Friday, 31 January 2014

Leave everything on the field...

Being a writer for me, is a bit like being a free range chicken.  Unlike the caged and cooped up kind, us free rangers are allowed to wander around, foraging for food and generally enjoying a much better kind of life. As a free range kind of a writer, I'm generally to be found wandering around, feasting on little tidbits of writing inspiration. This week's inspiration came in the shape of Ms Oprah Winfrey as she celebrated turning 60 this week. I was reflecting on all that she has achieved as an African American woman, just 3 generations away from slavery and the word 'legacy' dropped into my mind. I looked it up and it means anything handed down from the past, especially an ancestor or predecessor.  As I thought about it, I realised how important it is to consider what our legacy will be.

Legacy is planning how we we will impact the future, starting in the here and now. Presidents, Heads of State, know the importance of this. Usually when they begin their final term in office, there's that one thing that they want to focus on and push through, almost to the exclusion of everything else. It's usually something pretty grand, because let's face it, we all want to make an impact and what better way than with a super new law or initiative? If I had to guess, I'd say that President Obama's legacy is the reform of the healthcare sector in America, through 'Obamacare'. Whatever our legacy is, it has to be big enough to stand the test of time.

Whatever we decide to do legacy really comes into it's own, when we're gone. Either because we're dead or no longer in the position we once were. What we leave as a legacy is for future generations. That's important, because what we leave, becomes their foundation, so that they can go further than we did. And that's how people change their community and the world around them.  As someone has already said, "life is too short to learn everything by experience".

Lest you start to think that leaving a legacy is only for the powerful, let me remind you that we all have people within our spheres of influence, who we will leave a legacy for. Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, the list goes on. Whether we believe it or not, we will all leave a legacy, the question is will it be good or bad? Will it stand the test of time? Will it be a strong enough foundation, for the next generation to build on? Will it help them get farther, faster?

Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Ms Winfrey will leave a huge legacy and the challenge for us is to start building our own legacies. We may not be chat show hosts, own our own media empire or be billionaires, but we can make a difference, one person at a time.

The title of this week's post is a sporting metaphor, which means to "go all out, give everything you've got, risking it all". It doesn't matter how you start, or whether you start big or small, just go for it and start building your legacy now.

Until next week, go well.

Friday, 24 January 2014

...I don't care how you get here, just get here if you can...

It was a Monday morning, just like any other. You know, the kind where you open your eyes and just hit the ground running!  Then the news arrived. A beautiful new baby girl, but mother died in childbirth, leaving behind a devastated family. Just as I was reeling from that, another report, this time a cancer diagnosis. I tend to always try to find the lesson in things, to try and make sense of them. I must confess though that I was stumped this time. How do you make sense of what should be a joyful occasion- a birth, forever being tinged with the grief of death too?  As I thought about it a bit more though, it suddenly hit me. The lesson here is to remind us to make the most of the time we have, because we never know when our time will be up. Don't panic, this isn't going to be a morbid, depressing read. I hope it will encourage you and spur you on to show up in your own life and in other people's too!

A lot of us live life 'on hold'. We say things like, "I'll go on that trip of a lifetime, when I retire" or "I'll take up rollerskating/hand-gliding/ salsa dancing when I lose weight" or "I'll be happy when I get that dream job/ dream man/dream car".  Don't get me wrong, There's absolutely no problem with dreaming and aspiring to better things. It's when we don't show up in our lives in the meantime. When we don't make the most of the 'now' time, because we're too focused on the future. What are you looking forward to so much, that you're ignoring the here and right now. What joys are you missing out on now? What opportunities are you passing up, because your eyes are fixed firmly on tomorrow's better day? Life isn't a dress rehearsal. We're never going to get another chance to live today. Once it's gone, it's gone. We need to master the art of dreaming and working towards our better tomorrows, whilst wringing every bit of life out of today.  I used to be that 'tomorrow is a brighter day' person. I was so busy dreaming about the future, that I forgot to be present in today. When I think about the things I missed out on, I could literally kick myself!

As well as showing up in our own lives, we need to show up in other people's lives too. What do I mean by that? I mean that when we live our own lives fully and authentically, we encourage other people to do that too. You never know who's watching, as you pursue that seemingly crazy dream and thinking "woo hoo, if she can do it, so can I". Our dreams aren't just for us. There are people out there waiting for us to fulfill our dreams, so they can fulfill theirs. For every entrepreneur with a gazillion exciting ideas, there's someone else out there, who's dream it is to take that exciting idea, run with it and bring it to life. We need to realise that to live in community is to be connected. To be connected is the chance to live life more fully than we ever dreamed of. Is there the chance that we might be hurt? Yes. Is there the chance that we might fail? Absolutely. But there's also the chance that we might succeed beyond our wildest dreams. And the satisfaction of knowing that even if we don't quite get to our goal, we are changed for the better just through the pursuit of it.

