Friday, 18 December 2015

Go with the flow!

So, on a bright cold, Wednesday morning I was having a moment. My stomach was doing little flip flops; my mind was racing in about a hundred different directions; I was hyper alert and although people were talking to me, I wasn't fully focused. What was happening? I hear some of you ask. Was I having some kind of panic attack? Nope, I was just in my flow. What is flow? I hear some more of you ask. Flow is that awesome place where you are so engrossed in what you are doing that it happens effortlessly and you lose track of time.  At the end of November, I was in Romania to deliver some training to police, prosecutors and judges on domestic violence and I was most definitely in my flow. There were a few niggles and the days were long, but none of this registered until the days were over.  This week's post is about finding your flow and going with it.

First off, I have some questions for you: even if you don't have a name for how you feel, where is that place where you are in flow? What is it that you do that makes you lose track of time? What is that thing that you do so effortlessly? What is that thing that you do that brings you joy and trepidation in equal measure? Whatever it is, it's your flow. And when we operate from our flow, that is when we are at our most powerful and our most authentic. For me, that place is in teaching of any kind and coaching. That's not to say that I don't experience a moment of panic before I start. I do, but once I push past that, I'm good to go and keep on going (a bit like the duracell bunny!)  The year is coming to an end and before you start making resolutions for next year, take a moment to reflect on those areas where you were in flow this year. 

My second point is once you find your flow, be bold enough to just go with it. Often, we never get into our flow because we let fear stop us. Fear is a perfectly natural response, but never let it stop you from being all you can be. Sometimes, we are so caught up in what we think we should be that we miss the signs that show us who we actually are.  Somehow, we've bought into the lie that only certain people are creative and that we can't be creative at work. I say "why not let your creativity become your work?"  Life is too short to keep putting things off or in a box.  Our creativity is what makes things beautiful and in making things beautiful, we are made beautiful too (maybe not literally, but you get the gist)

As you know by now, I no longer make new year's resolutions. I gave that up when I kept making them on the 1st January and broke them all by the 2nd! However, I think finding your flow and making a decision to go with it is a great way to start 2016. Do you need help identifying your flow? Or do you know what your flow is, but need some help to push past the fear of getting started? Let us help you with that. Contact us on +234 706 335 0864 or through the website and let's get 2016 off to a great start.

Until next time, go well.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"...sounds like a plan Stan..."

Those who know me, know that I am a bit of an order freak (okay, a lot!). I like things to be just so. How I pack my shopping, how I arrange my cupboards and even how I hang my washing out (now I've written it down, it seems a bit weird-hey ho).
Anyway, you can imagine how I'm feeling right now, not having achieved my goals for the year. I can't believe it's November already; actually I don't want it to be November on account of said failure to reach my goals. On reflection though, I'm still working on 2 of them, so that makes them works in progress.

This week's post is about what you do, when you miss the mark you set for yourself. For those of you who think I have some fantastic new piece of advice, sorry, this isn't it. For those of you who need to gain some perspective, grab yourself a cup of coffee, kick back and read on.

My first piece of advice? Don't wallow. You know that "woe is me, it's all gone catastrophically wrong" feeling? Allow yourself to feel it, but don't wallow. Really, what does a good wallow achieve, except fill you with misery and make you lose perspective? Back in my single days, on occasion I used to have a moment of pure panic that I would remain single for ever. My favourite wallow moment? That I would die old and alone, with cats eating my face off!  Well, firstly I wasn't actually alone. I had great friends and family (still do). Secondly, I don't do plants, let alone pets, so the chances of having enough cats to eat my face off were slim to none really! What set me off on that bizarre flight of fancy? Wallowing. I wallowed and lost perspective in a big way.  If you haven't reached your goals for this year, keep calm and follow my next bit of advice, which is:

"Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again". I don't know if the phrase follows the action or the other way round, but have you noticed that's what we literally do, when we fall.  When I was learning to ski (you can read about that adventure here) I was petrified of falling. I spent a good part of my lesson trying to avoid exactly that. Of course, as you can imagine, I fell. Not some gentle, ladylike swoon either. More of a great crashing, "oh my goodness, this is going to hurt" kind of a fall. The interesting thing though was that it was nowhere near as bad as I had feared. Admittedly, the sight of my 4 year old laughing like a drain, bruised my pride, but that's kids for you. Once it was done, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and got back on those wretched skis! The point is, you only really fail when you give up. If you get back up, the fall is just a learning experience that shows you what to avoid next time. And that leads me neatly to my last point:

Figure out what went wrong this year and plan how to do things differently next year.  At this time of the year, motivational speakers and books are doing a roaring trade. They are both chock full of handy tips and techniques to help us succeed next year.  Here's the thing though, when it comes to planning, there's no one size fits all.  What works for me, might not work for you and vice versa. If you're a mix and match kind of a girl, then following a regimented 10 step success plan is not likely to work for you. If like me, you view a recipe as a loose approximation of what might happen when you combine these ingredients, then again, a regimented approach is not going to cut it. You see where I'm going with this right? At the end of the day, what counts is that you take stock, see where things went awry and make sure your plans deal with those issues.

