Mistakes

In this blog there is one short story, two quotes and some questions for you to answer.

DSCF0023.JPG

I was travelling through London Waterloo station yesterday and next to me stood a mum with a child. I am not sure what the little one did but I heard him saying to his mum: ‘it was a mistake, I am sorry’. His mum said, ‘it’s not a mistake but an experience, you have learnt’. I was touched by this and wished there would be more people who would respond in this way.

When you make a mistake, and something goes wrong you have two choices – you can look at it as a failure, as something that is bad and can’t be repaired. This usually comes with language that is self-destructive as you beat yourself up for something that you can’t change anymore. The other option is to accept the situation, learn from it and know what you do better next time. Don’t waste your energy on recycling thoughts of how things went wrong. As long as you know what you would do differently you have learnt. There might be times when you wouldn’t actually do anything differently for a particular reason and that’s fine too. It is your self-awareness that is key here. Reflection helps to look back at something that happened; what matters most though is the action that will follow. 

It was Steve Maraboli who said: ‘As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.’

This is a great quote. Can you start looking at rejections and setbacks as a redirection? Reframe the situation you are in. Sometimes you can’t see the full picture but trust that things will fall into place.

Carlos Acosta, one of the greatest ballet dancers said to a young generation of dancers during his farewell at Royal Ballet Opera House: ‘Allow yourself to make mistakes, there is nothing like right or wrong, there is no such thing as failure because life is a learning process’. He added: ‘So be curious and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy because one day you blink and you realise that 70 years have gone by.’

What recent ‘mistake’ or ‘setback’ can you see as a redirection?

What have you learnt through it?

What action are you taking now?

Are you curious?

When you were a kid you were most probably curious about things, you wanted to explore, look at stuff closer. Everything new was exciting, magic and worth having a look!

DSCF1042.jpg

As we get older we create our routines which if unquestioned and not reflected upon can stop our creativity and bring more autopilot behaviour to our lives. Being curious and creative somehow goes together. It is also curiosity that helps us to be mindful and more in the moment. When something captures our attention, we are fully focused on exploring what’s ahead of us.

In addition to my coaching, I also teach children karate at a local primary school. It’s a small group of 4-6 years old. At the start, it was a learning curve for me but once I understood their world a little bit more and realised how creative they are and how their imagination is fully used with all they do, I have been able to do some great work with them. They have no problem to visualise anything in a moment, e.g. sitting cross-legged on a beach smelling the sea and focusing on their breath. They can vividly see the colours. And as one of them said at the end of the exercise: ‘The sea was so blue!’

When we get older we lose our imagination and as it has been shown in numerous research projects by the time we get to our twenties our creativity is minimal (if we haven’t been encouraged to keep using it!) in comparison to when we were children.  

Have you always wondered how something feels? Did you want to go somewhere particular to see a play, visit a museum, travel to a place or talk to somebody? Do it. It will bring ‘fresh air’ to your life and uplevel your existence. It is these moments that bring joy into everyday life.

What are you curious about today?

Is there anything creative you can do?

Magic is all around us. Start paying more attention to it, slow down and allow yourself to be an explorer on your own journey. Give it a go – it’s worth it!

What do you give attention to?

As a great business coach Christine Kane says ‘Attention is the daily practice of intention. Your attention is your most powerful creative tool. Energy flows where attention goes...’

20150806_131625.jpg

When you focus on what doesn’t work in your life you pay attention to those things over those that work. Attention is powerful exactly because of what Christine said – it’s about energy. If you decide that today, you will focus on positive things, what goes well and look for learning rather than where you messed up your perspective changes and your energy shifts. If you are not used to it, it might be harder at the start because your brain has a natural predisposition to focus on the negative.

The good news is that it’s entirely up to you what you pay attention to and therefore you are fully in control.

For example, if you have a supervisor who you don’t feel supported but rather put down by during meetings maybe it’s time to reflect on how these meetings are led and what your input is. Are you coming to the meetings prepared knowing what your agenda is? Are you aware of the key points you want to communicate? Can you take more ownership of the meeting and what you have to say? Can you have a conversation with them about what matters to you and where you need support? Stick with facts and aim for its outcome to be a win-win for both parties. You both want the relationship to succeed for different reasons. Sometimes what’s missing is one open conversation about expectations and the support needed.

