Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How to make the most out of 2010?

I don't know about you but I always feel slightly allergic about setting goals. It reminds me of those people that I met when I was younger whose life plans went something like I am going to be married at 30, have made my first million by 33 and had three children before I am forty. My view is akin to that of John Lennon's that life happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans. That said, I had a bit of a wake up call today when my good friend and co-collaborator Beth Follini came round for a session on our Authentic Leadership programme. She asked me about progress on a couple of projects that I had mentioned to her a while back. It got me thinking about what I really wanted out of 2010 hence this post.

It made me realise that whilst I do not hold truck with goal setting, I do believe that each one of us has the ability to create our own future. I like to call it setting intentions, a powerful alternative to goal setting. I realised that I needed to set aside quality time over the next 2-3 days in preparation for 2010 to determine what it was that I wanted from 2010. What I have found this year is that it is not enough to set an overarching intention, it is vital to be specific. The definition of our intention impacts on what actually transpires.

To give you an example, this year my intention was to work collaboratively with others. I have achieved this in quite a meaningful way. However what I forgot to specify was what I wanted from these collaborations except in a vague way. Not surprisingly the outcome has not necessarily been what I desired. I have learnt a lot from what has happened and it will help me be much clearer in terms of my intentions for 2010. My view is that anyone can make goals, what is much more difficult is being clear on what one wants specifically beyond the universal wealth and happiness. What follows are my 6 tips on how to get the most of 2010:

1. Set aside at least an hour to reflect on 2009 and ask yourself what was good and what was bad about the year?

2. Focus on what you want more of and what you would like which was not present in 2009.

3. Check to make sure that what you want is aligned to what is important to you.

4. If the answer is yes then articulate your intentions. If it is your way write them down to revisit some time later in the future.

5. To realise them more quickly, imagine what life will be like when you have achieved them. If it helps make your own collage, create an affirmation (a phrase you can say to yourself starting with I love ....(adding whatever it is that you desire).

6. Keep on believing that your intention is real whatever happens in real time and it will come to fruition.

And yes this is easy to say and much harder to do which is why if you are going for a big change, it can be helpful to have a coach. I am offering a special deal to the first six people that sign up for coaching with me following this blog post. So do let me know how you get on with these tips. I am off now to set my intentions for 2010...

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A modern take on the 12 days of Christmas

We are all familiar with the 12 days of Christmas but how about this 12 ways to make a difference, one for each of the 12 days.
1. Remember how blessed you are and then be a blessing!
2. Help a neighbour.
3. Visit an old friend.
4. Give to your favourite charity.
5. Invite a friend to Church.
6. Volunteer at a local hospital.
7. Call a distant relative.
8. Tell someone you love them.
9. Give and accept a hug.
10. Forgive someone and yourself.
11. Share your life experiences and be an inspiration.
12. And finally remember the reason for the season (it will make all the difference!)
My challenge to you is to try one of these on each of the 12 days following Christmas up until and including 6 Jan 2010 and let me know how you get on. Alternatively make up your own 12 and share them below. Have a great Christmas and thanks for your readership this year.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

How can you make a difference to someone's Christmas this year?

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and we had snow this morning. It is no surprise that Christmas falls when it does because just a few days before some will have celebrated the winter solstice on the shortest day of the year. It is lovely to have a time of festivity at what can be seen as the darkest part of the year in more ways than one.

Personally I love Christmas for many reasons. It is fabulous to live in a cold climate where Christmas pudding, cream and brandy butter makes sense. We need good solid food in the winter months to give us the fuel and energy required to protect us against the freezing outdoor temperatures. It is also a good excuse for mulled wine and as I write this I can almost smell the oranges, cloves and cinnamon that go into it. In our house we often throw the large cinnamon sticks onto our log fire and as they burn and the fire crackles we enjoy breathing in the wonderful aroma that permeates from the grate.

My youngest who is just two loves playing with a reindeer eye mask that friends gave us last year and despite my many attempts to put it away she always seems to find it and run round the house wearing it, often upside down, which causes much hilarity in the rest of us. My eldest who is three now really got into Christmas last year in that she started saying what she wanted for several weeks beforehand and was even heard to say “I need.” This was certainly an advance on the previous year when she was about 20 months and I was the one who was very excited about taking her to see Father Christmas. As soon as she walked into his “grotto” she became terrified and did anything she could to run away from him and what I had expected to be a fun excursion became fraught on a number of levels!