That's me done for this week. I'm off to follow my own advice. Would you like some help coming up with a plan that works for you? Then give us a call on +234 706 335 0864 or drop us a line at the website. Remember that nothing we experience is ever wasted.

Until next time, go well.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Say no to vanilla ice cream!

You know how they say "out of the mouth of babes"? I had such a moment the other evening when I was talking to my daughter. She was telling me about all the things she loves to do and what she's known for. She then said that there were some things that she couldn't do that her friends could. I told her it was okay, because there are things that she can do that her friends can't and that God had made her unique and special.  She had a think for a moment and then said out of all the things that God had done, the best thing was that he had made her, her (if that makes sense). She's only 5, but I hope she holds onto that lesson all her life. A lot of us are the walking wounded because we have forgotten that very important point. Why be a poor imitation of someone else, when you can be a most fabulous you?  It's a lesson that we could all stand to be reminded of, over and over, especially when we are fretting over someone else's seemingly amazing life or great job or thinner thighs!

Isn't it amazing that in this world of billions, no two of us are exactly alike? Not even identical twins. I'm often puzzled when people reject diversity. To me that's like saying there are 57 different flavours of ice cream out there, but I'm only going to eat vanilla! Diversity is a good thing people. Yes it can be frustrating when you are trying to manage different view points, interests or approaches, but the beauty of it is that when diverse opinions and approaches are melded together, the outcome is far better than having just one opinion to go with.

In case you haven't guessed already, this week's post is about reminding us of who we are, celebrating our uniqueness and bringing it out to play in company. This week don't hide. If you have a different opinion speak up. If you see a different solution, speak up. If you see another way, speak up too. We have only one life and it's far too short to only eat vanilla ice cream!

Need some help discovering your uniqueness? book a free 30 minute consultation and let's help you get started.

Until next time, go well.

Monday, 5 October 2015

At the crossroads

The picture on the right is of a hairstyle that is common where I come from.  It’s called suku and it involves all the hair, being plaited upwards to meet at a single point.  When it’s done properly, every plait ends at the same point.  It looks beautiful, but the intersection where all the plaits meet can actually be quite sore, due to the pressure of the individual plaits. It’s not one plait that causes the pain, but the combined effect of all of them.

I have been interested in the concept of intersectionality ever since I first came across it, during my masters course.  Put simply, intersectionality is a way of taking into consideration all of the different facets of our identity, when describing our experiences and how they affect us.  Whether it’s gender, race, age, ability, sexuality, religion or socio-economic class, intersectionality is an important concept, that can help us understand why we feel like we do.  It helps us to understand the effects of multiple discrimination and how it links into things like race and gender inequality and discrimination. 

Most recently, I was reminded of the concept, when Viola Davis became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama.  I cheered like a wild thing!  As for her acceptance speech, don't even get me started!  It was a little bittersweet though.  I mean how come it's taken so long and why is it still so unusual?  I guess the answer lies in part of her speech: " you cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there!"  Since she won, as well as accolades, there has been the predictable backlash as well.  Step forward Nancy Lee Grahn. Ms Grahn apparently took exception to the fact that Ms Davis referenced a speech by Harriet Tubman.

These are challenging times to be a Black person in the United States, what with the seemingly gratuitous killing of Black people  and the random appropriation of facets of Black culture (nothing new there then when you think about it). As I pondered all that is going on, it made me think again about the concept of intersectionality.  Parts of this week's post were first published back in 2012, but the issues are still as pertinent today and so I decided to republish it.  I hope that for those of you who haven't read it before, it speaks to you and for those of you who have already read it, I hope it says something new.

The first intersection that I would like to talk about is gender and race.  Ms Davis' win is important because for far too long Black women in Hollywood have been portrayed as hoochie mamas, baby mamas, any other kind of mama or the help!  If I am discriminated against as a Black woman, is it because I am black or because I am a woman? Why should I have to choose between one or the other anyway? I am Black and I am a woman.  One doesn’t trump the other. The important thing is the impact of that discrimination and the effect it has on me.  Ms Grahn's response to Ms Davis' speech smacked to me of a sense of entitlement and a bizarre sense of having been left out somehow!  Ms Grahn was speaking from a place of White privilege.  I'm not one to see the race bogeyman around every corner, but the refusal of White women to accept that in relation to Black women, they too are beneficiaries of White privilege.   I am currently living in a society where as a Black person I am in the majority.  And yet all around me, I see examples of preference being given to individuals just because of the colour of their skin.  I see the deference that is paid to them.  The assumption that they know better and are in fact better, because they are foreign.  It is a stark reminder to me, that people are still privileged by virtue of their skin colour- no matter where I go!

