Thursday, 29 January 2015

Can I help you?

I've recently discovered a wonderful woman called Tara Mohr, whose work resonates so deeply with me, that it's scary! Recently, I read a piece by her about advice. When I first started reading, I was a bit up in arms, thinking, "what's wrong with advice??????" As a lawyer, oldest child and all round 'wanna-be-helpful' kind of a person, giving advice is kind of second nature to me (just ask my siblings). I think sometimes I'm in advice giving mode, even before my brain registers, that that is not what is required.  When I trained as a life coach, a huge part of the learning process for me, was unlearning my tendency to give advice. I'm still a work in progress on that front! 

I've finished my coaching training, but the best part of choosing to be a lifelong learner is that opportunities to learn are all around- if you keep your ears and eyes open and have a curious mind. We can learn something from everyone we come across, if we are willing. This week I'd like to share 2 things that I learnt from Ms Mohr's piece this week.

The first thing I learnt/was reminded of, is the importance of honour. As I read the post, it struck me how important it is to honour not just your own journey, but other people's as well. A lot of us as women are conditioned to seek answers outside of ourselves. We are told implicitly and sometimes explicitly that our own wisdom and intuition is somehow suspect, because it is not rooted in reason and logic. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind myself as well as you, that we have the answer within us, no matter the circumstances we are faced with. Whether you want to call it intuition or wisdom or guidance from your spiritual beliefs, the fact of the matter is that we have the answers we seek. How many times have you gone with your inner conviction about something and have it work out just like it needed to? Conversely, how often have you ignored that inner voice and ended up in a disaster of epic proportions? Rather than ask for advice, why not ask people about their journey, their experiences, how they have tackled situations and what works for them? As you do this, remember that just because you are not treading a conventional path, it doesn't mean your journey doesn't count. We are not required to be anyone other than ourselves and we all have intrinsic value. We all matter and we are all enough, just as we are. It is in doing this, that we will truly be able to honour our own journey and those of the people around us. We will move from imitating others to living our biggest, brightest and most authentic lives.  Looking for answers outside of ourselves is like buying a dress without trying it on and hoping for the best. It might fit, but then again it might not!

Secondly, even the best advice in the world is still only advice and it is intangible. When we ask for advice, we are actually asking for someone to tell us what to do. The problem is that whatever advice we are given is subjective. We have all had different journeys, we are all wired differently and we all filter things through our own thoughts, feelings, personalities and backgrounds. You can see how some well meaning advice can turn into a dangerous weapon in the hands of a person who isn't honouring their own journey and who doesn't know that they already have the answer they seek. Perhaps a better way might be to identify where you are and what tangible resources you need. Resources to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. The beauty of this approach is that you are not limited by what others have asked for, because it's about your personal journey and you know what you need. Personally, some of the dreams I have are going to need a lot more money than I currently have, so I am going to need to get external funding. I could outsource my grant applications to people who do them all the time. Or I could ask for advice about how to write a proposal. What I have decided to do, is reach out to someone who writes proposals and ask for the opportunity to learn for myself. When you think about situations where you would normally ask for advice, what tangible resources could you ask for instead? An opportunity to intern? An introduction to an individual? The opportunity to receive some training? You are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to learn.

As I end this week's post, I invite you to reconnect, with that wise, knowing voice on the inside of you. What is it saying about your circumstances? What is it telling you about how to flourish? Will you pay attention or will you ask for advice? If you'd like someone to brainstorm with or help you clarify your 
thoughts, then why not give coaching a try? Contact us on +234 706 335 0864 or through the website and let's get you started.

Until next week, honour the journey, trust the process and go well.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Different paths, same destination...

I have a beloved sister-friend, who is even more of an avid reader than I am. We regularly exchange tips on new authors to check out. There's no rhyme or reason and some might say we are undiscerning in our choices. The thing is though, we have discovered some really great books like this. One such book is called "On Black Sisters' Street, by Chika Unigwe. It tells the story of 4 African women, who work in the sex industry in Belgium. This isn't a book review or anything like that. It's just that after I read the book, it stayed with me for a long time. It made me think again about how the different aspects of violence against women are intertwined. How different women, on different paths, still end up at the same destination.

