do, is start following the clues. Is there something you enjoy doing? Explore that for a while, see where it takes you. Read about it, talk to people about it. Do those discussions lead to another idea or topic? follow that too…see where it takes you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you are going (where’s the fun if you already know where to go?) And maybe some of your trials will lead to dead ends. But that’s OK, just keep looking for more new clues to follow.

I am sure I have described that really badly (I love the way she describes it here), but I love this concept.

I’ve been feeling a little stuck with career decision recently, starting to worry about the long term – before I wound myself back in and just thought…what is something small I could do today, to ignite my curiosity and learn something new that is career related, and see where that takes me?

So I approached someone I don’t know about having a coffee catchup, which I know is unlikely to lead to a life long friendship or even an amazing career opportunity, but I do know it is another step in my journey, another clue to unfold in my much bigger picture.

Which also reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Steve Jobs,

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever..”

Perhaps we put too much pressure on ourselves to start connecting our dots too early. Instead we just need to focus on looking for dots.

Where is your treasure hunt taking you?

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Got something you need to talk about?

 

Talking about it helps…. I know, not exactly a new concept…we all know this is the case.  And anyone who knows me would most likely tell you that I have ZERO trouble with this concept,  I talk hard and fast.  I am,  generally speaking, a sharer.  When I am down, the first thing I want to do is talk to someone…or at least, that’s what the perception is.

The reality is, when I am feeling really down, sometimes it takes me a while to share my thinking. I worry that people are going to get sick of me “whinging”.  I fear that I might share something that I wish I hadn’t later.   I don’t want to be pitied, I want to appear strong and capable.  And sometimes, I don’t talk because I can’t figure out how to articulate what I want to say, my mind is just a whirlwind of feelings, ideas and thoughts and I can’t seem to harness what my point is.  So why share that???  Sometimes I am rushing around too much and failed to make the time for simple chatting,  then when I do…it comes pouring out like an avalanche (my mum is often subject to these types of outpourings)

But there is no doubt,  that when I finally find the time and space to sit down and have a good hearty chin wag with someone…I inevitably feel better.  Pretty much always

And writing can help sometimes too.   I’m not religious at all about writing a journal, I wish I was much better, especially because my memory is terrible and I don’t want to be old and can’t remember anything about my life.   Sometimes I write my journal like I’m expecting someone to read it,  jotting down memories and ideas.  Sometimes I write but hope that no one ever reads it.   But getting the rumbling thoughts out onto paper helps to put them in some kind of order and allows my brain to settle into them.

Either way.  Better out than in.

Things always seem so much more enormous when you are tackling them on your own, in the inner workings of your own mind.  Another perspective can make all the difference,  or just simply freeing your own thoughts from inside is enough to stop them ruminating and smothering you.

So…just a reminder (probably more to myself than to you)…don’t forget to create opportunities for cups of tea and real chats.

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A little tip for keeping on top of things…

Here’s a simple but very effective strategy which I use to help clear my mind of all the myriad of things it tries to throw at me every second of every day…

Always have a notebook with you…

I’ve been doing that at work for as long as I remember.  I’ve tried to move to doing it electronically on my ipad, but I keep coming back to a simple notebook and pen.  It’s just so easy.  That notebook follows me everywhere at work,  at meetings, on the phone..even at lunch.   I write notes during meetings, I use it to capture actions and things I’ve agreed to do (or other people have agreed to do) and, most importantly,  to jot down all those random thoughts that suddenly pop into my head when I am in the middle of something else.   It helps me to stay focused on the task at hand, and also makes it easier at the end of each day…to tally up the “to do’s” and write them up ready for the next day.    It’s not that often that I have to go back to old notes (although I have sometimes),  but I think merely writing things down helps it to stay in my brain.

Weirdly, though, it is only recently that I realised I need to do the same thing at home.  So now I have also have a “personal” notepad that lives in my handbag.  For those moments when I am eating dinner and suddenly thing “don’t forget to fill out that note for school” or when someone calls and I need to jot down a number.   Just like at work,  I use my notebook to go back and tally up the “to do” items and get ready for the next day ahead (for the record, I spent a lot of very pleasurable time shopping for an appropriate notebook.   It is green and has a lovely soft cover.  Surely the beauty of it makes me far more productivity…surely?).

