Don’t let a Vocation become your life-sentence

Loving what you do is often considered to be one of the greatest joys in life and many people agree that when they found what they considered to be their vocation, they felt a greater sense of achievement from their daily contribution to society.  Indeed, we even see certain roles as vocational choices, which only certain people can carry out; nursing, teaching, policing and paramedics are amongst the most often mentioned.  What happens, though, when you review your vocation and discover it no longer feels like that comfortable coat, or that you’re making a difference in a way that matters to you?

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My life has been largely about embracing changes that have impacted my life due to my health.  Each time I’ve believed I have found my “vocation” something has impacted my choice and caused me to ask the question, “Can I do something completely different and still feel this passionate about it?”

As I look back, I see that I’ve had a new vocation for each decade of my life, even beginning in my childhood:

Until the age of 10, I loved to sing
During my teen years I was sure I would be a Violinist
During my twenties I adored being in Personnel (Human Resources)
During my thirties I found my ability as an Event Manager
And in my forties I knew I had always meant to be a Mentor and Speaker

Now, in my first year into my fifties, I’ve found a new vocation, as an independent funeral celebrant.  Helping people at one of the lowest points in their lives, to deal with grief and somehow put together a tribute to a loved one which does them proud.

I found myself wondering how often we stay put in something because we believe the idea that if you’ve found your vocation in life, you should stick with it.  I wonder how often the changes that occur in our lives prevent us from making change that can feel overwhelming or even ungrateful.

I once worked with a client to help her make the change to become self-employed.  She’d spent over twenty five years in a role she had fallen out of love with more than a decade ago.  She told me it felt “wrong” to leave something she’d always wanted to do.  We so often pin our view of ourself to the job title we carry, and once we can let that go, it can be easier to accept it is not a “failure” to become something else.

We are allowed to change.  We are allowed to feel differently as we age and experience new things. Is it time for your to explore your next vocation in life?

Enjoy the journey,

Dinah

I’m not a Christmas cynic; I’m cynical about what it’s become

 

I love Christmas; getting excited about being with family, choosing which silly games we’ll play and which of our favourite movies will get played for the umpteenth time. I love how quiet the towns are on Christmas day, how everything seems so peaceful and serene. I love going for the traditional walk on Christmas day, after eating more than I should, and admiring the amazing surroundings of where we live.

I’m not a Christian, and consider myself non-religious. I do, however, love the sense of family that comes with Christmas, and as such, have always enjoyed the celebrations. However, as I age and become more questioning (some might say cynical), I don’t like what Christmas has become for many.

It feels like a competition, which you may not have actually signed up for but you’re in it anyway. As gifts become more extreme, with families buying the latest electronic upgrade for their children’s phones and game-stations and couples getting in to debt to out-shine their friends in the “you’ll never believe what he got me this year” stakes, it all strikes me as nothing like what Christmas is really about.

When did Christmas stop being about giving your time and become about giving an indication of how successful you are? When I watch people giving expensive gifts, I have to ask whom are they really doing it for? Is it for the recipient, or, is it more for themselves; a way of announcing, “look how well things are going for me. I’m so successful I can spend loads of money on generous gifts for those I wish to impress.”

I will always remember the first year my brother and I were working, full time. We both still lived at home and that Christmas was a perfect example of my theory. Did we save the money we’d earned in our first few months of independence? No, we spent most of it on gifts for our parents, grandparents and each other. Looking back, I see it was our way of saying we had grown-up and were playing with the adults now. Naïve if well intentioned.

This year, after several challenges for all our family, and some dear friends, we had a quiet Christmas day. Our daughter cooked and hosted us and her Nan (my husband’s 80 year old mum) and the day was a real joy. We exchanged a few gifts, mainly little things we’d spotted that we knew were needed, but the main thing was that we were together. A family, with memories shared of those who were missing, and laughter at many of the memories. A precious day.

“Imagine if people stopped thinking Christmas involved giving gifts” Hannah remarked this morning. What a wonderful thought. Perhaps we’d return to the idea that Christmas is about giving just one gift: your time to the ones you love.

