Massive change requires reinvention of Brand-You

Massive Change; an event that has such a huge impact on your life, every moment of it, how you live it and how you define yourself, that you are a different person than the one you were previously.  It can happen to anyone at any time and is not because of karma, or due to some terrible thing they have done to “deserve it”. What goes around very rarely comes around, and accepting this is often the first stage in coming to terms with the person you are becoming.  Accepting that you need to re-invent yourself allows you to start to create a new future, a new picture of positivity and a reason to continue that can, initially, seem impossible.

When I was twenty six, I had a bad car accident which resulted in me being a wheelchair user for more than a decade.  I couldn’t possibly have predicted or prepared in advance for such a massive change.  I had to re-invent everything I had assumed would be my life and re-invent who I was going to be if my life was to continue in a positive and worth-while (in my view) way that I could be proud of and happy in.

It took every ounce of courage, support and a massive learning curve of ups and downs to get out of that wheelchair; I achieved it only because I decided to embrace the situation, make a new life for us as a family and re-invent myself.  I took a promotion at work of seven grades – no small steps up a ladder for me now, I was flying up the ramp!  I travelled all around the world, organising conferences and looking after important clients.  It was a job I adored and it proved I could DO so much, despite my dis-ability.  It taught me I could be this new, re-invented Dinah, a woman who overcame the restrictions of a wheelchair by taking on a job that required her to travel thousands of miles a year, without buying into limiting beliefs.

When I had my series of heart attacks in my mid forties, the same re-invention of self was required.  I had reached a place where I was confident and credible in my work,  I had established a reputation and was in the position where I could choose whom I worked with.  And then another massive change decided to shake things up again.  I had to stop. Not just rest a bit and take a short break. Stop completely for two years.  No work, no stress, just getting well and giving my heart a chance to recover from surgery.  Massive Change.

This June is was four years since my surgery; the physical scars healed much faster than the emotional ones. The emotional pain can still come to the surface if I give it the space.  I am not a fan of regrets or looking back, and this can be one of the great challenges of massive change.

Here are my top tips for getting through the first twelve months after massive change:

1) Give yourself time.  More time than you think “everyone else” would take.

2) Comparing yourself to others, or to the You before your massive change is not helpful and this is a great time to stop this habit.  I know it’s not easy, nothing is easy when you’re going through something this huge, so suck-it up and just drop the self-deprecating “I’m not good enough” crap,  it won’t help, ever. You need to be disciplined about this one. More than anything else, when you repeat a negative message to yourself, you won’t be able to make the step forward required to actually believe in the change yourself.  All the positive outward “I am fine” stuff is pointless if you’re telling yourself it’s not true.

3) Anger is hugely negative when you bottle it up, particularly when the person you are angry with in these situations is often yourself.  You have every right to feel anger and, in a society where we’re taught anger is a negative thing, something we have to control at all costs, it can be hard to let it go.  I used to go somewhere that I could have a good, loud shout when I was first in my wheelchair.  I was spotted more than once in Richmond Park on a cold morning shouting at the ducks!  It worked though, and allowed me to release what might otherwise have consumed me.  Holding in your anger is dangerous and, while appreciate letting it out can be too, I’m suggesting you look for a SAFE way to express it, without that impacting anyone’s wellbeing.  Including your own.

4) Stop looking for the answers.  “Why did this happen to me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” and “If I had/hadn’t done …. do you think this wouldn’t have happened?”  There is no positive answer to any of these questions, and looking for reasons will often leave you more negative and self-absorbed.  What matters when massive change impacts us is not so much why it happened as what we do about it when it has.  When our daughter was very small, we knew it was important to let her express how much our massive change had impacted our lives;  we had one day a month where the whole family talked about how unfair it was that I was in a wheelchair.  We talked about the fact that I was the only mum who couldn’t take part at Sports Day, and that it was really hard to go shopping together because I couldn’t get my chair into some of her favourite stores.  We called it our “Why me day” and it allowed all of us to express our frustrations at living with the impacts of massive change.