I find this is one of the most simple but effective things I have done to help me feel more in control and less overwhelmed.  Clearing things out of your head and onto paper, makes space for your brain to do other things.   And it helps me to focus my attention, because instead of jumping from one task to the next…I force myself to simply write things down when they pop up,  and then keep focused on what I am doing.

Do you have a key strategy that works for you in keeping everything in your life on track?

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P.S Here’s an interesting fact, or maybe not an interesting fact at all?!?   I wrote this post a while ago but decided not to post it because…well…quite frankly, it’s pretty boring isn’t it? who wants to read a post about a notebook? Surely this advice is not valuable.  But then last week I was reading a book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management By Kevin Kruse…and BANG, there it was…carry a notebook.   So…maybe it is not such lame advice after all,  clearly, I am a highly successful person,  just like Richard Branson (because he has a lame notebook too…so there!).

Say it with confidence…

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One of my best friends admits that sometimes she tells us facts which she isn’t 100% sure are true (you know who you are!!), but she says if you  “say it with confidence” most of the time people will automatically believe you.

I…on the other hand…do not have this skill.  Instead, I tend to preface everything thing I say with “I am not really sure but…”,  “I’m probably not right, but”  or “Shoot me down if I’m wrong…”.    I like to think this makes me a very open minded and honest person…after all, I want to be humble,  accepting of other people’s opinions/ideas and authentic about who I am.  I know I have a terrible memory,  so there is actually a high likelihood I might be wrong…

Which is all well and good but, quite frankly,  at work I’ve noticed this can get me into a lot of trouble.   I’ve noticed how other people always seem to be crystal clear about their thoughts and ideas.  I wonder why I’m doubting myself when everyone else seems so sure.    And then it suddenly occurred to me that maybe,  all they are doing is simply “saying it with confidence”…so I believe them.

The thing is,   why open yourself up unnecessarily to people questioning your ideas and opinions?   In my case,  usually the things I am talking about are things (at work at least,  outside of work..hmm..lets just say you wouldn’t want me on your Trivia team) I have researched heavily,  or have gained knowledge from my experience.  I have thought it through and come up with a strategy or thought.   So…I don’t need to preface what I am saying with all the question marks,  infact,  it is doing me damage.

I think I do it because deep down, I have a fear of failure, a fear of looking silly, a fear that maybe I’m a crazy imposter and soon everyone will figure out that I ain’t really got what it takes.   But actually all I am doing,  is making other people doubt my opinion.  Making them question my decisions…after all,  why wouldn’t they when it appears I am questioning them myself!?

So…this week I am going to practice saying it with confidence.  If I’m 95% sure,  I need to back myself.  And if someone else thinks differently, or challenges me on my direction, that’s OK…I can explain my decision making if I need to and I still reserve the right to be open minded and change my decision if I get new information.

Of course, you can’t really use this strategy if you really don’t know what your talking about.   My friend…gets away with slightly faking her facts sometimes,  mostly because usually, she is pretty spot on.  So if she thinks something is true (even if she can’t actually remember whether it is correct or not),  she backs herself that it is probably right.

Confidence…I’m going to fake it till I make it.

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Just do it…

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Do you ever procrastinate when you actually need to work on something big?

I’ll admit,  I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed recently.  My brain is in overdrive.  Everything is whirring around in my head like a machine.  I have all these ideas to blog, but I haven’t posted anything for weeks (err..sorry guys).  I have major new projects that I need to implement at work…but I haven’t exactly started them….I’m still researching them…

I am sitting on the computer,  clicking, reading, sorting…thinking…thinking…thinking… tick tick tick tick.

Not surprisingly feeling increasingly anxious and uncertain which is leading to more clicking and reading.