I have just finished reading a great book called The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s fun with great illustrations on the topic of finding what works for you, doing more of it and as a result, feeling happier. There’s one chapter called ‘Your beautiful mind’ and I would like to share with you some of the thoughts presented there as they are closely related to the topic of this blog. Here is a summary of the main takeaways from the chapter:

Our mind is beautiful but complex. Two things are important – our conscious mind is very logical whereas our unconscious mind is a source of emotions and stores memories. There is one key characteristic of the unconscious mind: it does not process negatives. Therefore (the authors use here a great example) if you are told not to think of a monkey in a pink nappy… what happens? Monkey in a pink nappy is the only thing you can think of! As they then go on to explain, the inability to process negatives means that people attract things into their life that they want to avoid.

What this means in practice is that people think and talk about what they ‘don’t want’, e.g. I don’t want to be late, I don’t want to go to that meeting, I don’t want to feel like this, I don’t want to feel stuck anymore, I don’t want to have a headache. Sounds familiar?

Because the unconscious mind doesn’t process the negatives the focus is exactly on them. As the authors emphasise: ‘what you focus on or think about the majority of the time is what your unconscious mind goes to work on attracting into your life. It works like radar.’

The learning here is simple – focus on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want. It presents you with a fantastic opportunity to create a life that you want and reminds you that you are controlling things that happen to you. Give it a go today and see what happens!

Let me know how it went and if it has resonated with you.

What energises you?

All of us have some goals in life, dreams that we want to achieve, experiences that we want to have and places we want to visit. Often the focus can be so much on the work, doing things, planning for the next steps, the next project and making things happen that you totally forget about what gives you energy. You might stop only in the moment when you feel exhausted and your energy levels are low. You know that something needs to change - but what?

20150806_135446.jpg

You might be in the right job using your strengths but the way you work doesn’t work. Or you need more flexible working hours or a different environment for work or you need to re-arrange your workload to address the way you feel. Maybe you need a different role entirely. However, maybe what you need is to start doing more things that bring you energy.  What gives you energy is very important. It’s the fuel that allows you to take the next step and actually enjoy the whole process.

That activity usually also relates to your skills and passions; and you are normally quite good at it. This means that when you do it you get into the zone where time passes by quick and you are totally immersed in the activity. You could do it all day and still go on.

These kinds of activities are important not just because you relax when you do them but also because they bring you to the present moment. Examples include running, drawing, painting, singing, volunteering for an activity or organisation that you care about, photographing, writing, walking in the nature, reading…

We are at our best when we are in the present moment when the focus is on an activity in such a way that our thinking slows down.

Pause for a little while and think about what gives you energy. Are these things part of your every week and do you do them regularly? If not – how can you change it?

As for today - do one thing that energises you and see what happens!

How self-aware are you?

DSCF0021.JPG

Self-awareness is one of the most important abilities. When you are self-aware you can make more informed decisions, you are able to reflect on your experiences from different perspectives and see what went well and why. You know what your strengths are and what you are not so good at.

Your strengths are your natural talents; you do these things brilliantly without even thinking about them. When you do them you feel in the ‘zone’ and time passes by without being noticed. In addition, it is your strengths that bring joy and satisfaction to your life when you use them. Therefore, when you have a job where you use your strengths you feel happy.

Before setting up my own business and becoming a coach, for four years I led a Personal and Professional development programme for students at Goldsmiths, University of London called the Gold Award. It is a one-year programme focused on increasing students’ self-awareness and self-confidence. It was an experience that taught me a lot and gave me an opportunity to be creative and witness growth of so many young people. They moved the boundaries of what they thought was doable and what they could do. Through written, verbal and creative ways of reflecting on their development and setting goals to achieve they became more self-aware and through that they started to use their potential more. It was a valuable learning for life.  

Any programme that helps students at universities or employees at work to be more self-aware is vital for contributing to their satisfaction and happiness in their life. It is something that adds a valuable practical element to the curriculum at universities and employee development programmes at organisations. Through self-awareness you explore opportunities and discover what works for you. Ken Robinson in his brilliant book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything says that the Element is ‘the place where the things you love to do and the things that you are good at come together’. We can all find our Element.

As for the weaknesses – it’s good to know them because if you know that you need a particular skill for a role you can always learn it and improve. But don’t just focus on your weaknesses and improve only these and totally forget about what you are good at. When you do what you are good at you shine. If you are not sure about your strengths think back about your experiences – at school, university, the jobs you did, sports you practiced, all personal and professional experiences when things felt right. When did you feel you are doing something great? What do you enjoy doing most?

Once you reflect on this make a list of three skills, activities or abilities which when you do you feel to be in your element. Are you doing them on your job?