Here’s to a positive, joyful and family time over the week ahead

Dinah

Let’s Celebrate more often in the year ahead

The past twelve months have not brought many reasons for Planet Earth, or it’s inhabitants, to celebrate.  From election results that made me wonder if I had been transported to an alternate reality, to revelations about behaviour that made me feel angry and powerless.  Each day of 2017 seemed to increase my levels of astonishment, fury, despair and absolute astonishment.  And rage.

As we draw to an end of this dreadful year, I ask myself what I can celebrate; I always reflect on my successes at the end of each day, month and year.  It’s a positive, reflective opportunity to acknowledge my achievements and since my change of pace (from a too hectic “doing” life to a more present “being” one) one that helps me notice the little things that make a big difference to my wellness, my friendships and the lives of those I love.

There have been plenty of things to celebrate in my world during the last year, and when I stop looking at the overwhelming world-picture, one I can have very little impact on, and focus instead on my tiny, and rather beautiful, corner of Carmarthenshire, I see far more to be positive about than I imagined.  Each morning here, we sit in awe of the view from our window and watch the birds.  We start each day with a celebration of the decision we made to move here, thanking each other for the brave and bold move me made.

It can be so easy to focus on the negative news, the social media sensational stories that beg us to share the misinformation, stirring up hatred and ignorance.  All too easy.  It takes a bit more effort to focus our energy instead, on the positive stories, the daily heroes who interact with others and change lives, the things happening in our communities that we can be proud of.  Stories of hope and change.  Stories to celebrate.

They are there if we look for them; and when we choose to put our effort into finding, sharing and liking the good and the positive, when we spend time looking for things worth celebrating, guess what happens?  We find them!  We find them and enjoy them, and gain strength and hope from them, and when we share them with our friends and family, they smile and enjoy the thought that “there are things to celebrate in the world”.

I’m setting myself a challenge for 2018 and I’d love you to join me.  I’m going to find more to celebrate.  I’m going to go out of my way to share things I believe will encourage other people to celebrate the positives in their lives too.  And let me be clear, I’m not hiding my head in the sand or pretending that everything will get better for Planet Earth whilst I’m focussing on the positive.  I am not going to be silent, I am not going to sit back and let the world continue on it’s self-destructive path without speaking and peacefully protesting in any way I can.  And I will do that in a positive way, celebrating my ability to express my opinions in a (relatively) free country.

Who’s with me? I’d love to know how you’re going to celebrate more in the year ahead, and what you’re celebrating about 2017 that gives you hope.

Dinah

A bit more love

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, a woman thing, an inner-hippy thing or perhaps just a human thing, but I find myself more and more recently contemplating how far from love and compassion society seems to be heading. With the influence of the freedom that was promised by the internet, there seems to have come an overwhelming amount of misinformation created and spread by those with agendas of hatred and greed.  As I attempt to quash the overwhelming desire to pick up my banners of old (when I marched in the 1970s and 1980s we believed we could make a difference) and remind myself that I’m not as fit as I once was, I can’t help thinking it’s time to focus on a bit more love.

I watch with fear and dread what is happening in the US as they approach their election; when President Obama was elected I was so full of hope, but Capitol Hill  soon put paid to any hopes he had for making change.  The Republicans destroyed any chance he had to make the real changes the US needed, and they, as a result, created the monster that is Trump.  I have listened to every debate with a growing sense that the level of hate that has built up, not just on those claiming a Trump vote is a protest vote, but also globally as shown by the Brexit voters who, likewise, claimed they were standing up to the corrupt and making a statement.  The hate everywhere is leading to the breakdown of communities, the blame-game culture grows, the circle continues…..

I watch young people growing up in a place where they are taught to hate not just those who are different, but to hate themselves.  They are bombarded with messages that tell them they are not enough.  They must be taller, thinner, smarter, funnier, more cheerful, more positive, more successful…. And we wonder why they hate?  How often do we teach our children to love?  How often do we tell our teenagers that they are loved?  Which are the messages that are most shared on the social media they (and we) all value? Rarely the positive, most are either fuelled by hate or people feel they have the right to comment with hate.