This week promise yourself that you're going to whatever it takes to be present in your own life. To squeeze out every bit of what life has to offer you right now. Not tomorrow or next week or next year.  Then show up in someone else's life. Reach out to those people who can help you to bring your dream to life. Share your ideas and see how much further you get, connecting with others. Don't worry if it feels scary, just do it anyway. Being scared is part of living, so this week, go do life as courageously as you can.

Until next week, go well.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Thank you, but your services are no longer required

One of the programmes I loved as a child growing up was Fawlty Towers. It had a whole array of funny characters, but my favourite was the hapless Spanish waiter- Manuel. His most common response to a question was "que?". Most times, when I sign off on my blogs, I invite you to give coaching a try. It occurred to me a little while ago that maybe some of you- like Manuel are saying "que?" (Spanish for "what"). So this week, I'd like to tell you what coaching is and isn't and how it could be useful to you.

When you break it down, coaching is just a way of helping you move from point A to point B. In other words, it's a journey. And like any other journey, there are highs and lows, detours, distractions and sometimes you come to a complete stop. The job of a coach is to walk with you; celebrate your successes; encourage you to learn from your failures and keep going and above all, help you to get to the finish line. I didn't realise it at the start, but coaching is one of those things that when it's done well, you're out of a job. When I work with a client, I'm always working towards my services no longer being needed, because they have achieved their goal. The best feedback for me isn't "you changed my life" but "you helped me to change my life". One is about me having power, the other is about the client taking responsibility for their own lives and being empowered.  

Coaching isn't about counselling or giving advice or instructions. It's about recognising the fact that we have the answers we seek already. Sometimes we just need a little help to realise that and someone to walk with us as we try them out.

Coaching isn't something mysterious or complicated either. If you were to see a coaching conversation it would look and sound like 2 people having a conversation. The 'magic' comes from the coach intuitively asking the right questions, listening attentively and giving you feedback.

I hope I've shed a little light on what coaching is and isn't.  So that next week, when I ask you to consider coaching as a way of achieving your goals and dreams, you'll be able to say 'yes' instead of 'que'

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

When I grow up, I want to be...a baked bean!

Seeing as I haven't polled you all, I don't know if you'll agree with me, that there are some things in life that are just standard. For me, it's the small things. Toothpaste has to be Colgate, chocolate digestives have to be McVitie's and baked beans have to be Heinz. I could go on, but then you'll just think I'm a freak!  

The thing is, baked beans don't start life like that. Every baked bean starts life as a humble haricot bean. The transformation to baked beans occurs as part of a process (stay with me, I have a point-honestly). I was having a quiet moment a few days ago and the word "process" dropped into my mind. It demanded to be written nice and large with a very pretty border all around it. I was intrigued and decided to remind myself of what it means. Frankly, I was surprised at the sheer number of definitions for it. Some of my favourites are:

"A continuous action, operation or series of changes, taking place in a definite manner"

"A systematic series of actions directed to some end"

"The action of going forward or on"

"The condition of being carried on"

As I checked out the meanings, I started thinking how appropriate this word is, at this time of the year. At the beginning of the year, everything is shiny and bright and new. It's like you get to turn over to a brand new page in life and start over. Except for the fact that many of us spend an inordinate amount of time writing things from our old pages onto our new one. In no time at all, we've moved from shiny and new to old and grubby!

The thing that struck me first about process is that it's supposed to help you move forward. My 3 year old is learning how to ride a bike, but she hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. She keeps pedalling backwards. She manages to get some forward movement, but not a lot and our little cycling adventures often end in frustration. Does that remind you of an area of your life? You keep trying to move forwards, but it seems that for every step forward, you go back three. Every year, you make the same old resolutions, but you never quite make it. Every year, you say "this time it's going to be different"; "I've got a new trick up my sleeve and this time I'm going to succeed". Only to find yourself disheartened and distressed a few months down the line. 