There is a serious note to Christmas and that is the fact that it is a time when there can be great marital tensions and break ups. It is quite a long time to spend together under the same roof for some families. It can also be particularly difficult for those who live alone and who either have no family or no contact with them. When I was growing up, we found ourselves in transient communities in far flung countries because of the nature of the job and there would often be single people around. My father has a great sense of bonhomie and I remember many Christmas days spent with random individuals that he had befriended.

I always enjoyed it because it added an extra dimension to the activities and is something that I recreate in a limited way now that I have my own home. Are there people within your own communities who will be alone this Christmas and if so what could you do to bring them some Christmas cheer?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

What are some of the steps towards inter-dependence?

I was coaching another Mum today and as a result of our conversation realised what a short period of time it actually is that our children really depend on us. Certainly by the age of twelve they no longer want to do stuff with Mum, it's much more cool to hang out with their friends.

It struck me that for much of the time when children are very young - mine are 3 and 2 - one often finds oneself thinking if only they could do that themselves. Recently my eldest has got into the habit of jumping out of bed half an hour after lights out, having shouted for me because she needs the toilet. I have insisted that she go by herself then she comes downstairs to find me and asks me to tuck her up again. I can find this an intrusion into my time rather than seeing it as endearing.

And yet when our kids decide that we are superfluous to requirements and become more independent, there is a part of us that encourages this change because it is the first step on the path to adulthood. If we are honest another part of us is saddened by the loss of those moments spent together in the park or whatever it was we did together. How many parents give themselves space to acknowledge these feelings or ever voice them to their children?

This is one of life's conundrums. It seems to me that one of our roles as parents is to enjoy whatever stage that we are in with our children. The other is to help our children discover inter-dependence as this is the route to a greater sense of contentment in adulthood. Isn't life about finding the balance between the urge to belong and be accepted and the need to find our own destiny whilst being in relationship with others?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Mums' Monday: ever feel like skipping Christmas?

As the old saying goes, it never rains but it pours. The last few days it has felt as if my world has been turned upside down. I became a single parent over night and at the same time my laptop packed up and the boiler has to be replaced!

What has helped? I have been incredibly fortunate to have the support of my husband's family and my own family. They have rallied round to do what they can. It has made me realise how resilient those who do not have access to a partner or extended family must be; and I have a greater sense of respect for them.

I have also coped by taking things slowly and being really clear about my priorities. This was critical because at one point I was getting wound up about the fact that I had not written the Christmas letter nor felt like doing it. As my Mum said I can always write a New Year letter, the world is not going to end without it. It's one day or even one step at a time.

Part of the go slow has meant listening to my body more. This has included caring for it by grabbing time to have a long soak in the tub - a novelty for me as Mum to two tots. It has also included going to bed early as I realise that all the emotional worry of the situation has made me more tired.

I also realised how important it is for everyone including coaches to have a coach. Part of the way that I heal is by having a good cry as a way of releasing all the pent-up emotions inside. I have found that family members are uncomfortable with all that whereas a good coach understands the process, shows compassion and just holds the space for you.

I do believe that everything that happens to us is an opportunity for learning. As one close family friend asked has this experience aged you to which I came back with a resounding yes. That aside I am grateful that I have such a supportive family and visiting my husband in hospital has reminded me what a great team we make and what I love about him. He has also received some much needed rest which has been difficult to take with a demanding job and two young children.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Can you have it all?

Yesterday I had the great privilege of being part of the Network of Black Professionals and the Women's Leadership Network 's new mentee programme for senior women within Further Education. The participants were an impressive collection of women, many of whom were at Vice Principal level looking for tips on how to progress their career that bit further. It was a very interactive session with much of the input coming from the delegates and that could explain in part why there was such a feeling of openness and trust within the room.

I was surprised at how well the section on barriers to career progression went as women really made the most of the opportunity to share the challenges they faced. What saddened me however was the extent to which some of the external pressures had not changed. There were still references to the old boy network in the sense that conversation amongst peers tended to focus on football; huge challenges around family commitments and work/ life balance existed; and the experience of the glass ceiling was common. The most significant finding was the part that self-limiting beliefs played in many cases and/ or a lack of confidence in their own abilities to perform at a more senior level.

This shocked me and also made me realise that there is a place for the work of Minerva's Mind in these type of environments which has a focus on helping people develop their own leadership style and realise along the way that it is their imperfections that make them more accessible to others. It also made me realise how real the struggle is that many Mums face who want to work and have a role in which they are taken seriously alongside providing a loving environment for their family at home. Furthermore confidence or the lack of it is not just the preserve of those Mums who do not go back to work but affects us all wherever we find ourselves on the spectrum of to work or not. It is much clearer why Mums at Director level have decided to choose another path because having it all is a myth.