I watch my mum-in-law in a community where we’ve been accepted with open arms, no judgement and a chance to prove ourselves, and she is thriving.  Thriving on love.  She tells me she has a purpose now, one she’d never felt before, her mission is a simple one, to make as many people smile as possible every day.  And she’s accomplishing her mission, by being part of a community and a volunteer in the local Red Cross shop.  People go in every day, just to get a cwtch (It’s a Welsh thing; more than a hug and all about love) and she’s filled with joy.

It is so very easy to get caught up in the negative tones and emotions that seem to be so fuelled by our media and in this society that is dominated by the hate-filled and greed-fuelled power of the few, I intend to stop listening to them and instead, spend more time on Love.  Love of my home, my friends, the amazing support network of family I have and new friends and community I love more each day.  Will you join me, and make your attention focus one of love.

Dinah

You CAN please everyone – if you want to be average

It is one of the conversations I hear most often as a Mentor; a client is feeling down, their confidence is at an all-time-low and they’ve just admitted that today, someone told them they didn’t like what they do.  “They said my style wasn’t right for them”, “She said my product wasn’t as good as their other choice”, “He’s told me he’s not renewing our contract”, all news that everyone in business has heard at one point, and is likely to hear again.  The painful truth is, you are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that is great news.  If you want to please everyone, you’ll have to be bland, middle of the road, non-controversial, happy to stay put and resist change, oh and more than anything else, you’ll need to be average.

I can say with confidence, that nobody ever wanted to run an average business, lead an average group, give an average service or teach an average class.  We have all encountered businesses who have attempted to be all things to all people, but without exception, they fail.  Take any brand, however well known, respected or credible, and you will find a customer who has had a bad experience with them.  Any brand.  One of the greatest challenges facing our Public Services is that they are expected to be exactly what we all need, at every stage of our lives, whatever our circumstances.  I must say, as someone who would not be here without our NHS, I am grateful that this remarkable group of people somehow manage to be anything but average, on the “shop floor” and it is thanks to these remarkable, way-above-average people that this service delivers miracles every day.

Accepting that you’re not going to deliver, or accept, average in your life, requires you to be clear about where you draw some lines:

  1. Say no to potential business
    We’ve all been in that place where work is at a low point and we’ve considered working with someone when our gut is telling us to walk away.  Perhaps the cash was just too tempting, or the introductions promised are getting you into a new market; as you’re saying yes, you know you should be saying no and sure enough, within weeks, you encounter problems.  Saying “No. This is not for me” is one of the most difficult and fantastic things you will ever do; overcoming the desire to make the wrong decision for a short-term gain, and having the confidence that something better will come is a moment you will look back on with pride and pleasure in the future.
  2. Decide what “above average” really means to you
    If you are going to set yourself up to succeed here, you need to set some guides in place for measuring your delivery as being “above average”.  A great place to start this is to ask previous  and existing clients what it is about your service or products that keeps them coming back to you.  Ask them what makes you unique and what they most value in what you do for their business.  These are your pointers for excellence and setting these as standards you will achieve for every customer will allow you to be realistic about the consistence and credibility of your services.
  3. Manage expectations with authenticity
    It is almost certain that it is the very things that some don’t “get” or like about you that will appeal most to others.  We have all discovered with experience that our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses when we are at our most vulnerable and with this in mind, being authentic about who you are, how you work and what it is that makes you different, is key to attracting the right clients to your business (and the same applies to attracting friends and partners too).  This means being yourself at all times, even when it is tempting to conform, or play-down your individuality, even if you’re finding number one (above) hard to master.  I remember the greatest compliment I received the first time I met someone who’d only conversed with me on line; “You’re exactly who I thought you’d be” he told me “You come over on Twitter and your blog just as you do on stage and over coffee.”  Being yourself, setting an expectation in advance, helps attract the right people and also helps avoid uncomfortable situations with the wrong ones.
  4. Refuse to accept average
    I always have respect for people who “walk their talk”, especially when I know it requires effort.  Accepting average service is a choice; if you’re regularly getting less than you believe you’ve paid for from a company or giving more than you get in a relationship or friendship, it is possibly because you’re prepared to accept average.  Perhaps you believe average is all you deserve.  When you’re serious about accepting above average, it does something to your level of self-esteem that is liberating and powerful.  When you decide that only above average is good enough, you’ll expect it, appreciate it, acknowledge it and enjoy it more than you do on an “average” day.  You will also enjoy the challenge of delivering that for others; there is no better motivation to deliver outstanding service than to experience it yourself.