Climbing your wall

DSCF0223.JPG

A couple of weeks ago I watched a documentary called ‘Free solo’ about Alex Honnold’s climb of 3,000 feet (900m) high El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Alex is an American rock climber and the first and only climber to climb El Capitan without a rope or any supportive equipment. He did it in 3 hours and 56 minutes.

El Capitan is a vertical cliff. To say that this documentary was breath taking probably wouldn’t do it enough justice. During some of the shots I could feel my stomach going up-side down – the videography was incredible and the story that came with it even more powerful. It won an Oscar for the best documentary this year.

It’s unbelievable how far we can go and how we are able to push the boundaries of what is humanly possible. What Alex did was classed by many as an ‘impossible’ feat. But not for him. He said in one of the interviews: ‘you choose your own challenges’. For him it was a dream and a challenge. He didn’t wake up one day and decide that it’s time to climb it. Behind the actual climb that happened on 3 June 2017 were two years of practice, preparation and visualisation. During this time, he climbed the wall with rope endless times building a routine exploring all possible steps and rehearsing, so that when he actually did it - it felt like he was in control knowing exactly where to place his hands and feet.

Obviously, the question about fear and death is at the forefront of climbs like this. He said in an interview: ‘With free-soloing, obviously I know that I’m in danger, but feeling fearful while I’m up there is not helping me in any way. It’s only hindering my performance, so I just set it aside and leave it be.’

Sounds easy?  

What made this climb possible is practice and there is a lesson for us all. If you have a dream you want to achieve – ‘your own wall to climb’ – the only way around it is to prepare for it. You will need to ‘go out there’ and practice. And yes, you will fall a couple of times (while you still have the rope!) and this will allow you to learn what doesn’t work so you can make changes and do it differently next time. The result depends on your effort, focus and the relationship you develop with fear. Fear is not something that can be erased; it will be there but the question is how you control it. As Alex said: ‘You will always feel fear, but over time you will realize the only way to truly manage your fear is to broaden your comfort zone.’

Fundamentally, the more you can stretch your comfort zone the more control you have over your fear to do anything. Your comfort zone expands by preparation and practice.

I am truly humbled by people like Alex who push the boundaries and make us believe that everything is possible. My only experience of climbing was indoors a couple of years ago – I enjoyed it and learnt a lot from it while at the same time being taken out of my comfort zone.  

I will conclude with Alex’s quote:

‘I'm not thinking about anything when I'm climbing, which is part of the appeal. I'm focused on executing what's in front of me.’

What’s in front of you? Do you have an ‘El Capitan’ in your life; something you want to do or achieve which appears difficult?

Be inspired by this story and know that you can.

The power of decision

How often have you been thinking ‘I can’t decide’? You are at a crossroads and it doesn’t even need to be such an important decision to make. For example:

What am I going to cook for dinner? Shall I go out tonight or not? Shall I invite a friend for lunch? Where will we go on holiday? Shall I submit a paper for that conference? Should I deliver a workshop? Shall I raise my hand at a conference or team meeting and ask that ‘burning’ question? Shall I ask for feedback on my chapter? Shall I go to that networking event?

DSCF0892.JPG

Or the more important decisions…

Shall I change my job? Am I going to commit to this relationship? Will I move to a new house? Shall I ask for a promotion? Shall I finally follow my dream and travel for half a year? Shall I do the yoga course and become a teacher? Shall I get a coach?

Last year my coach told me that the most important thing to do is to decide and it needs to be a very decisive yes or a very decisive no. And then the next most important thing is to run with that decision.

Why is it so important for you to decide? Because if you don’t do that you end up wasting energy by constantly ‘recycling’ your thoughts and going in a circle. Yesterday you thought you will say yes to something but today it doesn’t feel like that anymore and who knows what happens tomorrow?? The week passes by but you can’t focus properly on your work as ‘this decision’ is still on your mind.

Often the thing you want to do is to make ‘the right decision’. But you won’t find out if a decision is right until you decide to make it and take the first step. In fact, perhaps there is nothing like ‘the right decision’ rather there are decisions with different impacts.

Sometimes, we start thinking that what if in three years’ time things will change. Bring yourself back to the present moment and do what you feel is right for you NOW. The rest will take care of itself and as you keep making decisions you will continue to move forwards. In fact, what often matters most is you moving forward. Otherwise, it might feel like you are stuck and literally can’t go anywhere.