5) Let yourself change. I sounds simple enough, but accepting a new “you” is a huge challenge for most of us.  We may believe we avoid labelling others, but there are many labels we give ourselves to define who we are.  Often leaving a job we’ve held for a long time can be an example of that feeling of not knowing who we are anymore; when I couldn’t wear my corporate “badge” anymore, I was lost about how to introduce myself.  It can feel frightening to see that you are a new person, that perhaps you’re going to be seen differently by others.  Once you allow yourself to change and start to feel comfortable with the new person you’re becoming, you’ll find the changes become easier.

Have you had massive changes in your life that have required you to re-invent the person you thought you were?  I’d love to hear your techniques for re-inventing your life after massive change.

Dinah

Make Changes not Resolutions

I have never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; it strikes me that January is about the worst time (especially in the Northern Hemisphere) to start committing to enormous goals and making sweeping promises about our consumption, or denial of, certain pleasures from alcohol to sleep.  It is cold, dark and miserable for a large part of the time and this is not a great way to motivate yourself,  indeed the simple lack of Vitamin D we suffer at this time of year has a significant enough impact on mood to almost guarantee challenges.

In addition, I have a sense that Resolutions are not for the long term.  They are announced to our small community of friends and colleagues, often on Social Media, with much sincerity and complete belief that we are going to do “it” this time.  Who are we making these announcements for?  Who are we trying to convince that this year, this time, we really do mean it and really will do all the things we didn’t bother to finish the last time we set this challenge for ourselves.  Some kind of self-punishing cycle we perpetuate year after year that, often, results in little being achieved other than a confirmation that “I never finish anything” or “I am a quitter”.

When I work with clients who feel trapped in this cycle, we look at things with a view to making change; change that is a long-term commitment to doing something in a way they have not been doing them consistently until now.  Perhaps you’ve experienced that initial feeling of belief and commitment that comes with the new year, and set yourself the challenge to change a pattern in your life that has become a habit with a negative impact for you.  It can feel overwhelming, so here are my top tips on making real, lasting change without running out of steam before it has a chance to make the impact you want:

  1. Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail.  The easiest way to make change difficult is to make the goal so vast that you believe it is beyond reach;  don’t get carried away by other’s stories of success or the “amazing” results promised by programmes or courses.  Set your own, realistic and small targets that allow you to celebrate lots of small successful steps towards constant change.
  2. Change one thing at a time.  Yes, there is time.  No, you will not achieve more if you change everything that is wrong at the same time.  Small, single and repeated change makes you stronger and more able to make the next change, and the next…..
  3. Wipe the slate clean; every day. And then wipe it clean again.  When we constantly hold ourselves up to measure against what we used to do, or what others do, we are focussing on things that we have no control over.  If you had a bad day yesterday, wipe it out.  You can no longer change yesterday.  We can certainly learn from our past, but when you start to use the past to create excuses to  block your own success, it is time to wipe it clean and start with a positive mindset.
  4. Surround yourself with your “why”.  Lots of Coaches and Mentors will help clients find their true motivation, the reason they do what they do, the real “why”.  And often, once we’ve identified what we’re doing it for, we forget to focus on this.  When the hours we’re putting in seem crazy, or we’ve got another weekend scheduled, it’s helpful to have photos, written goals and successes on view, where we can reconnect with our motivation and let go of the resentment that can undermine our success.
  5. Create accountability.  This is where we often go to Social Media and “announce” a goal we’re setting.  Great idea to share, as this creates accountability.  However, I would advise caution here; sharing with a wide audience, who may not understand your personal motivation for change, can be the quickest road to being talked-out of change.  Perhaps wiser, as a first step at least, is to share with a person (or people) who you know will help and encourage you and understand how important the change is for you.  Ask them to help you stick with your goal for change, especially when you ask them to stop!

Making change that lasts is never a straightforward process; there will be twists along the way you could not control or predict, and your ability to see these are bends in the road instead of an excuse to give up, is what makes the most impact on lasting change.  I have changed my entire lifestyle to accommodate changes to my health and every day, in some small way, I have to adapt what I thought I had now got :the way I want it:.  Be open to the possibility that some of the twists and turns, and challenges, might also be opportunities to see a different option; change is flexible and a work-in-progress.