The next time someone tells you they’re less than thrilled with your service or product, ask them what they’d expected.  Ask them what would have made it right for them and thank them for their feedback and then consider this question: Was their rejection because I’m not good enough  or could it be that I would have suited them better if I had been more average?

The image at the top of this post was created by my wonderful friend and teacher, Amanda Rose.  You can see her fabulous art in Myddfai Community Centre, attend one of her art classes (with me) every Wednesday afternoon, or commission her to illustrate your Poetry or writing.  She’s the inspiration behind this blog; one of the most authentic, talented and above-average people I know who’s a real inspiration to me. And she makes me smile.

Brexit: much more than politics

It’s taken until now for me to feel ready to write about the results of the UK Referendum on our membership of the European Union.  I made no secret of the fact I was voting to remain, and while I stand by my decision, I am more in despair of how we seem to be reacting to the result than I am by the result itself.  I keep waiting for us to respond how everyone says we will “we always stand together when the going gets tough” and “Us Brits are great in a crisis” must be the most common phrases I’ve heard since the vote.  As I write this, however, I have yet to see signs of either of these being true.

When I was growing up, my parents were among very few adults I encountered who didn’t believe you shouldn’t talk politics or religion; they positively encouraged it and on more than one occasion I sat enthralled listening to heated discussions over their dinner table that went on into the small hours.  I got my love of debate from listening to them talk about the Israel/Palestine crisis, Socialism and how it was being diluted and manipulated, who had which part of our Press in their pocket and how we could change any of these things.  It drove me to want to be part of the change.

Currently, the trend seems to be that talking politics is a dangerous thing, to be avoided or shouted down.  Indeed, many of my friends, whichever way they voted, have received angry abuse aimed at them on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  It’s shameful how quickly we are prepared to pounce on the views of others and say they are wrong because they do not agree with our own. This, for me, has been one of the most unpleasant aspects of the Referendum.  Watching the language of people I know and respect turn from measured and thought-through to angry and reactionary and often down-right offensive.  Aggressive defending of a political position and the desire to say “Told you so!” are not only unattractive behaviour, they also show a lack of control, a limited vocabulary and a side of someone that can make many review connections.  I personally stopped following over thirty people on Facebook during the build-up to the vote as I did not want their remarks on my timeline.

Had we been living in a country like Syria, indeed anywhere in the Middle East or many of the areas to the East of our planet, then perhaps I would understand the anger that boils over to hatred.  Lives have been touched by politics and religion in many parts of the world that we, in the West, can only read about or imagine.  Images on TV and in the media do not come close to experiencing these awful situations first-hand.  In the protected, wealthy (relatively speaking), safe haven of the West, we are living lives than most of the refugees we read so much about cannot even imagine.  And yet instead of seeing hope, community, the chance to make change happen and express our opinions, we choose to create hatred, spread lies and call each other names.

I’d love to see a change, to the way we “do” politics in this country.  I’d love to make it compulsory for every single adult in the UK to vote and for it to be a subject taught at school not simply as an A level of choice but as a subject of real pride; we are living in a country where our voices are heard and listened to and where they can make such vast change than our entire government has had to be changed to deal with it.  I’d love to see proportional representation where every single vote matters and the opinions of every member of our society is heard.  I’d love, more than anything, to see our Politicians held to account for their promises and actions, meaning they would leave behind their shouting and hatred-fuelled words, their words that incite violence and anger.

