Thursday, 27 September 2012

I have a dream...

A long time ago, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My 10 year old self replied “a millionaire”.  I’ve no idea where that answer came from or even how I was going to achieve it, it was just my dream at that time. 

I like to think that I’ve moved on to bigger and better dreams since then, because let’s face it, being a millionaire is only about money.  These days I dream of a world free of violence against women.  I dream of a time when I can say to my daughter “you can be anything you want” and it will be true, because neither her gender nor her race will prevent her from reaching the highest positions.  I dream of a time when gender equality is a fact and not just a pipe dream.

This week, I’d like to put forward my top 3 reasons for why I think it’s important that we pursue our dreams.

Show me a person who is passionate about what they do and I will show you a person who is inspired by their dreams.  Where would we be without the Martin Luther King’s of this world, the Thomas Edison’s or the Barack Obama’s?  The people who dreamed big and went after those dreams.  Real dreams are bigger than us.  Sometimes they are so big, that they feel overwhelming, even before we start.  The only difference between those who merely dream and those who achieve their dreams is action.  Don’t know where to start? Start anywhere.  Start with something easy, start with something that’s particularly interesting to you.  Just start! Once you do, keep going.  I’ve recently begun to practice a principle called “15 minutes to your destiny”[1].  The idea is you spend 15 minutes each day, working towards your dream.  All of us can find a spare 15 minutes in our day and what better use of our time is there than to pursue our dreams?  Our dreams inspire us, they keep us going when we want to stop and best of all they give us hope, which is my second reason for why we should keep chasing our dreams.

A life without hope would be a pretty depressing one.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of hope-less people out there, who feel they have nothing to look forward to, nothing to aspire to.  Dreams give us hope, they give us focus, they give us a roadmap of who and where we want to be in life.  When I tell people that I work with survivors of domestic violence, they usually say that it must be pretty depressing.  Actually, it’s not to me. It’s emotionally draining work, but what would be depressing is if I thought I wasn’t making a difference and never could.  I don’t think of the huge numbers of women experiencing domestic violence around the world. I think of the woman in front of me.  I take it one woman at a time.   When I see the changes in her life, the growth, the self awareness, the ability to make safe choices for herself and her children, then I am simultaneously inspired and hopeful of what I can help another woman to achieve.

Finally, it’s important to pursue your dream, because dreams change lives.  They change your life and the lives of people around you.  The innovation and creativity that dreamers bring to life, never stops with just them.  Like the ripple effect of a pebble in water, the effects of a realised dream just keep going.  I wonder how many young Black girls are going to take up gymnastics or tennis because of Gabby Douglas and the Williams’ sisters. How many young Black men will pursue education as a route to success instead of the following the lure of crime and it’s so called ‘easy money’? How many young women will pursue a career in politics because of women like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Rodham Clinton?

Your potential and your dreams are a gift both to you and the people around you.  There are people waiting for you to step up and step out, so they can fulfil their dreams and release their potential.  Dream big, dream small, dream often, keep dreaming.  When you’re done dreaming, start moving because we’re waiting on you to change the world, one step at a time.
If you'd like to find out how coaching can help you release your potential, contact us via the website.
Until next week, go well


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Got power?

I recently went for ‘the big chop’ and cut all my hair off.  I’ve done it a few times now and people’s reactions never cease to surprise me.  From the barber who actually had to cut it, to my friends who had seen me a few days earlier with longer hair.   It’s amazing what a strong reaction it provokes.  It’s almost like people think you lose your power as a woman, if you have no hair. I actually feel even more powerful, when I have a drastic haircut, sort of like a reverse Samson and Delilah moment!  It got me thinking about the power we give to things, people and events in our lives.

Clothes, hair, make-up, weight, careers and social status.  All things that can give us a sense of being powerful. Society tells us that if we look right, have the right job and live in the right area then we’re doing well.  But these are all external, transient things that can be lost at any time.  If we put all our value in these things, what happens to us, if we lose them? It seems a very risky approach to me.  I think it’s better to locate our power in things that are longer lasting.  Things like our values, our principles and our character. The things that help us to bring positive change for us and others.

What kinds of things rob us of our power? The top 2 for me are fear and abuse of any kind. 

Fear has the effect of containing us and making us smaller than we are meant to be.  It paralyses us and prevents us from reaching our full potential.  Abuse, particularly domestic abuse has the same sort of effect. Imagine the impact of being told everyday- by the person who claims to love you, that you are useless, good for nothing.  Imagine being physically or sexually assaulted by your partner on a regular basis.  How powerful would you feel? How likely is it that you would excel in other areas of your life?

The question is then: how do we guard our personal power? I think it depends on what we’re dealing with.  Sometimes it can be as straightforward as facing what we’re afraid of and tackling that fear.  Other times, it’s about identifying what our boundaries are and making sure that other people respect them.  When it comes to domestic abuse, the most important thing is safety.  Only once we are safe, can we begin to think about reclaiming our personal power.

As I end this week, I invite you to think about your personal power.  What makes you feel empowered, what makes you feel disempowered, how you can guard your power.

If you have been affected by anything in this post or would like to know about how coaching could help you, contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

...all change please...