The second intersection that is important is that of gender and culture.  You don’t have to look far to see examples of how this intersection impacts women negatively.  Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and it thrives in the intersection between gender and culture.  In my mind, every manifestation of violence against women that we see is rooted in cultural beliefs, assumptions and mores that categorise women as being ‘less than’.  The cultural context then works to reinforce and aggravate the violence that women experience.  A recent report on gender in Nigeria[2] makes for some pretty bleak reading.  In spite of the fact that we have a national gender policy, the inequality and discrimination faced by women and girls is horrifying.  Only 20,000 women, out of the 60,000 young men and women who enter the formal work sector manage to get a job and they are consistently paid less than their male counterparts-even where those male counterparts have fewer qualifications. In the North West of the country, 70.8% of young women aged 20-29 are unable to read or write compared to 9.7% in the South East. Early marriage, early childbirth and a general unwillingness to invest in the education of girls because they are viewed as second class citizens are just some of the reasons for this. In the age group 15-24, 1 in 3 women and girls has been a victim of violence.  Where there is an entrenched culture of violence and where perpetrators are rarely made to pay for their crimes, you can see why so few women ever report offences of violence against them.

The last intersection that I would like to look at is that of gender and religion.  It’s very closely linked to the intersection above as some might say religion is an aspect of culture.  I think it’s important enough to be mentioned on its own as an area where women are disproportionately affected. Ask a religious leader whether violence against women is wrong and you’re likely to hear that it is and the practice of it condemned.  However, scratch the surface and a different story emerges.  Where religion is significant in the life of a woman, one of the first people she is likely to turn to for help in a violent situation is her spiritual leader.  Some are very good and unequivocally denounce the violence.  However, the experience of many women is that they are somehow blamed for the violence.  Questions like: what did you do to make him angry?” or “why didn’t you have his food ready?” abound.  Women are ‘advised’ to modify their behaviour in order to avoid violence.  These questions and advice miss the point in my view.  The perpetrator chooses to use violence, to maintain his power and control in the relationship.  Violence isn’t caused by anger; it’s caused by the perpetrator seeking to retain control.  Some of the worst advice I’ve heard about how to handle domestic violence has been given by pastors.  Given the numbers of women experiencing violence, a modern day pastor needs to educate themselves about the causes of violence, so they can give advice that helps, rather than harms.

The fact of the matter is that we all have different facets to our identities and inequality and discrimination cannot be put away neatly in a box marked ‘gender’ or ‘race’ or ‘religion’.  We experience the pain as a whole and it affects us a whole.

As I end my piece this week, I invite you to think about where the intersections are in your own life.  How has gender inequality, discrimination or violence affected you? How has it been made worse by the intersections?

Have you been affected by anything in this piece? Would you like to know more about how we can help? Contact us through the website for a free 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.

[1] The term comes out of a metaphor coined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw


Thursday, 17 September 2015

White knuckles and gritted teeth...

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So in the spirit of my post earlier today, I am flying by the seat of my pants and writing a piece without using my 'structure'.

Back in August, I shared my dream of writing a book. I have to say that I was completely overwhelmed by the response that piece got. I had so many encouraging pieces of advice, people cheering me on and someone is even designing a special notebook for me to write the book in!

In my original post I said the first step was to dig out the notebook where I had written my title and chapter outlines. It's funny, even as I wrote that, I could see the specific notebook in my mind's eye. Clearly I'm not going to be able to wriggle off the hook by saying I can't find the notebook. 

The second step was to check if what I had was still authentic to me. Even as I looked at the chapter headings, I could feel the structure coming together. I could envision the size of the book. But most importantly, the things that I wanted to write about then are still the things I want to write about now (I'm kind of stubborn like that).

The last step is to be courageous and bold enough to step out with my offering. Will everyone like it? Probably not. Should that stop me from writing it? Absolutely not! This is about knowing my truth, owning my truth and speaking my truth. Honestly, I'm petrified and elated in about equal measure, but that's a good thing. It's a good thing because stepping out, to do something about your dream is always going to freak you out!

I'll keep you posted about how it's going and I hope you'll stick around for the journey.  More importantly, I hope my stepping out inspires you to take a step towards your dreams too.

