Being True to Yourself Series – Part 3. Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

A/N – I’ m delighted to have Bob McInnis as my very first guest blogger.

Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

While I believe there are some absolutes, I am less certain about a lot of things. I read voraciously, listen attentively, think deeply, reflect and synthesize. The condensed product bears a resemblance to the original ideas and witness to a subtle and supple value set. As a recovering postmodern fundamentalist, I lived for decades with a clear, if not personally interpreted, set of rights and wrongs. In 2000, a shift happened in my belief structure (which is a whole different post) but an idea horizon was created and I can never return to that self-satisfied and self-assured state.

So, on this side of the divide, how do I manage truth, fact, discernment and right or wrong? In unfamiliar situations, I am careful, thoughtful and cautious. My understanding is informed by my current values and available information. I do make decisions quickly but my rigorous defence is less strident. If new information disrupts the value pattern, I rethink and where possible re-enact the choice. In familiar circumstances, I think the process is similar but feels more intuitive; as if I can blink and true is revealed (or not).

Regardless, testing right or wrong should be a habit we adopt in every situation. Is the decision just? For me? For others involved? Is it ecological? Does it conform to confirm the values you espouse and aspire to? Will you celebrate or regret the choice in one day, one week, one year? Are you committed to making the right choice? Even when the wrong one is easier? If yes (or no) are you prepared to accept the consequences?

I have applied a current burden of proof to the idea that we are all both responsible for our actions and complicit in the side effects of our inaction. I believe this is right. I have adopted a principle, which I first saw posted in the San Francisco airport “If you see something, say something.” Even though the poster was from the Department of Homeland security, I have expanded it into a wider vision. If I see anything that is immoral, illegal, hurtful, abusive, unsafe or manipulative I name it loudly. This approach isn’t without consequences. I have lost friends, caused a ruckus and received a black eye for my troubles, but from my wider perspective, it has always been well worth it.

Right-wrong: it is a matter of perspective. Yours. You arrive at the decision point, with the sum total of your knowledge, experience and biases. If you put the choice to a factual burden of proof, as best you can and apply the personal rigor above, you will be blessed with discernment and confidence to choose right from wrong in each situation.

You’ll find  more great reads from Bob MInnis on his blog.

Being True to Yourself – Part 2 – Responsibility

Responsibility. The word is loaded with connotations. There are so many ways that we can view them, and there are so many different types of responsibility. Sometimes people look at responsibilities as a burden. I choose to take a different perspective. I look at them as a gift.

You might well be saying to yourself, she’s an idiot! Perhaps I am.
I’m an optimist by nature and believe that, whatever we are given, we have the ability to handle. Maybe not all by ourselves, sometimes we need a little help from others. Whom we turn to for help usually depends on the nature of the help required. Seeking help is a sign of strength.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to be a proliferation of individuals and companies professing to offer solutions to any problems that we face in our lives. There is also a myriad of life coaches, professional development experts and solution sellers, going under a gazillion different titles. Some use a fancy spin, some use a high-pressure sales techniques, while others take a more strategic approach using a formula.

I’ve been involved with coaching and mentoring, in one form or another, for many years now. Why? I like helping people. I always have. It’s my strength and also my weakness, but I genuinely enjoy what I do, even if there are sometimes challenges that throw me a curve ball.

There is no doubt that the personal development market and life coach business is a booming industry. I want to be very clear and say that there are some truly excellent people out there doing wonderful work, and I’m fortunate to count many of them amongst my associates. However, what I do find very worrying is that there is also a slew of offerings, from some very slick marketing operators, but they do not have the life experience to back up their claims. They fail to understand the responsibility that comes with working with individuals.

By responsibility, I mean things like the need to understand that we are dealing with human emotions. There may be deep-rooted issues, which are blocking personal success, that bubble to the surface. As a mentor or coach, it is vital to recognise this and deal with it appropriately. This includes being responsible enough to recognise when you need to admit that you are not actually the right person who can help. Often, you can facilitate an introduction to another professional you know and trust.

