Are we getting the best that we can?

In every project, you need to know when you can say that you are done.  When you have achieved all that you can and you are ready to move into the closing phase.  In order to do this, it needs to be clear from the outset, exactly what needs to be achieved in order to complete the project successfully.

I’d like to use some of the methods that I use on my projects, to project manage my career.

When searching for a new job, I’ve always viewed a new employment contract as a new project brief.  Taking a new job is like taking on a new project.  A fresh challenge.  A way of gaining new skills.

Just like on a project, the initiation phase in your career project is extremely thorough.  We research the company, find out if the culture suits us, ensure that the role will challenge us.  We want to know if we like the team that we will work in, whether we will respect the senior leaders and feel inspired by the people surrounding us.  We want to know if the reward package benefits us or whether we can do better.  We want to know if our lives will benefit from working there.  We have a clear picture of why we are taking on a new role and what we want to achieve from it.

When we join we then spend the first few weeks, maybe months, analysing the surroundings.  Ticking off items on the mental checklist, ensuring that we are getting what we want from the role.

My question to you all then is this, when does it all stop?  When do you decide that you know enough about the role and the company and are satisfied with the mutual exchange of benefits? The answer I think, should be never.  The reality however, is different.

In a permanent role, we often tend to get comfortable after completing our initial checklist and we don’t spend enough time thinking about whether we are still satisfied.

We carry out a thorough initiation phase and then go into implementation.  We get lost in implementation and often end up dragging out the project with no closing phase in sight.

Why do we stop thinking about our needs all of a sudden?  Do we suddenly not care about whether we’re being challenged?  Do we suddenly not care about whether our strengths are being appreciated or whether our role benefits our lifestyle?  No.  We do care, and it does matter.

I know people are reluctant to talk to their colleagues about leaving a company, but companies need to realise that turnover is natural.  More importantly that there is no such thing as a job for life anymore.  That high performing employees often have a 2 year life span in the same role and anything less leads to employees feeling disgruntled and unchallenged.

So I suggest that we hold on to those checklists that we create when we join a new company.  Hold on to the requirements.  Hold on to our personal standards.  We need to put in place a closing phase, for our working lives.

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The Joy of Suffering

My husband recently formed an obsession with cycling.  By obsession, I mean thinking about it 24/7, talking about it during every waking hour and doing something cycling-related morning and night.  He is currently working his way through a programme called The Sufferfest, which focusses on pushing yourself to your max and discovering your suffer score.  

What is a suffer score, I hear you ask.  The suffer score was recently debuted by Strava, in an attempt to try and quantify how hard an activity is based on measures such as heart rate and effort level.  If you reach your suffer score you are challenging yourself and pushing yourself to your limit.  As a result you are improving.

This got me thinking about applying suffer scores to all areas of life.  After observing the use of the suffer score and the positive impact it had on my husband, I realised something that I’ve always known. Improvement only happens when there is suffering.  Only when we challenge ourselves, do we improve.  Only when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone do we achieve something.  Yes, this has been a known fact for a while now, but why don’t we apply suffer scores to our lives?  We are so quick to assume that suffering is bad, that we don’t take the time to assess whether it’s actually doing us good.

On the programme, you can’t aim to hit your suffer score everyday.  It just causes fatigue and you are less likely to follow your programme if you’re exhausted.  You need to pace yourself in order to meet your goals. A steady pace, with the right amount of suffering is the key to success.  

When I’m passionate about achieving something, I focus more on the suffering and less on pacing myself. Eventually I fall into the same old trap.  Exhaustion.  Lack of enthusiasm.  Losing sight of the goal.

This time I will pace myself, I will have my rest days and I will embrace the suffering.  This in my eyes, is the magic formula.  

Perspective

People ask me how I manage to not get stressed at work or emotionally involved. I thought about this and realised, I try to apply a few simple principles to my entire life. These principles keep me calm at all times and stop me getting emotionally involved in anything.

A key question I ask myself is, will I remember this when I’m 80 years old and sitting in my armchair reflecting on my life? I highly doubt that I will remember the day that my manager was annoyed with me, or I forgot to send a critical email at work, or my friend snapped at me.

This leads to my next question, what will you remember when you’re 80 years old? 

This is linked to your core values. For me, it’s adventure, freedom, exploration. Achievement, tranquility, special bonds. 