Until next time, go well.

Enough! I'm getting off this carousel now.

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I am an avid fan of the tv programme Grey's Anatomy. I have loved it from the beginning and continue to do so (even though it seems like sometimes the writers have well and truly lost the plot!). One of the recurring lines in the programme is "the carousel never stops, it keeps on turning". This week's post is about saying "enough" and getting off the carousel; whatever your carousel of choice might be. I have a couple, but the most persistent one is perfection or more accurately the pursuit of perfection.

I have been on this particular one for the vast majority of my life. The desire to attain perfection and the the fear of failure are two particularly painful whips that I flog myself with on a regular basis. For example, writing this blog. I have a structure for writing my posts and I seldom depart from it. What's wrong with structure? I hear some of you ask. Structure is good. That's true. Structure is good, but not at the expense of creativity or the occasional need to just 'go with the flow'. Sometimes I want to send you all just a little 'note' rather than my more customary long missive. What usually happens is that I think of my note, think of my structure and start to panic because the two don't match. And in that panic, something that should have been shared from the heart ends up being left unsaid.

What I have come to appreciate in my own life is that the drive for perfection paralyses me and saps my creativity. The drive for perfection can silence us more effectively than anyone or anything else. I'm not saying don't strive for excellence or to do your best. Far from it. What I am saying though is that whilst excellence and doing your best are attainable and can motivate you to reach your goals, the pursuit of perfection can keep you stuck in a place where you achieve nothing.  I don't know about you but I have to work constantly to overcome that little voice in my head in my head that says "if it's not perfect then what's the use of trying?"  No matter what I achieve, I rarely focus on what went well. I'm too busy obsessing over the flaws- the things that made it imperfect.

The thing is though that the pursuit of perfection is exhausting. It is frustrating, it is debilitating and it seriously gets in the way of living a life full of learning and joy and experiencing new things. When perfection is your carousel you can end up missing a whole load of things. My daughter was learning to ride a scooter a few weeks ago. She fell off a couple of times and I was ready to give up already. She on the other hand was much wiser. She kept picking herself up and saying "mummy, I'll try one more time, I'm sure I'll get it". And she did. Is she a perfect scoot-er? No, but she's a great try-er who kept going until she got the hang of it and who had a lot of fun learning. Not only did she learn to scoot, she also learned that when life knocks you down you get back up because that's how life works.

I'm embarrassed to say that even as I wrote this piece, I followed my structure. What I originally planned to write was much more organic! I confess that I'm very much a work in progress and it's probably going to take a while to break the habit. But I guess owning it is an important step. You can't change what you don't take responsibility for. 

In the meantime I have some questions for you. What carousel are you on? is it working for you or like me are doing what you can to get off? What's keeping you on there? What's preventing you from getting off? Find a quiet place, take some time to answer these questions honestly and then make your move. Not sure what to do? Got other questions? call on +234 706 335 0864 or contact us through the website and together we can get started.

Until next time, go well.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Now is the right time

So I have a secret; I want to write a book. In fact I've wanted to write a book for a while. I've got a title and chapter headings. Here's the thing though, I haven't written a single word.  In the meantime I've proofread and edited other people's books, but still haven't mustered up the courage to write anything of my own.  This week, I'd like to share 3 things that can help us be bold enough to follow our dreams.

Firstly, "it's better to be authentic than to try and be unique". Whilst I've been carrying round the idea of writing a book for a while, I've also been carrying round a certain amount of fear as well. I've been afraid to tell anyone that I want to write a book because I'm afraid that I have nothing unique to say. I'm not sure where I got the idea that being authentic isn't enough, but it's there and getting in the way of me getting started. When I think about it logically, I know that it doesn't make sense. Every book we read, every movie we watch follows a specific formula, it's just different names, places and incidents. When you strip it down, every story is about a hero, on a quest, who has to overcome a challenge and who usually gets the girl/boy at the end. I don't know anyone who's read one book and decided not to read anymore because they've read that one!  What makes one different from the other is the voice of the writer. The more authentic the voice, the more we engage with what we read. I have to get away from the idea that what I write has to be bright, shiny and new and concentrate on being authentic. Our different experiences and backgrounds are what make life beautiful and being authentic is what helps us to connect with others.

Secondly, "it's time to stop tracing and start drawing". This is something that I read in one of Tara Mohr's pieces and it just leaped out at me.  When we trace, we are following an outline that already exists, someone else's pattern. It doesn't require that much effort from us. It doesn't require us to be creative or innovative. It does 2 things though: it helps us stay safe and it helps us to avoid responsibility for when things go wrong. Drawing on the other hand is scary, very scary. It demands creativity and innovation. It demands authenticity. It demands that we know our truth, own it and speak it with love and compassion. It leaves us with nowhere to hide and only leaves ourselves to blame when we fall short. Every time I sit down to write a post, I experience the fresh panic of feeling like I have nothing unique to say. My initial response is to think about where and what I can trace. Then, that part of me that craves authenticity reminds me that I am bigger than that. It reminds me that it is better to be authentic and fail, rather than succeed by being someone else.