Every now and then it might feel that a decision is making you take a step backwards. But this might be the necessary step for you to gain perspective and a bit of distance – look at things in a different light so that you can then take five steps forward. Things are not always linear and going back can actually mean moving forward. And remember, you can always change. 

If you find making decisions a challenge I invite you to do this exercise – for the next two weeks keep making small decisions (e.g. what clothes to wear, what food to order, what to cook, what event to go to…). Don’t ponder on these daily decisions – go with one and stick with it. You will get into the habit of deciding on these small things and through these baby steps you will get more confident.

Remember that if you don’t make your own decisions somebody else will do that for you. You are the creator of your life – make the most of it! If you are facing an important decision and you need support and encouragement to decide on next steps get a coach. Go for somebody who will ask you the right questions to bring more clarity into your decision process; somebody who will make you accountable, so you follow through your action steps; somebody who believes you can do it. Because through that person believing in you, you will start believing in yourself.

Who was your best teacher or a person who inspired you most to do something? Chances are it was somebody who believed you can make things happen. So, start with you now and empower yourself to make a decision. Start with one decision.

The interesting thing is that once you decide on something that has been on your mind for a long time you will feel a liberating feeling and almost a relief. You have just made space for new things to happen…  and yes, more decisions!

Are you up for the exercise? Make clear decisions on smaller things for two weeks. Make notes. Let me know how it went!

How strong are your ‘roots’?

DSCF0807.JPG

These days, many people would like to progress quickly, get to the next level as fast as possible or use as many short cuts as available to get them there but here is the thing…

Life is not a video game and short cuts do not usually provide lessons for growth.

Building a good foundation or in other words ‘your roots’ for life is very important. You can look at it as a metaphor for building a particular skill set you need to become who you want to be professionally. These ‘roots’ can be seen as the core skills that are relevant. But you can also look at your Doctorate studies or your Post-doc as a way of building the next level of your house. A strong foundation and good roots are important as otherwise as you continue to build your house higher, it could collapse if your foundations are not strong enough meaning you would need to rebuild from the ground up.

When you decide to do something new and perhaps challenging (e.g. do a triathlon, start a PhD), work on a particular activity (e.g. design a series of new workshops, write a conference paper) or decide on your next career step – find out as much as possible about what you need to bring with you to the ‘starting line’. What are the qualities, skills, experiences and mindset that this work requires? (you might already have some of them!) Then go and get them through part-time work, training, volunteering, project work, teaching, workshop organisation, joining groups of like-minded people or reading, so that you acquire new knowledge.

Prepare yourself as best as you can – it is this preparation that builds a foundation for you – something you can always go back to as the core which will give you confidence. Through preparation questions will come up and that means that you are learning and exploring. There are many people around you who would be happy to answer them to support your growth. And if you ever decide to build a different ‘house’ – you can extend the core – the foundation of what you have already built. You will then keep developing your skills while doing.

If you know that there is a certain skill that is important for your work (or for getting to the next level and being promoted) and you are not good at it or confident enough look for opportunities to practice it. At the beginning, it might appear scary because you will be taken out of your comfort zone but it’s the only way to progress. For example, if you need teaching experience the only real way of getting it is by teaching. For a start, you can get advice from others or assist somebody during their seminar delivery, so you get a feel for it but eventually you will need to teach your own class and that’s when you learn the most. You learn by doing. You will also naturally develop your own style and your own signature.

Build a good foundation for everything you do. Spend time on developing your skills and devote time to what makes you better. You will be stronger and more confident for it and as a result you will also inspire others.

What level of ‘your house’ are you building at the moment?

Is there anything that needs to be strengthened in ‘your foundation’? If you need any support with it get in touch!

Where does your motivation come from?

As Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardiner write in Waiting for the motivation fairy: ‘Most people have a fundamental misunderstanding: we like to think that motivation leads to action, or, more simply, that when you feel like doing something, you'll do it’. However, and this is the crucial part: You have to start before you feel ready; then you'll feel more motivated, and then you'll take more action.’

It might sometimes seem easier said than done.

Just imagine one of those days – you need to work on a paper, finish a report or analyse all the research data gathered and you just don’t feel like doing it. It feels indeed like waiting for the motivation fairy to stop by. But she might never come because the motivation needs to be awakened from within you. It is often your attitude in the moment when you feel like not bothering with the work at all or the training that you planned that determines where you go next. If you catch yourself in this moment, stop and pause; acknowledge what’s happening and don’t give in, you have a chance to do something great.