Then I was listening to a Straight and Curly Podcast ( lots of what Kelly Exeter says really resonates with me) about when you need to start “learning nothing new”…and as they were talking…it dawned on me exactly what I’m doing.

I’m looking for a silver bullet.  I’m feeling nervous and unsure,  so instead of just getting started..I’m doing “productive” procrastination where I feel like I am being productive because I am reading things and keeping busy checking emails and updates…because I’m frantically hoping that something in all that will give me the direction that I need, it will give me exactly what I need to get the job done.  Something will inspire me to write a brilliant blog post.

And I realised that I do this all the time.  Weirdly,  the more pressure that is on me, the more overwhelmed I feel…the more likely I am to put down my tools and start just clicking/thinking.

But actually, what I really need to do…is just get started, with something.

This morning I started work, and I set myself a challenge. I got out my trusty timer again and put it on for one hour and decided to just START writing a plan for my major project even though I wasn’t exactly sure where it was leading.

(OK…short side note…hmm..not procrastination…just roll with me here….was looking for a link to last time I wrote about using my timer,  and realised it was another day when I was totally procrastinating…seems like this might be a habit of mine…  OK…so anyway,  back to writing my plan this morning)..

I decided it doesn’t matter if it is a crap plan…but I have to spend at least one hour without distractions and just get something down.

Then tonight,  I sat down and promised myself that I would write at least one blog post.  Doesn’t have to be brilliant…it just has to be done.

So…my work plan was started.  It wasn’t perfect,  but it was a start and then I had a much clearer idea of next steps and real actions that need to be taken.   I have committed to doing the same thing every day this week…at least one hour of committed time building on the plan.

And…here I am on the blog.  It isn’t my best blog post ever…but it is done.   And, you know what,  I’m going to be OK with that this week.

Are you procrastinating on something big?  Is it time to force yourself to just do it?

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 P.S I’m super excited today because I learnt how to put this nifty little button at the bottom of my posts… woo…so if you are not already subscribed to my blogs, I’d love to have you join the gang and I get to drop into your email box each week (or whenever I get past my procrastination and write something!)

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The power of boundaries…

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This is where the phone belongs…in my OFFICE

Today I found myself trying to discuss a complex work situation with a senior leader, at the same time as picking my kids up from school.

As I jumped in alarm when the school bell went off above my head, and the cacophony of children released from the prison of school descended upon me…I gravely realised this was not going to work.  “err…sorry? did you just ask me a question?”  Undeterred by the obvious background noise, my work call continued…as I masterfully negotiated the “mute” button with one hand, whilst trying to hand signal instructions to my children and guide them to their bikes for the walk home…let’s just say this resulted in two things…a frustrated work colleague who doesn’t believe I’m listening properly (..no…really…I am…)..and frustrated kids who can’t understand why I’m no longer speaking just waving my arms around like some kind of mad woman.

This is what I like to call…an establishment of BOUNDARIES ….MASSIVE FAIL!

Before I had kids, I didn’t think much about my boundaries.  I guess that many of them were just ingrained so heavily I didn’t have to think about them (for example,  going to the toilet was something I did on my own..strange, I know)… and then others were dictated by the people around me (for example, work told me I needed to start work at 9am and finish work at 5pm, and the workplace culture taught me that I should start work at 8am and not finish before 6pm)….

But then the kids came along,  and all those boundaries started to get broken down.   Suddenly,  I found myself having lengthy conversations while I’m in the shower, or on the toilet (I mean seriously,  does my nakedness not suggest that now is not a good time to chat about plans for the birthday party next weekend?).   I also found myself trying to find quiet nooks in the house (hint:there are none) and put my head back into work mode, because I have made the mistake of  answering my phone on my day off.

It took me a while to realise that in order to create some kind of calm amongst my new chaos,  it was going to require taking control of my own boundaries and then learning to stick to them.  I realised that it was me that needed to help guide my colleagues around my boundaries, i couldn’t expect them to remember which days I was working or whether I was picking up the kids from school.