I’d like to think that you don’t lose your core values with age regardless of what life throws at you. So when I’m in my arm chair, I expect I will remember trekking all over the world, motorbiking across Vietnam, sleeping in the Amazon rainforest. I’ll remember hopping into the car with my husband on a free weekend to go wild camping in the Lake District. I’ll remember the blissful moments I had in coffee shops reflecting and writing. I’ll remember having the freedom to cancel all plans to watch 3 seasons of Breaking Bad. Maybe I won’t remember what I watched, but I will remember the feeling of freedom. The freedom to do whatever you want, with no-one or nothing getting in your way. I’ll remember sharing hopes and dreams with close friends and fun times with family. I’ll remember personal achievements – hopefully the novel that I keep trying to write!

Does this help put things into perspective? 

What was that about the important email that didn’t go out? I can’t quite remember.

I know we are not 80 yet. I know we need to maintain certain things in our lives to get through the next however many years. But, if we use work as an example, we can still do a good job and exceed expectations without getting emotionally involved. Infact, I think you do a much better job as a result.

We need to think about the long haul. Yes we had a bad day at work, but it’s not life or death. It will pass and we can still meet our life goals regardless of that one bad day. Even if that life goal is to be really successful at work, that one bad day won’t hold you back if you don’t let it.

Remember what is important to you. Deep down. What are your ultimate goals? Once you realise what that is and keep reminding yourself at critical times, you will be untouchable…

 

 

Ask Why

Peru Peru, where for art thou Peru?

Some people fantasise about their Romeo or their dream job, I fantasise about adventure. My wonderful trip to Peru was exactly that, and I came back with the following emotions:

1) That went too fast
2) That was an amazing adventure
3) The contrast between home and Peru is unbelievable (obvious I know)
4) Why am I here 😦

I know people get post-holiday blues, but this felt far more severe. There’s nothing to be unhappy about at home, life is perfect. As perfect as it can be when you haven’t had a taste of the simple life.

I love the outdoors and mountains, and I’ve had some amazing trips. This time the Peruvian charm and simplicity captivated me and followed me home and it’s now extremely difficult to shake it off.

I started writing this when I got back from Peru as I sat on the London Underground on the way to work.

If you spot any typo’s, chances are they are due to people pushing and shoving on the tube. Pushing and shoving, haven’t felt that in ages. People dying to get into work on time. It’s life or death. People glued to their screens (yes that includes me). People giving scornful looks when someone else takes a seat that they had their eye on. People huffing and puffing when someone else gets too close. Try changing your clothes in a tiny little tent with your tent-mate right next to you.

Following an outdoor adventure appreciating nature and simplicity, you often come back to your daily routine and ask yourself, what’s it all for?

I read this quote the other day: “No-one ever wants to see ‘Worked hard. Often worked long hours’ on their tombstone”.

I’m not saying don’t work hard. I’m saying, remember what it’s all for. We work hard, we need to know what we’re trying to achieve, be it simply paying the bills or seeking self-fulfillment. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget why you’re doing it. We all have our own personal reasons. It’s important to reassess what we do and why we do it to ensure it still meets our needs. Things change externally and internally. We can quite easily end up coasting on autopilot, unaware that something external has changed or that we have changed. As a result we end up forcing ourselves to do things that are no longer relevant. We have choices, options, a range of possibilities. We need to establish why we want what we want and then assess whether we are following the best path to get it. If you remember why you are doing something and then find the best path to it, you will always be much closer to your goals. Your goals will be more accurate and what you do everyday will be more relevant.

I sometimes like to review my “to-do list.” Run a marathon, write a book, learn Spanish. The list is endless. Do we ever take the time to reassess the list and cross things off? Not cross them off because we have completed them, cross them off because we no longer want them. That’s a valid enough reason to cross it off. The reasons why we previously wanted to achieve something may no longer exist.

That’s what was so important about Peru. Breaking routine, seeing things with fresh eyes. Once you break your routine, only then can you see things clearly. Only then can you remember what you want out of your life. Completely uninfluenced by anyone or anything else.

New surroundings lead to new ideas and fresh perspectives. So rock the boat a little bit. Go somewhere that’s slightly out of your comfort zone. Push your boundaries. Break the routine. And remember, the simpler the better. You’ll then remember (or identify) what your vision is for your life, and be closer to finding a strategy that will make that vision come true. Hold on to it and remind yourself whenever you lose sight of it.