Finally, "now is the right time". I don't know about you, but I have an awful procrastination habit linked to perfectionist tendencies.  I regularly say to myself "I'll start on Monday" or "I'll start when I have everything just so". I've learned that this just a way to give myself permission to fail. If something comes up on Monday or I don't get everything I think I need then I can say I was prepared to start, but something happened. You can see how this is a recipe for disaster! I'm working on getting started, no matter the time, day or amount I get done. What works for me is to do something, no matter how little, just to break the ice. For me and my book writing venture, the first step is to dig out my notebook where I wrote my ideas, make sure that they are still authentic and then get started with the writing.

What is that thing that you've been longing to do but have been afraid to start because you think you have nothing unique to add? Where have you been tracing instead of drawing? What can you do now, to get started? Don't know where to begin? Contact us through the website for your free 30 minute consultation to help you on your way.

Until next time, go well.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Hit the switch; push the button; pull the lever

I have a confession to make: sometimes I yell at my tv.  You know when you’re watching a movie and the music changes.  It gets a little bit louder, a little bit scarier, especially when the lead character is about to open a door or a window or something. I don’t know about you, but it’s at this stage that I start getting a bit agitated because you know it’s all going to end in tears. Usually because someone’s been decapitated or something.  That’s when I start yelling “don’t do it, don’t open the door, window or whatever else”.  This week’s post though is sort of opposite to this though.  This week I’m asking you to hit the switch; push the button; pull the lever or whatever else it is you think you shouldn’t do.  Why would I do that I hear you ask?  Because when it’s about discovering your purpose, you should absolutely do the things that get your heart racing and the adrenaline pumping. If you don’t make a big leap when it comes to your life’s purpose, when will you?

Too many of us are out there, trudging through life, promising ourselves that we’ll start living when the kids grow up, when we retire, when we lose that last 10lbs.  Then, we will absolutely start living out our heart’s desire, our purpose.  The thing is none of us know when our time will be up.  I was in two scary car accidents in 8 days a few weeks ago and I know for sure that I’m not done living out my purpose.  Do you want to come to the end of your life without ever having achieved your purpose? What would be the point?
The good thing about purpose is that it’s never too early to start paying attention to it.  I was looking at my daughter’s report card a few days ago and she’s really good at ballet and piano.  Is it her life’s purpose to become a performer of some sort? I don’t know.  What I do know is that it’s my job as her mum to notice these things and nurture them. It’s my job to partner with her to make sure that she has the opportunity to express these gifts to the fullest.  At the moment, these things represent her 4 year old self’s purpose and I’m going to encourage her to push that button as hard and as often as she needs to!  Your purpose is your purpose. Don’t be shy, own it.  A life lived in and on purpose is a life well spent.
The next thing I want to say is don’t limit your purpose to the things that can make you money.  I’ve often heard it said that the secret to success is to find your passion and see how you can make money at it.  That’s great, but our purpose is so much bigger than that.  When we reduce everything to its financial benefits we run the risk of commercialising our purpose and losing our way.  We become all about money instead of passion. All head and very little heart. I wonder if Mother Theresa really thought about the financial implications of the path she chose, in living out her purpose.  If she did, would she have spent a large proportion of her time in some of the poorest areas of Calcutta? If she measured her life’s purpose in terms of financial reward then she clearly failed. If she looked at it in terms of the lives she changed then she most definitely lived on purpose.  What she gave those children transcended money.

And that leads me neatly to my last point.  Purpose is at its best, most effective and most useful when it affects the lives of people around us positively.  Not fulfilling our purpose is like having a beautiful pair of shoes which you keep in a box and never wear.  Shoes are meant to be worn and when they aren’t, they aren’t fulfilling their purpose.  We were created for a reason, we have a purpose and the best expression of our lives is to find out what it is and live it out. My purpose is to help other people become the best version of themselves that they can be and I strive to do something in line with that every day.  Sometimes it’s formal like coaching or training.  Other times it can be as simple as offering a word of encouragement or providing a listening ear.  Sometimes it’s paid and sometimes it’s not.  Whatever the case, it’s something I am compelled to do and it is in that space that I feel most alive.
As I end this week, I have some questions for you: have you discovered your purpose yet? What are you doing with it? Are you changing lives? Are you making a difference?  Whatever the case, don’t waste another minute: hit the switch; push the button; pull the lever and begin to live your life on and in purpose.
Need some help discovering your purpose? Call us on +234 706 335 0864 or through the website and let’s get you started with a free 30 minute consultation.