Not so long ago a newly trained coach, who had very little life experience, came to ask me to help with client referrals. I asked my usual due diligence questions and was appalled when she confidently told me that she had no backup supports in place, for any issues that might unpack beyond her experience. Her reasoning was she had all the skills necessary and was so confident she would never need support. Whoever had trained her had certainly done a great job to confidence build and I applaud that. However, this raised a big red flag for me as there was no sense of responsibility. Woah! It is just not possible, for anyone to know everything. Even highly qualified and vastly experienced coaches, mentors and psychologists that I have worked with over the last 20 years all have their professional support structures.

I position myself as a bespoke business strategist and sometimes this includes a level of coaching and mentoring, but I certainly do not have all the answers. Blowing my own trumpet, I know I satisfy my clients because they tell me so. They tell me I’m really in tune with their needs. I feel it is more accurate to say I’m actually in tune with myself. I take my responsibility very seriously, with my family, my students and my clients. This means knowing when I am struggling, asking for help and turning away or terminating client relationships when I know I am not the right person for them.

Family photo
Definitely out of my comfort zone with the snake, but a family photo was required.

Being responsible, also entails responsibility for self: consciously making time in your schedule, for a holistic balance in all life areas. Time to nurture relationships, time for family and time for friendships. Earlier this week, I took the day off to go with my adult family to the Wildlife Park, we had a great day connecting with each other and with nature. Moments like this are priceless as time is the one commodity that cannot be recaptured. If we cannot exercise self-responsibility, then how can we, as coaches and mentors, effectively guide others in life areas?

If you’re a coach, or looking into coaching in some capacity, and would like to know more about support structures, etc., I’m happy to answer any queries to my inbox – michelle@dragonsisters.com.au

Michelle

My European interlude is coming to a close

Whilst I have enjoyed every moment of being in Europe and have loved teaching, mentoring and coaching, it is time to return to Australia – at least for a while.

I have cherished being in my little apartment and not having to worry about anything except myself and meeting a few deadlines. Well, OK, more than a few! I’ll admit that I haven’t entirely squirreled myself away in beautiful Ecija; I have kept up with clients and projects and taken on new ventures further afield thanks to modern communications, but I have made the most of my idyll here and been very present to the charms of a different culture and life experience, including the cold winter! I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those here who have been part of this wonderful sojourn for me. As usual, it is the people who make the experience special.

San Juan, EcijaI’ve needed these months alone to renew. To focus on what is important to me. The past 3 years have passed in a blur where I hardly had a moment to myself so it has been a real luxury to just be able to run my own timetable. I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a quiet apartment, to spending weekends exploring local sites, or sometimes venturing further afield to Seville, Granada, Cordoba or Malaga. I had no one to worry about except myself. It might sound selfish, but actually it’s been more of a lifesaver than anything else and once again, it has given me an additional opportunity to develop and grow as an individual which provides additional experiential tools that I am able to bring to my work.

Sasha's graduation day - Batchelor of Journalism
Sasha’s graduation day – Batchelor of Journalism from Bond University

During this time in Europe I have been able to consider what it is that I really need in life to feel content. When my husband of 30 years decided to leave, and I bought him out of the house, it was a massive struggle to stay afloat financially, but I’ve managed. I only bought the house so my kids had a home base. I had a 5 year plan, of which the largest part was to see Sasha (who was then 16) successfully finish school and then university. Once Sasha graduated, I was in a position to pursue the next stage of my plan, which was to base myself in Europe for a year.

Whilst here, living a simple Spanish lifestyle, without the trappings that go with having a family home, I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I actually need very little to live on. I can be happy in the moment as long as I know that my family is cared for and safe. It’ll be five years this August since Steve and I split up. It’s been tough for me, but at the same time liberating and life affirming as I know we (Wayne, Sasha and I) can manage on our own. Together we look after the house, each other and our dogs. We’ve become a closer family unit even if it meant a bit of a struggle at times. I feel that the kids and I have bonded more closely, and it’s also been a defining moment for both of them as they have stepped up to take more responsibilities. We have jointly made decisions about our future directions and I am extremely proud of the two beautiful people that they are.