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them”
– Paulo Coelho

If in doubt, capture the moments that remind you to do just that! In the meantime, I can lend you my Peru  video. Don’t forget to turn the volume up…

Headspace: Confessions of a Yogi 2

As per the request from the Twitter universe, I am starting a Confessions of a Yogi series.

The first time I wrote about this was after a weekend yoga retreat that inspired thoughts on silence, mindfulness and stepping back to go forward. After sharing the post on twitter, I realised how many people are interested in slowing down and embracing silence. It’s being appreciated more and more every day and I feel a revolution coming on! For so long society has had us believing that it’s good to be busy, and to be successful you need to be on-the-go all the time.

This is a lie.

The key to success is not being busy all the time. It’s not being productive every second of the day. Not in the way that we think we should be productive. 

Productivity, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is: “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input”.

We misinterpret that to mean, do as much as you can all day long to produce more. The fatal flaw here is, doing more doesn’t necessarily produce more.

This is the purpose of the confessions of a yogi series, to help people slow down and clear their minds. To remind people that doing less can produce more. It may be from doing yoga, or it may be something else completely. As long as the output is success and happiness.

The big question is, how do we make the first move? How do we suddenly shift from a frantic lifestyle to a calm and serene one. I feel your pain. It feels impossible. If people are always placing demands on you at work, how can you possibly slow down? If chores need to be completed at home, how can you rest and clear your mind?

Let me tell you one thing, anything is possible. It takes determination and commitment to put new habits in place. Our brain chemistry allows us to unlearn habits and learn new ones. There is bundles of research on neurplasticity that explains how our dendrites can form new connections through repetition. So there’s no excuse. Our neurochemistry permits change, all we need to do is feed our brains with the right nutrients repetitively!

The key thing I would say is that you need to get your head in the game. Like with any sport, hobby or task. You need mentally commit to achieving it. Think about it, research it, learn more about it. Once your mind is flowing with information on a topic you will start to attract things related to it. You will attract people interested in the topic, events that touch on the topic, resources that help you with the topic.

After my retreat I had mindfulness on the brain. A few weeks later I ended up being at a talk advertised by Stylist magazine called #stylistlifelessons. There were 3 brilliant talks by 3 very different but equally inspiring women. My head was still very much focused on the quest for inner peace and mindfulness. All of a sudden, everything I heard from the 3 different speakers made me think of something in relation to my quest. They taught me lessons on how to pursue it and they got my head further into the game.

The life lesson from the first speaker Laura Bates, was around taking the first step. She talked about how she started writing a blog for herself and didn’t expect anything out of it. All of a sudden she heard from people from all over the world. One thing led to another, and then another, and then another… suddenly she was an author of a brilliant book, speaking and inspiring others to pursue their passions. All of a sudden, she was speaking at the UN about her everyday sexism project. Anything is possible if you take the first step and put yourself out there.

Just like her, making this shift in your life from manic to calm is all about taking the first step. Make the little changes first. Start introducing quiet time into your day. Go for lunch on your own rather than with others or rather than eating at your desk! Wake up half an hour earlier than everyone else in your house.  Don’t book up all of your free time in advance.  Appreciate the silence, take the first step. Trust me, it will only grow for there.

The second talk was by Francessca Martinez. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy from a young age, Francessca assured us not to ever worry about being ‘normal.’ Nobody knows what normal is anymore. There’s no such thing as normal. Normal now seems to be rushing around, not taking a moment to appreciate surroundings. Doing everything on a tight schedule and squeezing as much out of yourself as possible. In the words of Francessca, “what the f#%* is normal anyway?” I say, ignore what everyone else is doing. A wise person is one who takes the road less travelled. Who has the courage to go against social norms and create their own norm. Yes people might think you’re strange for wanting time alone, time for reflection or time for introspection. The weirder they think you are the better! You’re much closer to success if you embrace your weirdness and follow a new path that has been created just for you.

As Einstein once said “The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone, is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.”