DSCF0245.JPG

We all have days when we just feel like it doesn’t flow and it’s not worth it. It might not be the perfect day for writing or analysis, but you can still do a good job. You can do the best possible work today and tomorrow based on what you wrote today you might write a brilliant report. All of this, just because you haven’t given up and stayed with the task.

What helps is to create some structure for your day; if you know you have two hours to work on something or an hour and half stay with it and do your best. Stick with the plan. That’s why it’s important to be very clear about what you are doing on a particular day – it focuses your brain and sets time for a particular activity. ‘I will do it sometime this week’ won’t do because you will not do it.

Be clear about your exact starting time, exact activity and set duration time. If you say you will work on something for two hours – do it. Don’t go over and spend four hours working on it still feeling you are not done. When you create a clear deadline for yourself you will set a clear intention that by a particular time you want to be done with an activity. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need to continue working on it tomorrow but set a clear task for today and don’t aim to write the whole paper in two hours – decide on where your focus will be TODAY.

If your productivity is not the best on a particular day – don’t beat yourself up and as a result of it, enter the land of ‘I should have..’. It doesn’t matter what you think you should have done. Don’t waste your energy on ‘shoulds’. Recognise what happened, learn from it and recover. There is always an opportunity to start again but you need to commit and make that decision. By doing this you will also protect your self-confidence.

Years ago, when I was working on my PhD, it often felt like the writing was not going. In those times, I started to question if I am doing the right thing; if I am actually meant to be doing a PhD at all and if I am qualified enough (impostor syndrome! – a topic for another blog) and if I can present my work at a workshop (What if nobody turns up?). It seemed like everybody else was doing well. It was a challenging time but also a time when I learnt most about me and worked on getting better. It was all worth it and completing the PhD remains one of my biggest achievements. As the saying goes: ‘Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides’. You often don’t know what’s going on for others on the inside and how they are struggling to keep up their motivation!

In April 2015 I ran the London Marathon. It was one of the best and at the same time most challenging experiences in my life (probably followed closely after the PhD!). I have always enjoyed recreational running but have never taken part in a race like that. I started training in January and followed a four months plan with running three times a week. There were so many days when it was cold and dark and the last thing I wanted to do was running! But I stuck with it and kept on my mind the bigger picture and the April run. I also had a cause and was raising money for Muscular Dystrophy UK. This often made the biggest difference – I was clear on my intention and commitment and how what I do will have a positive impact (money raised). I became also more aware of the fact that ‘I can run’ and many other people can’t, so it felt like I needed to do it even more.

When you work on a research, policy, project or do some lab work and you feel totally unmotivated – you always have a chance to change your mindset by reminding yourself why you really do all of this. What is the practical application? If your work will have an impact on people on the ground – clients, students, patients or your own staff – and you will improve some standards and conditions it’s worth pushing yourself. Because once you push the limit you thought you had you realise you can go further. Then you enter the territory of possibility and opportunities – it’s a place full of magic and creativity.

If you feel like there is no practical application and you don’t feel your work is meaningful or you are adding value – you have two choices:

First, think about the last time you did a great job and helped somebody because of what you did. Got it? Ok, so what did you do? It’s clear your role is relevant, so bring up more of these kinds of activities and design your own ways of impact. Talk to people you work with and see if you can make any changes to your responsibilities (even minor ones!), ask for help, show people the great work you do. You will be surprised how much leeway there is for you to be creative. Empower yourself. Step by step.

Second, you are not motivated at all because you don’t like your job; there is no fulfilment on the personal level and you are not feeling like you are adding any value. If this is the case maybe it’s time for a change. As Eckhart Tolle mentions in his great book ‘The Power of Now’ if you are in an unpleasant situation you have three options – accept it (without moaning; this is critical!), make a change or remove yourself from the situation. The latter might not be an option in this case, but you have still two other ways to go. Take some time – reflect, ask yourself what you like doing, what is it that you really want to do. And then design steps to enter this new path. In the meantime, look for ways how to make your work more meaningful – there is always a way how to improve things until you make the bigger change. Small changes can have a bigger impact on how you feel.

Beyond all, stay focused. It’s all about baby steps. As long as you know why you do what you do and what would you like the final result to be you are set for success. Motivation will be on your side. If you would like some support with getting there get in touch.

Let's celebrate!

When was the last time you celebrated an achievement?

What do you do when you pass an exam, successfully accomplish a project, complete planning a team strategy, get awarded a grant or scholarship for your work or research, publish a book, write an article, facilitate an amazing training day, effectively network at an event leading to some great professional contacts and potential collaborations, deliver a powerful conference presentation, finish a running challenge, assist somebody to reach their goals?