It is now time to sit down and decide what the next step will be. What do I really want to do?
Michelle

SOME OF MY LATEST SCRIBBLES

I’m loving being able to spend more and more time writing. The SiDreamPlanActionmple Team Meetings blog is one of the sites that I’ve made a number of contributions to recently. If you’re interested, please pop on over and take look as there are some great tips, ideas and advice not just on the business side of thing, but on self-care too which is such an essential part of being able to function at optimum levels both in the business and personal sense.

I’ve got a Women in Business series on the way too for this site. However, I’m always looking for suggestions on other topics to add to  that everyone might like to read about, and so if you’ve got some thoughts I’d love to have your comments.

I’ll be doing more Spain posts very soon – got one done over the weekend but then my computer played up on me and my work was not saved….grrr!!

Michelle

Happiness Challenge

At the beginning of this week I announced I was taking part in the Happiness Challenge as part of the lead up to International Day of Happiness.  I’d like to share the challenge below:

“We all have faults and weaknesses but we all, also, have strengths and positive attributes. Focusing on the former tends to sap self-esteem and confidence whereas focusing on the latter has been shown to contribute to feeling better about oneself. Your challenge today, therefore, is to write a list of your top three qualities (if you struggle to think of some ask a close friend, relative or trusted work colleague). Think of all the ways you currently use these strengths AND of all the additional ways you could use them in the future.”

Challenge provided by Dr Timothy Sharp (@drhappy) of The Happiness Institute. LINK.
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So although it might be blowing my own trumpet, my self assessed list of top three qualities are:
  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Reliability

I encourge everyone reading this to take a moment to think about your top qualities and share them here – time to blow your own trumpet.

Michelle

Self care – an essential

419290_511331578905810_463274963_nLooking after yourself. Taking care of number one. It doesn’t always come easily. However, it’s also absolutely essential we learn to practice this on a regular basis.  In today’s electronic age it’s too easy to always be ‘on’, to feel the need to check emails and answer mobile phones with little regard to the day or the hour.

I know, from first hand experience, that we are faced with onerous responsibilities, tough decision making and coping with a myriad of demands on a daily basis. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be engulfed by the burdens that are an integral part of todays corporate landscape. This frequently includes a tightened budget which translates into more needing to be done with less. Less human resources to tackle tasks have a tendency to result in longer hours, placing even more pressure on individuals.

Self care should be embedded in our lives. We are all different and there is no one size fits all but, the one thing that is common to everyone is that, unless we practise self care we are unable to continually thrive and function at optimum levels.

Most of us naturally place our families first and foremost – definitely the way it should be. But, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own sanity or the risk of losing ourselves.

Self care means setting boundaries. It means valuing and respecting our own worth. It means being able to say no without having an attack of the guilts. It means carving out time especially for ourselves and regarding it as a necessity as opposed to an indulgence.

Michelle

Me Time

Eating, sleeping and waking up when I feel like it has been wonderful – no alarm clock , no plane to catch, no deadlines. Absolutely bliss. The time in Bologna has been a wonderful luxury as I can actually hear myself think properly without a hundred different competing deadlines and thoughts popping into my head.

Nothing like 'me time'
Nothing like ‘Me Time’

I’ve walked everywhere, even up and down the four floors from the lobby to my hotel room, stopped to eat when I felt hungry and watched the passing parade of life in Bologna. The markets yesterday were quite fascinating with a large turnout of what must be the multicultural community, Chinese, Indian and lots of Muslim ladies who were having a great time shopping for headscarves as there is such a fantastic selection to choose from here. All were speaking Italian and as a TESOL teacher it intrigued me to hear the accents. I wonder was it as hard for them to learn Italian as it is to learn English?