The third speaker was the one and only Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington post. A couple of things stuck with me after Arianna’s talk. Arianna felt very strongly about burnout and how we need new role models. Burning ourselves out is no longer the path to success. Rest, rejuvenation and sleep is the way! Yep you read that correctly. The more relaxed and well rested we are, the better we will perform. The more creative we allow ourselves to be. Arianna said herself that she would have loved to meet her friends for dinner in Soho after the talk but instead she was going to take a bath and get her full quota of sleep. Sometimes we need to do that. Sometimes we need to prioritise it. This for me is probably the hardest one. Getting used to saying no to plans. I enjoy so many things but I’m starting to think I can’t do them all.  I can’t be busy all the time. If I spend all of my time exploring externally I will never have the mental capacity to explore internally.

This was a very quick insight into how much you can gain from having your head in the right place. By focussing on a topic of interest you will start to notice it all around you.

My point for today is simple, if you really want a calmer life it only takes a few simple adjustments. The rest will follow…

 

Confessions of a Secret Yogi

Calm your mind. I remind myself of this as much as possible. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life we forget to actually live.

This weekend, I went to a yoga retreat. I’m still feeling zenful as I write this, but I’m conscious that my mind is starting to race again. As the train started getting closer to London Paddington from lovely Littleton Mill, the frequency of thoughts increased. The volume got louder (that might have been the group of loud men with beer cans on the train). The pace increased. The busyness returned.

It got harder and harder to shut out the noise. 

Voices everywhere. Talking, laughing, shouting, cheering. 

I thought back to the retreat. The trees, the sound of the mill, the fresh air. The peace, the tranquility, the slow pace. Somehow, thinking less led to thinking more. Not in a busy chaotic way. In a calm and creative way.

The yoga instructor at this retreat taught us about scaravelli-inspired yoga. Vanda Scaravelli’s started this type of yoga, as she believed in listening to your body and being free to move as you wish. Our bodies may want different things on different days and we should be able to adjust accordingly. 

Vanda’s teachings are simple. She encouraged her students to do less and feel more.  She said “The more you undo, the more you are and the more things come to you.” 

Our Scaravelli inspired yoga instructior reminded us time and time again that we need to go backwards in order to go forwards. If you’re in a yoga pose and something starts to feel tense or uncomfortable, go back a step. Shift back to where it was comfortable, release unneccessory tension and feel the lightness in your limbs again. Once you have done this, you can try again. Ensure that all of your limbs feel free and light before you do and then lift. 

You would be amazed by the difference. When trying to do a back bend, if you don’t force the movement, and if you release the tension at each point, you will bend further. There’s something about stepping back and releasing tension that helps you move further. 

Mindfulness is a must in scaravelli inspired yoga. There are different ways to define mindfulness, but in its simplest form it is awareness. Awareness of yourself, your body and your mind. 

During yoga we needed to be aware of how each pose made us feel and had to be conscious of the impact of every move. After yoga we spent some time meditating, and we used mindfulness during this too. We were asked to witness our breathing as if we were outsiders looking in. You almost have to step out of your body and observe, in order to be mindful of your thoughts and movement. Every time an uninvited thought tried to join, we had to be aware of it and force it out.

This simple scaravelli approach worked well with yoga and it got me thinking about life in general. 

We’re always in a rush to do everything. We feel closer to our goals if we’re always doing something. We wake up earlier to be more productive, go to bed later, try to squeeze in more activities everyday.

Sometimes this works well. Sometimes it works against you. 

I’m always trying to increase my productivity, success and happiness and I have read a number of different books and blogs to help achieve this. My weekend of tranquility however has taught me more than any blog or book. It taught me the importance of moving backwards to go forwards. It taught me the importance of silence and it taught me the importance of mindfulness.

Stepping back
To be more productive and for true success sometimes you need to step away. Come out of what you are currently doing. Maybe do nothing instead or do something you did a long time ago. This will mean different things for different people based on what you’re trying to achieve. The key thing to remember is that sometimes you need to step back and release tension in order to move further.

Silence
There is so much noise around us every day. We need to take time out to be quiet and shut out all the noise. This silence can lead to deeper thoughts and creativity. Succumbing to the noise all the time may prevent you from getting the best out of yourself and your mind. Try sitting in silence for 5 – 10 minutes a day, perhaps first thing in the morning. Shut out all of your thoughts, turn off all of your electronics and avoid having anyone else around you. Close your eyes and sit in silence. Once you manage to shut out the thoughts, you will make some amazing discoveries within your own mind and you will feel lighter and happier. Silence is golden as they say.