There are the bigger milestones like completing your studies, getting a promotion or setting up a new business but what also matters is to celebrate your ‘smaller’ victories. They all add up and it is usually because of all these smaller steps that you achieve something bigger. It is only by looking back that you start seeing the connections – how getting somewhere was not a result of one big decision but an outcome of 10-15 (often more!) smaller decisions, steps and experiences including a few setbacks along the way.

DSCF0680.JPG

Equally, it’s important to celebrate moments when you got out of your comfort zone, when you ‘dared’ to do something unusual, when you pushed yourself to stand up in a conference room full of people and asked the key speaker a question, when you gave a talk in front of a larger audience...  or when you did something people around you said won’t work. Things work because you make them work. As it was nicely said by Henry Ford: ‘If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.’ The first step is to start with a decision and follow up with commitment and action.

What happens while you celebrate is that you build your confidence because you remind yourself actively about the great things you achieved. You engage your mind and reflect on what went well and why. While you do this, you are ready to use the learning for going forwards and actively engage it again. It’s easy to recycle thoughts about failures and unsuccessful events but the sooner you can process these by asking yourself what/how you will do things better next time and letting go of the rest the faster you move forwards. This will leave you also more space for celebrating your achievements!

As an inspiring coach Rich Litvin says confidence comes as a result of what we do. It’s an outcome. It also means that you can actively work on it and empower yourself. It’s a skill that can be developed like any other - by practice.

How are you going to celebrate the next great thing you accomplish today/this week/this month?

Share it with me and others around you. There is nothing better than sharing stories about your successes as you never know when your stories inspire somebody else to step up and commit to something bigger.

What do you want to create this year?

The first month of 2019 is slowly coming to its end. The start of the year is a good time for reflection and making plans. Making resolutions often doesn’t work as we tend to say what we don’t want to do, what we want to stop or do less of. How about changing the perspective and starting with a different intention and thinking instead about what we want to do?  

We are all creative beings and sometimes it’s worth taking some time out and exploring what we can create. When I was at primary school I was told by a teacher that I can’t sing and for me that ‘locked’ the possibility of singing for years. It was only about three years ago that I met Director of the London City Voices choir Richard Swan whose approach is ‘everybody can sing’. He has put together an amazing community of about 400 people who sing and ever since I became part of the choir it brought an enormous joy to my days. Interestingly, it brought a lot of inspiration to my own business and I think that’s what we sometimes forget – that all is connected, and we can learn a useful lesson in one area of our life and apply it to a different one.

20150817_152401.jpg

When we create we build something that hasn’t existed before in that exact form or shape – be it physical or abstract. We start with a blank page full of opportunities which is exciting but can often be scary as there can be too much to choose from. When we think of something it plants a seed and we then allow it to grow. As Robin Sharma’s quote goes ‘Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality’.

So instead of asking what would you like to achieve I am asking what would you like to create? Make a decision what it is you want to explore and then act upon it. Once you decide to go for something opportunities open up that will give you ideas and options to pursue things further. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: ‘Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ We are often waiting until we see the whole path to make the first step and so years pass by before we decide to give it a go. Make the first step and trust yourself. The beauty of this is that you can always change.

When we create something, we become artists in our own way and our own space. We put our skills and abilities to practice, we allow ourselves to explore. In the end, creating something is an adventure. It could be that you want to create a business, more clients, set something up, establish a reading club, start something from scratch, deliver a workshop, write a book or poem, take up photography, start drawing or painting, create a new career, learn indoor climbing, join a band. With all these activities, we need to start with an intention to do them and then follow up with creating space for them. This means making time. Whenever we say that we don’t have time to do something we won’t do it; but when we shift perspective and decide to make time things happen!

Creativity itself means that you are up for an adventure – an exploration. When you create something, you are led by curiosity, you are coming up with solutions, you are tweaking existing things, you design your own steps and make them your own. Inspiration is everywhere.

Are you ready to create something new? If yes and you need some support with getting started I invite you to get in touch with me and I will offer you a complimentary coaching session to get you started with designing your steps and creating a map for you!

Bonsai

DSCF0026.JPG

I have a bonsai at home that I got years ago as a present from former work colleagues. For a long time, I left it unpruned and it got slightly wild to say the least, so its branches went all over the place. You almost wouldn’t think it’s a bonsai! It was time for me to do some work on it allowing it to regain its shape.