Do I believe that this vote will lead to these?  No.  Sadly, with what I’ve seen, I don’t believe Brexit will be the “holy-grail” that the Leave campaigners are now claiming they’ve handed us, if only it could be.  Sadly, however, I have seen only evidence that the people’s vote has not been seen for anything else than a mis-guided decision and almost without exception, the remain campaigners are responding by saying “well you got us into this mess, now deal with it”.  Hardly the in-it-together approach I was hoping for.  Even our new Prime Minister has appointed people to roles which seem to be saying “get in there and sort this mess out – if you can” rather than appointing talented politicians who might negotiate a deal for our nation that we can be proud of.

We voted to leave; and yes, I do include myself in that, because above being a “remain voter” I am a British citizen.  I want my country to succeed.  I watch the Olympics with pride and wave my Union Jack flag and wear my Team GB T-shirt because I am in love with my country and hope to always be.  I want the very, very best people in charge of our exit from the EU and  I want new, inventive and creative people in charge of our negotiations with our nearest neighbours to ensure they still want to work, visit and play with the UK.

The people of my nation have spoken and I have to accept and embrace what they have asked for in a way that sits with my values.  There have been times I have struggled with this, and I suppose that is part of the reason it has taken a while to write this post.  I came across so many angry, hateful posts filled with words that I cannot embrace; racism and patriotism should not be seen as the same thing.  I am British because the people who brought me up chose to live here, no other reason.  As an adopted daughter, whose birth mother came from Egypt and birth father from Denmark, who had adopted parents with families that had been refugees from Poland and Russia, fleeing from oppression because of their religion, I believe I am a typically British woman. I am proud to be British, to be a melting pot of humanity, a mix of cultures and faiths that have produced me.  I’d confuse most racists, who would never see me as anything but a white, middle class woman.  Racism is just a load of fear, tied up in ignorance and nasty language in my opinion.  I am one of the lucky ones; unless I tell you my history, I go under the radar of the haters. Only when we accept there is a huge problem with racism in the UK can we begin to beat the fear behind it.

The racists will always be here, and their fears will not be tackled by any vote or distancing of our nation.  They should not be the voice we focus on.  Spreading their message just gives it air-time it does not deserve.  It was a shame for the people I know who voted to leave the EU, that racists hijacked their arguments and that our media was so fast to tar them all with the same brush.  Time to move on.

I choose to focus my positivity and belief in the future we can choose to create if we continue to be involved, empowered and engaged, if we continue to take part in our political futures and if we turn up in the kind of numbers we did this time round, for the rest of our lives.  I see it as a duty to encourage the future generations to vote whenever they get the chance and to ensure they do their research before they do.  Don’t depend of the words of the media for that insight that will help you make your political choices; listen to conversations over dinner tables, go to debates, visit museums and read books.  Above all, express your voice and right to make change in a country we will all be responsible for shaping, only if and when we admit we all “do” politics. It’s in everything we do and every decision we make for our country.

 

It’s all about you!

It is, it really is!  It’s all about YOU.  Isn’t that wonderful news?  Or is it rather scary?  We’ve grown up being told it’s not all about us, that we should focus more on those around us, make our mission in life to put others first.  And these are wise words.  Indeed, I am a great believer that focussing on others builds us as people and gives us huge joy.  So when did the rules change?

They changed the moment you decided to follow that dream – you remember, that crazy moment when you put on that new hat and said “I’m going into business on my own!”  The minute you decided to blaze your trail and join the ranks of the Entrepreneur, you changed the rules.

And if you didn’t you missed something HUGE!

Here are a few reasons why it’s all about YOU:

– YOU are the real USP (unique Selling Point) in your business.  People do buy from people.  When there is a choice about where we spend our money (especially when money is tight) we’d rather spend it with someone we know and trust; someone we’ve connected with or heard great things about.  YOU.

– YOU are the values in your business, the ethics and code of conduct.  YOU are the Customer Service Policy, the Complaints Procedure and the Guarantee.  YOU set the standards that create your credibility. YOU.