Mindfulness
Having an awareness of yourself and your surroundings will lead to success and happiness in all aspects of your life. Mastering the art of stepping out of your body and observing yourself can be done at any time in any scenario. You just need to remember to do it. 

I came across this quote after the retreat:

“WARNING: Yoga has been known to cause health and happiness”.

I like this, except I would say that you don’t have to do yoga to experience the benefits. If you can include silence, mindfulness and stepping back into your life, you can go a long way. As you will see in the photo below, back bends do it for me!

Find your own ‘yoga retreat.’ It doesn’t have to be yoga. It just needs to be something that gives you peace, tranquility and silence so you can get the best out of yourself. Something that slows down the pace of your life. Never underestimate the importance of these factors. 

If you can find the time for silence, mindfulness will follow. With that comes success and happiness. Isn’t that all we’re after?

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The Chimp Paradox

A few weeks ago, I read a book called The Chimp Paradox by a consultant Psychiatrist called Dr Steve Peters. Steve shares his mind management programme that has been used to help elite athletes and senior managers operate with greater control and focus.

Steve explains that the psychological mind of every individual has a human, a chimp and a computer. 

The Chimp is the irrational and impulsive being that takes over our mind and behaviour. It is the emotional thinking machine and is driven by survival. The chimp has 3 responses to a situation: fight, flight or freeze. It is insecure, paranoid and often causes distress and anger.

The Human is analytical, rational and see’s the facts clearly in every situation. The human is driven by satisfaction in life and helping others.

The Computer is an empty hard-drive and is the main reference point for the human and chimp. It collects experiences, values and beliefs and stores them for future reference. These values can be used to guide the chimp. 

Ever find yourself snapping at someone when your slightly irritated or stressed? That’s the chimp. Ever find yourself sitting on the sofa watching a whole season of Breaking Bad, wishing that you had the strength to get up and do something productive? That’s the chimp again. Ever get paranoid for no apparent reason and feel silly straight after? Chimp again.

If you ever ask yourself “Do I want to behave this way?” and the answer is no, the chimp is in control. We need to manage our chimps in day to day life, to behave appropriately and to be happy with our actions.

In my view, a good person manages their chimp. A strong person manages their chimp. A productive person manages their chimp. A successful person manages their chimp.

My question to you now is, do you let your chimp take over in stressful situations?

I got to thinking about this during a busy and stressful time at work. During times like this, you notice how different people react very differently to stressful situations. 

While getting caught up in the stress myself, I also took some time out to reflect on the transition that takes place in people when under pressure. I started to see their chimps – I must say it’s a lot of fun seeing a bunch of chimpanzees running around your office. Under pressure, the chimp comes out and as the pressure increases the less control you have over your chimp.

I saw helper chimps. The helpers are kind, generous and always step in when support is needed. They take responsibility for tasks when they see that others are in need and they do it with a smile. You won’t hear them huffing and puffing, complaining about all of their responsibilities. They choose to help out and they do it happily. They are lovely to have around but often their own helpful ways can be a hindrance to themselves.

I saw leader chimps, who thrive on pressure and bring energy to the stressful situation. They aren’t afraid to make decisions and they do it quickly. Without a leader to take charge of a stressful situation, things can go horribly wrong. The leader will make decisions quickly which saves the day in most situations but sometimes causes more drama than is necessary.

I saw yogi chimps who were cool, calm and collected. They often have just as many responsibilities and pressures as everyone but nobody would ever realise it. The yogi sees the bigger picture and has techniques for not letting the stress get to them.

I also saw angry chimps. These have the most noticeable transformation. You see a side to these people that you have never seen before. You only see it come out at stressful times and to be quite honest, it’s not a chimp that you ever want to be or come across.

The point I would like to make here is twofold:

1) Use your ‘Human’ to identify your chimp. Think about what you turn into under pressure.

2) If you don’t like it, change it and store it it in your ‘Computer.’

We have all of this machinery inside us, we can change anything we want to change.

If you’re an angry chimp, step back and assess how you can respond to things differently. All you need is a shift in mindset and your own toolbox of techniques.

It’s not easy. It requires preparation to put the new mindset in place and dedication to maintain it.