My daughter and I both love butterflies, but for very different reasons.  She loves them for their bright colours and the fact that they fly around, just out of her reach.
I love them because they illustrate beautifully, what I want to talk about today, which is transformation or metamorphosis.  I love looking up definitions, so I went off to find out what metamorphosis means.  I found out that metamorphosis can be defined as “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means”.  What you see at the beginning, is not what you get at the end.  There’s no such thing as a baby butterfly, it’s a completely transformative process at every stage.  I find that very encouraging.  It means that no matter what stage I am at, I can be transformed by making some positive changes.  I don’t have to stay stuck in unhelpful or harmful patterns of behaviour.  It means that I have a choice about how things unfold in my life.  This week I’d like to remind you of three changes that any one of us can make, that could transform our lives.

The first thing that we can do is to change our thoughts.  Hands up anyone who’s ever ‘thought themselves sad’.  When you’re having one of those self pitying days for no apparent reason and you begin to think about and dwell on all the things that aren’t quite right in your life.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly been able to think myself very sad and end up having a good cry at the end of it.  We can’t control the random thoughts that come to mind, but we don’t have to pull up a chair and entertain them with tea and cake! Rather than try and stop yourself thinking negatively, I suggest the principle of replacement.  For every negative thought that comes to mind, think of a positive one as well and use it to contradict the negative one. It’s a bit like replacing a lie, with a truth.  The truth is more powerful and always wins out in the end. Try it and see.

The second thing is to change our speech.  Most of us have an ongoing inner dialogue with ourselves.  For some of us, that inner voice is very critical and it shows in the way we talk about ourselves and other people.  In my experience, people who are very judgemental and critical of others, have a very strong inner critic who is expressed in the way they talk to others.  Our own inner voice is the most powerful voice for most of us and we tend to believe it.  If you keep saying something to yourself, you’ll eventually see it happen.  I’m reminded of a friend who always used to say that she thought her house would be burgled, whilst she was at home asleep.  Unfortunately, soon enough, those words came true and she was burgled while she was at home asleep.  We must remember that words are powerful and so we should choose them carefully and speak them wisely.  If you don’t like what you’re seeing in your life, perhaps it’s time to take an inventory of what you’re saying.  Even better, get someone else’s views on what you say.

Finally, let’s consider our actions.  In my view, all these changes are linked. Our thoughts and speech ultimately lead to action.  It’s like the old saying in relation to computers- “garbage in, garbage out”.  For many of us, we seem to be stuck in unhelpful patterns of behaviour.  Desperately longing to break free, but not knowing how to do it.  I suggest taking a minute to reflect and then doing the opposite of what you would normally do. It might not always work, but it gives you the choice to respond rather than react to a situation. A response is always better than a reaction, because you’ve taken the time to think about what you’re going to say or do.  The added benefit is that it usually produces a much better response from the other person as well.

When we say what we think, do what we say, we ultimately become what we think.  If you really want to make lasting changes the answer is simple: change your mind, change your life. 

Contact us through the blog or the website to find out how coaching can help you change your mind.

Until next week, go well

Thursday, 6 September 2012

...through the fire...


Talking to 2 women recently, I was struck by their strength- an almost steely inner core.  It got me thinking about resilience.  What does it mean to be resilient? Why do we need to be resilient? And how do we build it in ourselves?

The definition of resilience that I am using in this piece is taken from psychology, because it best describes what I am thinking about, when I use the term.  Resilience in psychological terms refers to an individual’s tendency to cope with stress and adversity.  Most people think of it as being a character trait, but in reality it’s more of a process.  Life never stops and we are always faced with challenges.  People, who display resilience, do it over and over again, every time they find themself in a difficult situation.  They typically have a set of behaviours that they use to help them face and overcome adversity. I’m reminded here of individuals who are diagnosed with a life threatening illness, who radically change their lives in order to beat the illness.  I have no doubt that they have moments of deep despair, but somehow they manage to get back up and keep fighting.

Why we need to be resilient is quite straightforward.  An ordinary meaning of resilience is our ability to ‘bounce back’.  Every day, we are faced with situations that we need to be able to bounce back from.  The ongoing financial crisis has had a devastating impact on many.  People have lost their jobs, people have been forced to work harder and longer at the jobs they do have and there is a nagging sense of insecurity in many employees at the moment.  In order to carry on, people have to find ways to adapt and cope with the feelings of stress and anxiety that this causes.

For others it’s experiences of domestic and sexual violence that they have to deal with on an ongoing basis.  Ongoing incidences of abuse that go to the very heart of who they are, affecting their lives in so many ways.  People who have never experienced domestic violence may wonder why and how the victim remains in their situation.  Outsiders may feel that they would handle things differently, if they were in that situation. My experience of survivors of domestic violence is that they have assessed the risks they face by staying in the relationship, but more importantly, they have also assessed the risk of leaving. If the risk of leaving is being killed or seriously hurt, then finding coping mechanisms is a matter of survival.

How then, do we become more resilient? Is it even possible?  I think that it is possible to become more resilient, particularly if you agree that it’s a process or way of behaving, rather than a trait that only some people have.  There are a number of ways to do this and here are my top 3:

·         to stay hopeful, expect good things and visualise what is hoped for;

·         to set realistic goals and work on achieving them and

·         to look for opportunities for self discovery and personal growth after a loss or change.

Coaching is one thing that can help you to begin to practice these habits and so help you to become more resilient.  When you work with a coach, setting goals, working on those goals and raising your self- awareness is what you will spend most of your time doing.

As I end this post, I invite you to think of areas where you would like to become more resilient and the habits that you could develop to help you do that.

If you have been affected by anything that I have written about here or would simply like to find out more about coaching, please contact us via the website.

Until next week, go well.