So now I have boundaries…for example,  never answer a work call in the evenings or on my days off, my answering machine tells them to send me a text message if it is urgent.  If that doesn’t happen, it can wait.  I pick up the kids from school twice a week,  so never agree to a work call or meeting that compromises that time.   No phones at dinner time. etc etc…

I do need to be flexible.  So sometimes, when things are hectic, I might need to break some of these rules.  Although it is a slippery slope, and once I start breaking one, I find myself breaking another.

Which is exactly what happened today.  Work has lots of priorities,  I’m struggling to fit them all into my day, so I’m letting them creep out…and the more I start to be “flexible’, the more I start thinking that I can push the boundaries further.   To the point where I’m thinking “I can manage a work call while I get the kids? That’ll work, I’ll just put my headset into the mobile, I won’t need to talk to the kids, they know the drill”.

Err….no….

This is not a juggling priorities/multi tasking win.  This is just a fail on all fronts.  So what was the point?

Time to get back to my boundaries.  It might mean sometimes I have to say “no” or not achieve something I would like to, maybe put someone else out a bit.. but that’s better than losing on both sides…right?

(Oh…and I’m still working on the toilet privacy thing…sigh)

claire2

Chocolate versus a Tomato…who wins?

Transporting you back to about this time last year….

It is cold and dark outside.  But we are sitting on the couch snuggled up under a woolly blanket.  The fireplace is gently crackling in the corner and i have a lovely warm cup of tea in my hand.  Bliss.

The only fly in my ointment,  is the cramping currently going on in my stomach.  You see…maybe, just maybe… I have consumed an entire family block of chocolate.   The first mouthful was AMAZING,  it was the perfect cure for a long day.  I was thinking about that moment for most of my afternoon.  As I packed off the kids to bed, I was already imagining the sweet taste in my mouth.  It just feels like the reward that I deserved.

But after that blissful mouthful,  how could I possible stop?  I ate another…and another.  It was still tasting wonderful.   Next thing I know, three quarters of the block is gone.  Now I am feeling a little ill.  Yet, the pull of the taste in my mouth is still drawing me in.  And another thought has started in my mind  “I really need to stop doing this,  it is making me feel ill…tomorrow I will not do this.  But now I have this chocolate left over, I better eat it now”.   In order to reduce the guilt, I find myself eating faster (do I think I can trick my brain?!?).  I’m not noticing the wonderful taste anymore, infact, I am not really enjoying it exactly…but there is still some kind of pleasure in just throwing caution to the wind.   And then it is gone.

So, there I was, in my blissful moment….feeling sick and annoyed at myself.

I had been in this place so many times, you’d think I would know better.  Unlike Tequila, which I can never drink again after a particularly bad night which resulted in a lot of vomit (we won’t go there),  I just keep coming back for more.  Nothing seems to put me off.   Sure, I had been on the rollercoaster of “eating well”,  then “eating bad” in waves throughout my life..my weight going up and down like the sea.

Fast forward back to today,  and you might understand why I included Step Number 3 in my Top 10 Steps to WorkLife Awesomeness – NOURISH YOURSELF

Things did change a little after this moment.  A friend from work was studying to become a integrative nutritionist, or something of the like, and I was one of her early guinea pigs.   I was trying to give up Diet Coke (unsuccessfully), so decided to give that challenge to her (I was a totally addicted, 7 cans a day kinda girl..for years…I know…terrible). Anyway, she told me something revolutionary… don’t try and “give up” Diet Coke.  Instead,  tell yourself you can have it whenever you really really feel like it.  Remembering you are “allowed” to have anything else you want instead of Diet Coke, even chocolate, if you want to.  But if you do decide to have the Diet Coke.  Drink it slowly.  Enjoy every single mouthful.

And guess what… I realised I don’t actually really LIKE Diet Coke.  Sure, i got pleasure from drinking it.  But the pleasure was coming from more of a place of “reward” and “habit” than from the actual taste.   And so I stopped drinking it.

I applied the same theory to other food in my life and realised that focusing on how food was nourishing me, how food was making me feel and what I actually really enjoyed, I was pleasantly surprised about how I could make far better choices.