Until next time, go well.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

...I want more for you...

I was talking to a friend recently who has been having a dreadful time recently in relation to some work she's been doing.  She told me that someone had given her some advice which she thought was quite useful.  Her friend told her "never want more for people than they want for themselves".  On the face of it, it sounds like pretty good advice.  But as I started to think about it a bit more I wondered how that would play out in different situations.  For example, what about abusive relationships? If you are in a relationship where your self esteem and self confidence have been systematically dismantled, how much can you really want for yourself? 

So, I've come up with something that I think is more holistic: "meet people where they are and journey with them to where they need to be".  I was working with a client a while back and we were supposed to be making a safety plan.  I explained what a safety plan was and why she needed one. I walked her through the various options available to her and basically felt like I had done a great job of giving her the information she needed, to make a decision.  After  our session, she 'disappeared' for weeks.  I couldn't reach her by phone and she didn't turn up for sessions.  When she finally re-surfaced she told me that the session had freaked her out so much that she had run.  What happened? I made a classic mistake.  I thought information was what she needed and that once she had it, she would be ready to start the journey.  In actual fact she was really only just coming to terms with the fact that she was in an abusive relationship.  What I had asked her to do was like kitting my 4 year old out with a suit and briefcase and telling her to go to work, because I had explained what work was. Somehow, I don't think that's going to fly! However, I learned a valuable lesson here, which has helped me to be more effective with her and other clients. I should have paid more attention to where she was at.  I should have found out what she was capable of absorbing /accepting at every stage and worked with her on that basis.

Secondly, as people in the helping profession, we need to remember that it's not about us, it's about the client.  What they want, what they need.  One of my biggest frustrations as a prosecutor was that women weren't always interested in having the perpetrator prosecuted for his crime.  Once I got with the programme on domestic abuse, I was ready to prosecute every perpetrator and was definitely after a conviction!  Imagine my dismay when women would come to me and say they didn't want the perpetrator prosecuted because they still loved him or because he said he would change and she wanted to give him one more chance.  In my head, when I heard that, I was like "chance smance, it's prosecution for you matey!".  I couldn't understand it because I was like a person looking through a telescope from the wrong end.  I thought it was about me and my abilities as a prosecutor. I was so wrong.  It was and always should be about the victim. What she wants, what she needs, what the safest option is for her and her children.  That's why the victim focused approach to tackling domestic abuse is the most holistic one in my view.

Lastly, although I genuinely believe that the best expression of our lives is found in helping others, there are times when we have to step back and wait. We have to step back and wait sometimes, because the person we want to help is not yet able to receive that help. If the person you want to help is still firmly in denial about their situation, you can give all the help you want but it it won't make a difference.  A long while ago, I was involved in an intervention for a friend, who was in an abusive situation ( I think we'd all watched too much bad tv, because we were in there like the SAS!) Surprisingly or actually, unsurprisingly she point blank refused our help.  She refuted any suggestion that the relationship was abusive and we ended up leaving, feeling quite deflated. She had not come to terms with the fact that she was in an abusive relationship and we didn't realise that this was standard behaviour for a victim in such a situation.

So, no matter what you want for someone else, if they aren't ready to make the journey, they won't and you can't make them- no matter how much you want to.  As frustrating as that may be, remember it's not about you, it's about them. All you can do, is step back and offer whatever support they are willing to accept.  It's far more important that you keep the lines of communication open, so that when she is ready to reach out, hopefully she will will reach out to you.

Are you a woman who wants to start the journey back to wholeness, but doesn't know how? are you a person who wants to support someone on that journey, but doesn't know how?  Contact us on +234 706 335 0864 or through the website and we can support you.

Until next week, be healthy, be whole and go well.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Top down...bottom up

As you may or may not know Nigeria held elections earlier in the year and the new President was inaugurated today. The new party swept in on a 'change' ticket and all of us are hoping that they will indeed be the change that is needed. So far, all we've heard are some ominous rumblings about there being no money to run the country (not sure how much change you can effect with empty coffers!)

With the change of administration, I've been daydreaming about a government that is truly responsive to the issues facing its citizens. And as a violence against women activist, a government that is responsive to the issues that affect women and girls.  This week's blog is kind of like an extended 'elevator' pitch. You know the kind of pitch you make to a CEO/dream investor who is 'lucky' enough to be stuck in an elevator with you!