The point of pruning and trimming is that bonsai trees keep their shape as they grow. The trees need it and metaphorically, it’s similar with us too. When we let things overrun, overgrow, dedicate our energy and focus to too many things, we lose focus. As a result, our energy gets dispersed all around. Pruning is also about being ready to let go of the branches that still have leaves and are flourishing but not leading the tree to its right shape. Pruning helps the tree to gather energy in its key branches and focus more inwards.

Sometimes we need to pause, and it is in that stillness that we can find answers for moving forwards. When we rush around and days pass by so that we are unable to say what we did three days ago and everything blurs into one it’s time to slow down. It’s time to remind ourselves about our priorities, the direction of our travel but also why we do what we do. Once we do that we are ready to move on with more confidence and clarity achieving the goals we want. Sometimes we all need this ‘trimming’ – we need to cut the number of goals, priorities, responsibilities, ideas, options so that the dispersed focus can be regained and redirected again to a place that helps us to move forwards in the right direction.

Many people say that they don’t have time do to the things they want as they are busy. What does it really mean being busy? When we devote our time to something we love and are passionate about we never say that we are busy even though it takes almost all our time. Therefore, symbolically, don’t let your branches overgrow but rather look inwards and get clear on what it is that you really want to focus on now and devote your time to; get rid of stuff that is not helping you and practice letting go. Once you let go it will create space for something new to arrive that will be more aligned with your chosen direction of travel.

As for my bonsai tree, a week after pruning it got new green buds ready to grow maintaining its shape but also ready for the winter condensing its energy and staying rooted. Sometimes, we can’t do all the pruning and trimming ourselves and need some assistance; and that’s when a coach can help. Growing and looking after bonsai trees is an art in its own way and so is living.

What do you think you need to do less of and what do you need to stop completely?

What is important for you to continue with?

Dare to...

Last weekend I saw a movie called Dare to be Wild. It’s a story about Mary Reynolds an Irish garden designer at the very beginning of her career and her vision of winning the gold medal at The Chelsea Flower Show for her garden design bringing wild nature into people’s gardens. For a start, she was not considered experienced and professional enough to even apply for a competition like that and mainly, she didn’t have the required £250,000 sponsorship money necessary to build her garden design at the flower show and take part in the competition. Many around said that this was a difficult and frankly impossible task; there were many barriers along the way which would have stopped so many people. If you are not interested in gardening, Chelsea Flower Show is for garden designers like Olympic games for athletes.

Anyway, Mary filled in the application form, then she was shortlisted, eventually she found a donor and got help from a botanist and environmental enthusiasts, she built the garden she dreamt about and won the gold medal at the age of 28 as the youngest garden designer ever. What made a difference is that she came from her goal and designed all steps towards it and not the other way around. Her will to make things happen was stronger than anything else she encountered, and she didn’t take ‘no’ as an answer.

This is a true story of an inspiring woman who totally leaned in to the vision. At the start of the application process, she put a note on her fridge saying ‘Thank you for my gold medal in garden design at The Chelsea Flower Show’. She believed that if you believe that something has already happened it will. She had a goal, a clear vision and determination to get there no matter what. The universe answered and created opportunities for her to achieve what she wanted.

What would you like to do if there would be no obstacles and no financial pressure? Once you have your picture clear – lean into it. Sometimes we don’t have to see the whole path ahead of us. At times we don’t even see beyond the next step. But that’s fine! Make the first step and a bridge will unfold, signs will appear, people will cross your path who will help to make things happen. Be bold and do it.

What will you dare to do? What would the message on YOUR fridge say?

Meadow_blog.jpg

90 minutes

I have recently put into practice the concept of ‘90 minutes’ block work. When I used to be a student I often worked for long hours without any breaks and then later having a job I often did the same. There were many days when I felt worn out and drained. Sure, I achieved most of the goals I set but often it was not easy to focus, and I was not very efficient using my time. In addition, the tiredness was always present. Does it mean that we always need to feel exhausted at the end of the day because it justifies that we worked hard? Does it come like a by-product of hard work? I don’t think so.

DSCF0055.JPG

Recently, I adopted a different working pattern and have changed how I work. I have started to work in 90-minute blocks with some short breaks in between. On average, I aim for at least four of those blocks per day and these hours are highly effective. I am achieving results and primarily, I don’t feel tired at all at the end of the day but energised. I first read about the concept of 90 minutes in the book Build Your Business in 90 minutes a Day by Nigel Botterill and Martin Gladdish. This book is not just about setting up your business but adopting different habits and renegotiating the relationship you have with time.