An angry chimp doesn’t do anyone any good and it doesn’t do yourself any good. 

Work is a good place to start, but you may also find that you need to manage your chimp at home too. It will contribute to your own happiness and the happiness of those around you.

On that note, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can endeavour to change the little bit of world that surrounds each of us.

Introversion: A Mini Study

Following the #nzlead debate on Thursday, I got to thinking about introverts and extroverts at work. I completed the Guardian quiz to find out how much of an introvert I am and I got a whopping 18 out of 20. I was in shock! I know I like my own company but I thought my fairly active social life would balance that out and make me some sort of ambivert (yes that’s a real thing – it’s bang in the middle of introvert and extrovert).

I reviewed the questions on the quiz again. I answered yes to most of them, and wondered whether anyone would answer no to any of them. Surely not. Who doesn’t get drained after an evening socialising, even if they enjoyed it? Who doesn’t think before they speak? Who doesn’t like completing a piece of work before sharing it? Who doesn’t prefer writing to talking?

As usual, I started to critically evaluate the reliability of this silly quiz (must be the academic in me!)  I thought of a number of things to dispute the results:

1) The quiz questions were positioned in a way that made me sound like an introvert.

2) Humans are complex. How can you categorise someone after asking 10 simple questions?

3) I’m going through a phase. I enjoy my own company more than the company of others at the moment. It will pass.

4) I did the quiz on an empty stomach, I’m grumpy when I’m hungry…

5) …hahaha, empty stomach! I crack myself up, I can’t get enough of hanging around with me!

Ok… maybe the Guardian quiz has a point.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d at least test point number 1 to see if the type of questions asked would push other people to the introvert side.

After a bit of a chat in the kitchen at work, I sent the quiz to some of my colleagues.

The first result that came back to me from one of them was… 18 out of 20! Haha +1 to me!

The next was 17 out of 20- another fellow introvert. +2 to me!

Then I got a response from a few of the directors that I was talking to in the kitchen…

4 out of 20.
5 out of 20.
2 out of 20!!

My first thought was, “That proves my theory wrong.” That was then followed by “Why are the directors all extroverts!?” Do you need to be an extrovert to get to a certain position in HR? In the #nzlead debate, I was very passionate about the fact that progression is slightly harder for introverts because visibility is so important in organisations. These quiz results seem to point to exactly that!

An environment that an introvert can excel in is one that rewards people for good work not for shouting the loudest. The question is however, how do people know you’re doing good work if you’re not making them aware of it. Can you really be successful without visibility?

Another thought was that people often hire people who are like themselves. Maybe this could explain the results? I quickly did a mind map of who hired who and their introversion score.

Mind Map.jpg

Some of it seemed to add up, not all. Introverts do sometimes hire extroverts and vice versa. It depends on the job.

After all the mind mapping and hunting for explanations, I came to the same conclusion…

It doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is that you understand yourself and your own funny ways. The better we know ourselves the better we will do at work. Be honest with yourself and with your employer and you will eventually find yourself much closer to success. Sure, being yourself might mean that you’re not suited to a certain type of culture, that’s fine. The sooner you establish this the better. Who wants to work in an environment they are uncomfortable in anyway?

A few other handy hints for the introverts out there:

  • Take some time out during the day for ‘introvert breaks.’ Go out and buy a cup of tea or coffee. The fresh air and time alone will leave you feeling energised when you return to the office, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. You can then channel your energy into the tasks that drain you, while you’re fresh and energised. Force yourself to take lunch breaks alone sometimes too. Read a book or go for a walk. You will be amazed by how ready you are to face the world when you return.
  • Find quiet zones in the office. Sometimes things do get chaotic and you need to take yourself away to focus on your thoughts and get some work done. Maybe sit at a different desk for a day, or half a day. Even 1 hour at a different desk alone works wonders. You can recharge your batteries which will make interactions with the rest of the world much easier.
  • Sometimes you need to drown out the noise around you at your desk. Pop in some headphones and listen to some music while you work. I wouldn’t recommend doing this too often, as it can be quite antisocial. Every now and then it’s fine. You feel like you’ve had some alone time to reflect and feel energised and refreshed.
  • Be open about who you are. If you need time to reflect, tell people. If you know you’re an introvert, there’s no harm in people knowing. Your colleagues will have a much better understanding of who you are which will lead to better ways of working.
  • Use other introverts and extroverts to your advantage. Bounce ideas off other introverts; you’ll find that you will suddenly have the energy and enthusiasm to take them further. You could also use extroverts to accomplish tasks at work. Tap into their strengths whilst trying to find ways of ensuring that you get recognised for the work too.
  • Remember you don’t need to be in everyone’s faces to succeed. All you need to do is ensure that the right people hear your voice. Identify those people and get to know them. It really helps if they start to get to know you too. Conversations feel like less of an effort when you can be yourself.