Firstly, I'd say that a government elected with a mandate for change could make a huge impact if they tackled the issue of violence of women. We are a nation of over 160 million people and just over 50% are women and girls. Given that 1 in 4 women experience violence in their lifetime, that's a lot of Nigerian women and girls being brutalised. Domestic violence, rape, sexual violence, trafficking for sexual and domestic purposes, FGM, forced marriage and prostitution. Situations and circumstances that are affecting women of every age, tribe, socio-economic class and background. It is not the role of government to tackle everything on their own (especially when resources are scarce). However, they have an important role to play in terms of setting the tone, direction and pace of the response to issues like violence against women. I would honestly feel like I had lucked out big time, if I heard that the incoming government are committed to developing a national, coordinated strategy for responding to violence against women. A national strategy would send a message that this is an issue that is taken seriously. It has to be national, in order to reduce the risks of each state developing their own response (or not), which could lead to patchy provision for victims.

Secondly, I would love to see state agencies and ngos working together in a coordinated, strategic and well resourced way, to tackle violence against women. The truth of the matter is that no one agency has the answer to this issue, but working together in a coordinated manner will help to close the gaps in service provision. It takes a concerted effort, by different organisations to produce the holistic service that is needed so desperately by victims. Ideally, government agencies would provide the strategic framework and some resources, whilst ngos would provide the much needed operational expertise. I'm a big fan of collaboration and I think it is one of the most effective and efficient ways to work and bring real change.

Finally, I would love for every one of us to understand- government and citizenry, that a truly effective response to the issue of violence against women is one where we each play a part. A lot of us are afraid to get involved. We worry about saying the wrong thing. We worry about when to say something and we worry about how to say it. 
Let me tell you a secret: for the majority of victims, the fact that you say anything at all is a good start. The perpetrator has spent a lot of time telling her that no-one will listen, no-one will believe her when she says what is happening. The fact that you noticed and have spoken up begins to bring a little balance to her situation and she starts to realise that perhaps there is hope after all. Even if she doesn't appear to have taken it on-board or maybe even rebuffed you, just be there for her.  When the time is right, she will open up and ask for help. However, I do accept that this is not true of every woman in this situation. Not every woman will accept the reality of the fact that she is in an abusive relationship and for those women, all we can do is pray and offer help where we can.  The thing is, since we don't know who will accept our help and who won't, isn't it best to at least reach out when we know that a woman is experiencing violence in her relationship?

So that's me sorted. Clearly, the President and I would have to be stuck in the lift for sometime, because this is one epic pitch! But some things are worth being 'stuck' for. Now you know what my wish-list is for the incoming government. What's yours? What would you be happy to be stuck in a lift for, just to be able to make your pitch? What are you doing about it? 
Even though it is just May, it kind of feels like a new school year. A time when you have shiny new notebooks and are excited about the possibilities that are unfolding. As I end this week, I challenge myself as well as you,

to really see the possibilities to make a change. Where we can't see any, let's make our own. After all, no-one ever set the world alight from the comfort of an armchair. Change is uncomfortable, can be risky and is usually not welcome at first. But in the end it is absolutely worth it.

See you on the other side and until then, go well.

Friday, 8 May 2015 like no-one's watching...

The other day I was watching the one-woman variety show that is my 4 year old daughter.  She was singing, dancing and being generally entertaining. As I watched, the thing that struck me was her complete imperviousness to how I was 'receiving' her show.  Literally, she carried on like I wasn't even there! She's not some precocious entertainer. She was just being a 4 year old doing something that she thoroughly enjoyed.  All of a sudden I remembered the quote by William Purkey and thought how apt it was for what I was seeing. He said "you've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening and live like it's heaven on earth". This week I'm talking about the importance of doing your thing- in spite of what's going on around you.

My first point is that if you rely on the reaction of the audience, to judge whether you're on the right path you may miss your way. Recently I had the pleasure of working with a young woman who was pursuing a dream that everyone around her, told her was unattainable. They told her she was setting her sights too high and that she needed to be realistic! If she had considered only the reaction of those around her, I have no doubt that she wouldn't have pursued her dream all the way. Instead, she listened to her own voice and found the courage to push on- in spite of the naysayers. What is it in your life that the 'audience' has told you to give up on, but your heart is urging you to keep going with? What have you put aside as being too hard; too unrealistic or too unachievable? Is it time to dust it off and reconsider pursuing it? This past week has been dreadful for reports of untimely deaths. Every time I heard the news of someone else passing away, I hoped that they had been pursuing what they were passionate about. That they had shared their gifts with the world. Because in the end, it's only by being generous with our gifts that we make a real impact on our world.

