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

Letting go of letting-go!

A few years ago, I had a series of heart attacks.  From out of nowhere they stopped me in my tracks and made me reconsider everything about my life.  You could say they were a major crossroads; I’ve spent a great deal of time since focussed on “letting go” of the feelings I was left with, that I’d been deprived of the future I’d been planning, a brief example of what lay ahead enjoyed, the perfect business collaborations and friendships formed, all to be knocked back, all to be no longer available in my new life.  I think it was only yesterday that it hit me, I’d been so busy trying to let go, I had forgotten to look forward, to plan a new way, to explore what I have now that will shape a new path.

When life changes mean we have to make new choices, we have to allow ourselves a period of time to learn to adjust; that time required for acceptance to replace anger and frustration, time that heals initial pain and confusion and stops us asking “why did this happen to me” and replaces it with “what can I do no that this has happened?” and finally “I’m ready to see a future, how ever different it looks to the one I imagined.” When I was 26, I had a car accident that left me in a wheelchair for almost 12 years and one of my key learnings from this experience was that we have to mourn things we loose, not just people. I lost the use of my legs at 26, I had to mourn all the things I had lost from my independence to my joy of mountain climbing to making love with my husband.  I had suffered a loss, a bereavement, the death of my life the way it had always been.

The last few years have been my time to adjust, to come to terms with my latest loss, the belief that my heart was strong and would work, without me thinking about it, for many years to come.  Once you’ve lived through the heart attacks, the surgery, the physical recovery, the news of heart-failure, the difficulty breathing and total inability to do much of anything without help from others, you start to accept.  Acceptance that you are a different person, physically, and that means mentally too.  Acceptance that life is not going to look how you imagined, or planned. Acceptance that every day is rather special, precious, too important to waste on worries and concerns.

Now, I’ve reached the point of planning for a future; that feels amazing.  Seriously, when you’ve spent a few years not knowing if you’re going to make it, you see every single day as a bonus (even the ones where you feel negative and scared and less than great) because it’s been such an enormous effort, on the part of so many, to make it here.  Planning can take on a whole new meaning now, not just something I’m told to prepare for my business to thrive, but instead, a plan for my life, to live every day as though it might be the last chance I get to enjoy feeling this good.  I’m reminded of a song by Tim McGraw called “My next thirty years” and the lines speak to me of making every moment count.

My focus now is changing, from letting-go to letting-in; I’ve pondered enough times to last me a long, long life, what might have been if I hadn’t had the heart-attacks.  It is time to let in the new, embrace the opportunities starting to come my way with my new focus, my new goals in place.  It can so often be the case that we’re not open to new opportunities because we’re so focussed on the past, the ones we think we missed or messed up.  Not for me, that time in my life is through; I know I have limits, that my heart is depending on me to look after it and make sure I stick to those limits and behave.  And it’s also telling me in a loud, strong, clear voice “I trust you. Go get ’em girl. It’s time!”

And it is time. Time to move forward.  Time to let go of the letting-go and time to get on with the next chapter of this remarkable life.

Dinah x

 

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)

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

In the current financial climate, there is so much negative talk and focus that it is easy to lose sight of our achievements. The successes we have on a daily basis that should be noted and celebrated. Yet these get lost in the noise and overlooked; taking with them our energy and drive, our determination and self-belief, our entrepreneurialism. We are so “busy” looking at the targets and goals we miss the ones we have already achieved.

There is no question it is tough being in business right now. We are reminded of this fact constantly, by the media, our peers, our families and our creditors. Everywhere we turn, the news is grim – and getting worse by the hour. The spiral of depressing financial and business news is bound to impact us. How we let it impact us is still our choice. We can chose to buy-in to the doom and gloom, tighten our budgets, limit our spending and feel anxious. We can also make a choice to celebrate the successes during such tough times.

Success doesn’t have to be a gold medal or a £million deal. Success is often about the first, tentative steps. Steps taken despite the fear of failure or rejection. Steps taken when everyone is telling you to stand still and bide your time. Success is about still being here, every day, with the right attitude and belief to keep driving forward on your path. Success can be in the smallest things, the actions we take towards positive change, the conversations that start a relationship, the long-resisted phone call to build a bridge. Unless we take the time to celebrate these steps, we drift onto the path being set by others and lose our way.

Focussing on success can be surprisingly difficult. In a society where we seem to relish the negative, being positive can prove hard work and takes dedication and planning. I am not suggesting you write a “positivity plan”, I am suggesting that you plan a strategy to allow you to remain positive if you wish to succeed. I see negativity as a habit – a pattern of behaviour we now do on auto-pilot; we are oblivious to the language we adopt, the behaviour we repeat and the company we keep that encourages and nurtures that negativity. So, like any habit, it can be broken – with the right planning.

Becoming aware of the negativity is key to changing the habit. Making a simple choice about how we start our day can set the tone for your attitude and success. Watching breakfast television may bring you gently out of your stupor, but if hearing the news reminds you of everything negative, then breakfast radio might prove more positive.   Being in the gym might be great for your abs but if it reinforces your negative personal-image, then find an alternative with fewer mirrors and perfect bodies around you. Spending time with friends is a great way to unwind, unless you have an energy-draining relationship. You can chose to continue or chose to change.