Now…don’t get me wrong here.  I didn’t go on some hippy trip and never eat badly again.  Infact, I eat junk food in truck loads with the best of them.  But you’ll also find me drinking green smoothies, because they don’t taste too bad and they make my tummy and my mind feel awesome.  I can see how changing my mindset about food, and thinking more about how I can nourish myself,  helps me to function at my best.  My food philosophy is about finding the balance.

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So…yes, I did go to the movies last week and eat a whole Tomato (yes, just bit into it like an apple, as my friends tried to take photos of me because they couldn’t believe i was in the movies eating a tomato!?)…because I really really felt like that tomato.  It was refreshing and delicious and I loved every mouthful.    It was then swiftly followed by a bag of chocolate I had carefully selected at the lolly shop (and had been looking forward to all day)…and I also enjoyed every single mouthful.

How are you nourishing yourself today?

claire2

 

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My top ten list to awesomeness…

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OK team…. here it is… after my post last week,  I have scoured my resources on well being, work life balance etc etc and I have netted down that advice into….

MY TOP TEN LIST TO ACHIEVE WORK and LIFE AWESOMENESS

1) SLOW DOWNWhether it be a 40min meditation session with calming oils and mantra’s…or a simple cup of tea in the sunshine.   The experts seem pretty agreed on this one.  Keep your mind calm and reduce the intensity of your day.

2) MOVE DAILY –  Again,  how and to what intensity isn’t really the point…just get moving.  I love the advise that you should make the commitment simply to put your shoes on and go outside.  The rest…is up to the moment.

3) NOURISH YOURSELF –  Lying on the couch, snuggled up with hubby, eating whole packets of biscuits is one of my favourite pass times and I’m not going to stop doing it.  But I know that giving my body as much of the things it needs on a regular basis is going to help it to be at its best…so I need to drink the green smoothie before the biscuits?

4) USE YOUR STRENGTHS  – I had a massive turning point in my career when I did the VIA strengths survey and identified my strengths.  It helped me to focus in on the things I enjoy and put more of them into my life.   You don’t have to do a formal survey though,  just think about the things you love to do and you are good at…then make sure you are doing them, regularly.

5) MAKE TIME FOR LOVE – This is good old advice from Mum.  Spending time on work , with the kids and with friends is great.  But don’t forget to foster the relationship with the person you have chosen to share your life with (or making time to find that person).

6) CREATE BOUNDARIES and stick to them.  What are your non- negotiables?

7) GET ORGANISED –  This had to be on my list.   A clean up on the outside can help you clean up on the inside.  Get those “to do” lists out of your head and onto paper.  Do you have a system? Do you have a schedule, how are you fitting in the most important things?

8) GROW YOUR VILLAGE – As I’ve said before…it takes a village.  Take the time to consider who is in your village? How are you helping them, how can you let them help you?

9) EXPRESS GRATITUDE –  Taking the time each day to reflect on all the wonderful things you are thankful for puts a shiny light of positivity over your every day.

10) HAVE FUN  When did life get so serious?  My childhood was spent laughing until my sides hurt.  I want some of that back please.

It was actually quite hard to keep this list down to 10, there were so many things that I had to cull…but if I had too many more it would have seemed daunting and unachievable.  One thing that I kept adding in and then taking out…was having a vision.  It is not that I don’t think it is important, infact, the opposite…I think is the overarching thing that you are working towards and this is just the top ten list of the things you need to do on a daily/weekly basis to keep you sane as you work towards your vision.

So, to keep me on track I’m going to choose one item from the list each month to focus on…and I will also do a special “setting my vision” session (this may well involve scissors and sticky tape),

Follow my Facebook group for regular updates on how I go with that (I have a sneaky suspicion things may not quite go as smoothly as I have in my head right now)….and if you are not already subscribed, I’d love you to join my wordpress tribe of awesome followers (just click on the follow buttons on my website here) so you can keep track of my status with my weekly blog posts.

First up…. time to SLOW DOWN….wish me luck

claire2