– YOU are the face and the voice of your business, the person who engages on social media, who writes the blogs, who shares the pictures of your family and your first time on a stage or meeting new people. YOU.

– YOU are the driving force, the energy that kick-starts the action every Monday morning, the determination to keep going when it feels like it’s hard out there, the reason to get up and do it all again tomorrow. YOU.

Most of all, YOU are the one that will realise that, above all else, when you embrace that it’s all about your contacts, your clients, your friends and your collaborators, when you value them above everything else in your business, YOU will be a success.

It really is all about YOU.

Have a great day

Dinah

 

The secret is….

…There is NO secret.  Honestly.  There is no answer that will be revealed when you’ve learned enough, or suffered enough.  There is no Secret to happiness, success or lasting contentment.  AND THATS GREAT NEWS!

Great news for all of us; there is no secret to any of the things we all strive for – happiness, success in love work business relationships parenthood…The list goes on.  There are plenty of opportunities, new things to learn, choices to be made and some of them may be painful.  These things will all be in your control and you are capable of deciding which ones you want to put effort into, which ones will lead you where you want to go.

The idea that you can read a book, take part in a programme or work with a Coach and suddenly you’re going to have all the answers is a myth.  I’m not sure where it started, and I know the idea of a secret was around long before people started to talk about “the universe delivering” or even “What goes around comes around.”  I have to say that, in my opinion, these are two of the other great myths of our time.

The one truth that does apply to all the really happy, successful people I know is a simple one:  they’ve all worked really, really hard to get where they are.  Did they all believe they were going to succeed?  No, not always.  Did each of them have amazing support behind them? Again, no; neither financial or moral support were particularly relevant to their success.  Each of them has a very different journey, a unique story of their life.  And not one of them believes there is a Secret to their success.

I had a client a few years ago, who spent the best part of 20 years going from training programme to retreat, to mentor, to coach and most recently, back to University (in her 50s).  While I’m all for personal growth and learning, there is a time when you have to actually put what you’ve learned into practice.  So what’s keeping her so engaged in learning?  She’s searching for that promised Secret, and she’s not quitting until she finds it!

Let’s learn from her experience and from the truly successful people around us (however we choose to measure that) and spend less time looking for “the answer” and instead, start creating our own results, which we can take credit for.  It’s no secret that’s got to feel good!

Have an excellent day

Dinah

 

Is being ‘fine’ costing you business?

Do you really know anyone in business who isn’t finding times hard at the moment? Is there any business that has not been touched by rising costs or falling demand – or both. Yet, when we meet fellow business owners and ask how they are doing, we often get the standard reply: “I’m fine”.

I often wonder what that really means. I know what a fine day looks like; I know what a fine wine tastes like , but I have no idea what a fine person looks like, or how they feel. This programmed response, delivered without sense or feeling, has become a badge of honour which threatens the sanity and success of every business owner. One recently asked me during a mentoring call, “If everyone else is fine, is it just me who’s getting it so wrong?”

Working with businesses on their credibility means that I get to explore their real values with them and how they apply these to every aspect of their lives. Not surprisingly, integrity and honesty are key values that many of them claim are key to their success and vital to their business. Honesty must surely include a genuine response to questions about them and their business; yet you can guarantee they are “fine” when asked about themselves and you can bet that their business is “fine” too.

What keeps us back from sharing the true picture? I think there are many reasons for this auto-response, including:

1) Fear of failure – we believe that admitting that all is less than “fine” might make us look like failures. My personal experience of this has been quite the opposite – a business person who is working hard to improve their business during tough times gains respect and support from their peers who will often go out of their way to find them referral opportunities in hard times.

2) We don’t believe people actually want to know – small talk and polite conversation has developed into noise; people ask questions and don’t wait for or listen to the answers. We have become so accustomed to this, that it is almost considered impolite to say anything other than “fine thank you” when asked about our health, our day or our business.