Another thing about process is that it's intentional and deliberate. The first three definitions make that very clear. It doesn't just happen by chance. If you really want to change your life, you are going to have to think about it very deliberately, make plans and be intentional about following through on those plans. I used to be the queen of "I'm going to change my life this year". Guess what? I very rarely succeeded, because I didn't make plans and because I didn't make any plans, I didn't follow through. It gave me permission to short-change myself over and over again, without being held to account.

Finally, process takes time. In fact, another definition of the word process means "course or lapse of time". We live in a time, where we want everything yesterday. There are adverts all over the place promising that we can be thin, rich, married or divorced in as short a time as possible. But as anyone who's ever been pregnant or recovered from a broken bone or planted anything will tell you, there are some processes that just cannot be shortened or rushed. It is what it is and every part of the process is necessary, to make sure that we get what we should at the end. The thing that changes a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly is process and when we try to circumvent it, we cheat ourselves out some valuable lessons and growth. 

To move forward with our lives, we do need to look back at where we have been. We need to take stock of what has worked and what hasn't. It's only when we really, truthfully know and admit where we are that we can make plans that we will follow through on. It's those plans followed, over a period of time, that will transform us from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Or in my case, from a haricot bean into a baked bean (don't judge me now, we all have different dreams:)

Want to some help finding out where you are? Or help with making plans to achieve your goals this year? Then call on +234 706 335 0864 or contact us through the website, for your free 30 minute consultation. 

Until next week, go well. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Make every word count

I'm teaching my daughter that there are some words we don't say because they are rude. We call them harsh words.  A little while ago, I was navigating the obstacle course that is Lagos driving and came across a 'silly' driver (those who live in Lagos know exactly what I mean!)  having called out the silly driver, my daughter pipes up from the back and says "we don't call people silly mummy, it's a harsh word'. That was me told off, by a 3 year old. I still didn't learn my lesson though and took to calling bad drivers 'monkeys' (because I am a perfect driver :). A few days later, we we're driving down the road and my daughter asks "mummy, is that a monkey driving that car?" I think I've got the hint now and will only be muttering under my breath from now on, as I don't think I can go 'cold turkey' on the censure just yet.

I bet about now, you're thinking, "what's this woman on?", or "what should she be on?"  Well, we've just started 2014 and I'm pretty certain that there's a whole load of New Year's resolutions being made and no doubt broken, even as I write this blog!  I don't know about you, but there's something about a New Year's resolution that just makes me want to break it- immediately. Coupled with my tendency to reflect and not take action, you can imagine the feast of regret and recrimination that I fill up on, at the end of more years than I care to admit to.

So, this year, I'm doing something different. I've chosen one word that reflects the change I want to see in my life in 2014.  The aim is to let it percolate and develop and affect every area of my life. In the ways that I envisaged and even in the ways I didn't. I'm after the big prize of a permanently changed character, rather than temporarily modified behaviour. It's not my idea, you can learn more about it here, but it would be great to have some company on the journey.  Although, you're only supposed to pick one word, as I was thinking about the process, I thought about 2 more words, that will also be coming along for the ride.

First up is focus.  We become what we focus on and so it stands to reason that as I focus on my one word, I am much more likely to be changed by the word and what it means. Unfortunately, most of us make new year's resolutions based on regrets and the things we don't want to become.  It sounds sensible in theory, but if we really do become what we focus on, then we're likely to have more of the same of what we always had, because we keep fixating on the things we don't like about ourselves. Guilt and regret are not the most helpful motivators to make a positive and lasting change.

The second word that came to mind for me is discipline. I don't think there's anyone alive, who couldn't benefit from being a little more disciplined in at least one area of their lives.  Getting more sleep, eating more healthily, better time management, being more careful about what we say, the list goes on. We recognise that we need to make a change, but it's almost like we have an evil twin, inciting us to do the exact opposite of what we want to do. My hope for this year is that the discipline of following through on my 'one word' will help me to develop discipline more generally. It's a win-win situation when you think about it. You can't fail at your 'one word' because even just the action of pursuing it changes you for the better.

I've chosen the word 'health' for 2014, because frankly I think it's a word that will have an impact in quite a few areas of my life. Even if you don't end up picking a word of your own, I'd love for you to keep me accountable on mine. Send me a comment, ask me how it's going and I'll be sure to keep you updated on how my word is working out.

Wishing you a productive and fruitful 2014, where everything you say and do makes a positive difference.  If you'd like some help achieving your goals this year, then why not give coaching a try? Call on +234 706 335 0864 or contact us through the website for your free 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.