A few years ago I realised one of the most negative aspects of my daily routine was my “To do” list. Writing the list was negative – it reinforced that I was juggling too many things and felt overwhelmed ; completing items on the list was negative – I crossed out things I had done (when I was at school, if something was crossed out it meant it was wrong); at the end of each day I looked at all the things I had not crossed out and felt I had not done enough. I changed this habit – and now write my “look what I did today list” at the end of each day. This reinforces the positive contributions and steps I have achieved and gives me a clear picture of what I need to do the next day. It allows me time to celebrate my successes and acknowledge them.

We all know that success is very attractive. You will soon find that celebrating and acknowledging successes in your business attracts the type of clients and associates you want to work with. Be a success champion and celebrate the success of others around you too. Enjoy your success – and invite everyone to the party.

Dinah

•I originally wrote this Blog for Virgin.com as one of their VIBs (Very Important Bloggers) 

 

Croeso i Myddfai

imageimage can it really be three months since we arrived In Myddfai, in our little piece of Welsh heaven? The time here seems to work on a different schedule at a slower less stressful pace. There are days when it’s suddenly ten o’clock and all I’ve done is feed the birds. It’s wonderful.

it is also hard work; no, no, stop the derisory laughter, it really is! We’ve made the move to a ‘slower pace of life’ only to find that, in truth, it’s an attitude change and not a change of pace that we’ve chosen. Many days since we’ve been here John and I have worked harder than we have in years; I’ve certainly seen a significant improvement in my stamina.

We’re up with the birds at first light, partly because we don’t want to miss a minute and partly because the sound of birdsong makes it impossible to sleep-in. We’ve got so many birds visiting our tables that we’re producing our own, home-made ‘bird cupcakes’ made from suet, seeds and mealworms. This morning we had two woodpeckers at the same time and we think they’re looking for nesting space.

once the birds are fed and the coffee is made, it’s time to light the Rayburn, which I’m very proud to say John has restored to it’s original purpose as a wood-burning stove. I Love cooking on it and we’ve called it “Freeda” as it’s our free source of cooking, hot water and two hot radiators!

Much of John’s day is taken up with establishing our new vegetable garden, dealing with our coppice of Hazel and Birch trees, collecting and chopping wood for the fire and Rayburn and doing the 101 jobs that come with a nineteenth century Welsh longhouse that’s been somwehat unloved for the last 25 years. I should point out at this point that the vegetable plots had been turned into overgrown flowerbeds and lawns so he’s had to create them from scratch during the Welsh winter. The coppice sounds glorious, almost perfect until you see that also has been left to it’s own devices and the result is an over populated acre of scraggly trees that need plenty of tlc.

My time is being divided between my writing projects, the work I do for my daughter, Hannah’s company – AmethystPA, baking, planting seeds for all our vegetables, making things for the house which had not been decorated since the 1970s and working in our garden.  There was so much nicotine on the walls, we had to leave all the windows open for our first month due to the smell. We’ve found problems with the hearing, electrics, roof, gutters, floors and even carpet….

It’s amazing. We love it here. We haven’t been this tired and happy at the same time since becoming parents.

‘what made you pick Myddfai?’ The locals we meet usually ask us. ‘it was the Feeling of the balance of our private space within a real community, the views that took our breathe away round every corner and the people” I reply, “everyone made us feel so welcome”.

Bitter sweet victory?

I love watching Formula One. I’ve always loved cars; watching and driving and even being driven (as long as it’s by someone who understands the need for a gap between you and the car in front!) and I’m often referred to as a petrol Head.

when F1 announced the new cars this year, I was looking forward to it, a chance perhaps to see who would be winning when it was less about one team and more about the array of exciting drivers and what they bring to the sport.

And I haven’t been disappointed, it’s been exciting to watch with several changes at the top and inter-team battles that add to the feeling that it’s anyone’s Championship this year.

I’ve wanted it to be Lewis Hamilton’s time. I’ve wanted it so much as I see the joy, pride and excitement from his family watching; his father a constant support with a face that shows his delight.

yet I asked myself, as Lewis won at Singapore, “why am I not more excited that he won” “why am I not thrilled that he’s just moved into the lead for the Championship?”

It’s his attitude. His attitude has turned my support into disappointment, into a sense that this young man is still, very much, a boy.  I find myself wondering if he has a decent Mentor; someone who not only listens and supports him on his journey, but someone who tells him to put his ego back in it’s box!  A person who has the courage to say “get over yourself!” and to explain that we are all judged on our behaviour when we lose as much as when we win.

If you’re a business owner and you spend your time shouting about why others should not be a success, or making remarks that hint at discontent or sour-grapes, it will take very little time for your peers to learn to avoid you and not get involved with your network.

As a ‘Star’ whether it’s in sport or theatre, screen or radio, we’ve allowed egos to get so huge, self-confidence to become arrogance and self-belief to become cockiness to such an extent I suspect it will take a major mood-shift to change things.