What changes are you most proud of from the last five years?  Think about how you achieved them and what your motivations were behind them.

Have a great day

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.

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”.

Choosing “Happy”

masks

Today I’m choosing  “Happy” as my mood.  I’m making the decision to only share positive and uplifting things today; things that make me feel happy and are likely to have the same impact on others.  Today I’m choosing not to share posts with negative headlines or those images of war that move me to tears of frustration, anger and a sense of hopelessness for the world.  Today, I choose to share only the happy things.

Is this possible?  Is this a “real” way to live?  I believe  it is a choice that has a big part to play in our overall contentment levels.  I am not a fan of the “Happy Clappy” approach – the idea that if I think only good and wonderful things then that is all that I will attract into my life.  I also believe that the only Secret to a happy life is the realisation that there is No Secret!  So, why this focus on “Happy” and how does that sit with being real about your emotions?

If I choose to focus on the positive things in my daily world, I start to notice that they far outweigh the negative things; I am lucky to be able to say that.  The truth is, if we’re not living in the war zones we’re reading about, then we are living a happy life.  Sure, we’ve got things around us that can pull us down, make us feel frustrated, hard-done-by and even depressed.  But in honesty, we are the privileged ones, the ones with “First world worries” and when we actually choose to see this, the lives we live do take on a new sense of happiness and joy.

How about it? Ready to join me an focus on Happy today?  I’d love to hear what you notice and appreciate as a result.

Warm wishes

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

 

 

At any given moment – you can make the choice

you can choose your story

 

I’ve always loved this quote.  “At any given moment, you have the power to say ‘this is not how the story is going to end'”.  It’s tough to see it sometimes, when you’re so deep into your own issues, your own problems and head-talk.  It can be easier to say “there’s nothing I can do about it.”  And it can seem there is no choice because of illness or circumstances.  I do believe we always have some element of choice; whether it’s our attitude, the way we deal with a crisis or the challenges we take on to find a new way.

I’m facing my own story head-on and saying “I can re-write the next part.  I can choose a new ending and design it my way.”  I face daily challenges with my health and could easily embrace the ending that was written for me by “experts”.  It might save lots of energy and disappointment just to take their version and go along with the script.  Indeed, to many looking-on it would seem inevitable; why would you challenge your story? your destiny?

Well, with absolutely no due-respect, I say “I’m choosing to write my own ending.  Watch this space!”

How will you choose to write your story?

Dinah x

It’s not always easy to choose

when you're caught between a rock and a hard place it can be hard to see you have a choice

This morning on Twitter, I was reminded by someone that it’s not always easy to choose your mood; that for some, every day is a challenge and “managing a smile” is about their limit.  I can empathise with this position, with this choice.  I remember times when I’ve felt that everything was simply too much effort, too much like an up-hill struggle.  And I made a choice; a choice to embrace positive thinking, to allow that to influence my mood and my outcomes.

I am not suggesting that it is easy.  I am suggesting it is a choice and like many choices we make in our lives, there are times when it is more difficult than others.  Deciding that it is a choice and one that we can make, gives us back ownership of it, gives us responsibility for ourselves.  Many people will find this overwhelming and are, therefore, reluctant to accept that it is a choice they can make.

When circumstances present themselves that impact our lives, we can often feel we have no choice.  We are not in control of what is happening to us and therefore we believe choice is not part of the picture.  What we can choose is how we react to this situation; how we choose to deal with or embrace the challenge is very much our choice.

It is also important to keep it real.  Just because you’ve made a choice to be positive does not mean you’ll never have another day where you feel down, that it’s all too much.  As a family, after my accident, we created a “why me?” day every month.  Every member of the family got the chance to say “it’s not fair.  Why me?”  to openly talk about the things we were finding a challenge, the things that brought us down or made daily positivity a struggle.  By acknowledging what we were all experiencing we gave each other permission to keep it real.