Menswear stores are plentiful with great choices and it is lovely to see lots of colours and styles as opposed to the more staid selections which are generally found in Australian menswear shops.
I had also forgotten how everyone smokes here. Cigarettes are openly on sale everywhere. Immaculately dressed, beautifully tanned and accessorised ladies spoil their look with the presence of a fag in their hand.

Each evening I’ve sat in the lovely garden and enjoyed a glass of wine – only the presence of a ‘’zanzare” (mosquito) yesterday drove me in a little earlier than usual. These 3 days alone have been good for my soul. This afternoon I move on to Ravenna where I’ll be joining my team mates.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 4

When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.

Symbol of the camino
Symbol of the camino

On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more.  Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait  a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.

blown out shoe
A marker stone complete with blown out shoe

The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams.  It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots.  We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.

Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.

Michelle

Success

Success – what does it mean? Different things to different people and I suppose the most common myth is that those with the trappings of wealth, status or fame are successful – at least this is what the media would have us all believing. But these are purely external – it is what the world sees on the outside.

Success and happiness do not go hand in hand. Often individuals push themselves so hard to achieve more in terms of material wealth and status that they forget to stop and enjoy what they have already achieved. There is then a very real risk of losing the most precious commodities of health and family.

In my eyes you are a success when you are happy. Now this may sound a bit strange to some but based on my personal experience I believe this is absolutely the case.

To qualify I am talking about being in the here and now and accepting that you are achieving what you want as opposed to what everyone is considering or thinking is appropriate. We must accept that it is only ourselves that are responsible for how we feel. It does take some time and work to actually have the skills and experiences in life to come to a place where we are able to “live in the moment” – believe me I speak from personal experience.

Living in the moment means taking the time to enjoy what are often the very simple pleasures of life – for me, because I am single and pressed for time due to my heavy work schedule, this means things that are also never-ending chores. The lawn mowing and dump run are weekly occurences that become my opportunities for embracing the moments.  I relish the exercise and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the cut grass whilst my nostrils are tickled and my senses stimulated by the fresh scent of freshly mowed lawn.

Similarly when I walk Janie (the dog) I enjoy allowing my mind to wander where it chooses, as I take the time to appreciate the cool of the early morning, watching the birds dart about as they chirp enthusiastically to each other as they too greet the dawning of a new day.

The alternative to enjoying these moments would be to see them as chores and a burden. It is my choice that these are pleasure moments and therefore I am a success.

Love to hear your thoughts …..

Michelle

Self Care

Self care – taking care of number one – me! This is not something that comes easily but is absolutely essential for both personal and professional wellbeing. In fact, the more senior the role the more important to have a self care strategy in place as in today’s electronic age it is too easy to always be ‘on’ with the expectation that emails are checked and mobile phones answered at all times.

At management level we are faced with tough decision making and coping with the heavy demands that go with expectations of senior roles which frequently includes a tightened budget that often means less human resources to tackle tasks which leads to longer hours. It is easy to become bogged down with a heavy work load and forget to make time to smell the roses.

Having a self care plan in place is essential to maintaining wellbeing. For me it means setting boundaries which include:

  • Only a few people have my personal mobile number and that is the only one which I answer once I sign off for the day
  • I try to take an early morning walk each day – this is my thinking time as well as an opportunity to repeat affirmations and connect with nature.
  • If I happen to sleep in (and that’s okay too) I still take the time for affirmations that set me up for the day
  • On a regular basis I book out for a couple of hours of ‘me time’- no friends, no family – just me!
  • About every 6 weeks I allow myself a couple of day where I just do what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. This usually involves sleeping in late, sitting around in my pj’s reading, meeting good friends, eating what I want and when I feel like it.

Self care techniques need to be embedded into our working lives and it is worth spending a little time thinking about which strategies work best for you.  We are all different and there is no one size fits all but the one thing that is common to us all is the fact that unless we practise self care we will not thrive and function at optimum levels. Learning to say no is also a very large part of successful self care. I will be expanding on this and other aspects of self care in further articles.

Love to hear what kind of self care techniques others are using….

Michelle