My second point is that not everyone will be able to go on the journey with you. As people, we typically have 2 main responses to gifts. We either envy what other people have and waste an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to become something or someone we were never meant to be. Or we wonder why people can't be as gifted as we are and spend time frustrating them, badmouthing them or both! I think we could all do with remembering the mantra "you do you and I'll do me, together we'll live together in harmony" having different gifts is the reason why collaboration is so awesome. Why waste time trying to get to average, when you and the other person could be operating at optimum levels of fabulousness, in your individual strength areas?

Lastly, learn to recognise kindred fellows and journey with them as far and as long as you need to. Kindred fellows are those people who just get it. I have been so fortunate. I have met so many fantastic women on my journey. They have encouraged me, pushed me, laughed with me and at me, cried with me and prayed for me. I am absolutely certain that I would not be the woman I am today, if not for my awesome group of 'sisters'. Often we don't recognise our fellow journey partners because we're fixated on what they are supposed to 'look' like.  If you get stuck on the idea that the only person who can mentor you on your way to becoming a high flying CEO type, is someone who has already done it, then you may miss out on some very valuable wisdom. Wisdom comes in all shapes, sizes and guises. The key thing is that we recognise it and grab it, no matter what it comes dressed as.

If there's anything that I have been reminded of over and over again this week, is that life is short. Sometimes much shorter than we think. We need to seize every opportunity to share our gifts and make an impact on the world around us.

Until next week, go well.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Because I am so much more than that...

As my daughter comes up to her 5th birthday, I remember a day, not long after she was born, when I had an epiphany of sorts. I was looking at her, asleep in her crib and I thought to myself "is this it?" "I am a woman with three degrees and all of a sudden I am at the beck and call of this little person, who only seems to eat, sleep and poo!" I can't even blame sleep deprivation because she was actually a good sleeper. It suddenly felt like my life had shrunk from successful career woman, to chief bottle washer and pooper scooper.
I suspect I'm not the only mum to have that kind of epiphany. It can be hard to voice though. Before you become a mum, you think there will be this automatic gush of love and you will morph into earth mama mode. I can only speak for myself and confess that it wasn't like that  for me. It took a little while for the love bug to kick in (now it's here, it's going nowhere though). 

Before you panic and wonder if you're in the wrong place, have no fear, I'm going somewhere. This past week I've been in Romania, with some passionate and committed fellow violence against women activists. We got to talking one evening, swapping mummy war stories (as you do) and the other 2 women said they felt guilty every time they were away from their children. As we talked we asked that age old question "can women have it all?" My answer is yes, just not all at the same time. A lot of us have exhausted ourselves and sacrificed ourselves on the altar of superwoman. Desperately juggling our careers, kids and some kind of social life has left a lot of us feeling like a worn out dishrag! The key to success is finding the compromise or balance that works for you. If you know that sending your kids to school with a shop bought cake for the bake sale will drive you crazy, then you need to work out what you can drop, whilst you get to making a home-made cake. As the mother of a daughter, I think it's important for her to see as many sides of me as possible. When she comes to making her life choices, I want her to see as many different parts of what it means to be a woman as possible, so that she makes the choice that is right for her. Women all over the world are still tackling inequality and discrimination and so it's important for us to be positive role models for our children, particularly our daughters.

My second point is that women, just like men, are multi-dimensional. There is more to us than the face we show the world. We are mums; career women; entrepreneurs; creative, beautiful women. I'm going to come clean and admit that I don't feel guilty when I go away to work. That's not because I've lost that mummy feeling, but because I'm learning to be present where I am. When I'm mum, I'm mum, when I'm working, I'm working. It's still a work in progress, but infinitely better than being a frazzled, guilt ridden, worn out version of myself.

And that friends, leads me to my last point (don't you just love it when a plan comes together?) to borrow a phrase from Tara Mohr, it's time to 'play big'. How many of us as women, pretend to be smaller than we really are? How many of us are afraid to show how 'big' we are for fear of being called 'bossy' or 'forward' or 'feisty'? I met an incredible woman recently. She's 73 years young and her mantra is "life is short, so I'd better do and say all I want to now". She's a television show producer, an author, a wife and very active in her church. If she can do all that, what's my excuse? Come to think of it, what's yours?

Our challenge, this week, should we choose to accept it, is to pick one area in our lives, where we have been playing small and start to play big. Try sharing your ideas without prefacing them with the phrase "I think...." Or "this might be a silly idea, but..." If you know, you know. Don't procrastinate, share your knowledge. You never know what's going to work out until you try it. Your so-called silly idea might be just the solution that is needed.

Need some help, regaining your balance? coaching can help.  Contact us at +234 706 335 0864 or the website.

Until next week, think big, be big and go well.