Explore your own personality, know who you are, appreciate who you are. Soon you will find that your opportunities are endless.

On Passion

I’ve always been very ambitious. I’ve always set challenging goals for myself and have spent every day working towards getting to those goals. Some goals may have been a bit too ambitious, but the path to achieving the goals has always led to something great even if it wasn’t the goal itself.

When I say ambitious, I mean ambitious. The first time I went for a walk in the Lake District for example, I decided I wanted to climb Everest. I then climbed a number of amazing mountains and trained hard to prepare myself for them. My training put Rocky to shame! Ok maybe that was in my head, but that’s the whole point! Nothing motivated me more than thinking I could do anything, that the sky’s the limit, that anything is possible.

When I got my first job after university I decided I wanted to be a director by the age of 30. I wanted to change the world of work, challenge the norm and of course, earn a six figure salary! I worked my butt off inside and outside of work. Anytime I thought about the goal I worked harder and felt more and more passionate about it.

The first time I did some yoga, I loved it and decided I wanted to train to be a part-time yoga instructor. After making that decision, I did yoga every other day and improved faster than people who had been doing it for years!

Then the A in SMART kicked in…

Just as a reminder, we are encouraged to set SMART objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Some use the R in SMART for Realistic. Again another dream killer.

I know it’s important to be realistic but can you be realistic and passionate at the same time? In my experience, the answer is no! Many people would think that climbing Everest is unattainable for the average person, due to the physical strength required, the cost and the time. The moment you think something is unattainable is the same moment you lose a few ounces of passion. You know when you are losing passion. It’s the time that your mattress feels extra sticky, making it harder to get out of bed in the morning. It’s the time that you feel extra irritable. The time that you snap at someone for no apparent reason. The sooner we become aware of the behaviours that reflect loss of passion, the better able we are to fight it.

I highly recommend having an ‘Impossible List’ or ‘List of Awesomeness’ that highlights all the things that you want to do that would make you feel awesome, regardless of how unattainable it may seem. Write it down and enjoy the burst of passion that follows.

On that note, I need to stop boring you all so I can carry on working my ass off, training for Everest and getting ready for that future yoga retreat.

“Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner”

Are you helpful and caring or influential and bold? You must be a red!

Really? Is it that easy to put someone in a category? That easy to decide that someone has the characteristics of a leader rather than an altruist?

25 questions are asked before your fate is decided for you. 25 questions before you know whether you were born to lead or born to follow.

Rubbish! Forgive me for quoting Patrick Swayze, but he has a point when he says “nobody puts baby in a corner!”

Why should any of us be put in a corner, labelled and sealed with no room for discovery. Why do we turn to personality profiling to tell us who we are? I decide who I am and who I will be. Whether its 25 questions or 100 questions… you cannot define a person with questions about what they think they are at a particular point in time.

More importantly, it isn’t wise to.

The moment you hear and accept that you are not a natural leader you will never be one.
The moment you hear and accept that you are an introvert you will always be one.

We are what we want to be and we shouldn’t be turning to tests to decide for us.

I appreciate that it is useful to have a profile that highlights your strengths and weaknesses and tells your team how to handle you. It may be useful for people to know how to manage you and to understand what makes you tick. It’s great that people embrace who they are but that doesn’t mean give up on self-improvement. I see too many people accept their personality profile and use it as an excuse to not be a certain way. We can be whoever we want to be. The brain can be trained just like a muscle can. Like with muscles, there may be limitations to how far you can go but enough training can take you a pretty long way.

All I ask is that anyone who takes part in personality profiling at work, please use it to improve rather than using it to make excuses. Be aware of the traits that your profile describes but be your own guru. You decide who you are and who you want to be and with enough effort you can be anything you want to be.