Start with a small step; think about one thing you react to that always brings you down, zaps your energy and leaves you feeling deflated.  You can choose to change the way you react.  Create a new scenario – write it out if that helps – and detail how you will be reacting from now on.  If your current response is to get cross, choose to get sassy or feisty instead.  If you would normally get upset, choose to get determined or confident.  There is a person on Twitter who used to “get under my skin” and when I saw how that made me react, I decided to choose that, from then on, I would react by being grateful.  Grateful for the amazing people I connect with who make me feel positive and energised.

Give some thought today to how you’ve chosen to react to what’s going on in your life, right now.  Are you ready to choose to do that differently?

Dinah 🙂

It’s my choice

ownership of your choices
I really didn’t have a choice!

I have a real thing about people’s language when it comes to choice.  I’m tired of hearing “I didn’t have a choice” or “It was the only choice I had” used as an excuse, a justification for decisions taken without responsibility or courage.  The truth is, there are exceptionally few situations where we have no choice.  I’m lucky enough to say I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered such a situation as an adult.  Sure, I’ve faced situations where it felt like I had a tough choice or an even tougher choice, but there was still a choice.

Taking responsibility for our choices is critical to moving forward and letting go of things that hold us back.  I recall being told at a personal development event that I had chosen my parents.  I was furious!  What a ridiculous suggestion it seemed to me at the time.  However, as I pondered this statement, I realised that if I took ownership for this choice, it put me in control of what I did about it; choice on how much interaction I had with my parents, what  boundaries I could put in place, whether or not I continued to choose to have them in my life.  In that moment, when I took ownership and responsibility for this choice, I grew up and took charge of a very unhealthy relationship in my life.  I chose to change that relationship and the impact it had on my well-being.

It was a turning point for me which allowed me to see choices in a new light.  I embrace choice with a real level of anticipation and excitement now, knowing it is up to me. Tough choices are always going to be part of our lives, but we can choose how we react to them.  I know that I have a physical condition that has certain implications.  Having this condition was not my choice.  How I accommodate it, how I challenge it, how I work with it and around it – those are my choices.  And each new aspect of my condition brings new choices that I’m ready to own in the same way.

Which choices are you still allowing someone else to own for you?  How might it feel to be in control of the outcome, to decide how much it influences or impacts your life?  Start with a SMALL step – something that you know you regularly blame someone else for, and get to grips with your own ability to do something about it.

What choice will you take ownership of today?

Dinah 🙂

Making new choices

 

My husband John and I have been married for a quarter of a century next April – and this July we celebrated 29 years since our first date; and yes, the time has flown by.  We have grown-up and taken an amazing adventure together (we first met when I was 16 and John 17) and made many choices together.  Some that were long-term, planning and progressing gradually towards a purpose, a dream.  Others were taken in haste, reacting to a situation or outcome we had not planned for.  Either way, the choices we made along the way have influenced where we are today.  They’ve become part of our routine.

Making new choices can feel uncomfortable – and that’s okay.  When we are too comfortable we don’t make changes so feeling this way is a sign we’re ready to choose to make that change.  Choices can feel out of our control and in truth, while a situation may have been something over which we had no influence, the way we react to it is down to personal choice.  Have you ever found yourself, half-way through an argument with someone and thought “why are we arguing about this?” the answer is that you choose to argue.  You can always choose to react differently.

There are many steps to successful choices and I believe the first one is ownership.  It’s time to stop giving responsibility for your choices to others.  It can be easy to say “I didn’t have a choice”  when actually what you’re saying is “I didn’t want to make a choice”.  When we take real ownership and accept we do have a choice, we can decide how to react or how to move forward, real choice becomes something we are delighted to own.

One of the key choices I’ve made on my journey was when I decided to deal with my weight (I literally doubled my weight over a period of 12 years in a wheelchair).  I knew I was responsible for my weight, but had decided I had no choice and blamed my immobility.  When I took ownership and admitted to myself that I was choosing to comfort-eat and I could therefore choose not to, everything turned around.  Now, less than half the weight I was five years ago, I know it’s my choice to stay this way.

Today, take an honest look at the choices you are allowing others to take for you and decide which one you’re going to start owning.

Have a great week

Dinah