The first thing that struck me is that becoming a sex worker is not something that happens to 'other' women. Sometimes, when I hear people talk about women who work as prostitutes, it's like they think the women come from Mars or something. Generalisations and judgement abounds. Phrases like "she's just a good time girl, that's why she does it" or "she's just greedy. She wants nice things without having to work for them". Quite frankly, the idea of allowing one's body to be used for the sake of a nice handbag or pair of shoes, doesn't sound like my idea of fun! Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there aren't any women out there who aren't prepared to prostitute themselves for those things. My point is that there are probably fewer of them than we might think. I think that given the right circumstances (or should that be the wrong circumstances?) any woman might find herself making choices that she would never ordinarily have considered. All of the women in the book, come to the sex industry through a different path, but all end up in the same place. Sisi had been unemployed since leaving university and was struggling to keep body and soul together. Ama had been repeatedly raped by the man she thought was her father from the ages of 8-11. Efe had a child for a married man as a route out of poverty, but he wouldn't provide for him. Joyce was actually trafficked by the man she loved, who claimed he couldn't marry her because of cultural reasons. Different ages, different circumstances, all working as prostitutes in Belgium.

The second thing that I was reminded of, is that because there are different routes into prostitution, we cannot think that only one intervention will work for the women who are trying to exit the sex industry. Those of us who work in front line services and/or policy in this area, must realise that 'one size does not fit all'. Each woman is an individual and she needs an exit strategy that takes as many of her circumstances into account as possible. There are some fairly universal factors that probably apply to a majority of women, but we must use those as a foundation, to creating a personal intervention for each woman. For example, whilst each woman in the book would need a place to live and money to live on, once she exited prostitution, there were other factors. Joyce had been the victim of a brutal rape by enemy soldiers in the Sudan and met the man who ultimately trafficked her, in a refugee camp. The interventions needed for her, would differ from those needed by Sisi or Efe or Ama. When we try to make the women fit our mold, instead of meeting them where they are, we are more than likely setting ourselves up for failure.

It's been over 9 months since about 276 young women were abducted from Chibok, in Northern Nigeria. Whilst I too, hope for their release, I wonder how we will receive them, if they do come home. Will we receive them with love and care and a willingness to work with them for as long as it takes? Or will the 'shame' of what has happened to them, cause us to retract and effectively push them into hiding, for a crime they didn't commit? Are we prepared to start fashioning the interventions needed not just for them, but also the local community, so that they can be re-integrated? Working with survivors of any kind of violence against women is often frustrating, but it is work that must be done. No society can hope to thrive, when just over 50% of it's members are victims of heinous, pervasive and long term violence.

So my challenge to all of us this week is do something. No matter how small, no matter how minor you think it is. Just do something. Support an organisation that works with survivors of violence. Give them your money, your time or both. Organise events to raise awareness of the issues. Campaign, start a petition. Raise funds for them. Whatever you can do, wherever you can do it. Every little bit helps.

Until next week, be safe, make good choices and go well.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

"...I have plans to make it..."

There's a wonderful make up artiste that I follow called thatigbochick and she inspired the title of this week's blog. She was answering questions from fans and she said "I have plans to make it". The way she said it really cracked me up and it meshes perfectly with what I want to talk about this week, which is goals.

By now, you're probably fed up to the eyeballs of hearing about goals. How you need to have them if you are going to succeed in life or how you need to have short, medium and long term goals or how they need to be SMART. Now don't get me wrong, goals are important and they do actually need to be SMART. However, it's not the kind of advice that gets your heart racing or anything. So what shall we talk about instead?

My 4 year old is going through a phase where she is fascinated by my shoes- the higher the better! It's amazing the things that are passed down, that have nothing whatsoever to do with genes. Her aunt, my sister, was similarly fascinated. Seriously, no-one was safe. Come to our house, take your shoes off and 2 seconds later, this little person comes along tottering by in your shoes. As I remembered my sister's antics, it struck me that they could be a metaphor for how our goals fit us. Unless our goals are personal to us, they will always feel like a pair of ill fitting shoes. Either too tight or too loose.  Unfortunately, a lot of us are pursuing goals that don't fit us. We are either being constrained by goals that are too small for us and pinch us, making us smaller. Or we are overwhelmed by goals that are so huge, that we don't even know where to start, when it comes to pursuing them.