What these 90-minute blocks helped me with is having concrete goals set for each of them and clear deadlines by when I want to have the work finished. I stick with the deadlines because as one of the sayings goes ‘done is better than perfect’. I am more focused moving from one task to another without spending a day on something that I could have achieved more effectively with a different pattern and structure. This is me – it works for me and that’s why I will keep it up. If you are looking for a different study/work structure in respect to time, try it as it might work for you. If not, keep looking for something that suits you and helps you to achieve what you want.

Of course, I have ‘off’ days when things don’t go according to plan but what matters here is allowing for these to happen too and not beating yourself up. However, what is equally important (if not more!) is how quickly you bounce back and re-create your structure. Keep working and moving forwards.

As Botterill and Gladdish note in their book:

Every deliberate step you take, however tiny,

towards your biggest, brightest, boldest goals

gives you the right to call yourself successful.

Commit first and then remain consistent, so you create good habits allowing you to keep up the good work you do. From time to time pause and reflect to see if any further design work or tweaks are needed.

The question is: Do your daily habits work for you and are they bringing you the results you want? If yes, great! If not, what can you change?

Make time for what matters to you.

Go for it!

DSCF0461.JPG

Over the weekend I watched a movie called Edie. It’s about an 83-old lady who realises that she hasn’t lived the life she really wanted. After some reflection and change in her life circumstances, she decides to do the one thing that she wanted years ago and has never done – to climb Mt Suilven in Scotland. The story that unfolds through the movie is powerful. Fundamentally, it is a journey about what’s possible; age doesn’t matter at all.

In life we usually regret what we haven’t done. It’s not what we did but the complete opposite. It is the experience that we didn’t have, the feeling that we missed, the courage that we didn’t take to do something, the job that we didn’t apply for, the path that we decided not to walk… because it appeared too difficult, there was not enough time, we didn’t have people around us to support us and approve it, because there were tonnes of other excuses why it didn’t happen. We can’t do anything about the past, but we can always do something now! Just because you didn’t do something years ago it doesn’t mean you can’t have that experience anymore. You simply haven’t done it yet.  

Opportunities are everywhere around us. Once we decide to go for something – once we commit – suddenly things start happening to help us on those journeys, we meet people, read about things and stumble across articles that inspire us in the right moment to move forwards. What matters though is to make that ‘yet’ happen to make sure that when you are 83 years old you have climbed all the mountains you wanted (whatever that means for you) and experienced most of what you desired.

It was Stephen Hawking who said Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.

Is there anything in your life that you wanted to do and haven’t done it yet? What is the one thing that you can do today to get started?

Trust yourself; it will be worth it. Just take the first step.

Look forward

DSCF0393.JPG

All of us have been there at some point in our lives. Something that we really wanted didn’t work: we didn’t get into the university we wanted, we didn’t pass an exam, we didn’t get the job or promotion that we wanted. And so, a thought comes. I failed…

All of us encounter some form of failure, setback or challenge during our lives. In fact, there are quite a few of these! It’s ok and they happen. It’s fine to feel temporarily sad that something didn’t work but the only way to get out of it is to move forwards.

Three years ago, I was fortunate to meet Bill Burnett, Executive Director of the Design Programme at Stanford University. Together with his colleague, Dave Evans, they wrote an inspiring book called ‘Designing Your Life’ which has had a positive impact on how I work. What they say – and I totally agree with it – is that there is no failure as such as we are designers and we constantly prototype. If something doesn’t work, we know that we need to tweak or change something and off we are working on the next best version.

If there was something that didn’t work for you recently – get the lesson from it and let go. Put into practice what you learnt and make a step forward. What really gets you out of the failure mode is to stop thinking and start doing. So, pick the next thing you can work on and give it all your energy and focus. There are so many opportunities around you – some work and some don’t. The last experience has only prepared you to be better next time and eventually to get what you really want.

Nelson Mandela once said: I never lose. I either win or learn.

If you didn’t get the job you wanted – ask for feedback; if you didn’t pass an exam – see what needs to improve or ask somebody for help with the task ahead; if you didn’t get promoted – ask what can you do better, reflect on it and then act by improving your skills and abilities (or perhaps it’s time to try something different and change jobs?).

Don’t ask WHY did this happen to me? but instead ask HOW can I learn from this? WHAT will I do differently next time? Keep your focus and move on.

What’s the next thing you are working on?