3) We think everyone else is thriving – partly, of course, because nobody is admitting they are not fine. Our own insecurities are easily given a louder voice as we hear others sharing their success stories. The idea of admitting we are actually less than “fine” becomes an impossibility.

These programmed replies might make us feel comfortable in the moment, but in the longer term they could well be costing us business. Why would I go out of my way to help you if you are “fine”. I have so many people in my networks, I want to ensure I am connecting people and helping them grow their businesses all the time. I focus my attention where it is needed the most so that I can be effective. The people who are “fine” are not on my radar.

Taking the first step to admit all is not as good as it could be feels a bit like getting naked at a networking event; and like this feeling, it is not a good idea to do it in public! Take small steps, with the people you trust first. When we confide in the people we value and trust, we pay them an enormous compliment; remember that when you open up and ask for their advice and opinions.   We often hear the expression “a problem shared is a problem halved” and often as we hear ourselves talking through a situation, we start to see the solutions for ourselves.

The relationships that develop through this honesty will become the strongest in your network and real referral partnerships are built on trust and mutual respect – credibility. The first time I asked someone I valued for help, admitted all was less then “fine” they smiled from ear to ear and said “me too. We’re having a really tough year”.  We now refer business to each other on a regular basis and work on marketing and media opportunities for each other.

And who ever wanted to be “fine” anyway? Wouldn’t you rather be fabulous, or wonderful? Flying or soaring? “Fine” and “OK” are two places I don’t want to be again and with the help of my networks, I am never going back.

I originally wrote this blog for Virgin.com during my time as on of their regular contributors (VIB)

 

You can have it all ladies….

I am happy with my lot. I know in my life I can have it all; motherhood, success, a happy marriage (27 years and counting), exotic holidays, a wonderful home, time with great friends, fabulous car, a wardrobe full of clothes I love, immaculate house hair and nails….. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?

Many women ask me “how can I have it all?” and I have the same answer for every one of them…..

You can have it all – just not all at the same time.

My wonderful list is not all about now. I have had times where about half are happening for me together; I’ve had times where I have chosen to squeeze too many in – and lost sight of the really important ones. Why does “having it all” have to mean right now. Like spoiled children stamping our feet, are we simply throwing a tantrum? Is our perception of other women so warped that we believe we are failing if we aren’t juggling a million balls at once? Do we really believe there are women out there doing this single-handed and effortlessly? Get real!

The truth is they are all making choices; not all of them ideal. Compromise and patience may not feel comfortable alongside ambition and determination, but without them you are setting yourself up for failure on so many levels. We can choose to beat ourselves up for failing to vacuum, we can choose to berate ourselves as appalling mothers for missing swimming club or we can choose to acknowledge what we achieve each day and celebrate it.

So where do you start? A reality check would be a good beginning. When you talk about “having it all” what does that really mean to you? I’m confident that “beating myself up regularly” isn’t on there, so what is? No box thinking here – what does it really look and feel like?

The second step is more challenging; ask yourself who are you doing this for? Do you want others to speak about you as the woman who “has it all” ? Are you still attempting to make your father proud of his little girl? What exactly are you hoping to achieve? Being honest about this can be hugely liberating. My own experience showed me this clearly in my mid 30’s when I finally stopped trying to impress others and made my achievements simply for myself. I got so much more satisfaction and a huge sense of achievement and I saved all that energy and time!

The third and biggest step of all is to find juggling partners. Put people around you with the right skills and juggling becomes entertaining. Asking for help and trusting others are big obstacles for many of us. Asking for help can feel like failure – if you want it to. However, asking another to bring their skills to the party, to be a part of your team, is a compliment to them. If they value you they will be chuffed that you asked; they will understand it is a big deal for you. Do something totally non-selfish today and ask someone to be part of your juggling team – you’re inviting them on tour.

Over a life-time we really can have it all. We can appreciate every part of it more if we stop and take a good look in at our own lives. Those women you believe have it right are juggling too, they just realised they didn’t have to do it alone. They shared the load – and the balls!

Dinah x

I originally had this blog posted on virgin.com as one of their  VIBs (Very Important Bloggers)