Some of us have goals that are so big, that when we share them with other people, they are frightened.  So frightened that they instinctively try to cut us down to size. They start trying to get us to "small up", to end up with goals that they can comprehend more easily. They don't always mean us harm, sometimes, they are just afraid that we will be disappointed. The thing is though that those goals aren't too big to us. Because they are personal to us, we just want to get going. On the other hand, if our goals aren't personal to us, then we may well be tempted to shrink back, in fear. Never bringing that gift which we were created to let shine through us. At the moment, my daughter wants to be a life coach-lawyer-engineer-banker. I'm not sure what she'll end up being, but I like the fact that she's thinking big. It might not be anyone else's cup of tea, but for the moment, it's hers. 

Or perhaps you're in the other camp, where you are buckling under the weight of expectation and goals that have been placed on you by others.  I'm reminded of a very funny sketch involving a mother who was adamant that her daughter become a doctor. When the teacher pointed out that her daughter was afraid of blood, she was having none of that. She had set her heart on the child becoming a doctor and that was it! 

And that leads me to my second point. As well as your goals being personal to you, you also have to be passionate about them.  Because when you are passionate about something or someone, you focus your entire attention on them. You literally, eat, sleep and breathe that thing. Think about when you fall in love with someone. It's kind of like losing your mind a little bit (or is that just me????)They are on your mind 24/7 and there's nothing you wouldn't do for them. It's the same thing with your goals.  When you are truly passionate about them, you will do whatever it takes to reach them. And it is that single mindedness that will keep you going when everything and everyone around you is screaming for you to give up. I'm not a fan of animals (unless they are safely tucked away in a zoo!) but give me a cause related to ending violence against women or empowering women and I'm good to go, with passion for days.

So, as I end this week's post, I have a few questions for you. Firstly, do you have any goals for 2015? Are they yours or someone else's? How passionate are you about those goals? How do you plan to reach them? If you need some help setting goals or finding out what you're passionate about, then contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 8 January 2015's a new day, it's a new dawn and I'm feeling good...

Well, it's that time again. The time of year, when resolutions abound, followed closely by tears and recrimination, when we end up breaking every one- by the end of January!  I used to wonder why we still made them, when they were such an epic fail for most of us. And then I realised it's because they serve an important purpose for us. They remind us of the fact that we want more. They remind us of the fact that we want to become better. The only problem, is that making a New Year's resolution is not the best way to do that.

Resolutions typically focus on something we've been struggling with. Something we want to give up. For women, I guess the most common ones center around losing weight and/or finding love. So we make the fine sounding resolutions, but we can't keep them up. Why is that, I hear you ask in frustration. The reason in my opinion is because they just don't get us excited. Let's say, you make a resolution to lose 20lbs by summer. I don't know about you, but the image that conjures up in my mind is starvation rations for the foreseeable future. The anti diet switch in my head flips and game over.

Maybe, we're looking at it all wrong. Rather than focusing on the thing we don't want, maybe we should let the gap between where we are and where we want to be inspire us. Inspire us to want to become the best we can be. Inspire us to grow and start living our best lives. When we change our perspective, it opens us up to being excited about the possibility of change, rather than dreading it. I'm currently inspired by a 61 year old woman who looks so fit, she puts the rest of us to shame. I want to be able to run around with my daughter and actually be able to catch her. I want to be able to do as many push ups as I want, without my arms wobbling like jelly. I want to be able to run 5, 10 or 26km. I want to be strong and she inspires me to aim for my goals.

So, rather than make a bunch of resolutions that probably won't survive the month, why not spend some time thinking about those people and ideas and words that inspire you? Once you're done thinking, why not create a vision board, so you can actually see, the things that inspire you. You can make one anyway you want. Tech savvy? Make a vision board on pinterest or instagram. Old school? Get the pens, paper and glue out then go for it , like a 5 year old let loose in a sweetie shop! However, you want to do it, just make sure, when you look at it, it makes your heart sing, because it inspires you. I'd love to see what you come up with, so leave me a comment on the blog, contact me through the website, tweet at me @b2bbeautiful or give me a call on +234 706 335 0864 to talk about how we can make those dreams a reality this year.

Wishing you an incredible new year, full of love, joy, creativity and inspiration.

Until next week, go well.