So my message to Lewis Hamilton, before every victory becomes bitter-sweet, is to pack up your ego for a while and borrow some of the real passion and thrill that Daniel Ricciardo is obviously enjoying; remember those thrilling emotions you started racing for? Get back into that zone Lewis, where you’re treasuring the chance to live your dream. Many people watching wish they were that lucky.

Dinah

A dirty weekend…

Dinah's blog A dirty weekend post

When your husband asks you if you’re “up for a dirty weekend in the woods” it doesn’t take long to feel young and excited again (and rather bloody daring too). At our age, with my health considerations, the idea of camping-out under the stars in a woodland with no traffic or airplane noise is about as daring as it gets

There’s nothing quite like a dirty weekend; especially as I am usually obsessed with whether my hair and clothes are clean. This weekend we got absolutely filthy making charcoal and it was wonderful. As I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the car mirror, charcoal smeared across my chin and left cheek, I smiled with pleasure at the joy a simple task had brought us.

when I say “simple task” I should say that in truth, my task was the only smple one this weekend: “Bring a book and turn your phone off” had been John’s instructions to me. Meanwhile, he, Guy and Casper would be running the charcoal kiln for the second time. A significant milestone in our steps towards a new life.

The weekend was filled with a sense of peace, even as the smoke billowed from the chimneys in the kiln, I was aware that this feeling had been absent from our lives of late.  There’s been a lot of “noise” in the last few years and I felt it quieten as the hours ticked by.

As we settle down to watch the F1 highlights, having showered for so long the water’s gone cold, we smile at each other. “Did you enjoy the weekend babe?” john asks me. “loved it.” I reply. “Feel better now you’re all lovely and clean? He asks. “actually” I chuckle “I liked being dirty!”

Dinah

 

 

New choices

We’re making new choices; choices for our home and lifestyle, choices about priorities and what matters to us as a couple and as individuals. Choices about our roles as parents, children, lovers and partners; as entrepreneurs and business collaborators, as people.

it’s an emotional experience making change on a large scale, exciting, scary, confusing, surprising, frustrating and exhilarating all at once. And that’s on a good day!

When you make big change, it’s more likely to be succesful if it’s something you’ve built up to.  Going “full steam ahead” and changing several aspects of our lives has actually taken years of planning; years of choices.

choices that lead to major change can be small individual successes on the road; they are our markers that say “I’m taking responsibility for my next step” and that allow us to feel achievement and pride.

what first, regular choice could you take that will be the steps towards your new choices?

Dinah 🙂

 

Kicking pain in the “As” – Accommodation

Accommodation is the third step in Kicking Pain in the “As”, and in this third blog in the series, I look at how accommodation of the symptoms of my conditions has allowed me to live a positive life with pain.

Chronic pain could lead, very easily, to a pattern of “I can’t do that” in our lives; constantly telling ourselves, and others, what we are not able to do.  However, when we approach it from the “I can do that” space, we find our lives feel more positive, more fulfilling.   We have a greater sense of accomplishment.

In order to get to the “I can do that” place, we have to learn to accommodate our pain and the limitations it imposes on us.  Instead of fighting it, battling with it and hoping that this time we will prove we can do it, we can be more strategic.

Let’s look at this situation you’re in from a different perspective.  Imagine that today, you found a puppy.  It was tied to a tree in a park and you knew, instantly, that you had to find a way to give it a home.  Everyone around you is telling you all the reasons why it’s a bad idea, not least that you work long hours and that, no matter how much they promise, your teenagers won’t help with the walking.  Yet, despite all their (unsolicited) advice, you will find a way.  You’ll accommodate this new, gorgeous animal into your family and everyone will  make it work.  You’ll change patterns and discover new joys and experiences that were absent from your life before.

Pain is certainly no puppy!  However, when you accommodate it, when you make allowances, work as a team with family and friends, do things a new way, you can discover new joys too.  Sound unlikely?  That’s the “I can’t do that” voice; it’s become a habit and you’ll have to be prepared to tell if to “shove off!” as you learn the new “I can do that” habit.

Now, before you think that what I’m really saying is “learn to live with it” or “there’s nothing you can do about it so accept it” that’s not what I mean.  This links back to the first two steps – and you’re not able to accommodate without acceptance, or face it with courage and determination without first thinking about your attitude and taking responsibility for it.

I’ve already started my day with accommodation of my EDS; I dislocated my hip during the night, so I had to work from the sofa rather than my office this morning.  Did it stop me?  No; I accommodated it, and then got on with my day.  Does that mean I didn’t allow myself to say “I wish that hadn’t happened!”? No way!  I certainly had a few choice words to say about it before I accommodated it.  That’s real, that’s allowed.

As I type this, I’m watching Pickle accommodate Lillie (if somewhat reluctantly at first) who is determined that there is plenty of space next to me for both of them!  She’s already accepted that sharing the space is going to be better than leaving it all together and has returned to a state of happy purring as Lillie gives her head a good wash!

So today, think about some steps you can take to accommodate your pain into your world; ways that allow you to be kind to yourself without overwhelming yourself.  Start with something small, one step at a time.

Here’s to a pain-free day

Dinah x